Pathfinder: Kingmaker review

I picked up Pathfinder: Kingmaker during the Steam summer sale, after having the game on my wishlist for a while. When it originally came out, I figured the game was a second tier “Baldurs Gate-like” game compared to games like Divinity: Original Sin 2, or Pillars of Eternity. I’m happy to report that in some ways, I think I like Kingmaker more than either title.

This is all based on about 20 hours with the game, so by no means a complete review. It’s also somewhat early in the kingdom management part of the game, which from reviews is a very hit or miss aspect depending on who you ask.

With that said, here is why I’m really enjoying Kingmaker; it feels like Baldur’s Gate 3 more than either D:OS2 or PoE. A lot of that is because the ruleset in Kingmaker is based on D&D, which is also what BG was based on. Stuff like armor class, the more traditional stats, what stats weapons have; its all very very D&D, and for me that is a major plus.

Another factor is that ‘zones’ are more similar to BG; not too big, with one or maybe a few set pieces each, yet all feeling like they belong to the same world. In D:OS2 especially, the ‘world’ felt like a series of themed levels (start in the island zone, go to the mountain zone, then the lava zone, finish in the city zone), and the world in PoE2 was a big ocean, which wasn’t bad, but not my ideal. In Kingmaker you move around in a world that just feels very traditional fantasy, and while for some that might be too boring or ‘samey’, for me when its done well, that’s exactly what I want.

I also actually like that not every piece of text is voice acted. I know this was likely done for budget reasons rather than a design decision, but saving voice acting for the important parts helps set the tone, and also decreases on the amount of time you sit back and watch the game rather than play it. Even reading text is more interactive than having it read to you, and in a game with SO MUCH TEXT like an RPG, that adds up. The voice acting itself is good in Kingmaker, especially the banter from party members as you adventure and make camp.

As mentioned above, combat is very similar to BG, in that it’s real-time with pause, and the AI handles your companions well-enough in most encounters. Boss fights can be tough, and you can certainly go to areas you shouldn’t be yet and get destroyed. There is a particularly fun cave with a dragon pretty close to the start, that basically one-shots you, which in a lot of ways makes sense; why in other games are all the dragons and demi-gods always at the end? Wouldn’t a dragon be just as likely to pick a cave near the middle of the map as on the edge?

The kingdom management part of the game (again only a bit into it) for me has been really fun. Its deeper than in a game like PoE where you select one thing, it happens, and you benefit. Here managing the kingdom becomes the driving force for the story, quests, and basically everything else, and is so focal that if you screw up the handling of the kingdom, you actually lose the game (there is an option to have the game auto-manage the kingdom, but that results in you missing a lot of content, as well as rewards).

Kingdom events come in over time, both in the form of problems (don’t handle it and bad stuff happens) and opportunities (handle it well and good stuff happens), which you assign characters to handle. Who you assign matters, both in their success chance and the result. There are also projects, which require more time but have higher rewards. These are tricky because committing a character to one means they won’t be available to help with problems/opportunities as they arise. There are also buildings to build, resources to secure on the world map, and new territories to expand into so you can build more villages/towns.

As you do all this, you gain/lose stat points related to your kingdom, which then loop back into success chance for events and other things. It’s somewhat complex, and you basically get thrown into the deep end fairly early into the game, but overall I think it’s a neat way to move the story forward, and gives the game a unique twist.

If you are in the market for a classic-feeling RPG, Pathfinder: Kingmaker is very good. A lot of early reviews talk about balance issue, but I believe today, with the “Enhanced” edition that has all the patches, most of those issues have been resolved. It also has never crashed for me, and things like loading times are fairly snappy on an SSD.

Posted in Review | 4 Comments

LoL: Teamfight Tactics is my new addiction

Riot recently released their version of an auto-battler game (the genre I believe started somewhat recently as a mod for DOTA2, called Autochess), and I have been playing it like crazy. It incredibly addicting, even in its early, still flawed state.

The basics: You pick champions (from LoL), each who has two characteristics (demon+blademaster, or noble+shapeshifter), aiming to build a complimentary team. That team then fights another player, but the key is that aside from starting positions on a hex grid, you don’t control the champs. They auto-battle (hence the name) until one team wins or time runs out. The losing player loses HP, you move to another round, and the last player standing is the winner. The whole thing takes about 40 minutes if you win, and of course less if you drop out quickly. Between rounds you earn gold that is used to buy more champs (three champs of the same type combine to increase in power, and this can happen twice)  or to level up, allowing you to put more champs on the battlefield. Some rounds are vs NPC creatures, which can drop items you can then equip on your champions.

The randomness of it all, from which champs+items you get, to who you face, to how the actual battles play out, is part of what has me addicted. I love trying to manage the chaos, to make the best of a bad draw. It’s the games where I have to scramble to make things work that I enjoy far more than when things go right and you just kinda roll to victory.

The game also has an interesting balance of randomness and skill, and I say interesting because I’m not sure yet just which way its balanced. Some games feel super random, but at the same time you do have a lot of control over other aspects, and making mistakes in those areas reflects heavily in combat. It’s almost like poker, where any one hand/game is pretty random, but over the long-term it’s a game where skill wins out and the randomness and luck only go so far.

It’s because of this that I can’t wait for ranked mode to be added. Right now its fun, but without the climb, every game is a random collection of players and you can’t tell if you are doing better/worse because of your actions or because of the competition.

At the top I mentioned the game is still flawed, and this is mostly around how much information it hides from you. You need a cheat sheet on your desk with champion and item info. You just need to know, via experience, the range of each champ, or how quickly they gain mana, or starting stats like hp or armor. I think in time, as the UI is improved, much of this will be clearer in-game, but right now you get tossed directly into the deep end.

But again, even in that deep end the game is incredibly fun, and I have full confidence it will only grow and improve. Expect this genre to be what the Battle Royale genre was a year or so ago; the hot new thing.

Posted in Combat Systems, League of Legends, Review

CoC: Thoughts on the new Legends league system

In Clash of Clans, how matchmaking works in Legend league (5000+ trophies) has been reworked. The reason for the rework was that matchmaking was taking a very, very long time (10+ min) to find a base for you to attack, which is far too long to sit around and do nothing with your mobile device.

Here is how it works: Now when you hit Legend league, instead of being able to search for bases to attack, you get assigned 8 bases daily, and you can only hit those 8. You also get attacked up to 8 times by other Legend players, but you no longer lose whatever loot they take. Additionally, loot is no longer determined by how much the other player has, but by the strength of your base (upgrade levels), meaning that every base you attack has at least 300k+ gold/elixir, 5k+ DE to loot. How many trophies you earn is also different, and now scales on how much damage you do vs how many trophies the base you are attacking has.

The result? Legend league has made CoC’s far more fun for me, for a few reasons.

First, removing the option to skip to another base solves the “what if the next base has more loot” dilemma, which is a big thing in the original matchmaking setup. This was especially true when matchmaking was slow; waiting 10 minutes only to find a base with basically no loot was terrible.

Second, staying in Legend league and climbing in trophies is now more about skill than time. With the hard limit of 8 attacks, and getting attacked up to 8 times daily, players can no longer game the system by staying online for long periods of time, or simply having more time per day to attack over and over to slowly climb. Now to climb, you actually have to perform well in your attacks, and build a base that does a good job defending. I do wish they would lower the limit to maybe 5 attacks per day, as 8 is a lot, especially if you have clan war attacks to do as well.

Finally, by removing the link between how much loot you have and how much you lose, this frees up base building a lot more. You don’t need to protect your storage anymore, while at the same time your attackers will still want to hit those storages to gain loot. This means you can set traps and lures around your storages, while when attacking you can be smart and try to bait out those traps. That kind of ‘cat and mouse’ gameplay is fun, and a huge improvement over the previous design/farming meta.

I honestly thing CoC would be a better game overall if this system was used in lower leagues. Maybe not at the absolute lowest, but limiting it just to legends seems almost like a waste. Hopefully if enough of the feedback is positive, SuperCell does expand it into more of the game.

Posted in Clash of Clans, Combat Systems

Fallout 76 is dead

Fallout76 was free last week, so I took it for a spin. It was exactly what I thought it would be (I played for all of about 30 minutes, so this is a really in-depth review!)

The big problem, one that might be fixed soonish, is that F76 does not have NPCs like all previous Fallout games (and all RPG games since the dawn of time). Knowing this, F76 immediately feels empty. You start in the vault, but you are the only human in it. Robots guide you along, as you walk a linear path picking up your starting gear before exiting out (Also: nothing says ‘this is a shit-tier Fallout game’ like starting on a linear path that spoon-feeds you until dropping you outside).

That initial experience is just shockingly empty compared to previous Fallout games. In Fallout 3, you also start in a vault, but as a child surrounded by other humans, including your family. Shortly after leaving the vault, you had to a fairly large settlement of humans that gets you rolling. Fallout: New Vegas has you literally starting in a human town, with the first interaction being with a doctor, and then you go on to save/destroy said town and its people. In Fallout 4, the game starts in a pre-war town filled with people, the first cutscene/interaction is all about people/family, and the first gameplay out of the vault is about finding people as well. In F76, its gtfo out of the vault, you have junk to go collect. I think. Who knows, since there is no one to tell you why you might care to be here.

If you ever wondered what a Fallout game would be like if you removed all the story, all the reasons why you might play and care, F76 is the answer. It’s the same gameplay, the same systems, basically the same world, just empty of reasons to care. And the problem is, Fallout was never about the great shooting mechanics (they suck compared to a shooter), or the deep character building (min/max’ing in Fallout is boring and broken, with the system usually shining in allowing you to do silly stuff for RP reasons), or the crafting (like 99% of crafting systems, it blows and is just a reason to make you hate the inventory management system).

I imagine F76 can be salvaged, but only if the RPG is added back into the game, which would be an almost 180 turn from what Bethesda set out to achieve with the game. Which looks, that’s fine. It would be good; another actual Fallout game, even if it arrives a few years after the games actual launch. But for now, F76 feels as dead as a world hit with a nuke :rimshot:

Posted in Fallout 3, Rant, Review | 14 Comments

News review from E3 2019

Lots of news coming out of E3, so let’s talk about some of it.

First up, Cyberpunk 2077 has Keanu in it, and is coming in 10 months. That’s doubly awesome. The game itself looks almost too good to be true (so its 100% going to disappoint some people who buy way too much into it and expect it to do all things they can image), and we all know its going to be a buggy mess at launch. At the same time, yea, I’ll be there day-one, because even with whatever flaws it has, its most likely going to be an awesome time, warts and all.

Next up we have Bethesda walking back a lot of things about Fallout76, especially around the decision to not include human NPC quest givers and major storylines. While its good that eventually F76 will have them, I’m still unsure how well they will fit retroactively into a game designed NOT to have them. Considering how many mistakes the devs have made, I’m at best cautiously optimistic here. The Battle Royale mode is… well it should be a joke but sadly its not. One step forward, two steps back here.

Dying Light 2 was announced. I liked the first, so the second is on my radar. This is one of those “hoping for more of the same, but better” situations, as I wouldn’t change much about the original in terms of design. I do like that how you solve quests seems to have a massive impact on the map/city. If that’s as meaningful as they make it seem in the video (it almost never is, of course), then that could make the game a fun one to play multiple times through.

Finally, Outerworlds is coming out in October. It will be on a soon-to-die platform in 2019, and then officially release on the PC platform everyone is using in 2020.

Posted in Mass Media, Random, The Witcher | 3 Comments

Baldur’s Gate 3 announced, might be out in November?

Larian Studios, the people behind Divinity: Original Sin, have announced they are working on Baldur’s Gate 3, which will also be on Google’s Stadia streaming platform (a platform I have zero interest in). BG3 might also be a launch title, meaning it could come as early as this November.

The only info we have right now on BG3 is the teaser trailer, which is some nice CGI, but doesn’t tell us a whole lot about the game. That said, I do have some faith in Larian simply based on D:OS2, and also because of the leap they took in design from D:OS1 (a game I felt was massively hurt by its constant attempts at comedy) to D:OS2 (still had jokes, but jokes weren’t the focus like in the first game). Hopefully BG3 is even less jokey, and at least the trailer is more horror than anything else.

Ideally for me, BG3 is an expanded D:OS2 set in the Forgotten Realms IP. Give me similar combat, give me a party made of pre-set characters with backstories (including your own character), maybe improve the crafting (or remove it entirely), but basically stick to what made D:OS2 work. We shall see, and hopefully we will see it ‘soon’.

Posted in Mass Media, Random

What I’m playing, May 31st 2019

Gaming update time.

First up I finally hit Gold in League of Legends. It took a lot longer than I expected (170 games), in some parts because I derped around on different champions for a while until I ‘got serious’ and focused on playing Malz-mid and Amumu-jungle, my two best champs. I’m not sure how high I’ll climb, but at the very least it needs to be a few ranks higher, if only to not be in the same league as the wife, who hit gold recently as well.

LoL is what it is, a finely tuned, ridiculously balanced game with a stupid amount of champions and ‘content’. It’s a game you can take super-serious, play very casually, and anything in between. For me it’s the perfect “play a ranked match 3-4 times a week” game. The game truly has transcended being a game and become a hobby you come back to over and over again, while at the same time being one of the premium eSport platforms (watching the Mid-Season Invitational was very entertaining).

Moving on, my buddy and I have wrapped up our time with Civ VI for now, having won a few deity-level games. The game overall is excellent, but the poor AI in the later stages keep it from being a game we can play over and over again. We ‘beat’ it, and its time to move on. Maybe if a significant patch hits, or another expansion, we will return, but for now the game is on the shelf.

Battle Brothers has taken its place. While a single-player only game, its one where we can hang out in Discord and talk while we play it. The stories and situations it generates keep the conversation going, and the game is complex enough that he often has questions about it as a newer player.

Looking at the game’s Steamcharts page, I’m happy to see its more popular (by peak players) today than it ever has been, showing that each expansion has built up the playerbase, and former players likely return to take it for another spin. I think (hope) we will see more DLC, as while the game has been expended greatly since release, its still has a LOT of areas it can go in and further expand.

Finally, a few buddies and I play some Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) matches when time allows. Like LoL, I think PUBG is become that hobby game you return to over and over, and one that supports all levels of commitment. And like LoL, it’s improved so much since release, and has found its footing in terms of updates that keep it interesting while sticking to what makes it work.

Posted in Civilization Series, League of Legends, PUBG, Random, Site update | 4 Comments