Pillars of Eternity 2 initial thoughts

Not a full review of Pillars 2 yet, but some random observations from what I have seen so far.

I love the ship/island setting, which I thought I would not. Sailing around on a ship allows the world in PoE2 to feel more like an open world compared to PoE1 and moving around its map on pre-determined lines, but the sea setting means the devs didn’t have to spend years detailing a world ala Skyrim. Plus since you land on smaller island at designated anchor spots, you’re movement is still limited and not every important spot needs to be blocked by mountains or behind convenient rivers. It’s perhaps a small thing, but it helps a great deal in creating a more believable world.

Speaking of the setting, PoE2 pushes the world building and depth of culture far more than PoE1 did, and PoE1 was no slouch in that area. At first all of the slang terms in text/speech can seem a bit much, but it all ended up drawing me in and again making for a more believable world. The Elder Scrolls games today, following Skyrim, have really established Tamrial and its culture, and I think PoE2 does a similar job for Eora.

Going back to being on a ship, its basically another piece of gear you upgrade as you go. You can buy different ships, each having different layouts and slots for crew and cannons. You can also buy upgrades such as sails, anchors, and better hull armor. The ship to ship combat is likely the most ‘controversial’ part of the game, as its done via a ‘choose your own adventure’ style text rather than actual moving combat. It’s perhaps not ideal, but with how many games have horrible ship combat, taking a shortcut with text is fine by me, and you can still get some decent strategy out of it. Having one side of your ship equipped with long-range cannons, while the other has short-range, allows you to dictate engagement range, and once you disable the enemy ship’s sails and/or crew, you can stay in their blind spot range and fire away, which really helps in dealing with significantly stronger ships. For easier ships/crews, you can go right to boarding them and into in-game melee combat.

At about 30 hours into the game, the amount of content seems staggering. You have the main quest and the major side plots, there are companion quests, major story arks in seemingly every major city, bounties to hunt down, and then all the little quests/tasks that you come across. I’ve yet to experience a ‘bad’ quest, and a few have been especially great. Companions interact more with the world and quests as well compared to PoE1, which makes who you bring along more impactful. There interactions with each other have also been ramped up.

Perhaps the thing I’m happiest about right now with PoE2 is that its more of PoE1, and the new stuff fits in well rather than changing the core formula of what works. PoE1 was a newer Baldurs Gate, and that formula STILL works today, so why screw with it, right?

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LiF MMO: Postmortem

The only thing more frustrating than playing a bad gaming is having a good game end early, and Life is Feudal MMO is just such a game.

I want to be very clear here, I really, really enjoyed LiF. I might still enjoy LiF in the future, as its technically in Early Access and plenty can change. Hell a ‘big’ patch containing who-knows-what is slated for later this month, maybe it will deliver (it won’t). The group we had in-game is/was great, we had zero drama, and we met some very cool people in other guilds, plus got to fight the Chinese in enjoyable PvP. All good, and well worth the hundreds of hours I put into it.

But what frustrates me about LiF is it suffers the same critical flaw far too many MMOs suffer; progression ends and everything falls apart shortly after. What I hate most is a lot of devs have this idea that once people are ‘done’ with progression, they will happily start doing something else in-game, even if that ‘something else’ has little to do with what the progression gameplay was.

In LiF you go from improving your character, expanding your crafting options, and building a guild city together, to PvP’ing for the sake of PvP. Think about that for one minute and realize how insane that plan is. Anyone who hasn’t quit in the first 30 minutes is someone who enjoys the progression and what it is, even if much of it is macroing or doing the same digging task for hours. Call us all crazy, but its what we enjoy. No one is so insane however to trudge through hours and hours of that JUST to get to the PvP. Those people have far better options, both in getting to the PvP faster, and in the PvP actually being better all around.

Yet here you have yet another MMO that has gameplay that a core group enjoys, but that runs out way too quickly, and the answer from the devs is to go do this totally different thing. Even crazier, their own view of what the game is and who it caters to is that they have a PvP-focused game, despite the fact that (guessing) 95% of all in-game activity ISN’T PvP. I’m not saying PvP should be removed from LiF, far from it, but the idea that the majority of LiF players are there to PvP is just so wrong.

Progression ending is also just such a dumb concept, both from a game-design perspective and financially. The financial model is not just to attract someone to buy your game, but to keep them, right? Yet your game design has a pretty definitive end. How the hell are you going to stay in business like that? Just so, so dumb, and so, so basic a flaw.

World of Warcraft also has this flaw, but Blizzard is big enough that they can just keep adding content on top and have people return. Your indie MMO ain’t that, so maybe try to think past the first 3 months? Is that really asking too much?

Plus there are simple fixes to LiF that would make this possible. Instead of a hard skill cap, have a soft cap system, where once you reach a certain number, every skill point after takes far longer to gain. Switching between alts to get things done around town is already annoying, just let me grind for a long, long time to have one character do a lot of things, and make one character being able to do everything take nearly forever, that’s fine. Another fix is rather than having a cap on material quality, again go soft-cap, but with items above 100 degrading faster and being unable to be fixed. You but a reasonable cap on power inflation, but you don’t put a hard stop to progression. Let us upgrade the quality of crafting stations slowly rather than having to tear them down and rebuild them, at again an ever-increasing cost-to-gains ratio.

So yes, for now LiF is on the back burner. Since you don’t have to sub, I’ll continue to pay the maintenance cost of our town, and will continue to follow the game, but we as a group simply don’t have anything to do right now, and as such have mostly stopped playing. It’s a shame, and hopefully future patches fix this, ideally permanently.

Posted in Inquisition Clan, Life is Feudal, Rant, Uncategorized | 9 Comments

Pillars of Eternity 2 is an absolute must-buy!

To say Pillars of Eternity 2 is the best game of the year is a gross understatement. The conversation should be whether its the single greatest piece of entertainment ever produced, and you’d have a really hard time convincing me the answer is ‘no’. Buy a copy of each edition, at least once if not more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

PS: Darkfall money is running dangerously close to being under 7 figures in the bank right now so I need to pimp out PoE2 to get some of that sweet sweet Fig money. But shhh, just shut it and keep buying more copies.

Posted in Kickstarter, Random, Review | 8 Comments

The Forest review

The Forest has been on my wishlist for a long, long time, largely in part because the game has been in Early Access for a long, long time. It’s finally out of EA with version 1.0, and so I finally bought it. For $20 I got about 15 hours out of it, and I enjoyed most of those 15, so not a bad buy.

The odd thing about the game is that up front, its a survival game sorta similar to ARK or Rust or all those games. You run around, you collect resources, you build a base, you collect/upgrade gear. The big difference is that while Forest is fine in that regard, its the weakest part of the game and could be completely removed without it affecting my enjoyment of it.

The good stuff in Forest is the mystery, the exploration, and towards the end, the story. The game starts with a plane crash, and as you wake up, someone is taking your child while you hopelessly crawl to stop them. You are on a peninsula infested with cannibals and mutants, and seemingly everyone else is dead. Your main goal is to rescue your child, but a side goal is finding all the passengers of the plane. The area itself has had plenty of strange events in its past, which you uncover from picking up small clues like pictures, photos, and recordings. The setting/feel is kinda similar to the show Lost, in the best possible way.

There is plenty to find on land, but the real meat of the danger and mystery is found in the complex set of caves that run all through the area. Here is where the game truly shines, as exploring the caves is terrifying, both in the imagery you find and because the damn enemies can be really tricky and often kill you, leading to either a capture or a reload. Speaking of enemies, they are all rather unique and disturbing, and have some fantastically creepy AI. They really are the stars of the game.

I had two main issues with the game, one I fixed, and one that just is. The fixable issue is, at original settings, the caves are just too dark. Even with a light source, you can’t see much of anything, which is not only annoying, but you also miss out on the cool imagery you should be seeing. However the game has multiple light modes, and I found one that finally worked for me (its a bit too bright during the day, but not terrible).

The non-fixable ‘issue’ was the combat. Again its somewhat similar to ARK, in that its first-person and melee feels a little clunkier than it should. In other games that can be fine if the challenge ISN’T in surviving the enemies, but since so much of Forest is based on the enemies, the combat being a little clunky hurts. The other problem with combat is once you figure out that the optimal solution is to basically stun-lock enemies with fast weapons, combat goes from dangerous to a click-fest of meh. The bigger enemies you still need to be careful around, and large groups can pose a problem, but that’s about it.

Finally, the most surprising thing about The Forest is how much I got into it’s story towards the end. Piecing the clues together around the midgame was fun, and the last 10% or so of the game is a huge rush of discovery, change of pace, and one final and creepy boss fight. The ending is also really well done (the new 1.0 ending).

Posted in Review | 3 Comments

CR: Clan wars are here, and they are awesome

Clan Wars have been added to Clash Royale, and based on our first three wars, I love the addition. It does so much right, brings to light what CR does well overall, and adds a bit of much-needed weight to specific games you play.

Here is a link to a complete breakdown, but I’ll talk about the parts I like most below.

There are two phases to clan wars. The first is you play three matches, with each game played getting you cards that go into a guild card pool for the war. A win is worth more cards, but even a loss is better than not playing at all. The result is you care if you win, more-so than the average game, but losing isn’t a complete failure. The fact that all current game modes are available here is nice variety AND lets you pick and choose what you feel most comfortable with. Personally I like draft mode, but also recognize that it’s the most random. If you have a bad draft, it might be hard to overcome a decent opponent.

Phase two you have one attack, and you compete against four other clans, though indirectly. Each win gets you a point, a loss gets you nothing. The clans are ranked 1-5 based on total points at the end of the round. This results in that one game being somewhat high-pressure, which I enjoy. What really makes this interesting however is you must build a deck from the cards your clan has earned in phase one, so you can’t just play what you are comfortable with, and each war you must design the best deck you can from the choices you are given.

So what clan wars have added is a premium on clan deck building, higher stakes games, and finally a real reason for players to care how their clan-mates perform, similar to how in Clash of Clans you care how well others attack during wars. CR was missing all that, and now has it.

The update also means all cards in the game will see action, and balance won’t be strictly based on ladder play. When new cards are added, they don’t impact the upper ladder meta because of the time it takes to max them out, but they will instantly impact the war meta, which is exciting.

Finally, from a financial aspect this update is also brilliant, because you can’t use the community clan cards unless you also own them personally, and have them at the same or higher level. For the starter ranks, this means tourney-level cards, which aren’t expensive to upgrade, but once clans start to reach the higher ranks, the card levels increase, and so will the motivation/pressure to get those cards up, which will no doubt drive more people into the cash shop. That aspect is the only negative some see in the update, but I’d rather the game motivate people to spend this way (because its actually pretty easy to reach this level without spending) over the many other ways many F2P games go.

Our clan in CR is currently full, but we have some randoms that I can remove for blog readers who would like to join, though you do need 1000 trophies and level 8, the minimum level for clan wars. If you are interested, just mention the blog when applying. Our clan name is “Supreme Cream!”

Posted in Clash Royale, Inquisition Clan, PvP | 4 Comments

Frostpunk review

So my holdout on Frostpunk lasted all of a day.

Two things convinced me. The first was watching a stream that made it more obvious the game is a city builder at its core, and since I haven’t played a game like that since Forest Village, I was interested. The second was the streamer stating the game was hard. You tell me a game in a genre I enjoy is hard, and you have my attention (assuming its not a total garbage ‘hard’ game).

All of the below is based off beating the first scenario once, in about 7-8 hours.

I’ll get a bunch of the basics out of the way first. The game runs well, only crashed once for me, and has enjoyable and sometimes surprisingly great graphics and sound. It feels and performance like a finished product, and not a title still in development.

The theme of the game is its 1888, the whole world is frozen, and you lead a group of people to build perhaps the last city. Staying warm is critical, and the temperature will rise and fall as the game goes. You need food, you need to treat frostbite, and you need wood+steel to build things. You send out scouts to explore an overworld that has points-of-interest, and there are two tech trees (an actual tech tree, and a ‘laws’ system which is a different style of tech tree that also opens up new abilities and buildings).

The gameplay itself is really interesting. As mentioned, the core of the game is building a city, but here you build with far more purpose than in most such games. In others, you build to build a larger city, while here you are building to survive, both the initial rough conditions of the cold, and the ongoing problems the game throws at you. Perhaps for the first time in city builder history, the concept of ‘disasters’ isn’t an annoying tornado making you rebuild a few items, or triggering a volcano once after you save to watch it destroy things. No, here disasters fit the setting perfectly, and how you handle them has many long-term impacts. They shape the story of your city, and by the end had me really invested in its survival.

Another change to the typical city builder formula is how you place your buildings. Rather than a normal grid system, in Frostpunk you build outward, in rings, from the central heating unit. This does two things. One, it gives the city a unique look, and one that fits the theme very well. The other is more gameplay oriented; buildings closer to the core are generally easier to keep warm. Different buildings have different sizes, and before long building the city becomes a puzzle of trying to make the pieces fit without too much wasted space.

Frostpunk is made by the developers of This War of Mine, and the strength of the narrative and the emotions of the writing shine here as brightly as they did in TWOM. What is also nice is that the story and emotions aren’t told in page-length blocks of text; the writing accomplishes so much in short, precise bursts of text, which really helps to keep the pace going. Much like TWOM, there isn’t much happiness in Frostpunk, but there are plenty of great moments where the human spirit is shown in a positive light (and plenty of negative too).

Finally, no spoilers, but the ending of the game, both the final gameplay moments and the actual ending itself, are amazing. I can’t remember the last time I’ve played a game where the ending was this good. It has me wanting to play this scenario over again, because there are a lot of things I could have done differently. I’ll likely do that once I’ve completed the two other scenarios currently in the game (devs have plans to add more as well).

If you enjoy city builders, or just unique gaming experiences, Frostpunk is can’t-miss. It snuck up on me, but its a gem easily worth the current $30 price tag.

Posted in Review | 3 Comments

On the sidelines for Battletech and Frostpunk, for now

Two games came out today that I’m interested in, yet I haven’t pull the trigger on. The first is Battletech, which is a TBS title with a Sci-Fi setting. The other is Frostpunk, a steampunk-themed city builder (I think?) from the makers of This War of Mine, a game I love.

For Battletech, most of what I have seen and read about it sounds good. Its TBS, which is my thing. It’s got a campaign with some random elements, party building, and unit customization.

I know less about Frostpunk, as even matching videos about it doesn’t clear things up much. But that’s not always a bad thing, as its likely because the game is something new and not easily identified at first glance. Certainly that also fits This War of Mine, and we know how that worked out.

But with both titles, I worry they might be buggy, and/or that they are games you play once, and I’d rather play once when they are patched up and have the needed balance updates included. Perhaps hypocritical considering the number of Early Access titles in my library, but here we are.

Of course more positive news about either title could get me to make a purchase, so we shall see.

Posted in Random | 3 Comments