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You're in a desert, walking along in the sand, when all of a sudden you look down and see a tortoise. It's crawling toward you. You reach down and you flip the tortoise over on its back. The tortoise lays on its back, its belly baking in the hot sun, beating its legs trying to turn itself over, but it can't. Not without your help. But you're not helping. Why is that? Why are you not helping?

RPG Codex Review: Baldur's Gate: Siege of Dragonspear

Review - posted by Crooked Bee on Sun 24 April 2016, 18:52:27

Tags: Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition; Baldur's Gate: Siege of Dragonspear; Beamdog

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Around these parts of the internet, Beamdog are well-known - or should I say infamous? - for the paint job of an "Enhanced Edition" they did for the Baldur's Gate series. Building on a not exactly uncontested series in and of itself, Baldur's Gate: Beamdog Edition turned out even more polarizing, especially when it came to the companions and other content Beamdog added to the original game.

Hence, it should not come as a surprise that a lot of people did not expect much from Baldur's Gate: Siege of Dragonspear, Beamdog's recently released interquel set between Baldur's Gate 1 and 2, which got heaps of praise from none other than Chris Avellone pre-release. We all know Chris is the ultimate paragon of game industry friendliness who'd never say anything mean about any of his fellow devs' work, especially when it comes to projects he himself worked on - and he did apparently give some feedback on BG:SoD's writing and main plot. So, in search of a more impartial opinion (in before it's not impartial at all), we enlisted esteemed community member Delterius to act as the Codex judge of what the game manages to achieve and where it fails.

Here are some excerpts from his review:

There are a lot of choices to make in Siege of Dragonspear. Don't get me wrong, most of it is just fluff. Being rude or witty towards strangers isn't that big a deal, and the game has this habit of writing the plot into a corner by giving you too many choices and then railroading you back to the script by force. It's definitely no Age of Decadence. However, it still has a good deal of reactivity based on your class, race, which quests you complete and how you choose to end some of them. This builds up to something similar to the finale of Dragon Age: Origins, where the factions participating in the final battle are determined by your decisions. In the words of an old sage, that makes Dragonspear more of a 'full-scale RPG' compared to its predecessors. [...]

While I didn't find Siege of Dragonspear's monsters to be incredibly innovative, it's good that Beamdog didn't shy away from combining Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale's bestiaries to keep things fresh. Ghouls and Shadows have joined forces with Shades and Imbued Wights to make (un)life a bit more colorful. When helping the dwarven clerics I mentioned earlier, I had to deal with level and attribute draining, stuns, long-range health draining and enemy healing, not to mention those bastards who open fights with salvos of magic missiles. The dungeon caps it off with a final boss who far outclasses you, and who you may only be able to defeat by using a special item, much like the Unseeing Eye quest from Shadows of Amn.

Of course, enemies are more than just blocks of stats and abilities, and the AI in Siege of Dragonspear has also seen some good progress. I'd describe it as in between vanilla Baldur's Gate and the popular Sword Coast Stratagems mod. Thieves make use of invisibility and stealth to harass your squishiest party members (which won't always be your mage - the AI recognizes Stoneskin and other defensive buffs). Mages use their spells more judiciously and always buff themselves up with protective spells like Otiluke's Resilient Sphere and Minor Spell Turning. Archers in particular love to retarget, always on the lookout for an easier mark. Just about everyone uses consumables and even classic trash mob enemies like orcs and hobgoblins travel in larger numbers and have a few tricks up their sleeves.

Siege of Dragonspear's encounter design occasionally makes use of terrain. In one battle, poor Dynaheir was pelted by arrows fired through a broken window by a group of skeleton archers inside a locked room. Other highlights include an encounter with a squad of hobgoblins positioned on the other side of a bridge and an ambush in a dead magic zone. Unfortunately, battles like these are more the exception than the rule in Dragonspear. The expansion's more open areas tend to be stuffed with scores of filler trash mobs. [...]

I did not have high expectations for Siege of Dragonspear after my short playthrough of Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition. The new characters clashed mightily with the original game and Beamdog's original maps were atrocious. But now things are different. Simply put, the combat is what ultimately left me with a positive impression of the expansion. Sure, having played the original saga I've already seen most of these challenges in one way or another. Nonetheless, I feel that Beamdog have made good use of the wealth of assets built into the Infinity Engine games to deliver a solid experience.​

Read the full article: RPG Codex Review: Baldur's Gate: Siege of Dragonspear

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Sat 30 April 2016
Expeditions: Viking Interview and Gameplay Snippets at GlitchFeed

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Sat 30 April 2016, 18:03:19

Tags: Alex Mintsioulis; Expeditions: Viking; Logic Artists

There have been a few more written previews of Expeditions: Viking since PAX East, such as this one at, but there's still no proper footage of the game's new demo. The best thing for now is this interview with Alex Mintsioulis at a YouTube channel called GlitchFeed, which contains a few disjointed snippets of gameplay. Check it out:

The characters look better to me than they did in the videos from GDC. Maybe it's the lighting.

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Fri 29 April 2016
Torment Kickstarter Update #55: Brief Update, Nathan Long Novella Released

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Fri 29 April 2016, 22:27:10

Tags: Eric Schwarz; InXile Entertainment; Nathan Long; Torment: Tides of Numenera

inXile have published the first Torments: Tides of Numenera Kickstarter update in almost two months. After such a long time, one might have hoped for bigger news, but it's really just a brief notice that More Work Must Be Done. On the bright side, they've released the next novella in the From The Depths series, which should help pass the time until there's some real news. This one is by Nathan Long and is based on the Red Tide of passion and emotion. Here's the update:

Eric checking in. In our previous update, we told you about how we were targeting an April milestone for getting the game content complete. We're happy to say that we've hit that milestone – this means Torment is now playable start to finish, albeit in a somewhat rough state.

The feedback we've gained from the backer beta has been invaluable in allowing us to improve upon the game in a number of ways. In particular, we've been in the thick of a massive user interface overhaul on both the art and design fronts, cleaning up a lot of the temporary and placeholder stuff that was in when the beta launched. It is shaping up extremely well.

Furthermore, we've been reworking the game's introduction. This is one of the things we got the most comments about during the beta's early stages - how while the strangeness of the world, the visuals and the writing were all engrossing, the pacing and the way information was communicated about the game systems and story felt like they could use a bit of work. The changes we've made should address these points while also moving things along a bit more quickly.

A lot of these polish points are still in the works, and we're also chipping away at our bug lists, balance and systems tweaks both in and out of combat, and adding additional layers of improvements on for animation, visual effects and scene artwork. We're still working towards a more stable and complete build for you to enjoy, but when the next beta update comes, it will be one of the most extensive we've done.

From the Depths: Red

We have some good news on the rewards front today. Those of you who backed Torment at levels that included novellas will be happy to hear we are releasing a new installment in our "From the Depths" series - The Red Hand.

This novella comes courtesy of writer Nathan Long, who crafted several characters and quests for Torment: Tides of Numenera. You will also likely recognize Nathan as the lead writer behind Wasteland 2, not to mention that he has well over a dozen fantasy novels and several TV episodes and films to his name.

The Red Hand is a Ninth World story set in the subterranean city of Haref, which shows how art and passion can inspire great acts of heroism, but can also be twisted into tools of oppression. It follows an artist in love with a revolutionary leader as his art turns her outrage into a powerful symbol of revolt, and then escapes his control.

Applicable Torment backers who got the Red Novella with their rewards can download it right now from their Torment backer account. Just login to your Torment account, check the Rewards page and look for the "Downloads" button on your reward package that contains the novella. And remember that our novellas are still available in digital form as add-ons if you don't already have them.
Other than that, the update has a recap of all the recent Torment interviews and something about a poster. Let's hope it won't be long before there's more.

There are 86 comments on Torment Kickstarter Update #55: Brief Update, Nathan Long Novella Released

Divinity: Original Sin 2 Kickstarter Update #24: PAX East Report

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Fri 29 April 2016, 15:13:27

Tags: Divinity: Original Sin 2; Larian Studios; Swen Vincke

Swen Vincke may be in Croatia, but that hasn't stopped Larian from delivering the Divinity: Original Sin 2 Kickstarter update they promised, summarizing their visit to PAX East last week. The accompanying video demonstrates the game's new combat features in a PvP match between Swen Vincke and a diminutive underling, followed by a look at the impressions of PAX East's visitors. It's nothing we don't know about already at this point, but it's nice to get a detailed visual look at it. Here's the video and text:

What the PAXers saw:
  • New combat mechanics, including ultra-powerful Source skills powered by Source Points-- which you can obtain through fair or truly foul means.
  • Height gameplay, including added damage and range bonuses when attacking from on high (flying Margaret, anyone?).
  • New surface interactions in which you can Bless and Curse existing surfaces in order to help or hurt your fellow combatants.
  • A brand new armor system featuring Magical and Physical armor.
The update also reports that the Summoning Master skill tree has won February's skill vote. Democracy fails again!

There are 6 comments on Divinity: Original Sin 2 Kickstarter Update #24: PAX East Report

Thu 28 April 2016
Chris Avellone talks about life as a freelancer at Reboot Develop 2016

People News - posted by Infinitron on Thu 28 April 2016, 22:00:55

Tags: Chris Avellone

Chris Avellone (along with Brian Fargo and Swen Vincke) is in Croatia this week for the annual Reboot Develop gaming conference, where he's participating in several panels, including a "Beachside Chat" that he participated in this morning. I don't know when (or if) videos of those panels will be made publicly available, but a representative from Gamasutra did do a writeup of this morning's chat. Seems like it turned out as an excited rant about his carefree post-Obsidian lifestyle. I quote:

Chris Avellone is known for his RPG work, from the Fallout series, to the co-founding of Obsidian studios – and while he's still working largely in that arena, he's now a free agent, split off from the confines of a single company. And he couldn't be happier.

"I love to write for computer games. I love to design for computer games," he said during a chat at Reboot Develop. "So what I do now is I roll out of bed. I don't get dressed. I don't shower. I just start writing immediately. All my Skype calls have no video. And then I go to bed after about 11 hours, and I think 'that was a very productive day.'"

"I guess the important thing is, this is the first time in my life I've actually had a chance to just do writing and design full time," he added, "and that's all I ever wanted to do.

"I never realized how much time was consumed going into work, having meetings, doing owner stuff. I didn't realize how exhausting that stuff was. It was harder knowing how the sausage was made. And knowing the sausage, and knowing the pigs. And crying. I don't cry as much."

When it comes to creating lore and tying it together, Avellone has been writing short fiction, and some key learnings have come from that. "I realized that short stories are fine, but trying to write novels… I don't understand how novelists do it," he said. "There's a lot of moving parts and very long prose work. The first novel I tried to write, I'm still stuck on the last six chapters, thinking 'how do I tie all this stuff together?'"

Avellone referenced wikis for sprawling narratives like George R. R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire, because Game of Thrones has a wiki where people keep track of everything for him.

"Bethesda mentioned… I shouldn't say this, but they said 'we don't track everything anymore, we just go to the wiki and figure out what the crossed lines are for everything, that's basically our game design document now.'”

Now that he's in a pure creative role, Avellone doesn't see himself going back to running a studio. "I have been tempted," he said, "but the challenges with that are, you have to hire the right individuals, you have to set up your own company, and once you start doing that you enter into more of a management role and less of a creative role.

"So more what I want is to get involved in companies that have all that set up, and I can just get involved in just a creative capacity."

But there are challenges with this as well, for example with Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II. "I've got to put myself in the mindset of George Lucas, and… write like him, with a lot of vowels and stuff. Like Count Dooku, what is that?"

"You have to figure out what the franchise holder writes and thinks like, and follow that. You can't put forth every thought you have, you have to make sure it's consistent with the franchise.”

But even so, sometimes he's able to put himself and his ideas into a game that's established. "If you think you can't insert yourself into an established franchise, that's bullshit," he says. “For FTL I didn't have a lot of questions about that franchise, so I mostly enjoyed all the races and encounters.

"Writing the slug encounters was actually really amusing because they're so selfish and self absorbed. But when I came to Star Wars, I had a lot of questions about that franchise and a little bit of frustration, and that got channeled into some characters."

A franchise or series of tropes can sometimes throttle creativity, he says. “Why are there halflings in this game, why are there hobbits – well, because it's Tolkien. We're investing in this because it's Tolkien."

"Sometimes I want to grab him by the collar and be like 'Do you know what you did for computer gaming, for all time!?' Like 'oh, I'm a blood elf, and I can do anything, and everything I touch comes to life.' Fuck blood elves.”
I love that Bethesda anecdote. Does that mean Chris' apparent ambition to involve himself in the development of the next Fallout game has been stymied?

There are 45 comments on Chris Avellone talks about life as a freelancer at Reboot Develop 2016

Underworld Ascendant Pre-Alpha Prototype Gameplay Footage at IGN

Preview - posted by Infinitron on Thu 28 April 2016, 19:34:26

Tags: Nate Wells; OtherSide Entertainment; Paul Neurath; Tim Stellmach; Underworld Ascendant; Warren Spector

IGN have posted their exclusive Underworld Ascendant pre-alpha prototype gameplay footage. In the nine minute video, the player character wanders around the lava-filled ruins seen in recent screenshots, fights skeletons and interacts with the environment, while art director Nate Wells and lead designer Tim Stellmach provide commentary.

There's also a shorter video featuring Paul Neurath and Warren Spector. It's not quite the promotional blitz I was expecting after Monday's update (which promised interviews with the developers, not just sound bytes), but maybe there'll be more later.

There are 30 comments on Underworld Ascendant Pre-Alpha Prototype Gameplay Footage at IGN

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided 101 Trailer

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Thu 28 April 2016, 18:45:59

Tags: Deus Ex: Mankind Divided; Eidos Montreal

After a long period of time with no significant updates, Eidos Montreal and Square Enix have released a new trailer for Deus Ex: Mankind Divided they're calling "Trailer 101". As the name suggests, the trailer is a kind of introductory lesson to the world of Deus Ex as of 2029, which could also serve as a tutorial video for the game's first mission. It's the best look we've gotten at Mankind Divided since last year's E3. Check it out:

Note the Illuminati cameos at around 0:26, including a young Bob Page and what appears to be a bald Morgan Everett.

There are 69 comments on Deus Ex: Mankind Divided 101 Trailer

Wed 27 April 2016
Expeditions: Viking Preview at Destructoid

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Wed 27 April 2016, 11:49:38

Tags: Expeditions: Viking; Logic Artists

Expeditions: Viking was at PAX East last weekend, but it doesn't seem to have gotten a whole lot of media attention, which is a shame because the Logic Artists had a new demo to show. One of the few sites to post something about it was Destructoid, who have this rather poorly edited preview written by a high school history teacher. But it does explain the nature of that "haunted cave". Here's an excerpt:

One of the immediately obvious changes from Expeditions: Conquistador was map movement. When not in battle, players move freely by clicking where they want their party to go, similar to action RPGs, like Diablo or Torchlight. This is a huge improvement over Conquistador's hex-based movement, which well works for the battles (and is still used for them in Viking), but definitely made the overworld map more complicated than it needed to be.

The demo didn’t really allow me to create a character. Instead it had me select a pre-made class. However, the final game will give players complete control over their character’s stats and skills. One thing that made me smile, though, was how the demo took the character’s traits like strength and finesse, and automatically put together a background for them. For example, a character with low strength would be described as someone who's never been known for his brute force. They weren't long descriptions, but also read a bit better than stilted Madden commentary.

After roaming around and talking to some townsfolk, I had some quests to conquer. My main objective involved getting into a cave and pillaging its loot. But first, a band of thieves had taken someone’s goods. Alright, simple enough. I went up north and, sure enough found, the thieves’ camp. After some brief dialogue, things got hostile and a skirmish began.

Battles play out similarly to Conquistador, or most other hex-based strategy games for that matter. Characters get move and attack actions. There’s a probability to hit, skills to use, terrain to worry about – you get the picture. There are smaller intricacies like "Attack of Opportunity" where characters will swipe at an enemy if they move near them, which forces players to be careful of the route they take when navigating to a specific hex cell. It’s a very satisfying mesh of mechanics that rewards intelligence and planning over anything else.

After dispatching the thieves, my party had a brilliant idea. You see, a townsperson had mentioned if I wanted to complete my main quest and get into the cave, I’d need a sacrifice. So, with the thieves captive, I had a choice to make. One of the bandits, a woman, was evidently someone that the townspeople recognized and didn't want to sacrifice.

We mutilated her face and sacrificed her anyway. Oh, and I kept the loot instead of returning it, because there was some really good weapons and armor. I was not role-playing a kind Viking.

All of these choices happen through dialogue trees, where you'll occasionally have the option to perform specific actions if your corresponding stat is high enough. RPG fans have seen this before; if you're powerful, you might be able to strong-arm someone into doing something they don’t want. Or perhaps your finesse is extremely high and you can quickly maneuver to get the upper hand. These actions all have a chance of failing, so it's best to be careful. At the very least, Viking is kind enough to display your stats during dialogue, so there’s no need to wonder "Uh, what’s my strength stat at again?”

So, we sacrificed the girl and got into our cave. I was told the full game will give players the opportunity to sacrifice a party member, but that option wasn’t in the demo. There was another NPC I could have used as a sacrifice, but a bug prevented me from talking to him at all. Anyway, after entering the cave I was greeted by a psychedelic-looking map. My party had gotten the status effect of “drugged” because of the mustiness of the long-unopened cave. It actually looked really cool!

I killed some cave-dwellers, who were apparently poor, famished humans who had turned rabid, and it was my chance to plunder. I stuffed everything I could into my pockets (I actually failed a finesse check to do so gracefully) and headed out to finish the quest. As always seems to be the case, though, nothing is ever that simple. Turns out the villagers weren't happy with me stuffing my pockets.

So I killed the bastards, and that was the end of the demo. I left with delightful attitude, despite the grim subject matter and multiple killings and betrayals that had just occurred. I felt happy because there’s just not much else like Expeditions out there. The way the story tones, historical accuracy, and gameplay come together is not often seen in strategy games. Moreover, the dialogue is wonderful, and the branching paths and actions make the non-fighting elements as rewarding as anything else.
Hopefully something more substantial will show up later.

There are 1 comments on Expeditions: Viking Preview at Destructoid

Tue 26 April 2016
Avadon 3: The Warborn announced, coming September 14

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Tue 26 April 2016, 23:56:05

Tags: Avadon 3: The Warborn; Spiderweb Software

Well, sort of announced. The store page for Avadon 3: The Warborn, final chapter in Spiderweb Software's Avadon series, just showed up on Steam. It's got a release date of September 14, 2016. Here's the the trailer and description:

Avadon 3: The Warborn is a huge, old-school, indie fantasy role-playing adventure, the conclusion of the epic Avadon trilogy. You are a Hand of Avadon, warrior and spy, judge and executioner, with nearly unlimited power to fight the enemies of your homeland. Your word is Law. However, your lands have been invaded. Barbarians and monsters are rampaging through your home, and you are the only one who has a way to stop them.

Avadon 3: The Warborn is an epic, retro adventure in an enormous and unique world. Choose from five different character classes, each with dozens of unique spells and abilities. Explore cunning dungeons, hunt for hundreds of magical artifacts, and pass judgment on your enemies (or just people you don’t like). Avadon 3 features many different endings. Will you save your people or betray them? Follow orders or claw for more power? We leave those decisions for you.

Key Features:
  • Epic fantasy role-playing adventure in an enormous and unique world.
  • Many different endings. Will you be loyal to your leaders or switch sides and bring them down? The choice is yours!
  • Five different character classes, with dozens of unique spells and abilities.
  • Experience an exciting story, with fascinating characters, tough decisions, and many twists and turns.
  • Dozens of side quests, dungeons, and secrets to discover.
  • Hundreds of magical items to find. Use powerful crystals to make your artifacts even more powerful.
  • Huge adventure with lots of replay value. Experience with earlier games is entirely unnecessary to enjoy Avadon 3.
Looks like Jeff has been doing something other than writing self-contradictory blog posts over the past year. But does his game stand a chance in the hectic RPG environment that late 2016 is shaping up to be?

There are 55 comments on Avadon 3: The Warborn announced, coming September 14

Underworld Ascendant Update #23: Pre-Alpha Prototype coming this week

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Tue 26 April 2016, 13:07:38

Tags: Chris Siegel; OtherSide Entertainment; Underworld Ascendant

The next version of the Underworld Ascendant prototype is due to be released later this week. OtherSide are calling it a "Pre-Alpha Prototype" (it's unclear how that relates to the "Pre-Alpha" of the $75 Kickstarter tier), and it'll be the first playable release to include proper graphics. Yesterday's update has the details:

It's true. You learn much going back and refining what you have already done. Over the past several weeks, we've been working hard to bring the Improvisation Engine's player-driven gameplay into a level crafted in game's new "Authored Look."

Our current "Pre-Alpha Prototype" also includes:
  • Both spells and swordplay are available.
  • Objects in the world are reacting to fire, air, earth, and plant spells, allowing for fun experimentation.
  • New collectables, loot, and runes are hidden throughout the map, often in randomized places. (Some are deviously hard to get to, but we have faith in your abilities.)
Since last month's screenshots showing of the game's new "Authored Look," we've made the space a bit darker and moodier and also added areas that are reminiscent of a classic 10x10 corridor dungeon crawl to show the contrast between an open space and a more intimate area. The shader has been tweaked, the reflectivity map has been updated, and much more.

It's still an early work-in-progress, but it's starting to feel real and you can begin to get a sense of the physical rules that govern the world around you.

For backers who have Prototype Access, you'll soon be able to play the Pre-Alpha Prototype yourself. Expect an email when the build is up on Steam later this week.

If you don't have access yet, you can still purchase it as an Add-On on our website here.​

The update also explains what's coming up next for Ascendant:

Going forward, the team will be making everything more robust: The spell and mana system, a more complete combat system, UI, and, of course, The Stygian Abyss itself. There's also a lot ahead with our bestiary and races, how they act, where the live in the world, and more.

One of the biggest tests upcoming is our Quest system, which will include both procedural quests and more conventional 'story' missions. The former will build out systems pioneered back in Ultima Underworld and System Shock, reacting to your solutions to problems and presenting challenges reflective of your choices.

Also, while we've concentrated on the spell system and laying the groundwork on combat, there's one more elusive skillset that we haven't talked too much about... Something particularly near and dear to Tim and I's heart.

Yep... Stealth.

We won't be doing a 1:1 version of Looking Glass' Thief: The Dark Project, but will provide stealth skills that let you short-circuit encounters through avoidance, escape, and trickery. For a thief, the success or failure of a melee encounter is often determined by how it begins. Preparation is hugely important. Stealth skills often call for careful preparation to take advantage of specific circumstances, requiring you to plan ahead in order to make your abilities count.

Of course, AI is a big part of making stealth gameplay work. Tim has already created the basic groundwork of the system, which is following pretty closely the original Thief model: speed matters, light matters, and sound is also important. Many baseline beasties might react like the guards in Thief, but you never know if some of the other fantastic creatures in this world will be fooled by your skulking ways.
There's going to be a video of the Pre-Alpha Prototype in action at IGN this week, as well as a set of interviews with the developers. OtherSide aren't very good at this marketing stuff, but it looks they're trying to get the hang of it.

There are 4 comments on Underworld Ascendant Update #23: Pre-Alpha Prototype coming this week

Mon 25 April 2016
Kickstarter Roundup: Stellar Tactics and Krai Mira

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Mon 25 April 2016, 23:54:08

Tags: Krai Mira; Maverick Games; Stellar Tactics; Tall Tech Studio

Two indie RPGs have rather unwisely decided to launch their Kickstarter campaigns simultaneously today. The first of them is Stellar Tactics by Maverick Games, a company led by one Don Wilkins, who was a producer on Arcanum and Wizardry Gold. It's an ambitious sci-fi RPG with turn-based combat and sandbox-style space exploration. We've actually known about the game since February, but apparently it's been in development for many years. The Kickstarter campaign is asking for $67,000, and a $12 pledge will secure you a copy if it succeeds. Here's the trailer:

The second game is Krai Mira by Polish developer Tall Tech Studio. It's a post-apocalyptic RPG in the vein of Fallout which has also been in development for a while, formerly under the name "Crimea". Its Kickstarter campaign needs just £2,000, with £10 required for a copy. Krai Mira has a free demo, and oddly enough, is also already available for sale on Steam Early Access. I guess that's a thing now. Here's the trailer:

Say what you want about Eastern European shovelware, but that narrator is awesome.

There are 33 comments on Kickstarter Roundup: Stellar Tactics and Krai Mira

Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines Released on GOG

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Mon 25 April 2016, 17:11:36

Tags: Troika Games; Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines; VTMB Unofficial Patch

Troika's Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines has been released on GOG, confirming the rumors from earlier this month about its impending arrival. It was previously only available on Steam, while Arcanum and The Temple of Elemental Evil are only available on GOG; you can now own all three of Troika's classics on one platform. Any self-respecting Codex reader should already be familiar with this game, but here's its description, just to fill out the post:

Los Angeles always had a thriving night life but no one really knows what lurks behind the glittering lights and seedy nightclubs. While mortals live their normal lives, clans of vampires conspire and scheme to further their own mysterious goals. As a newly-sired vampire, you are put to trial by the Prince of the city for your sire’s wrongdoings. A lone voice spares you from the Final Death and you become a pawn in the Prince’s plans.

Traverse the dark world of modern-day Los Angeles in Troika’s swan song, Vampire The Masquerade: Bloodlines. Visit raves and explore the secret underground caverns of Downtown to seedy hotels and exclusive mansions on Hollywood’s infamous Sunset Strip. Embark on a variety of story-driven quests as you explore an open world filled with side missions, multiple paths, and strange denizens to interact with. Yours is a living world, even though you cease to be.
  • Swear allegiance to one of seven unique clans, then use an array of vampiric disciplines, such as Dementation, Celerity, or Animalism, to achieve your goals.
  • Superbly written dialogue with a unique feel and tone for each clan.
  • Customize your Kindred the way you see fit, from the dialogue choices you make to the skills you improve.
This version of Bloodlines includes the basic version of Wesp5's essential unofficial patch, which reached version 9.5 last month. The game's price is $20, same as on Steam. No amazing bargains here - we are talking about an Activision game, after all.

There are 124 comments on Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines Released on GOG

George Ziets and Colin McComb interviewed on Shane Plays

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Mon 25 April 2016, 15:44:50

Tags: Colin McComb; George Ziets; InXile Entertainment; Shane Stacks; Torment: Tides of Numenera

inXile's George Ziets and Colin McComb were the guests on Shane Plays this Saturday. The resulting interview, which as you might expect was mainly about the upcoming Torment: Tides of Numenera, was made available on YouTube last night. Topics include George and Colin's careers and how you might acquire a similar one, the current state of Torment's development (it's progressing well, but no, they can't commit to a release date yet), the story of how Torment ended up using the Numenera setting and their thoughts about adapting its ruleset, Torment's sales expectations (with no answer given, of course - a noble but futile effort), the prospects of an arm wrestling competition with Brian Fargo, and more.

However, the most interesting part of the interview is literally in the last two minutes, when Shane asks Colin and George what they regret having to cut from the game. In Colin's case, it's a particular character he really liked that had to be cut in favor of another, more well-developed one. In George's case, it's an entire faction, and he also seems to imply that the game's entire factional aspect won't be receiving as much emphasis as they had originally planned. That sounds like Planescape: Torment, all right.

There are 13 comments on George Ziets and Colin McComb interviewed on Shane Plays

Sun 24 April 2016
Divinity: Original Sin 2 PAX East Previews

Preview - posted by Infinitron on Sun 24 April 2016, 18:52:13

Tags: Divinity: Original Sin 2; Larian Studios; Swen Vincke

Even though it's still the weekend, a number of sites have already published their previews of the Divinity: Original Sin 2 PvP arena at PAX East. PC Gamer have posted a video of their representative's match against Swen Vincke, along with a short interview with Swen. As far as written previews go, the one at USgamer is probably the best. I'll post both of those here:

The first Divinity: Original Sin had an excellent combat system, where elemental skills and abilities combined and clashed to interesting effect. You could rain on an opponent's parade and then cast an ice spell to freeze them in their tracks. Need a breather? Bring fire and water spells together to create a steam cloud. You could use a teleportation spell to rejigger the battlefield to your liking. Half of the fun of Divinity: Original Sin was finding the right skill combos and planning elaborate traps using them.

Larian isn't a studio to relax though, so they've expanded on the games' combat this time around. There's a new armor/magic armor system. Physical skills deplete armor, while magical attacks destroy your magic armor. Some characters have one or both, depending on where their affinities lie. The armor protects you from debilitating effects like Fear, so getting rid of your opponents' armor should be your first step.

Divinity: Original Sin II now takes height into account for spells and abilities. Your attack range is increased if you're doing so from high ground, giving you a tactical advantage. If you want to win, get up high!

Another tactical change is the ability to cast certain effects on the ground. Bless, Blessed Earth, and Nature's Curse were spells that were available in the first game, but they were target-only or aura abilities. Now, you can choose to cast them on an area instead. If those areas intersect with other fields like fire or poison, they force modified effects upon anyone who treads upon that magical ground.

I was shown the new combat system in Divinity: Original Sin II's new PVP arena. The arena is 2v2 combat: I chose a Ranger and Warrior as my pair against Larian creative director Sven Vincke. We were thrown into a relatively small arena map, with the opposing side only a few moves away.

Original Sin II's combat is all about movement and line of sight. You want the high ground to increase your attack range, but you don't want to stand out in the open too long. A Mage's Teleport or Rogue's Cloak and Dagger become important skills for getting into the right position to set up combos or get in some solid opening shots.

Original Sin II features a new Source skill system, where certain abilities only work if you've collected Source points from silver glowing pools around the battlefield. But you can't just make a beeline for the Source pools. Where you're walking is important, because a number of spells have negative ground effects that smart players can use to entrap and manage their foes.

My Ranger shot a fire arrow into a poison barrel near Vincke's Rogue, dousing the area in green, poison mist. He could've just moved out of the affected region, but instead he blessed the poison ground, turning it into a healing stream. Larian's eye for detail is apparent here: when the poison ground is blessed, plants and flowers curl up from the dirt to denote the healing properties. A lengthy PVP battle eventually becomes a game of finding the places on the map that aren't on fire, ice, or poison.

And the combos that made Original Sin great still work great in Original Sin II's PVP. Vincke blew up around barrel near me, spreading fire on the ground. He then cursed the ground to do additional damage, which I countered with my own blessing. Finally, he used an ability called Phoenix Charge to make his warrior immune to fire damage, so he could wade in and finish my hurt Ranger off. I ran away, but the previous attacks had stripped my armor, so he cast fear on my Ranger, taking him out of the battle temporarily. This back-and-forth and exploitation of weakness is a key facet of Original Sin II and the arena PVP mode.

In the end, my canny intelligence and strategy handed me the battle. (Also, I think Vincke was going easy on me.) All those fans who wanted PVP in the first Original Sin, I can tell you that it's as awesome as you imagined. Combined with the new combat changes, Original Sin II's PVP takes the tactical options of the first game and puts a human behind your opponents. It's a great mode that expands a sequel looking to outdo the magnificent original.
Additional previews are available at Tom's Hardware, Game Informer and GameSpot, and I imagine there'll be more next week.

There are 20 comments on Divinity: Original Sin 2 PAX East Previews

Sat 23 April 2016
Divinity: Original Sin 2 Kickstarter Update #23: PAX East Reminder, New Screenshots, GOG NPC Vote

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Sat 23 April 2016, 13:09:17

Tags: Divinity: Original Sin 2; Larian Studios; Swen Vincke

Larian have published a Divinity: Original 2 Kickstarter update to remind us that they're at PAX East in Boston this weekend. There's not much information in it otherwise, but I can never get enough of these funny Swen videos:

They have released a few screenshots of the PvP arena mode they're showcasing there, which offer a first look at the game's combat UI:

[​IMG] [​IMG]
A more substantial Divinity: Original Sin 2 update will be released next week. In the meantime, why not go vote on the identity of's backer NPC? Don't let the humorless dorks win.

There are 13 comments on Divinity: Original Sin 2 Kickstarter Update #23: PAX East Reminder, New Screenshots, GOG NPC Vote

Fri 22 April 2016
Colony Ship RPG Update #4: Main Quest Design, Progress Report

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Fri 22 April 2016, 16:21:28

Tags: Colony Ship RPG; Iron Tower Studios; Vault Dweller

Vault Dweller has published a new monthly development update for his upcoming Colony Ship RPG. This one is an extended pontification on the design of the game's main quest. Unsurprisingly, it's extremely ambitious, and seeks to address some of the complaints people had about Age of Decadence:

There are many different ways to construct a main quest in an RPG and every studio uses a different set of building blocks reflecting their own preferences and goals. We’re all about Choices & Consequences, which means 3 key types of choices:
  • Multiple quest solutions (you should be able to go through the game in a different manner if you decide to replay it with a different character)
  • Narrative choices (craft your own story by making different choices and reaping different consequences)
  • Moral choices (aka ‘you should not be forced to play a hero obsessed with helping people’)
Needless to say, there is a lot of work involved in supporting these choices and giving them depth. Narrative choices require multiple factions, a branching main quest, and multiple endings; moral choices – evil/opportunistic bastard path, etc.

Our main quest’s building blocks aren’t that different from the ones we used in AoD...
  • 3-4 factions
  • Branching main quest (at some point you choices should take you into different directions)
  • At least 5-6 vastly different endings
... but we’ll use them in a very different way and craft a very different experience.

Before we talk about the CSG’s main quest design, let’s talk about the AoD’s main quest to illustrate some points without spoiling anything.

The main quest started vague – "go I know not where, bring back I know not what", and then the faction quests took over as the meat of the game. Essentially, the game wasn’t about finding the temple but instead working for the factions and slowly uncovering what happened in the past. By the time you’ve visited all 3 cities and learned what you can about the factions, the war, and the gods, you know where the temple is and you're ready to make your choice. That fairly important choice affects the ending slides, but not gameplay because the game is almost over at this point.

Naturally, we want to do better. So in the CSG we’ll get rid of the vagueness, move the main quest to the center stage, push the factions’ quests back, and allow you to make key choices earlier and thus enjoy the consequences earlier.

It will start simple – while scavenging you stumble upon something clearly valuable, a long-forgotten device that wasn’t meant to be used until the ship lands (but can be used in-flight). Not being an expert on such things, you need to know exactly what this thing is to figure out what one of the factions will pay for it, which is a good way to introduce you to the three main factions in Act 1, whereas in AoD the Noble Houses were introduced one Act at a time for storytelling reasons (escalating events).

Once you know what that device is (at about 30% of the game), you’ll offer it to the faction of your choice, at which point your relationship with the other factions will go down, introducing an aspect we didn’t really touch in AoD – factions acting against you, attacking your base of operations, and turning locations under their influence against you, which will boost replayability.

At about 70% of the game, you might realize (via learning more about the ship if you’re smart enough) that what you’re doing might not necessary be what’s best for the ship (or you personally) and get an option to do things in a very different, "fuck all factions" way. The remaining 30% of the game will be dedicated to each path within this fork, presenting different challenges and choices. So far, that’s 3 'working for a faction' paths, 3 'fuck 'em' paths, and 7 different endings without counting permutations.

This way you’ll get to play through your key decisions, instead of being told about what happened next in the slides. Obviously, the slides will still be there but gameplay-to-slides ratio will be different.​

Also included in the update is a short report on the progress of the game's development. VD thinks he can conclude preproduction by March 2017, leaving 3 years for actual development.

There are 56 comments on Colony Ship RPG Update #4: Main Quest Design, Progress Report

Thu 21 April 2016
Tyranny Dev Diary #1: The Vision of Tyranny

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Thu 21 April 2016, 19:14:25

Tags: Brian Heins; Obsidian Entertainment; Tyranny

The Tyranny website has received its first update since the game was announced last month, a Dev Diary blog update by project director Brian Heins. It's a general statement about the game's vision and the role played by the player character. There's not really any new information here, but it's a start:

This is the first of several developer diaries for our new RPG Tyranny! We’ll be releasing information frequently until the game ships. We’re going to try to keep these updates packed with information and give you details on Tyranny’s game systems, lore, and art in future updates. For this first dev diary, I wanted to talk a bit about the vision for Tyranny.

When we started working on Tyranny, there were several things we wanted to accomplish: make a game that builds on the technology being created for Pillars of Eternity, make the player feel important to the world from the beginning of the game, and focus on choice and reactivity in our quests and systems.

We knew going in that we had a solid foundation to build on from the Pillars team. This meant we didn’t have to worry about things like ‘how will we create areas?’ or ‘how does inventory work?’ Instead, we were able to focus our efforts on building the world and updating the RPG rules for the changes we wanted to make. This allowed us to do a lot with a small team early in development.

A lot of RPGs start you out as the weak or inexperienced character who becomes more important and influential over time. This parallels how your character grows in strength and power as they gain levels, so it’s a structure that works well for RPGs. For Tyranny, we wanted to play with that concept. Does the player need to start off weak in order to feel more powerful later in the game? We decided to make the player important from the very beginning of the game, from the very first interaction with an NPC.

We didn’t want you to be the ‘errand girl of Evil’. If you were just a grunt or a lackey, your ability to influence or change the world would be limited, and your responsibility for the fact that evil won would be reduced.

This required us to design our quests and content to reinforce this at every turn. We didn’t want you being approached by random NPCs asking you to rescue their cat from a tree. Your choices shape nations, and the quests had to reflect that.

Many RPGs are great at letting you be the hero, the beacon of strength and hope for a world facing imminent destruction. They’re not always great at the opposite side of that coin. I am disappointed when I play games where the “evil” choice requires me to act like a psychopath, murdering everyone in front of me. Sometimes that’s fun, but it’s very limiting when it’s the only option. Especially when the game punishes me for making those decisions.

With Tyranny we wanted to create a more nuanced evil. One where the choices players make aren’t so obviously black and white. We wanted to make a game where players were free to take the evil path as far as they want to go, and feel powerful and rewarded for it. Ultimately, RPGs are about the choices players make. With Tyranny we wanted to focus our efforts on making the world react to player choices – both in game systems and in dialogue. By now you’ve probably seen interviews where we talked about your ability to shape the world during character creation, and the alliances you can form during gameplay. These all come out of that goal – making Tyranny a highly reactive game that you can play multiple times. Each time seeing how the world changes as you make different choices.

So that’s the vision for Tyranny: a highly reactive world that you helped the evil Overlord conquer. That’s the setup, it’s up to you to decide how the story plays out.

In our next update, I’ll provide some details about some of the basic game systems.
There have been a couple of Tyranny interviews recently as well, such at this one at GameWatcher, but there's not much new information there either. It seems that Paradox are keeping the game in a low profile until Stellaris and Hearts of Iron 4 are released. So it is with publishers. But at least that tells us the game definitely isn't coming out until the second half of the year.

There are 114 comments on Tyranny Dev Diary #1: The Vision of Tyranny

Wed 20 April 2016
Josh Sawyer plans to develop a historical RPG after his current project

People News - posted by Infinitron on Wed 20 April 2016, 20:25:20

Tags: J.E. Sawyer; Obsidian Entertainment

It seems that Josh Sawyer feels that he can speak more openly in his new role as Design Director of Obsidian. In the latest reply on his ever-popular Tumblr Q&A site, he has rather remarkably revealed his intention to develop a Darklands-like historical RPG as his next project (after the current one, which is probably Pillars of Eternity 2). I quote:

Is there anything stopping you from doing historical RPG? Do you consider PoE a historical RPG cause it functions more like a historical fiction than a typical fantasy story?

I need to devote my attention to the project I’m currently directing, but it is my intention that the next project I direct (after this one) will be a historical RPG. It’s something I’ve been talking to Feargus every once in a while for the past couple of years and he’s been supportive.

I don’t consider PoE to be a historical RPG in any way. When I say “historical RPG” I mean something set in Earth’s history – inclusive with fantastic variations, like Darklands and Ars Magica.​

Darklands is one of Josh's favorite RPGs, and the prospect of developing a similar game is something he's been talking about for a long time. Knowing Josh, I don't think he would announce something like this at such an early stage unless it was likely to be a sure thing. The man's definitely earned some privileges.

There are 333 comments on Josh Sawyer plans to develop a historical RPG after his current project

Tue 19 April 2016
The Banner Saga 2 Released

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Tue 19 April 2016, 20:23:50

Tags: Stoic Studio; The Banner Saga 2

The original Banner Saga was released back in January 2014, a happy month that also witnessed the near-simultaneous releases of Blackguards and Might & Magic X. Not so for its sequel, The Banner Saga 2, which arrives today during what appears to be a minor RPG drought until the major releases start kicking off later this year. It's a direct sequel in the fullest sense of the word - an imported save will allow you to continue your adventures with the same characters, with the same stats and even the same inventory items. As Bubbles explained in our belated review of the original title, the Banner Saga formula is a quirky one that's not for everybody, but what it lacks in mass appeal it more than makes up for in good PR. The sequel has received an impressive amount of release day reviews:
As you can see, the game is reviewing quite well, with the improved combat being singled out for praise, although most of the reviews seem to agree that it hasn't completely ironed out all of the original title's idiosyncratic quirks. For good or ill, it's still The Banner Saga. It's available now on Steam for $20.

There are 26 comments on The Banner Saga 2 Released

Mon 18 April 2016
The New Obsidian: Josh Sawyer promoted to studio Design Director role

People News - posted by Infinitron on Mon 18 April 2016, 14:27:54

Tags: J.E. Sawyer; Obsidian Entertainment

It's gradually becoming apparent just how much Obsidian have changed over the past couple of years. Following on the heels of Leonard Boyarsky's recruitment comes news that some Codexers will find less welcome. In an off-handed remark on Twitter the other night, project director and balancer-in-chief Josh Sawyer revealed that he'd been promoted to the role of studio "Design Director", giving him a measure of authority over all of Obsidian's current and future games. I asked him yesterday what exactly that means:

Congratulations on your promotion. Does it actually mean anything, though?

It means I’m responsible for helping with overall design direction at the studio. I’ve always talked to designers on other teams about their work, but now it’s part of my job. I talk to individual designers at all levels about challenges they’re facing and what they’re trying to accomplish. I also talk to producers and game directors about high-level design direction and focus. I try to play our games regularly to give feedback on specific issues I come across as well as areas where a team is doing well. I help review all incoming design applications and sit in on as many design interviews as is reasonable.

Currently I’m revising and updating old documentation that covers basic design principles that Obsidian has used and continues to use in our games. Obsidian is a lot larger now than it was ten years ago. Tribal knowledge only goes so far and all standards documentation needs to be regularly reviewed.
According to resident Obsidian expert Duraframe300, the described role is largely analogous to Chris Avellone's former one as Creative Director, although I assume under Sawyer's tenure it will have less of a narrative focus. It's a new era, all right - when I joked about "Avellonesidian" and "Sawyersidian" last year, I never imagined things would play out so literally. But don't worry, it doesn't mean that Josh won't have time to lead development on the next Pillars of Eternity game.

There are 374 comments on The New Obsidian: Josh Sawyer promoted to studio Design Director role

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