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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: Expeditions: Viking

Review - posted by Infinitron on Fri 19 May 2017, 21:34:00

Tags: Expeditions: Viking; Logic Artists

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Over the course of its 2+ year long development, I couldn't help but feel that the Codex community was turning its nose up at Expeditions: Viking. In the post-Skyrim era, its choice of setting was viewed by many as cliched and unambitious compared to its predecessor, Expeditions: Conquistador, even as they conceded that it looked like a solid product. That choice of setting does seem to have helped it sell decently enough for an indie title, despite a notoriously buggy launch. Such is the way of the world. Be that as it may, Viking is one of the few significant traditional RPG releases of early 2017 and it deserves a thorough review. For that, we enlisted the esteemed Tigranes, who proved himself with his Tyranny review back in January. In his review, he finds Viking to be a solid historical roleplaying experience, unfortunately let down by severe balance and difficulty curve issues. With the rate that the game is receiving patches, it's possible that much of this critique won't be very relevant in a month, but we had to draw the line somewhere! Here's an excerpt:

The loss of this old formula is not an accident, but a price deliberately paid. For better or for worse, Viking has introduced a new formula to replace the old – and wants to be judged on those merits. As I said, Viking is much closer to a quest/story-driven WRPG, taking place in fully rendered towns – including genre staples like urban robberies, missing villagers and even a few FedEx quests. Given that this is the second game from a small studio, the level of quality and quantity achieved is generally impressive. There are plenty of quests, many of which exhibit a credible degree of choice & consequences by being weaved into the faction-based storyline. The premise is simple: you journey to Britain and suck up to the Picts and/or the Northumbrians – with the typical result that you side with one of them, or fight them both. There is a reasonably robust depiction of the interests and needs of the factions, and then the ways in which a marauding band of Vikings might enter that picture. Your landfall near a quiet English village is greeted by fear, anxiety, and language issues; should miscommunication (or your violent intent) result in a massacre, you’ll have to explain yourself to the Northumbrians soon after. The bishop will constantly preach on about how you are all doomed as heathens to the fires of hell, but admit willingly that even barbarians might be of use in weeding out another heretic cult. Throughout, the looting and pillaging work done by other Vikings – and sometimes, by you – will rouse resentment and suspicion that you’ll have to assuage one way or another. For the most part, Viking ensures that the sensible consequences to the course of events are charted out, though they never approach, say, the complexity of Fallout: New Vegas.

The quests and faction politics are backed up by a setting that puts the historical backdrop to good use – but also has the good sense to refrain from ham-fisted clichés. There are no freedum-lovin’ rough-and-tumble Picts versus the civilised Northumbrians here (which would, in any case, not be particularly historical) – only two powerful fiefdoms that are both wary of foreign interlopers, and yet willing to do business with them where profitable. Priests will describe your faith as barbaric as a matter of course, but you will also find locals that are still wed to pre-Roman paganism, or a regional cult that exhibits a weird syncretism of Roman founding myths and Christian rituals. To be sure, if you’re looking for full fidelity to history, you won’t find it; but I think it was a wise move for the game to avoid, say, roping in well-known people and events from the history books, which would inevitably annoy anyone who knows the period well. The setting remains a backdrop, mostly avoiding egregious historical inaccuracies while leveraging the material for a sensible gameworld.

All this is achieved through writing that, for the most part, knows when to do its job and when to butt out. Just as with Conquistador, this is not a game you primarily play for the intricate writing – and Viking, to its credit, has realised it. That sounds like damning by faint praise, but it is in fact high praise: there is nothing more obnoxious than a bad writer who won’t shut up (digging myself a giant hole here, etc). Dialogue rarely overstays its welcome. Companions are decent, if unspectacular, saying just enough lines to establish their character then getting out of your way. Sure, there is Ketill, the childhood friend whose quest involves finding his parents, and Nefja, who had to leave behind a sick sister to join the expedition; but the melodrama is largely confined to an optional quest or two, without devolving into Biowarian milksoppery. The writing also differentiates reasonably well between the views and beliefs of different characters, rather than each one mouthing the writer’s thoughts: Nefja, the same one so concerned with her family, will happily advise that the kid who helped you was ‘a coward and a thief’, and we might as well stab, behead, and desecrate his corpse to further your goals. The plot as a whole also stays refreshingly grounded, as well. You begin by newly inheriting a clan, whose sovereignty is challenged by a powerful neighbouring Thegn, and you end by proving at the Althing that you have gained enough military clout to protect your claim. There is no preposterously grandious war, Ancient Evil, or mysterious arcane phenomena that has spoiled so many other CRPG narratives.

[...] And now we come to the combat – the most important aspect of both Conquistador and Viking, given that you spend the bulk of your playing time fighting. Conquistador had a very good turn-based combat system, which mixed in a robust spread of character abilities with an attractive lineup of consumables to offer a properly tactical experience. Shields must be batted away or broken down to damage the wielder; archers can be confounded by use of cover or distractions; trip-rope and caltrops foil the fast-moving flankers. Here, the underlying formula remains the same; players of Conquistador will recognise and enjoy Viking’s combat immediately. And yet. Once again, the changes to the combination of features in and beyond the combat system effects the experience in mixed ways.

Let’s start with the positives. Viking provides a reasonably balanced and diverse set of abilities to customise your band. Dual-wielders, shield users, bow specialists, or healers versed in ‘totally-not-magic-we-swear’ witchcraft all play very differently. (Hell, Christian characters, allied and enemy, have their own pseudomagic tree in 'Benediction' - a nice touch.) There are sensible synergies built in as well: axemen are good for knocking away shields, opening the way for others to strike. A shield-user might knock an enemy down, at which point the knife-wielder can jump in for a deathblow. Spears can distract enemies, disabling their attack of opportunity as your archer flees the melee. Add in consumables, and Viking has enough toys in the basket to support the dozens of battles it has you fight. This comment also extends to the enemies, most of whom are human and share a similar range of equipment and abilities. The one exception, wolves, also feature several distinct characteristics. Viking’s switch to a more scripted RPG model ensures that there are few trash mobs, and the encounter design as a whole adds significant value to the game.

The problem comes when you plug this combat into the game as a whole. By far the biggest, and most inexcusable, failure is the complete lack of any difficulty. The most difficult, ‘Insane’, might as well be called Story Time. Consider that you will often take six men with you into battle, and normally face between five and ten enemies. Most battles give you the initiative, and any halfway competent player can take out between one and three enemies in that first turn. You do the maths. After the half-way point in my playthrough, I realised it was a waste of time to bother with consumables, or indeed half of the abilities and tactics available to me, since I could roflstomp my way through almost every battle. (Ironically, if not for this problem, Viking’s difficulty settings would be worthy of high praise; it provides customisable sliders for everything that it influences.) This nonexistence of challenge sucks a huge amount of fun out of this kind of game. I realised I didn’t even need to camp after days of marching, because even a hungry and sleep-deprived band could easily emerge victorious. This is a huge departure from Conquistador, and by far the worst thing about Viking.

[...] Is Expeditions: Viking a good game? Yes, yes it is. My criticisms are many, but they address the relatively lofty heights to which the game clearly aspires: a turn-based tactical RPG that somehow merges elements of an exploratory, resource-management strategic layer with a quest/story-driven model. The results are ambiguous, and in many ways, I prefer the tightly woven mechanics of Conquistador. But if you were to ask me whether it is worth the money, I would answer, absolutely: it is a game that provides robust turn-based tactical combat, a competently written historical setting, and plenty of entertaining quests. I dearly hope that the Expeditions series continues – and continues to tinker its formula.​

Read the full article: RPG Codex Review: Expeditions: Viking

There are 41 comments on RPG Codex Review: Expeditions: Viking

Mon 22 May 2017
Low Magic Age, an OGL-based tactical RPG from China, now on Steam Early Access

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Mon 22 May 2017, 21:42:52

Tags: Low Magic Age; Low Magic Studios

Wizards of the Coasts' Open Gaming License, originally published in 2000, allows anybody to freely create commercial games using a D&D 3E-like d20 ruleset. Sadly, only a few CRPG developers have taken advantage of this, the most famous of them being the modern classic Knights of the Chalice. Now a new OGL game has appeared from an unlikely place. Its name is Low Magic Age, by Chinese developer Thomas Lee. Originally released on Steam Early Access in January as a Chinese language title, the game has since been translated to English and continues to be updated on a regular basis. I can't find its current trailer on YouTube, so here's an old one from when it was on Steam Greenlight:

Low Magic Age is a fantasy RPG that focused on turn-based party-based tactical combat. Field of View, Fog of War, Cover, Zone of Control, Charging and Flanking, various and abundant tactical elements are implemented in the combat system of Low Magic Age.

The game rules are evolved from the Open Game License (OGL), the set of rules based on the pen-n-paper version of fantasy role-playing games of all time, made by Wizards of the Coast.

Normally, you'll create and customize a small party of 4~6 characters: choosing from multiple races, classes, dozens of feats and spells, or choosing a character template directly. And then fight with all kinds of monsters!


  • Inherited from classic game rules: Evolved from historic pen-and-paper game rules, plus well designed information display UI, clear prompt of hit percent and damage range, help players to learn and immerse in the fantasy world. The innovative combat system, flanking, charging, full-attack, etc., various circumstance bonuses bring more meaningful tactics selections.
  • Classical fantasy monsters: 7 categories, 100+ classical fantasy monsters. Goblins, trolls, giant ants, basilisks and much much more. Different monsters need different strategies and tactics to defeat.
  • Tons of equipment and wondrous items: 60+ common items, 90+ wondrous items, 80+ enchantments. Slashing, piercing and bludgeoning, different weapons against different monsters. Gloves of Dexterity, Counterstrike Bracers, Ring of Regeneration, Belt of Magnificence, Cloak of Thorns, Elemental Gem, collecting powerful magical artifacts to create the hero character in your mind.
  • Well designed skills and spells: Fighters own a variety of martial arts movements, not only basic attacks. All of the arcane spells and divine spells of caster classes are greatly improved, too.
Right now Low Magic Age is basically just a combat engine with random arena battles, but it will eventually receive an "Adventure Mode" campaign. According to people who have played it, the game is already quite promising, and it's got a price tag that's hard to beat - just $4. China, man. Who knew?

There are 5 comments on Low Magic Age, an OGL-based tactical RPG from China, now on Steam Early Access

Sat 20 May 2017
Bard's Tale IV Kickstarter Update #36: Delayed to 2018, Backer Survey

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Sat 20 May 2017, 01:40:41

Tags: Bard's Tale IV; InXile Entertainment; Matt Findley; Paul Marzagalli

With Torment out of the way, it looks like development on Bard's Tale IV may be shifting into higher gear. inXile have published a brief new Kickstarter update for it, the second this month. The main takeaway from the update is that the game's release has been officially postponed to next year.

inXile president Matt Findley here. Many of you have reached out to ask, so we want to take this opportunity to confirm that The Bard's Tale IV will be releasing in 2018. Thanks, too, to our work on The Mage's Tale, we have increased the visual scope of the game in ways that we could not have with just the Kickstarter. With everything now in place, it is simply a matter of taking the time to make the game right, make sure we implement all the stretch goals and backer content, and hit the level of detail we want. The world of Caith is a beautiful one in both sight and sound, and we want our approach to capture that.​

It also announces that inXile's recently hired community manager, Paul Marzagalli, is running a survey to gauge backer preferences.

Hi everyone, Paul here. Thanks to the inXile team for the warm welcome! It has been an outstanding (and fast) first month.

Though this is the “official” announcement of my arrival, I have been out in the community for the past few weeks so I may have already spoken with many of you. Whether in the forums, on our game Facebook pages, or on Twitter @phimseto, please pop by and say hello!

With The Bard’s Tale IV, inXile is bringing back an iconic franchise for old fans and a new generation. In getting to know our backers and the greater inXile community, I put together a survey to help me understand where you are coming from as a RPG fan. This survey isn’t something that I will be sharing publicly, rather it is to help me better identify who our Bard’s Tale IV backers are and what they like in a Bard’s Tale game. This will help us with development not just of The Bard’s Tale IV, but with how we consider and develop future projects! You can find the survey below:

The Bard's Tale IV Backer Survey

The survey is brief and it is your chance to talk directly to the game devs and let us know what you think. The more of you who participate, the merrier, much like a bard’s sing-a-long! Thank you in advance for your help and thanks to everyone for supporting The Bard’s Tale IV!
There are a few other administrative and backer reward-related notices in the update, but that's the important stuff. Bard's Tale IV will be at E3 next month, so we can probably expect some new gameplay footage soon.

There are 22 comments on Bard's Tale IV Kickstarter Update #36: Delayed to 2018, Backer Survey

Wed 17 May 2017
Russian studio Owlcat Games to develop Pathfinder CRPG, Chris Avellone onboard as narrative designer

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Wed 17 May 2017, 20:51:03

Tags: Chris Avellone;; Owlcat Games; Pathfinder: Kingmaker

From out of nowhere the news came out today that we're getting a Pathfinder CRPG. Its title is Pathfinder: Kingmaker and the developers are Owlcat Games, a team within Russian publisher, which is best known on the Codex for publishing former Obsidian tank MMO Armored Warfare. And that's not the game's only connection with Obsidian, because it turns out that (surprise surprise!) Chris Avellone is involved with it as well, in some sort of narrative design role. Very little known is known about the game right now. There's an official website with a single screenshot and a press release:


First cRPG Pathfinder Game in Development by Owlcat Games and Game Designer Chris Avellone

Owlcat Games studio is proud to unveil it is developing Pathfinder: Kingmaker – the very first isometric computer RPG based on the highly popular Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. Additionally, helping shape the game’s narrative is Chris Avellone, who has worked on a variety of RPGs over the years, including Fallout 2,Fallout: New Vegas, Planescape: Torment, Neverwinter Nights 2, and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II.

Pathfinder: Kingmaker will take players on a tour through the infamous Stolen Lands, the dangerous and turbulent territories well known within Pathfinder fandom. The computer RPG will revisit familiar characters and well-known locations of the series’ lore as well as treat players to brand new adventures, deadly foes and unforeseen twists and turns. Fans of the fantasy pen-and-paper RPG will experience its epic, heroic universe in new ways while computer RPG gamers will discover their favorite genre in a more contemporary light.

"I’m a Paizo fan, and a Pathfinder fan. I like the setting, the art style, the adventure paths, the card game, and the iconic characters. I’ve enjoyed playing Pathfinder with my friends (we used to be part of an Ocean’s-11 style game), and I’ve enjoyed the comics, the world, and the overall setting," said Chris Avellone."I’m excited by the prospect of bringing Pathfinder to the computer RPG world, and hope gamers will enjoy playing in the Pathfinder universe."

Owlcat Games is working very closely with Paizo Inc., the company behind the world-famous pen-and-paper RPG, to ensure a truthful digital adaptation of Golarion.

“I am very excited to be working with Owlcat Games on the first computer RPG for Pathfinder,” said Lisa Stevens, Paizo CEO. “Kingmaker is one of my all time favorite Pathfinder Adventure Paths, and from what we've seen from Owlcat Games, it is in good hands and promises to be an amazing addition to the computer RPG field.”

Pathfinder: Kingmaker will challenge players as both adventurers and rulers as they will be able to claim explored lands and carve their own kingdom from the wilderness. Kingdom founding will go beyond simple stronghold-building to become a true reflection of the hero’s character and choices made throughout the game. Each kingdom will be a living thing shaped by alignment, choices, allies and the hero’s ability to lead his or her people.

Owlcat Games is excited to show its unique ideas for Pathfinder: Kingmaker during PaizoCon 2017 this month in Seattle. For more details about Pathfinder: Kingmaker, please visit the project’s official site:
Seems like it's still very early days for this game. According to Rock Paper Shotgun, the developers aren't even sure how they're going to fund it yet (despite working for!). The website mentions the Infinity Engine games as inspirations, so I'm assuming it will be a real-time affair. The game looks pretty generic, doesn't it? I suspect this is not the sort of thing people were expecting Chris Avellone to work on as narrative designer after he ditched Obsidian.

There are 129 comments on Russian studio Owlcat Games to develop Pathfinder CRPG, Chris Avellone onboard as narrative designer

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Tue 16 May 2017
Torment Kickstarter Update #68: The Toy and Voluminous Codex stretch goals added in new patch

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Tue 16 May 2017, 22:41:09

Tags: Eric Daily; InXile Entertainment; Torment: Tides of Numenera

inXile have released what may be the final update for Torment: Tides of Numenera, which adds two stretch goals from the Kickstarter campaign back into the game, as promised back in March - the companion Oom (AKA The Toy) and the Voluminous Codex lore encyclopedia. It also includes numerous other features and improvements, notably two additional Tiers to allow character advancement in the late game. The new Kickstarter update has the details, including a description of Oom:

  • New Companion: Oom. Oom is a new stretch goal character who you will discover on your journey through the Ninth World. Oom features its own companion quest, "Servant of the Tides", its own unique abilities for use in combat and exploration, and interactions with various characters throughout the game.
  • Added the Voluminous Codex. This new stretch goal feature unlocks lore and character entries as you explore the game world.
  • Added a new user interface element to the Inventory Screen which makes it easier to view companion attitudes toward the Last Castoff.
  • Added a new user interface element to the Common Panel which better messages the Last Castoff's current Legacy.
  • Players can now advance to Tier 5 and Tier 6, allowing players to spend their Experience Points more in the later game. This also allows the Last Castoff to gain abilities from other character types.
  • Various balance improvements to Crisis gameplay throughout the game.
  • Various balance improvements to exploration gameplay, especially in the later stages of the game.
  • Added zoom in/out key binding to the Options Menu. This allows players without mouse wheels to remap the zoom functions.
  • Cypher Sickness initialization is now delayed until after Equipment initialization. This should prevent issues where loading a save file where equipment was preventing a cypher explosion would cause input to freeze up (fix may not be retroactive).
  • Remove all non-gameplay Fettles from companions when they're removed from the party. This should prevent certain freezes from occurring.
  • Numerous small UI fixes.
  • Numerous small quest fixes.
This update is now out on Steam, and we’ll be getting it to GOG and other stores as soon as possible. Our strong recommendation is to start a brand-new playthrough to experience these improvements, as the new content is best experienced from the start of the game (and Oom must be added to the party during Sagus Cliffs).

Of course, those of you who have chosen to play Torment on consoles won’t be left out - this update will be coming free to you in the near future as well!

We hope you enjoy Oom and the new features, and we’ll be keeping an eye out for your feedback. In the meantime, we thought we’d give you a bit of insight into the Oom’s creation...

Oom - The Toy

Early during the Kickstarter campaign for Torment, we introduced Oom to you as "The Toy", a new stretch goal companion by design lead Adam Heine and Brian Mitsoda (Dead State, Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines). While this companion didn't make it into the initial release of the game, we're bringing it back in our latest update.

Back when we pitched the idea of Oom, it was described as:

The Toy is a changing ball of goo: Is it a pet, an abandoned toy, a dangerous weapon? Whatever it is, it responds to the way you treat it by changing its appearance and abilities to reflect what it perceives as your desires. Its ultimate secrets are... well, you’ll have to find out.

Now that we've received the opportunity to complete Oom, we went back to these ideas, as well as much of the original writing by Brian Mitsoda. We wanted to make sure that Oom was true to the vision proposed early on... but of course, as many of those ideas were thought up prior to us knowing Torment's final game mechanics and storyline, we also wanted to make sure that Oom would integrate well into the game as it is today.

Here is senior writer Gavin Jurgens-Fyhrie's take on Oom:

Oom is a living artifact from a prior world, and extraordinarily loyal to you. A shape-changer and guardian, it is somehow connected to the Tides, and it grants the Last Castoff a deeper connection to them.

It is also a mystery to be solved. Oom does not speak, and even its thoughts are a strange tangle of alien metaphors. It will drive you to increase your understanding of the Tides, and by doing so, you will learn secrets about its long, long past...

Oom is unlike any of the other companions in Torment. For one, Oom is – to use a technical term – a blob of goop, a piece of the numenera left over from a past civilization that has faded into the darkness of history.

If you discover Oom during your game, then it may become a member of your party. Just like the other Torment companions, it has its own quest and storyline you will uncover throughout the game, it can assist you with challenges and in Crisis gameplay, and it will react to the world around you and the characters you meet.

But Oom is different from other companions in more ways than just looks. For starters, Oom's abilities are entirely unique to it, and are designed to be distinctly versatile. Oom's basic attack allows it to splorch (to use another technical term) at enemies, damaging them with gooey globs of itself which can inflict multiple special effects. Its other abilities center around helping its allies. For instance, Oom can coat another member of your party with goop, bestowing improved protection and other benefits. Oom is also great with consumable items and cyphers, as any it uses have their benefits apply to not just Oom, but the Last Castoff as well.

We also suggested as part of the initial "Toy" design that Oom would learn from your actions and change to match, and now we have taken that idea one step farther. Oom is a loyal guardian who flows with the Tides, and your Tidal alignment will allow you to not only shape Oom's appearance, but will also allow you to alter its abilities. Over the course of the game, and as the Last Castoff grows more experienced in using the Tides, you will influence Oom's play-style. To see the details, you’ll have to play the new content for yourself!​

I guess this is the closest Torment will get to having a Director's Cut. If you've been putting your playthrough off, your wait is probably over. Full patch notes are available here.

There are 37 comments on Torment Kickstarter Update #68: The Toy and Voluminous Codex stretch goals added in new patch

Paradox admit Tyranny sold below expectations, DLC still in the works

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Tue 16 May 2017, 20:33:48

Tags: Fredrik Wester; Obsidian Entertainment; Paradox Interactive; Shams Jorjani; Tyranny

I was hoping we'd hear something about the upcoming Tyranny DLC at PDXCON, but nothing came of it. Luckily, the esteemed gentlemen at PCGamesN attended the event and took the time to ask Paradox CEO Fredrik Wester and VP Shams Jorjani about Obsidian's seemingly forgotten RPG. They confirmed what we've all suspected - that the game didn't sell very well - and speculated about the reasons. They also dropped a bit of innuendo about their relationship with Obsidian, although they still like them and it sounds like the DLC is still in the cards. Here's an excerpt from PCGamesN's interview:

“Tyranny did ok,” says Paradox CEO Fred Wester.

“We’re overall ok with it, I think,” echoes Shams Jorjani, Paradox’s vice president of business development. “Everyone was hoping that it would do better.”

In fact, Tyranny’s performance at release came in just under the Swedish publisher’s expectations.

“The game’s really solid, it still has a lot of interest,” Wester expands. “A lot of people are still on the fence to buy it. I think we will see a long tail on that game with people coming in and playing later on as well. But it didn’t really meet the expectations we set for it initially, no.”

Next question, then: why? Wester points to a tough launch window in November - a month in which other great games, including Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs 2, struggled to punch through the pre-Christmas noise. Jorjani thinks Tyranny’s timing issue goes much broader, arguing that the appetite for ‘90s style RPGs has already been somewhat sated through crowdfunding.

“Obsidian did a great job of capitalising on the timing of Kickstarter and the wave of nostalgia for these type of titles,” goes his hypothesis. “We've seen that most of the titles after Pillars of Eternity, if you look at Wasteland, Torment - they haven't been anywhere near that kind of success. So maybe it's that a lot of nostalgia fed into the initial bubble and that's why. These games have a market, but it's never gonna be that peak [again].”

[...] Wester shoulders the responsibility for Tyranny’s marketing, which ran with the slogan: 'Sometimes, evil wins.' It was an approach that wisely brought Tyranny’s twist on RPG morality to the fore - but didn’t touch so much on its singular world and cast.

“We might have emphasised the wrong things when we sold the game,” he says. “I don't know. It didn't really come up to what we thought it could.”

“It’s very dark,” offers Jorjani on the game’s theme. “It’s more niche in that sense, it absolutely is.”

[...] Jorjani does volunteer, however, that the two companies have had their “fair share of headbutting” over the course of their working relationship. It sounds as if Stockholm and California came together with a certain amount of chafing.

“I think there are slight cultural differences in how we work,” he theorises. “Sweden is consensus-driven, we try to have very flat hierarchies. It comes back to a lot of different factors but, at least at Paradox, we push a lot of major decisions down to people in the organisation. Not every company works that way. Some companies are not as comfortable with decisions being taken at that level, so they're pushed upwards. We end up with this weird situation where we can't have our CEO involved in every discussion.”

It’s important, too, to point out that Paradox aren’t in a position to publish everything Obsidian work on. Though the publisher’s profits increased 51% in the last year, they’re still small fry next to a Sega or Ubisoft.

“We talk to Obsidian all the time, we love them, but while our projects are much bigger today than they were three to five years ago, they do a lot of big projects that are far outside of the reach that we do,” says Jorjani. “That’s also a factor: what will they work on? What do we want to work on? Finding a good fit.

“But I'd definitely be open. We want to make RPGs that are the best in class. If we can get the other factors to work it will be great.”

[...] “In that respect we're quite happy,” says Jorjani. “It is a largely underappreciated gem. I think we see that also on the stats side of things. A lot of people have wishlisted the game, are very interested in it, but they know that they're not quite done with Pillars yet.

“I think that, hopefully, it will take off a bit more in the long-term sales. We'll see, if we get a couple of expansions out, if that changes anything.”

Jorjani does tease that Tyranny is structured in a modular fashion that makes it ideal for expansion.

“Our publishing voodoo allows us to keep the long tail going which make expansions a more viable proposition,” he notes. “We'll have a bit more news on this in the near future. But we'd love to revisit the world - it ended in a bit of a cliffhanger so there's definitely more to tell there. We'll see what people are asking for.”​

So yeah, no real surprises here, but it's always refreshing to see game developers speak frankly about these topics. Reading between the lines, it sounds like Shams Jorjani is saying that Tim Cain and Leonard Boyarsky's project was too costly for Paradox to fund. In another article on PCGameN, they also discuss the possibility of a Bloodlines sequel, which they aren't ready to do yet.

There are 176 comments on Paradox admit Tyranny sold below expectations, DLC still in the works

Sun 14 May 2017
Daedalic's The Long Journey Home begins on May 30th

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Sun 14 May 2017, 19:35:34

Tags: Daedalic Entertainment; The Long Journey Home

Daedalic Entertainment's The Long Journey Home is a space exploration RPG inspired by Star Control 2 and FTL that we've kept an eye on since it was announced back in August 2015, mainly via our annual visits to Gamescom. The game was originally supposed to have come out in late 2016 and throughout that year its development blog received regular updates, but then it fell off the radar, leading some people to worry that something had gone wrong. In the last month however thing began to pick up again, and now the game suddenly has a release date - May 30th. Here's Daedalic's official announcement:

Daedalic’s highly anticipated space exploration RPG “The Long Journey Home“ to be released May 30th

Thursday, May 11, 2017 — Daedalic’s The Long Journey Home will be released on Steam for Windows PC on May 30th at the price of $39.99. In this space exploration RPG, players command a 4-person crew that ends up lost on the other side of the universe after the first light jump goes horribly wrong. Stranded with a rapidly deteriorating ship and dwindling supplies, players must manage the politics of different alien races, the limited yet valuable resources at their disposal, and the survival of the ship all while trying to bring the crew home.

Andreas Suika, lead game designer for The Long Journey Home, explains the idea behind the game: “Being lost and alone is a fear we can all appreciate. Now, imagine being on the other side of the universe, alone, low on resources, never knowing what awaits after the next jump. The Long Journey Home taps into that primal longing for home, while also providing a colourful, comic universe that players will have a blast exploring and returning to.”

Starting your journey

Lead Your Crew: Pick 4 out of 10 possible characters, from astronaut Kirsten to expert pilot Malcolm. Harness their unique skills and personalities to uncover the mysteries of the universe, salvaging lost wrecks, raiding ancient tombs, and investigating alien artefacts.

Real Flying: Flying in space is a bit complicated…really, we looked it up. “The Long Journey Home” provides a flying experience with actual planetary gravity, which can be difficult to master but can also be used to your advantage. Flying in Long Journey Home is a bit different than in many other space games. Be careful not to be sucked into a black hole or outmaneuvered by an alien warship!

Lost in Translation: Meet and try and befriend fifteen strange alien races – four empires out of eight, plus assorted smaller civilisations in every game. Will they appreciate you approaching with raised shields as a sign of respect, or see it as an aggressive display? Can you win their respect, and with it, their assistance? With over two novels worth of dialogue, you’ll feel part of a living universe full of memorable characters and big decisions.

Weigh Your Options: Players have to land on planets in order to gather resources. By doing so, you always risk damaging the landing unit or even losing a crew member. Be sure to carefully consider the risks involved in every reward. Andreas Suika notes that “‘The Long Journey Home’ is about making the right decisions. When you alone are in space, there is no room for wasteful choices. It’s important to remember: always think twice and once you’ve made a decision, be ready to deal with the consequences.”

Procedural, not Random: Although most of the game is procedurally generated, there are no random aspects in it. For example, dialogues with aliens may vary in different playthroughs but the lore behind each race is very much consistent. Quests or reactions might change, but their core attitude and character always stays the same.

Same Game, Different Journey: Thanks to the variety of the key elements of the game, the experience can be very different with every new run. Players can expect to see about 20% of the possible content in one run which should only take about 6 – 8 hours.
It's surprising that this announcement wasn't accompanied by a new trailer. Perhaps that will come later. If you'd like more information about The Long Journey Home, a number of websites have published previews recently, including Rock Paper Shotgun, PCGameN and a short video at Polygon.

There are 14 comments on Daedalic's The Long Journey Home begins on May 30th

Fri 12 May 2017
RPG Codex Review: Battle Brothers

Review - posted by Infinitron on Fri 12 May 2017, 23:44:15

Tags: Battle Brothers; Overhype Studios

As I said a number of times before its release, Battle Brothers was one of the Codex's most anticipated and hyped up games, and its final release appears to have been fairly well-received. A game like that deserves the most prestigious of reviewers. Darth Roxor, however, isn't much into hype. In a review that was as arduous for him to write as the game was to play, he finds Battle Brothers to be a skeleton of a game, containing the basics of a solid combat system but cripplingly repetitive and lacking in content. Have a snippet:

But those are just details compared to the biggest combat flaw in Battle Brothers that, to me, nearly invalidates the entire game’s purpose – the non-existent level design.

The combat maps in BB are generic tiled surfaces. They are flat as a pancake, with only some “elevated” hexes that just give you stat bonuses from height advantage or make running around slightly more inconvenient. They almost always start with the same “your dudes on the left, their dudes on the right” setup. There is nothing to actually do on them, because any sort of extended manoeuvring is pointless, except on mountain maps where you run to the nearest hill and bunker up, swamps where you have to run out of penalty-inducing water tiles should you start in them, or forests, which arguably is the only tile set with any room for some movement due to all the trees and shrubs that form natural chokepoints (and bring you even more “fun” moments with line of fire).

Worse yet, this lack of level design directly diminishes the value of BB’s otherwise robust bestiary. While the enemy types are fairly numerous, they get predictable very fast, to the point that you need just one or two fights against a “new” enemy to know everything he has to offer – this is particularly sad because many of the foes actually have various tricks up their sleeve and really clever AI scripts that will take you completely by surprise during your first encounter, like a necromancer who will always keep a “bodyguard” zombie next to him to obstruct the firing lines of your archers. But after that, it becomes routine, because the setup is always the same, and you can never expect something new to happen. Compare it, for example, to X-COM. Four sectoids with plasma rifles don’t appear like much. But depending on whether they landed or crash landed, in a medium or large scout, on a farmstead, in shopping mall or a jungle, your hunt against them will vary greatly. There is hardly anything of the sort to find in BB.

I can’t stress it enough how fatal are the two aspects above when it comes to any “staying power” Battle Brothers could have. A large, a huge part of all games like this is working with and against the environment. Setting up ambushes, moving carefully around corners, navigating through rooftops, tearing down walls that stand in your way, all of that is incredibly important to add a layer of emergent gameplay and replayability that is vital for everything. Without this emergent gameplay and the sense of unpredictability rising from enemies hiding somewhere in the fog of war, Battle Brothers gets old very soon. Same maps, same fights, same enemies, all the time until the bitter end is the name of the game here. As the game goes on and breaches a certain point where the strongest enemies start appearing, it’s over. The only new thing you’re ever going to see are increased numbers, with enemy mobs going from 6 to 12 to 20 and finally to 40. It’s nothing but tiresome.

[...] Much like its character sprites, Battle Brothers just doesn’t have a leg to stand on. It feels more like a tech demo of a combat engine, with some trappings of a full game haphazardly glued on to it. Sure, the basic battle system might be nice, but there’s only so much you can do with it when there is no variety to speak of. BB is in desperate need of either modding support or a very, very big expansion that would give it some damned content.

Furthermore, it’s a confused game that tries to pose itself as “fast and furious”, with lots of difficulty, lethality and roster shuffling, but it forgets to pair the extra high risk with a sufficiently high reward. I have no idea how anyone, barring the greatest of masochists, could play this on iron man mode without going crazy.

With as little substance and as much tiresome repetition as there is to it, Battle Brothers just gets very old very fast. It feels good to great for the first 20 or so hours, when you’re still starry eyed, thinking of what the future of your warband might hold, sometimes getting surprised by new enemies and not feeling like you’ve been decapitated each time a character dies. But as you keep going on, you start noticing that you’re doing the same things over and over again, and the only thing that changes is the power with which you’re getting kicked in the balls. It turns less and less fulfilling, until it devolves into nothing more than a time sink, but one which is less exciting than Freecell.

Out of diligence, I decided to finish at least one full playthrough before writing this review, where “playthrough” I defined as stopping the late game crisis. After the aforementioned first 20 hours, I just kept asking myself “why am I playing this instead of Xenonauts/JA2/X-COM mods/etc” all the time. You can assume I’d asked myself that question many times, because it wasn’t until 45 hours in that the game finally decided to grace me with an ending to my woes. Afterwards, I was legitimately happy that I’d never have to play it again, which stands in direct contrast with other representatives of the genre that can be picked up and played almost anytime you want.

Still, at least for the first 15-20 hours it’s good enough, so you may try giving it a spin and find out if your tolerance for repetitiveness is higher than mine – you might just even become enamored enough by the combat itself that you won’t notice all the surrounding issues. Only remember to abandon ship once you start feeling burnt out because, I assure you, it won’t be getting any better past that point.​

Read the full article: RPG Codex Review: Battle Brothers

There are 305 comments on RPG Codex Review: Battle Brothers

ICY: Frostbite Edition now on Steam Greenlight

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Fri 12 May 2017, 21:49:23

Tags: Icy; Inner Void Interactive

The latest game to join the last minute Steam Greenlight parade is Inner Void Interactive's ICY: Frostbite Edition. The original ICY was a post-apocalyptic RPG set in a new Ice Age that was released back in 2015. It was a humble little game that didn't make much of an impression, although we did find the time to review it. The developers felt so bad about their beginner's effort that they decided to remake it from scratch. And now they're apparently required to go through Greenlight again to release a new version of a game that's already on Steam. This is even dumber than what happened with Alvora Tactics. Here's the Greenlight trailer and a description:

ICY: Frostbite Edition is the remastered edition of ICY, a narrative-driven post-apocalyptic survival RPG set in a new Ice Age. Create your own character, using a detailed stat system that influences your abilities, then begin your journey of survival across a frozen world, now with completely overhauled and improved gameplay.


After nearly two years since the original release of ICY, Inner Void Interactive and Digital Tribe Games are proud to release ICY: Frostbite Edition, a completely remastered edition of the game. We worked to improve every lacking feature of the original ICY, recreating the game from scratch in Unity 5.

Thanks to the exhaustive feedback received from our community and the experience we gained from the original game, we have improved ICY’s formula in many different ways to let it offer a real survival RPG experience in a cold post-apocalyptic world.
  • A new combat system was developed: deeper, more exciting and more challenging than the original one.
  • The survival experience was overhauled in order to offer more variety.
  • A crafting system was introduced, allowing the player to create new items.
  • The original plot was improved and new quests and characters have been added to create a longer and more satisfying experience.
  • The UI was completely reworked to be clearer and better looking.
ICY: Frostbite Edition is almost complete and should come out shortly after it's greenlit. Vote for it - leave no RPG behind.

There are 10 comments on ICY: Frostbite Edition now on Steam Greenlight

BattleTech Kickstarter Update #38: Paradox Publishing Deal, Backer Beta Starting June 1st

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Fri 12 May 2017, 14:27:03

Tags: BattleTech; Harebrained Schemes; Mike McCain; Mitch Gitelman; Paradox Interactive

Today is the first day of PDXCON, Paradox Interactive's annual convention. I was expecting to learn something about the upcoming Tyranny DLC this weekend. Instead I woke up to the news that somebody else has taken a page out of Obsidian's playbook. Harebrained Schemes' BattleTech is now being published by Paradox. The new Kickstarter update announces the news and also informs us that the game's delayed Backer Beta is now on schedule for release on June 1st. Harebrained have put together a new teaser trailer and a lengthy 55 minute multiplayer gameplay video that shows what we can expect.

Hey everyone, Mitch here.

I’m happy to tell you that our Kickstarter Backer Beta is on track for release on June 1st. The game’s looking good, playing well, and the team is firing on all cylinders but we need to take some more time to further test and bugfix our multiplayer code before confidently releasing the beta into your hands - that way, we can minimize networking issues and everyone can have a good time on day one.

Now we know folks are itching to see the game in action, so our Game Director Mike McCain and I recorded a friendly multiplayer match to give you a peek at what to expect in the Beta. Full disclosure here - Mike is one of the better players in the studio and I… am not. Nevertheless, I think I put up a pretty good fight as you’ll see in the video. Hope you like it!

For those of you interested in even more detail than Mike and I provided onscreen, Designer Ryan (RedMenace on the forums) wrote a post annotating our gameplay. Check it out here.

New Partnership

Right now, somewhere in Sweden, BattleTech & MechWarrior creator Jordan Weisman is announcing a partnership between Harebrained Schemes and Paradox Interactive to publish BATTLETECH on PC. As our Backers, we feel it’s important that you get this information straight from us before it hits the press, so here’s the deal in a nutshell: Paradox will provide marketing support, localization services, and funds for additional testing in exchange for a cut of the game’s sales. This allows us to focus all our efforts on making a great game while maintaining complete creative control.

I’m really excited that HBS will have the chance to work with Paradox as they are the clear category leader for PC strategy games. We respect the quality and depth of their games and they have lots of players and fans in our studio. Equally important to us is the way that Paradox respects and engages with their community, values we share.

(Plus, they’re huge fans of our work on the Shadowrun Returns series and are really excited about our game - good qualities in a publisher, right?)

So why is this a good thing?
  • Because with Paradox’s additional test funding, we’ll have more professional testers banging on the game earlier so we ship the highest quality game we can.
  • Because with their help, we can also deliver higher quality localized versions of the game to our overseas players and spend far less time managing the process.
  • Because we won’t need to divide our attention away from making the game in order to sell the game. We’re not marketers - we’re game developers, and we want our focus to be firmly on delivering the best BATTLETECH experience we can.
  • Because we all love BattleTech and the more attention that Paradox can bring to the game, the better its chances for success in an incredibly crowded and competitive marketplace. As I’m often quoted, “In success, all things are possible.” Paradox’s marketing support will hopefully result in increased sales of the game and allow for years of BATTLETECH expansions and sequels for all of us to enjoy.
We’re happy to be working with a publisher who knows how to make great strategy games, loves BattleTech, and respects BattleTech fans. Nothing has changed, except that our chances for success are now even higher.
BattleTech now has Steam and GOG pages, so update your wishlists. Despite the recent delays, the game is still on track for release this year. PDXCON goes on until Sunday, so perhaps we'll see more of it soon, and maybe that Tyranny DLC too.

There are 11 comments on BattleTech Kickstarter Update #38: Paradox Publishing Deal, Backer Beta Starting June 1st

Colony Ship RPG Update #14: Gadgets & Grenades

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Fri 12 May 2017, 13:11:50

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

In a Colony Ship RPG development update published last year, Vault Dweller briefly described his plans for a class of upgradable tools known as gadgets, that will be able to apply various effects in combat. This month's update goes into further detail about that. Some of the gadgets have been split off, forming a new item hierarchy consisting of gadgets, Earth-made grenades, less sophisticated ship-made grenades, and combat stimulants. I quote:


Energy Shield - generates a shield acting as cover (this way you don’t need to look for cover but can create it yourself); the shield absorbs X damage per attack until depleted, so the stats are:
- damage absorbed
- shield’s HP
- recharge rate

Reality Distortion Field – deflects projectiles, making much harder to hit you (i.e. THC penalty)
- THC penalty
- chance to deflect projectiles
- duration (number of turns)

Hologram Projector aka DnD Simulacrum aka that thing Arnold used in Total Recall – creates a copy of your character, drawing enemy’s fire. Since even today we have small plasma holograms you can interact with, it’s safe to assume that in the future this tech will be a lot more advanced so…
- # of copies
- THC penalty against the copies (distortion field around them)
- copies’ HP

Cloaking Field – makes you very hard to detect
- chance that a guard won't see you if you're in his line of sight
- defense against electronic detection systems (rank-based)
- duration

Basically, the bunker (energy shield), commando (disruption field; for characters who have strong offensive (high rate of fire, high crits, etc) as when the effect wears off if you're still surrounded by enemies, you're dead), confusion (hologram projector, works best with grenades), ninja-assassin.

Only one gadget can be active at a time but you can activate a different gadget at any time. Keep in mind that activating a gadget will drain its power cell and you’ll have to recharge it which is costly, so you won’t be able to use all gadgets in every single fight. You will be able to upgrade your gadgets by acquiring higher quality power cells, emitters, pulsers, disruptors, reflectors, etc.

Earth-made Grenades (rare; ace up your sleeve type item, save it for when you really need them like that mine fight in AoD):

- Stasis Field – holds enemies within a certain area, they can’t be harmed while in stasis so it’s a divide & conquer thing.
- Brainwave Disruptor – affects the mental state of an enemy, check against CON and INT, the effects range from doing nothing to going berserk XCOM style
- Pulse Grenade - disables all active gadgets in a certain area and does damage to droids

Ship-made Grenades (common and readily available)

- Gas grenades (poison damage per turn, negated by gas masks)
- Flashbang grenades (disorients enemies for 1 turn, PER penalties, negated by combat goggles)
- Smoke grenades (conceals, THC penalties and reduces range for firearms, great for melee fighters, negated by thermal goggles)

Combat Stimulants

- Rapid Cellular Regenerator – restores HP per turn (the only form of healing in combat)
- Motor Cortex Enhancer – same as AoD’s neurostimulant, extra AP per turn, limited duration
- Neurotransmitter – similar to AoD’s berserk
Also included in the update are a few new pieces of concept art and a user interface mockup. Looking good!

There are 7 comments on Colony Ship RPG Update #14: Gadgets & Grenades

Report: BioWare Montreal scaled down, Mass Effect series on hiatus

Company News - posted by Infinitron on Fri 12 May 2017, 01:58:03

Tags: BioWare; Electronic Arts; Mass Effect: Andromeda

As you've probably heard, Mass Effect: Andromeda, the latest game in the Mass Effect series, was released back in March. Upon release, the game immediately became a laughingstock due to shoddy production quality and writing. It's not BioWare's first poorly received game, but never before have they suffered such an abject humiliation. Now it seems the time has come to pay the price of failure. Kotaku's Jason Schreier reports that developer BioWare Montreal has been "scaled down" back to its former role as a support studio, and that the entire Mass Effect franchise has been put on ice.

In the wake of BioWare’s polarizing Mass Effect: Andromeda, fans have wondered where the lauded sci-fi series will go next. The answer, according to people familiar with the studio, is nowhere—at least for the time being. BioWare has put Mass Effect on hiatus and turned Andromeda’s developer, BioWare Montreal, into a support studio, according to four sources close to the company.

That doesn’t mean there will never be another Mass Effect game, of course. It’s unlikely that BioWare will kill the popular sci-fi franchise. But BioWare is letting Mass Effect sit for a while rather than putting staff on Andromeda’s follow-up right away, those sources said.

Last month, a number of BioWare Montreal employees were transferred to the studio EA Motive, also based in Montreal, to work on Star Wars Battlefront II. Those remaining at BioWare Montreal will help support BioWare’s other games including the new intellectual property, code-named Dylan, which we expect the company to announce at E3. BioWare Montreal will also continue to patch and support Andromeda’s multiplayer.

BioWare’s main studio in Edmonton is heading up Dylan, while BioWare’s other studio, in Austin, is also helping out with that game.

When reached for comment, publisher Electronic Arts sent over the following statement, attributed to BioWare Montreal studio director Yanick Roy:

Our teams at BioWare and across EA put in tremendous effort bringing Mass Effect Andromeda to players around the world. Even as BioWare continues to focus on the Mass Effect Andromeda community and live service, we are constantly looking at how we’re prepared for the next experiences we will create.

The teams in EA Worldwide Studios are packed with talent, and more than ever, we are driving collaboration between studios on key projects.

With our BioWare and Motive teams sharing studio space in Montreal, we have BioWare team members joining Motive projects that are underway. We’re also ramping up teams on other BioWare projects in development.

There will be much more to come from BioWare in the years ahead.​

Mass Effect: Andromeda, released in March, was originally envisioned as a reboot for the franchise but went through a brutal development process for several reasons including technological challenges and a major scope change late in development, people familiar with the game said.

Reception to Andromeda was lukewarm, and people scoffed at its writing and animation. (Our review called it flawed and uneven.)

Andromeda was also the first game headed up by BioWare Montreal, which was founded in 2009 to help make downloadable content for Mass Effect 2 and 3. Although BioWare’s other two studios, Austin and Edmonton, also contributed to Andromeda, the game’s director, franchise producer, and leads were all based in Montreal. BioWare Edmonton had developed the first three Mass Effect games.

Now, sources say, BioWare Montreal is significantly smaller than it was just a few months ago. Those who didn’t go to Motive will help out with BioWare’s other projects rather than incubating and developing their own.

Earlier this week on an earnings call, Electronic Arts CEO Andrew Wilson told investors that the publisher is “very happy with how BioWare is doing, how BioWare is treating Mass Effect. And our expectations for Mass Effect are still strong for the future and the franchise overall.” Wilson also put a great deal of emphasis on “live service” games, of which BioWare’s new IP is one. That’s the studio’s main focus for the time being.​

With the original BioWare Edmonton studio working on the new Dylan IP, which is rumored to be a non-RPG online game, it seems likely that the Dragon Age franchise is on hiatus as well. It's the end of an era, and one which many of us have been predicting for years. Almost twenty years ago, Origin Systems, formerly the world's top RPG studio before it was absorbed into Electronic Arts, found itself outsmarted and outcompeted by a new generation of RPG developers who were more in touch with what PC gamers were looking for. Chief among them, ironically, was a plucky young Canadian studio called BioWare. Origin was transformed into an MMO developer, and shut down a few years later without having released a single new game. Only time will tell if history is repeating itself.

There are 154 comments on Report: BioWare Montreal scaled down, Mass Effect series on hiatus

Thu 11 May 2017
Early System Shock 3 concept art revealed at Starbreeze event

Preview - posted by Infinitron on Thu 11 May 2017, 00:31:22

Tags: OtherSide Entertainment; Starbreeze Studios; System Shock 3; Warren Spector

Back in March, we learned that OtherSide Entertainment's System Shock 3 was going to be published by Swedish publisher Starbreeze Studios. Today Warren Spector appeared at a livestreamed Starbreeze promotional event, appropriately called the StarStream, to talk about the game. The System Shock 3 segment of the stream was pretty short and apparently Warren didn't have much to say, but he did bring some early concept art with him. Polygon have written a brief summary of his appearance:

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System Shock fans were treated to a new look at the game’s long-awaited sequel today, with new concept art shown off during a livestream event hosted by publisher Starbreeze Studios.

Polygon’s got some additional peeks at System Shock 3’s world, courtesy of Starbreeze, developer Otherside Entertainment and the game’s returning designer, Warren Spector. Both are pieces of early concept art meant to set the tone for the cyperbunk action game, set on a lonely space station years in the future.

Spector’s return to the series comes more than 23 years after the original System Shock, hailed as an innovative action role-playing game at its time of release. Although he wasn’t involved with System Shock 2, Spector told Polygon that returning to the series after two-plus decades was an easy decision.

“I produced System Shock and played System Shock 2 so I’m pretty familiar with the universe,” Spector said. “And there were some fictional loose ends to explore and tie up. That sounded like fun. Also, SHODAN. You know what I mean?”

SHODAN, the A.I. being that terrorizes the player throughout every System Shock game, is absent from what we saw today. Yet she’ll again play a significant role in System Shock 3, just as Spector told us last August. The game picks up where System Shock 2 left off, when — spoiler alert for the 1999 RPG — SHODAN takes the form of a human woman.

As genre-defining as System Shock 2 and its predecessor were in the 1990s, the concept — “you alone on a space station,” as Spector called it — has come to feel commonplace these days, in the post-BioShock era. The recent release of Prey, which pays obvious homage to System Shock developer Looking Glass Studios in myriad ways, may further point to the genre’s mainstream familiarity.

Now that System Shock’s setting and storyline isn’t quite so unique, is Spector concerned about System Shock 3 failing to stand out among the pack?

“I think having more immersive simulation games out there is all to the good,” said Spector. “Based on what I’ve seen of Prey so far, there are some similarities but I assure you we’re doing stuff that team didn’t do, just as they did stuff we’re not. I’m not worried about people getting confused.”

System Shock 3 remains a ways ahead; it’s due out on PC and consoles, but no release window has been specified. Spector mentioned during the Starbreeze livestream that the team would be “transitioning into pre-production” soon. For more concept art, check out the gallery below.

In the meantime, a reboot of the original System Shock is coming sometime in 2018 from Nightdive Studios.
Colorful! They're definitely going for a more System Shock 1 look there.

There are 12 comments on Early System Shock 3 concept art revealed at Starbreeze event

Tue 9 May 2017
Divinity: Original Sin 2 Kickstarter Update #36: Game Master Mode Reveal

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Tue 9 May 2017, 19:37:57

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

Larian have published a new Divinity: Original Sin 2 Kickstarter update that officially unveils what has been one of the game's most closely-guarded secret - the Game Master mode that was its $2M stretch goal. As they usually do, Larian have overdelivered on their promise, with an impressively full-featured mode that allows the Game Master to generate items and encounters, manipulate characters, alter the environment, and even create Pillars of Eternity-style scripted interactions, all on the fly. It's an obvious play for the Neverwinter Nights fanbase, something which is made clear by Swen's visit to Wizards of the Coast HQ in the accompanying video. Forgotten Realms in the Divinity: Original Sin 2 engine, anybody? I don't know if this game is going to be the long-awaited "turn-based NWN", but it will definitely be close.

This, my friends, is the ultimate power trip. In Game Master Mode, you can write stories, create NPCs (both heroic friends and fiendish enemies), build your own customisable items and treasure, craft the scenes in which your tale will play out, and much, much more as you lead your friends through the ultimate role-playing adventure.

Will you be a kind and benevolent god, or will you cover every available surface in harsh, unforgiving flame? It’s entirely your choice, as up to four players put their fates in your hands and start off on an adventure through your collective imaginations.

With Game Master Mode, we set out to create something that bridges the freedom of tabletop role-playing, and the interactivity and visual presentation of a computer RPG.

We built Game Master Mode to be as flexible as possible, so you can adapt to your friends on the fly and create a truly reactive world. Do your players want to burn down an NPC’s home? Make a pact with, rather than kill, the demonic boss? Perhaps they want to parlay with the pack of rabid wolves using pet pal? Even if you haven’t planned for it, you can adapt quickly to their choices and still deliver a story that feels real.

Whether you’re new to tabletop role-playing or an experienced GM, we’ve worked hard to make sure this is easy to pick up and intuitive to use. We also have prepared campaigns so you can jump straight in, working with a preexisting world to get a feel for the tool or, of course, you can create your own.

Game Master mode comes with a variety of world maps and over 100 pre-made locations! But of course, you can always upload your own world map or craft your own location in our powerful Divinity Engine Editor.

Tweak the atmosphere, ambience, music, time of day (why yes, there is a night option), weather and more to fine-tune your story!

Unleash the bestiary with hundreds of monsters and characters from the Divinity universe or download player-made characters and enemies from Steam Workshop. Give characters unique skills and name them. Cover the landscape in any of our elemental surfaces using our Surface Painter. Make the fight worthwhile by creating unique items for the players to loot.

Control any enemy or NPC directly by possessing them.

Add NPC dialogue, narration, and present difficult choices with our powerful Vignette System. Add your own graphics and even additional dialog options on the fly! Managing different dialogs and encounters is now as simple as creating a presentation.

We brought in the essential component of every tabletop session: skill checks. Let your players roll the dice to see whether they succeed or fail!

Tell your story in real-time, no rulebooks needed. Possess creatures, level up the party, create new locations, encounters and items on the fly. Tell your stories, your way - and share them with the world using Steam Workshop!

We couldn’t be happier with how Game Master Mode has turned out, and we can’t wait to let you play it, but there’s still some work to be done. Game Master Mode will be available when Divinity: Original Sin 2 launches, later in 2017.
A bunch of websites (Rock Paper Shotgun, Eurogamer, PC Gamer, PCGamesN, RPGWatch, IGN, Polygon, PCWorld, USgamer, TheSixthAxis) have published their own previews of the Game Master mode, and it will also be streamed live on Larian's Twitch channel later today at 16:00 PST. The game is set to receive a new Early Access patch in a few weeks, but that won't include the Game Master mode, which will only be available in the final release.

There are 65 comments on Divinity: Original Sin 2 Kickstarter Update #36: Game Master Mode Reveal

Mon 8 May 2017
Alvora Tactics released, still needs Greenlight votes

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Mon 8 May 2017, 20:38:41

Tags: Alvora Tactics; Rad Codex

Alvora Tactics, Rad Codex's successor to Voidspire Tactics, has been on Steam Greenlight since March, but has so far failed to gather enough votes to make it onto the service. With the game finished, Eldiran got tired of waiting and has decided to just release it on his website. There's no new trailer or big announcement post, so here are some screenshots:

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You can get Alvora Tactics for just $10, with a 10% launch discount until next week. Buyers will receive Steam keys if the game manages to get there. Seriously though, this is such bullshit. Voidspire Tactics is already on Steam, why does he have to go through this again? Do vote for the game there if you haven't already.

There are 10 comments on Alvora Tactics released, still needs Greenlight votes

Druidstone Dev Update #1: Party-Based Gameplay

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Mon 8 May 2017, 19:18:17

Tags: Ctrl Alt Ninja; Druidstone: The Secret of the Menhir Forest

When Druidstone, the upcoming procedurally generated turn-based tactical RPG from the developers of Legend of Grimrock, was announced last month, it looked like it was going to be a single character game. It appears however that nothing is set in stone (heh) yet. Today the game received its first proper development update, which announces that after having spent a few weeks experimenting, Druidstone is now officially a party-based RPG.

Welcome back, friend! It’s time for the first Druidstone development update! The last two weeks have been extremely busy and productive and we have made some big changes to the game. Let’s get started with the biggest of them!

Party-based gameplay. Yes, there will be multiple playable characters in Druidstone! This is something we have been talking about internally every now and then, but until now we weren’t sure how this would work exactly. The upsides to having a party of characters are obvious, like more varied and more tactical battles, and as big fans of the good old Gold Box games we have always wanted to get this feature in. But there are also many implications to level design, death mechanics and how the story is told. For example, the levels need to be more spacious (wider doorways, etc.). What happens if a party member dies? What happens if the main character dies? Is there even a main character (are all characters equally important to the story?) Is there inter-party dialogue (yes, please!)? How does the dialogue scripts work if a party member is dead? These are just a few of the issues that need to be carefully thought about.

Anyway, I spent several weeks testing party-based gameplay in a separate development branch, tackling the technical issues one by one and testing gameplay in practice. There are still some issues left, especially related to the story and how its told, but we are confident now that we can tackle them. So party-based gameplay is definitely a go!

Large object support. Multiple playable chars led naturally to another big refactoring in the codebase that I’ve been thinking about recently. Up until now objects in Druidstone were limited to 1 square in size. That limitation is now gone, so we can have, for example, 2×1 square doorways, 2×2 stairways, etc. Also more importantly we can now have some truly huge monsters! In fact, Juho made a new bad-ass huge monster which we’ll save for a future blog post *evil grin*

Script writing. Janne Sundqvist, our part-time writer was also here last week and split our initial synopsis into act structure and began working on the script of the game. The script is going to be our holy book and it’s going have all the encounter and character dialogues which really helps the game to come alive. These onsite visits are really great because we can throw around ideas quickly, test them in practice and make sure everyone is on the same page about the vision of the game. Hopefully we can have another session with Janne soon!

Animation rework. In the meanwhile Jyri has been going through all the animations of Leonhard, our man in green. The initial rig, particularly the cloak has proven out to be inflexible for the sort of maneuvers we’d like Leonhard to do, so unfortunately Jyri had to modify the rig, which meant he had to go through all the 54 animation files which Leonhard currently uses and reanimate the cloak. That’s a lot of work! But it was better to make the tweaks now rather than later, because the number of animation files surely grows a lot bigger as we add new features to the game.

In other news we unfortunately lost several days of dev time due to bad luck. We had to replace two gfx cards which died recently and several team members have also suffered from illnesses and had to take some time off. I’m still recovering from Norovirus myself, which I can report to be a nasty, nasty bugger!

Ok, that’s all for now. Until next time!
Well, that's nice! Maybe next month they'll announce that the game isn't procedurally generated anymore and the Codex will be really happy.

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Ash of Gods: Redemption, a lavish-looking Banner Saga-like, now on Steam Greenlight

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Mon 8 May 2017, 18:34:47

Tags: Ash of Gods: Redemption; AurumDust

One of the more peculiar phenomena in RPGs in the past few years has been the emergence of the "Banner Saga clone" as a distinct subgenre. The latest of these is Russian studio AurumDust's Ash of Gods: Redemption, which incorporates card game elements into the Banner Saga formula and appears to sport significantly higher production values. The game is on Steam Greenlight now, trying to make it onboard before Valve close the gates. Skeptical? I was too, but the trailer makes it look pretty cool:

Ash of Gods is a mix between a roguelike role-playing visual novel and an online turn-based strategy game. It has been heavily inspired by The Banner Saga series, Japanese visual novel games, and the spirit of The Darkest Dungeon.

The game is being developed with Unity and will be available on PC in 2017.

An emphasis on roguelike storytelling. The choices you make, the paths you take and the battles you fight inevitably affect the story and the world around you. Your team’s resources and time are limited, and on your journey you will face many choices. You decide who lives and who dies to ensure that you continue steadfastly along your path. If you rush forward mindlessly, you will gradually lose your characters, including the major ones. But even your party leader’s death will not lead to “game over”! Currently our story has 7 endings and only two of the endings are “good” and you’ll have to weather many storms to find them.

PVP and PVE multiplayer modes. Live through the story and top the global ratings with your characters in multiplayer mode. Unlock new characters and cards, upgrade them and build your own unique strategy and tactics. Create clans, form alliances and do battle with your friends at your side.

A new approach to tactical strategies. This is a unique combination of TBS, RPG and CCG in which your choice of cards and character classes determine your strategy and tactics on the battlefield.
  • The game is entirely devoid of any element of chance such as dice throwing. When you launch an attack or put one of your skills to use, you know exactly what the effect will be.
  • Many skills use up HP instead of the more traditional MP. For instance, an archer can kill his enemy with one shot, but he will lose a substantial portion of his health and become extremely vulnerable in the process.
  • HP and MP are equally important. Any of a character's resources can be damaged, and if you attack the MP, the character could lose one of his abilities. What's more, if a character doesn't have any MP left, any damage he suffers will cause him to lose double the usual amount of HP!
  • At the beginning of a fight you will receive five cards with different amounts of power, and their effect can turn the outcome of a battle. Each card has its own power that may only be used in a specific round of the battle.
  • А small team needn't mean a weak one. Opponents take turns to making moves, either performing some action with a character or using one of their cards. After all of a team's characters have made their moves, a new round begins for that team. This works to the advantage of small teams, as they will begin a new round sooner, which gives them the opportunity to use their strongest cards before their opponents can do so.
Smart AI that steadily improves as it learns how to defeat you. The AI automatically adapts to your style of playing. This is the one game for which you’ll never be able to invent “imba” tactics or find an “invincible” team build.

The visual style of Ash of Gods has been inspired by the work of Ralph Bakshi, The Banner Saga series, old-school Disney cartoons and the Soviet animation studio “Soyuzmultfilm” of the 60s. The character animation in combat scenes is based on live actors’ motion capture.

The music of this project is the result of collaboration by these wonderful game composers: Adam Skorupa, Krzysztof Wierzynkiewicz and Michał Cielecki (who wrote the music for such projects as Bulletstorm, Painkiller, The Witcher, EVE Online, Call of Juarez and Shadow Warrior).
Rather ambitious scope for a game whose own progenitor is struggling financially. Then again, they're Russians, I guess they can afford it. If Ash of Gods looks interesting to you, be sure to go and give it a vote. More information is available on the game's official website.

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Small KotC2 Update - It was Druids

Development Info - posted by VentilatorOfDoom on Mon 8 May 2017, 15:45:48

Tags: Heroic Fantasy Games; Knights of the Chalice 2

Deviating from the usual schedule Pierre Begue produced a new development update early, explaining what he's done the last few months and what's next in line for Knights of the Chalice 2. Snippet:

Concerning spells, I have implemented all druid spells of level 1, 2, 3 and 4 plus some of the spells of level 5. Please see the Druid's spell list below and for the updated spell descriptions, see the Druid's webpage. I have found that the spells that take the most time to implement are spells that affect terrain like Quicksand, Insect Plague, etc. Because there is both the immediate effect of the spell and then everything else associated with the new terrain. As you can see in one of the screenshots below, squares can contain up to two effects, one on the ground (Spike Growth in the picture) and one in the air (Insect Plague in the picture).

[​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

Among the spells I implemented, the ones that may be the most interesting are Gust of Wind and Greater Gust of Wind. They push creatures back by a few squares, so it's nice to use in conjunction with dangerous terrain or terrain spells. Also, it will be fun to watch the computer use those spells smartly against the player.

Concerning summon spells, I've implemented all summon spells in the Druid's spell list. I'm thinking to add a 'Summon Monster' line of spells for the Wizard. I expect that it will include the following: Summon Skeleton at level 1, Summon Slime at level 2, Summon Gargoyle at level 3, Summon Babau at level 4, Summon Ettin at level 5, Summon Vrock at level 6, Summon Stone Golem at level 7, Summon Iron Golem at level 8 and Summon Marilith at level 9. There will be a gold and XP cost for the higher levels.​

Read the full text here.

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Fri 5 May 2017
RPG Codex Interview: Julian Gollop on Phoenix Point

Codex Interview - posted by Infinitron on Fri 5 May 2017, 20:59:05

Tags: Julian Gollop; Phoenix Point; Snapshot Games

Of all the members of the oldschool game developer pantheon, original X-COM creator Julian Gollop is among the most admirable. With a career spanning over three decades, he's remained humble and unlike many others has never lost his passion for nitty-gritty game design. These days, Julian and his studio are working on Phoenix Point, an X-COM spiritual successor with some interesting twists, and they're currently seeking funding for it on Fig. Prestigious community member sser, who is a connoisseur of all things tactical and a big Gollop fan, decided to send him some questions. It's a more cursory style of interview than our usual, but I'm happy to have an excuse to promote this game. Here's an excerpt:

So the big question: Time Units or 2-AP or a mix? Lot of folks chomping at the bit to know this one, ha.

It seems to be a really contentious issue. At the moment we have a nominal 2 action system which is extended by two things. Firstly, if an enemy becomes spotted during movement, then movement is halted, allowing the player to react by either moving or firing. Secondly a range of special actions can extend the number of things a character can do in a turn. These cost 'will points'. Overall its more flexible than modern XCOMs, but still keeps the pace of the game relatively high. My concern with a pure Time Unit system is that it can result in the most optimally effective play being very slow, and ultimately a bit boring. There may be other ways to solve this, and we will experiment some more without a doubt.

New-XCOM uses ‘abilities’ for its units, and in Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars you implemented something very similar, with the squad being a toolkit and each squaddie a unique ‘tool’ with abilities directed toward very specific solutions. Will Phoenix Point use a system similar to this or return to the hands-off approach of the original X-Com?

Phoenix Point uses willpower as a key stat. A character's willpower rating determines initial and maximum will points for a battle. Will points are spent on most special actions and abilities. Will points can be lost through injury, morale effects (such as comrades dying or facing a horrifying monster) and special enemy attacks. Forcing will points below zero may cause panic and loss of sanity. Will points can be recovered by resting or through special abilities, such as a leader rallying action.

What sort of squad compositions can we expect in Phoenix Point? And how can we expect the squads to develop on the strategy screen over time?

Squad sizes will range from 4 to 16 roughly, but the larger battles will be base defence missions (which don't happen too often). The player will be encouraged to keep squad sizes smaller due to experience point bonuses for smaller squads. The main limitations for squad size will be the availability of healthy soldiers and transport capacity. There won't be other arbitrary restrictions.

Enemy mutations seem to be a key-point in the game’s design. “Evolution” of objects in games has been a design that surfaces now and again in games, sometimes quite overtly (Spore, Impossible Creatures). With the creature designs, it almost seems like if you lost a squaddie you might see them and their lost equipment repurposed against you in a future monstrosity. What level of ‘evolution’ can we expect out of our enemies, or out of the world in general?

Alien mutations are based on archetypes which have a particular 'chassis', such as 'humanoid', mixed with body parts based on animal groups, such as 'cephalopod'. Each body part may mutate, providing different functions and capability. It's possible to have a human with relatively minor mutations, such as a tentacled arm, or to have something much more alien looking. The evolution aspect is based on a response to poor performance in battle. If a particular mutant type does badly, it will be mutated in a random fashion. If the new mutation does well, then more of them will be deployed. Each body part type has three levels of improvement, and when a random mutation occurs to a part that has been used previously, the next level of that part is used. Different alien archetypes will arise from different parts of the world, based on the animals that are native to that part of the world.

You mentioned on Reddit that the ‘pod popping’ XCOM system will not be in Phoenix Point. Excellent! But it begs the question, if the baddies are roaming about independently of the player, can we expect them to be pursuing their own objectives? And will they scare players by opening and slamming doors in the fog of war?

The enemies will indeed be pursuing objectives, depending on the mission. If they enemy is attacking a haven, or one of your bases, they will actively seek to destroy the vital functional elements of the base or haven. Aliens will also attempt to kill, eat or abduct civilians. If you are attacking then you may be able to infiltrate without alerting the enemy, but once alerted they will search and attack. Sound will be an important factor, especially since the aliens deploy a thick mist in many battles. This will be indicated visually as well.

Wayward shots leading to disaster or unplanned triumph is one of the charms of procedural combat. So let’s talk bullet physics! A shot in X-Com had the chance to fly by and hit something in the distance. In XCOM, this is (for the most part) not the case, as shots ‘glue’ themselves to their targets and either hit or miss. Chaotic misses were relegated almost entirely to rockets. How is this going to be handled in Phoenix Point?

We will use a proper trajectory system for rockets, bullets, grenades and so on. Missed shots will definitely hit something, and potentially damage or destroy it. We haven't figured out a way to represent to the player the potential outcome of such attacks yet.​

Read the full article: RPG Codex Interview: Julian Gollop on Phoenix Point

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Mon 1 May 2017
Bard's Tale IV Kickstarter Update #35: Combat System Video, Designer Commentary Edition

Preview - posted by Infinitron on Mon 1 May 2017, 23:40:38

Tags: Bard's Tale IV; David Rogers; InXile Entertainment

For the new Bard's Tale IV Kickstarter update, inXile have put together a commentary version of February's combat system video, featuring the narration of systems designer David Rogers. I would have preferred something entirely new, but it's definitely nice to have. The combat system is more complex than it looks, with multiple damage types and defenses, with the ability to damage armor or penetrate an opponent's mental focus to shut down his current action. That said, in response to some people's concerns about pacing, David makes it clear that not all battles in the game will be as lengthy or elaborate as the one in the video.

The update also announces that inXile have hired a sound designer for Bard's Tale IV - one Brian DiDomenico, who has worked on a variety of games. Makes me wonder what stage of development the game is at now.

There are 33 comments on Bard's Tale IV Kickstarter Update #35: Combat System Video, Designer Commentary Edition
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