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Wed 31 August 2016

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?

Eisenwald: Blood of November, a standalone campaign for Legends of Eisenwald, now on Kickstarter

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Wed 31 August 2016, 19:37:06

Tags: Aterdux Entertainment; Eisenwald: Blood of November; Legends of Eisenwald

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When Aterdux Entertainment's Legends of Eisenwald was released last July after many years in development, it was not initially a great success. Even though the game received a DLC scenario in November and a Season Pass promising two more in 2016, its future seemed doubtful, and there was even talk of Aterdux being forced to become a F2P developer. A year later, though, things seem to have improved and Eisenwald was declared profitable, with tentative plans to expand its next DLC into a full-blown expansion by means of a small Kickstarter campaign. A Kickstarter campaign that was launched today with no prior warning. The expansion, which is now planned to be a standalone title, is called Eisenwald: Blood of November. Here's its pitch video and description:

In this new story you will get to decide who is fit for the throne of the duchy of Eisenwald. The duke is dead, long live the duke. Two factions vie for the throne and you will have to choose a side, for neutrality is not an option.

We considered where we wanted to take the Eisenwald experience following on from Legends of Eisenwald and we decided that the sandbox route might suit our style of gameplay best. This will give the player an opportunity to experience the world of Eisenwald from a new angle, but still enjoy an old-school adventure in a standalone form. It’s also a great option for players scared off by the hefty 50 hours that was in Legends of Eisenwald. No prior knowledge of Eisenwald is required to get the full experience in Blood of November.

This new adventure will have many new features:
  • Random events that add a great amount of replayability;
  • Smart re-spawn - improved dynamic balance of the armies;
  • Updated look - the engine and graphics will be reworked and improved;
  • Sandbox like gameplay – freedom of movement;
  • Experimental quest system that will change according to your behavior.
If you are Legends of Eisenwald $35+ tier backer or holder of Season Pass, you will receive this game free of charge.

This game will cost $9 and provide 6-10 hours of gameplay.
You can secure a copy of Blood of November for just $7, and for $12, you'll also get the original Legends of Eisenwald along with it, which is a great deal. The campaign's funding goal is $12,000 - not an insurmountable sum. Let's hope they make it.

There are 2 comments on Eisenwald: Blood of November, a standalone campaign for Legends of Eisenwald, now on Kickstarter

Tahira: Echoes of the Astral Empire Released

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Wed 31 August 2016, 18:39:54

Tags: Tahira: Echoes of the Astral Empire; Whale Hammer Games

Whale Hammer Games' Tahira: Echoes of the Astral Empire is the second of the two "Banner Saga clones" Kickstarted over the past few years, the first being last year's Skyshine's BEDLAM. If BEDLAM was all about taking the Banner Saga formula in a more systems-driven, roguelike direction, then Tahira seems to have taken the opposite route. It's a more narrative-centric experience, inspired by tactical JRPGs and centered around a single character, the titular Princess Tahira, heir to the throne of a small kingdom on a Middle Eastern-like abandoned colony world. Here's the game's launch trailer and description:

Tahira: Echoes of the Astral Empire is a tactical turn-based RPG, set on a world fallen into a medieval dark age after the collapse of a spacefaring civilization.

You must guide Tahira, the 20-year-old princess of Avestan, on the most challenging night of her life as she fights to save her people from the genocidal Astral Empire.

You’ll fight large-scale tactical turn-based battles using guerrilla warfare tactics, including ambushing enemies, taking cover and knocking foes off cliffs. You’ll also develop relationships with those traveling with you and uncover secrets of a time when man traversed the stars with impunity.

Main features:
  • A World Fallen Into a Dark Age – Explore a planet still reeling from the collapse of a galaxy-spanning empire. Learn the history of a former frontier world, and the ancient spacefaring people who first explored it.
  • Turn-based Guerrilla Warfare – Control up to 20 characters as you fight against the vast army of the Astral Empire in tactical turn-based battles. You must utilize the environment to even the odds by ambushing enemies, taking cover and knocking foes off cliffs and rooftops.
  • Never Fight the Same Battle Twice – Tahira has no filler fights. Each encounter has been specifically designed to advance the story. Battles take place in large environments and feature multiple phases, ranging from the three-stage defence of a town to a desperate struggle to rescue trapped civilians.
  • More Than Just Fighting – You don’t just advance from one battle to the next in Tahira, between skirmishes, you’ll find yourself exploring the environment, learning Tahira’s thoughts about the world and getting to know the people who are travelling with you.
  • Near Real-time Experience – The majority of Tahira takes place over one night. The game is designed to give you a near real-time experience as you guide our heroine through the most challenging night of her life.
  • A Rich Cast of Colourful Characters – Including Baruti, an Avestan General; Claw and Hammer, a mercenary power couple attempting to repay a 20-year-old debt to Avestan; and Iba, Tahira’s loyal horse.
  • Tactics for Beginners & Experts - With four difficulty settings, Tahira caters to gamers just interested in the story, seasoned turn-based tactics veterans looking for a brutal challenge and everyone in between.
Tahira's beta was released to Kickstarter backers in June and apparently the game is decent enough, although it's gotten very little attention. If you're interested in checking it out, it's available now on Steam and GOG for $15, with a 10% launch discount until next week.

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Tue 30 August 2016
Warren Spector reveals new details about System Shock 3, Sheldon Pacotti and Doug Church onboard

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Tue 30 August 2016, 20:12:24

Tags: Doug Church; OtherSide Entertainment; Sheldon Pacotti; System Shock 3; Warren Spector

Back in February, we learned that Warren Spector had joined OtherSide Entertainment on a full-time basis to lead development on System Shock 3 at a brand new studio in Austin. However, actual work would only begin in June, after he concluded his teaching duties at the University of Texas. With summer coming to an end, today we receive our first glimpse of Warren's plans for System Shock 3, as well as the team he's assembled to create it, which includes Deus Ex lead writer Sheldon Pacotti as Design Director and the legendary Doug Church, taking a break from manufacturing hats at Valve in a part-time creative consultant role. More information about that in this press release. As for the game itself, I'll let Warren speak for himself. Here's an excerpt from his interview at Polygon, which also includes some early concept art:

"In System Shock 3 I want to explore Shodan's motivations," said Spector. "In the first two games her plan was to destroy humanity because, with the removal of her ethical constraints by the hacker in the first game, she's going insane. But we never explained why she wants to destroy humanity. So we're going to be exploring the idea of a super intelligence and what would motivate a super intelligent AI."

At the end of the second game, Shodan downloads herself into a human woman called Rebecca Sutton, leaving a cliffhanger. This will be the starting point ofSystem Shock 3.

"We are going to be picking up all of the loose threads of System Shock 2. Rebecca Sutton is going to appear in this game, for sure," he said.

Spector pointed out that there are six survivors from the previous games. Their stories will all be addressed in System Shock 3 as well. Among the NPCs, there's Shodan and Sutton as well as her colleague, Tommy Suarez. The story will also include Rebecca Lansing, who was the player's human guide in the first game.

Also, the game will feature the two previous protagonists: the hacker from the original game, and the soldier from System Shock 2.

"We're going to tell their story," said Spector. "There are a lot of questions that went unanswered in those first two games and we have an obligation to fans to fill in the blanks. For new players I think that will pull them into a compelling narrative."

The story will also delve into the history of Edward Diego, a key character in the first game who persuades the player to hack into Shodan.

The original System Shock takes place in the year 2072, while System Shock 2 takes place 42 years later in 2114, also the year in which the new game picks up the story.

Spector said he wants to create a game that addresses today's concerns and that draws upon modern technological advances to make predictions about the future: "I like to base everything in reality and extrapolate from there. We want to be able to look at where we are today and ask where we might be a hundred years from now."

Like the original, the game will feature virtual spaces as well as real world locations, as the player tackles Shodan on her own cyber turf.

"There's been a lot more research into UI and super intelligence in recent years. That will find itself in System Shock 3," he said. "We understand hacking a lot better than we used to and it will be presented in a completely different way than it was presented in the earlier games.

"Back when we made System Shock, cyberpunk was still at its height in terms of popularity and cultural significance and it was a big inspiration. Nowadays, cyberpunk is a little less current. I've learned over the years that it's foolish to try to convince people to become interested in something they don't care about, so we're finding things that people are interested in today."​

[...] I asked Spector if, given that he worked on the first game but not the second, he feels a closer affinity to one than the other?

"I like and respect the second one but it was significantly different from the first," he replied. "I'm constantly struggling with how much we adhere to the tenets of the first one and how much do we adhere to the tenets of the second one. The second game was a much more traditional role-playing game than the first one. It's a mental struggle for me about which direction I want to go in. I will admit that."
Sounds like this could get controversial! On the one hand, Warren says he wants to move on from cyberpunk. On the other hand, he seems to lean towards making the game more like the first System Shock, which is widely considered more cyberpunky than its sequel. Sheldon Pacotti's presence on the team suggests that no matter what we get, it'll probably be intellectually thought-provoking. But will it be an RPG? It's still early days, so I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

There are 30 comments on Warren Spector reveals new details about System Shock 3, Sheldon Pacotti and Doug Church onboard

Arcanum and Quest for Glory 1-5 Released on Steam

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Tue 30 August 2016, 00:09:24

Tags: Activision; Arcanum: of Steamworks and Magick Obscura; Quest for Glory; Sierra Entertainment; Troika Games

Activision have unexpectedly released a treasure trove of legacy titles on Steam, which were previously only available on GOG. Most of them are classic Sierra adventure games, but they also include Troika's Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura, which was published by Sierra back in the day, as well as all five games in Sierra's own wonderful Quest for Glory series of adventure/RPG hybrids. And yes, that includes both the EGA and VGA versions of Quest for Glory 1. The prices are the same as GOG's - Arcanum for $6 and the Quest for Glory Collection for $10. If you don't already own them on GOG, or if you're obsessive about your Steam game collection, these games come highly recommended. I wonder if these releases bode anything for the future of Activision's ill-fated nu-Sierra initiative.

There are 22 comments on Arcanum and Quest for Glory 1-5 Released on Steam

Sat 27 August 2016
The Storm Guard: Darkness is Coming Released

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Sat 27 August 2016, 23:54:27

Tags: Bitmen Studios; The Storm Guard: Darkness is Coming

The Storm Guard: Darkness is Coming is an interesting-looking turn-based indie RPG by Bitmen Studios that came out of Early Access a couple of days ago. It bills itself as a "roguelike role-playing game inspired by the Night’s Watch in Game of Thrones", with gameplay inspired by XCOM, FTL and Guild Wars(?), but a lot of people on Steam seem to think it's like Darkest Dungeon. All I know is it looks a hell of a lot like a module for the original Neverwinter Nights. Here's the launch teaser and description:

The Storm Guard is a challenging turn-based roguelike role-playing game inspired by the Night’s Watch in the Game of Thrones.

You assume the role of the Lord Commander of the Storm Guard leading the order during difficult times. An ancient dragon and its minions have returned, threatening the realm of men. While in your base, you must recruit, train and develop a team of heroes in their quest to restore peace. Make smart decisions during the random events you will run into and battle countless different creatures ranging from mere goblins to huge abominable creatures like wyverns, golems, ogres and worse. On the tactical combat map, put the skills you have learned to the test to defeat powerful opponents.

Your chances in battle not only depend on your tactical decisions but also on your preparation. Assemble well-rounded teams and pick from dozens of different skills to creature unique synergies between your team members that work for you and your preferred playstyle.
  • Rich turn-based combat with a wide range of interesting mechanics, including numerous conditions (bleeding, burning, weakened, blind, crippled, ...), knockdowns, shouts, buffs, enchantments, and hexes.
  • Interesting combat mechanics that allow flanking, tying up, disengaging, and smart combinations of skills.
  • Numerous playable hero classes to pick from to add to your team with dozens of unique abilities to specialize in.
  • Challenging encounters against close to 40 different creature types each with their own abilities. Ever since the Ancient Dragon returned, Orks, Giants, Undead and Mystic Creatures roam the realm of men causing death and destruction.
  • Defeat intelligent monsters that collaborate, heal and buff their allies and have their own strategy on how to put your heroes to the grave.
  • Use your gold wisely on the strategy layer to invest into skill development, equipment, consumables or additional heroes.
  • Rest in town to recover from injuries that reduce your constitution or gain morale boosts by exceptional performance in battle.
  • Classic RPG/roguelike features like permadeath, procedural dungeons, and random events result in high replayability.
The Storm Guard is available on Steam now for $20. The few people on our forums who have played it seem to like it. Give it a try and tell us if it's curation-worthy.

There are 10 comments on The Storm Guard: Darkness is Coming Released

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Wed 24 August 2016
RPG Codex Report: Gamescom 2016 - Divinity: Original Sin 2

Editorial - posted by Infinitron on Wed 24 August 2016, 21:59:25

Tags: Divinity: Original Sin 2; Gamescom 2016; Larian Studios; Swen Vincke

Last year, we sent Bubbles and JarlFrank to Gamescom, the annual video game trade fair in Cologne, Germany. The resulting multi-part report was one of the finest pieces of content the Codex has ever produced, and so when August came around, it was a no-brainer to send them there again. I can already tell you that our Gamescom report this year is going to break new records. For its first part, though, we'll start small - not with an article covering a dozen different games, but just one very important one. Bubbles and JarlFrank expected to have just half an hour with Divinity: Original Sin 2. They ended up spending almost three hours with it. Here's some of what they learned:

Bubbles: Since you mentioned the origin stories, let's talk about the writing…. I've played more of this version than I played with the prototype, but I still remember what was on the prototype. I saw some changes in the prototype from the original game, but I wasn't fully convinced that it had changed. What I'm seeing now is a radically different style of writing; stunning, absolutely...

Swen: I'm happy to see that you recognize it.

Bubbles: It's hard to imagine it being in the same game series. Bioware sometimes changes writing throughout their game series, but I can't think of many companies that would allow an example like this; this is actually a very strong example [of a stylistic change] for me. It's good writing… it convinces me. It's real – it's an enormous achievement compared to Original Sin 1 for me.

Swen: ...took sweat and blood and tears...

Bubbles: …how much has your writing team changed?

Swen: You'll be surprised, maybe, to hear that the leads on this team are the same writers that wrote OS 1. But they have time now, and time makes a very big difference. We've been iterating the writing [a lot]; if I would show you the initial dialogues, you'd say “that's shit!”, but that's just the process, right? Writing is something were you need to have time to go over it, start to get into the characters. We now have 8 writers, and they now have time to get into the heads of every single character and they have to “speak” like that character. So we think about each character: “What would they say? Would they say that? No, they probably wouldn't say that.” So it changes and changes, and the result… it feels a little better. We were also very explicit that it had to be the way you talk… it's a much more natural conversation style now. Of course, you played that noble [The Red Prince] and he still talks like a noble, but that's “him”; that's because of his upbringing. If you take Lohse [a lady who acts as a vessel for demons and spirits], she's gonna be talking like a jester, which is a completely different tone; same thing goes for Sebille, she was a slave in the Ancient Empire, so she's very bitter, she hates everything. It really changes from character to character; it's also different writers who write each of them, so they can really get into their heads.

Bubbles: Which part of this writing is by Chris Avellone?

Swen: He's doing the Undead origin story, and that one you're not seeing. That's gonna be something very special, so we're keeping that for later. So you haven't actually seen any of Chris's writing yet.

Bubbles: You mentioned 8 writers – who are they?

Swen: Let's see, we have Sarah Baylus, we have Jan Van Dosselaer, Devin Doyle, Charlene Putney, John Corcoran, Steven… uhmmm… Steven, so that's six, then Kevin vanOrd, then Chris, eight, and Kieron [Kelly], nine. So it's actually eight and a half, cause Kieron does writing as well as other artistic stuff.

Bubbles: Do you think that's a good amount of writers for the kind of project you're doing?

Swen: Yeah, I think so. The output of these people if they “just write” is enormous; I could fill what other games have in ten days with a team like that. But they don't [“just write”], because they take so much time with each dialogue.

Bubbles: If you've hired more people over the last few months, does that mean that the game has expanded in scope?

Swen: We've hired more people because we've learned we needed more. I will be brutally honest about this: we only figured out the identity of the game a couple of months ago. We were looking a long time for the right tone, and now that we've we figured it out – it's easy!

Bubbles: What did you figure out?

Swen: How people should talk. The length of the dialogues, the length of the phrases, the way that they talk, the things that they say – we figured that out a couple of months ago because of Sarah. It started with that one character that Devin did; we were playing Act 1, and we said, “That's a really good character!” Sarah picked up on that; she changed all of Fort Joy to fit that, and then we all played it and said “Fuck, this is good!” And then we started expanding it everywhere and we rewrote pretty much everything.​

Read the full article: RPG Codex Report: Gamescom 2016 - Divinity: Original Sin 2

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Deus Ex: Mankind Divided Released

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Wed 24 August 2016, 00:40:28

Tags: Deus Ex: Mankind Divided; Eidos Montreal

Back in 2011, there were many that considered Eidos Montreal's revival of the Deus Ex franchise, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, to be the epitome of the "good for what it is" AAA title. In an era of ever greater streamlining, it was a game that wasn't ashamed to throw walls of text at you in its first five minutes. Its maps were reasonably spacious, the dialogue and atmosphere were decent, and it even had a grid-based inventory. The sins of Invisible War were washed away at last.

But five years later, things have changed. The RPG world is completely different from what it was back then, and Eidos Montreal have spent that time soiling their reputation with games like the Thief reboot and tablet spinoff Deus Ex: The Fall. Ever since it was officially announced last year, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided's impending release has thus been regarded with a certain sense of trepidation. Last week's reviews seemed to confirm that the game was a disappointment, but today, we can finally find out for ourselves whether that feeling was justified. You've already seen the launch trailer, so here's the game's brief description:

The year is 2029, and mechanically augmented humans have now been deemed outcasts, living a life of complete and total segregation from the rest of society.

Now an experienced covert operative, Adam Jensen is forced to operate in a world that has grown to despise his kind. Armed with a new arsenal of state-of-the-art weapons and augmentations, he must choose the right approach, along with who to trust, in order to unravel a vast worldwide conspiracy.​

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is now available for $60 on Steam. There are a couple of crappy $5 item pack DLCs and a $30 Season Pass that promises two The Missing Link-style story DLCs to be released later on, along with the aforementioned item packs and other assorted garbage. People are reporting that the item packs work like microtransactions - you can only bind the items that they include to a single playthrough, and then they're gone. I don't know if that's a standard thing now, but please don't buy them. As for the game itself, that's up for you to decide. In this age of Denuvo I suspect the Codex consensus of Mankind Divided will be a bit slower to form, but we should have a solid opinion to offer eventually.

There are 77 comments on Deus Ex: Mankind Divided Released

Tue 23 August 2016
Tyranny Gamescom 2016 Previews at PCGamesN and RPGWatch

Preview - posted by Infinitron on Tue 23 August 2016, 18:53:33

Tags: Brian Heins; Obsidian Entertainment; Tyranny

The embargo on Tyranny Gamescom coverage expired today, but it looks like not many outlets were interested in previewing it. In fact, the only major English language website that previewed Tyranny is PCGamesN. You can chalk that up to competing RPG attention from Torment and Divinity I guess, plus the already extensive Tyranny material released by Paradox last week. Anyway, as I suspected, the game's spellcrafting system is a major topic of the preview, and the accompanying video also has some new gameplay footage, featuring a dungeon location known as the Oldwalls (a name that we've seen before) which sounds like it might be Tyranny's equivalent of Pillars of Eternity's megadungeon. There's also some information in the preview about Artifact items, which I guess are its equivalent of Eternity's Soulbound items. Here's the video and an excerpt:

All too frequently mages can feel like one of the more neglected classes in RPGs, but Tyranny is building spellslingers in an interesting new way. “One of the things we’re doing differently in Tyranny is that you create your own spells by finding magical sigils in the world,” explains Brian Heins, game director on Tyranny. “So you start with a core sigil like fire, frost or lightning, and then decide how that magic type is going to express itself, whether it’s a long range bolt or a cone, like a great cone of flames, or a fireball.”

In the game’s spell creation menus, these are represented by a series of runes that are attached together. Further sigil runes can be added to modify the way in which spells deal damage, too: “You can actually create a magical fireball that leaves targets bleeding on the ground. [There are] a lot of different effects you can apply to customize and craft your own spells however you want,” says Heins.

In combat, these spells become visual feats as ice spikes erupt from the ground and waves of rippling energy tear across dungeons. It quickly becomes obvious that Tyranny is one of the best looking isometric games made since the classic RPG renaissance began. Your party consists of just four members this time, making it a little easier to appreciate each of their animations in the swirling melee.

[...] One of the many things we associate with fantasy lore are legendary weapons, be they King Arthur's Excalibur or Gandalf’s Glamdring. RPGs frequently have powerful named swords, but there never seems to be a reason for their fame. Tyranny is different: for a sword to become legendary, it needs to accomplish something.

“Artifacts are these legendary items, everybody talks about them,” reveals Heins. “Each one has their own reputation. So the more you use an artifact, the more it accomplishes great deeds, and the more legendary it becomes.”

When you find an artifact weapon, the character who equips it gains access to a new ability, such as powerful debuffs or special attacks. Using the weapon builds a meter on its inventory page, and as that meter builds so does the weapon’s renown. The most renowned weapons in the realm are, naturally, powerful tools that will see your enemies fall harder and faster.

And you’ll want powerful weapons too, as there are going to be quite a few classic dungeon crawls full of monsters and bosses. “One of the things we tried to do is create our dungeon experiences as much more of a classic dungeon crawl experience with traps, with interesting encounters and creatures and lots of treasure and loot to go and find,” says Heins. “So they’re very deadly experiences in the game but the reward is well worth it.”
Aside from PCGamesN, the only other English language Tyranny preview I've been able to find is at RPGWatch, where Myrthos offers a detailed description of his gameplay demo and complains about the game's more casual mechanics. Perhaps more previews will show up later on. We'll be publishing our own Gamescom impressions of Tyranny at some point, but don't hold your breath on that.

There are 39 comments on Tyranny Gamescom 2016 Previews at PCGamesN and RPGWatch

[Quickie Nr. 004] Prelude to Darkness Retrospective Review

Review - posted by VentilatorOfDoom on Tue 23 August 2016, 12:31:10

Tags: Prelude to Darkness; Quickie; Zero Sum

I know that a lot of the regulars around here were holding their breath, anxiously awaiting the next entry in the prestigious RPG Codex [Quickie] review series, and despite that it took years for the next entry to emerge, Konjad bounces back big time, bringing us his retrospective review on the merits of Zero Sum's Prelude to Darkness.

The turn-based RPG called Prelude to Darkness was released many years ago. So many years that its most current version is already a decade old. Nonetheless, few role-playing games fans have even heard of it and even fewer played it. Here, on RPGCodex, we even have an official subforum for this game… and it’s almost dead. Posts rarely are written there and few people bother to even visit the place. Is the fate of the game well deserved or is it just a decent product that never managed to gather enough players to reach the critical mass of popularity and spread around through positive word-of-mouth?​

Stay tuned, fasten your seat belts, and follow Konjad into the depths of the rabbit hole. Read the entire [Quickie Nr. 004] here.

- Zero Sum homepage
- download version 1.7
- download version 1.8
- here's a small patch by Codexer Fowyr that fixes a few things (see readme)

Read the full article: [Quickie Nr. 004] Prelude to Darkness Retrospective Review

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Underworld Ascendant Update #28: Stephen Russell, Lizardman Design, and Ultima Underworld Influences

Development Info - posted by Infinitron on Tue 23 August 2016, 03:06:57

Tags: Nate Wells; OtherSide Entertainment; Ultima Underworld; Ultima Underworld II: Labyrinth of Worlds; Underworld Ascendant

Ever since they announced that they'd moved on to the Vertical Slice phase back in early June, the folks at OtherSide Entertainment have been pretty quiet about the ongoing development of Underworld Ascendant. But not completely quiet. As summer draws to a close, now is a good time for a news roundup. In late June, OtherSide released a brief update announcing that Stephen Russell of Thief fame had been hired to voice Sir Cabirus, deceased founder of the Stygian Abyss colony, after which update frequency dropped down to once per month. Last month's update was more substantial, describing the evolution of the visual design for Ascendant's Lizardmen, who will appear in the Vertical Slice when it's released later this year. Here's an excerpt from that:

We've explored multiple looks for the Lizardmen over the past year and thought we'd share.

We started with a couple of different versions during the Kickstarter: A dinosaur-like take and one that loosely resembled a fishman from H.P. Lovecraft's Innsmouth. We even had a vote on which one the fanbase liked more. There was a healthy debate in the office, too.

After some time evolving in art direction of the game, we needed to come back around on how all of our creatures looked. Nate and the art team have been taking a new look at what the Lizardman might appear in this developing style.

[...] Although just clay, this is the first look at a Green Lizardman, the friendlier of the types you'll encounter.

Since they're a closely related species, we didn't want to deviate too drastically from the basic look. But as game developers we need to accomplish a few things when doing a separate species that is essentially the same. We've all seen this in games , the reds and the blues, the big and the little. In a 3d FPS game the silhouette is very important. Like spotters on ships in WWII being able to identify a silhouette at a distance can be the difference between life or death.

[...] To address this with the Red Lizardmen, we decided to adjust his shape slightly in bulk and to give them some easy-to-read attachments that Green Lizardmen don't have.
In the early study (above), you'll notice the frills on the Red's head and face... which Will wants to call it a "head sail" and Tim a "scalp tongue".

Another part we use to accent the silhouette is with armor and clothing.

In Nate's draw-over (on the right), he's added some feather attachments making it even more sharp and pointy-looking from a distance.

Now that the overall idea is agreed upon, the Red Lizardman is in the hands of art production and refinements continue to happen daily.
Today's update was about Ascendant's influences from the original Ultima Underworld games. Here too the Lizardman legacy is influential:

Ultima Underworld and Ultima Underworld 2 were ground breaking RPGs that influenced dozens of games - including, not surprisingly, our own. With Underworld Ascendant, our goals have been to do justice to those original games and be as innovative as they were at the time.

We have a number of innovative new features that we've yet to reveal (including a narrative system that our producer Chris Siegel calls "Looking Glass 2.0."), though intend to show in detail farther down the line.

But for many basic questions, like how survival elements should be handled or letting the player increase difficulty by descending to lower levels, we often look to the original Ultima Underworld for guidance. There's simply so much those games did right.

In our last update, we mentioned that the Green Lizard Men will be found in the neutral zone of Marcaul, an area featured in our Vertical Slice. That's a direct connection to one of our favorite moments in Ultima Underworld -- a game that, a year and a half before Edge Magazine famously said, "lf only you could talk to these creatures..." about Doom, let you decipher the language of a race of creatures, talk to them, and make alliances with them.

As you can imagine, we find this sequence pretty inspiring and intend to feature the Lizard Men prominently in the Vertical Slice. (We'll even drop the name "Ishtass" as a hint...)

Another one of our favorite moments in the series? In Ultima Underworld 2's Prison Tower of Tarna level, the player could: 1) fight your way through several levels full of goblins or 2) talk your way through past all the guards, access the jail on the top floor, and release a captured troll, who would then proceed to wipe out every single goblin in the place. Both were fun ways of solving the same challenge and allowed a large gameplay choice on a quest level.

As we've said before, in Underworld Ascendant, we provide players with a large toolbox and let them choose how to solve a challenge. While that's mainly meant on a moment-to-moment level, we're also seeing some interesting opportunities to feature Tower of Tarna-style quest choices as well.
The folks who have been worrying that Ascendant is going to be a pure sandbox might be happy to read that last bit. According to OtherSide developers on the game's official forums, the Vertical Slice is due for release "after summer". I suppose we'll find out what exactly that means next month.

There are 22 comments on Underworld Ascendant Update #28: Stephen Russell, Lizardman Design, and Ultima Underworld Influences

Mon 22 August 2016
Divinity: Original Sin 2 Kickstarter Update #26: Early Access on September 15th, Gamescom Previews

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Mon 22 August 2016, 21:50:52

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

Today is Divinity: Original Sin 2's big day. Earlier today, the embargo on Gamescom coverage of the game was lifted and numerous websites published their previews, including loads of gameplay footage. A couple of hours ago, Larian followed up on that with a new Kickstarter update, formally announcing that Divinity: Original Sin 2 will be released on Steam Early Access on September 15th, with a final release expected in 2017. The Early Access release will contain the game's first act and the arena mode along with multiplayer support, and all Kickstarter backers will receive a key. The game already has a Steam page, along with a shiny new official website. Here's the Kickstarter update video, which includes a copious amount of entertaining outtakes from Larian's visit to Gamescom. Watch for the erudite Bubbles cameo at around 5:12.

We are incredibly excited to announce that you’ll get your first taste of Divinity: Original Sin 2 on the 15th of September. We’re giving all Kickstarter backers access to the first act of the game: Fort Joy.

We’re going to level with you - it’s not a nice place. Think Alcatraz, but if Alcatraz was a leper colony. And the island was haunted. And the bay around it was full of sharks. With tentacles… It ain’t pretty, is what we’re saying. But we’re sure that a resourceful Sourcerer like you will be able to find some new friends. Or useful enemies…

We’ve been working on this for a very long time, and seeing it go out into the world is an amazing experience. We’ve already had some incredible feedback from the press but of course it’s your voices that we can’t wait to hear. You were all here with us when we started this journey, and we can’t wait to show you how far we’ve come. And we’re not done yet!
Here's a list of all the Divinity: Original Sin 2 Gamescom previews (in English) that we've been able to find:

There's a lot to digest in these previews, but one thing definitely worth mentioning is that yes, Larian do have plans to release a console port of Divinity: Original Sin 2. However, the game will be PC-exclusive on release. Our own Divinity: Original Sin 2 preview/interview should be published sometime in the very near future.

There are 37 comments on Divinity: Original Sin 2 Kickstarter Update #26: Early Access on September 15th, Gamescom Previews

Torment Gameplay Footage and More Interviews from Gamescom 2016

Preview - posted by Infinitron on Mon 22 August 2016, 19:44:10

Tags: Brian Fargo; Colin McComb; InXile Entertainment; Torment: Tides of Numenera

There have been several more Torment: Tides of Numenera Gamescom interviews and previews published since our last post about the game. Today, the console-centric German gaming site published their Torment preview, which notably includes eleven minutes of raw console gameplay footage - the same footage which we saw snippets of in last week's interviews. It shows the Last Castoff and his party finding their way into the Bloom through a portal in the Valley of Dead Heroes. After cutting open one of the Bloom's maws, they find themselves in the abode of a faction known as the Lascar, who are friendly at first, but don't remain that way for very long. Unfortunately the video cuts off before the battle is over, but here it is:

Other Torment-related items released over the weekend include an interview with Colin McComb at Fextralife and an interview with Brian Fargo by audio hardware company Turtle Beach, but the most interesting one is the interview with both Brian and Colin by Mhaire Stritter of Orkenspalter TV. For this interview, which I believe took place on the second day of Gamescom, Brian has apparently revised his estimate of the game's length down to 50-60 hours. Maybe somebody told him that 70-80 was a little high.

There are 90 comments on Torment Gameplay Footage and More Interviews from Gamescom 2016

Sun 21 August 2016
Chris Avellone's Beachside Chat at Reboot Develop 2016

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Sun 21 August 2016, 16:15:01

Tags: Chris Avellone

Nearly four months after it took place, the video of Chris Avellone's "Beachside Chat" panel at the Reboot Develop 2016 conference in Croatia has finally been uploaded by the organizers. It's a half-comedic, half-serious dialogue between Chris and Dan Pearson, European Editor of Gamasutra's writeup made the panel seem like it was an extended rhapsody about the comforts of his post-Obsidian lifestyle, but it's actually a bit more in-depth than that.

The chat starts out as an entertaining exchange of banter about Chris' pen-and-paper roleplaying roots, but later on it becomes more focused on CRPG design, including some discussion of his contributions to Pillars of Eternity. Interestingly, the idea of roleplaying evil characters comes up several times, and Chris cites (then only recently announced) Tyranny as the sort of RPG he'd make if he wanted to support that concept. It's an amusing watch all around - check it out if you have time to burn.

There are 27 comments on Chris Avellone's Beachside Chat at Reboot Develop 2016

Sat 20 August 2016
Brian Heins interviewed by Rocket Beans TV and GameStar at Gamescom 2016

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Sat 20 August 2016, 20:16:25

Tags: Brian Heins; Obsidian Entertainment; Paradox Interactive; Tyranny

The two German gaming sites that interviewed Brian Fargo the other day, Rocket Beans TV and GameStar, have published Gamescom interviews with Tyranny game director Brian Heins as well. As with Torment, the interview videos contain snippets of new gameplay footage, offering us a glimpse at some of the game's early locations, as well as the best look at its UI that we've gotten so far. Once again, the Rocket Beans interview is the more substantial of the two (despite the rather ditzy interviewers), so that's what I'll embed here:

Brian reveals that the next Tyranny dev diary is going to be about the game's spellcrafting system (which he offers to show to the interviewers, so it'll probably be a major topic of the post-Gamescom previews as well). He won't say exactly when the game is coming out, but at one point admits that he's going to be working on bugfixing and balancing "for the next month or so", which may be a clue. He also says that Obsidian are talking to Paradox about the possibility of expansions or DLC.

Other highlights of the Rocket Beans interview include the interviewers interrogating Brian about his opinion of Fallout 4 (which he handles as diplomatically as he can), and a question about what sort of games he'd like to work on in the future (a "magic in real life" low fantasy RPG or a Cold War spy RPG). In the course of answering the latter question, Brian confirms that Obsidian are not working on a Vampire: The Masquerade game. Sorry folks! Although it is nice to get a straight answer about something for once.

P.S. Brian also had a seven minute appearance on yesterday's Gamescom Twitch broadcast, but the less said about that, the better.

There are 30 comments on Brian Heins interviewed by Rocket Beans TV and GameStar at Gamescom 2016

Divinity: Original Sin 2 announced for Early Access in September, reveals gameplay video at GameStar

Game News - posted by Bubbles on Sat 20 August 2016, 11:32:46

Tags: Divinity: Original Sin 2; Larian Studios; tier 1 journalism

Intrepid community member LESS T_T has spotted a short preview blurb about Original Sin 2 over at German magazine GameStar:

Das Preview-Video zeigt die Verbesserungen im zweiten Teil. Überarbeitet wurde unter anderem die Charakter-Erstellung und das Runden-Kampfsystem. Auch in die Story und Dialoge haben die Entwickler viel Arbeit gesteckt. Neu hinzugekommen ist der Arena-Modus in dem Spieler zu schnellen Matches gegeneinander antreten. Im September 2016 tritt das Spiel dann im Early-Access an.​

This paragraph can be faithfully translated as

This preview video shows the improvements in the second part. Character creation and the turn based combat system have been improved among other elements of the game. The developers have also invested a lot of work into the story and dialogues. One new addition is the arena mode, in which players compete against each other in quick matches. The game will then enter Early Access in September 2016.​


The corresponding in-game video shows lots of new information about the game and reiterates the September 2016 date:

We'll try to spot any other videos revealing the new footage and update this post accordingly.

Update: The RPG Watch confirms the Early Access news.

There are 34 comments on Divinity: Original Sin 2 announced for Early Access in September, reveals gameplay video at GameStar

Fri 19 August 2016
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided Launch Trailer and Reviews

Review - posted by Infinitron on Fri 19 August 2016, 21:06:19

Tags: Deus Ex: Mankind Divided; Eidos Montreal

Even though the game was at E3 this year, and now at Gamescom, Eidos Montreal haven't released a Deus Ex: Mankind Divided gameplay video of their own since June. Instead we got a stream of crappy TV spots, bizarre real-life bionic tie-ins, a Human Revolution plot recap, and other nonsense. Time flew, and now the game is just four days away from release. Eidos Montreal published the launch trailer yesterday, and the reviews started going out today. Here's the trailer and a list of reviews courtesy of GameBanshee:

IGN, 9.2/10.
Polygon, 8.5/10.
PC Gamer, 88/100.
GameSpot, 8/10.
Giant Bomb, 4/5.
Eurogamer, Recommended.
Trusted Reviews, 3/5.
Rock, Paper, Shotgun, scoreless.
TIME, 4.5/5.
Ars Technica, Buy.
Forbes, 8/10., 7/10.
The Telegraph, 4/5.
GameInformer, 7/10.
The Wrap, scoreless.
PCGamesN, 7/10.
USGamer, 4/5.
Push Square, 7/10.
Hardcore Gamer, 3/5.
The Sixth Axis, 9/10.
Twinfinite, 3.5/5.
God is a Geek, 9.0/10.
Digital Trends, 8.0/10.
Bit-Gamer, 90%.
BleedingCool, 8.7/10.
Xbox Achievements, 88/100.
The Verge, scoreless.
CGMagazine Online, 10/10.
Mirror, 5/5.
EGM Now, 8.5/10.
IBTimes, 4.5/5.
We Got This Covered, 3.5/5.​

As you can see, the reviews are generally positive but not overwhelmingly so. Many of the slightly less positive reviews cite issues with the game's storyline - too short and constrained, not interesting enough, even unfinished-feeling - as well as a lack of mechanical innovation. Gee EM, maybe if you hadn't spent the last five years making a crappy tablet spinoff, a crappier Thief reboot and a "challenge mode" nobody asked for, you would have had time to address those concerns. Oh well!

There are 161 comments on Deus Ex: Mankind Divided Launch Trailer and Reviews

Expeditions: Viking Gameplay Footage on Twitch's Gamescom 2016 Broadcast

Preview - posted by Infinitron on Fri 19 August 2016, 17:11:53

Tags: Expeditions: Viking; Logic Artists

The Expeditions: Viking crew are at Gamescom this week, and today they managed to grab a 15 minute slot on Twitch's broadcasting schedule. Presenting the game was Teemo Ashton, Logic Artists' community manager, a charismatic fellow who managed to handily dominate Twitch's obnoxious hosts. He had time to show about ten minutes of gameplay footage, while explaining the details of the game's historical background and describing some of its interesting features and quests. I'm particularly impressed by the ability to engage in non-lethal combat, with appropriately different quest outcomes, as well as the possibility to lose any battle and have the game go on, with appropriate consequences. Here's the archived stream:

I have to say, Expeditions: Viking looks better and better every time I see it. The Logic Artists have emerged somewhat unexpectedly as a potential top tier RPG developer, and more people ought to be paying attention. The game has a Steam page now, so update your wishlists.

There are 32 comments on Expeditions: Viking Gameplay Footage on Twitch's Gamescom 2016 Broadcast

South Park: The Fractured But Whole Gameplay Trailer and Footage

Preview - posted by Infinitron on Fri 19 August 2016, 15:06:42

Tags: South Park: The Fractured But Whole; Ubisoft

Ubisoft's upcoming superhero-themed South Park RPG sequel, South Park: The Fractured But Whole, made a surprisingly good impression on us at E3 back in June. It's had a minor presence at Gamescom this week as well, with a new trailer produced for the occasion along with a series of parodic ads for a tie-in product called the "Nosulus Rift", the functionality of which I'll let you figure out for yourselves. Here's the trailer:

They're calling it a "gameplay trailer", but as you can see it doesn't contain all that much gameplay, or anything else for that matter. Luckily, actual gameplay footage has been provided to a number of websites, such as PCGamesN, IGN, GameSpot and Polygon. You might also be interested in GameSpot's preview of the game, which reveals its unlikely RPG inspirations in an interview with one of the developers.

There are 6 comments on South Park: The Fractured But Whole Gameplay Trailer and Footage

Wed 17 August 2016
Brian Fargo interviewed by Rocket Beans TV and GameStar at Gamescom 2016

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Wed 17 August 2016, 21:49:01

Tags: Brian Fargo; InXile Entertainment; Torment: Tides of Numenera

As you've probably heard, Brian Fargo and the rest of his team are at Gamescom this week to promote Torment: Tides of Numenera under the auspices of their publisher, Techland. Two tier 1 sites, Rocket Beans TV and GameStar, published their interviews with Brian today. Both interview videos include snippets of gameplay footage from Torment's console version (featuring an authentically Tormentian radial menu!), apparently taken from a gameplay trailer that has yet to be released. The Rocket Beans interview is easily the better of the two, so that's what I'll embed here:

As for the interviews themselves, they're mostly familiar material. The most interesting takeaway is Brian's claim that the game will be 70-80 hours long - a far cry from earlier estimates that the game would be "shortish". I had a feeling that would happen. He also says that a typical playthrough will only see 60% of the game's content.

There are 130 comments on Brian Fargo interviewed by Rocket Beans TV and GameStar at Gamescom 2016

NieR: Automata Coming To PC in Early 2017

Game News - posted by Crooked Bee on Wed 17 August 2016, 17:10:31

Tags: NieR: Automata; PlatinumGames; Square Enix

It's been a while since there has been any worthwhile PC JRPG news, which is, of course, what I'm here for. Today, however, I have the best news - news of the year - for those of you who care not only about Gamescom or how we were put on inXile/Techland's black list.

Namely, NieR: Automata, the action-RPG sequel to the 2010 cult-classic NieR developed by Platinum Games, directed by Taro Yoko and published by Square Enix, has been confirmed as coming to PC (Steam) in addition to PS4 in "early 2017." This was apparently announced in IGN's Gamescom stream, but it's now on Facebook too. Here's the excerpt from the stream that concerns the PC announcement, featuring the ever masked Taro Yoko:

Gotta love how he's pronouncing "Valve". Here's a gif of the announcement, too.

You can also watch IGN's Gamescom interview with the team here. It also includes the latest trailer for the game.

There are 45 comments on NieR: Automata Coming To PC in Early 2017
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