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Codex Review - posted by Infinitron on Sat 19 October 2019, 01:40:51

Tags: AliceSoft; Sengoku Rance

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Codexers don't usually like JRPGs, but when they do they're often games from the Rance series, the long-running line of satirical eroge RPGs by Japanese developer AliceSoft. Everybody knows the best game in the series is Sengoku Rance, the 2006 strategy RPG in which the titular character sets out to conquer a fictionalized version of Warring States-period Japan. After years of being played in the West exclusively using fan translations, Sengoku Rance was finally officially released in English last month. Which means it's time to finally publish this review of the game by Deuce Traveler that we've been saving up for over a year(!). Here's an excerpt:

I'm going to take a moment to compare the strategic layer of Sengoku Rance to grand strategy mainstays such as Europa Universalis or the Romance of the Three Kingdoms series. During a given turn in a grand strategy game, you gauge the strength of your enemy and then build up the appropriate forces to take a territory you want. You are likely to be victorious on the field, but there are other factors which determine if the attack will have been worthwhile. For example, what resources were lost to ensure the victory? Were your best officers and units used up in the attack, leaving only scrubs and depleted troops available to defend what you won during that turn? What enemy resources were captured that would make the losses acceptable? How will the rulers of opposing factions react? Will your enemies seek an alliance, declare war, offer tribute in the hopes of staying neutral, or act in the shadows in an attempt to weaken your forces? There’s a lot of complexity in a typical grand strategy title, but Sengoku Rance is probably one of the most accessible and easy to learn of this genre.

There are continuous choices and consequences to your actions as the game unfolds. For example, one industrious clan sells powerful weapons to its sole ally but also offers to sell rifle units to you. However, if you attack the ally of this arms dealing territory they will begin to sell their weapons to everyone in the hopes of slowing your conquests down without having to actively engage you. To avoid this you could make the allied clan your vassal instead of invading them, but then you miss out on having greater control of their territory.

During the latter part of the game you find yourself having to fight on multiple fronts, but you have the option to shut a large gateway and trap one of your opponents behind it. Doing so protects your flank, but the gate cannot be opened again and you lose the opportunity to claim more territory and capture its powerful commanders. Most of the more well-known grand strategy games are sandboxes where events are essentially random. Sengoku Rance has a much more static world, but it compensates by having tons of scripted events, most of which are impossible to witness in a single playthrough. You will likely have to beat the game more than a half-dozen times to see the majority of its hidden lore.

Sengoku Rance's characters are some of the most distinct and memorable in the history of video games. The leaders and subordinate officers of the game’s various factions each stand out in their own small way thanks to its well-drawn art and visual novel storytelling. One of the first factions you go to war with is led by the leader of a strong unit of archers who has one of the best special skills for ranged units, but he’s beaten down by life and constantly pushed into making poor military decisions by his beautiful and spoiled wife. Another faction is led by a giant creature called a raccoon dog and his army of smaller furry ninjas. They inherited their territory after capturing it from their human oppressors and hope to take advantage of Rance’s rise to weaken their neighbors. A third faction is led by a corrupt court, but their greatest officer is the game’s equivalent of a virtuous paladin who will lead her unit in support of factions Rance declares war against. Ironically, she and her best friend end up having more to fear from the machinations of those she serves. Later in the game, Rance will come into contact with a nation of undead soldiers led by a samurai eyeball and his harem of supportive, monstrous wives. Most of the officers and units of this particular faction are subpar, but they lead huge forces and battles with them become particularly difficult if one of the wives is part of the attacking army. I can think of no other game where there are so many factions with such distinctly drawn characters, each of which gets their own small moment to shine. Sengoku Rance is one of the few games out there where the visual novel style of storytelling feels well-integrated with the flow of gameplay.

[...] Your ultimate goal is to take over this world's version of Japan during an alternate Warring States period, in which the historical figures have been replaced by political parodies. Combat is a simple affair. Place your melee fighters on the front row to protect support units that operate in the back. During battles, you can place up to six commanders and their units onto the battlefield to slog it out. You start off the game running the Oda Clan with a few basic types of units, such as warriors like Rance who have high offensive attributes and skills that allow them to perform special offensive maneuvers. Complementing them are commanders of foot soldiers, whose attacks aren’t as powerful, but have high defensive attributes and specialized skills for protecting allied units. You are also given a commander of archers, whose attacks are not as powerful as warriors either, but can attack from the back row and strike any enemy unit regardless of location. Archers are quite useful for disrupting spell casters who are preparing their more powerful spells from the enemy’s back row. Finally, you are given a tactician commander, whose skills can be used to enhance the fighting abilities of allied units or diminish those of the enemy.

Sengoku Rance starts you out with these basic units and gradually adds more diverse character classes as you proceed through the game. The ninja behaves in a similar way to the archer, but can quickly learn the assassinate skill which allows it to instantly wipe out enemy units. Monks are decent front row melee fighters who also have an assortment of skills, such as the ability to heal themselves or make foot soldiers drop their guard. Diviner commanders can throw up barriers to guard their allies, or spend some time chanting in order to cast a spell that strikes at each of the opposing enemy units. Musketeers are the most deadly units on the battlefield, but they can't take much damage and can only attack once or twice before exhausting all of their actions for the entire battle. Cavalry units are the ones I fear the most, since they can attack multiple times, have great offensive attributes, and can strike any unit regardless of whether they’re in the front or back rows. I still haven't touched upon some of the more unique commanders and their abilities, nor have I talked about the non-human units. In short, there's a lot of variation in the opponents you will face.

The handful of officers you start out with are a dubious group of misfits that you are forced to rely upon to survive (although Rance himself is the backbone of your offense at this stage). One of the game’s more charming aspects is how even the minor officers on both sides of the battlefield have their own personalities and quirks. By improving your relationship with your officers, upgrading their ability scores with books, and equipping them with items, you will have a chance to turn some of the more mediocre recruits into a respectable fighting force. Every officer has several attributes which determine how fast they can act, how hard they attack, how well they defend, how well they search, and how effective they are at diplomacy. Some officers also have unlockable special abilities, such as the ability to fire a volley of arrows that peppers an entire enemy force instead of just one opposing unit. You can only have thirty officers in your roster and by mid-game you'll find yourself having to make hard choices about who will make the cut.​

Read the full article: RPG Codex Review: Sengoku Rance

There are 42 comments on RPG Codex Review: Sengoku Rance

Tue 22 October 2019

Review - posted by Infinitron on Tue 22 October 2019, 19:50:41

Tags: Obsidian Entertainment; The Outer Worlds

Obsidian unveiled the launch trailer for The Outer Worlds on Friday, a week ahead of the game's release. With three days to go the reviews are out now too. Allowing reviews before launch day is a sign of confidence in a game's quality, and as you'll see that confidence was for the most part well placed. But first, the trailer:


Here's a list of all of today's reviews of The Outer Worlds. There are a lot of them! Scores generally range from high to very high, although a few notable websites chose to ding the game down for playing it too safe. On the whole, it averages a couple of points higher than Fallout: New Vegas.

App Trigger 8.5/10, Ars Technica
Attack of the Fanboy 4/5, AusGamers 8.5/10
CGMagazine 9/10, COGconnected 91/100
Critical Hit 8/10, The Daily Dot 4.5/5
Daily Star 4/5, Destructoid 9/10
DualShockers 9.5/10, EGM 5/5
Eurogamer, GameCrate 8.25/10
Game Informer 9.25/10, GamingTrend 65/10
Game Rant 4.5/5, Gamers Heroes 9/10
GamesBeat 91/100, GameSpace 9/10
GameSpew 8/10, GameSpot 9/10
GamesRadar+ 4/5, Game Revolution 4.5/5
God is a Geek 8.5/10, Hardcore Gamer 4/5
IGN 8.5/10, Kotaku
Mashable, Metro GameCentral 9/10
MMORPG.com 8/10, PC Gamer 79/100
PCGamesN 7/10, PC Invasion 7/10
PlayStation LifeStyle 10/10, PlayStation Universe 10/10
Polygon, Press Start Australia 8.5/10
Push Square 9/10, Rock, Paper, Shotgun
RPG Site 8/10, Screen Rant 4.5/5
Shacknews 9/10, Stevivor 9.5/10
Time, The Digital Fix 7/10
The Indie Game Website 8/10, TheSixthAxis 8/10
TheXboxHub 5/5, TrueAchievements 4.5/5
Twinfinite 4/5, USgamer 4/5
VGC 4/5, Wccftech 7.8/10
We Got This Covered 5/5, Windows Central 4.5/5
Worth Playing 9/10, Xbox Achievements 92/100​

GameSpot's review also reveals The Outer Worlds' sixth and final companion, who (somewhat predictably) turns out to be an enthusiastic robot named SAM. At this point we've probably seen enough of the game, but in case you want even more, Obsidian will be doing a "Twitch Plays" crowd-directed livestream on their Twitch channel later today at 15:00 PDT.

There are 19 comments on The Outer Worlds Launch Trailer and Reviews


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Game News - posted by Infinitron on Tue 22 October 2019, 01:20:09

Tags: inXile Entertainment; Wasteland 3

The Wasteland 3 backer alpha was released just under two months ago, and by all accounts seems to have made a good impression. The next step is the Early Access beta, which inXile said would be releasing in "late fall" back in June. According to today's Fig update the team will be at Microsoft's X019 event in London next month on November 14th, so I expect more details will be revealed around then. Also in the update, a look at some of the weapon customization options for Wasteland 3's mighty armored truck, a recap of inXile's visit to Gamescom, and a roundup of backer alpha previews and feedback survey results. Here's an excerpt:

It’s been a couple of months since we released the backer Alpha, and while game development continues, we’ve been incorporating bug reports and feedback. While most of the results are being kept in-house so we can work on them, determine best steps forward, etc. we have a few fun highlights to share with you further down this update.

Alongside the Alpha, Wasteland 3 was at gamescom, where we debuted a new trailer, had hands-on with the game both behind closed doors with press and in the Deep Silver and Xbox booths, and were ecstatic to have been awarded “Best RPG” at the show.

X019

We’re happy to announce that we will be attending X019! Tickets are still available to purchase. If you’re going, be sure to stop by and say hello, and of course don’t miss the Inside Xbox livestream at 12pm PDT on November 14 for plenty of Xbox Game Studios news and announcements.

More info on the X019 page here: https://www.xbox.com/x019

Steel Horse

The Kodiak is your vehicle in Wasteland 3, and as you can customize and outfit your team of Rangers, so too can you upgrade and outfit your vehicle to get around Colorado. We think of the Kodiak as a full-fledged member of the team, and it’s a big part of your play experience. It gets you around the world map, but even more important are its capabilities in combat. Changing paint schemes and visual appearances is awesome (and will offer a ton of customization), but making it tougher and more formidable against your enemies will be what transforms it from a junker to a high-end war machine.

We’re going to give you a little sneak peek of some concepts for the turrets you can attach to the Kodiak in Wasteland 3—which is the most powerful weapon slot type you can equip. The Railgun you’ve likely already seen from the Alpha, but there are a few new ones below.

[​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

More from Cologne

There was also a ton of coverage from gamescom from Brian Fargo and Game Director Tim Campbell, as well as interviews from Lead Level Designer Jeremy Kopman who we sent out to San Francisco to get the game in front of US press sites.

Here’s just a small smattering of the coverage that came out of it:
Thanks for reading, and we’re looking forward to seeing you at X019!​

I particular recommend reading the interview with Jeremy Kopman at VentureBeat, which reveals some details about the game world outside the alpha location.

There are 4 comments on Wasteland 3 Fig Update #33: Going to X019, Kodiak Turret Customization


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Mon 21 October 2019

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Mon 21 October 2019, 15:35:00

Tags: Axis & Allies 1942 Online; Baldur's Gate: Siege of Dragonspear; Beamdog; Digimancy Entertainment; George Ziets; Matt Barton; Planescape: Unraveled; Trent Oster

The fifth and final episode of Matt Barton's interview with Trent Oster begins with a couple of pertinent questions from Codex user Micoselva. Regarding Siege of Dragonspear, without going into specifics Trent says the expansion suffered from poor scope management and a lack of oversight. As for Beamdog's mysterious Planescape project discovered by the Codex back in 2017, he confirms the widely held suspicion (also recently confirmed by David Gaider at PAX Australia) that the game was cancelled due to a failure to secure funding. Eventually the interview gets around to the topic of Beamdog's latest project Axis & Allies 1942 Online, though it quickly turns into an extended rumination on Trent's game development philosophy and Beamdog's feature. He aims to keep the company small and also wants to do more multiplayer games going forward. It seems like the era of Edition Enhancing is well and truly over.


As we already know, Matt Barton's next interview is with George Ziets. Coincidentally, we discovered just a few days ago that George quietly left inXile back in July(!). We quickly asked him what he was planning to do next, but Matt beat us to the punch. In a sneak preview of his interview attached at the end of the episode, George reveals that he's opening a new RPG studio in Ohio called Digimancy Entertainment. Here's a transcript courtesy of LESS T_T:

Matt: George, you were just telling me that you are opening a new studio. Wonder if you could tell us a little bit about.

George: Correct. So we are called Digimancy Entertainment.

Matt: Digimancy?

George: Yes, like digital-mancy.

Matt: I see what you did there.

George: Indeed. We're gonna be making RPGs and RPG hybrids, with a focus on great narratives and strong characters. Basically the kind of stuff that we've been doing in the past, for the last 15, 20 years. Something that I've been talking and thinking about for a long time.

Obviously I've worked on a few spiritual successors in my time. I've worked on quite a lot of sequels and franchise games. So I'm really interested in working on some new and original stuff. Original settings, new IPs. We're actually starting on something that we're super excited about. We are also interested in doing existing IPs, but especially stuff that hasn't been done in a long time or maybe that's never been seen in RPGs before. So if you think of like, Wizards of the Coast has all these cool properties laying around that they haven't done anything with for a while. Ravenloft, gosh, Dark Sun, Dragonlance, like, I'd love to work on any of those. So if WotC is listening let us know. We would be we would be very happy to work on that stuff.

Technically we're based in Columbus, Ohio, so we're a Midwestern studio, where it's actually affordable to live which is another really nice thing. We are also embracing the remote model of work so it's more like, I don't really care where you are and as long as you are super excited about RPGs and you really want to work on these games, I am happy to find a way to work with people no matter where they live.​

Matt plans to release the first part of his interview with George Ziets next week, although there might be a delay.

There are 8 comments on Matt Chat 430: Trent Oster on Beamdog's Future + George Ziets New Studio Announcement


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Sat 19 October 2019

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Sat 19 October 2019, 20:14:53

Tags: Andy Kipling; Big Bad Wolf; Bigben Interactive; Brian Mitsoda; Cyanide Studio; Florian Schwarzer; Hardsuit Labs; Julien Desourteaux; Paradox Interactive; Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines 2; Vampire: the Masquerade - Swansong; Werewolf: The Apocalypse - Earthblood

With White Wolf formally integrated into Paradox since last November, the World of Darkness has a significant presence at this year's PDXCON event in Berlin. The first one of the upcoming World of Darkness computer RPGs to show up on PDXCON's main stage today (after being teased last week) was Cyanide's Werewolf: The Apocalypse - Earthblood action-RPG/action game with RPG elements. The game was originally announced way back in early 2017 and an early build was shown to the media behind closed doors at this year's E3, but this is actually its very first trailer. It's extremely 90s. According to publisher Bigben's press release, Earthblood is releasing in summer 2020.


Remember the Vampire: The Masquerade "narrative RPG" by The Council developers Big Bad Wolf announced back in May? Right before he left, Paradox's brand manager revealed that its title is Vampire: The Masquerade - Swansong. The game is only coming out in 2021 so there's no trailer yet, but there are some new details in the press release from Bigben:

Lesquin, France, October 19, 2019 - On the heels of Werewolf: The Apocalypse - Earthblood, Bigben’s catalogue is expanding its presence in The World of Darkness with the production of a new video game based on the famous franchise Vampire: The Masquerade. Already teased at Bigben Week 2019, this new game titled Vampire: The Masquerade - Swansong will release in 2021. It will be developed by Big Bad Wolf studio, a narrative RPG specialist and author of the award-winning game The Council.

Vampire: The Masquerade is the most iconic role-playing game of its generation and sets the standard for many tabletop gamers. The first setting in the World of Darkness universe created by White Wolf Publishing in 1991, Vampire: The Masquerade transposes the vampire myth into modern societies. The player takes control of one of these immortal creatures hiding in the shadows of our cities. They struggle to control their bloodthirsty instincts by leading a life of both predator and outcast, in a world where the boundaries between reality and the supernatural are always blurred. Vampires in The World of Darkness are nothing like the solitary monsters of the ancient legends. They are superior and sophisticated creatures who live among humans behind a shield of secrecy: The Masquerade. Organised into complex secret societies, they create their own laws and are members of distinct clans with contrasting visions of their role in the world.

Thrilled with the success of The Council, Big Bad Wolf studio intends to continue specialising in narrative RPGs, a new genre that they are helping to define with their creations. With this adaptation of Vampire: The Masquerade, the team is working on its most ambitious project. The game will feature a strong story, supported by solid RPG mechanics that respect the rules of the fifth edition of Vampire: The Masquerade and the universe of The World of Darkness.

"At the studio, we're long-time and passionate fans of the tabletop role-playing game Vampire: The Masquerade. We have wanted to create a video game inspired by this universe for several years now. This project fits perfectly with Bigben’s desire to expand its catalogue of narrative games. We are very happy to be unveiling it together," says Thomas Veauclin, Creative & Art Director at Big Bad Wolf.

"My past experience as an editor and author of role-playing games, and also as Editor-in-Chief of an RPG magazine, is proof of how important this project means to me personally," adds Benoit Clerc, Head of Publishing at Bigben." Just like me, many fans have been waiting a long time for a new adaptation of this cult game, which will be developed by one of the most talented studios of its generation."

In this narrative RPG adapted from the 5th edition of Vampire: The Masquerade, the player takes control of 3 vampires belonging to different clans of the Camarilla, the secret society to which most vampires belong. Weaving between their intertwined tales, the player has to confront the different points of view of his characters to unravel fact from fiction. With whispers of conspiracy, murder and power struggles, the player must protect his clan, discover the truth and above all enforce the Masquerade, the vampire law designed to conceal the existence of creatures of the night from humans.
Later during the day, there was a dedicated World of Darkness session which was mainly focused on tabletop, though Earthblood's game director Julien Desourteaux also made an appearance to speak about the game a bit. This was followed by a Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines 2 development update session with Brian Mitsoda, Florian Schwarzer and Andy Kipling, which turned out to be a very frank extended apology and explanation for the game's recently announced delay. In short, what happened is that Hardsuit found out that they didn't have the manpower to bring Bloodlines 2 to an acceptable level of quality, particularly in the areas of combat and dialogue facial animations. They've spent the year hiring more people and intend to focus on improving those elements. There's a Q&A session tomorrow where fans will be able to ask the team additional questions about the game's progress.

There are 16 comments on Vampire: The Masquerade and Werewolf: The Apocalypse announcements at PDXCON 2019

Development Info - posted by Infinitron on Sat 19 October 2019, 00:33:54

Tags: Disco Elysium; Robert Kurvitz; ZA/UM

Disco Elysium has been out for three days now and by all appearances has been doing quite well for such a niche title. After many years of work, you might have expected the developers to go on vacation and disappear for a couple of weeks. Maybe they still will, but not before one more visit to the annual EGX conference in London. Today Robert Kurvitz and co-writer Helen Hindpere spoke about the game at a Rezzed Session (which I guess is like a developer session but more hip). In addition to reminiscing about Disco Elysium's development, they also discussed its skill system, the Thought Cabinet, and the game's setting and story. Apparently the Thought Cabinet was an extremely difficult concept to implement and didn't come together until the very end of development. No wonder it took them so long to publish that update about it.


During the post-discussion Q&A session, Robert reveals that he considers Disco Elysium to be just as much or even more inspired by the first Fallout than it is by Planescape: Torment. Also, it turns out the game owes its existence to a team of crackerjack Polish programmers known as the Knights of Unity. Oh Poland, what can't you do.

There are 7 comments on Disco Elysium Developer Session at EGX 2019

Thu 17 October 2019

Preview - posted by Infinitron on Thu 17 October 2019, 23:36:43

Tags: Brian Heins; Charles Staples; Leonard Boyarsky; Nitai Poddar; Obsidian Entertainment; The Outer Worlds

It turns out that Monday's The Outer Worlds first 20 minutes gameplay video at IGN was just the opening shot in a final press tour before the game comes out next week. Over the past two days additional gameplay footage has been showing up all over the place, now including character creation (which contains no "geometric shapes" whatsoever by the way). Guess it wasn't that big of a secret after all. At Giant Bomb and GameSpot, Leonard Boyarsky and straight-talking narrative designer Nitai Poddar arrived to provide commentary. Giant Bomb's video consists of the game's first 70 minutes, while GameSpot's video offers a look at some new early game areas and includes a glimpse of the Halcyon system world map.


Besides gameplay, Leonard and Nitai also showed up to talk about The Outer Worlds on IGN and Game Informer's weekly podcast shows.


There were also interviews with Brian Heins and Charles Staples published over at Wccftech and Den of Geek, and it wouldn't surprise me if more videos showed up over the weekend too. We're told that reviews of The Outer Worlds will start coming out on October 22nd, so expect more theatrics.

There are 12 comments on The Outer Worlds Character Creation, Gameplay and Interviews with Leonard Boyarsky and Nitai Poddar

Wed 16 October 2019

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Wed 16 October 2019, 16:43:32

Tags: Andy Kipling; Brian Mitsoda; Hardsuit Labs; Paradox Interactive; Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines 2

Ever since Paradox unveiled the first Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines 2 gameplay footage back in June, some people have been saying that the game needed more development time and wouldn't be ready for its March 2020 release date. Last month's cancellation of the Bloodlines 2 hands-on demo at PDXCON was an early hint that they might agree with that assessment. Today's announcement by Brian Mitsoda and Hardsuit CEO Andy Kipling makes it official - Bloodlines 2 is delayed to sometime later in 2020.

To all fans of Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines 2

For the last three and a half years, we’ve worked hard to bring you a worthy successor to Bloodlines 1. To us, that meant not only making good on the ambitions of this remarkable game, but also a duty to ensure we would not repeat its mistakes. Today, we have to tell you that we need some more time to get you the game you’ve been waiting for. Although Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines 2 will still launch in 2020, we have decided to value quality over making the Q1 launch window.

There are some things we wanted to hit under all circumstances when we set out to follow in Bloodlines’ footsteps: A deep, branching storyline; fascinating and amazingly acted characters; the rich universe of the World of Darkness. We firmly believe that we’re on the right track to get you all of this.

On the flip side, there’s the responsibility to avoid some of the issues that plagued the first game, which was famously launched too early. Over the last few months, it became clear that to stick to our original date would risk repeating that mistake. We won’t do that. In the end, everyone working on this game wants to offer you the best Bloodlines 2 we can.

This hasn’t been an easy- nor our first choice. Throughout 2019 we have been improving our processes and growing our teams, however it soon became clear that this alone won’t allow us to deliver the quality we want at the date we promised.

Your feedback was invaluable in this. It helped us give the proper weight to what we saw, as well. We’d like to thank you, and hope you’ll support us in the decision that came from it.

Many of us from Hardsuit Labs will be in Berlin for PDXCON. For those of you going, we look forward to seeing you there! We will be sharing insights into the development of Bloodlines 2 along with other steps we’ve taken to strengthen our development team to realize our ambitions for Bloodlines 2.

For those of you who won’t be there, we will be sharing more about this during the PDXCON Announcement stream on Saturday the 21st. We are also opening up a Reddit thread to answer any of your questions in the Bloodlines stream on the following Sunday.

Thanks,

Andy Kipling and Brian Mitsoda, on behalf of the team at Hardsuit Labs

We want to hear from you! Join the discussion on our Discord channel or Reddit to ask your questions. We will compile them to be answered on October 20th during our special Dev Q&A stream live from PDXCON.

Tune in to Paradox Interactive Twitch or Mixer channels this Sunday at 4pm CET to watch our dev team answer your most burning questions
Well that's that. Last week Hardsuit revealed the game's fifth and final faction, a group of Nosferatu information brokers known as the Unseen (Samuel from the E3 demo is a member). With that business done, we're all set for whatever new stuff they unveil at PDXCON this weekend.

There are 16 comments on Bloodlines 2 delayed to later in 2020

Tue 15 October 2019

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Tue 15 October 2019, 19:02:48

Tags: Disco Elysium; ZA/UM

Disco days are here at last! It's been almost four years since ZA/UM's Disco Elysium was revealed to the world as No Truce With The Furies. During that time, both the game and the studio were renamed, the developers decamped from Estonia to London, the game was picked up and then dropped by a publisher, and the Codex previewed it twice (once for each title). I've never seen a game go so fast from being a vaporware dream to the second coming, but here we are. It's been difficult to find anybody with something bad to say about Disco Elysium, but now we'll find out what the average Codexer on the street has to say about it. Without further ado, here's the launch trailer:


Disco Elysium is available now on Steam and GOG for $40. Our friend Hellion from Ragequit.gr has reviewed the game and given it a 90%. Our own review will hopefully be ready within the next few weeks.

There are 174 comments on Disco Elysium Released

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Tue 15 October 2019, 16:56:04

Tags: Divinity: Fallen Heroes; Larian Studios; Logic Artists

When the Original Sin 2 tactical spinoff Divinity: Fallen Heroes was announced back in March with an intended release date of later this year, we were all expecting to be bombarded with information about it during E3 and Gamescom. Instead it completely disappeared as Baldur's Gate III took center stage. Today it turns out there was a reason for that. Development has apparently not progressed as planned and so Larian have decided to declare the game "on hold", although it sounds like they still want to release it someday. Logic Artists will be on moving on to other things, namely the third Expeditions game confirmed last year. Here's the announcement:

It is with a profound sense of regret that today we announce Divinity: Fallen Heroes has been put on hold, as we fondly celebrate the work done so far. We’ve been working with Logic Artists for over a year since before the announcement on March 27, 2019. Though enthused by the reception of the announcement and the energy of our fans, we have taken many things into consideration over the course of the last few months, and today we’re ready to talk about its future.

Originally scheduled for a November 2019 release, it has become clear to everyone involved that the game will need far greater development time and resources than are available now to bring it to fruition, in a fun and sustainable way.

Going forward, we at Larian will continue to work on Baldur’s Gate 3 with news coming soon, and Logic Artists will be focusing on their own Expeditions games. As an independent developer ourselves, we understand and value the importance of a developer investing into their own IPs, and their own future.

We’re sorry for the players excited for Fallen Heroes, who will have to wait an unspecified period of time, but we strongly believe that bringing Fallen Heroes to fans should be done in a timeline that allows it to be developed soundly.

We value the work that everyone has put in to Fallen Heroes, and though we lament its status as of now, we all agree that there’s a great game in there that will sometime reach the players who await it.

Logic Artists shared the following statement: “It's always sad to put an exciting project on hold, but sometimes the realities of development and release schedules simply assert themselves in ways that are outside anyone's control. It's been an incredible honour to work with Larian on their Divinity IP, and everyone at Logic Artists has been blown away by how helpful and welcoming Larian has been throughout the project.

There's no doubt we've learned much that will benefit our own projects in the future, and we'll always be grateful for that experience. As our own team pivots to focus fully on the third installment of the Expeditions series and a new IP of our very own, we wish Larian the best of luck with Baldur's Gate 3. We can't wait to play it!”
It sounds like Logic Artists were committed to beginning development on Expeditions for THQ Nordic and were simply unable to finish Fallen Heroes on time. I wouldn't be surprised if Larian end up hiring another third-party studio to finish it.

There are 19 comments on Divinity: Fallen Heroes development on hold, Logic Artists moving on to third Expeditions game

Preview - posted by Infinitron on Tue 15 October 2019, 02:23:55

Tags: Obsidian Entertainment; The Outer Worlds

IGN have been allowed to publish gameplay footage of the first 20 minutes from The Outer Worlds, which is coming out in less than two weeks. That includes the game's introductory cutscene, in which Dr. Phineas retrieves the player character from his stranded colony ship and deposits him on Terra 2 (you might notice a few familiar scenes from the original announcement trailer here). After a linear tutorial area, the video eventually leads right up to the gameplay segment that was shown at the Tokyo Game Show last month. It turns out that the reason the original captain of your ship is dead is that your landing pod landed right on top of him.


The one thing the video doesn't show is the game's character creation sequence. It looks like Obsidian are absolutely committed to keeping that a surprise.

There are 12 comments on The Outer Worlds First 20 Minutes at IGN

Mon 14 October 2019

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Mon 14 October 2019, 01:40:34

Tags: Baldur's Gate; Baldur's Gate III; Baldur's Gate: Siege of Dragonspear; Beamdog; Matt Barton; Neverwinter Nights; Trent Oster

This was supposed to be the final episode of Matt Barton's interview with Beamdog's Trent Oster, but it turns out there was more footage left to edit than he realized. In the first half of the episode, Trent continues to discuss various technical challenges that Beamdog faced during the development of Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition. Namely, the original game's elaborate environment rendering pipeline (designed to work on late 1990s hardware and completely replaced in the Enhanced Edition) and the loss of its original art assets. After offering a few words about Baldur's Gate: Siege of Dragonspear and Larian's upcoming Baldur's Gate III, the interview returns to the topic of Neverwinter Nights. Following a suggestion by our own felipepepe, Matt asks Trent a question about the game's lackluster original campaign and gets an unsurprising response. They spent too much time developing the engine and didn't have time to create a good campaign.


So there's one more episode with Trent, but the good news is that Matt's next interview will be with George Ziets. He hasn't recorded it yet, so be sure to send him your questions.

There are 4 comments on Matt Chat 429: Trent Oster on Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition and Neverwinter Nights

Sat 12 October 2019

Codex Review - posted by Infinitron on Sat 12 October 2019, 00:10:04

Tags: Cultic Games; Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones

It looked really cool when it was announced, seemed like vaporware for years, and eventually came to be seen as one of the most important releases of the year. I'm speaking of course about Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones, the Lovecraftian RPG by Cultic Games released just over two weeks ago. Making his first appearance on our front page in many years, the inimitable Roguey has volunteered to review this somewhat beleaguered title. I would say that his review places Stygian in the same category as something like Serpent of the Staglands. It's an amateur effort that is styled in a way that particularly appeals to Codexian sensibilities, but which never quite comes around to being good enough. Here's an excerpt:

When it comes to setting, Stygian makes the same mistake games like Neverwinter Nights, Bloodlines, and Shadowrun Returns did by cramming in as many references as it possibly can, turning it into a Lovecraft theme park. Cthulhu, Randolph Carter, The Outsider, one of Herbert West's reanimated zombies, Pickman's models, the Terrible Old Man and the Strange High House in the Mist, the Dreamlands, the Witch House, the Mi-Go, the Elder Things, they're all here. I would prefer a more focused story that relies less on direct references, though I recognize the temptation is high to put in everything you can on your first and perhaps only attempt at an adaptation.

It's not all bad. The writing isn't brilliant or deep, but it is superficially entertaining and well-paced, which is a low bar many other modern traditional RPGs have been unable to reach. You won't get plagued by walls of exposition and prose descriptions during dialogue here. There are a few typos and English-as-a-Second-Language mishaps here and there. If your character goes insane, sometimes your dialogue options are replaced with Malkavian-esque lines which can be funny but are occasionally too childish. Sometimes non-player characters react specifically to the different line; other times their reaction remains unchanged. There are a good number of other "false" flavor options that lead to the same dialogue node, which is a shame.

Quest design isn't anything too ambitious: you find plot coupons, investigate a murder, infiltrate a cult, and engage in other Lovecraftian activities. How you're able to carry out these tasks is determined by your character's skills; you'll be locked out of certain interactions if you don't have the right build for it, but there's always a way through. There can be quite a bit of combat, but most of your time is spent walking and interacting with people and objects. As I wrote earlier, Stygian reminds me a lot of the first few hubs in Bloodlines; there's quite a bit of freedom in terms of supported character concepts and playstyles, but the story is on rails with only cosmetic narrative reactivity, no significant branches.

While the journal does give directions, it doesn't hold your hand; there's no quest compass here, so there were times where I felt lost as to what to do next, though I wasn't actually lost since exploring the world and following a thread on any active quest would continue the plot. It's a good feeling rarely found these days.

[...] The combat encounters themselves are incredibly lazy. The first potential fight in the game is against six people. Then you enter an abandoned bank and fight six lunatics up to three times. This is what you can expect to experience for the rest of the game. To the developers' partial credit, the bank had one additional encounter in the demo that was seemingly removed due to negative feedback. Additionally, there are only three of these lousy copy-paste-filled combat crawls (i.e. any location with multiple battles in succession), but going through them is still far more annoying than the usual one-and-done areas.

In addition to being lazy, the encounters are also pretty easy. Granted, I made a combat-oriented character, and I have an above-average (though not great) understanding of how to play cRPGs. There were only two fights that gave me trouble; the first involved reinforcements that pop in behind you after two turns, and the second was an annoying gimmick boss where reinforcements are constantly trickling in behind you while you have to dig up the boss before it can be damaged. Both were manageable once I figured out the ideal positioning within the environment.

Bad news for would-be brave diplomats: you can't totally avoid combat in Stygian. I encountered 21 battles, and you can sneak and potentially talk your way past most of them, but there were at least two on the critical path that can't be avoided (one of which is that annoying gimmick boss I just mentioned). A solo run seems implausible if not impossible on account of that one fight.

At least the endgame isn't an annoying combat crawl in its entirety. Unfortunately, what it does have is comparably annoying: a series of rooms where you have to do the same time-padding pattern matching puzzle over and over again. After a brief reprieve, you're thrown into an area where you have to navigate around real-time patrols. Cultic made the same mistake here Harebrained Schemes did with Shadowrun: Hong Kong; real-time stealth gameplay is inappropriate and out of place in a turn-based RPG. It's like the developers forgot they were making an RPG and decided to make an adventure game complete with stereotypical action-oriented gimmicks.

I'll avoid spoiling the details of the ending, but as Cultic themselves confirmed before release, it ends on a cliffhanger after about 20 hours. It stops after a dramatic moment, but it's not a proper climax by any means. The developers had a lot of hubris and optimism to end it like this; it was certainly within their ability to rewrite the story to give it a more definite ending with what they had available. Instead what we have is comparable to Bloodlines if it just suddenly stopped after the sewers and played a cinematic that teased what to expect in Chinatown. It's an Early Access or Episode 1 release that doesn't label itself as such, which is a dishonorable way to release a game.​

Read the full article: RPG Codex Review: Stygian Reign of the Old Ones

There are 107 comments on RPG Codex Review: Stygian Reign of the Old Ones

Wed 9 October 2019

Community - posted by Infinitron on Wed 9 October 2019, 17:56:08

Tags: Solasta: Crown of the Magister; Tactical Adventures

The Solasta: Crown of the Magister Kickstarter campaign is over and Tactical Adventures have said they aren't accepting any late pledges via PayPal. However, they've decided to make a special exception for the Codex. DarkUnderlord is finally off his 20 day long bender on illicit stimulants from the Australian outback, so the fundraiser can begin now. Here's what we're shooting for:

$100 - Name in Monument
$130 - Character Creation Name Pool
$250 - Name an NPC
$300 - Write a Scroll
$500 - Name a Landmark
$750 - NPC Face Creation
$1000 - Co-Design a Magic Item (plus a visit to Tactical Adventures HQ in Paris)​

Of course, your donation will also grant you what you would have gotten for pledging the same amount to the Kickstarter - though only for tiers that were still available when the campaign ended. That means:

$28 - Digital Game (includes one Kickstarter-exclusive item)
$40 - Digital Game Kickstarter Edition (includes two Kickstarter-exclusive items)
$65 - Kickstarter Edition with Rulebook PDF (includes all three Kickstarter-exclusive items)
Plus a variety of more expensive physical tiers featuring the game's rulebook, soundtrack and/or tabletop adventure box. So if you missed the campaign or weren't able to pledge through Kickstarter, now's your chance to get in. Tell all your friends and let's see how far we can get before Disco Elysium releases and the world as we know it comes to an end.

There are 28 comments on Solasta: Crown of the Magister - Late Backer Codex Fundraiser

Tue 8 October 2019

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Tue 8 October 2019, 23:37:51

Tags: Disco Elysium; Robert Kurvitz; ZA/UM

We're now a week away from the release of Disco Elysium, AKA the next Planescape: Torment™. Preview keys have been available since last Wednesday, with a few gameplay videos showing up on YouTube as a result. Starting from today, prominent Twitch streamers such as Cohh Carnage have also been playing through the game. But if you don't want to sit through hours of footage to learn more about the world of Disco Elysium, Robert Kurvitz has got your back. Today's development update is an introduction to the city of Revachol, once the seat of a powerful island kingdom, now in financial servitude to foreign powers after a failed revolution and threatened by an encroaching "anti-reality mass" known as the Pale. It's a good update, and it even includes a video - although it's so short that I almost suspect the developers only made it so I would post about the update. To compensate for that, I'll also post another video that they released a few days ago, which is a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of a certain rather memorable character. And an excerpt, of course.



There is no city in the world with more contrasts than Revachol. The broken, magnificent, disgraced former capital of the world. A great sky on fire, reflecting off broken glass. Revachol the Suzerain, Revachol the Commune, Revachol the Administrative Region where all forms of government have failed. Revachol the Resolver, the answer to the great burning questions of history. How should we live? Will the horror ever end?

Revachol sits on a fertile island in the middle of the Insulindian Ocean, the world’s largest body of water; in the eye of a great archipelago called Face-A-La-Mer. To be from Revachol is to be Revacholian. To be deserted, destroyed. A drug addict with an immunodeficiency disorder. A joke and a clown and a loser baby.

It’s like the hanged man behind the hostel cafeteria said: there’s nothing funny about jokes.

There’s nothing funny about you either. Your swollen face in the mirror. A past you don’t recognize, a world you can’t bear to remember. The river Esperance flows from north to south, splitting the city in two. In its delta, great ghosts rise to the sky – the financial district. To the east: Le Jardin. Houses with gardens rise along the mountainside, up to Saint-Batiste where two of the world’s five largest companies keep their headquarters. But you don’t wake up there – you wake up west of the river.

West of the river, it’s funky-baby holocaust time all day every day. In East-Jamrock, wild animals roam the valley at night – giraffes that escaped from the Royal Zoo 50 years ago. Giraffes – even-toed ungulates from the savannah. The local kiosque chain Frittte (sic) employs a private army of 2000 men to guard its properties in Jamrock and Faubourg. That’s how bad the crime rate is – you need a private army to run a kiosque chain. And deregulation? They built a citizen-funded primitive nuclear reactor on the river. And it immediately entered core meltdown. That’s pretty deregulated if you ask me. Below Precinct 41 there’s a kebab merchant called Kuklov who makes kebabs that make you immortal if you can eat three and survive. In Villalobos an entire street is walled off and turned into a poppy field by a deified gangster called The Mazda, while his mortal enemy La Puta Madre exclusively employs former narcotics officers to farm his own fields. Through underground tunnels, kids descend into Le Royaume, the resting place of three centuries’ worth of the royal dead, to bring up rat tails and the pearl-encrusted teeth of civil servants. Child labour dungeoneering is a cottage industry. Someone came up with a synthetic opiate called the hunch that has a high lasting for two seconds. You only feel it while you’re injecting it.

It has not been an easy life. Things have not gone well for you. That love thing didn’t work out. Radio networks criss-cross the air, spewing meaningless, feverish political rhetoric. Beyond the curve of the horizon, where the ocean ends, there is an unknowable anti-reality mass called the pale. It has been there for as long as human beings have written down history. And it’s advancing.

The year is ’52. It’s the 5th of March and you’re lying on the floor of the Whirling-In-Rags hostel cafeteria. In Martinaise, North Jamrock. The sound of Lieutenant Kitsuragi’s motor carriage arriving on the scene interrupts what can only be described as an act of self-annulment through alcohol and amphetamine use. Your bell bottom pants make your ass look fat and, dear god, you think you’ve lost your badge.

It’s up to you – and you alone – to save the whole world. To untie the great knot. To crack the case. To resolve reality. You are the last Revacholian hero. The Revacholian hero has nothing, but he must conquer everything. If he doesn’t care, no one does. All of it will slowly roll into the heavens under the advancing pale, or it will contract into a singular miracle only the Revacholian hero can deliver.

All you have to help you in this – the last and the greatest of the cases undertaken by man on Earth, in the sheer face of death and history – is Lieutenant Kim Kitsuragi from Precinct 57.
Seven days till funky-baby holocaust time.

There are 203 comments on Disco Elysium: Welcome to Revachol

Mon 7 October 2019

Game News - posted by WhiskeyWolf on Mon 7 October 2019, 17:40:10

Tags: AliceSoft; Sengoku Rance

Sengoku Rance is a game that needs no introduction to any Codexer, as it proudly holds the #75 spot in The RPG Codex's Top 101 PC RPGs, between such juggernauts of the RPG world as Diablo, Ultima and The Witcher. This is no small achievement considering the game has never been released officially in English. Those of us who played it did so via the fan-translation. This has now changed, as the game - 13 years since its original debut - has now been released by Mangagamer in all its uncensored, 800×600 glory. If you didn't play this masterpiece of strategic excellence, the only thing you should know is that there are porn games... and then there is Sengoku Rance.



Alicesoft’s Sengoku Rance is now available for purchase exclusively on MangaGamer.com! Get 10% off when you purchase today!

In the far east nation of Nippon, a plethora of feudal lords are fighting for supremacy in the 4th Sengoku Era. After doing immeasurable damage on the Continent, the brute known as Rance traveled with his slave, Sill, to the island country.

For a hot spring vacation, you ask?

Wrong. While they’ll go to some hot springs, Rance’s goal is to bang all of Nippon’s beautiful princesses, samurai, miko, ninjas, village girls, and more. In particular, he wants Kouhime of the prominent Oda clan.

When Rance becomes the ruler of one of the feudal states, he charges head first toward uniting Nippon!​

The game can be bought here. If any of you want to stream yourself playing it - to prove what a deviant you are - there is a Streamer Patch available here.

There are 65 comments on Sengoku Rance: The 'Gahahaha' Gets Released in the West

Sat 5 October 2019

Development Info - posted by Infinitron on Sat 5 October 2019, 21:41:11

Tags: Hardsuit Labs; Paradox Interactive; Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines 2

In the month since the previous Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines 2 dev diary, Hardsuit have revealed two more of the game's factions. There's the underground network of criminals led by the mysterious vampire known only as the Baron, and a group of recently arrived Tremere scholars called the Newcomers led by one Viktor Goga who have settled in Seattle's university district. Elif from the E3 demo is a senior member of the latter faction. What we didn't get last month was another dev diary. Maybe that has something to do with why the new dev diary was initially labelled as the seventh instead of the sixth? It's a pretty decent one this time, written by Bloodlines 2 lead environment artist Thanh Pham. In describing various aspects of the game's environment design, he reveals a few interesting tidbits about the setting. Here's an excerpt:

New Powers Lead to New Areas to Explore
In Bloodlines 2, we are pushing the idea of vampire powers used towards vertical traversal. If a skilled parkour practitioner can scale up a building wall, so can a thinblood vampire. Vampires inhabit spaces in the shadows and areas least traveled by normal humans. Barely lit rooftops of buildings are great areas for the vampire to dwell in, but trying to set dress an area to show what a vampire leaves behind is difficult. Since they don’t eat or drink, they don’t leave food garbage lying around. Other than wet footsteps and other small clues, there is not much to go by. Instead, we decided to use other gameplay methods that enabled the use of heightened senses to find symbolic tags that vampires leave behind. These tags are similar to gangs marking out their territory with spray paint, and since Vampires are very territorial, this route of set dressing we are taking can help fill out that aspect of the narrative.

Christmas!
The storyline of this game takes place during the most festive season of all in Seattle - Christmas! Christmas trees, tinsel, ornaments, stringed colored lights, stockings, salvation army donation boxes that the player can steal from, reefs, and joy for all. It is imperative that we drive the mood of this game towards a holiday theme and that it is clearly evident to the player. Not everything that happens during Christmas is all cheery and joyful. We have some goodies in store!

Blind spots
A major aspect of this game is that breaking the masquerade has severe consequences. Causing havoc and trouble in a well-lit open area will alert the police and be a detriment to your health as a vampire. Where can you be free and enjoy your new vampire superpowers? Where is the “dark web” of these city environments where the lawless can run to? We are introducing areas in the game called blind spots that will allow the player to escape to when they need to run from the police after a dirty deed has been done. Blind spots are alleyways, dimly lit back parking lot areas, or even rooftops. To the normal eye, these areas feel dangerous and unsafe. You definitely notice that the blind spot areas will feel unkempt. Garbage might be piling up, rats are scattered about, and the walls are tagged with graffiti. The casual human would generally avoid these areas, but to the vampire these areas are freeing and feel like home.

Rain
A major misconception about Seattle, is that it is always raining. It might not always be raining in Seattle during the winter months, but it is always drearily wet and misty. If one were to stand outside in December, they would notice the ground is always damp and it seems to stay that way for vast amounts of time. We decided to have the exterior environments in Bloodlines 2 to always be wet to be faithful to the weather in Seattle during the winter months.

Horror
An aspect of vampires in the World of Darkness compared to the current climate view of them is that they are monsters. There is no teenage vampire angst happening here or a coming of age scenario. They are monsters and shall remain monsters. Without giving away too much, if there are scenes of death and dismay, there will be quite a bit of blood and horror. We want to set the narrative mood of this game to be dark and disturbing. To attain that through environment art, we tend to stick to colors that are neutral and not overwhelming. Allow the lighting team to set the mood of the given scene and allow the colors and hues of death to dominate the space. The more realistic Environment Art can make a space look and feel, the more unnerving it will be when death and horror present themselves.

New World vs Old World
In Bloodlines 2, a major storyline is that there is a power struggle between the Old World vampires and the newer generation of vampires. I won’t go into much detail about this since it might reveal too much of the story, but the current reality in Seattle is that there is an economic and cultural shift happening with the massive rise of tech companies and an influx of new people moving to the city looking for job opportunities. We have included aspects of this dynamic into our game. One way is through the set dressing of cranes dotting the Seattle skyline to help denote new construction happening next to older architecture. Different neighborhoods with drastically different looks and feel in this game assist with the story of change in Seattle.

I hope this environment art dev diary helps give some insight on how we approach the Bloodlines 2 story through set dressing and environment cues. We often ask ourselves what would someone working in the field of Crime Scene decipher from our set dressing and choice of materials and colors in a given space. Could they guess the narrative of the scene from the story we tell with the environment? The World of Darkness is hidden in an underlying area of reality. Things are not always what they seem and we have tried to push that narrative through various locations in the game. The hope is that the players can see some of those underlying themes through Environment Art when they get a chance to play the game.

Of all the new facts I have learned about vampires in the World of Darkness, the one opinion I have about Vampires is that they care so much about how they are portrayed by others. Image is everything it seems. I stated earlier that vampires don’t breathe air, but quite a few of them still smoke!? You might notice quite a few cigarette trays in this game. The older more refined vampires prefer to drink blood straight from a victim’s warm neck. Anything else is considered vulgar in the vampire community. If you see a glass of blood in this game, it is just for show for the player’s eye. Lou really take the whole idea about image to a new level. She is shown smoking and drinking in her mansion when the player shows up, and we know she doesn’t really care about either.
It seems the faction updates are being published on a bi-weekly basis now, so the last one should be revealed right before PDXCon on October 18th. Paradox recently announced that Bloodlines 2 would not be playable there, but I'm sure they'll have something new to reveal.

There are 8 comments on Bloodlines 2 Dev Diary #6: Environment Design

Fri 4 October 2019

Editorial - posted by Infinitron on Fri 4 October 2019, 23:31:26

Tags: Betrayal at Krondor; Dynamix; Jeff Tunnell; John Cutter; Neal Hallford; Sierra Entertainment; The Digital Antiquarian

Ah, Betrayal at Krondor. On one hand, it's an undisputed gem of the 1990s, whose development we know much about thanks to the testimony of its writer Neal Hallford over the years. On the other hand, it's hard not to classify it as an obscure title - the only RPG that Dynamix ever released, which failed to spawn any credible sequels or imitators. Yet it's not surprising that the Digital Antiquarian, who is fond of all things literary, chose to focus some of his attention on the game. Like some of his previous pieces, the Antiquarian's article about Betrayal at Krondor can be divided into three parts. The first part tells the story of how the game came to be, the second part is a review of its gameplay, and the third part is a reflection on its legacy. In general, the Antiquarian is a big fan of the game, praising it for its excellent writing and unique gameplay. However, he also criticizes it for not quite coming together as an experience that aimed to combine compelling story with player agency, as well as for being too easy to end up in an unwinnable state if one hasn't sufficiently developed the player characters.

As I’ve described it so far, Betrayal at Krondor sounds more akin to the typical Japanese than the Western CRPG. The former tend to lie much closer to the set-piece-story end of our continuum of design; they provide a set, fairly linear plot to walk through, generally complete with predefined characters, rather than the degree of world simulation and open-ended exploration that marks the Western tradition. (A Japanese CRPG is, many a critic has scoffed, just a linear story in which you have to fight a battle to see each successive scene.) Yet Betrayal at Krondor actually doesn’t fit comfortably with that bunch either. For, as Cutter also notes above, he and his design partner were determined to “give the player plenty of freedom to explore and adventure without being bound to a scripted plot.”

Their means of accomplishing that relies once again on the chapter system. Each chapter begins and ends with a big helping of set-piece plot and exposition. In between, though, you’re free to go your own way and take your time in satisfying the conditions that will lead to the end of the chapter. In the first chapter, for example, your assignment is to escort a prisoner across much of the map to the capital city of Krondor. How and when you do so is up to you. The map is filled with encounters and quests, most of which have nothing to do with your central mission. And when you eventually do finish the chapter and continue on with the next, the same map gets repopulated with new things to do. This is the origin of a claim from Dynamix’s marketing department that Betrayal at Krondor is really nine CRPGs in one. In truth, it doesn’t quite live up to that billing. Only a subsection of the map is actually available to you in most chapters, much of it being walled off by impenetrable obstacles or monsters you can’t possibly kill. Even the repopulation that happens between chapters is far from comprehensive. Still, it’s an impressively earnest attempt to combine the pleasures of set-piece plotting with those of an emergent, persistent virtual world.

And yet the combination between set-piece storytelling and emergent exploration always feels like just that: a combination rather than a seamless whole. Cutter and Hallford didn’t, in other words, truly square this particular circle. There’s one massive block of cognitive dissonance standing at the center of it all.

Consider: you’re told at the beginning of the first chapter that your mission of escorting your prisoner to the capital is urgent. Political crisis is in the air, war clouds on the horizon. The situation demands that you hurry to Krondor by the shortest, most direct path. And yet what do you do, if you want to get the most out of the game? You head off in the opposite direction at a relaxed doddle, poking your nose into every cranny you come across. There’s a tacit agreement between game and player that the “urgent” sense of crisis in the air won’t actually evolve into anything until you decide to make it do so by hitting the next plot trigger. Thus the fundamental artificiality of the story is recognized at some level by both game and player, in a way that cuts against everything Betrayal at Krondor claims to want to be. This isn’t really an interactive storybook; it’s still at bottom a collection of gameplay elements wired together with chunks of story that don’t really need to be taken all that seriously at the end of the day.

The same sense of separation shows itself in those lengthy chapter-beginning and -ending expository scenes. A lot of stuff happens in these, including fights involving the characters ostensibly under your control, that you have no control over whatsoever — that are external to the world simulation. And then the demands of plot are satisfied for a while, and the simulation engine kicks back in. This is no better or worse than the vast majority of games with stories, but it certainly isn’t the revolution some of the designers’ claims might seem to imply.

Of course, one might say that all of these observations are rather more philosophical than practical, of more interest to game designers and scholars than the average player; you can suspend your disbelief easily enough and enjoy the game just as it is. There are places in Betrayal at Krondor, however, where some of the knock-on effects of the designers’ priorities really do impact your enjoyment in more tangible ways. For this is a game which can leave you marooned halfway through, unable to move forward and unable to go back.

[...] This is precisely the problem which the player of Betrayal at Krondor can all too easily run into. Not only does the game allow you to ignore the urgent call of its plot, but it actually forces you to do so in order to be successful. If you take the impetus of the story seriously and rush to fulfill your tasks in the early chapters, you won’t build up your characters sufficiently to survive the later ones. Even if you do take your time and explore, trying to accrue experience, focusing on the wrong skills and spells can leave you in the same boat. By the time you realize your predicament, your “Plan B” is nonexistent. You can’t get back to those encounters you skipped in the earlier, easier chapters, and thus can’t grind your characters out of their difficulties. There actually are no random encounters whatsoever in the game, only the fixed ones placed on the map at the beginning of each chapter. I’m no fan of grinding, so I’d normally be all in favor of such a choice, which Cutter and Hallford doubtless made in order to make the game less tedious and increase its sense of narrative verisimilitude. In practice, though, it means that the pool of available money and experience is finite, meaning you need not only to forget the plot and explore everywhere in the earlier chapters but make the right choices in terms of character development there if you hope to succeed in the later ones.

On the whole, then, Betrayal at Krondor acquits itself better in its earlier chapters than in its later ones. It can be a very immersive experience indeed when you first start out with a huge map to roam, full of monsters to battle and quests to discover. By the time said map has been repopulated three or four times, however, roaming across its familiar landmarks yet again, looking for whatever might be new, has begun to lose some of its appeal.

And then, as Neal Hallford would be the first to admit, Betrayal at Krondor is written above all for Raymond E. Feist fans, which can be a bit problematic if you don’t happen to be among them. This was my experience, at any rate. As an outsider to Feist’s universe, watching characters I didn’t know talk about things I’d never heard of eventually got old. When an “iconic” character like Jimmy the Hand shows up, I’m supposed to be all aflutter with excitement, but instead I’m just wondering who this latest jerk in a terrible costume is and why I should care. In my view, the game peaks in Chapter 3, which takes the form of a surprisingly complex self-contained murder mystery; this is a place where the game does succeed in integrating its set-piece and emergent sides to a greater extent than elsewhere. If you elect to stop playing after that chapter, you really won’t miss that much.
This excerpt is the most critical part of the article, which as I said is generally full of praise. It makes note of Neal Hallford's insight in successfully synthesizing the best parts of Raymond Feist's Midkemia setting, and of the fact that the game was playtested for an unusually long nine months and thus was released in a more polished state than many of its contemporaries. Nevertheless, like many RPGs from that period, Betrayal at Krondor sold poorly on launch. Sales picked up when the CD-ROM version was released in 1994, but as we know the game never got a proper sequel or successor. For that, we'll have to wait for Call of Saregnar.

There are 27 comments on The Digital Antiquarian on Betrayal at Krondor

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Fri 4 October 2019, 21:50:26

Tags: Solasta: Crown of the Magister; Tactical Adventures

The Solasta: Crown of the Magister Kickstarter campaign concluded this afternoon having raised €243,855 from 5995 backers, which is a bit over €6k from the Sorcerer class stretch goal. Unlike some other Kickstarter developers, Tactical Adventures have decided not to continue raising funds after the campaign via PayPal, so the Sorcerer won't make it into the game on launch. However, due to popular demand it will be released as a free DLC afterwards. The Half-Orc and Dragonborn are out of luck though, at least for now. Anyway, here's a summary of the campaign from the concluding Kickstarter update, including a list of all the social and referral rewards I was too lazy to pay attention to.

That's it, the Campaign is over! The entire Tactical Adventures crew thanks you, each and everyone of you who made this Kickstarter a success. It was a wild month, but worth all the effort! But we're sure you're wondering about the last Stretch Goals. Did we make it or not?

Sorcerer Class - Free DLC!

We fell short of the Sorcerer Stretch Goal, which means we most likely won't be able to add it to the final game... at launch, that is! We've seen how much love this class received in the comments and on our social media channels, so we decided to offer the Sorcerer Class as FREE DLC after we wrap up Solasta: Crown of the Magister!

Get ready to sling Empowered Fireballs and Twinned Haste, for the Sorcerer will definitively make its way to Solasta!

So, what are the next steps now that our Kickstarter Campaign is over?
  • On October 18th 2019, our Free Kickstarter Pre-Alpha Demo will leave our Steam Page as the entire team's focus shifts towards working on the final game.
  • In early November 2019 (next month), you will receive a mail from CrowdOx - our Pledge Manager - to manage your Kickstarter Rewards, select additional Physical Add-Ons and pay the Shipping Fees (if you have physical items in your rewards). We will make a Kickstarter Update next Monday (October 7th) to go in more details about that.
  • We will write Kickstarter Updates on a Monthly basis to keep you informed about Features, Lore and Project Progress. If you want to read more, we write Dev Blogs every week on our Website.
  • Don't hesitate to join our Community if you haven't already! You can chat with us on Official Forums & Discord Server.
Let's go over everything we unlocked during this Kickstarter!

Referral Rewards

We are happy to announce that as of today, we've reached the final tier of Referral Rewards! Thanks to everyone who brought their friends to the Kickstarter, every backer will receive these three magic items: The Dwarven Bread, The Six League Boots & The One Ring! Once again, your support in sharing Solasta out there really helped a lot, many cheers to all of you!

Social Rewards

We've also just reached 1,000 Facebook Fans, unlocking the next Social Reward: 4 Solastan Archetypes on D&D Beyond Homebrew System! We will add these Archetypes before end of October, and inform you via Kickstarter Update once they're live. You have unlocked over the course of this campaign:
That's it for us folks! Thanks again for your support! Let's meet again soon, keep an eye out for more news on Solasta!
Thus ends another successful crowdfunding campaign. Enjoy the pre-alpha demo while it lasts. It'll be nice if they eventually release some sort of Early Access to replace it.

There are 7 comments on Solasta Kickstarter Update #26: Campaign over, Sorcerer will be free post-launch DLC

Thu 3 October 2019

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Thu 3 October 2019, 23:58:07

Tags: Solasta: Crown of the Magister; Tactical Adventures

The Solasta: Crown of the Magister Kickstarter campaign is in its final 24 hours. Money has continued pouring in, knocking off three additional stretch goals - the orchestral soundtrack, the boss monster (where the Remorhaz won with a plurality of the vote) and just now, the legendary item questline. Today's Kickstarter update was published after the first two were unlocked, and it may be a sign that things are coming to a close that only one new stretch goal was formally unveiled in it. The Sorcerer class will be added to the game if the campaign manages to reach the hefty sum of €250k. The update has some details about the the three types of sorcerers in the world of Solasta. I quote:

We're finally reaching the last 24h of our Campaign. On Friday October 4th at 6 am PDT / 9 am EDT / 3 pm CEST, the Solasta Kickstarter Campaign will be over! Our Steam Pre-Alpha Demo will follow shortly after, leaving our Steam Store Page on October 18th as the team will fully shift focus towards working on the final game.

Boss Monster Stretch Goal - UNLOCKED

The votes have spoken, the winner is... The Remorhaz!

The biggest monster takes out the others! With a Challenge Rating of 11, close to 200 HP, Immunity to Cold & Fire, Darkvision, Tremorsense, the ability to burrow... There is no end to the list of reasons of not wanting to fight a Remorhaz. Yet you decided to vote for it! Let's just hope you won't come to regret it...

Music Upgrade Stretch Goal - UNLOCKED

You also unlocked the Music Upgrade Stretch Goal - Live Orchestral Recordings! Be ready to have your ears pampered by a variety of musical instruments as your party explore the world the Solasta. Don't hesitate to grab the Soundtrack to enhance your own Tabletop sessions as well.

New Class - Sorcerer

Sorcerers are magic users whose powers come from their ancestry - a heritage that sometimes manifests as physical features that aren't always easy to bear. Unlike Wizards who hone their craft through long studies, Sorcerers progress through sheer force of will and talent.

They are powerful spellcasters who can reshape their spells at will to adapt to any situation. Through their hands, spells can become more powerful, harder to resist, remain in effect longer or have many other effects. Sorcerers also have specific powers other than spellcasting, that come from their Origin.

Draconic Bloodline

Descendants of shapeshifted dragons and younger Solastan races, these sorcerers are blessed with many benefits of their draconic ancestry and speak draconic fluently. Each have an affinity with one specific element, and word is the most powerful ones can even grow dragon wings and fly!

Mana Painter

Born out of the mana starvation that followed the cataclysm, certain dwellers of Solasta learned to drain magic from everything that surrounded them - locations, objects and even people. They learned to channel scarce mana to cast spells, create potions or scrolls. Their enemies may call them mana thieves, but they are truly artists of magic.

Children of the Rift

Another effect of the Rift and its cataclysmic closing was that some people around it were affected in their blood, gaining an innate ability to cast spells instinctively. The very nature of the Rift also changed them deeply as they are not only flesh and blood, but also mana, light, and shadow.
The campaign has done well, but it'll be interesting to see if it can raise €20k in the time remaining. If it does, there is at least one more stretch goal afterwards - another new race vote, this time pitting the Half-Orc against the Dragonborn. Perhaps we'll get to that with post-campaign funding.

There are 3 comments on Solasta Kickstarter Update #25: Orchestral Soundtrack, Boss Monster & New Questline Unlocked

It's a turn-based RPG thing on KickStarter. Details here.


TARGET: $750 USD

RAISED: $641.39 USD (85%)

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