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Editting Thread 1 - New Reviews

Discussion in 'The cRPG Player's Handbook' started by felipepepe, May 27, 2014.

  1. felipepepe Prestigious Gentleman Codex's Heretic Patron

    felipepepe
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    Here we will debate the new reviews as they arrive.

    The idea is to leave reviews here for 2-3 days, just to see if there's any mistake that should be send back to the author or any curiosities that can be added as side-notes. Otherwise, we move them to the proof-reading thread, were our Grammar Gestapo will proceed with their examinations.

    BATCH 1:
    Show Spoiler

    Today I present you 5 reviews:

    Eye of the Beholder, by Unkillable Cat :
    Show Spoiler

    Eye of the Beholder was a point-of-no-return for me when it came to RPGs, it looked like a deep and complex game with stunning visuals and a gripping atmosphere. I had never heard of anything called Dungeons & Dragons before this, and in hindsight the EotB game served as a wonderful gateway game into that realm. The intro blew me away as it laid down the plot: A party of adventurers is sent to look for an evil presence within the city of Waterdeep and told to start in the sewers. The game mesmerized me so much that I didn't stop to ask “Wait, sewers?” but was instead eager to start my adventure and see where it would take me.

    EotB's character creation appeared both simple and complex at the same time, but it wasn't until much later that I realized why that was; the developers decided to merely use the AD&D rules as a guideline, instead of wrapping the game in them. Turns out that half of the main stats are useless and many smaller rules are either ignored or hidden from the player. Looking back on that I can imagine that hardcore roleplayers would be miffed, but to a newcomer like myself it was perfect. I did as the manual suggested and created a mixed party of 4 characters that could deal with whatever dangers lay ahead, knowing that I could recruit 2 NPCs in-game if something went wrong.

    Once the game starts it won't take long to get immersed in the game's atmosphere. Bare bones piled in a corner and glowing eyes staring at me from a sewer grate. No music is played beyond the title screen, which left me only with environmental sounds to break the silence. A few minutes of checking my gear and looking around led me face to face with my first monster. That little kobold sure had a vicious glint in his eyes. I was familiar with older games telling me in plain text what monsters I had encountered, but here I saw first-hand that I was facing one murderous kobold, and that I had to act fast to deal with him as EotB is real-time, after all.

    The game's design firmly points to “figure things out for yourself”. Except for a crude map of the starting levels, a compass in the UI and a few vague clues gleamed from the manual, I was utterly on my own, trapped in a sewer. Even when I accidentally discovered that the game has hidden “Special Quests” I was mostly clueless as to how I triggered them most of the time. Not that I cared, I was having too much fun exploring.

    At first I thought my party would never meet anyone to talk to, but as soon as I cleared the sewers and reached the levels beyond I was proven wrong. Interactions with NPCs are mostly walls of exposition text, and sometimes I was allowed to make simple choices that rarely seemed to make any difference.

    Death is never far away in EotB; while characters can be raised from the dead there are few opportunities to do so, especially early on. The early puzzles proved to be more of a challenge than the early monsters, but then that balance shifted when I stumbled upon that infestation of 6-foot tall spiders on Level 4 that wiped out my entire party several times with their poisonous bites. I'm surprised I didn't develop arachnophobia after that.

    Around the time I bought EotB the sequel, EotB2, had already been released. Having two EotB games to play simultaneously was a slice of heaven for me, as the sequel bettered the original in almost every conceivable way. Two years later EotB3 was released and I snapped it up immediately. EotB3 delivered more of the same but it just didn't have the same magic touch as its predecessors. Turns out that the developer and publisher had parted ways, forcing the publisher to finish the game in-house in a hurry. It was a bad end to a great game series.


    Witchaven, by Jaz:
    Show Spoiler

    Witchaven is not a full-fledged cRPG – it’s a first-person shooter (or rather, hack’n’slasher) with cRPG elements. There are quite a few of those elements: XP, leveling up, degrading weapons, different types of armor, secrets, traps, spells and other goodies. There are five different types of poisons to collect, combat and utility spells to learn … but there’s no NPC interaction, no exploration and no character creation. While you can choose gore and difficulty levels, you are stuck with the knight Grondoval who is tasked with eradicating the witch Illwhyrin, period.

    Gameplay-wise, that’s not a problem, because this knight is a one-man army! You’re just as proficient with physical weapons as with casting combat spells (though you will rarely have to rely on the latter, except for tougher enemies of later levels), and you soak up experience like a sponge. Killing trolls, imps and other enemies (or finding treasure, for that matter) will make you level up and become tougher still. Higher levels also mean less weapon corrosion and access to more potent spells … and you will need those to be able to defeat Illwhyrin.

    Talking about defeat: The need to think tactical or die is exactly what makes Witchaven so compelling (another strong point are the neatly rendered fake-3D-sprites). Unless you are the type of gamer who likes to resort to cheating, that is. In the beginning, combat is mostly a close-quarters affair, but you will soon find out that the combination of degrading weapons and imprecise controls amkes it an especially dangerous one. Thankfully, most of Illwhyrin’s minions are just as susceptible to terrain-induced damage as you are, so using the environment to your advantage will end many fights early.

    In later levels and at higher difficulty, llwhyrin’s miserliness comes into play: You will find less potions, scrolls and even weapons, and chances are that you will run out of essential supplies at the most unfortunate moment. Discovering that you have no spell scroll left when the trapped corridor you reached by flying turns out to be a dead end (and you haven’t saved in ages!) would be such an example. But if you were a little thrifty yourself, you might still be able to cross the corridor with the help of your bow and arrows … provided you saved up some of those

    Witchaven might have a few shortcomings (mainly squishy controls and – as opposed to the detailed sprites - visually poor interior design), but the game scores with its clever use of physics and gripping combat. Defeating opponents with environmental help is even more rewarding than dropping the 'Nuke' spell on them, and only a Witchaven player will know the fuzzy feeling that comes with outsmarting a trap.


    CyberMage, by Jaz:
    Show Spoiler

    In the not-so-far future, governments have made way for megacorporations, but the megacorps' creed to maximize their profit at all costs isn't to everyone's liking. As a consequence, armed rebels have taken the fight against corporate oppression to the streets. This is the political background of the Cyberpunk era you live in, and this is where you manage to get yourself killed.

    Then you suddenly get better.

    You awake in a lab – without memories, but with a gem implanted into your forehead, and with the minions of NeCrom hot on your trail. If you want to find out why this guy is after you and why you suddenly have access to a mystical power called ‘Darklight’, you’d better run … NOW!

    Thus starts CyberMage: Darklight Awakening, a 1995 game by David W. Bradley of Wizardry fame. On the first glance, CyberMage may be a futuristic first-person shooter, but unlike most games of that genre, it is driven by a compelling story and also incorporates several RPG elements. There are traps and secrets and puzzles, exploration is an important (and quite rewarding) part of the game, the atmosphere is immersive. Areas are densely and appropriately populated. You can (and will have to) talk to NPCs to gather information – and by NPCs, I mean friendlies and hostiles alike. Not everybody should be killed just because the game looks like a shooter! Gambling and spending the money in different stores are options just as are watching TV or driving tanks. And then there are your ‘magical’ skills …

    CyberMage’s way of imparting new spells on the player character is also intriguing. Collecting spells is one thing, but you will also learn a new Darklight power by being exposed to its effects! This makes for interesting situations: Running from an enemy with a strong power might be an option if your health is low, but if it’s not, charging him to get hit and return his gift would be the better alternative …

    There’s also quite an arsenal for non-magical combat. Not every weapon works equally well against every type of enemy, so you need to take that into account when facing groups of hostiles. Body armor is split into separate parts; it degrades when you are hit, and it can be repaired before it is destroyed. But the most important piece of equipment is your jetpack. Once you acquire this, you will be immune to a score of… bugs.

    Yeah, right. The game will CTD if you happen to tread on the wrong patch of ground. This bug doesn’t render CyberMage unplayable, but it can be a hassle. Add extreme hardware requirements, NPC stupidity and a choppy engine, and you’ll know why CyberMage never gained the cult following it actually deserved - people who bought CyberMage expecting a pure-strain shooter were disappointed. But behind those minor shortcomings lies an atmospheric, detailed and beautiful Cyberpunk world that begs to be explored. And don't forget that NeCrom is waiting for you …


    Battlespire, by Jaz
    Show Spoiler
    The Battlespire is a training center for aspiring Imperial battlemages. It is built into a secret corner of the Daedric realm of Oblivion. When you enter the premises to take your final test, you discover that the academy has been taken over by Daedric invaders! And now that a seal blocks the portal you entered by, it looks like your only way out of this nightmare is through …

    Originally planned as an add-on to Daggerfall, Battlespire was published as a stand-alone game in 1997. All the action takes place in the seven levels of the Battlespire and the regions of Oblivion intertwined with it. The character and class creation system is classic Elder Scrolls, even if only six player races made the cut. Also missing are the rest function, gold and shops. But it's not as if sleep was a good idea, anyway, with all those Daedric minions breathing down your neck … and if you need more equipment, find it on–site or take it off dead bodies. By the way, loot is the only randomized instance in Battlespire: Unlike the Daggerfall dungeons, the complex maps are entirely handcrafted, so you won't end up starving in a mis-built labyrinth.

    No, you'll pretty likely die in combat instead. Enemies in the Battlespire are a lot tougher than those you encountered in Daggerfall. You need to outmaneuver hostiles if you want to survive! Now don’t get me wrong: Battlespire may be more action-oriented and linear than Daggerfall, but it's not all about bloodshed. You’ll have plenty opportunity of getting to know the invaders ... and make allies. Yes, you heard right: Allies. Not all Daedra are evil, nor does everyone agree with Mehrunes Dagon’s plans of conquest. While you can get far by being impolite or just resorting to violence, you would be a fool to not take advantage of all the political intrigue going on in Mehrunes’ household.

    It's not as if this grey-on-grey morality had to keep you from being evil: If it’s more your style to betray your allies after they outlived their usefulness, just do so! Playing Clan leaders off against each other or teasing horny (but impotent) Spider Daedra can be insanely funny. In addition to that, Battlespire adds to and draws on established Elder Scrolls lore. You enjoyed Oblivion and want to learn more about the Daedric realm, Mehrunes Dagon and his infighting court? Go play Battlespire!

    My only minor gripe are the bugs. While vanilla Battlespire is not the bugfest Daggerfall was, you might have to start levels over again. Glyphs tend to fall through floors (these things are needed to progress, mind you). But if you plan on ignoring this fun and demanding game just because of this, you'll commit a grave error, because patching it to version 1.5 will help a lot. The scheming, the voice acting and the (often hilarious) dialog options are too brilliant to miss out on.


    Icewind Dale I, by karfhud:
    Show Spoiler
    Icewind Dale, one of many Infinite Engine games released by Black Isle, is similar to the studio’s other cRPGs and different at the same time.

    Similar because of the recurring qualities shared by the developer’s titles. There’s solid writing, their chief staple established in games like Planescape: Torment and Baldur’s Gate II; overall area design is laudable, with some locations verging on excellent. Take the ancient elven tower of Severed Hand as an example - it features well-planned levels, breathtaking backgrounds, compelling characters and equally compelling quests. Finally, there’s the truly unforgettable, heart-gripping soundtrack composed by Jeremy Soule.

    What’s different, though, is that IWD’s sole focus is on combat and it doesn’t try to fool anyone that it’s something else. Battles pose enough of a challenge even on normal difficulty, with some of the encounters requiring thorough preparations in terms of spells, potions and tactics. This mostly applies to regular groups of mobs, however - boss fights usually boil down to mindless spamming at a single target.

    Unfortunately, Heart of Winter, IWD’smain expansion, falls short of the original. Level design seems lackluster, with dungeons being extremely repetitive (the last location is just abysmal in this regard). Writing is still strong, though and that’s the main reason to actually give it a go. Then there’s Trials of the Luremaster, a small expansion with a single dungeon and very difficult combat.

    A huge upside of the old Infinity Engine games is that they’re not growing old, not like the other titles at least. Sure, stiff animations will make new players cringe once in a while, but then the beautiful backgrounds quickly make them forget that; sure, dialogue systems are a bit clunky, but stellar writing more than makes up for it. Icewind Dale fits this picture. Less story-focused than its famous siblings, but featuring more combat and a terrific soundtrack, it’s a true gem and a must-play for cRPG fans.


    BATCH 2: HERE
     
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2014
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  2. HiddenX The Elder Spy Patron

    HiddenX
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    I really like
    Eye of the Beholder review , by Unkillable Cat
    (maybe Cat should mention the blue print game Dungeon Master)

    Jaz reviews are very good, too - nothing much to add
    Witchaven, by Jaz
    CyberMage, by Jaz
    Battlespire, by Jaz / the Redguard reference is missing

    Icewind Dale - nothing wrong here too, but the review could be a little more fleshed out.
    At least I would add that you could create the whole party in this game contrary to other Infinity engine games.
    Gameplay wise it is a pure Dungeon Crawler -> build up your party for the final battle.
     
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  3. felipepepe Prestigious Gentleman Codex's Heretic Patron

    felipepepe
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    Well, you can make your entire party on BG 1 and 2 as well... looking at the book as a whole, BG having recruitable NPCs with personality is the exception, not the opposite.

    Redguard I'll add as a side curiosity on her review or Morrowind.
     
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  4. HiddenX The Elder Spy Patron

    HiddenX
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    I don't remember that - maybe in a multiplayer game?
     
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  5. Unkillable Cat Prestigious Gentleman LEST WE FORGET Patron

    Unkillable Cat
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    Codex 2014 Make the Codex Great Again! Grab the Codex by the pussy
    The reason I don't mention Dungeon Master (in this version of the review, did so in an older version) is I wanted my contribution to mostly be a personal experience. At the time I had only heard of Dungeon Master in one context - that Eye of the Beholder was the game that finally beat it. It was many years later that I finally saw Dungeon Master in action, and even more years until I could play it myself. (Oddly enough I knew what game Chaos Strikes Back was, but not the connection between it and Dungeon Master.)

    Anyway, I proofread my own text (bad UC! bad cat!) and found one piece of the text that could use a change. The relevant paragraph is included below, with the altered text in bold.

     
    • Brofist Brofist x 1
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  6. HiddenX The Elder Spy Patron

    HiddenX
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    Unkillable Cat - don't change your own history then - Dungeon Master has its own review.
     
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  7. felipepepe Prestigious Gentleman Codex's Heretic Patron

    felipepepe
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    Yep, you can just start a LAN game alone and play the game with a custom party, while still being able to dismiss someone and recruit NPCs. After a couple of playthroughts it's the best way to play,e specially with mods that increase the difficulty.
     
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  8. HiddenX The Elder Spy Patron

    HiddenX
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    Nevertheless...

    Planescape Torment, Baldur's Gate 1 & 2 and the fathers of the Infinity Engine Games Fallout 1 & 2 are all story driven games with pre-defined characters as party members. Icewind Dale 1 & 2 was the exception: less story, more dungeon crawling, combat driven, complete party creation.

     
    Last edited: May 28, 2014
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  9. Ninjerk Arcane

    Ninjerk
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    Did Black Isle have anything to do with the writing in Baldur's Gate 2?
     
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  10. Jaesun Fabulous Moderator

    Jaesun
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    Torment: Tides of Numenera Divinity: Original Sin 2 BattleTech
    No. They did do some of the sounds/music for the game if I am recalling correctly.
     
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  11. Ninjerk Arcane

    Ninjerk
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    IWD first pass:
    Show Spoiler
    Icewind Dale, one of many Infinite Engine games released by Black Isle, is similar to the studio’s other cRPGs and different at the same time.

    The game is similar because of the recurring qualities shared by the developer’s titles. There’s solid writing, the studio's chief staple established in games like Planescape: Torment and Fallout 2, and the overall area design is laudable with some locations verging on excellent. Take the ancient elven tower of Severed Hand as an example--it features well-planned levels, breathtaking backgrounds, compelling characters, and equally compelling quests. Finally, there’s the truly unforgettable, heart-gripping soundtrack composed by Jeremy Soule.

    What’s different, though, is that IWD’s sole focus is on combat and it doesn’t try to fool anyone that it’s something else. Battles pose enough of a challenge even on normal difficulty with some of the encounters requiring thorough preparations in terms of spells, potions, and tactics. This mostly applies to regular groups of mobs, however--boss fights usually boil down to mindless spamming at a single target.

    Unfortunately, Heart of Winter, IWD’smain expansion, falls short of the original. Level design seems lackluster with dungeons being extremely repetitive (the last location is just abysmal in this regard). Writing is still strong, though, and that’s the main reason to actually give it a go. Then there’s Trials of the Luremaster, a small expansion with a single dungeon and very difficult combat.

    A huge upside of the old Infinity Engine games is that they’re not growing old, not like the other titles at least. Sure, stiff animations will make new players cringe once in a while, but then the beautiful backgrounds quickly make them forget that; sure, dialogue systems are a bit clunky, but stellar writing more than makes up for it. Icewind Dale fits this picture. Less story-focused than its famous siblings, but featuring more combat and a terrific soundtrack, it’s a true gem and a must-play for cRPG fans.


    Someone help. The only content I significantly changed was going from Baldur's Gate 2 to Fallout since it doesn't make any sense otherwise. HiddenX want to ask if the author has a suggestion for how to fix that instead?
     
    Last edited: May 28, 2014
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  12. HiddenX The Elder Spy Patron

    HiddenX
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    Black Isle developed
    Black Isle published
    So it has to be:
     
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  13. Ninjerk Arcane

    Ninjerk
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    Noted.
     
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  14. Jagged Appliance Arbiter

    Jagged Appliance
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    I disagree with the "boss fights usually boil down to mindless spamming at a single target" comment and essentially everything he said about Heart of Winter. I'm not sure what to do about that though, we can't really be the content police.
     
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  15. Jagged Appliance Arbiter

    Jagged Appliance
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    I don't like this paragraph from the Eye of the Beholder review:

    The first sentence seems positive but the sentence it leads into is negative which makes the paragraph sound very disjointed.

    The first sentence is also completely superfluous so you could just remove it and add the second to another paragraph.
     
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  16. HiddenX The Elder Spy Patron

    HiddenX
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    Jagged Appliance
    I remember that I had to use tactics to survive boss battles, but maybe this was my party build and difficulty setting.

    was mainly critisized for the short playing time back then.
     
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  17. Jagged Appliance Arbiter

    Jagged Appliance
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    True. He didn't mention that however.
     
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  18. HiddenX The Elder Spy Patron

    HiddenX
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    I understand that he wanted NPC conversation, but was disappointed how it was implemented.

     
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  19. Jagged Appliance Arbiter

    Jagged Appliance
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    Ok, that makes sense.
     
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  20. Grunker RPG Codex Ghost Patron

    Grunker
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    I'll start doing actual shit once my exams are over on the 16th. I'll be sidelinin' it until then bros.
     
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  21. Darth Roxor Prestigious Gentleman Wielder of the Huegpenis

    Darth Roxor
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    I tried to recall how IWD boss battles looked, and yah, I guess you are right. IIRC it was only Yxunomei + frost giant king that were solitary when fought, and saying Yxunomei only boils down to spamming is questionable.
     
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  22. Jagged Appliance Arbiter

    Jagged Appliance
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    Neither of those are solitary either. Yxunomei has some Yuan-ti spellcasters and warriors with her and the frost giant king has a couple of frost giants right beside him. Yxunomei was the best fight in the game imo.
     
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  23. Ninjerk Arcane

    Ninjerk
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    I meant to remove most of the strangely italicized words. I missed a couple, I think.
     
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  24. Darth Roxor Prestigious Gentleman Wielder of the Huegpenis

    Darth Roxor
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    Was this added in HoW? Admittedly, my memory might be fuzzy because it's been a few years since I've played IWD, but I remember kind of clearly that Yxunomei was alone in her lair.


    EDIT: nvm, checked some vids, she really does have henchmen. Fucking dementia clouding muh brian.
     
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