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Preview RPG Codex Gamescom Report, Part 1: Tacticool Goodness and Adventures Galore

Crooked Bee

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Tags: Blackguards 2; Daedalic Entertainment; Fire; Paradox Interactive; Runemaster; The Devil's Men

It was a fine August day when, anticipating mountains of Doritos and rivers of Mountain Dew, esteemed community member Darth Roxor stepped into the nerd-filled halls of Gamescom 2014. Rest assured, he found what he was looking for, enough to write his report in 3 parts. In today's Part 1, Roxor recounts his 2-hour presentation with Daedalic Entertainment -- which included such games as the tactical RPG Blackguards 2 and the adventures Fire and The Devil's Men -- as well as his impressions of Paradox Interactive's Runemaster.

Since most people here are probably (hopefully) interested in Blackguards 2, I'll quote a snippet that has to do with that game:

Daedalic have introduced several changes to the The Dark Eye ruleset. Apparently, the spell failure and hit chance mechanics have been overhauled in some way, making it less likely to miss if a dude is just standing motionless next to you, although it beats me what the specifics of that are. Furthermore, Daedalic apparently got a bit sick of Aventuria's generic bestiary, so they introduced a bunch of their “own” creations – mostly demons, chimeras, shapeshifters, etc. Two of these were shown, one an insectoid creature with four arms (each one can hold a different weapon), and the other a “leaper” demon that loves to jump into mobs of characters and knock them down (careful around ledges!).

Big changes have also been made to the character system, though I must admit I’m not exactly sure of the specifics. Apparently, Blackguards' basic attributes were too confusing for the average player, so they've been streamlined into even more basic attributes like “offence” or “defence”, although Kai said the original stats are “still there” somewhere. Basically, they figured this was a better way of handling them because it was dumb how three different attributes could influence the same derived stat. This is something that I don’t quite like because, personally, I find abstract values like “offence” to be much more opaque than three different attributes that might (or might not) do the same thing, but are properly described. Maybe it’ll look better in motion. Nevertheless, you still get adventure points for battles, and you still assign them to talents and skills, just like in the original.

Taking into account these changes and the expanded bestiary, I asked how difficult it was to convince the Dark Eye license owner to incorporate them, considering how protective some of them can be (hello, Games Workshop), but apparently, it only took one long meeting of discussions and negotiations.

Now that we're done discussing the game's tactical layer, let’s say a few things about the geoscape. The original game’s chapter-based storyline is gone, replaced instead by what could be described as a “conquest mode”. The whole of southern Aventuria is now visible from the start of the game, and you must go on a blitzkrieg to conquer all of it and become its new ruler. Every location taken over will grant some bonus to your characters or mercenaries, and unlock further “nodes” that you can pillage. That doesn’t mean the “adventure” layer is gone, though, as each city you liberate™ can be entered and checked for quest opportunities, just like in the original Blackguards. Furthermore, you also get your own HQ in the form of a travelling base camp, where you can consult with your advisor, buy equipment, etc.

There are many significant things going on in the game's strategy view, as well. You are not the only force in the land, and just as you conquer lands, the enemy will try to reconquer them. If you fail at defending them, they will need to be re-reconquered, and these reconquest battles are meant to be very hard. I just hope this won’t devolve into GTA San Andreas taggin’ da hood – Blackguards edition.

The final part of the presentation was about the general changes to the narrative and reactivity. As I said, the game is no longer divided into chapters; instead, the storyline changes “dynamically” depending on the course of conquest you take. A playthrough where you first take the southern part of the map under your protection™ might be very different, both in terms of gameplay and narrative, from another where you first scorch the north. Moreover, over the course of the game, you’ll have to make many decisions that will impact the story and gameplay. Fiebig said that this time they are “real” choices, that may lead to all sorts of hilariously bad outcomes, and it’s “very easy to fuck up completely”. A few examples of these decisions include whether to torture prisoners during interrogations, and what to do with captured cities - raze them to the ground, intimidate their citizens through mass murder or leave them alone? Which is the best and why? Discuss!!!

That very much concluded the presentation. I was offered a hands-on of the demo, but it was cut short by the incoming unwashed masses with their scheduled presentations. I didn’t mind much, though - as I said, the game does pretty much look and play exactly like Blackguards, so I doubt I’d have derived any new information.​

For Darth Roxor's further impressions, be sure to read the full piece.
 

sser

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When the presentation ended, I had to return to Kevin's initial comment about Telltale. I asked whether the consequences and multiple solutions would actually carry some sort of weight, as in I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream or whether they would just be half-arsed flavour options. At this point, I think Kevin kind of sighed with relief. He said that he very much agrees with me that Telltale’s games leave a lot to be desired in this respect, and that The Devil’s Men will have “real” consequences affecting the game, even though implementing all of them can be ridiculously hard, both for the narrative and programming sides of development, becoming even harder the more intertwined they are.

Darth Roxor, P.I., asking the hard questions where no other journalist would have the balls to say Telltale doesn't actually have its main selling point of C&C. It amuses me that it appears the man marketed the game as having Telltale qualities at first, because that's kinda the thing to do these days, but as soon as Roxor noted he knew better the guy seemed to drop any pretenses.

Blackguards 2 sounds promising. I felt the first game was a little too gimmicky and reliant on puzzle-esque combat scenarios. If they're willing to introduce mercenaries and an organic strat-screen, they must've better developed the combat. (I'd hope.)


Good article. :bro:
 

abnaxus

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Any questions about why they went with fixed female protagonist for Blackguards 2?
 

Darth Roxor

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Any questions about why they went with fixed female protagonist for Blackguards 2?

The question was asked by someone else, and the reply was essentially "do you want to have the game spoiled?".

But I suspect it was simply more convenient for narrative reasons or something.

The protag is fixed only in sex & name, though, her stats are fully customizable at the start.
 
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Deuce Traveler

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Explorerbc

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Nice read, most of these games didn't receive major publicity during the event so it's nice to have a report on what's going on.

Looking forward to the second part and the more popamole titles.
 

VioletShadow

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Very nice write up Darth Roxor! I'm really looking forward to everything by Daedalic ( fangirl them hard, not gonna lie) especially The Devil's Men. Thanks for telling it like it is regarding Telltale "consequences" :lol:, like fuck sometimes I love the Codex.
:brodex::greatjob:
 

Higher Animal

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Another thing that I liked about the game was its army-leveling system. Units gain experience in combat, sure, but they have to get it themselves by going down and dirty. So, if you let your hero do all the fighting, you will end up with a real badass hero, but his army will be a bunch of wimps and pushovers, and while apparently this is kind of viable, an approach like that is not exactly recommended. And finally, the units don’t simply level-up with a ding! but need to be taken to a trainer, who is obviously an entrepreneurial industrialist and doesn’t work for free.

Finally! Historically there was always a tension for officers to either choose to lead from the front or remain behind the lines acting in a purely tactical capacity. Seeing this implemented is a very good sign.
 

Rahdulan

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The Devil's Men sounds interesting, although I hope their attempt at mixing point & click with things like consumables and a more hands on approach works better than it did for, I don't know, In Cold Blood.
 

Grunker

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NO CRYPT LICE?! 0/10 WORST GAME OF THE YEAR

Another thing that I liked about the game was its army-leveling system. Units gain experience in combat, sure, but they have to get it themselves by going down and dirty. So, if you let your hero do all the fighting, you will end up with a real badass hero, but his army will be a bunch of wimps and pushovers, and while apparently this is kind of viable, an approach like that is not exactly recommended. And finally, the units don’t simply level-up with a ding! but need to be taken to a trainer, who is obviously an entrepreneurial industrialist and doesn’t work for free.

Finally! Historically there was always a tension for officers to either choose to lead from the front or remain behind the lines acting in a purely tactical capacity. Seeing this implemented is a very good sign.

This sounds insanely obnoxious. Sure, cool in theory, but in practice, feeling forced to use units that aren't particularly useful during a fight because XP like tedium personified.

Anyway, can't wait for Blackguards 2 already 10/10 GOTY will love regardless of the changes probably
 

Higher Animal

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This sounds insanely obnoxious. Sure, cool in theory, but in practice, feeling forced to use units that aren't particularly useful during a fight because XP like tedium personified.

If your units aren't useful then you shouldn't use them to begin with.
 

Grunker

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This sounds insanely obnoxious. Sure, cool in theory, but in practice, feeling forced to use units that aren't particularly useful during a fight because XP like tedium personified.

If your units aren't useful then you shouldn't use them to begin with.

Sounds like you've never played these games before. Let me assist: oft-times, there are fights that are put in the game not to be insane challenges but to be small strains on your resources, practice fights or road blocks In these fights, often you don't have to use your entire arsenal of units, but can get by using some key abilities and units.

These fights also often make up a lot of the actual gameplay. Take HoMM, for instance. Imagine having to engage with every single unit in every single fight in order to keep them all useful continiously. To anyone who's ever played a HoMM game or any similar strategic RPGish game like that, that should sound fucking horrific.

Now maybe this is all handled in some superspecial unique way in this game, who knows. But "if your units aren't useful, don't use them", is a pretty shitty defense all the while that any decent game will have certain units be useful in certain fights, and not have every single fight be "you must use all resources at your disposal all the time." Unless the game has infinite resources, of course.
 

Darth Roxor

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It worked for Shadow of the Horned Rat and Dark Omen, and that one also had missions where certain units were more useful than others.
 

Grunker

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It worked for Shadow of the Horned Rat and Dark Omen, and that one also had missions where certain units were more useful than others.

Grunker said:
Now maybe this is all handled

I'm not saying it definetely will be tedious, but unless the mechanics support it, I forsee tedium.
 

Achilles

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Great article, thanks Darth Roxor! Can't wait for part 2, I gotta know about them popamoles :d1p:
 

ScubaV

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NO CRYPT LICE?! 0/10 WORST GAME OF THE YEAR

Another thing that I liked about the game was its army-leveling system. Units gain experience in combat, sure, but they have to get it themselves by going down and dirty. So, if you let your hero do all the fighting, you will end up with a real badass hero, but his army will be a bunch of wimps and pushovers, and while apparently this is kind of viable, an approach like that is not exactly recommended. And finally, the units don’t simply level-up with a ding! but need to be taken to a trainer, who is obviously an entrepreneurial industrialist and doesn’t work for free.

Finally! Historically there was always a tension for officers to either choose to lead from the front or remain behind the lines acting in a purely tactical capacity. Seeing this implemented is a very good sign.

This sounds insanely obnoxious. Sure, cool in theory, but in practice, feeling forced to use units that aren't particularly useful during a fight because XP like tedium personified.

Anyway, can't wait for Blackguards 2 already 10/10 GOTY will love regardless of the changes probably

This, and other descriptions like having a mobile base camp with an advisor sounds a lot like Shining Force 1 and 2, a pair of jRPGs for the Sega Genesis. Those games were a lot of fun, but yeah leveling could be tedious. In order to keep your healers up to par you had to regularly babysit them by beating down enemies to within 1 or 2 hp so your healer could land the finishing blow.
 

Sceptic

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I'm really interested in the Daedalic adventures more than anything else. TDM sounds like it has all the elements to be something altogether special. Multiple solutions is something that is sorely missing in adventure games, even the good ones, and it's always nice to see them implemented. C&C is nice but I was never a huge fan of the "pick your option A or your option B" approach; having the consequences stem from the way you actually solve the puzzles is a great way to do it. It's the world reacting to what you do, not to what you tell it you want to see happening. I love this. The consumables don't seem like a bad idea either - normally I'd be wary about implementation but from the look of it they're entirely optional and allow an "easymode" through some puzzles, with consequences attached. Kinda like bypassing the puzzles in 7th Guest and Shivers 2, except I guess here the consequence are weaved a little more organically. Looks very promising.

Fire also seems like a fun little game. We haven't had a good puzzle game (real puzzle game, not the hidden object crap) in ages. I always liked things like The Incredible Machine and Gobliiins and others, and this seems to be in a similar vein, complete with no dialogue and trial and error to figure out how things work. If it's priced accordingly I wouldn't mind the short length. The graphic style looks great.

Looking forward to the popamole article going into PoE in detail :troll:
 

tuluse

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It worked for Shadow of the Horned Rat and Dark Omen, and that one also had missions where certain units were more useful than others.

Grunker said:
Now maybe this is all handled

I'm not saying it definetely will be tedious, but unless the mechanics support it, I forsee tedium.
It sounds like how Eador works.

Although, I think you might just get XP for being on the map in a battle. The rather punishing health system also means potential XP is often not worth the cost of HP.
 

Shannow

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Any questions about why they went with fixed female protagonist for Blackguards 2?

The question was asked by someone else, and the reply was essentially "do you want to have the game spoiled?".

But I suspect it was simply more convenient for narrative reasons or something.

The protag is fixed only in sex & name, though, her stats are fully customizable at the start.
It's basically because Cassia will become part of TDE lore. So new lore where a woman named Cassia conquered the south and whatever consequences that has for Aventuria.

The BG2 sounds good by itself.
Of course I'm still tremendously butthurt by the dumbing down of the rule-system. It needed tweaks and it needed better presentation (Drakensang had no problem in showing what influenced what and it's pretty intuitive anyway so WTF) but the changes now are exactly in the wrong direction. (E.g.: In BG1 HP were derived from CON/STR. 2 points increase across either stat increased HP by 1. But since CON was only important for some spell and skill checks while STR also affected dmg, att, def, and a bunch of other stuff it was overall much more useful (for fighters) to simply buff STR and leave CON rather low. If it had been CON/CON/STR (=3 points in STR --> 1 HP; 3 points in CON --> 2 HP), it'd have been more balanced, IMO. (If the overall system in the game shows that STR is still a stat with too many advantages compared to the others you might even change it to CON/CON/courage for HP.)
Similar stuff is true for INT, CHA and even courage. Since skill checks had a minor effect (getting to the fucking steps in skills was far more important than the actual checks) and social/lore/etc skills were completely missing, the whole system was a lot less balanced that it otherwise is.
 

MurkyShadow

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It worked for Shadow of the Horned Rat and Dark Omen, and that one also had missions where certain units were more useful than others.

I have fond memories of Dark Omen. Even when replaying it after years the system did still hold up.
The degree of challenge and try & error was always more encouraging than frustrating.

Is there something comparable that I may have missed over the years?
 

Darth Roxor

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It worked for Shadow of the Horned Rat and Dark Omen, and that one also had missions where certain units were more useful than others.

I have fond memories of Dark Omen. Even when replaying it after years the system did still hold up.
The degree of challenge and try & error was always more encouraging than frustrating.

Is there something comparable that I may have missed over the years?

Kinda sorta King Arthur: The Roleplaying Wargame. It's pretty much the closest a game got to Dark Omen in the last 15 years.
 

Wizfall

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It worked for Shadow of the Horned Rat and Dark Omen, and that one also had missions where certain units were more useful than others.

I have fond memories of Dark Omen. Even when replaying it after years the system did still hold up.
The degree of challenge and try & error was always more encouraging than frustrating.

Is there something comparable that I may have missed over the years?
You can try Warhammer Mark of Chaos but it is far from being as good.
It's a mediocre game in fact but if but the gameplay is almost the same (only difference is that your units don't have commander so no comments from them and no button to press to boost them)
The problem is a total lack of atmosphere, a boring campaign, not well balanced and a very bad camera angle.
However having like Dark Omen a great deal i had a lot of fun with it...but only for a short while.
 

Shannow

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Comparing Mark of Chaos to Dark Omen... I've seen it before, but it's just so wrong.
Nobody who likes DO should expect a similar experience when/if they try Mark of Chaos. Try Shadow of the Horned Rat instead.
 

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