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Review RPG Codex Review: Serpent in the Staglands

Infinitron

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Codex Year of the Donut Serpent in the Staglands Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Pathfinder: Kingmaker Pathfinder: Wrath I'm very into cock and ball torture I helped put crap in Monomyth
Tags: Serpent in the Staglands; Whalenought Studios

Whalenought Studios' Serpent in the Staglands was an instant hit the day I posted about its Kickstarter campaign on our forums back in 2014. With its thoughtfully oldschool sensibilities and gorgeous pixel art, not to mention the developers' willingness to directly engage with our community, it quickly rose to the status of one of the Codex's "house indies", alongside worthy titles such as Underrail and Age of Decadence. For that reason, you'd think it would have been easy to find somebody to review the game when it was released in May 2015. Well, more than a year has passed since then, and the consensus on this still-unreviewed title remains unclear. Especially in the wake of Pillars of Eternity and all of its associated drama, many were eager to hold up Serpent in the Staglands as the true successor to the real-time with pause legacy. Others whispered that this alleged indie classic was not so great, and a few even lashed out at it using a particular acronym that I won't repeat here.

Clearly, only a Codex-sanctioned official review could clarify this matter once and for all. After two abortive attempts to produce such a review, including one that resulted in the mysterious disappearance of the reviewer from our forums, the esteemed Deuce Traveler volunteered to take a break from his Elder Scrolls review marathon to write one himself. It's fitting that today, just days after the success of Whalenought's second Kickstarter venture, I can finally offer you the official RPG Codex review of Serpent in the Staglands. Both the good:

This is going to sound odd, but my favorite aspect of Serpent in the Staglands is how it treats the player like an intelligent human being. You won't find a 30 minute tutorial explaining how to walk, manipulate items, or fight in this game. You will have to read the huge and detailed manual, and most likely consult it several times while you play, in order to understand its arcane user interface. I recommend ditching the in-game journal and writing down your own notes using good old pen and paper, and taking your time to read the dialogue. As stated earlier, combat can be extremely deadly and character progression is initially rather slow, so you'll have to pick your battles. There were many locations in the game that were too dangerous for my party at the beginning, so I had to temporarily abandon the idea of exploring them and find other, easier areas to develop my characters' combat proficiency before I could take them on. Money never ceases to be a concern - there always seemed to be some special item I wanted at the blacksmith's shop that kept me motivated to quest for further loot, even towards the end. It's hard for me to recall the last time I played a game that started off so challenging and didn't hold my hand, and it's hard to describe the thrill I felt when I finally earned enough money to buy my main character a better set of equipment, or when he reached his third level. Character progression is well-paced - slow enough to make you feel that you earned it, fast enough to prevent frustration.​

And the bad:

Serpent in the Staglands' combat is real-time with pause, but it's pretty tactically simplistic. Although I enjoyed trying out new spells and skills, I ultimately found it to be a boring experience. Because combat is so fatal and I didn't want to experience the game's ridiculously long loading times (about 53 seconds on average) every time I lost a character, I ended up taking advantage of its poor enemy AI. My main tactic was to position one of my melee characters just at the edge of an enemy's field of vision to get him to attack, then retreat back to the rest of the party, overwhelming the suicidal enemy with ranged attacks and superior numbers. Wash, rinse, and repeat to get through an entire dungeon or wilderness area. Enemy encounters aren't very diverse, either. Even in the game's final stages, my party was still mostly fighting heavily armored melee opponents, with very few ranged and magic-using enemies to be found. Enemies often drop loot that does not match what you'd expect them to have. Sometimes I fought bandits and found a weapon and shield but no armor, even though they seemed to be be wearing leather. But then again, with the game's low level of graphical detail, maybe they were wearing just brown clothes?​

Read the full article: RPG Codex Review: Serpent in the Staglands
 
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Excidium II

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Wow this one took a while.

Game is unplayable to me because of the combat, maybe if they remake on the new ruleset someday I'll try again.
 
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Ludo Lense

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Finally that one guy who kept asking for it can rest in peace.

Also good review Deuce Traveler.
 
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Excidium II

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Just typical RTWP clusterfuck with added terrible feedback for actions. people stand beside each other making clanging noises when they just don't rust past one another, suddenly someone is dying so you start to kite.
 
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IncendiaryDevice

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So it was playable but not a system that you personally enjoyed... It doesn't hide the fact that it's RTwP so what were you expecting? As for 'clusterfuck'... maybe git gud etc?
 
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Excidium II

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So it was playable but not a system that you personally enjoyed... It doesn't hide the fact that it's RTwP so what were you expecting?
The problem is not necessarily that it's RTWP. IE games, DAO and PoE are RTWP too, and way better than this. The combat in SitS just exarcebates the babysitting nature of RTWP.
 
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IncendiaryDevice

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Feedback is a different kettle of fish to the playability of combat and while you might have a point to a certain extent with regards to feedback the game does provide some feedback, more than a lot games care to do. I kite all the time in the games you mentioned and I don't care if you're just bullshitting or in some way honest, I'm still not seeing where the "unplayable" comes from, especially for someone who's claiming to be experienced with RTwP. All sounds incredibly disingenuous to me. Whatever, feel free to troll, I'll leave you be if you like.
 
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Excidium II

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It's unplayable because of the lack of feedback. Combat is simply not fun when it feels like you won more by RNG than by the effectiveness of your orders, and there's a whole damn lot of combat.

And I know you're a newfag so I'll let it slide, but I never "troll". And talking shit about something is not trolling.
 
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IncendiaryDevice

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There is enough feedback to know what's going on. You don't say what additional feedback you'd have preferred.

Combat is entirely won by the result of your orders, how else would you win a battle? By standing still? All RPGs have random, the RNG in the game is no different to using dice. It even has less RNG than all the games you mentioned because skills are added on top of basic attack rolls, so you get two rolls of the dice for one action in most cases.

There's not a "whole damn lot of combat", it's actually very light on combat in comparison to the other games you mentioned, but it does have "a whole lot of comabt", it's a fucking RPG you dimwit.
 
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not to mention the developers' willingness to directly engage with our community

I remember the day when Hannah and Joe first posted here. They were surprised at our reactions to their kickstarter saying that nobody was so critical of it as us. We were surprised seeing their surprise, because we haven't be so positive about any game for months.
:troll:
 
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Excidium II

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There is enough feedback to know what's going on. You don't say what additional feedback you'd have preferred.

Combat is entirely won by the result of your orders, how else would you win a battle? By standing still? All RPGs have random, the RNG in the game is no different to using dice. It even has less RNG than all the games you mentioned because skills are added on top of basic attack rolls, so you get two rolls of the dice for one action in most cases.

There's not a "whole damn lot of combat", it's actually very light on combat in comparison to the other games you mentioned, but it does have "a whole lot of comabt", it's a fucking RPG you dimwit.
'k

Congrats on having low tolerance for bad gameplay and thanks for supporting development of Copper Dreams.
 

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