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Community - posted by DarkUnderlord on Fri 19 October 2018, 06:52:07

Tags: Infamous Quests; Order of the Thorne: The King's Challenge; Quest for Infamy; Steven Alexander

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Who's Steve I hear you ask. And it's a good question. Here's the dramatic tale:
On New Year's Eve in 2002 Steve was rushed to hospital. He'd been feeling unwell for a while but that evening he collapsed and after some tests, the doctors told him that his kidneys had failed and he needed a transplant. In November 2003, after eleven months of dialysis, Steve received his transplant. His father had donated one of his kidneys. Everything seemed fine.
Long story short, things didn't work out and now Steve needs to harvest the organs of another. This time a woman his wife.

But who is Steve?

Steve is known as Blackthorne here on the Codex and is a Creator/Designer at Infamous Quests, where he was as the Writer/Director/Producer of Quest for Infamy and Order of the Thorne.

At least that's what's in his signature.

We're doing our own fundraiser for Steve to help cover the costs. As a special incentive, we are giving everyone who donates to this campaign extra potato and a special forum badge because who doesn't love digital items that don't actually cost us anything to deliver?

As an extra special bonus, Steve has also promised that if it doesn't work out, we'll get to keep the kidney!

We'll be completing our fundraiser in the next couple of weeks (1 Nov), so if you haven't donated yet, go ahead and do so before you miss out on sweet kidney action.

There are 45 comments on Quest for Kidney: A point-and-click fundraiser where you need to save Steve The Developer

Sun 21 October 2018

Codex Review - posted by Infinitron on Sun 21 October 2018, 02:31:18

Tags: Golden Era Games; Grimoire: Heralds of the Winged Exemplar

Some of you were unhappy with our original review of Cleve Blakemore's Grimoire: Heralds of the Winged Exemplar. You said the reviewer just didn't get it. That balance doesn't matter in a game like Grimoire. Clearly those criticisms were entirely correct! To rectify our errors, I'm happy to present the new definitive Codex review, courtesy of the esteemed Dorateen. It's full of nuggets of truth such as these:

So then, after spending a full weekend to build a party of eight created characters, the player is now ready to begin Grimoire. Upon entry onto a vibrant handcrafted 2D map presented in first-person perspective, there will be read narration written to provoke the imagination, painting the tone and atmosphere of the adventure. One of the areas where this role-playing game excels, such word imagery from descriptions to NPC dialogues exudes charm and whimsy, detailed with flourishing prose. After being treated to the game author’s inimitable style of text, the player will take a step or two and be promptly confronted by a one-eyed flower with violent intentions.

[...] I think it would be difficult to gracefully summarize the game’s backstory, and going into great detail would not do justice to the wonder of an emergent narrative. I will mention only that early on, the name of one of the chief antagonists is presented to the party like a fearful whisper and they will encounter the ripple effects of his forces and agenda throughout their adventures. It builds up with sublime pacing until at last meeting this character produces a dramatic interaction. The way events play out can vary, which is another attribute of the wild nature how Grimoire unfolds.

[...] The adventuring landscape of Grimoire is vast, and a large swath of time will be spent in the hunting of cuneiform tablets that are pieces necessary to the central quest. Often these are only found locked away in deep dungeons, and claimed by conquering some tyrannical guardian. As I looked back at the culmination of our party’s progress in the game, I realized it was not just about traveling from one dungeon to the other, but rather the fashion in which these locations are rooted in Hyperborea and attached to surrounding environments, which created a sense of separate modular adventures. Taken together, these episodes form a much broader campaign, with individual tales like streams that feed a river’s current pressing toward an unforgettable crescendo. More than any other role-playing game in a long time, Grimoire kept me in suspense all the way up to its multiple endings.

For what it’s worth, the story of the Heralds of the Winged Exemplar is a heroic romance, filled with tragedy and flawed characters as well as a realistic desire to set things right again. To return the world to what it once was. The party of characters thus answer the call to do the deed at hand, whatever the cost.

While the writing in the game is humorous and can at times be as fourth wall breaking as the Might & Magic series, nevertheless it touches upon serious subjects such as war, the nature of totalitarian state, and marketing media corruption. One of the lasting themes of the narrative is the transcendent power of music.

Computer role-playing games of this style and magnitude are not being produced in our present age. Not like Wizardry 6, not like Wizardry 7, or the classic party and turned-based dungeon crawlers of yesteryear. But the independent developer of Grimoire took it upon himself to craft such a title. For good or bad, like it or not, Grimoire: Heralds of the Winged Exemplar stands as a once in a generation contribution to the hobby.​

Now to be fair, the review does also include a few careful criticisms:

On each map the player will face a variety of creatures. However, they appear usually packaged in the same configurations. For example, in the city of Waterport, among the enemies thrown at you are Highwaymen, Mutineers, Naga scavangers, and Vanguard marines. But they will always be presented in their respective groups and with little difference in numbers. If the encounter table could have mixed up these combinations, such as facing scavengers and highwaymen together, there would be more of an element of unpredictability. Even better, the game could have pulled from the wider palette of monsters available. In Castle Skulheim, among the undead, confronting wraiths that are encountered from other maps should not be out of place. Another preference in combat is to see a greater concentration of enemy forces. I recall in Wizardry 7, nuking 29 floaters or using death wish on 25 ratkin in a battle. The fights in Grimoire never approach those kinds of numbers. Then again, with the speed at which combat situations tend to be resolved, perhaps it is the reason fewer is better.

Make no mistake, the gameplay in Heralds of the Winged Exemplar is methodical and ponderous to an extent. Combat can be sped up by holding down the Enter key, but to me this ruined the enjoyment of watching a battle play out, and it might be more likely to cause the game to freeze. Rather, a brisker passing of combat feedback messages would serve well, especially after special effects, to avoid consideration to "fast forward" the turns of a cluster of six dark faeries, which takes a long time.

I don't mind automapping in general, but it is always more appreciated if tied to a cartography skill, the way it was in Crusaders of the Dark Savant. That game also featured a journey map kit the player needed to obtain to even bring up the automap. With all of Grimoire's itemization, something similar would be a nice addition. I also prefer individual character inventories instead of the pooled bar to access items, so this system definitely has room for improvement.

Accumulation of gold is never going to be an issue because the amount awarded to the party after an encounter is equivalent to one third of the experience points gained. So a battle that is worth 900 XP, will add 300 gold to the party. When you are fighting a lot, and at higher levels, this turns into a mountain of coin pretty fast. There are plenty of opportunities to spend money, including bribery, but it just seems there is never any pressure put on the party’s financial resources. Earlier I mentioned NPCs who might try to extort the characters. We could have easily managed to pay the amount demanded, but decided to beat the hell out of them as a matter of principle.

Finally, the restrictions on class changing are understandable, but more freedom in that area is something enjoyable to me. The ability to dip into one profession, and then switch back again. I wish our party's Thief could have been switched into a Ranger to pick up the lethal blow skill, but thieves are not allowed to become rangers. And some of the most elite professions must take a lot of dedication and save/reloading for those six bonus points when leveling, to have any hope of reaching the attribute threshold.
But overall, it's both a thorough introduction and a solemn elegy to the glory that is Grimoire. So hopefully Cleve will stop sending us threatening emails now.

Read the full article: RPG Codex Review: Grimoire - The Real Official Review

There are 54 comments on RPG Codex Review: Grimoire - The Real Official Review

Sat 20 October 2018

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Sat 20 October 2018, 01:30:58

Tags: Ceres Games; Realms Beyond: Ashes of the Fallen

The Realms Beyond Kickstarter campaign has been running for three days, and has now raised over €40,000 from more than 1000 backers, which isn't bad for a crowdfunding campaign that's gotten zero mainstream media attention. Today Ceres have published their first major Kickstarter update. It's about the game's journaling system, which seeks to find a compromise between the modern and the oldschool. While Realms Beyond will create an entry in your journal for every quest you receive, those entries won't be automatically updated to tell you where to go on each step of the way. Any relevant information you might learn from an NPC is recorded separately, sorted by NPC for easy retrieval. The update explains this by means of an example. Here's an excerpt:

An adventurer should always keep his thoughts organized. During his journeys, he will come across many interesting characters who might offer him a job, or just have a skill that might come in useful one day. He might spot a locked door he can’t get open, but wants to remember the place to check it out later. That’s where his journal and his map come into play.

Realms Beyond offers you a detailed journal and detailed minimaps for each location, so you can easily keep track of everything you have encountered on your travels. The journal will automatically record summaries of dialogues and list all the different quests you’ve learned about. To keep things interesting, the quest entries will not be updated automatically at every step of the way. While the clues themselves will be recorded, you have to connect them to the quest yourself!

As an example, let’s look at the simple quest of finding a buried treasure. A citizen of Vedwyd has found an old diary and treasure map when he cleaned out his basement. They belonged to his great-grandfather, a pirate who, when he was older, settled down to live an honest life on behest of his worried wife. But before he settled down, he buried some of his treasure at a location only he knew: a chest containing jewelry that could easily have been identified as loot from a recently plundered merchant ship.

The diary contains a short description of the location, and the treasure map is a crude drawing of what it looked like. "Berried jewls at renner grov", says the diary. "Start at nearby cave entrans. East 6 steps. North 4 steps. Luk at pointy rok bitween 2 trees. Pik it up an dig belo." Clear enough instructions to find the treasure, one might think. But the man doesn’t know what his great-grandfather meant by Renner Grove. There is no grove with such a name nearby. Maybe there had been, once – his great-grandfather had lived long before the Cataclysm, and in the turbulent times that followed, the name may simply have been forgotten. There is a clue, though: there was a cave entrance in the grove’s immediate vicinity.

The journal will update with the basic information you’ve learned about the quest.

With this information in your tow, you can talk to other characters in town and ask them whether they know anything about a certain Renner Grove, or if they know any nearby groves that have a cave in their vicinity. And indeed, Amiella, the local hunter, knows about two groves in the nearby wilderness, both of them close to cave entrances. Both entrances connect to the same system of caverns, and they’re not far away from each other. She will mark both of them on your world map. The journal will automatically record this new piece of information you have learned, neatly sorted into the entries of interesting things you’ve learned from Amiella.

Now, with a proper clue, you can set out to look for the buried treasure. If you follow the instructions from the old diary – neatly recorded in your own journal – you can indeed find a pointy rock at one of the two groves. The old treasure map Mathis has given you can also help you determine which of the two locations is the right one.

Now that you found the rock underneath which the treasure is buried, you just have to pick it up and dig beneath it… oh, snap, you didn’t bring a shovel! You’ll have to head back to town and buy one. But wait! Since you found the spot, you should mark it on your map so you can find it more easily next time.
The update also includes a brief description of the game's environmental interaction possibilities:

Talking about the treasure hunt – as you may have noticed, it involves picking up a rock and digging beneath it. Many items in the game, and even some pieces of the environment (wall niches, inscriptions, a broken wall that looks climbable…) can be selected and interacted with. Every object can be scripted to be interactable and behave in different ways when interacted with.

Interactable elements will be outlined when you hover your mouse over them. But beware: not every interactable item is beneficial. Some might be devious traps: a magical trigger that unleashes a storm of fire when touched, a lever that locks the only exit behind you, a valuable artifact that makes arrows shoot out of the wall when you pick it up. But they can also open new ways: a heap of boulders that can be cleared by a character of high strength, a magical barrier that dissipates when touched by an enchanted weapon, a tree that can be hacked down to create a makeshift bridge over a narrow ravine.

The many pretty objects that clutter our world are not mere decoration, they are fully interactable and often serve a gameplay purpose. Always be observant, and you will find many things to play around with in Realms Beyond. And since every object you can interact with is highlighted when your mouse passes over it, it means that there’s no annoying pixel hunting. You will see at a glance whether you can do something with an object or not.

This allows us to add elaborate puzzles to the game, as well as alternate quest solutions and plain fun environmental interactions. A statue that requires an item to be placed in its opened hands in order to unlock a secret door. A merchant’s cart that can be toppled over to create a distraction. Or a magic stone that hops away whenever you try to touch it.

The interactable objects in our environments follow the three golden rules of our game design: interactivity, reactivity, and player choice.
Cool stuff. The full update has images and more details about the minimap, so be sure to check it out. Coming up next - a lore update.

There are 14 comments on Realms Beyond Kickstarter Update #2: Journal and Minimap, Environmental Interaction

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Wed 17 October 2018

Game News - posted by Zed on Wed 17 October 2018, 18:57:15

Tags: Aeon of Sands; Two Bits Kid

The post-apoc indie RPG Aeon of Sands from Two Bits Kid is being released on December 4th according to a new trailer:

I don't think we've really covered the game before, at least not on the front page. It seems to be some sort of mix between Dungeon Master, with real-time clickity-click combat, puzzles, automapping action and CYOA sequences. For more info, check out its website.

There are 13 comments on Aeon of Sands Release Date Announcement Trailer

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Game News - posted by Infinitron on Wed 17 October 2018, 02:04:08

Tags: Ceres Games; Realms Beyond: Ashes of the Fallen

It's mid-October, and the highly anticipated Realms Beyond Kickstarter campaign is finally here (now with an obligatory subtitle). The guys at Ceres have put together an amazingly thorough pitch. The seven and a half minute video showcases the game's four main aspects - the OGL-based character system, the turn-based tactical combat, exploration and dialogue in an interactive living world, and the ambitious world map travel layer. It's pure grognard fan service, and it's all there, in-engine, already working. Just watch:


Realms Beyond: Ashes of the Fallen is a fantasy computer role-playing game with turn-based combat and a party system that allows you to control up to six characters at any one time. Whether you yearn for an open world to explore at your own pace, tactical combat that allows you to plan your moves carefully, or want to lose yourself in the rich fabric of our world, trying to survive and make your mark, Realms Beyond offers endless choices, lands to travel, monster-infested dungeons and a host of storylines to follow.

Realms Beyond: Ashes of the Fallen is inspired by the classic RPGs of the 80s and 90s, taking the best elements of the beloved old classics and reforging them into something new in a powerful modern engine. In Realms Beyond, you will find the tactical turn-based combat of the Gold Box Games, Temple of Elemental Evil and Dark Sun, the world exploration and camp management of Realms of Arkania, the interactivity and living world of Ultima, the choice-driven quests and reactivity of Fallout and Arcanum, and the rich NPC interaction of Baldur’s Gate and Planescape Torment, along with fresh new features that haven’t been seen before in the genre.

Realms Beyond is an RPG true to its roots, knowing that in order to reach the skies, it must stand on the shoulders of giants. But it is more than just a simple throwback to the old days: it's a new take on classic concepts of the genre, taking the best ideas of the past and adding its own fresh concepts to create a unique game with its very own atmosphere and personality.

Main Features
  • A complex turn-based combat system featuring hundreds of spells, feats and actions, based on the rules described in the (3.5e) Revised System Reference Document (SRD) covered by the Open Game License v1.0a (OGL) by Wizards of the Coast, Inc.
  • Custom-built, isometric graphics engine that combines zoomable 2D and 3D technology to bring never-before-seen levels of detail to life in massive, hand-crafted levels
  • A bustling open world spanning entire continents, replete with believable NPCs, complex cultures, factions, societies and a fascinating centuries-long history
  • Create a party of up to six characters where you can choose from 7 different races and 8 different classes and completely customize their appearance, equipment, feats, and skills
  • More than one hundred spells, each with unique, stunning visual effects
  • Over a thousand individual items to use and interact with
  • An epic background story, massive quests, uncounted missions, hordes of monsters and a world that is steeped in lore and mystery
  • Create your own adventures, campaigns or even entire worlds using the powerful RPG Engine of Realms Beyond
I'm not sure anyone really believes Ceres can actually do all of this on a €100,000 budget, but after watching that video, who doesn't want to let them try? This was the promise of Chaos Chronicles, gentlemen - that tantalizing vision of the ultimate oldschool RPG. A copy of Realms Beyond can be yours for €20, €35 for Early Access, €55 for the combat beta. The game is due out in March 2020 if the campaign succeeds. Now go forth and pledge.

There are 95 comments on Realms Beyond: Ashes of the Fallen is now on Kickstarter

Tue 16 October 2018

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Tue 16 October 2018, 23:42:30

Tags: Kingdom Come: Deliverance; Kingdom Come: Deliverance - The Amorous Adventures of Bold Sir Hans Capon; Warhorse Studios

The next release on Warhorse's Kingdom Come: Deliverance DLC roadmap from May is The Amorous Adventures of Bold Sir Hans Capon. It's a story-driven expansion where Henry gets to help his friend/rival, the young nobleman Hans Capon, woo a butcher's daughter. From there things apparently get a little crazy. It looks like this might have taken Warhorse longer than expected to finish, but it certainly sounds more interesting than a stronghold DLC. Here's the trailer they released back in August, plus a bonus interview/playthrough with Hans Capon's voice actor.

You can grab Amorous Adventures on Steam for $10. Alongside it comes Patch 1.7 and the free Tournament content update from the DLC roadmap. You can read about that here.

There are 5 comments on Kingdom Come: Deliverance - Amorous Adventures DLC Released

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Tue 16 October 2018, 22:08:41

Tags: Gato Salvaje; Mike Laidlaw; The Waylanders

When Gato Salvaje's Dragon Age: Origins-inspired historical time travel RPG The Waylanders was revealed back in August, we knew there were plans to Kickstart a board game spinoff. The campaign was launched last month and concluded successfully a week and a half ago. It looks like developers were so pleased with that outcome that they decided to go right ahead and Kickstart the game itself too. They've put together a nice little pitch, which among other things offers a closer look at the formation mechanic mentioned in August's PC Gamer article. Mike Laidlaw is still onboard, and another celebrity developer's involvement is being teased as well. If you look at the list of games at the bottom of the campaign page, you might be able to guess who that is.

Gato Salvaje are looking to raising $150,000 for The Waylanders, though it sounds the game will get made no matter what. You can get yourself a "Super Early Bird" copy for $20, with beta access available at $50. They're targeting June 2020 for release.

There are 26 comments on Historical fantasy time travel RPG The Waylanders is now on Kickstarter

Sat 13 October 2018

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Sat 13 October 2018, 01:51:13

Tags: OtherSide Entertainment; Sam Luangkhot; Underworld Ascendant

After several delays, OtherSide Entertainment have finally released the beta build of Underworld Ascendant to eligible backers. This is the last pre-release build before the game comes out next month. You can read more about it here. Alongside the beta there's a new development update, which is particularly informative this month. Most games wouldn't be overhauling their narrative design months before release, but Ascendant isn't like most games.

Over the last several months, our narrative team (writer/director Joe Fielder and writer Crispin Boyer) have been working with OtherSide Austin studio head Warren Spector to further refine and finalize Underworld Ascendant’s story.

For example:
  • Several new roles have been added, as we’ve expanded the population of characters within the Saurian town of Marcaul to include mediators to the Factions and more.
  • The player’s nemesis Typhon is no longer a slumbering primordial nightmare, but is now an active taunting threat, full of menace and… wow, yeah, he’s actually really damn scary.
  • The game now includes VO support for Memora, which are captured memories from major characters detailing important events and secrets of The Stygian Abyss. These are found as quest items in main quests and also hidden in dark and often difficult to access areas that only the clever and capable can find.
  • Final recordings took place several weeks ago! Those have since been processed, implemented within the game, and delivered to our Localization team for translation.
  • We are currently bearing down on locking down all in-game text, including bits of series lore and lizardman graffiti hidden throughout the lower levels of The Stygian Abyss.
The update also has details about new enemy variants that OtherSide created to beef up the roster.

We’ve mentioned in previous updates that we’ve been expanding the variety of enemies and potential allies you can encounter in the Abyss, and who better to start with than our favorite Skeletons?

Our Tier 1 and Tier 2 Skeletons can now equip a couple of different weapons, which should give you pause when assessing any encounter with them. Make sure you’re aware of their range and the risks of engagement, especially if a Skeleton seems to look slightly different…

Additionally, notice how the armor and design of an enemy may give you a hint about how they’ll interact with a stranger. Take, for example, the Chthonians…

As we near Beta, we’ve been making substantial updates to the game from its Alpha-state to really breathe life into it. With these new enemy variations, new level passes, systems improvement and revisions based on Backer Alpha and external playtest feedback, we continue to draw closer to our vision of The Stygian Abyss.
Clearly, the developers are trying to do as much as they can with very little. It's starting to sink in with the posters on the official forums that Ascendant probably won't magically transform into a full-featured RPG by November. It doesn't help that the beta is apparently rather janky. I don't think this is going to end well...

There are 6 comments on Underworld Ascendant Update #50: Beta Released, New Narrative

Fri 12 October 2018

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Fri 12 October 2018, 23:27:29

Tags: Colony Ship; Iron Tower Studio; Vince D. Weller

We've gotten a look at Colony Ship's inventory and character screens in previous development updates, but not at its main screen interface. That's the topic of this month's update. It's a slicker take on The Age of Decadence's interface, with pop-up icons for special attacks and additional slots for grenades and other items.

We’re implementing the interface right now so let me show what we have and get some feedback. Let’s start with the standard features:
  • Two weapon slots showing equipped weapons and selected attack’s stats (damage, AP, ammo)
  • An optional textbox giving you detailed blow-by-blow info during combat
  • A combat queue we used in Dungeon Rats to show who gets to act when
  • 4 belt bags so you can throw grenades or use items in combat without moving them to the weapon slots
The combat interface is familiar, but instead of selecting attacks via a drop-down list, which was a bit messy and not very intuitive, you’ll use icons that appear when you click on a weapon slot.

The icons are grouped in 3 different categories:
  • Basic attacks (fast, regular, power for melee; snap shot and regular shot for ranged; there are no power attacks with guns)
  • Aimed attacks (self-explanatory; you get an extra bullseye shot with ranged)
  • Special attacks (double shot, short burst, long burst, double strike, flurry (3 strikes), and swing (hits 3 tiles).
Your feedback here would be much appreciated.
The update also gives us our first look at Colony Ship's dialogue interface, which is thoroughly modernized. For starters, it's a window rather than full screen, and yes, those are skill check thresholds you're looking at.

^ we don't have Mercy's portrait yet so we're using a placeholder portrait. As for the design:
  • The dialogue window won’t take the entire screen, as in AoD since it added nothing but extra work (the camera had to be manually positioned)
  • The checks will now display the skill or stat level required to avoid playing a guessing game; if there is no value listed (see the first response), the stat acts as a modifier (strengthening or weakening the reaction) not a check. Strength can be used as a modifier too if you’re trying to intimidate, for example, so it’s not Charisma only.
  • Since we’ve decided to show the check values, might as well show your skill levels so that you don’t have to rely on memory alone. Green means your skill level is equal to or higher than the check value. Yellow means it’s lower but you can still make an attempt. Red means no go (what used to be hidden options in AoD). Before you start freaking out, remember that the check system was changed and it’s no longer a binary ‘succeed or fail’ setup, so green lines won’t always be the best and yellow lines won’t always lead to failure and death, so we aren’t highlighting the best and worst options for you here.
  • The tags can be turned on and off in the options, so if you don’t like them, turn them off.
I guess it's sort of like Fallout meets Pillars of Eternity, which is fine by me. Check out the full update for images of some (but not all) of the main screen interface elements. I guess it's not completely done yet.

There are 59 comments on Colony Ship Update #31: The Interface

Codex Review - posted by Infinitron on Fri 12 October 2018, 00:10:28

Tags: InXile Entertainment; The Bard's Tale IV: Barrows Deep

As you probably know, The Bard's Tale IV had an absolutely disastrous launch. It's safe to say that the game is a flop. Ambushed right out of the gate by performance issues on one side and angry grognards on the other, it never even had a chance. The sad thing is that most of the people who actually bothered to play it past the first few hours seem to have found it fun. Not exactly good, mind you, but fun. Esteemed Codex contributor felipepepe, who is a frequent connoisseur of the unusual, found the game to be so interesting in its idiosyncrasy that he felt compelled to write a review. His conclusion? The Bard's Tale IV could have been a good-for-what-it-is casual gem, if only it wasn't so bloated with filler content. I quote:

Bard's Tale IV only has about 6 enemy archetypes: Humanoids, Goblins, skeletons, ogres, liches and those weird one-eyed things. Of course, you have several classes of humanoids, goblins and undead, some with bows, others with shields, etc. And the ogres are reskinned to be demons or even a dwarven golem.

They also look very good (except the human faces) and have very elaborate animations, kneeling down when poisoned, struggling when teleported and so on. Of course more variety is always good, but this would be a decent bestiary for a short game.

But Bard's Tale IV doesn't want to be short. And it has no qualms about making you fight 20 groups of cultists, berserks or undead in a row if that means making the game longer.

This isn't me bitching about enemies looking the same. The problem here is that they fight the same. And so do you!

The enemies also don't do anything to demand a change of tactics either, as they always fight the same way. The underlying system is good, but it's underused and fails to offer diverse challenges. Once you learn to fight berserkers that counter your attacks, every single battle against them plays the same. See a wizard? He'll just summon goblins in the first turn and then keep using Mangar's Mind Jab. The weird one-eyed thing? It will just charge its beam attack every. single. time.

There are some very unique encounters, like a hidden stone golem that has massive armor, a plant boss that regenerates every turn, or several waves of reviving skeletons, and these will make you stop to think, maybe even retry with different skills. They show the potential the system holds, and it is indeed a good system. But I'm talking about maybe eight fights in my 30 hours playing. Once again, the problem is not the system per se, it's the "quantity over quality" mindset that's operating it.

Sadly, this also affects the dungeons and puzzles.

In a sense, the dungeons of Bard's Tale IV are closer to Legend of Grimrock than Bard's Tale I-III. Enemies are visible on the screen, they don't respawn (except for the end-game [fuck whoever approved that]) and every area is filled with puzzles and secrets.

Sadly, level design-wise, they are much closer to Skyrim's dungeons. That's because they are all mostly linear, moving you from set piece to set piece. The only true maze is a single underground area based on Skara Brae from Bard's Tale I. Other than that, all dungeons force you through a fixed path, offering at best a large area with three inter-connected puzzles, that must all be completed to advance.

Yet, I had fun with some of the dungeons. The best ones, such as Mangar's Tower, set a nice pacing between unique puzzles, fight a few harder battles and uncovering some hidden secret. That dungeon even knows how to use empty spaces, such as a long and ominous walk towards a dark altar, walking across a gorgeous scenery while eerie music plays.

I understand that this has nothing to do with what Bard's Tale I-III did but, again, I'm judging it for its actual content, not its Kickstarter promises. This is a casual, mass market game, something much closer to an RPG version of Portal or The Witness.

Now, personally, I think that the best puzzles in RPGs are the ones that make use of the lore, NPCs and/or environment. NPCs in this game are terrible and just stand in place giving quests, but Bard's Tale IV has some nice puzzles based on searching your surroundings or understanding a riddle hidden in a story. They are easily the best puzzles in the game.

In fact, Bard's Tale IV made me do something that few RPGs in the past 20 years did: take notes.

One puzzle, for example, has you inside a small garrison, reading notes from the soldiers and officers about what kind of beverages they are allowed to drink, and then using that information to unlock a secret passage by the storage room. None of these puzzles are hard (save for two very obscure ones based on crows), but they work well with the first-person view, atmospheric ambiance and shiny graphics to immerse you in this world.

Sadly, that kind of puzzle is vastly outnumbered by a far less exciting type: purely mechanical puzzles, like pushing blocks, gear puzzles, pipe puzzles and the "fairy puzzles", which are about using signposts to guide a fairy. These puzzles are completely disconnected from the world. You reach them, solve them in a vacuum, and then move on.​

Read the full article: RPG Codex Review: The Bard's Tale IV

There are 192 comments on RPG Codex Review: The Bard's Tale IV

Wed 10 October 2018

Company News - posted by Infinitron on Wed 10 October 2018, 00:14:36

Tags: Microsoft; Obsidian Entertainment; Private Division

The rumor that Obsidian was seeking to be acquired by Microsoft has been floating around since August, when it was shared by a plugged-in user named Klobrille on the ResetEra forums. It was tempting to dismiss at first. Surely there was no way Microsoft were interested in a studio whose bankruptcy they had nearly caused back in 2012 with the cancellation of Stormlands. At best it was just another one of Feargus' zany schemes, doomed to go nowhere. Lately however it has seemed like things are happening at Obsidian. In recent weeks, we've learned of the departure of two long-time employees, Rich Taylor and Anthony Davis. Klobrille showed up on ResetEra again last week to announce that negotiations were ongoing and the odds of a deal had increased. Finally, today the story was picked up Kotaku's Jason Schreier, who reports that it's all but a sure thing. I quote:

Microsoft is finalizing a deal to acquire the independent development studio Obsidian Entertainment, according to three people briefed on the negotiations. We don’t know if ink is on paper yet, and plenty of major acquisition deals have fallen apart in the final hours, but those close to the companies believe it is all but done.

One person with knowledge of the deal told Kotaku they’d heard it was “90%” finished. Said a second person: “It’s a matter of when, not if.”

Obsidian, best known for its work on critically acclaimed role-playing games like Knights of the Old Republic II (2004) and Fallout: New Vegas(2010), has been independent since it was founded in 2003. The Irvine, California-based studio has long been beloved by RPG fans, but has often faced financial strains, nearly going out of business in 2012 before it signed a deal for an online tank game and launched a Kickstarter for the isometric throwback that would become Pillars of Eternity.

One compelling argument for the sale is that being owned by a company with deep pockets will offer Obsidian stability and resources the likes of which it has never had before.

“We do not comment on rumors or speculation,” said a Microsoft spokesperson.

“Unfortunately, we don’t comment on rumors or speculation other than to say that the Rumors album by Fleetwood Mac still holds up,” said an Obsidian spokesperson.

In late 2017, Obsidian announced that it was developing a new RPG that would be published by Private Division, a label of 2K Games designed to fund mid-sized games. The companies did not say anything about which consoles the RPG will be available on, and it’s not clear how this sale will affect that game. One option is for Microsoft to buy out the contract; another is for Microsoft to simply inherit it, allowing Obsidian to tie up its loose ends as part of the acquisition.

“While it is our policy not to comment on rumors or speculation, we look forward to publishing the upcoming RPG from Obsidian Entertainment, and remain confident in the team there to deliver an outstanding game,” said a representative for Private Division.

This would be a huge move for the company behind Xbox, which has been on a shopping spree this year, snapping up four game studios including Playground (Forza Horizon) and Ninja Theory (Hellblade). Its most recent notable game studio purchase before that was Mojang, the maker of Minecraft. Microsoft has kept Minecraft multiplatform, even enabling cross-play between Switch and Xbox One players, but console makers usually buy studios with the intent for those studios to make games for their consoles, not the competition. Microsoft’s biggest weakness this generation has been its stable of first-party developers, and with Obsidian, the company now has an RPG-focused studio that can help it compete against the PlayStation’s strong lineup.

A person familiar with goings-on at Microsoft said the company has been looking to bolster its PC development, which makes the PC-focused Obsidian a perfect fit.

Obsidian and Microsoft have a checkered history. Before the release of the Xbox One, Obsidian was working on an Xbox-exclusive role-playing game, published by Microsoft, called Stormlands. Tense disagreements between the two companies led Microsoft to cancel the game in 2012, and to some involved it was hard to imagine the pair working together again. The Xbox department is under different leadership now, however, with Phil Spencer taking the top role in early 2014. And the move appears to make sense for both parties.
So, is this the end of Obsidian as we know it? I think the crucial question is, for what purpose is Microsoft acquiring Obsidian? Will they become another console-centric blockbuster action-RPG developer, or will they be allowed to assume a more niche role within Microsoft, similar to the position of Firaxis Games within Take-Two Interactive? Speaking of Take-Two, one thing I'd be skeptical of is the idea that this acquisition will harm the development of Tim Cain and Leonard Boyarsky's game. Getting the original creators of Fallout on their payroll must be a big draw for Microsoft, so they wouldn't want to do anything to drive them out. The statement in Kotaku's article makes it sound like Take-Two are going to be publishing the game no matter what happens. We should probably hope that they do, since it reduces the odds that it'll be a Windows 10 Store exclusive or something awful like that. That leaves us with one final question, though - what's going to happen to Josh Sawyer?

There are 272 comments on Obsidian reportedly about to be acquired by Microsoft

Tue 9 October 2018

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Tue 9 October 2018, 00:57:10

Tags: Ctrl Alt Ninja; Druidstone: The Secret of the Menhir Forest

Ctrl Alt Ninja have published a brief new development update to announce that Druidstone has reached its alpha milestone. That means the game is playable from start to finish with all major features implemented. It's still a long way towards beta and release, but in the meantime we have a new screenshot to admire.


We are glad to announce that Druidstone has just reached alpha milestone! Alpha in our terminology means that the game can now be played from the beginning to the end and all major features have been implemented. Sure, there are some rough corners and the fat and variety is still missing (more equipment, abilities and the like) but the main campaign is now there. It’s always a special moment to play through a game in development for the first time, and our very own Juho has been fully occupied with that tasks for the past days. Luckily, he encountered only three crashes (which have been fixed already) and a game breaker which caused all equipped items to get lost in the middle of the campaign (oops!).

Next week we are going to regroup, go through the feedback gathered during the alpha test and form a battle plan how to get Druidstone to beta. We suspect the TODO-list is going to be rather hefty, but this is normal and nothing to worry about.

To celebrate the milestone, below is a new screenshot from the alpha build, featuring Niederdorf Manor, an important location with a darker mood. The level is still missing beta level polish, but it already brings a nice variety to the wilderness and dungeon locations, don’t you think?
Additional screenshots have been posted on the official Druidstone Twitter account over the past few weeks. You could already tell this from the screenshot in the summer update earlier this year, but it's increasingly clear that the game will feature Blackguards-style set piece combat scenarios with unique objectives. Hopefully it won't be long before we get to see it in motion. Maybe in the next Christmas update?

There are 11 comments on Druidstone has reached alpha

Mon 8 October 2018

Development Info - posted by Infinitron on Mon 8 October 2018, 01:33:30

Tags: Adam Brennecke; Carrie Patel; Chris Parker; Dan Spitzley; Feargus Urquhart; Josh Sawyer; Justin Britch; Kazunori Aruga; Obsidian Entertainment; Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire; Scott Everts

This must be documentary week for RPGs. The website Shacknews (which is apparently still a thing) has inaugurated two new features - 24 'Til Launch, a series of documentaries focused on video games' last day of development, and Long Table, a series of in-depth panel discussions with game developers. It turns out that none other than Pillars of Eternity II is the subject of both series' first installments. Shacknews editor David Craddock was at Obsidian back in May, recording the documentary on the day before the game's release and the panel discussion shortly after its release. For people who closely followed Deadfire's development, there probably won't be much new in the documentary. However, the panel discussion might be worth watching if you have the time. It's interesting to hear the opinions of the less frequently seen Obsidian veterans, such as co-owner Chris Parker, designer Scott Everts and programmer Dan Spitzley. There are also a few extras, including a video of an early prototype build of Pillars of Eternity.

So why did it take five months to release these videos, you ask? Maybe it's because David Craddock needed time to finish his free 480 page book about Pillars of Eternity and the history of the Infinity Engine RPGs, entitled Beneath a Starless Sky, so it could be released alongside them. Nice! I haven't read the book yet, but it seems to be full of interesting tidbits, though perhaps not at the level of the Pillars of Eternity chapter in Jason Schreier's Blood, Sweat, and Pixels. One thing worth noting is that Craddock was unable to elicit any information about Chris Avellone's departure from Obsidian. Apparently he was told that the two parties have entered litigation, but Chris tells us that's not the case. Oookay.

There are 18 comments on Pillars of Eternity II Feature at Shacknews: Documentary, Panel Discussion, Book

Thu 4 October 2018

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Thu 4 October 2018, 01:56:33

Tags: Timeslip Softworks; Vigilantes

Vigilantes, the groovy modern day crimefighting tactical RPG from Timeslip's Timeslip Softworks, went out of Early Access today - a day earlier than expected. It must be a scary thing releasing an indie RPG right on the heels of September Madness, but Timeslip has done his best, even going through four iterations of the launch trailer before he was satisfied with the result. It's similar to the Early Access trailer from last year, but offers more of a look at the game's systems and also some dialogue (including skill checks!). I'll post the trailer here along with the description from Steam:

Vigilantes is a combat focused, turn-based tactical RPG set in the declining, crime riddled city of Reiker. The game offers hardcore squad-level combat in a gritty neo-noir setting, intel gathering through surveillance and interrogation, a detailed character system, base building, crafting, and much more.

Key Features
  • Party-Based Tactical Combat System, including lethal and non-lethal attacks, powerful perk-based activated abilities, attacks of opportunity, cover, aimed and special attacks.
  • Deep Character System: build the ultimate crime-fighting team using the UPLIFT system which comprises 6 stats, 9 skills and allows for a variety of viable builds. Further customise your characters with over 60 perks.
  • Gather Intel: Run surveillance and interrogate defeated enemies to locate each gang's leadership and facilities.
  • Adversary System: If an enemy manages to flee, they will become more powerful and you will have to face them again later. Take them down quick!
  • Reactive AI: An enemy that reacts to your actions, by setting up ambushes, and is responsible for recruitment, building facilities, improving gang equipment and training.
  • Crafting: Upgrade weapons from 9 distinct classes and craft special items, such as hot-loaded ammo, armour, and medical items.
  • Base Building: Build and upgrade 5 facilities (gym, library, firing range, surgery, workshop) to gain bonuses and access advanced crafting options.
  • Story: Experience the hard-boiled story of a group of vigilantes waging war against the overwhelming might of the criminal underworld. Gain advantages in combat through skill checks and choices in dialogue, and help out citizens in need.
There's plenty more information about Vigilantes in Timeslip's vast archive of development update videos. If you're looking for a tactical RPG that's unique and also cheap, you can grab it on Steam for just $15, with a 10% launch discount until next week.

There are 87 comments on Vigilantes Released

Development Info - posted by Infinitron on Thu 4 October 2018, 00:19:00

Tags: Beyond Divinity; David Walgrave; Divine Divinity; Divinity II; Divinity: Dragon Commander; Divinity: Original Sin; Divinity: Original Sin 2; Jan Van Dosselaer; Larian Studios; Swen Vincke; The Lady, the Mage and the Knight

Gameumentary is a games journalism outlet that specializes in producing free full-length documentaries about video game studios. You may have seen their Kingdom Come: Deliverance documentary back in July. This week they released a 68 minute documentary about Larian Studios. Although primarily dedicated to the Divinity: Original Sin games, the first half of the documentary is about Larian's history prior to that, starting from the cancelled The Lady, the Mage and the Knight, through Divine Divinity and Beyond Divinity, up to Divinity II and Divinity: Dragon Commander. There's not much new here in terms of information if you've read the various "history of Larian" articles that have been published in the press over the past few years, but it's worth watching for the photos and footage - including a look at an early real-time version of Original Sin, back when it was still called "Eyes of a Child".

Thoroughly inspiring stuff. Don't miss the post-credits scene at the end, where after a respectful tribute to Kirill Pokrovsky, Swen Vincke reveals the codename of Larian's next major title - Project Gustav. That's actually been a thing since at least July, apparently.

There are 11 comments on Larian Studios Documentary by Gameumentary

Sun 30 September 2018

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Sun 30 September 2018, 23:23:38

Tags: Copper Dreams; Whalenought Studios

It feels like the Copper Dreams alpha has been perpetually a week away for the last six months. According to the new Kickstarter update, Joe and Hannah intended to release it last weekend but were distracted by their work on the beta (which consists of the game's main campaign rather than a limited test scenario). In the meantime, they've continued to refine the visual style and have implemented a host of interface quality-of-life improvements, which you can see in the update's accompanying video:

Joe and Hannah also have some interesting ideas about how to handle player death. They'd like the game to work a bit like a roguelike, with an autosave slot that updates after every non-combat action, so if your party gets wiped you can return to the moment just before the battle started. However, at least in some cases there will also be an option to keep on playing, with your party whisked off to the local clinic by robots, imprisoned by the authorities, or finding themselves in other, more unusual predicaments. I quote:

Play it Out

We wanted to design something around the concept of what we do when players might be incapacitated in a tabletop game and the DM doesn't want to make everyone re-roll. There are some fun narratives that can occur that we wanted to explore as a part of normal gameplay, and thought that was worth experimenting with for the main campaign. As the nature of the previous option, choosing to Play it Out saves immediately after, so when they are available it can be more or less of a gamble given the situation/location.

1. Clinic

Your agent in the alpha and main campaign have wicked good health insurance, thanks to your plum job. Playing it Out in a location that isn't heavily fortified or a dungeon lets your HealthInsurance Body-Bots come find you and fly you off to the nearest clinic location. The randomized city is divided up into blocks, and with a few exceptions every one of those has a clinic, so you'll never be far from where you fell.

At the clinic, a half-day passes (! this important for events), and you can choose to stay longer and heal or get back to it. Clinics are automated and will automatically bill you, or if you fail to have the funds bill your Syndicate which will keep a tab on you and make you pay for lunch.

2. Jail

If you fell due to or near by MFI, the city overlords, you'll be tossed into a procedural jail. Like the clinic, every city block usually has an (otherwise inaccessible) jail attached, and depending on your method of breakout you'll be outputted back into the block you were at. These jail maps are relatively small, isolation cubes for the city riff-raff, but will always have your equipment stored in an office that you'll want to loot before leaving. Maybe you can steal other inmates stuff!

3. Event

These can be a gamble for a session. Events occur when you fall in an atypical location, like surrounded by cyber-mutants, in a Syndicate compound, in a sewer system with monsters, or other unfortunate places. Syndicates will throw you in the sewer drain which will put you in a different location, maybe to get help after, or maybe some other problems. At worst you might come out of these situations with a permanent disfiguration or ailment before a Body-Bot finds you, maybe mutants spread a mutation to you before throwing you out, or maybe you have a limb eaten off before you're found.

On the flip side there are potentially rewards and secrets to be found. Those sewer drains might throw you out into an otherwise inaccessible location where you are healed and able to discover cyber-quests, treasure, or other secrets. Some mutants are friendly and you could be rescued with augmented with beneficial mutations.
Right now the plan is to announce a new release date for the Copper Dreams alpha by the end of the week. The update will apparently be released "shortly thereafter" alongside a new trailer, so I guess it's not far off. Then again, we've heard that before.

There are 37 comments on Copper Dreams Kickstarter Update #22: Visual and Interface Improvements, Death Events

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Sun 30 September 2018, 01:21:23

Tags: INSOMNIA: The Ark; Studio Mono

INSOMNIA: The Ark is a retro-futuristic dieselpunk RPG from a Russian team called Studio Mono, set aboard a colossal space station that's been floating through deep space for centuries. Originally known as just InSomnia, the game has existed in some form or other since at least 2011. It was Kickstarted in 2014 and again in 2016, gradually changing from an isometric RTwP-type game to a third person action-RPG along the way. Despite such changes, our community remained interested in the game, intrigued by its unique setting and Fallout-inspired design. After a flurry of promotion over the past few weeks, INSOMNIA's long journey has finally come to an end. Here's its launch trailer and description:

INSOMNIA is a dieselpunk sci-fi RPG about the slowly degrading remnants of human society attempting to survive on an abandoned space metropolis. Develop your character, explore lovingly handcrafted locations, interact with peculiar NPCs and factions, craft equipment and try to stay alive in this brutal world.

Welcome to Object 6 - a colossal space station set on a dismal 400-year journey in search of a new home. Your character wakes from cryogenic sleep — stricken with a rare psychological disease and unknowingly holding humanity’s last hope in his bare hands...

Exploration is rewarding…and dangerous

Survive hunger, thirst, fatigue while searching for valuable technology and resources in over 70 unique locations. Pay attention - INSOMNIA’s nuanced world can conceal unexpected quests from treacherous characters, as well as savage enemies and deadly hazards.

Personalized journey

Break free from character classes and unwanted grind with a flexible perk system combined with a large amount of craftable items and equipment. Choose your gear wisely - every armor and weapon type in the game has its own tactical virtues and shortcomings.

Сhoices matter

Navigate a non-linear storyline with ‘points of no return’ that encourage unorthodox approaches and 12 different story endings. Your character’s chosen background plays a role in how you interact with NPC’s and factions, as well as influences the outcomes of certain quests.

A rich universe

Experience a neo-noir world with elements of dieselpunk. Witness man-made apocalyptic landscapes imbued with a dark ambient soundtrack and echoes of a decaying civilization.
The game is apparently pretty cool but also quite janky, as its Steam reviews will attest. It seems hard to believe it'll survive, coming out at the tail end of this crazy month. But if you've been looking for something more actiony to play, it might be a good choice. You can grab INSOMNIA on Steam for $30, with a 10% discount until next week.

There are 47 comments on September Madness - INSOMNIA: The Ark Released

Wed 26 September 2018

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Wed 26 September 2018, 01:28:46

Tags: Obsidian Entertainment; Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire; Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire - Seeker, Slayer, Survivor

Obsidian have released Seeker, Slayer, Survivor, their arena mode/treasure hunt expansion DLC for Pillars of Eternity II. It probably won't get a lot of attention coming right on the heels of Pathfinder: Kingmaker, but they did make a pretty cool launch trailer for it. Check out that giant alligator boss:

Alongside the DLC comes Patch 3.0, which adds two new god challenge modes, a mega-boss (confirmed to be incredibly challenging by beta testers) and a variety of other new features. The new Fig update has the details:

Patch 3.0

New Berath's Blessings! New Magran's Fire challenge modes! A new mega-boss!

There's a lot of new in Patch 3.0, and we can't wait for the community to experience all we have to offer. Check out some of the highlights below:
  • New Magran's Fires Challenges
    • Eothas' Challenge - Players must complete the game in a certain amount of time
    • Galawain's Challenge - Beasts have random buffs set throughout the game.
  • New Berath's Blessings
    • Loaded Pockets - NPC pockets are filled with more and rarer items for those Watchers who have sticky fingers.
    • Legendary Crew - Three veteran sailors from the Kraken's Eye tavern are willing to cut you a great deal. Hire these experienced sailors for cheap!
    • Discount Craftsman - Crafting and enchanting costs are reduced!
    • Mythical Discovery - The Watcher's starting armoire has a Mythical Adra Stone that can upgrade any one legendary quality item to Mythic!
  • Spider Queen Megaboss - Belranga has arrived and if the feedback by our beta testers is any proof, she's as terrifying as we were hoping she would be. Hunt her down now to find some...mouth-watering rewards
And these are but a few of the giant patch that is 3.0! Check out our full 3.0 Patch notes, or go see the changes live in-game now!​

Not mentioned in the update is that the patch also adds a "recently used spells" interface and an optional kill camera(!). Sensible additions for a combat-focused DLC. If you're still waiting for Kingmaker to get a few patches, Seeker, Slayer, Survivor is available now on Steam and GOG for $10.

There are 26 comments on Pillars of Eternity II Fig Update #56: Seeker, Slayer, Survivor Released

Tue 25 September 2018

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Tue 25 September 2018, 19:24:58

Tags: Owlcat Games; Pathfinder: Kingmaker

September Madness continues this week with the release of Owlcat Games' Pathfinder: Kingmaker. Kingmaker appeared in our lives out of nowhere back in May 2017. Some were skeptical at first - a rather generic-looking RTwP RPG from a team of Russian unknowns with obligatory Chris Avellone involvement, clearly intended to capitalize on the success of Pillars of Eternity. The game would soon would make its way to Kickstarter, and with each new update it became clear that this was no typical Eastern European shovelware product. The "team of Russian unknowns" was in fact a band of seasoned Nival veterans and roleplaying enthusiasts, who had been working on the game for at least a year. It was already in a quite functional alpha state when the Kickstarter launched, and the gameplay footage we saw was indisputable evidence that Owlcat knew what they were doing.

So Pathfinder: Kingmaker is out today, and expectations are high. Not only is it the world's first proper Pathfinder CRPG, it's also in effect the first real D&D CRPG since Neverwinter Nights 2. Not to mention the game itself is an adaptation of a well-known Pathfinder tabletop adventure path. For those frustrated by Obsidian's iconoclastic take on the Infinity Engine formula, Kingmaker is an especially important milestone. But even with all their talent and experience, do Owlcat really have what it takes to produce a satisfactory adaptation of a six chapter adventure path on their first try - with a complex kingdom management layer on top, to boot? I guess we're about to find out. Here's the launch trailer:

Pathfinder: Kingmaker is available now on Steam and GOG for $40. There are no launch day reviews, which strengthens my suspicion that Owlcat had to crunch on this game until the last minute. Some players are reporting severe loading time issues and typos - hopefully we're not about to witness another review bombing.

There are 119 comments on September Madness - Pathfinder: Kingmaker Released

Mon 24 September 2018

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Mon 24 September 2018, 21:24:13

Tags: Fallen Gods; Mark Yohalem; Wormwood Studios

As I recall, this month's Fallen Gods development update was originally supposed to be about event design. It appears however that MRY has decided to embark on a brief detour with an update about violence. Specifically, the game's approach to violence, which true to its Norse inspirations, is grim and amoral - something which is also reflected in its mechanics. It's a relatively short update, but it makes up for that with some new screenshots. Here's an excerpt:

[​IMG] [​IMG]

Like many kids drawn to fantastical settings, I grew up taking comfort in the way fantasy situates violence within a moral plan. Fantasy novels are chock-full of bullied young protagonists, last survivors of near-universal slaughter, and heroes who seem helpless and hopeless against villainous might. This suffering is not just a preamble to, but a prerequisite for, later salvation. It is not merely that the wicked are punished and victims avenged; those who have been wronged find themselves, Job-like, even richer than before. (As a boy, I entirely believed that, say, Luke Skywalker could somehow be more than compensated for the trauma of coming home to the still-smoldering corpses of his murdered family. But it turns out that old wounds only ache worse as the years go on, and there is no psychic currency with which early losses can be offset by later gains.)

In typical fantasy novels, when a villain tortures a brave young woman or torches a helpless town, the bitter herb of his evil is mixed with the sweet confidence that he is merely sowing the wind. Even in ostensibly “grim-dark” series such as A Song of Ice and Fire, the long arc of history bends in favor of “breakers of chains” and once-bullied bastards. I mentioned earlier that “the noblest aspect of fantasy” is “its ability to train us to view doing good as the proper exercise of power.” Here I’ll add that its capacity to comfort, even if a kind of deceptive opiate, is no small virtue either. Run-of-the-mill childhood bullying is hardly the worst thing in the world, but it’s still rough, and that roughness is at least a bit diminished by books like The Once and Future King or any of a thousand other stories. But here, too, our game offers something different.

Unlike such fantasies, neither Fallen Gods nor the sagas that inspire it promises a moral plan for violence. When the strong use their might to hurt the weak, that does not necessarily set in motion a Rube Goldberg device by which the aggressors will ultimately suffer a comeuppance at the hands of their victims. The bloody slaughter of a people does not imply that the lone survivor will one day become king over a just, prosperous, and fecund realm; he may simply wind up an outlawed murderer meting out a measure of revenge until the day he’s caught and killed. Or he might not even make it that far. Perhaps, weak and weary, he’ll be run down a few days later and speared where he sleeps.

Our game’s setting is a world already whirling in the cyclone of such violence, and its story is that of a powerful, selfish fighter who sees others merely as a means to an end (or, we might say, a means not to end). To tell that story in that world means not flinching back from its ugliness—one must heed the cry of Aldonza in The Man of La Mancha when she is at last pushed to the brink by Don Quixote’s refusal to see the fullness of her suffering: “Won’t you look at me, look at me, / God, won’t you look at me!” As in the sagas, violence in Fallen Gods knows few limits, and it falls on the weak and undeserving no less than on the mightily wicked. Their suffering deserves to be seen and told.

That’s not to say that Fallen Gods features nothing but ugly violence or that its depictions of violence are especially gory or torturous. By the standards of modern video games and or R-rated movies, the violence is sparing and its depiction is restrained. But it is designed to have a bit more heft.

As with other aspects of Fallen Gods, that heft is conveyed mechanically. Because HP are so limited (typically single digit, even for a powerful warrior), every wound is serious. Healing is painstaking—in the field, resting restores a single HP per day, and time is valuable. There are no healing potions; rapid recovery can be achieved only by the godly skill of Healing Hands, which costs precious soul-strength, a resource the god gains only with difficulty, as previously discussed. Sickness (which encompasses both poison and disease) causes a person to grow weaker, rather than healthier, with each passing day, and unless you are strong enough to outlast the ailment, only Healing Hands or a priest’s craft can help. So too with crippling, a condition that halves the might of the injured, leaving him or her vulnerable in combat and much less helpful in events.

The seriousness of violence is also conveyed visually. Our attack and death animations avoid majestic or balletic movements. Though blood and gore is minimal, blows are meant to convey force; we want the player to wince when he sees a churl club a wolf’s skull. Illustrations likewise show battle not as glorious but in its rough-and-tumble grit.

Finally, Fallen Gods uses its narrative to drive this point home. The vignettes told through events involve not only battles in which the god participates, but also the aftermath of battles he’s missed, the weary despair that comes from the anticipation of battles that have not yet materialized, the economic drain of feuds, and so on. These events rely in part on the differences in perspective among the god (who is largely oblivious to others’ suffering), the narrator (who is aware of that suffering but takes it as a fact of life), and the player (whose values are likely very different from either the god’s or the narrator’s). The parallax effect of these overlapping perspectives is meant to be disconcerting and in some instances even dizzying, as when the narrator grumbles about surly thralls going about “unbeaten by their betters.”

Fallen Gods is an adventure in which the player has the opportunity to slay foul creatures, wield magical weapons, win powerful allies, and earn the admiration of many. But it is not unalloyed heroic fantasy, for beneath and within this quest is a frank and cautionary look at the uglier side of a world in which meting out death is viable way of life and perhaps the only way back to the heavens.
As always, the full update comes with a sample from the game's soundtrack. Next month - the update about events.

There are 11 comments on Fallen Gods Update #8: Violence

Blackthorne needs a kidney

TARGET: $5,000 USD

RAISED: $1,868.15 USD (37%)

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