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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are 101 comments on RPG Codex Review: Stygian Reign of the Old Ones


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

Tags: Solasta: Crown of the Magister; Tactical Adventures

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

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

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

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

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

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Tue 15 October 2019

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

Tags: Disco Elysium; ZA/UM

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

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

There are 23 comments on Disco Elysium Released

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are 8 comments on Divinity: Fallen Heroes development "on hold", Logic Artists moving on to third Expeditions game

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

Tags: Obsidian Entertainment; The Outer Worlds

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

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

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

Mon 14 October 2019

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

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

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

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

There are 3 comments on Matt Chat 429: Trent Oster on Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition and Neverwinter Nights

Tue 8 October 2019

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

Tags: Disco Elysium; Robert Kurvitz; ZA/UM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are 203 comments on Disco Elysium: Welcome to Revachol

Mon 7 October 2019

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

Tags: Sengoku Rance

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

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

For a hot spring vacation, you ask?

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

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

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

There are 63 comments on Sengoku Rance: The 'Gahahaha' Gets Released in the West

Sat 5 October 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fri 4 October 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tags: Solasta: Crown of the Magister; Tactical Adventures

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

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

Sorcerer Class - Free DLC!

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

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

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

Referral Rewards

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

Social Rewards

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

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

Thu 3 October 2019

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

Tags: Solasta: Crown of the Magister; Tactical Adventures

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

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

Boss Monster Stretch Goal - UNLOCKED

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

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

Music Upgrade Stretch Goal - UNLOCKED

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

New Class - Sorcerer

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

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

Draconic Bloodline

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

Mana Painter

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

Children of the Rift

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

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

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Thu 3 October 2019, 23:00:09

Tags: Animmal; The Way of Wrath

The Way of Wrath is an upcoming turn-based tactical fantasy RPG by Georgia-based indie studio Animmal. We've known about the game since April when it appeared on Steam, but I must confess that with no trailer or significant gameplay footage available I didn't pay much attention to it. Today the developers finally released a gameplay preview video and it actually looks kind of neat. In The Way of Wrath, you play as the leader of a group of survivors who are holed up in a fort in the middle of a wintry no man's land in the aftermath of a terrible war. The description might make you think the game is some sort of procedurally generated tactical fort simulator, but the video reveals something perhaps more along the lines of Expeditions: Viking. Check it out:

The Way of Wrath is a story-driven, turn-based, tactical RPG. Take charge of a ragged group of soldiers and hold a rundown fort against a merciless onslaught of an overwhelming enemy force. You will need to be ruthless, fearless, and cunning to survive what is to come.

Become a leader who can guide your people through hell. Rekindle the fighting spirit of your warriors and turn the old, ruined fort into a formidable bastion against a merciless onslaught of the overpowering enemy.

Immerse yourself in a world of mystery, superstitions, and dark rituals. Brave the cold, unforgiving no man’s land between your fort and enemy encampment. Hunt for food. Harvest materials to rebuild your fort. Recruit allies, and battle vicious enemies in brutal combat encounters.

Tests your tactical skills against battle-hardened veterans of a decade long brutal war in a fast-paced, lethal turn-based combat. Fight in handcrafted combat encounters against unique characters equipped with their own favored AI tactics, gear, and skills.

Experience a dynamic, non-linear story. Each character, friend or foe, pursues their own agendas and reacts to actions of others. Alliances will be forged and Broken. Survivors will grieve the death of their kin and settle scores with their enemies.
  • Create your own character. Customize appearance, origin, and reputation. Freely choose among dozens of skills and perks in an unrestrictive, classless system. Pick your party from a colorful cast of characters, or build your companions from scratch.
  • Explore open world map to hunt, fish, harvest valuable materials, perform mystical rituals. Survive the cold, harsh landscape and its many environmental hazards.
  • Repair defenses. Build traps and siege equipment. Craft weapons, armor, and tools of war. Cook food, brew alcohol and prepare the medicine.
  • Your every action will be judged, and the consequences of your choices will be felt constantly as the story is reshaped to a new reality. Will you end up a respected leader, a feared tyrant, or a hated despot swinging on a rope from the tower of your own fort?
  • Lead your people and maintain morale. Deal with their disagreements, superstitions, and self-destructive habits. Ignore them at your peril. Desperate people will be tempted by their worst instincts. Eager to escape hopeless reality in alcohol, drugs, petty squabbles, and comforting promises of the mystical rituals.
  • Experience a new kind of interactive story. Each in-game day the map will update with new encounters, and character story-lines will move forward.
That loud color scheme won't be for everybody, but otherwise this looks pretty entertaining. The Way of Wrath is supposed to come out on Early Access sometime later this year, so stay tuned.

There are 20 comments on Hold the fort in upcoming turn-based tactical RPG The Way of Wrath

Mod News - posted by VentilatorOfDoom on Thu 3 October 2019, 20:27:56

Tags: Arcanum: of Steamworks and Magick Obscura; Troika Games

After taking a 10 year hiatus Codexer Drog Black Tooth released a new version of his Unofficial Arcanum Patch. Apparently interest in improving this Troika classic further has been big enough for a successful fundraiser campaign, something I wasn't even aware of.

The $500 stretch goal has been reached. The long awaited new version of the Unofficial Arcanum Patch will be released on October 1.
First of all, I'd like to thank everyone for the support. You guys are amazing! Keep this going and we will do some truly amazing things with this game! The highlights of this release include:

- Everything is now in one pack, no need to follow any installation guide anymore.
- A huge amount of extra animations has been restored from an earlier build of the game, there are now downwards attack animations for all weapon/armor/shield combinations, as well as for most enemies. There are also animations for walking with your weapons out.
- Much longer and higher quality ambient tracks have been restored from an earlier build of the game.
- All official DLC (7 modules in total including the rare Lost Dungeon of Souls) are now included in the patch. High quality townmaps have been compiled for all of them, including the stock Vormantown.
- There's now a selection of beta content restoration modules as well as miscellaneous popular mods such as "Virgil's Debug Menu", all optionally selectable in the installer.
- You can now disable your party members auto-level scheme and distribute their points manually. This includes summoned and mind controlled creatures.
- All party members can now craft, simply right-click on their portrait and choose "Schematics".
- The high resolution patch has now been updated with 32 bit color depth support ensuring better compatibility with Windows 10.
- Music is now available in all modules, not just the base game.
- Added a '-cheatmode' command line switch that re-enables the official cheats.
- Some fixes for certain popular exploits have been rolled back.
- As usual, there are many new bug fixes and content restorations.​

Changelog, download links et cetera to be found on Terra Arcanum.

Thanks Goral for the heads-up.

ps: I'm posting this to farm brofists.

There are 52 comments on Arcanum Unofficial Patch 1.5 Released

Wed 2 October 2019

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Wed 2 October 2019, 23:09:10

Tags: Solasta: Crown of the Magister; Tactical Adventures

Thanks a to a generous pledge from Larian Studios this morning, the Solasta: Crown of the Magister Kickstarter campaign hit its Ranger stretch goal earlier than expected. That was just a prelude to the campaign's final 48 hour mark, when the money really started pouring in. The end result - three stretch goals unlocked within less than 24 hours. The Academic background is in and so are Half-Elves, who won the vote against Half-Orcs narrowly but decisively. The next three stretch goals are the orchestral soundtrack at €220k as previously stated, a community-selected boss monster at €225k, and a new "legendary item" questline at €230k. As usual, the new Kickstarter update has the details:

Half-Elves won the battle, poor Half-Orcs never stood a chance it seems. They will be the 5th Race to join Solasta: Crown of the Magister - that's Stretch Goal #6 wrapped up! You also unlocked the Academic Background for Character Creation and its special questline!

You had two passions growing up: history and magic. Your teachers saw your interest in all things old and magical, and ensured that your potential was nurtured. Your mission in life is to discover the secrets of the past, both magical and mundane - and you are ready to risk your life in the pursuit of discovery. You have been considering joining the Antiquarians but in the end, you wanted more freedom and didn’t want to stay in a library all day, so you took your backpack and went on to discover the wonders of Solasta by yourself.

Now, for the upcoming Stretch Goals!

Music Upgrade - Full Orchestral

Currently, we have planned for live musicians recordings in studio for Maxime Hervé's compositions - most often done individually.

This Stretch goal will be used to extend it to Live Orchestral recording sessions. This means not only more recordings for more variations and better interpretation, but also a greater cohesive musical ensemble to create an even more vibrant world.

Boss Monster - Community Vote

Four iconic monsters, one community, one stretch goal. Which one will you choose?
Bulette - Extremely dangerous and heavily armored, the Bulette burrows beneath the ground to snatch its prey from below.

Remorhaz - A gigantic beast that can grow up to 40 feet long, the Remorhaz is a monster that can produce an incredible amount of heat, easily melting any non-magical weapons that dare hit it.

Cloaker - A stealthy creature of the dark, the Cloaker is an intelligent monster that manipulates shadows and hunts unsuspecting victims from above.

Roper - A horrifying monster that often goes undetected until it's too late, the Roper grabs its victims with long tendrils to sap their strength, drawing them close to consume.

New Questline - Legendary Item

Well well now... I have a story for you. One of power, of mystery, of a long lost item that has eluded every scavenger party so far. The stuff of legends, basically. And I happen to know about its whereabouts, for a low low sum of... Wait come back here! I swear to the gods, adventurers these days are so stingy! So, as I was saying, Legendary Item, power, yada yada yada... Are you in or what?

That's nine stretch goals now, and there's also a glimpse of the tenth which is the Sorcerer class. Can the campaign reach them all? Yesterday I would have said no, but now it looks entirely possible.

There are 4 comments on Solasta Kickstarter Update #24: Ranger, Academic Background & Half-Elf Unlocked + Boss Monster Vote

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Wed 2 October 2019, 00:42:20

Tags: Solasta: Crown of the Magister; Tactical Adventures

With less than 72 hours left on the clock for the campaign, today's Solasta: Crown of the Magister Kickstarter update is larger than the usual. As expected, the Cohh Carnage voice acting stretch goal was unlocked today. The Ranger class is coming up next, and the stretch goal after that is indeed the Academic background at €210k. However, the update also reveals a sixth stretch goal. At €215k, either Half-Elves or Half-Orcs will be added to the game, and you get to decide which:

We've now passed the last 72h of the Kickstarter Campaign, and Cohh Carnage has been unlocked as a Guest Voice Actor!

Next in line is the much requested Ranger Class!

Wait what's that? We're revealing 2 Stretch Goals at once? You're right, because it's time for another Community Poll - this time to decide on the next race to implement! Half-Elf, or Half-Orc?

Voting period ends when we reach the Stretch Goal. Similarly to the previous poll, Backers vote will have more weight!
But wait, there's more! The update also includes lore details about the half-elves and half-orcs of the setting. Neither race is particularly unique, but I'll quote the part about the half-orcs:

Most half-orcs are children of violence rather than romance. Those raised in an orc tribe are usually persecuted for their physical weakness, and learn early to compensate with their higher intelligence – higher by orcish standards, that is. Half-orcs raised among humans suffer in a different way, ridiculed for their ugliness and seen as little more than beasts, at least until they grow into their adult size and strength. After that, the comments and jokes are mostly kept out of their hearing.

Being rejected by both their parent races and belonging nowhere, half-orcs tend to stick together. In a town or city they will have carved out their own quarter, and made sure that it is easily defensible. The same holds true for orc camps and caves.

Physical description

Half-orcs are taller than humans on average, with broad shoulders. They tend to have red eyes. Many claim this is from the fire of their natural fury. They have slightly protruding loser canine teeth, giving them a somewhat brutish appearance. In contrast, their skin is very smooth, and they have very fine hair, usually dark in color.

Next Generation

Half-orcs breed in fairly predictable ways:
  • The offspring of two half-orcs will be a half-orc;
  • The offspring of a half-orc and a human will be human;
  • The offspring of a half-orc and an orc will be an orc.
This explains why half-orcs are rare on Solasta, almost millennium after they first appeared.


Half-orcs are often found in the Marches, far from civilization. Some are members of orc tribes, while others have integrated into the settlements of other races. There are also a few settlements exclusively populated by half-orcs.

They can also be found occasionally in the lands of the Snow Alliance and the Principality of Masgarth, often working as bouncers, caravan guards, or criminal enforcers. The melting-pot cultures of these two nations makes them more welcoming to half-orcs – or, at least, tolerant of them - and encourages integration. While they may not make many close friends of other races, they can at least hope to be treated fairly.​

Finally, the update also offers a glimpse of the campaign's seventh stretch goal, which I'm pretty sure is for a full orchestral soundtrack at €220k. At the current rate of funding there's a decent chance of reaching the new race, but that one might be a stretch.

There are 9 comments on Solasta Kickstarter Update #22: Cohh Carnage Unlocked, New Race Vote - Half-Elves vs Half-Orcs

Tue 1 October 2019

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Tue 1 October 2019, 17:13:10

Tags: Broken Roads; Drop Bear Bytes

Pretty much every post-apocalyptic video game in existence owes some inspiration to the Australian film franchise Mad Max. With that in mind, some might find it odd that there's never been a post-apocalyptic RPG that's actually set in Australia. Now an Australian studio by the name of Drop Bear Bytes has decided to do something about that. Introducing Broken Roads, an upcoming isometric RPG set in post-apocalyptic Western Australia. It's got turn-based combat and a unique "moral compass"-based morality system. Here's the announcement trailer and accompanying press release:

Torquay, Australia, October 1, 2019 – Broken Roads™ is the upcoming debut title from Australian indie studio Drop Bear Bytes. Blending together established as well as all-new role-playing elements into a traditional isometric RPG, Broken Roads will see players traveling through authentic Australian locations in a desolated future.

The game tells the story of a group of companions as they make their way across Western Australia, encountering new friends, overcoming terrible enemies, and uncovering a mystery behind ever-stranger happenings in the Never Never.

Broken Roads’ real-time exploration and turn-based combat is beautifully illustrated with hand-drawn artwork throughout, with the goal of offering an experience of playing in concept art – 3D characters, VFX, 2D environments and props all follow this painterly style.

“As a fan of computer RPGs since the 80s, it’s been amazing getting Broken Roads to this point,” said Craig Ritchie, Founder & Game Director at Drop Bear Bytes. “Being able to put our own spin on the post-apoc genre and get experimental with philosophy and morality has been a lot of fun. It’s been a busy year getting us to this point and I’m incredibly proud of what the team have done.”

The game also presents players with an original morality system: the Moral Compass. This novel design sees dialogue options and questing decisions influence, and be influenced by, a character's philosophical leaning. Player decisions will shift a character’s philosophical leaning and alter their future choices, as well as open up Moral Traits which can help or hinder.

Broken Roads will be shown off for the first time at PAX Australia between October 11-13, and is scheduled for release in 2021. Drop Bear Bytes is comprised of industry veterans and talented newcomers, with alums from the likes of CCP Games, Riot, Ubisoft, Electronic Arts and Torus Games. The environments and props are being produced by Mighty Vertex, the art studio behind the isometric graphics in Harebrained Schemes' Shadowrun series of RPGs.

  • All-new post-apocalyptic setting
  • Unique morality system influencing dialogue, quests and character development
  • Authentic Australian locations and environments
  • Blend of traditional and original RPG mechanics
  • Up to 6 party members
  • Turn-based tactical combat
  • Hand-drawn artwork
  • A content-rich and densely-crafted world
Broken Roads doesn't have a Steam page yet, but there are some more details about the game on its official website, including a closer look at the moral compass system. As the press release states, we'll be seeing more of the game at PAX Australia later this month. It's scheduled for release in 2021.

There are 51 comments on Broken Roads is an upcoming turn-based isometric RPG set in post-apocalyptic Australia

Mon 30 September 2019

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Mon 30 September 2019, 18:46:08

Tags: Disco Elysium; Robert Kurvitz; ZA/UM

Six days after the long-awaited Disco Elysium release date announcement, Robert Kurvitz published a devblog update all about how colossal the game is going to be. Excellent hype material to be sure, but here on the Codex we're men of substance. You might remember that waaay back in May 2018, we were told to expect an update about the Thought Cabinet, Disco Elysium's unique mental inventory system. Well it's finally here, and they even made a video about it, which means it's definitely important enough to post about. Here's the video and an excerpt:

The time has come to talk about the Thought Cabinet, Disco Elysium’s illustrious “inventory for thoughts.” Let me start by presenting an image. A rather detailed image. Of all the icons of all the thoughts you can get in Disco Elysium, woven into a single tapestry. The Thought Cabinet art is made by Anton Vill, a concept artist known for, among other things, his work on the film Mad Max: Fury Road.

Each little composition on that image is one “Thought”. It’s impossible to get them all in one play-through, or even two. Each Thought comes into play face down. Only its name and some initial info are known to you. It takes in-game time to reveal its true identity by “internalizing” it. To truly uncover the mysteries of all these bad boys takes years of hard-core roleplaying. There are a total of 53 thoughts in the game. On average, a single character discovers and internalizes 16 of them in one playthrough.

And that, in a nutshell, is THC – how we’re abbreviating Thought Cabinet This mega-feature has gone through multiple iterations. It’s a unifying element that ties all the game’s systems together. Thoughts are like Fallout’s “traits” (back in the 14th century when Fallout had traits) crossed with Civ’s “world wonders”. They’re loot for your mind that you collect from the world by talking to people. They function as traits, perks, reputations and alignments.

You store Thoughts in your Thought Cabinet – your mind-lab, where you cook up new ideas and obsessions. Conduct research into futuristic armour, become a free market evangelist by thinking about indirect taxes, or just contemplate suicide. All with the power of your mind.


In Disco Elysium there are tags you can acquire that make people think of you in a certain way. Say something stupid and they will remember it, help someone and they’ll remember that too. So far, so routine. But Disco Elysium also has an internal reputation system. Your skills – your faculties that talk to you in your head – develop notions about you too. Have you said three artsy things in the last hour? Been telling people you want your name to be Raphael? Trying to recall a lost memory, or your home address? Your skills can turn these into full blown Thoughts: “Actual Art Degree”, “Detective R.A. Costeau”, “The 15th Indotribe” and “Lonesome Long Way Home”. You can turn yourself into a deranged “Torque Dork”, constantly thinking about auto-mechanical trivia. Or torture yourself with the “White Mourning” – the shadow of someone you used to love. This adds a new layer of role playing options I like to call soul customization.


In addition to producing dialogue options and story events, thoughts have mechanical implications. Once processed, they can provide bonuses and – more often – diabolical side effects. Each is a riddle, posing a question for you to answer. The bonus (or penalty) is the Aesop at the end of that story. Thinking of love lost corrodes your soul, but it also gives you an expanded perspective: Your maximum zoom-out range is increased, letting you take in breath-taking vistas. Recalling that memory can lead to drugs being more powerful for you. When the Art Cop uses his Conceptualization skill they gain XP for every criticism. There’s even a thought that (temporarily) makes you fail all your skill checks, turning you into a walking disaster, which in turn, can lead to new thoughts.
Oh, the update also reveals that Disco Elysium will be launching with a $40 price tag. What do you think, Codex?

There are 24 comments on Disco Elysium: Introducing the Thought Cabinet

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Mon 30 September 2019, 17:59:03

Tags: Heroes of a Broken Land 2; Winged Pixel

In the months following the announcement of Heroes of a Broken Land 2 back in January, developer Andrew Ellem of Winged Pixel published a bunch of development updates, including a detailed postmortem of the first game and a frank look at its sales numbers. In the end, the game's Early Access release had to be delayed, but only by one month. It's out today, and since you've already seen the trailer, it's a good opportunity to post the development update from February where Andrew described how he intends to improve the Heroes of a Broken Land formula. I quote:

Procedural Generation
Heroes of a Broken Land 2 will still be a procedurally generated game. Each game will have a different world, each dungeon will be new, it’s a core pillar of what makes Heroes of a Broken Land what it is.

However procedural generation is both a blessing and curse. It allows you to generate nearly endless variations of worlds, dungeons and monsters. However it can also generate very similar content, and if not careful the content can be too random and generate spaces that aren’t designed for the game at hand.

This was a major problem HOBL1’s procedural generation is it was too random. The short explanation is HOBL1 generated mazes and then tried to put interesting content into these mazes. Sometimes this worked, but more often than not it just generated some sprawling random mazes filled with monsters.

To overcome this flaw in HOBL2 we first generate a graph that represents to flow of the dungeon. This ensures that each dungeon has a logical progress, a flow from start to end. It also allows dungeons to be quest driven and designed from a high level, while letting the procedural generation fill in the details and physical layout of the dungeon.

The main world will also be generated in an similar way, as a series of connected fragments you travel through instead of a large single map. This should improve the feel of progression through the word and allow for more variation in world generation.

Another way I plan to augment the procedural generation is with the ability to weave custom content into a larger procedural world or dungeon. I’ll have more to say about this in future posts.

Better Quests

HOBL1 suffered from a poorly implemented quest system. Simply put it was difficult to author quests for technical reasons, and so the game simply didn’t have many different quests. This led to basically performing the same dungeon crawl over and over, which can be fun, but it obviously repetitive.

Fixing this has been a personal priority. HOBL2 will have an entirely re-written quest system that allows for much more variation through a custom scripting engine. The new system is so much more powerful that essentially the world generation is based on the quest system. The quests define the higher level game world and progression and the procedural generation systems will fill in the detail.

This new quest system will be also covered more in future development logs as I have a lot more to say about this and it’s critical to many of HOBL2’s improvements.

Character Development

Heroes of a Broken Land is all about heroes: recruiting them, customizing them, upgrading them and adventuring with them.

HOBL1’s flaw was that heroes converged to generic adventurers. That goes against the theme of recruiting teams of heroes to tackle dungeons. Instead you just kept the same heroes and increased their power and abilities to handle any situation. To address the heroes need to specialize rather than generalize.

This required a re-design of the whole class and skill system. Heroes will no longer have a single class, instead they will have up to 3 “jobs” (the name may change). Each job provides a mini-skill tree that evolves as heroes gain levels. The main reason for this change is to make each Hero more distinct, as heroes gain levels they will get more powerful but also more specialized. This will encourage different skill and job selection as well as make the use of multiple heroes more desirable.

From a player perspective this opens up many more interesting character builds, encourages a more diverse hero pool and rewards trying new combinations of jobs to explore hero potential.

More Time to Polish

Any and every game can use more time. While developing HOBL2 part-time means it does take longer to get things done, it also reduces the pressure to release the game by a set deadline and allows more time . That doesn’t mean HOBL2 will be in development limbo forever, it just means it will get the time it needs.

I plan to have the game in early access for about a year, adding content, fixing bugs, polishing the experience and most importantly getting real player feedback.
The Heroes of a Broken Land 2 Early Access release is available on Steam for $25. That's not cheap, but I guess that's how the niche indies are rolling these days.

There are 7 comments on Heroes of a Broken Land 2 now available on Early Access

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Mon 30 September 2019, 13:25:41

Tags: Solasta: Crown of the Magister; Tactical Adventures

The final weekend of the Solasta: Crown of the Magister Kickstarter campaign is over. The party banter stretch goal has just been unlocked and Cohh Carnage is coming up next. As expected, the fourth stretch goal at €205k is the Ranger class. Once again, the Kickstarter update also reveals a glimpse of the next stretch goal, which is very clearly the Academic character background at €210k.

Let's start this final week with some good news. As of a few moments ago, Stretch Goal #2 - Party Banter - has now been reached!

Part of the fun of Tabletop RPGs is the "friendly" and "wholesome" remarks from your companions when you roll the dice - even more so when you fail repeatedly. It just wouldn't have the same charm without these jabs and sarcastic comments now, would it?

Well, worry not - you will now be able to experience this in Solasta: Crown of the Magister as well! The kind Cleric that encourages you to do better next time, the wholesome Paladin who tells you not to give up... Or the Rogue who simply laughs at you and tell you how much you suck. It's always the Rogue. Why is it always the Rogue.

Stretch Goal #4 - New Class: Ranger

The polls were so close that we just couldn't leave the Ranger behind! If you haven't already, we've posted an Update with the Lore and Archetypes of the Ranger that you should read. They may not have animal companions in Solasta, but they are no less deadly! The archetypes are:
  • Hunter (SRD) - Master of both Melee & Range combat, the Hunter is the supreme predator of the lands.
  • Marksman (Solasta) - Heir to ancient archery techniques, the Marksman is the deadliest ranged combatant of Solasta.
  • Shadow Tamer (Solasta) - Wanderer of the desolated Badlands, the Shadow Tamer walks where others fear to tread.
At current rates of funding, the Academic background is within reach. Cohh Carnage will probably be unlocked by the end of tomorrow.

There are 8 comments on Solasta Kickstarter Update #20: Party Banter Unlocked

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


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