Space Cowbots

Time to scrap the Scrappers!

SteamWorld Heist is an incredibly enjoyable tactical RPG offering the same charming art direction and quirky personalities present in SteamWorld Dig, but a departure in mechanics, presenting an adventure through turn based combat in mission sized bites, which is just as fun as the prior instalment but definitely more challenging. It’s the sequel that isn’t a sequel, which builds on the story of the SteamWorld universe but doesn’t require any previous experience to be immediately playable. It’s actually surprisingly intuitive in every way.

There’s a simple complexity in many of the mechanics.

Such as the characters themselves. Each is unique and named, with some sharing classes, but few sharing bonuses, and each has a signature ability that defines their role in combat. Every character has the capability to fight, but support and healing abilities are evenly distributed to help you develop effective party compositions to meet the challenges you’ll face.

Besides their innate abilities, characters can be equipped with a weapon and two utility items to provide statistical bonuses and further improve their effectiveness in combat. Utility items cover all sorts of bonuses such as bolstering health, providing retaliation damage, increasing damage, restoring health, or even some quirkier options like improved jumping. There are some that are best suited to certain characters which provide bonuses that fit their signature ability. Weapons come in a variety of destructive flavours, with everything from your standard revolver to an incendiary cannon which wouldn’t be out of place in the Worms universe. They’re enjoyable to use, too. They also feature ridiculous trick shots.

I feel as though an ancient evil has been unearthed.

Unlike other tactical RPGs which rely on calculated percentages to determine a successful hit, these weapons require you to manually aim (often with sights) to land a hit which make them a little more skill based than you might expect. With this comes ridiculous ricochet angles that allow you to land nearly impossible shots. These mechanics and varying mission objectives prevent repetition and stagnation in later missions. You should always keep a few extra weapons on hand, though. Some are definitely better suited to certain missions than others.

Be sure to stock up on Storage Units when and where you can, too.

Those will be important for carrying all of the equipment you’ll need to explore Deep Space. Which is a scary place. It really is. Levelling your crew will also be crucial to your success, which is handled via standard missions or particular solo missions which are designed to help you farm experience. Not to mention loot. So it’s a fairly comfortable experience overall.

One of the greatest successes of this title is the flexibility in everything from difficulty settings to optional content. It’s rare to have such control over how, where, and when you’ll progress with the story or with the optional content. Unrestricted access back and forth through maps gives you the opportunity to level up, recruit companions, visit vendors, and more at your own pace. Without fear that it will be locked out when you move to the next portion of the story. It’s refreshing to have options. I’d best describe Steamworld Heist as memorable and enjoyable. Something that’s fun to play, with an interesting story, and a unique cast of characters which are equally useful in the myriad missions you’ll encounter.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

Steam Assimilation

Further down we go.

SteamWorld Dig is a rather charming, interesting, and somewhat unique approach to a classic formula. Unlike other platforming titles you quite literally build the path downwards as you continue exploring. It’s an approach that can leave you stranded if you don’t make use of the ladders, lamps, and teleporters so generously provided by the townsfolk. But it’s also one that provides innumerable secrets as you unearth new ways to approach old locations. It’s not a particularly lengthy adventure, either.

So it’s quite enjoyable revisiting old locations frequently.

These secrets will award you with precious minerals and mysterious Orbs. Both are used to purchase upgrades to make Rusty more durable, carry more water, take more damage, or dig even faster. The later updates which are more technological (and thereby more powerful) have an additional Orb cost. But earlier iterations are easily affordable with gold.

It’s a neat progression system, too. As you’re introduced to the concept that this is a fading mining town and the money that you provide through your adventure revitalises it, which is evident when you see the town growing and more vendors appearing. You’ll also unlock paths back to town at each major location, which makes returning to town incredibly easy in a way that reminds me of the first Diablo. The immediate approach to returning to town is to use teleporters. These will be found at certain locations, but you can also purchase your own (for a small Orb cost) and place them wherever you like. You might be hesitant to spend Orbs to acquire them but I bought four-five and could still afford all of the upgrades.

I don’t think this is the confirmation that they wanted.

Alongside the aforementioned range of upgrades bought in town, there are key upgrades which you’ll find at certain locations in the caves that afford you entirely new abilities. Such as being able to propel yourself upwards with the power of steam. Or the classic double jump. Or even the ability to detect minerals. Of the available options, my personal favourite is the removal of fall damage. All fall damage. Forever. It’s so nice to be able to dart down large, open, excavated caverns without a care in the world.

I don’t believe it’s possible to miss those upgrades, either.

In this way, SteamWorld Dig is surprisingly content dense and enjoyable as a result of it. It’s not a massive, sprawling, open world but what there is to explore is crammed full of secrets and other goodies. It’s easy to miss it, too. Especially with the earlier secrets that require relatively late upgrades. It’s certainly a credit to the developers and their ambition, though.

I’ll be honest and admit that I bought this mostly in anticipation of SteamWorld Heist, but it has grown on me. It has a certain charm that reminds me of childhood days spent with the SNES and all of the adventures therein. Something that’s just fun to play. That’s interesting and enjoyable. That has controls which actually work and where every aspect feels intuitive. Those are not feelings that I generally get these days with many things I’ll play, but, for those reasons, I would highly recommend SteamWorld Dig to anyone looking for some good ol’ fashioned fun. The kind we had back in the day. Which I am almost old enough to say now. Which doesn’t concern me or fill me with thoughts of my own mortality in any way.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Melty Black Goo

It’s a recurring concept.

Here’s one of those rare moments where I’m losing track of what I have and haven’t shared in various places. I’m usually a little more organised than this, but that’s what happens when you’re working in three-four different sketchbooks at once. I’ve got to keep flipping back through them to make sure I’m still aware of the things that I’ve done. I know that I’ve shared this particular piece over on Twitter but I’ve not shared it here, so that’s some clarity through the confusion. But I couldn’t say if there are any other pieces that I’ve missed along the way.

Or how many pieces that could be if I had missed some.

So, let’s talk about this sketch. It’s a concept that I’ve had in my mind for quite some time, but one that is evolving further away from the humanoid approach present in Corruption Collection and towards something alien. Melty black goo alien. Which is quite an interesting development as I’m not sure where it’s going from here, either.

I can confirm that it is going somewhere. I’m just not sure what the finalised version of this concept will be and whether ink, pencil, or even watercolour would be the best approach. I’m also not sure if there’s going to be more humanoid features in the finalised version. I’m mostly conflicted as the humanoid features will add an emotion to the piece, but the alien features will afford me the opportunity to be wildly more creative with a likely more unique final result. With both of these concepts I’ve been happiest with the faces and the emotions. Which might suggest that it’s best to lean towards the emotional approach. That said, I could explore each of these approaches as there are no restrictions as to how many of these pieces I do.

He’s more goo than man!

The version present in this post was actually a direct response to the fact that I haven’t felt too good about the faces I’ve been drawing recently. That particular issue is peculiar as I’ve always been interested in drawing anatomy, which makes it odd that my current displeasure comes from anatomy. It’s been a weird few weeks in more ways than one. I was surprisingly happy with how this piece turned out, though. It was mostly done without reference and more as an exercise to see how much of that information I retain.

Which, again, given it is anatomy, should be a substantial amount.

I’ve been looking to change various aspects of the process of creating things recently, too. I know that this has resulted in a more erratic posting schedule for which I apologise. But I would hope that you’d agree that the recent content has been of higher quality, is more interesting, and is more engaging to interact with. Which is a standard I intend to maintain.

Creative content has been particularly erratic despite a strong and steady flow from last year. There are more than a few reasons for this, but that doesn’t mean I’m not trying to be more consistent and to produce more content. I’ve been looking at new ways to develop content, too. I’ve been thinking about either video recording or streaming as a possible expansion of what I’m currently doing, but there are issues which I need to address before I’m ready to do those. I’ve also got a few things I’ve been working on recently, which will hopefully come to a satisfactory conclusion and provide a steady stream of creative content for a time. There’s also some older content that I might revisit as well.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Art, design, and the like found herein (unless otherwise specified) is drawn and owned by David Wilkshire (also credited as Moggie) from 2006 to present date.

Ambitious Acrylic

Colourful mile markers.

I’m going to justify purchasing those brushes or I’m going to paint trees trying. Or both. Probably both. This piece follows on from the attempts present in Mushroom Inspired, which are not entirely related as those are destined for watercolour painting while this is an acrylic painting. I’ve also yet to add more attempts to that particular set of watercolour paintings. But that’s what happens when you’ve got watercolour, acrylic, and gouache tubes quite literally piling up all around you. Not to mention all of that canvas and watercolour paper.

It’s a muddled haze of various paint tubes and water jars.

I’m starting to echo previous thoughts of stretching myself too thin, though. It’s noticeable that my output is suffering somewhat in the face of trying to do as many things as I am at the moment, as I have a lot of things that exist in a transitory state. They’re not quite here, there, or really anywhere at the moment. But they exist in their own mildly confusing way.

To add a moderate amount of insult to that injury I’m also not too happy with this result. But that’s also a transitory issue as I’m still getting used to how these brushes feel, how they hold the paint, and how well I can apply the paint. I’m also a few months out of practice with acrylic painting. I’ve started to understand more about why I don’t like my acrylic paintings, though. It’s mostly related to details and perhaps due to or as a result of the preparatory stages. I’ll be taking a break from gouache for a while, too. It’s becoming increasingly confusing trying to sort watercolour painting approaches, acrylic painting approaches, gouache painting approaches, pencil sketching approaches, and ink detailing approaches all at once.

Only the fluffiest clouds.

There’s also an issue of breeding familiarity with acrylic painting. It’s still an approach in its infancy for me and that’s something I need to recognise more when I’m pushing for certain results, which might not be as possible as I’d like to think. I do need to learn how it works. Much as I have with other materials. That said, I’ve been unusually happy with recent pencil and ink attempts. Which is a small amount of positive reinforcement in an otherwise confusing time. It’s certainly… something… right now when it comes to all things creative.

But that’s not a negative response, either.

I’m rather happy that I’ve had this momentary reignition of inspiration. I might not be entirely happy with everything I’m doing, but I’m actually doing it and making progress towards understanding more than I ever have about my creative influences. Which is always better than coming away from the experience none the wiser and more frustrated as a result.

This can mostly be considered a mile marker on the road of my artistic journey. I’ll either look back on this as a better acrylic painter or I’ll look back and realise there’s still work to be done. In either case, I still feel it’s an important part of the creative process to recognise progression where it exists. Or to provide an amount of progression through sketches and other pieces that aren’t quite to the quality standards you adhere to. That’s why these posts are both fun for you and interesting for me. We both get to share something that not only generates content, but strengthens the level of creative content on the site(s), and provides me with an actually useful tool to measure how things are going in various ways.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

Art, design, and the like found herein (unless otherwise specified) is drawn and owned by David Wilkshire (also credited as Moggie) from 2006 to present date.

First Impressions of… Salt and Sanctuary

This island is plagued with death and depravity.

Salt and Sanctuary is a complex and engaging ARPG that feels reminiscent of both Dark Souls and Diablo in equal measure. There are definite hallmarks of the Dark Souls series, with punishing and brutal boss fights alongside replenishing consumables and similar equipment improvement mechanics. However, the character development and the continual loot shower feels more like what you would expect from Diablo. It’s an interesting mixture that works well in some ways and not so well in others.

I particularly like the Skill Tree approach to developing your character.

Salt is required to progress the level of your character and (as expected) has an escalating cost per level. Once you’ve gained a new level you’ll be awarded with a Black Pearl which can be invested in the Skill Tree, wherein you can find myriad passive upgrades for your character. It makes your character level slightly more crucial to success in certain builds than others.

Equipment will have requirements (such as Class 1 Dagger or Class 3 Heavy Armour) which are unlocked via the Skill Tree. Likewise, all of your basic attributes are increased by investing in the Skill Tree. It’s a fairly intuitive system if you’re familiar with skill trees in just about any other RPG, with most of the nodes you want to unlock being available from several different paths to allow you to spend only the Black Pearls you want to. This system is full of potential for interesting hybrid builds. Especially when combined with the Transmutation system, which essentially allows you to use certain reagents to transform your weapons into more powerful variants. There are unique variants, too. Like spears that scale with your magical proficiency.

The dead wander these bloodstained halls.

Character classes exist but they serve only to provide a basic set of Skill Tree points and attributes. They don’t have any specific restrictions and can be developed towards any final build. There are also numerous Creeds your character can join, which function like Covenants from the Dark Souls series and unlock unique bonuses for your character. Be it additional consumables, new spells, new incantations, or simply more of your basic consumables. You can increase your devotion to a specific Creed as well, but any and all devotion will be reset if you change your Creed.

Creeds can be changed as often as you like at the cost of accumulating Sin.

Your Creed also dictates who your Sanctuary will be devoted to. That said, if you change Creeds, you can still access your other Sanctuaries but will be unable to gain devotion with them. Sanctuaries can be upgraded with new vendors, blacksmiths, alchemists, and more via stone statuettes found in and around the areas you’ll be travelling to.

There are limited NPC quests which can be completed, too. Alongside Brands which unlock new ways to reach certain areas which will remain inaccessible without them. It’s a pretty content dense ARPG and rife with secrets, optional bosses, and interesting nuggets of lore. I’ve been enjoying a hybrid build of spears and spells, allowing me to engage enemies at any distance while providing unique bonuses as I switch weapon sets to utilise more spells. My only minor complaint would be that the platforming sections don’t feel particularly tight. However, that could be my general inexperience with timed platforming segments and not an actual issue with the controls. In every other way I highly recommend Salt and Sanctuary to all who enjoy ARPGs!

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

TESO: Trekking in Tamriel (Pt. 6)

To the Hollow City of Coldharbour.

Adding to the list of unexpected occurrences, it turns out that Coldharbour is more than just a branching series of main story quest locations- it’s a whole area. With Public Dungeons, Delves, crafting locations, world bosses, and interesting enemies. It’s a pleasant surprise as I was expecting the last of the main story quests to be another short adventure, but instead I’ve got to rebuild the last bastion of hope in Coldharbour. It seems fitting seeing as I’ve amassed nothing short of an army at this point.

Access to Coldharbour doesn’t seem restricted, either.

Which is perhaps the most surprising part of this revelation. As I would expect that you wouldn’t be allowed to leave at your convenience, but I suppose that, as it’s an MMORPG, they didn’t want people locked in an inescapable area. As is the usual custom for single player adventures. It also possibly means that my other characters can travel to Coldharbour if they so wish.

With the main story drawing to a close I’m reflecting on my favourite moments in this adventure. Notably, the crafting and skill systems have afforded me a surprising amount of freedom and flexibility. I’m also fond of the questing structure. This isn’t the end of The Elder Scrolls Online for me, either. It’s just the end of this series of posts for now. It felt like the right time to take a break, given that my Imperial Templar has finished the main story and he’s been the focal point of these posts. That said, if I venture out to Morrowind at some point in the future I’ll likely revisit the series briefly. The Elder Scrolls Online has grown on me over the last month and there’s every chance I’ll be investing more into it in the future.

To defy the will of Molag Bal.

I’m most interested in exploring the build possibilities of the Sorcerer. I originally avoided building around pets, but I’m starting to see some amount of potential there. Especially if I can use the second weapon set to wield the same Destruction Staff but with summon and buff abilities. I’m still not entirely sure if pets and the like which are activated from the second weapon set can be used with the first, and vice versa, but I hope that’s the case. I could have a rather proficient minion master if it were.

The Nightblade has interesting potential, too.

They have a surprising number of survival abilities for what you would usually expect from someone built around pure damage capability. Which makes me wonder if it’s possible for them to fill a tanking role. I’ve been wondering whether medium armour is suitable for a tanking role, too. It lacks the durability of heavy armour but does have impressive Stamina perks which could be useful.

Those are the reasons that I reconsidered The Elder Scrolls Online in the first place. I love character building and character development mechanics. They’re one of the reasons why I find RPGs to be so enjoyable. However, they’re sadly becoming obsolete with many systems now not requiring you to build anything at all. Which is less satisfying and less enjoyable, as the character never really feels developed or interesting. Just mildly different from other characters with the same class. Which is also the reason I could see myself being drawn back into The Elder Scrolls Online. In any case, I hope you’ve enjoyed the series so far and are as excited as I am to see it continue in the future.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

Expensive Mistakes

Not so much a mistake but a lapse in judgement.

Not that it was really a lapse in judgement, either. It was more of a calculated logical thought process tempered in the fires of reasoning. But there really is no point in trying to explain why I do the things I do, mostly because that would take far longer than just explaining that I’ve done them. I’ve been working towards a collection of materials for some time, though. So this is hardly something unexpected. Mostly because I’ve been looking to get a nice set of flat brushes that compliment the nice set of round brushes I bought some time ago.

I’ve got this thing about brushes. It’s kind of concerning.

I also bought a fan brush because they’re neat and I’m sure I’ll find a use for it. At some point. For some reason. In any case, I’ve finally decided to settle (for lack of a better word) on a collection of materials which I believe suit what I’m attempting to do. I don’t know if they’re the materials I’ll be sticking with forever- but they’re the ones I’m sticking with for now.

Spontaneously purchased some gouache tubes while I was at it, too. It’s… an interesting material. I’ve not used them for much outside of a small test piece, but I’ve learned a little more about them in the process of painting that test piece. I’ve also discovered the joys of layering gouache. Which isn’t actually as easy as it might seem, as the paint never actually dries (as far as I can tell) and can always be reactivated even after several hours. Well, no, it does dry, but it doesn’t stay dry. That might be a better way to explain it. It’s an interesting detail that I wasn’t too aware of and so my first attempts were somewhat flawed. I’m really enjoying the creamy texture of the paint, though. The styles I could create with it are gorgeous.

Moggie makes the mistake of going to the local art store.

I suppose it’s more that I’m approaching it wrong as it’s kind of like acrylic and watercolour had a baby. A very creamy baby. Which means you need to approach it in a similar way to how you would approach watercolour, working light to dark instead of dark to light. Not that you can’t overlay colours. Just that you’re going to run into issues if you’re trying to overlay incredibly light colours over incredibly dark ones. As the darker ones will reactivate and blend endlessly into the lighter ones. Some of my issues are definitely my own.

Which I’ll work out by learning more about the material in time.

It’s kind of exciting, though. I’ve really enjoyed being able to learn new things about acrylic (and even digital) painting. Gouache is just another test that I’ve forced myself to go through for reasons I can’t quite explain, but will appreciate once I do something I really like with that particular material. Like every other material I own. It’s, again, a thing I’ve got for materials.

That doesn’t mean I’m entirely abandoning acrylic painting, either. I’ve got my own set of issues with that particular style of painting as well. But, as I mentioned in Mushroom Inspired, I’m starting to change what I consider are my conventional approaches to different subject matter. I may be doing more watercolour painting in the future. That could extend to gouache and acrylic painting, too. It also may not. I may continue with things as they are. But there’s definitely something different about how I see things, how I approach them, and my level of confidence with the range of materials that I use. I can’t tell if that’s just experience evolving into confidence or whether I’ve reached another artistic plateau. The latter sounds terribly conceited.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie