Wrought From Atomic Fire

Bathed in the undying glow of a new civilisation.

Fallout 4 has always been an interesting web of contradictions. Having enjoyed both Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas, my initial impression was that Fallout 4 would provide a broader story and more engaging mechanics. Which it does. Kind of. Having started a new character recently I’ve noticed that almost every improvement is immediately countered with a drawback. Such as the expanded crafting mechanics, which, while they do function as intended, also have arbitrary level requirements that make it difficult to effectively utilise them.

I’ve never really understood the reasoning behind level requirements for perks.

It feels as if they’re artificially lengthening character development by forcing you to invest elsewhere for no discernible reason. This is most noticeable when you want to craft workbenches in any settlement, as that requires a fairly heavy investment into Charisma and two perks to unlock. Even though most settlements only feature one or two workbenches by default.

Criticisms aside, I do enjoy Fallout 4 and I’ve yet to experience the majority of the DLC which is the sole motivation for creating this character. I feel as though I could enjoy Fallout 4 as much I’ve enjoyed Fallout 3 or Fallout: New Vegas, but I need to experience it from a different perspective to do so. A perspective that I hope this character will provide. I’ve not really settled on a character build, either. I was thinking about using pistols but settled on automatic weapons. I’ve been thinking about using power armour but I’m also interested in armour sets. I’d usually be frustrated by such a lack of clarity, but it’s actually advantageous for a character that could change my opinion of Fallout 4. I’m able to utilise many more mechanics with no build in mind.

If I’d been tethered to a corpse for years I think I’d hate camping, too.

Following the rather spontaneous return to The Commonwealth I also decided to purchase Fallout 76. I’d been somewhat disinterested with the development of Fallout 76 due to having little information about how viable it is to experience the content alone, and (knowing me) that’s probably how I’d experience the majority of the content. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that it’s entirely viable to explore Appalachia on your own. The C.A.M.P. mechanics still allow you to passively interact with the community, too. Should you want to.

Even if the C.A.M.P. mechanics sometimes fight you due to the inhospitable terrain.

I feel as though Fallout 76 has an incredible amount of potential, and it really depends on how that potential is realised as to whether it will be a truly great experience. At present, many of the mechanics function as intended but they rapidly become less important after the first few hours. Like collecting scrap. I’ve now collected so much I’m bundling and selling it.

I’ve enjoyed the (ironic) feeling of isolation and loneliness in Appalachia. Due to a lack of NPCs (besides robots) and mostly being surrounded by the rotting, irradiated, post-war corpses of the characters whose stories you’re following you’re presented with a unique storytelling approach. It’s also a very depressing approach. If the previous adjectives hadn’t given you the hint. As many of the stories have themes of regret, loss, desperation, and hopelessness as the characters adjust to their new post-apocalyptic hell. But it fondly reminds me of the same feeling of isolation and loneliness present in Fallout 3. I’m looking forward to (and remaining optimistic in) exploring more of what Fallout 76 has to offer.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

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To Attain Divinity

I’ve never been fond of the idea of being a god.

Divinity: Original Sin 2 is an exceptionally enjoyable RPG which builds on the mechanics present in Divinity: Original Sin to provide a fresh, engaging, and thoroughly satisfying experience. Most revised are the combat mechanics which now offer a physical and magical armour system, more abilities, and expanded skill trees. Skill trees will offer inherent benefits once invested in, while the new abilities provide the freedom to choose between different weapons in the same combat style. No longer are you tied to bows or crossbows due to prior investment.

Not that I ever had that issue in Divinity: Original Sin. No, not at all.

In the sequel you’re presented with the choice to play as a custom character or to play as one of six predefined characters, three of which can join you even if you’re playing as a custom character. All of the predefined options offer their own stories, quests, and insights into the world and can drastically change the experience. Some with the possibility of providing alternate endings.

You could even completely forego the predefined characters and hire mercenaries instead. Or use the reworked Lone Wolf talent to write an entirely different story. In many ways this is the concept that I’ve loved most about Divinity: Original Sin 2, and I’m interested in seeing how the three of the six that I didn’t choose will present different opportunities. I’m also glad that there are multiple default endings, that there are character-specific endings, and that you are writing a story that features more than just yourself. It’s about the people you’ve worked with, worked against, those you’ve helped, those you’ve hindered, and the consequences for those actions. It’s such a refreshing experience in what has become quite a stagnant genre in recent years.

I’m not concerned as to how we got up here, I’m more concerned as to how we’re going to get down again…

Many NPCs will follow your journey across the harsh wilds of Rivellon, too. So expect to see more than a few familiar faces providing their own contributions to your claim for Divinity, along with more than a few vendors that will (quite literally) follow you around. I’m glad those vendors exist, though. While I enjoy the new opportunities to find (or steal) higher quality loot, I find that much of the loot has numerous bonuses which don’t seem to be very useful at all. Some of the unique loot will offer really good bonuses that seem absent on other loot.

Like being able to get +Strength or +Finesse on gloves.

That said, these issues may have been resolved in the Definitive Edition as I am (once again) playing the classic version. So take that criticism with a pinch of salt. In more than one way the sequel is a resounding success (and nothing is truly perfect), but there are some niggling concerns which slightly lessen the experience. Thankfully they’re very few and far between.

I’m still not entirely sure what possessed me to revisit the Divinity: Original Sin series but I’m glad that I did. I definitely miss these experiences and the sheer flexibility of being able to build any character I want, while being able to enjoy combat that is challenging and (best of all) engaging. I’ve also spent nearly two hundred hours with the series in recent memory. So that’s something. You don’t get too many series which keep you engrossed for that long, or even provide non-repetitive content for that long. Which is probably the greatest achievement of the series, as you rarely find RPGs that provide numerous quest types which can be completed in many different ways. In case you’d not guessed- I highly recommend Divinity: Original Sin 2!

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

No Stranger To Adversity

Quite the opposite really.

I recently finished Divinity: Original Sin, which, despite its flaws, was an incredibly enjoyable RPG that provided the opportunity to build many varied characters. It was quite a refreshing experience. I’ve not encountered many RPGs released in the last five years that allow you to freely customise your party- building both their strengths and their weaknesses- and I find that significantly diminishes the experience. I personally prefer it when characters are not automatically proficient in every skill, talent, or ability ever.

Or, at the very least, I prefer it when my choices actually have consequences.

For instance, in Divinity: Original Sin I was quite concerned about the way I chose to build Cornelius. He was a typical ranger with some magical capabilities, but it quickly became apparent that he used magic more than he used his bow in most encounters. However, the two governing attributes were completely different. It also meant his ability points were spread quite thin.

That said, despite initial concern, and with clever use of Geomancer summoning skills, he was able to reliably contribute in a meaningful way to most encounters. Later in the story he actually became one of the highest sources of damage in the party. But it was a very long road reliant on many later skills. I’m glad I stuck with that particular build, though. It definitely provided many unique benefits that I didn’t get elsewhere and was quite enjoyable. What was more enjoyable was the fact that I had the opportunity to ruin that character. It seems like an odd thing to find enjoyable, but it was nice to have to think about how best to develop his abilities in order to best utilise his unique benefits. To consider different options and possibilities.

See? These are what spawn when you call upon Source magic.

That was one of the more disappointing mechanics in Diablo III. It was also one of the more disappointing mechanics in Fallout 4. In both cases, you weren’t necessarily completely proficient at everything but you could have been. Long gone were the days of committing to being good at Small Guns due to having high Agility. Or being better acquainted with cleaving because your Strength was higher and afforded more close combat perks. Or even being able to build a unique Barbarian that combined unusual or interesting skills.

It definitely helps the longevity of the experience.

But it also definitely hurts the enjoyment you get from the experience. There’s no real reason to want to build a new character, and in turn experience the earlier struggles (and feeling of accomplishment in overcoming those struggles) due to a lack of something. One of my favourite Fallout 3 characters was the one that used exclusively Energy Weapons.

Mostly because that almost completely useless laser pistol in the Super Duper Mart was their only friend. Which meant that they needed to invest much more into every shot they fired, as each one was an expensive purchase (at that time) and only degraded the condition further. I was quite happy that my choice had consequences, though. It felt like I’d actually built a character that was at least somewhat unique in their experiences. Following Divinity: Original Sin, I started the main story for Divinity: Original Sin 2 and I’m glad to see that character builds are still a possibility. I’m also glad to see more complex (and better developed) mechanics for some aspects of the experience. I just wish there were more opportunities to have these experiences.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

The Adventures of Rosey and Cornelius

The dynamic Source Hunter duo.

Divinity: Original Sin is a rather enjoyable yet devilishly difficult RPG which features CRPG mechanics. For the purposes of this post, I’ll be discussing the original release and not the Enhanced Edition so take some observations lightly. I’m sure that the Enhanced Edition has better tuned mechanics. Hopefully. It’s also worth noting that it’s been roughly four years since I last journeyed around Rivellon, and that I wasn’t too far through the main story the last time that I did. But I’ve been having a lot of fun with it this time around.

I even bought Divinity: Original Sin 2 because of it.

Character creation is definitely one of the best things about Divinity: Original Sin. Both the Source Hunters you begin with and companions that join you are fully customisable, and if you don’t feel like playing with others you can completely forego companions by acquiring the Lone Wolf talent. You can even develop characters with myriad non-combat abilities.

On that note, I was slightly disappointed that I would need to move items to a character in order to utilise Blacksmithing or Loremaster. That’s something I know that they’ve changed in the Enhanced Edition. I’m also slightly disappointed by the lack of variety in companions. I would’ve liked to see more of the unique character classes being represented. That said, I chose Jahan and Madora to fill two very simplistic roles in the end. One being the ever-murderous valiant knight who would tank damage about as well as my Source Hunter, while the other chose a more scholarly yet no less destructive route of raining fire down on anything and everything. I’m not disappointed in the range of skills you can choose from, though. They’re pretty great overall.

Not so invulnerable now, are you?

On the other hand, while the skills are great, the flow of combat can sometimes be weighed heavily in your opponent’s favour. It’s fairly obvious that most enemies have higher resistances and better chances to apply status ailments than you, which would be fine if you weren’t perpetually outnumbered. Worse still when you’ve invested significantly in Bodybuilding or Willpower to affect those saving rolls and they still apply the status ailment. Enemies seem to act rather randomly, too. So it’s almost down to luck whether you’re going to make it out alive.

Which also would be fine if resurrecting wasn’t an inconvenient annoyance.

But the synergy between your skills is incredible. Being able to create poison surfaces which you can later set alight, or being able to freeze the ground to cause enemies to trip, or even being able to use Teleportation (which is the best skill) to drop an enemy into lava is ridiculously fun. The combat can simultaneously be the best and worst part of the experience.

I would say that Divinity: Original Sin is a great experience if not a little flawed. The quests are certainly engaging enough and not every single one requires combat, but the progression through new areas feels a little disjointed. Often you’re expected to travel to higher level areas to complete lower level quests. That said, it never ruins the experience it’s just a little frustrating at times trying to figure out where to go next. I also wish that crafting in the original release made any sense. I’m certain that the Enhanced Edition will smooth out this experience to make it more enjoyable, and so I’ve no hesitation in recommending Divinity: Original Sin to all who enjoy RPGs (and CRPGs) as it’s worth the time invested. Without question.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Repeatedly Running Away

Evading the cold embrace of death.

Monster Hunter World is a contradictory collection of enjoyable and frustrating mechanics. I’m going to write a more comprehensive post once I’ve completed the main story, but now that I’ve ascended to the glory that is High Rank I thought I’d share my initial reactions. To be fair, I’ve probably seen the majority of the mechanics now. I’ve also seen some hilarious yet devastating monster behaviour. Like the Tzitzi-Ya-Ku who decided to run to several different locations on the map only to arrive and immediately run to another.

That was an expedition that didn’t go as planned.

Thankfully it was just an expedition, so I didn’t exactly lose anything other than the time invested and a few consumables. I’m rather fond of that particular mechanic, though. I like the fact that the monsters will eventually leave a location rather than wait patiently for their inevitable death. It gives both expeditions and investigations a reason to exist when gathering resources.

That said, I’ve encountered few mechanics which frustrate me more than the main story quests. They seem to be specifically designed for a full group of hunters, but they don’t provide any NPC support if you’re doing the quest alone. Not that the quests are actually that difficult. But they also seem to progress even if you don’t complete the currently required objectives. So you’re either being pushed through several objectives so quickly that you can’t tell what’s going on, or you’re frantically running back and forth trying to load every cannon you can see. It feels as though there should be at least a few NPCs helping you. Especially when the consequences of failure are so catastrophic, and yet you’re literally the only hunter trying to do anything about it.

Only one of these hunters will actually attempt to stop Zorah Magdaros.

Oddly every other quest works as you would expect it should. The assigned quests (not involving Zorah Magdaros) all have introductory encounters, the optional quests are varied and numerous, investigations are an excellent source of everything, and expeditions basically allow you to roam the world freely. In many ways the diversity of the quests really help to bring this entire experience together. It’s also refreshing that the developers acknowledged that you’ll be doing an immense amount of grinding and have provided investigations to allow you do just that.

It’s a much better solution than simply repeating story quests.

The crafting mechanics are quite refreshing, too. Not only can you mark pieces of equipment that you want to craft and you’ll be notified when you have the resources, but being able to craft items automatically removes so much repetition. It’s even better that you’re in control of what should be crafted automatically. These are simple but appreciated considerations.

The inventory management mechanics are so intuitive that I wish every JRPG, RPG, and MMORPG had them. Being able to allocate a set of items to a loadout and then simply refill that loadout after a quest saves so much time. You can even tailor those loadouts to different types of quests. There are so many minor but incredibly clever alterations to conventional mechanics. I was sceptical about Monster Hunter World, but I’ve greatly enjoyed my time with it and now that I’ve reached High Rank I’ve got new opportunities to take advantage of. On the other hand, this is where the intense grinding begins so maybe this is where it will start to wear on me. Either way it’s easily worth the price of admission and quite fun, too!

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

Hella Anarchistic

I had to do it. I’m sorry.

Life is Strange: Before the Storm is an enjoyable narrative-driven experience that explores the unlikely friendship between Chloe Price and Rachel Amber, while serving as a prequel to the events in Life is Strange. Composed of fewer episodes but comparable in length to the prior instalment, I was sceptical at first as Chloe possesses no otherworldly abilities (besides being able to relentlessly insult people) but she proves to be just as interesting as a protagonist. Rachel is quite a diverse character, too.

There’s even a rather neat bonus episode.

This episode provides an amount of closure (and heartbreak) by looking at the last day Max and Chloe spent together before the former left Arcadia Bay. Those who have played Life is Strange will know Chloe- and know that Rachel was important to her- but we’ve never really had the opportunity to explore either character before. Which the prequel provides in a satisfactory fashion.

In contrast to Life is Strange, much of the progression now relies on exploring the environment and unlocking dialogue options or collecting items. Not being able to endlessly reverse time to explore different outcomes also means that decisions are mostly permanent. There are fewer life-threatening situations, too. This provides a significantly different experience to what you might have expected, but it doesn’t detract from the story which remains engaging throughout and provides just as many surprises. I rather enjoyed the tension of having to live with the consequences of my actions rather than being able immediately explore alternatives. Which I would habitually do with Max. Sometimes just because I could.

Lies often protect us from the harsh reality of the truth.

I was once again most impressed with the character development. I feel as though you could play Life is Strange: Before the Storm and then Life is Strange and it would actually enhance the experience of the latter, which isn’t something you can always say about prequels. But in this case it’s very true. It’s also interesting to see how alike Chloe and Max once were and how they evolved quite differently over time. Which, in my opinion, makes this prequel a resounding success as it provides exactly what you would expect it to.

A means to flesh out previously unexplored events.

I wouldn’t be opposed to further exploration of these events, either. It’s unlikely that we’ll get that opportunity but I would welcome it. Mostly because I would be interested to see how they would handle the true conclusion of their story, and what events led to that outcome. But I suppose it’s equally as possible as not with the announcement of Life is Strange 2.

I’ve been rather impressed with both Life is Strange and Life is Strange: Before the Storm. Having also played the Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit (which is free) I’m rather excited for the future of this series, and I look forward to seeing what kind of protagonist Life is Strange 2 has. Again, I could use any number of positive adjectives to explain how I feel about the series but it’s probably better if you experience it for yourself. It’s different but the best kind of different you could ask for. Especially if you choose to explore different consequences by taking a different route through the story. I’ve had fewer positive experiences in the last few years than this and I would highly recommend it even if you’re only curious about the series.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

Human Time Machine

You can’t always make the best decisions.

Life is Strange is an exceptional narrative-driven experience which features an unparalleled use of choice and consequence. You experience the story as Max Caulfield, a photography student who learns she has the ability to rewind time, and who will slowly uncover the truth about Arcadia Bay. The first few episodes do well to lay a strong foundation of how to utilise various mechanics and help you to build meaningful relationships with other characters. The last two episodes are as exhilarating as they are heartbreaking as the story comes to its conclusion.

I’m most impressed with the character development.

Max is an oddly easy to relate to protagonist, who, with her newfound powers, can answer some questions that are perhaps best left unanswered. Experiencing the consequences of her actions- and feeling the repercussions of certain decisions- is exactly what I wanted from Life is Strange. Even if I knew that some of her more drastic decisions weren’t going to end well.

I’m also quite impressed with how the developers introduced their core mechanics and conveyed them to you in such a way that they were incredibly intuitive. Many of the puzzles in the story are quite easily solved when you think about what you can do, and how you can quite literally be in two places at once. I rather liked the idea of Max’s diary, too. It really is very simple but it helps to introduce the characters, to explain the events prior to the story, and to understand your actions from her perspective. I feel as though a lot of love went into developing this universe and the characters therein. The optional photographs scattered around each episode were pretty neat as well. It’s a fitting series of achievements that suits the style of gameplay.

It’s not like someone could completely vanish without any trace, right?

I greatly enjoyed the story, too. It was definitely surprising but it made sense. I was quite happy with seeing how my decisions had affected the way the story would unfold, and I felt as though the endings were understandable resolutions to those events. I’m still conflicted as to which I feel is the correct (for lack of a better word) ending. But that only illustrates how well the events were presented. It’s arguable that there isn’t a correct ending as it really does depend on what you feel about the choices you’re presented with.

There’s also some impressive foreshadowing to those endings in hindsight.

I’ll definitely be back to Life is Strange soon as I’m keen to explore different outcomes to my decisions. Or keen to make completely different decisions. I missed a few photographs, too. I’m very likely to purchase Life is Strange: Before the Storm as well, and experience the events prior to this story from a completely different perspective. A blue-haired perspective.

I can string together any number of positive adjectives to indicate how I feel about Life is Strange but it really was an interesting experience that I deeply enjoyed. I’ve always liked stories that feature alternate history or time travel, and this story features both, but it also makes a lot of sense, and doesn’t rely on the convolution of time to hide mistakes. I also enjoyed the art direction and felt that it was an appropriate way to present this story. It’s definitely not for everyone, but I think it’s worth a try if you’re wondering whether you’d like it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go and rewind time so that I can take more photos of squirrels. It’s not an abuse of my power. Not in the slightest.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie