First Impressions of… Low Magic Age

Stand back! I have a spear and I’m not afraid to pretend I have the proficiency to use it!

Low Magic Age is an enjoyable Early Access RPG with a d20 System ruleset derived from the Wizards of the Coast Open Game Licence. At this stage of development there is a fully functional (yet deceptively complex) Arena, alongside deep character progression mechanics and varied equipment choices. The developers are also looking to add a campaign mode to fully flesh out the core experience. Likewise, there’s early Steam Workshop integration which could permit the creation of much more (Arena/campaign) content in the future.

It’s definitely one of the more promising Early Access titles I’ve seen.

Even if you’re not fully conversant with d20 System rulesets, Low Magic Age provides an intuitive and easy to learn presentation of mechanics alongside an impressive explanation of what everything does. A feature that I wish would be more prevalent in other RPGs with complex formulae. I’m also quite fond of how quickly you can pick up the nuances of combat.

The Arena is almost exclusively combat, too. So if you’re not too keen on the idea of something reminiscent to dungeon crawling with a party of adventurers, you might want to wait until the campaign is implemented. It’s not actually dungeon crawling, though. As you progress through the Arena in waves. After each fight you can purchase new equipment, replenish ammunition, spend Glory for party bonuses, or even recruit new adventurers for your party. Each party progresses through their own waves, too. Switching to an entirely new party will reset your progress back to the first wave, while also resetting your gold and Glory to their default values. Switching back to an existing party restores their wave progress.

Just one more turn…

Your party can consist of either default characters, your own characters, or a combination of both. When creating characters you can follow a template or create your own custom characters, with the characters created via templates levelling up automatically. Which, I assume, as I don’t use character templates, automatically develop certain abilities. Which is a great feature for those who enjoy the experience that Low Magic Age offers, but might not be as interested in statistics or agonising over new abilities. Thereby it’s very new player friendly, too.

Each wave in the Arena also features a boss fight.

These will become available once you’ve defeated all of the fights in a particular wave. Unsurprisingly, these often feature incredibly tough enemies which are stronger than most things you’ve faced before. You can either fight these bosses as they appear or grind experience in the fights of that wave. As I do believe each fight per wave is endlessly repeatable.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Low Magic Age but I’m very pleased with this current iteration. It’s an easy recommendation if you enjoy fantasy RPGs, tabletop rulesets, or Dungeons & Dragons with the only caveat being that the campaign isn’t implemented yet. So if you’re not keen on endless Arena bloodshed you may want to wait before purchasing. I still think it’s a great deal at the current price, though. Given that many of the existing systems are fully functional and that the Arena is also incredibly polished for many hours of enjoyment. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have another turn to take and another wave to finish…

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

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

First Impressions of… Victor Vran

There’s a voice in your head telling you to do things. Literally.

Victor Vran is a rather unique ARPG that attempts introduce new ways to approach old problems. Most significantly through the character development mechanics, where many common elements (such as character classes) are absent. Everything is handled through the myriad equipment options you’ll be presented with. Outfits will affect how your build performs in combat and which bonuses you’ll have, while the various weapon classes have different abilities and you’ll need to learn how best to use the many options at your disposal.

Even the Demon Powers are freely available regardless of build choices.

The most extensive character development mechanics are available through Destiny Cards. Each will provide different bonuses to different aspects of your build, which, in true ARPG style, will be completely randomised and come in many different flavours. So you’ll be looking to find, buy, or Transmute more as you go along. Certain Outfits will provide bonuses to the number or value of the Destiny Cards you’ll be able to equip. Otherwise, you’ll be earning more slots and capacity through levelling. The aforementioned Demon Powers will consume your Overdrive pool (which builds through combat or through specific actions), and, much like Destiny Cards, will be available in varying strengths and with different bonuses.

It’s quite a comprehensive set of character development mechanics and allows for almost limitless build options. Whether many of those builds will even be viable in the later content is a different matter entirely, but it’s an interesting approach all the same. Most notable of the changes to the typical ARPG formula is the inclusion of dodging and jumping.

Banish the wicked with the concentrated power of rainbows!

It seems like a fairly minor change but it makes a significant difference. I’ve had to remember on more than one occasion that jumping is possible, as I’ve looked at the map and tried to figure out how to get to a particular area only to realise I’m supposed to jump over that hedge or bush. Dodging is somewhat notable but pretty simple- you roll out of the way of damage. It doesn’t seem to be restricted in any way, either. So feel free to roll endlessly across open stretches of previously explored map. Or, you know, roll away from the endless hordes of enemies.

The controls can be interesting at times, too.

There are multiple options for those who would like to use a mouse and keyboard, mouse movement, or a controller. But I’ve never really felt that they are as natural as the control systems they’re hoping to emulate. I’m particularly frustrated with the inventory management with the controller. It’s even more interesting trying to manage your storage. Not that there’s really any reason to use your storage, as, as far as I can tell, the inventory is endless. But if you like organising things- have fun! It’s very soothing after hours of slaying beasts. Otherwise the controls respond as you would expect them to and there are a lot of different options if you like tinkering. The combat feels fluid and enjoyable regardless of the control system, too.

I’d highly recommend Victor Vran for many reasons. Mostly due to how content dense it is. There are numerous challenges, secrets, and other goodies scattered across the many areas of the world which make it really enjoyable to experience. Rarely will you run from point to point with little else to see or do. It’s also got a weird sense of humour to keep you smiling throughout.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

First Impressions of… Chronicon

Delve deep into the secrets of this world.

Chronicon is an ARPG which features four distinct character classes, more randomised loot than you’ll ever have space for, quests and side objectives of every flavour, randomised dungeons (in the style of Diablo II), and more monsters than any one person could conceivably slay. The only potential negative I can think of is that it’s in Early Access. That said, I don’t really consider that a negative as this title seems to have made great strides in recent months. In fact- it seems to always be improving something somewhere.

I think the most recent update added bags.

These bags seem to have an ever increasing number of slots, too. So you’ll be able to find new ones and increase your inventory size as you go along, which, alongside your character stash (which doesn’t upgrade) and your shared stash (which does upgrade), means you’ll never have to worry about loot again. Or you will but you’ll do so less frequently.

The four character classes each have their own talents, strengths, and weaknesses. Each is then further enhanced with four skill trees (which you can freely invest in) for active skills, passive skills, auras, buffs, default attack replacement skills, and more! There’s even class specific equipment which allows you to further develop the class. I’m not entirely sure if they have specific class skill bonuses on their equipment- but I wouldn’t be surprised. I’ve already seen incredibly powerful set items which boast abilities I’ve not encountered elsewhere. If you’re playing on Veteran or higher you’ll also have the chance to snag legendary items, which are rumoured to be so exceptionally awesome you’ll never want to leave home without one.

Speaking of difficulty levels, there are a range of them from the casual to the extreme with certain aspects only being available on the higher ones. Like legendary items. It functions similarly to how you could scale up the difficulty in Diablo II. The enemies are tougher but you get more crystals, experience, and you have a higher chance to find better equipment. So there’s definitely a reward for pushing further up the difficulty ladder. Those experienced with ARPGs could likely start on Veteran without too many issues.

Heroic would probably be a good entry point, too.

The current playable content features the first three Acts. Each has its own story, quests, and side objectives. It’s honestly surprisingly how polished and playable this is for a pre-release product. It’s already boasting a whole host of different features which are all fully functional and (in my experience) bug/glitch free, which only makes it more enjoyable.

If you’re a fan of ARPGs then I can wholeheartedly recommend Chronicon to you. There is an incredible foundation already present, which will no doubt be built upon to further improve all aspects of the experience in future updates. I’ve enjoyed every minute I’ve played so far, too. It’s been great to explore the depths of these ancient halls and not even realise it’s 2am and I was going to bed two hours ago. Which is a pretty rare thing nowadays. It’s an absolute steal for the price as well. Being only £6.99 (at full price), in a sale this is probably one of the best deals you’re going to get if you’re in the mood for a little dungeon crawling. Or, rather, a lot of dungeon crawling. Check it out- you won’t be disappointed!

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

First Impressions of… Lost Castle

There’s even a potion that makes you fart.

If that doesn’t justify an instant purchase, the potion also produces a poisonous gas cloud each time you fart that damages enemies who walk through/near it. Still not sold? No? I’ll tell you a little more about what Lost Castle actually is, then. It’s an adventure filled with endless danger and abundant treasures. It’s a little like Rogue Legacy and Enter the Gungeon had an awesome baby with an ARPG loot system. Complete with randomised equipment that can be imbued with various enchantments.

You can customise your characters quite extensively, too.

Each time you die you are offered the chance to not only improve your character but to grant entirely new benefits/bonuses. Like being able to unlock a blacksmith who can give you up to three weapons at the start of each run. Further upgrades even allowing them to spawn rare or legendary weapons. I’ve almost always found one of them to be usable, too.

Combat is incredibly enjoyable and remarkably fluid. Each weapon class has its own particular style, which is further enhanced by a myriad of armour types that will provide particular bonuses to certain weapon classes. I’m really enjoying dual blades. They’re fast, they combo well, and they’ve got a lot of versatility. Yet, spears are surprisingly good as they knock back enemies with each thrust. While you’re not able to guarantee which weapon you’ll start with or that the blacksmith will offer- there’s something for everyone. Each piece of equipment has a chance to be enchanted, too. Allowing for comprehensive character build customisation through different statistical bonuses.

Rattle those bones.

Rattle those bones.

Lost Castle is also a rare example of character customisation having a noticeable impact on success. Even a minor health upgrade which allows you to take one more hit before death is significant. Simply because there are an abundance of healing items, vendors, and other upgrades which can restore your health- it’s just that you have to live long enough to use them. Having a selection of items and weapons available from the very beginning is incredibly helpful, too. Every advantage is desired and each is useful in its own way.

Especially those rare opportunities that allow you to return from the dead.

I’ve had a few runs where I’d forgotten that I’d picked up one of those coveted relics. I died and was filled with sadness only to see the resurrection animation and be filled with happiness. Only to be killed by a rolling-rock-rhinoceros-creature. Once again filling me with an overwhelming sadness. It truly is an emotional rollercoaster.

If you like the sound of anything I’ve said above- I highly recommend you pick this up! It’s a really fun time for all involved. Unless you don’t have masochistic tendencies which you can only satisfy by being repeatedly killed. You don’t even need to pay much for the privilege, it’s only £6.99 (at full price). Which I feel is an absolute steal for something this enjoyable. I’ve heard tell that there are even more difficult modes which can be unlocked on completion, too. Speaking of, I do believe it’s time for me to start another new run and for another few hours to mysteriously disappear. I’m not sure how or why that keeps happening. No matter- there’s looting to be done!

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

First Impressions of… Ember

To embrace the Embers once more.

Ember is definitely one of the more interesting purchases I’ve made this year. It’s an RPG in a similar vein to CRPGs of old, where you take up the mantle of the very last Lightbringer who was once dead but is now resurrected as the world needs you once more. In this way the character customisation is quite fluid. As you don’t really remember who you were, or what you did, or how you did it- so you’re free to build yourself anew. Even the initial choice of which weapon to take up has no impact on what character you’re going to be.

Characters are defined by both their attributes and their abilities.

The attributes are fairly self explanatory with Strength for tough brawlers, Dexterity for nimble hunters, and Intellect for those of magical inclination. There’s also Vitality which simply increases your maximum health. Levelling up will provide your Lightbringer with two points to spend in those attributes, while party members can be automatically assigned their points if you’d prefer to build them as they were intended to be built. The abilities that your characters will learn (for lack of a better word) are tied to their equipment. For instance, you can find a mace that gives you a powerful sundering attack that stuns all nearby enemies. However, once the mace is unequipped so too is the ability. So equipment has more importance than just statistical gains.

It’s an interesting system with the only current drawback being that you might be limited to only three abilities per character. You don’t seem to have space for more on your bar, nor does it make sense for there to be more unless jewellery can also provide skills. But it’s a flexible (and enjoyable) system that encourages experimentation and diverse character builds.

There be bears in this here forest.

There be bears in this here forest.

For further customisation there’s also quite an extensive crafting system. Recipes can either be purchased from merchants or discovered through experimentation, with the results of crafting often being much more powerful than what is available otherwise. Cooked food seems to fully restore health and some even provides buffs to the character. I can’t say whether the same could be said of crafted equipment. But it does seem that crafting is meant to provide better results than simply buying from merchants or finding things out in the world.

Speaking of the world- it’s pretty huge.

I’m quite impressed that they’ve allowed you to explore without restriction in the earlier areas. I was expecting to be linearly pushed through a series of quests towards a particular location, then allowed to explore the rest of the areas I’ve passed through later. Instead I’ve been lost in a forest for two hours collecting equipment, fighting enemies, and exploring various locations. Most appealing of all is that I can actually be killed. Some of the enemies are quite tough (and some out of my level range). So there is an element of danger in exploring too deeply in certain locations. It’s a pleasant change from being completely immune to danger and unable to make choices for the first five hours of the adventure.

Arguably one of the best parts of this title is that even at full price it’s only £6.99 on Steam. That’s an absolutely insane price for a title that seems to be making good on its promise that there’s going to be a lengthy campaign, a gorgeous world, and adventure abound for recently resurrected Lightbringers. If you like RPGs- give it a go! You likely won’t be disappointed!

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

First Impressions of… The Fall of the Dungeon Guardians

There’s no floor food in this dungeon!

How will we live long enough to see the end? Oh, wait, we don’t have hunger meters or any of the requirements found therein. That’s… odd. Still, at least we won’t need to eat things we found on the floor that are probably long past their expiration date. The Fall of the Dungeon Guardians is a first person dungeon crawler with a twist. A tank, healer, and DPS twist to be precise.

A twist that will no doubt lead to frantic button pressing later on.

If I know anything about MMOs, and I might do, it’s that things often go wrong, especially when you’re encountering entirely new content. Who knew that boss was going to smash down on one party member regardless of previously established threat? Not me! That’s why the healer is now a stain on the floor. That said, they’ve taken great care with the character development allowing you to choose from four base classes (each with three specialisations). So, in a way, you have twelve different choices (or a combination of those choices) to build a team with. Some are fairly simple and others require specific combinations of abilities to function properly.

I’d say that’s one of the best things about this title. The character development is deep enough to keep you interested throughout, while there’s a lot of different equipment which can allow you to create the characters the way you’d like to play them. Difficulty settings permitting. Allowing you to choose between the three specialisations also allows you to create advanced classes. It’s likely there is a level cap, much in the way that Legend of Grimrock had a level cap, in that you will eventually run out of things to kill and therefore run out of experience to earn.

Let's rattle some bones.

Let’s rattle some bones.

There’s a myriad of customisation available, too. The pausing system which you’ll employ heavily in combat can be configured to pause automatically in different situations, the information on screen can be tailored (and even resized) to your requirements, and there are several helpful prompts/features that can be enabled if you need them. It’s… more customisable than expected.

You can tell a lot of time, care, and attention went into this title.

For those who’ve played Legend of Grimrock before but weren’t keen on the puzzle solving elements, I do believe this title has puzzles but I think that the progress is based mostly on performance in combat. Not on banging your head against a puzzle for a while. I’ll be able to offer more information regarding this when I do a full review, which I likely will do later (once I’ve finished the entire story and can give a fair representation of it as a whole). Also, don’t worry, while I am making a few Legend of Grimrock comparisons now, that’s only because it’s the closest newest release example of a dungeon crawler I have that most people have played. I won’t be basing it on or against what Legend of Grimrock did or didn’t do.

To say I’m pleasantly surprised with what I’ve experienced so far would be an understatement. I would even go so far as to say that if you’re a fan of dungeon crawlers you should pick this up, as while it might not play to very traditional strengths it seems to be developing strengths of its own. I can only imagine how fun it’s going to be going back through the story with different combinations of characters, specialisations, and equipment. Again, difficulty settings permitting. But it does have quite a few of those- so I’m sure you’ll find one that suits you.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie