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

The Darkening of Tristram

Let’s go back to where it all began.

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Diablo series Blizzard is bringing a unique event to Diablo III. This event hopes to recreate the town of Tristram, the cathedral where it all began, and even reintroduces some of the classic sought after items from the original Diablo. These items (as far as I can tell) are there for flavour, as only a select few can be used for transmogrification appearances or cosmetic effects. There’s also a shard of the iconic red soulstone available as a Legendary Gem for those who fell The Dark Lord.

It’s an event that lasts roughly a few hours if you’re looking to see it all.

It also features a rather interesting screen filter (and adjusted camera angle) to bring back the feeling of the original. Along with all of the original music, ambience, and sound effects which have given me more than a few pangs of nostalgia in my heart. That could also be my cholesterol. But I’m pretty sure it was the nostalgia doing its thing.

There are a handful of achievements available during the event, too. These are fairly simple things for the most part. The most interesting being that you brave the horrors with a fresh new character and complete the event. Which may be slightly more difficult if you don’t feel like completing the event in full in one run, as I don’t think there’s any way to leave and then to return to where you were. Which is slightly odd, as the original Diablo featured more than a few paths back to the surface from specific levels. It’s a pretty interesting event, though. If you’re a fan of several Blizzard titles you’ll be pleased to know that most of their major titles also have smaller time limited events. All with Diablo themed items and rewards.

Naturally it wouldn’t be a Diablo event without some mention of Wirt and that’s perhaps my most treasured acquisition from this event. The Royal Calf, a baby cow that bears a resemblance to the murderous cows you would encounter in the Secret Cow Level. Which is now safely nestled alongside my other pets. Following me into glorious battle and to great riches! You can also collect a special version of The Butcher as a pet. But he’s not going anywhere near my cow! I love that little guy.

I don’t care if the steaks are high- he’s not having him!

I am slightly disappointed that the event is only available during January (at least that’s the plan so far), but it’s a series which has always meant a lot to me and one that I’ve enjoyed for the past seventeen years. It’s also one that has influenced me both as an artist and as a gamer. So I’ve made a considerable effort in participating in (and enjoying) as much of it as I can.

I’m looking forward to the Necromancer, too. It’s going to be interesting seeing a seventh character class added to Diablo III, it’s also going to be interesting to see what kind of abilities they have besides those we’ve been shown already. I wouldn’t mind if this is how Diablo III played out, either. Small character class packs alongside minor content updates. Not to forget the refreshed content for Seasons that rolls around every so often. While I may have had my criticisms of Diablo III in the past (and they’re criticisms I still have), I like the new direction that it has been going since the release of Reaper of Souls. It’s improving ever so slightly with every new patch and new release.

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

Skirt Wearing Weather

The adventures of one man and his spiritual wolf.

Which will one day be three wolves. I’m not entirely sure how one wolf magically splits into three- but I’m not asking questions! I’m surprised I can even conjure living beings out of thin air. Or, in the case of the nymph, out of some otherworldly bulb. But that’s the path I chose to take and it certainly helps to have covering fire. Yes, you guessed it- it’s time for more Titan Quest adventures. These were brought on by the recent release of the Titan Quest Anniversary Edition. Which is really just an excuse to spend several hours clicking on mythical creatures and monsters.

Not that I’m entirely opposed to the revival of a classic ARPG.

For this build I decided to combine the close combat benefits that Warfare Mastery brings with the pets (and buffing capability) of Nature Mastery. I was thinking about Defense Mastery for a while, but it doesn’t really have any damage capability. Nature Mastery also lacks any decent damage capability outside of Plague. So I decided to take Warfare Mastery and (one of my favourite abilities) Onslaught. Trying out War Wind for the first time, too. Hoping to get that upgraded soon so that it can bleed multiple targets. I’ve also taken Battle Standard to further increase his versatility and to allow him to easily take down bosses, take on hordes of enemies, or simply have another buff.

It’s unlikely he’s going to use any of the healing abilities that Nature Mastery offers. Mostly because he doesn’t have the energy to use them. That said, he doesn’t really need them as pets are surprisingly good even with only a few points of investment. Just a singular wolf and nymph bolstered by Heart of Oak is a considerable damage increase.

Bigger than the ones back home.

Bigger than the ones back home.

The wolf also gives the enemies something else to attack. The nymph can snipe enemies from a considerable distance, while, if they close the distance, she actually runs to a safe distance before continuing to attack. It’s quite amazing. As I’ve known many AI companions who would simply stand there and get beat on if the enemies approached them. She also has ranged attacks- which his build lacks- so she’s able to pin down retreating enemies. The nymph has some great passive abilities, too. I just need to spend more in Nature Mastery for them.

It’s incredibly tempting to invest the points just for the passive abilities.

I’m quite impressed with the Anniversary Edition so far. I appreciated the character import process which allowed me to bring all of my older characters over to the new version. Complete with any required updates to make them work properly with this version. Likewise, I’m pleased that it doesn’t feel that different at all. It still feels like Titan Quest- which is good- as it should. I’ve had no issues running it, either. Not that I ever had any issues running Titan Quest. But, if you did, the Anniversary Edition may resolve those issues. If it doesn’t, they’re still actively patching it so they might resolve them at a later date. Overall it’s an incredibly solid update of an incredibly enjoyable ARPG.

I was thinking about writing something closer to release. That said, I wasn’t really sure what I could say about it without having spent several hours with it first. An enjoyable several hours at that. The Titan Quest Anniversary Edition is probably one of the best releases I’ve ever seen- new or old- and it’s worth your time if you enjoy Titan Quest.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Interstellar Blues

Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Rasputin.

Derelict, rusty, lacking in every way, and liable to fall apart before we reach the next space station. By the power of duct tape and holding our breath in zero gravity we shall prevail! Either that or we’ll suffocate. Imagine going into warp and seeing your rear engine float away tethered loosely by a strip of duct tape, realising you’re now tilting heavily on one side, and that if anything should hit the other engine you’re stranded in this harsh abyss. I wonder if we have some kind of suit to fix exterior errors. Or if we even know how.

Sweet baby lambs- the Rasputin is a floating death trap! I’m not a qualified anything!

Even my pilot license expired four years ago. That said, no-one has asked to see my license yet. Then again- no-one has asked to see anything- they’re usually too busy trying to pepper me with missiles or tear a hole in my hull with their lasers. It’s a good thing I installed those deflector shields. Else, I would be the space debris that I frequently crash into.

Rebel Galaxy is a relaxing space adventure that has provided quite a different experience than I was initially expecting. It’s quite tough, too. The above account is a literal description of the ship when we first get it- no deflector shields, no tractor beam, no secondary weapons, and an engine that barely runs. Not to mention the random events range from slightly annoying to absolutely brutal. Within seconds you’re descended upon by a dozen ships, each with better ordinance, and each with the capability to weave in and out of turret fire. However, this is one of the reasons that Rebel Galaxy is growing on me. There’s a lot at work which isn’t readily apparent when you’re getting this ol’ rustbucket from mission to mission.

We drove a long way for ice cubes.

We drove a long way for ice cubes.

There are also a lot of different ways to play it out. You can be friendly, you can resort to piracy, you can smuggle resources between stations, you can join guilds, or you can simply float around the universe doing who knows what. It’s definitely got a very laid back feel to the progression. Sure, there’s a story- but who has time for a story? There’s a distress beacon over here, a delivery over there, a small trade convoy carrying valuable cargo to the south, and a few stations between here and there. It’s quite the change of pace for me.

Which is the entire reason I decided to pick it up in the first place.

I wanted to do something a little different. RPGs and ARPGs have always been the two staples of my library, with many of my favourite titles, such as Chrono Trigger or the Final Fantasy series, falling into one of those categories. But I’m looking to add more staples to my library.

Staples, unlike glue, also tend to keep things held together. Glue usually degrades over time and things fall out all over the place. I can’t say that I’ll always enjoy the different titles I try, nor can I guarantee I’ll play them multiple times in different ways- but I value the experiences. Playing different things. Having to learn whole new sets of mechanics because you’ve never played something like this before. It also helps when I’m not in the mood to play a particular genre as now I have so many genres to choose from. In any case, we’ve had a lot of creative posts recently and I figured I’d do something a little different for those getting burned out looking at my scribbles.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie