First Impressions of… Children of Morta

One family to stand against the encroaching corruption.

Children of Morta is an exceptionally satisfying ARPG that functions as a dungeon crawler. An exquisite narrator tells the story of the Bergson family in their tireless struggle against an unnatural corruption, while the main campaign affords myriad opportunities to learn more about each family member and their motivations. There are numerous events to view or quests to complete throughout the main campaign that award permanent progression, too. These may unlock playable family members, build on the rich history of their ancestral home, or simply tie the main campaign together. It’s a simplistic but effective approach.

One that is painfully absent in modern RPGs.

ARPGs are rarely known for their engrossing main campaign stories, but Children of Morta wholeheartedly relies on telling that story and having you invested in the characters and events found therein. It feels natural and illustrates how the struggle against the corruption wears on both body and spirit. It’s an enthralling joy to play.

Each family member is rather interesting as well. John is the stalwart defender whose shield and sweeping attacks afford exceptional close combat proficiency, while Linda has heightened mobility and can pierce enemies with a hail of arrows. Kevin can dash effortlessly between enemies slicing and dicing with deadly efficiency, while Mark can draw enemies close before pummelling them mercilessly. I’ve had most success with Linda, Kevin, and Mark. I’ve never been particularly good at much of anything with John. While Joey is the newest addition and the character that best fits my usual approach to ARPGs. His potential for damage is quite impressive given that his health has been bolstered substantially. He can also charge through enemies like a burly lunatic.

Things are certainly starting to heat up down here.

Character development is extensive and intuitive. Levelling up any of the six characters allows you to unlock skills and (through investment in those skills) traits. Traits are shared with the family, and they provide an enticing incentive to level up multiple characters as each contributes to the proficiency of the rest. On the ancestral grounds you can invest in both Uncle Ben’s workshop (which improves various character attributes) and the Book of Rea (which offers dungeon crawling bonuses) to further empower the family. These investments affect the family equally and allow you to develop everyone at the same time.

Which makes using a less experienced character more viable.

While they might lack the skills or the traits of their more experienced kin they’re still quite powerful in their own way. Having more health, a better chance of landing a critical hit, or a higher dodge chance can certainly smooth out the difficulty curve in later areas. By surviving longer they contribute to the continual investment, too.

At first glance Children of Morta seemed like a rather engaging ARPG, but I’ve found it’s more of a dungeon crawler that’s actually quite reminiscent of Diablo in its execution of certain mechanics. The way that dungeons are divided into different areas, the obelisks which offer substantial bonuses, the deadly traps, and the possibility of uncovering random events make me nostalgic for the blasphemous bowels beneath Tristram. That’s not to say that it doesn’t have strength in its own convictions. It does. There’s an intriguing story that’s told exceptionally well by both the narrator and the various events or quests. But it’s still a unique approach that I’ve only seen attempted a scarce few times before, and fewer still have been successful in delivering the desired result.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

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Diablo: The Wanderer’s Eulogy (Pt. 3)

Maddening tormented whispers flood into your mind.

A jagged landscape wrought of bone and wreathed in molten flame stands before you. Vile, despicable, bloodthirsty demons crowd you. You’ve reached the final levels of the main campaign, and hell will never be inviting or comforting for it’s where the greatest challenges await you. Defeating Lazarus to crack open the door to this hellish domain is just the beginning. Diablo, the Lord of Terror, waits patiently for you to free him from his subterranean prison. It’s arguably the most challenging content in Diablo, and it’s where your story ends as you hope to contain the overwhelming malice of the Prime Evil. Not that you can.

It’s a more satisfying and apt conclusion if you’re a Warrior.

Quite a lengthy section of content, too. It’s deceptive in that way. You believe that there are only four more levels until the end of the campaign, but within those levels are side quests to complete and puzzles to solve before you are able to fight Diablo. Even when you can you’re likely to be swarmed by the enemies released when he is.

This would be as good a time as any to revisit the crypt as well. Given that it forms the final content available in the Hellfire expansion pack. These levels are sadly less impressive, but they’re certainly challenging (in a way) due to the overwhelming number of magical floating orbs on the screen at any one time. I definitely found these areas more frustrating than the hive, too. The challenge (for lack of a better word) disappeared as long as I could keep drinking potions. The enemies annoyingly ran great distances away and soon the screen was littered with an impassable sea of magical damage. The final boss of the content was also somewhat anti-climactic. I decided not to weaken him and he still died relatively quickly.

Only in the blasphemous bowels of hell will we find the Lord of Terror.

Wirt was my saving grace throughout this entire endeavour. I had not only managed to acquire a rather useful helmet with a +% Resist All modifier on it, but an absurdly powerful axe with substantial +% Chance To Hit and +% Damage modifiers, and a ring that had significant +% Resist Fire and +Strength modifiers. I’m unsure but I don’t believe that the first Warrior that I completed the main campaign with was anywhere near as powerful as this one. I could’ve done with replacing one of the rings and the necklace, too. But nothing worth buying was available and instead I spent my gold on Strength, Vitality, and Dexterity Elixirs.

Diablo was certainly tougher than I remember, though.

I was unlucky and got consistently knocked back so was rarely able to actually land a hit on him. It took more than a few potions to survive the ensuing onslaught as I crawled towards him only to be knocked back again, but he eventually took enough hits to be little more than a mangled heap of demonic remains on the floor.

This has been quite an unconventional series of posts, but I felt that this would be more interesting than a single In Retrospect post detailing the content and the character that I’ve played. There’s a possibility I may even add a fourth post to this series. That depends on what I do next and whether I decide to revisit Diablo in the coming months, but I’ve been thinking about doing a similar (but extended) series for a new Diablo II character. I’ve never really written much about either on Moggie’s Proclamations before as they were before its time. But the Diablo series is one I’ve greatly enjoyed for many years and I hope that some of that shows through with this series.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Diablo: The Wanderer’s Eulogy (Pt. 2)

There’s an unnerving skittering in the darkness.

Despite being reasonably experienced with Diablo I know very little of the Hellfire expansion pack. I know that it has an additional eight dungeon levels, that there’s a final campaign boss, and that it’s relatively self-contained but that’s about it. I do believe that there are a few shrines, the various Oils, the various Runes, and new equipment that can be found in the main campaign but most content is restricted to the hives and the crypt. Which allegedly mirror the difficulty of the caves and hell, respectively. There’s also a strangely low (arbitrary) level requirement to gain access to the hives via the Rune Bomb to start the content.

Strangely low because the content is for a higher level.

Or that’s how it feels to me. It could be that because Warriors run up to everything, often get surrounded, and essentially need to take damage to deal damage that they felt so flimsy in the hive. But I’m not so sure. The damage seemed absurd even after returning from the caves having cleared each floor and gaining access to hell.

It’s also relatively uninspired content in comparison to the main campaign. I found far fewer shrines, no actual quests or events, and even far less loot in those levels than I think I’d found anywhere else. I don’t even know if there were unique variants of the new enemies appearing in the levels, either. That’s not to say that it’s entirely bad content. It just felt like an exercise in repeating the same actions for a while. Even the hostility of enemies felt underwhelming due to the lack of anything else going on, and could certainly be improved with more of the puzzling quests or unique events present in the main campaign. That said, I wanted to experience the Hellfire expansion pack and I’m glad that I did.

The monstrosity beneath the throbbing hive.

The acquisition of Arkaine’s Valor earlier in the catacombs certainly made some of the Hellfire expansion pack content more bearable. The Fastest Hit Recovery modifier is definitely useful to a Warrior without a shield, but the additional -3 Damage From Enemies and +10 Vitality modifiers were perfectly suited to this particular build. Reducing the damage that I’d receive and bolstering my health even further. I also found the Optic Amulet which isn’t a spectacularly useful item, but does offer +20% Resist Lightning and -1 Damage From Enemies so it suited the build as it was at the time. I’d been gambling with Wirt for a while, too.

I was hoping to buy an extraordinarily powerful axe.

That’s one of the few things that endlessly frustrates me about Diablo. I’d like to be able to easily re-roll his inventory, or, at the very least, be allowed to gamble more than one item at a time. As Wirt is arguably the best (and most expensive) source of exceptionally powerful equipment, but it’s a hassle forcing him to re-roll his inventory to see it.

I was considering building a Monk when looking at the re-release of Diablo and the Hellfire expansion pack. However, I felt more comfortable with a Warrior as it is a class I’m more experienced with and I’m not sure what a Monk actually does. It seems that they fight with staves, but that they can also fight with their bare fists and that both offer some unique benefit to them. It’s certainly a class that seems to be good at a few too many things. In that they’re not actually exceptionally good at any one thing. I’m likely to come back to Diablo over the coming months as I’m intending to play through Nightmare and Hell with this Warrior, and so it’s just as likely I might try building a Monk.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

Diablo: The Wanderer’s Eulogy (Pt. 1)

Not all who wander will return alive.

Following my recent post regarding the re-release of Diablo and the Hellfire expansion pack I decided that I’d continue ever-deeper into the forsaken depths. I’d originally intended to build that particular character to be able to see the content before writing about it, but it was so overwhelmingly enjoyable returning to Diablo that I worked through the entire main campaign. This would be the second character to finish the main campaign (both Warriors), the first character to experience the Hellfire expansion pack content, and one of five characters who’ve made significant progress towards the Lord of Terror.

For those reasons, I’d say that I’m reasonably experienced with Diablo.

Which is why I wanted to focus on two-handed weapons and the colossal damage that they deal, and not lean on one-handed weapons with a shield. I’d lose the defensive capabilities and the affixes associated with shields. But I decided to invest heavily into Vitality to balance the lack of defensive capability with an overflowing health pool.

It was also because The Butcher drops The Butcher’s Cleaver on death and it has a ridiculous damage range for when it becomes available. It’s oddly more powerful than some of the highest quality axes available in higher level areas, although it does have low durability and has an unimpressive lower damage range. It’s still a great weapon until the caves, though. It’s even better if you manage to find a shrine that improves its durability. Which I did. I threw a few of those Accuracy Oils on it, too. Needless to say it was quite powerful after I finished tinkering with various aspects of it. The other key element of this build was The Undead Crown which (by my calculations) allows you to steal 10% of your damage as health on hit.

To plunder a king’s riches and The Undead Crown.

As Warriors have the poorest starting (and maximum) Magic attribute there were few spells which could be useful. Even learning the Town Portal spell wasn’t useful as a single cast would require me to drink a Full Mana Potion, which is technically cheaper than a Scroll of Town Portal, but it doesn’t account for randomly losing Mana in the dungeon, and it’s a reasonably insignificant saving. Healing has the same problem. While Search has an obscenely high cost for what it actually does and how long it lasts. Of course, experiences may vary as you need to find more books to further level those spells. So they do eventually get cheaper.

But I do believe each book has gradually higher Magic requirements.

So I tend to avoid learning any spells besides those that provide some utility. A single cast at any given time could be useful regardless of the associated potion cost. It also means that learning the Guardian spell via a quest could be ultimately anti-climactic, as it costs so much to cast that you can’t even use it when you first acquire it.

Warriors are exceptionally tough, though. Even without a shield they can take quite a bit of damage before being in any real danger. But they do need to run up to every single enemy to hit them, and with a lack of +% Chance to Hit modifiers in the earlier levels you’re likely to take more damage as you can’t successfully land killing blows. That’s also why later levels become slightly more frustrating for Warriors as they need to chase down enemies that run away. While being pelted with several magical orbs. That said, at least if they do get hit by the numerous unavoidable magical orbs they will likely survive the impact. The same can’t always be said for Sorcerers or Rogues.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Beneath the Cathedral

Hordes of monstrosities lurk in the darkness of these forsaken halls.

There are scarce few ARPGs that execute a harsh and unforgiving dungeon crawling experience as perfectly as Diablo does. Having to desperately scrounge for equipment, potions, and gold to have some hope of seeing the next floor. Having to face innumerable monsters that tear through your flesh and splinter your armour. Delving deeper into the blasphemous bowels beneath Tristram and encountering enemies or shrines that can permanently alter your various attributes. Both the atmosphere and mechanics blurring the line between the frantic nature of ARPGs and the punishing reality of dungeon crawlers.

Diablo can certainly hold its own even today.

For this reason the re-release of Diablo (and later the Hellfire expansion pack) was interesting to me. Mostly due to the convenience of being able to play Diablo without a disc, but also because I’ve yet to experience the content in Hellfire and the support for modern operating systems could be useful. Underwhelming but useful.

The re-release does little to change the actual content of either Diablo or Hellfire. Which I’m glad about. That said, the launcher does give you some rather interesting options. You can choose between the original release of Diablo, the re-release of Diablo, or the re-release of Diablo with the Hellfire expansion pack. Save files can be freely transferred between the original release and re-release of Diablo, but Hellfire has a different save file format. Which is slightly disappointing as it would seem that only Hellfire allows you to play through Normal, Nightmare, and Hell. Something that (as far as I’m aware) was only available to online characters in the original release. So, unfortunately, I can’t take my character from the original release and cleave my way through Nightmare. The save files just aren’t compatible.

The Butcher’s Cleaver is great at cleaving things. As you would expect.

Support for higher resolutions (and the advanced rendering options) only apply to the re-release of Diablo or the re-release of Diablo with the Hellfire expansion pack. Higher resolution support technically exists, but it simply stretches the original resolution (of 640 x 480) to fit your desired resolution. You can also opt for aspect ratio correction to retain the original 4:3 aspect ratio. I’m not sure why you would ever turn aspect ratio correction off, though. The advanced rendering options are likely to be doing something, but I’ve barely noticed even the slightest changes when utilising them.

The above screenshot was originally taken at 3840 x 2160 resolution.

However, regardless of the actual display resolution, screenshots will be saved at 640 x 480 resolution and in the (obscure) .pcx file format. It doesn’t detract at all from the experience and the visuals are comparable to the original release, but it doesn’t exactly feel like higher resolution support as we’ve come to know it in recent years.

If you enjoy Diablo (or are an ARPG enthusiast) then the re-release is certainly worth the relatively inexpensive cost of admission. Being able to switch between the original release and the re-release (with or without Hellfire) is a nice touch. It is, however, slightly disappointing that I can’t carry forward my progress from the original release into Hellfire. But that was often the case with expansion packs of yesteryear. I’m quite enthusiastic about the possibility of a re-release of Diablo II in a similar vein, too. It would be nice if that would also allow you to switch between either classic Diablo II or the Lord of Destruction expansion pack. I am rather fond of the countless hours I’ve spent with various classic Diablo II characters. It’d be nice to be able to revive them at some point.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

First Impressions of… Last Epoch

Across the landscape of time we travel!

Last Epoch is a rather ambitious Early Access ARPG featuring a broad (and entirely customisable) skill system, five distinct character classes (which specialise into various Masteries), travelling across time through four (increasingly post-apocalyptic) eras, and a steady flow of developer updates to expand on existing content. They’re quite frequent updates at the moment (and I doubt they’ll maintain that frequency), but it is nice to see that the developers are addressing various issues and adding new features while Last Epoch is in its infancy. It shows their commitment to creating something truly special.

Which, to be fair, Last Epoch is on its way to being.

I’m quite fond of the time travel mechanics. Not just because I love time travel mechanics, but because you’re working towards reversing the events that eventually left the world a smouldering ruin and more or less preventing the apocalypse. It’s a rather unique main campaign story for an ARPG at the very least.

There are five character classes (with the fifth yet to be implemented) and each represents a concept. The Sentinel, for instance, is a tough close quarters fighter who (through the three different Masteries) can adapt to fighting with various weaponry. Each Mastery representing a more specialised variant of the base class. The Paladin, for instance, being focused on healing and recovery. While the Primalist is a hardy survivalist and can summon animal companions to his side. Or turn into a ferocious beast through the Druid Mastery. Likewise the Acolyte represents the more unsavoury magical pursuits, and is the opposite of the Mage who focuses on wholesome magical pursuits. Like being a Spellblade. In many ways, the character classes are the reason that Last Epoch is so enjoyable as they’re so flexible.

Bathed in the tainted void.

To add to that flexibility is the rather engaging skill system which allows you to specialise into a handful of skills. These skills have their own development trees allowing you to drastically alter their behaviour. Such as adapting Warpath to do more damage when you’re using a two-handed weapon, but then allowing you to eventually block while spinning. Making use of the plethora of block-related passives of the Sentinel’s various trees. As such, there is a great feeling of experimentation and developing classes to whatever you wish them to become. Even if those ideas seem completely outlandish.

Crafting is also quite intuitive but rather unique.

You collect various crafting tokens which are basically prefixes and suffixes that can be applied to different types of equipment. You can then combine those tokens with existing equipment and get the exact bonuses you want, which is more favourable than collecting raw materials only to create vendor trash items.

There are, however, a few issues which have yet to be resolved. The framerate staggers quite significantly at times, there’s an odd issue with the screen resolution when logging in, and sometimes the chat box refuses to go away. But these are minor issues and are expected of something that isn’t completely finished yet. That said, if you can look past those issues and are looking for an incredibly solid Early Access ARPG then I can highly recommend Last Epoch. It’s an absolutely enjoyable experience. It’s also a rare example of a modern ARPG that is looking to reinvent the wheel to some extent. Working with existing conventional mechanics but adding something all their own to them. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing how it develops over the next year or so!

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Infectious Outbreak

If it’s not contagious then you’re not trying hard enough.

Of all the Early Access titles I’d seen Chronicon was among the most promising. It’s been quite a while since I last wrote about it, but that’s only because to write a new post regarding every major update would be to flood the blog with nothing but Chronicon. It’s rather different nowadays to how it was back then, but each update has generally been an improvement and has introduced new mechanics or new content. The updates are quite regular, too. There was even an update recently to provide support to those playing at 3840 x 2160 resolution with correct UI scaling.

It was sort of tricky to make it function correctly before that.

Through the major updates there are now revised skill trees along with an entirely new approach to the Mastery system, you can now collect gems, you can transmute items following certain recipes, you can enchant equipment through the acquisition of essences, and you can push your build through the new Anomaly mechanics.

The character classes (and skill trees) were already quite impressive, but the new Mastery system develops them so much further with some rather unique bonuses only available through certain trees. Like the ability to not require keys when opening treasure chests. Or to never take damage from floor traps. Alongside rather attractive (and quite powerful) passive bonuses such as increased elemental resistances or damage. It’s a really engaging system that actually rewards you every time you level up, and offers you choices within certain trees as to which benefit you would prefer based on which best suits your build. I’ve kept up the same Warlock from the first post but I’m quite interested in seeing how other classes fare in this new Mastery tree. I’m also itching to see how the Templar or Berserker performs.

Melt their flesh and strip their bones with corrosive poison!

Mastery is also available from when you first start playing the character and access doesn’t require an arbitrary level requirement. I’m also quite fond of the new enchanting materials and gems, which, in their own ways, allow you to further customise your equipment and further empower your most precious loot. Most enjoyable of all is that these materials are stored in a separate crafting inventory which means they’re universally available to all of your characters. They also don’t require stash space. There are new transmutation mechanics, too. But I’m not really sure what they do quite yet.

I’m thinking that they allow you to add powerful bonuses to your equipment.

I have actually received a few mysterious items as a result of completing various Anomalies and should probably look into what they do. That said, as with many things, the acquisition of loot is randomised and so I’m not entirely sure if these are items that are remotely useful for Warlocks (or more specifically poison Warlocks).

I’ve been quite optimistic regarding the final release of Chronicon and I don’t think I’m going to be disappointed. There have been many fantastic major updates which have introduced new mechanics, new story content, and have generally solved various issues that existed with the title from the first release. I see no reason why the developer would stop now. That said, if I’m still playing the same character some two years later and they’re now Lvl 100 (Mastery Lvl 200) and I’m still enjoying it then they’re doing something right. It’s more than I can say for many of the modern ARPGs that I’ve played. Most of which are good for maybe one or two characters and then they become stale and repetitive. Yet there’s something about Chronicon that’s so easy to come back to and enjoy.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie