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!



Forward to the Future

If I start to repeat “It’s here!” and wag my tail excitedly just know I’m happy.

Just a quick note before we start, it’s not my intention nor wish to spoil anything for anyone regarding Fallout 4 and so this is mostly talking about the mechanical changes you’ll experience.

Fallout 4 has arrived! The much anticipated sequel (both personally and commercially) reinvents certain aspects of the core mechanics which many of the modern Fallout players will have come to know and (possibly) love. The biggest change surrounds the S.P.E.C.I.A.L. system and how perks are handled. You’ve got less S.P.E.C.I.A.L. points to spend at creation (28 down from 40) and these are more closely tied to how your character uses perks and develops over the course of the game.

The perk system also replaces the skill system (which is now removed) in determining what your character can do for the most part.

It also features some fairly broad changes with regards to how you build, maintain, and use weapons. It would seem that for the most part the classifications of Small Guns, Big Guns, Energy Weapons, and so on are mostly removed. Instead focusing on whether a weapon is non-automatic, automatic, a rifle, a pistol, or what they classify as a heavy gun. I can only imagine that heavy guns will for the most part replace what used to fall under Big Guns. They also seem to have removed weapon and armour maintenance with neither of those items having durability now.

The lack of durability could be a sore point for some. Personally, while I tend to like traditional mechanics, I can’t say that durability ever really affected me in either of the previous two modern Fallout titles. I had enough money, resources, or whatever it was that I needed to repair all of my equipment constantly.

Just a sunny post-apocalyptic afternoon.

Just a sunny post-apocalyptic afternoon.

Power armour has had a significant redesign and now actually feels like the pre-war technology it is supposed to be. It now features insanely good resistances to various damage types and is a suit you have to climb into, as opposed to wear like any other armour, and features a whole new HUD while you’re in there. The downside to it is that it’s quite heavy/bulky and has to be powered via Fusion Cores. So it doesn’t last forever unless you have a few spare cores. You do have to repair it, too. With many of the sections of the armour being removable/replaceable over the course of the game. It’s a pretty awesome mechanic but one I’m not sure I’ll be taking too much advantage of.

Weapon and armour (and settlement) crafting seems pretty fun so far. The amount of flexibility given to various guns and how you can modify, improve, or adapt them to fit other situations is pretty great. However, it is a bit of a guessing game (at first) as to how you classify what would be considered a rifle or a heavy weapon.

Which is where I would say Fallout 4 lacks a little- explanations. The updates to the S.P.E.C.I.A.L. system are quite extensive but at creation (and even after) you’re given little information as to what all of these statistics do. Same with weapon and armour crafting where you won’t always know what your modifications will produce or if it’s suitable for you. Finally, I am a little sad to see the recently reintroduced traits being removed again. That said, one could say that the way magazines work is a trait system in itself.

Just a case of seeing whether it can live up to the replayability of Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas now.

Have a nice weekend, all!


How to Survive

The secret is in the title. Survive you must and survive you probably will. Or not.

While not having much of an idea of what to expect (except zombies, foraging, and crafting) when coming into this title I have been pleasantly surprised several times. One thing that, while it seems simple, and could very well be a staple of other open world survival crafting games, is that you can disassemble your items after assembling them. So, for instance, when I started to craft improvised firearms I decided to disassemble my wooden bow. It’s now a fishing rod!

Naturally, where resources are scarce, you’re always afraid you’re wasting them on something now that is useless later.

"And Hell followed with him."

“And Hell followed with him.”

In this case it’s very easy to use resources to build neat things, disassemble them, and build even neater things from the same resources. Unless, of course, these resources are finite like health poultices or the like which are unable to be disassembled once built. Then again, what kind of crazy person would take apart a healing item to make a Molotov Cocktail? (This crazy person.)

One of the other neat things I was frequently reminded of is how scary the night really is. There are more powerful zombie variants which come out at night that are… actually pretty intelligent. They hate flashlights and probably any form of light for that matter- but they will flank you. They will retreat from the front, come around the side, or simply attack you from the back whenever they feel like it. I do know that day and night cycles are usually a big part of the whole survival mechanic but I really enjoyed the way How to Survive does it. You do get the feeling that these enemies are more dangerous and intelligent than the average zombie.

However, this does lead me to one of the minor complaints I had about the title which is the inability to sleep when you want to. Or, rather, to skip night if you want to. While it doesn’t need to be a feature- and I certainly see why it wouldn’t be- the dangerousness of night is dampened somewhat when you can’t see anything at all (light or no) in some night scenarios.

One particular island has a lot of greyish fog which pretty much blocks out the entire screen.

When night first fell I was near a place where I could sleep/rest, too. So it would’ve been great to actually sleep away that nearly impossible to navigate night scenario. Again, I get the idea, and the whole darkness is bad concept, but in this circumstance I found it near impossible to actually see much of anything. Also, from the point of view of survival statistics, you can eat or drink whenever you wish to. But you can’t sleep whenever you wish to. Which means, even if you’re low on sleep, but you don’t hit the threshold to allow sleep, you will basically go out exhausted and weak.

That said, these are minor issues in a title which tries really hard to make itself recognisable. The lack of glaringly obvious markers for resources in the wild mean you get into the habit of actually spotting them, rather than glossing over the map, and the way you can craft even if you don’t know the recipe per se is certainly great when rummaging around in your inventory making space.

While not likely the longest, nor most complicated, title of this genre on the market- it’s one that does ensure a lot of enjoyment from start to finish!

Have a nice week, all!