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

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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… Portal Knights

Every adventure starts with a single portal.

Portal Knights is an enjoyable sandbox building title with RPG elements. On your quest to uncover new portals to unlock (and new worlds to travel to) you’ll be slaying monsters, collecting loot, exploring the world, building new locations, and defeating mysterious bosses. Currently in Early Access and available via Steam this is a title that has continued to surprise me. Many of the features of the title are already available, including, but not limited to: character classes, character talent trees, equipment crafting, an enjoyable and varied building experience, multiple worlds to explore, mini dungeons, and multiple varieties of enemies to encounter.

The RPG elements feel a little light at the moment with many of the talents shared between the three classes of Warrior, Ranger, and Mage. That said, there are sets of equipment designed for each class and many of the traditional elements of each class are interchangeable. For instance, anyone can craft magical spells using the Altar and anyone can wield a bow if they want to.

Which is something I’d recommend you do as a Warrior if you choose to play one.

Warriors have a particular weakness to things that fly without some form of projectile weapon. Combat is still quite an enjoyable experience, however. When attacking an enemy you’ll soft lock onto them (with the ability to cycle targets), meaning all your attacks will focus on them while you dodge roll in appropriate directions away from them. When facing multiple opponents it can be a little disorientating dodging, engaging, and observing each. Overall, while it could do with a little improvement, it works and is satisfying enough.

That's one big worm.

That’s one big worm.

The various worlds you’ll uncover and explore are each satisfying in their own way. Initially they’ll be fairly small but will open up to be broader, feature more enemy variety, and have more mini dungeons. Finding the portals can be quite the task as they can be hidden anywhere. With most of the initial worlds featuring a rather linear structure, while later worlds have multiple exit portals. Different resources can be found in different worlds and you’ll need to visit multiple to use some of the Crafting Stations to their fullest. Boss worlds are simple (with no additional resources) and the bosses themselves involve identifying a weakness, hitting said boss, and then repeating the phase(s) until the boss is defeated.

In the ten-twelve worlds I have uncovered so far I’ve seen everything from jungles, to forests, to snowy plains, to swamps, to tropical beaches, to something that resembles a forest in Autumn. It’s not hurting for variety in the world design at all. The art direction is incredibly solid, too. Featuring a unique and consistent style/theme throughout.

It’s going to be interesting to see how they develop the title further in the coming months.

One minor criticism I have (from the ten hours I’ve played) is how the resource costs quickly scale up. For instance, Copper Bars require only four Copper Ore while Iron Bars (the next tier) require ten Iron Ore. This feels a little disproportionate to the effort you’d previously have put in to upgrade (or to build) new equipment or Crafting Stations. Especially when you require forty Iron Ore to upgrade the Anvil, a further forty to upgrade the Workbench, and then a further amount to build new equipment.

However, this is definitely a very strong entry into Early Access. If you’re a fan of either sandbox building or RPGs you’ll likely be able to put 15+ hours into this one in its current state.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

First Impressions of… Hearthlands

I’m pretty sure that mine near the southern river is haunted.

Hearthlands is a rather quirky city builder with elements of empire management. You start with a rather unassuming plot of land and you’re tasked with creating a sustainable flow of resources, housing your settlers, developing infrastructure, developing an army, and expanding outwards in a world filled with as many as twelve rivals. The creation options are pretty flexible, though. You can toggle various difficulty modifiers on and off to the lengths of creating a low risk sandbox mode.

Most of the difficulty modifiers relate to natural resources, enemy encounters, natural disasters (such as plague outbreaks), and whether special locations are added to the map.

You can also decide how many rivals you want to play with, and, if you do have rivals, you can make them friendly so they won’t ever engage in war with you. Also, quite oddly, though I could just be inexperienced with these types of games, you are given an amount of starting gold. The default amount seems to be 40,000 but can be adjusted to whatever you wish (higher or lower).

While the above sounds somewhat complicated Hearthlands presents most of these concepts in a rather easy to digest format. I’m not entirely sure if many of the features will remain the same as this is Early Access, but, there are few options for each of the settlers you can play as, which allows you to focus on the meat of the game rather than trying to remember everything they’re good at. You can play as Northerners, Southerners, Easterners, or Westerners and they all have different benefits/requirements. Again, at the moment, these are the only options available when playing as one of the settlers. The only exception to this is warfare where all of the units are available to develop.

Not very viable but helps to understand the way(s) to build a settlement.

Not very viable but helps to understand the way(s) to build a settlement.

To be more concise with the above, let’s say one of the settlers can only breed chickens and roosters- these will be the only farming options available when playing as them. However, if they prefer axemen as military units- the other units will still be available to develop if you wish. Likely because some enemies will be less or more effective against certain unit types.

While building your settlement and making it sustainable is the key focus there are other things you’ll be involved with. There are various enemy settlements added to the map(s) by default which will provide a range of encounters. From the simple theft of items from storerooms to engaging you in combat and/or attacking your fortifications. There are also locations you can visit (like mines or graveyards) where enemies will nest and encounters will occur. It doesn’t really look this complicated at first glance but it does have several layers of complexity.

As an Early Access title there’s a lot of content already in the game as well as regular updates coming through.

The later updates (from November 2015 onwards) seem to be focusing on fleshing out the magic system. So I’d expect there to be more options for units and perhaps even units that don’t necessarily favour any of the settlers. As anyone could build the structures with enough time, resources, and money.

I’m having a lot of fun with it at the moment despite spending most of my time in building phases (see the above screenshot). While not an actual feature of the game I like to generate maps and build settlements to see how I can most effectively access resources, generate appeal, and retain the settlers that come to my city. Hopefully this will help when I actually start a game with the intention of playing and winning (if that’s possible).

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

First Impressions of… Grim Dawn

I don’t always spend money on Early Access titles- but when I do they’re RPGs.

So, recently I was on the Humble Store looking at all the deals which were available this week and one title caught my eye- Grim Dawn. I’ve unofficially followed it for quite some time as it promises gritty, challenging, diverse ARPG action using a modified (and updated) version of the Titan Quest engine. While Titan Quest doesn’t hold as much importance in my ARPG history as Diablo II- it’s still an amazing game. One that I must finish at some point, too!

You get fire, you get fire, you get fire- everyone gets fire!

You get fire, you get fire, you get fire- everyone gets fire!

Grim Dawn has some really tasty skills and passives which give you an edge in melee not unlike the one you would get while playing ranged or magical classes. In short, in most ARPGs, playing a melee class is usually incredibly good early on as your gear gives you quite a bit more damage and your higher than average health pool gives you good survivability. However, as you progress, usually about a third through the main story, you drop off dramatically in terms of survivability compared to your ranged counterparts. Mostly as your health doesn’t scale well enough to compensate heavier damage and your ranged counterparts need not worry about that, as, well, they don’t get hit.

The combat features a range of enemies which are high priority. From stepping out of the gate the first time I began to identify enemies that hurled painfully damaging attacks, vomited acid (or bile), and some that froze you solid. It’s insanely fun as you’re always thinking on your feet. Yet, the enemies do have patterns, they do have general clusters of abilities, so not everything is new- just new enough for you to feel each encounter is unique. Also that each encounter is challenging, fun, and possibly going to show you something you haven’t seen yet.

To be honest, if I didn’t know this was an Early Access title, I would swear it was a fully completed game. The environments, character animations, character models, graphics, GUI, and just about everything else feels really polished. It’s obvious that a lot of love, care, and attention went into creating something that feels good to play and more than likely fun to design and test.

Not to draw too many comparisons as these two titles take different design directions. But the Diablo III Open Beta was perhaps the worst beta I’ve ever been a part of. The servers constantly crashed, the locations were limited, the quests were few, the actual range of content was quite small, the characters didn’t feel particularly good to play nor did they have many of their unique skills (or any way to access them) yet, and so on. To the point that I felt that the game needed a lot more polish. One month before release and I wanted to cancel my pre-order (and I wish I did).

Grim Dawn, I think, is set to release at the end of 2015, but that could change. Yet at this moment in time it already feels complete. It plays beautifully. It’s, well, there are no words. It’s amazing.

While I most likely won’t exhaust the content that is available to play, I will be trying different classes, and different builds, as this looks like it’s going to have an awful lot. In short, if you have a passion for ARPGs and enjoy the days of Diablo II or Titan Quest- invest in the Early Access. You won’t regret it.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie