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

Corruption Collection

Decaying souls housed in failing flesh.

There are a couple of trees in there, too. It wouldn’t be the same without a healthy dose of foliage. I’m starting to think I have a problem, but none have taken me seriously when I mention my obsession with my wood. I’m not sure why, either. They seem pretty understanding about the foliage thing. In any case, it’s a good time to throw together this sketch compilation. It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these and this one highlights a rather rare attempt at a Dark Souls inspired sketch.

I do love the visual style of the Dark Souls series.

There’s a certain quality that persists throughout the series which produces some utterly gorgeous suits of armour or weapons. Each usually telling a story about a previous owner, a previous age, or even a previous instalment. Highlighting the many realms and many inhabitants that have come and gone through the span of time that precariously knits each instalment together.

Many of these sketches have been previously highlighted over on Twitter. One is new-ish. That said, they were previously presented cropped and without as much context as they have here. Which, for the coloured pencil and ink tree sketch, is actually an interesting distinction, as you can see how the original pencil sketch looked and how things unfolded from there. It provides an interesting contrast to the graphite pencil tree sketch, within which you can see how the two approaches are surprisingly different despite having the same subject matter. Then again, the two were intended to be entirely different in their final presentation- but they remained fairly consistent in their original sketches.

I have a thing for trees. Colourful trees.

It’s interesting to me as I’ve been thinking about consistency for a while now. I was starting to question whether I had any which may have been slightly misplaced, as, while the two presentations ended up entirely different, they did start fairly similarly. Perhaps I’ve been looking at consistency the wrong way around. On the other hand, I’m pleased that these sketches maintain a level of quality which ranks with the best work I’ve done. Maybe I’m finally becoming more comfortable with my myriad styles, too.

Or maybe I shouldn’t have myriad styles.

I’ve also been working with a singular type of paper recently. I wish there were reasons for that, but the closest I have to a reason is that I can’t be bothered to disturb the cat by moving the supply box around to get my other bristol board. I know it’s in there. Somewhere. I’m starting to warm to cartridge paper, too. It tells all the best stories and keeps me warm on cold winter nights.

Been shuffling pencils around as well. Indulging in the pleasures of HB rather than my usual choice of B. No real reason for that, either. Just that it feels natural at times to select certain pencils over others. Almost as if I’ve gained some fundamental insight into how I approach things and what would be best to use, based on situation, instead of experience, to provide the best possible result at the time. It’s also fun experimenting with different materials from time to time. It’s surprising how something as simple as switching a pencil can drastically change the presentation of the finished piece. I’m still smitten with 2B*, too. (*The pencil not the android.)

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Art, design, and the like found herein (unless otherwise specified) is drawn and owned by David Wilkshire (also credited as Moggie) from 2006 to present date.

Hollows, Bonfires, the Elite Knight set, Estus Flasks, and all associated trademarks and devices are owned by FROMSOFTWARE.

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

Multiple Attempts

There’s definitely a trend in my digital painting attempts.

They’re either animals or trees. For the most part. That said, I wanted to bring this compilation of unfinished pieces together so that I could share some of the efforts I’ve hinted about in posts such as Momentary Regret and Happiness Hat. It’s easy for me to explain them to you- but it’s easier if you can see these attempts for yourself. It may also help you to understand why I feel the way I do about some of these. You can also see the follow on from Anatomical Fish. As one of these was the painting that I switched to.

You might also wonder why I’ve never finished these pieces.

I do, too. But I’ve discovered that I’ve been looking at things the wrong way around. Or at least I feel like I have. As I have concerned myself with the presentation of the content for a while, but I’m starting to notice it’s the content (or lack thereof) which is the actual problem. That’s why some of the small changes I was going to make never came to fruition.

I started to realise that I could change around the presentation infinitely but it wouldn’t quell the disappointment (for lack of a better word) that I felt regarding the content itself. Therefore, I’ve started to work towards finishing more pieces. Some of which have been sitting around for far too long. Like the subject of Building an Abomination, which I’ve repeatedly put off working on for various reasons and it’s still unfinished. I could make countless excuses but I won’t. That said, I enjoy the aforementioned posts which bring together things I’ve been working on and I think they illustrate (pun intended) my creative journey nicely. So I’m not looking to lose those posts entirely.

They're a colourful bunch!

They’re a colourful bunch!

I’m just hoping I’ll be able to commit myself to more finished pieces. It’s something which I feel I’ve let myself down with more than anything. That said, I can’t control the myriad situations which have put me in this position in the first place. But, again, that’s no excuse. It’s a problem I’ve created and one that I’ll need to fix. In happier news, I’m rather enjoying the selection of pieces in this compilation which highlight some of my best digital painting attempts. There are some we’ve seen before and some we haven’t.

Those we have seen are a little different now, too.

On the other hand, I’ve also included a couple of traditional painting and illustration attempts. One was a painting which was sort of finished but I wasn’t too happy with the outcome of, the other is an illustration that combined a dozen different styles into one very confused piece. Both taught me something, though. Which is all I can really hope for from an unfinished piece.

It’s also an interesting compilation as there many different styles present in it. It highlights the rather eclectic nature of my creative efforts. I rather enjoy that about my various pieces, but I am starting to wonder if that’s causing me more problems than I realise. That said, through some of these unconventional styles and approaches I’ve started to understand things about my creative process I hadn’t realised. Like how I tend to ink things with incredibly stiff and rigid movements. I don’t have the fluid, loose, expressive approach that I use when I’m sketching with pencil. It’s an interesting realisation. Mostly because I hadn’t noticed that despite the similarities between the application of materials my approach changes drastically.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

Art, design, and the like found herein (unless otherwise specified) is drawn and owned by David Wilkshire (also credited as Moggie) from 2006 to present date.

Artist Feature – Laura Jane

Here’s something a little different.

I’ve met many an interesting artist in my time and I like to share the most fascinating ones via the Artist Feature posts. I haven’t been doing as many Artist Feature posts as I would have liked, but I’m looking to change that. I’ve been in contact with a few people and I’m hoping to bring some engaging content to my readers. As always, I’ll be providing links to places where you can follow them across the internet. Friendly following, though. None of this stalking business. Good friends are hard to keep, y’know?

You’re in for a treat, though.

One could say they have their fingers in many pies. Pies, which, I might add, they never offer to share with me. Blending equal levels of proficiency and commitment in both traditional and digital art, they draw from a myriad of sources of inspiration. Featuring everything from video game character illustrations, to fluffy cute animals, to angst-ridden comics about toasters.

They sure love their toasters. In addition to the above, they’ve shown an incredible desire to develop their style over the last twelve months. They’ve met that desire- and exceeded it- with continual improvements to both their approach and their understanding of fundamental artistic concepts. They’ve also got a remarkably fluid and gorgeous ink style which displays a heightened understanding of composition. It’s a style that suits any sort of graphic illustration which is what I feel they’re best at. I’m almost certain that if you enjoy any of my traditional pieces, you’re going to enjoy their work just as much. If not more. Which is totally fine. They deserve the art love.

Artist Feature - Laura JaneThey’ve probably logged more hours in an assortment of Fallout titles than I have. While I would usually say this is cause for concern, without that I doubt I would have met/found them in the first place. You’d be surprised who you run into out in the Capital Wasteland. Or who you know as a friend of a friend via an appreciation of the Capital Wasteland. So they don’t always talk about artsy subjects. But if you get the chance to talk to them about it- you should! You’re in for an enjoyably insightful conversation.

If you’re of the Tweeting persuasion you can find them over on @LauraJayArt.

Should traditional or digital art be one of your interests (or you’re an aspiring artist yourself), I can suggest no-one better to follow. There’s a great foundation here for a promising future of artistic awesomeness. If you’re an artist yourself- drop her a critique or five. Or ten. She’s always looking to further her style and herself.

As always, Artist Feature posts aim to highlight not only artists who I feel are exceptionally good at what they do but that align with the interests of my readers. Again, I can suggest no-one better to feature under those conditions. Comments are always appreciated, but if you’ve got something particular you’d like to say about this artist you can leave a comment below. Otherwise, I hope you’ve enjoyed what could be the first of a few upcoming Artist Feature posts. It depends on if the others get back to me. It’s not like I randomly pick people to write about on the internet- that would be weird. Much easier to organise but terribly weird.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

Art and the like found within this post (unless otherwise specified) is owned by Laura Jane.

Fishy Abomination

Something smell a little funky to you?

It’s logical why undead abominations smell so bad (being rotted corpses and all) but I wonder what a fishy abomination would suggest. Perhaps some kind of fisherman mutated into one of the endless legion of the undead? It’s a good question. One that I’m pondering for far too long. I wanted to bring together two entirely unrelated yet equally interesting pieces in this post. One of which won’t be finished, while the other is likely to see some kind conclusion be it in ink or as a digital painting. Or both.

The first was a watercolour painting that I started but was soon abandoned due to one of the elements of its composition going terribly wrong. Still, that’s one of the joys about turning failures into successes- you can always learn something new from them! Or wallow in unending despair. Not that I would suggest the latter.

Even if that’s how I usually respond to those incidents.

These are the eyes that stare.

These are the eyes that stare.

As with all of my watercolour paintings, there’s a good selection of colours in this piece and they’ve come together surprisingly well. I haven’t used these brushes much since I bought them. So they’re still a little finicky when it comes to actually applying the paint. As I’m not entirely sure how they feel. I realise that probably sounds ridiculous, but you really do get used to how the brush feels in your hand and you develop your confidence in your ability through that. Like any other material or tool, really. This isn’t the worst watercolour painting I’ve ever done, though. You should see some of my earlier attempts. Not that you ever will, for I shall hide my shame in the depths of my art folders for none to see.

The second is a work in progress that I’m not sure about. That said, what am I sure about? The only thing I’m truly sure about is that I’m not sure about anything. Yeah. You figure that one out. Referenced from the endless abundance of grotesque monstrosities hailing from Darkest Dungeon, this piece has a fair amount of potential and I’m actually quite interested in seeing flat colours applied to it once finished. Or, rather, if finished. The paper texture does something quite magical with it.

It seems to fit the style that Darkest Dungeon has. Maybe even throw a little shading onto it. Something akin to the way an older comic book or graphic novel would be illustrated. It’s definitely got potential and remains an interesting consideration while working on this piece, which could even change the approach I take to the line work from here on out.

I'm not sure what's wrong with him, either.

I’m not sure what’s wrong with him, either.

Obviously I can’t rework existing lines.

But I can adjust them ever so slightly. A stroke here, a stroke there, and slowly it will form into something glorious. Or start purring. That’s usually what happens when I apply strokes to things- most specifically cats- as they seem to like them. I would be slightly concerned if my paper or pens started purring, though. It might be time to cut back on the coffee should that happen. Or seek psychological help. Or both. Given the recent flood of creative posts, I felt this would be an appropriate time to share some things I’ve been working on (or have worked on before). Hopefully it won’t be too long before we see the finished version of the second piece (if there is one).

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Art, design, and the like found herein (unless otherwise specified) is drawn and owned by David Wilkshire (also credited as Moggie) from 2006 to present date.

Darkest Dungeon, the Caretaker, Swinetaurs, Templar Warlords, and all associated trademarks and devices are owned by Red Hook.

Ember

Awaken once more to a world in peril.

Ember is an impressive fantasy RPG in which, you, the last of the Lightbringers, must unite the three races and reawaken your dormant abilities. You were a great hero who was killed in a war many years ago, but have since been resurrected by a secretive order who believe you are the last hope for the world of Domus. You’ll need to learn much of the world, of who you were, and of the Embers. You won’t be alone, though. There are three others who will offer their services on the journey ahead. Each with their own area of expertise.

Character creation is incredibly fluid in Ember. The Lightbringer begins with balanced attributes and no particular specialisation, with each level offering the opportunity to spend two points in any of the four attributes you feel are most appropriate. Party members have their own classes which loosely define their roles and their attribute points can be automatically invested.

Or you can decide how best to develop each character.

Active and passive abilities are all tied to the equipment the characters are wearing. There are three possible active abilities and two possible passive abilities per character, with each piece of equipment providing something from a different pool of abilities. For instance, ranged weapons will always sample from a pool of abilities exclusive to that item class. You won’t find the same abilities on armour. In this way, you can create diverse character builds. I built my Lightbringer around heavy two-handed weapon damage with healing, while Coren, the Warrior, held the line with high health and several crowd control abilities. Later in the story you’ll even be able to buy these abilities via Runes which can be freely attached to your equipment.

Ember also features a myriad of crafting systems. Crafted equipment is generally superior to everything else (of an equivalent level) available anywhere else, while brewed potions are also surprisingly useful. Cooked food is often completely superior to potions in the earlier areas, too. It’s a really satisfying crafting system. It’s quite simple, it’s easy to manage, and the only drawback is that it’s quite confusing figuring out how you craft items until you reach the Farmlands. As that is the first place (that I’m aware of) that sells patterns and molds.

There are a range of quests to undertake, too. Everything from exploring dusty caves, to visiting cities, to hunting down villainous curs. Exploration is encouraged as there are many side quests, random events, and hidden treasures to discover. I was impressed by how freely I could explore the world around me from the moment I left the starting area.

I was equally as impressed by the number of things that could kill me.

I finished the main campaign with every side quest (that I know of) in just over twenty hours. I’d say this was a fair amount of time for the price paid. I’d also suggest that there is a fair amount of replayability in this title. It was a thoroughly enjoyable adventure that was a pleasure to experience. Oddly humorous at times, too. Ember is definitely one of the best purchases I’ve made this year and one that I can easily recommend. I wanted to record some footage of combat, exploration, and the like for just that reason. I’d like you to be able to see all of these things for yourself and make a decision based on whether you think it looks fun to play. I’ll admit, the footage leans a little heavily on combat- but there’s a lot of combat to be had!

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie