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

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An Unlikely Continuation

From the ashes of humanity. Or the franchise.

There are few series that I’ve enjoyed in recent years as much as the (once disappointingly short-lived) Darksiders series. Darksiders was an exceptionally enjoyable combination of great art direction, satisfying visceral combat, and everything I’d ever loved about the Legend of Zelda series. While Darksiders II featured some of the best art direction I’ve seen and some of the best music I’ve heard in a video game, not to mention a loot system and character development mechanics akin to an ARPG. Darksiders III is… somewhat disappointing by comparison.

It’s still an enjoyable experience but is marred by flaws.

Most puzzling of all is how it feels as though many mechanics were never finished. Such as the weapon Enhancements which insinuate that you need to actively use (or switch to) the weapon to get the effect, when every weapon is the whip, and so every effect is always active. Despite the feeling that maybe actual secondary weapons were meant to exist.

The mechanic which allows you to dodge an incoming attack and retaliate with massive damage is one of the few enjoyable elements of combat. Much of the rest of it is a painfully slow exercise in evaluating when best to land a hit with your whip, or the several other variants of your whip which you unlock as the story progresses. In many ways the secondary weapons could be interesting additions to your arsenal. Were it not for the fact that Fury is made out of tissue paper and can easily be killed when she is locked in an attack animation that can’t be cancelled. Not to mention the convoluted mechanics present with Nephilim’s Respite. A consumable which allows you to restore your health that replenishes when you defeat enemies (or purchase refills when visiting Vulgrim). There are ever-increasingly expensive health restoration items, too.

Pride can make people do terrible things.

The world design is also oddly inconsistent. There are some environmental hazards that will kill you despite being able to easily jump out of them. While some falls will return you to the place you were before you fell at the cost of a portion of your health (despite visible ground below you suggesting you can fall down). Further to this point, the Hollows, which Fury uses for puzzle solving purposes, often appear in number at any given puzzle. Even when it’s not possible to have one Hollow before another and so the inclusion of a second or third is moot.

It was certainly an ambitious project and I recognise that ambition.

But the execution of that ambition left a lot to be desired. Lest we forget that one boss fight at the beginning of the story which functioned more as a puzzle than a fight. I was hoping those boss fights would not make a return (and they didn’t), but it was still a weird uneven mess of trying to understand how controls work under threat of death.

I don’t like to be inherently negative when I write about things and so this post might seem a little out of place. However, it is, in my opinion, the only way to honestly talk about how I feel about Darksiders III as a continuation of the series. I still believe that it’s worth experiencing for yourself as everyone enjoyed something different about the Darksiders series. It’s also not entirely irredeemable as it has quite an engaging story. It could also be said that this is how Darksiders III is taking the series as a whole in a different direction, and that, while I liked Darksiders II, many people could have felt similarly to those changes. However, I still greatly enjoy the series and look forward to what they do next.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Emotions Are Prohibited

For the most part.

NieR: Automata is an exhilarating experience which flawlessly blends intense action with a deeply emotional story to deliver a truly unique adventure. It also boasts a number of endings, various character perspectives, deep character development mechanics, and multiple weapons to collect. There’s a rather unique use of the New Game+ mechanic, too. Each main ending will open up a new Route, which allows you to experience different perspectives or entirely new portions of story with different characters.

Most of your progress will carry over, though.

So when you’re starting Route B (or beyond) you’ll have the same weapons, side quest completion, inventory, and general collection statistics. That said, there will be some weapons or side quests which are only available on these different Routes. But it’s well worth experiencing the collection of main endings to fully understand and appreciate the story.

I’ve particularly enjoyed the various side quests as they tend to explain more about the history of the world, the different characters, and even (at times) hint about some of the later story developments. It’s interesting as those story developments are often restricted to the main quests, but NieR: Automata continually rewards you for going out of your way to do as much as you can across the rapidly deteriorating world. It’s a pretty large world, too. There are quite a few things hidden throughout the locations you’ll visit. There are also a number of smaller endings you can experience by doing certain things in certain places. Which, again, is interesting, as often you would humorously suggest but never be able to actually do those things in other titles.

For those who aren’t really interested in the story and the side quests, the combat is incredibly satisfying and the range of weapons you can collect is diverse and enjoyable in its own way. Each weapon will perform differently both when they’re first obtained and when they’re fully upgraded. Often with the weapons gaining new, unique, and powerful abilities as a result of investing time and resources in them. There are also countless other customisations you can make to the characters to change how they perform in combat and even in the field.

It’s an extensive adventure in several ways.

There’s an absurd amount of attention to detail in the world, which truly shows that it was a labour of love and care as there are so many minor (seemingly insignificant) details that are intentionally highlighted. Alongside a rather mysterious and constantly evolving universe which is quite unlike any setting I’ve seen before. It really does have something for everyone.

I’ve immensely enjoyed my time with this title. It’s one of those rare occasions where everything comes together in the most satisfying way, where the combat is fluid and the controls are tight, where the world is interesting and intentionally kept mysterious, and where you will enjoy exploring the various locations because the soundtrack is incredibly good. There is so much to say about NieR: Automata but it’s one of those stories that’s best experienced as blindly as possible. However, I will say that this title has repeatedly surprised and impressed me and that it has exceeded any expectations I may have had regarding it. I highly recommend this title and can almost guarantee you won’t be disappointed!

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Aetherial Possession

It’s a hangin’ day.

Grim Dawn is an epic post-apocalyptic open world ARPG featuring six individual Masteries, four Acts, multiple character builds, a plethora of foes (and heroic bosses), end game dungeons, and a freedom to explore and progress at your own pace. You won’t be forced to take a particular route through this adventure. Throughout the story you’ll be presented with rebuilding a bridge, blasting open a cavern, or exploring the alternative if you lack the means to bypass it. This makes each character slightly different as you might have the resources on one but not another.

Likewise, Masteries fulfil a certain purpose but can be combined to create diverse builds. Want to fight enemies up close and personal? Try the Soldier. Want to throw explosive cocktails and grenades? Mix a little Demolitionist into that. Prefer striking from the shadows? Sample the Nightblade. There are endless options to mix and match skills to suit your play style.

Further adding to the customisation is the Devotion system.

You’ll earn points from restoring ruined or desecrated Shrines which can be spent in various constellations, which provide either active skill effects or passive buffs. While Devotion points are much shorter in supply than regular Skill points, they allow you to really develop particular aspects of your character. For instance, with Shamans, there are several options to increase lightning damage dealt or buff your pets to make them more reliable in combat. All together, the range of character customisation and development is quite extensive (and a little daunting at first). However, in my opinion, this is one of the areas where Grim Dawn really shines- endless customisation opportunities and potential to build whatever suits your particular needs.

"There's somewhere worse than the Steps of Torment?!"

“There’s somewhere worse than the Steps of Torment?!”

There’s also quite a number of side quests to do, optional objectives to complete, optional dungeons to explore, factions to join, and even special end game dungeons which are opened with unique Skeleton Keys. These, once opened, only stay open provided you don’t die. Obviously not a concern for Hardcore characters. That said, for regular characters, should you die, you’ll be removed from the dungeon and will need to build/use another Skeleton Key to get back in. These are always challenging, too. As the mobs scale to your level (and beyond).

These are really great places to farm out additional items and experience for attempting the later difficulties (Elite through Ultimate), and great places to test your skills against impressive and dangerous bosses you won’t see elsewhere. Some (like the Immolation) require faction status or particular quests to be completed before you can enter.

I’ve really enjoyed these as they’re tough but fair dungeons with few cheap mechanics.

Overall, I’ve watched this through Early Access and I’ve been continually impressed with everything they’ve done with it. I’m even further impressed by the exceptional quality of the finished product, which, while I thought I was done with Normal, showed me there was another ten hours (or more) content that I’d missed. Either by not taking on the end game dungeons or by not uncovering some of the secret locations. It’s been an amazing experience thus far and I’m excited to see if any DLC will be developed, what that DLC will be, and where the story will go from here. Currently they’re onto a really great experience which could very easily become one of the classic ARPG experiences of all time.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie