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

The Sunshine Estate

It’s not so dark now, is it?

Many things have changed since the full release of Darkest Dungeon. We’ve seen the introduction of town events, the Antiquarian, Radiant Mode, Stygian Mode (the rebalanced New Game+), heirloom trading, and the first story expansion with The Crimson Court. With the release of the expansion it seemed as good a time as any to return to the horrors beneath our family home. I’ve been meaning to go back to my previous estate, but, as you can probably tell from the title of this post, I instead opted for a Radiant Mode campaign.

It’s an interesting concept for a difficulty adjustment.

Rather than making the enemies and dungeons trivial, it instead makes the campaign shorter and reduces the need for grinding significantly by providing Radiant Mode specific stagecoach upgrades. Most things are cheaper, too. Which, when paired with an Antiquarian in your roster, reduces the need to grind for gold almost entirely. It’s a pleasant experience overall.

I’ve not played the default difficulty (now known as Darkest Mode) since release, but Radiant Mode has great pacing comparatively. Each week has a purpose and affords progression. Whether that progression takes the form of a boss kill, an upgrade to the estate, levelling up a hero, or even an expedition to the Darkest Dungeon. It’s nice that the challenge is retained, too. Failure is still possible if you don’t play well or use effective team compositions. Or forgot to bring torches to the second assault on the Darkest Dungeon. Which was the highlight of my entire campaign, as I noticed almost immediately but fleeing the Darkest Dungeon results in a guaranteed death. I wasn’t fond of that as I’d been training these heroes for this for some time.

Nightmare made material.

Which also made the mistake even more hilarious. Thankfully, I didn’t have any Sun Rings on the heroes in that party so fighting through in the darkness was at least doable. By virtue of Cry Havoc and Rallying Flare we were successful. I did take 60+ stress from Revelation, though. They acted before either of my guards could be applied. I had few deaths in this campaign, too. Besides that ill fated attempt at fighting a Shambler with an Antiquarian party that lacked the necessary damage. We killed the Shambler- but the spawn quickly finished us off.

Hilariously, that loss was worth two achievements.

With the release of The Crimson Court I would have to agree that Darkest Dungeon is in the best condition that it’s ever been in. The classes are all particularly useful for one reason or another, there are innumerable team compositions to provide different answers to similar problems, and there’s even new content (and a new class) to experience if you own The Crimson Court.

I’m intending for this Radiant Mode campaign to be the first in a series of campaigns. I was thinking of doing difficulty progression akin to how you work through normal, nightmare, and hell in the earlier instalments of the Diablo series. I’ve had a lot of fun with this estate, but I’m slightly dubious about the shortened campaign length. Given that I’ve spent nearly 50hrs in this estate at this point. Though, to be fair, that is likely shorter than a Darkest Mode or Stygian Mode campaign would be. I also took the time to kill all of the bosses, level up all of the classes, and do other things that aren’t necessary for the successful resolution of a campaign. I’m starting to think I have a problem regarding the completion of miscellaneous objectives.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

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

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!

Moggie

First Impressions of… The Fall of the Dungeon Guardians

There’s no floor food in this dungeon!

How will we live long enough to see the end? Oh, wait, we don’t have hunger meters or any of the requirements found therein. That’s… odd. Still, at least we won’t need to eat things we found on the floor that are probably long past their expiration date. The Fall of the Dungeon Guardians is a first person dungeon crawler with a twist. A tank, healer, and DPS twist to be precise.

A twist that will no doubt lead to frantic button pressing later on.

If I know anything about MMOs, and I might do, it’s that things often go wrong, especially when you’re encountering entirely new content. Who knew that boss was going to smash down on one party member regardless of previously established threat? Not me! That’s why the healer is now a stain on the floor. That said, they’ve taken great care with the character development allowing you to choose from four base classes (each with three specialisations). So, in a way, you have twelve different choices (or a combination of those choices) to build a team with. Some are fairly simple and others require specific combinations of abilities to function properly.

I’d say that’s one of the best things about this title. The character development is deep enough to keep you interested throughout, while there’s a lot of different equipment which can allow you to create the characters the way you’d like to play them. Difficulty settings permitting. Allowing you to choose between the three specialisations also allows you to create advanced classes. It’s likely there is a level cap, much in the way that Legend of Grimrock had a level cap, in that you will eventually run out of things to kill and therefore run out of experience to earn.

Let's rattle some bones.

Let’s rattle some bones.

There’s a myriad of customisation available, too. The pausing system which you’ll employ heavily in combat can be configured to pause automatically in different situations, the information on screen can be tailored (and even resized) to your requirements, and there are several helpful prompts/features that can be enabled if you need them. It’s… more customisable than expected.

You can tell a lot of time, care, and attention went into this title.

For those who’ve played Legend of Grimrock before but weren’t keen on the puzzle solving elements, I do believe this title has puzzles but I think that the progress is based mostly on performance in combat. Not on banging your head against a puzzle for a while. I’ll be able to offer more information regarding this when I do a full review, which I likely will do later (once I’ve finished the entire story and can give a fair representation of it as a whole). Also, don’t worry, while I am making a few Legend of Grimrock comparisons now, that’s only because it’s the closest newest release example of a dungeon crawler I have that most people have played. I won’t be basing it on or against what Legend of Grimrock did or didn’t do.

To say I’m pleasantly surprised with what I’ve experienced so far would be an understatement. I would even go so far as to say that if you’re a fan of dungeon crawlers you should pick this up, as while it might not play to very traditional strengths it seems to be developing strengths of its own. I can only imagine how fun it’s going to be going back through the story with different combinations of characters, specialisations, and equipment. Again, difficulty settings permitting. But it does have quite a few of those- so I’m sure you’ll find one that suits you.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Interstellar Blues

Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Rasputin.

Derelict, rusty, lacking in every way, and liable to fall apart before we reach the next space station. By the power of duct tape and holding our breath in zero gravity we shall prevail! Either that or we’ll suffocate. Imagine going into warp and seeing your rear engine float away tethered loosely by a strip of duct tape, realising you’re now tilting heavily on one side, and that if anything should hit the other engine you’re stranded in this harsh abyss. I wonder if we have some kind of suit to fix exterior errors. Or if we even know how.

Sweet baby lambs- the Rasputin is a floating death trap! I’m not a qualified anything!

Even my pilot license expired four years ago. That said, no-one has asked to see my license yet. Then again- no-one has asked to see anything- they’re usually too busy trying to pepper me with missiles or tear a hole in my hull with their lasers. It’s a good thing I installed those deflector shields. Else, I would be the space debris that I frequently crash into.

Rebel Galaxy is a relaxing space adventure that has provided quite a different experience than I was initially expecting. It’s quite tough, too. The above account is a literal description of the ship when we first get it- no deflector shields, no tractor beam, no secondary weapons, and an engine that barely runs. Not to mention the random events range from slightly annoying to absolutely brutal. Within seconds you’re descended upon by a dozen ships, each with better ordinance, and each with the capability to weave in and out of turret fire. However, this is one of the reasons that Rebel Galaxy is growing on me. There’s a lot at work which isn’t readily apparent when you’re getting this ol’ rustbucket from mission to mission.

We drove a long way for ice cubes.

We drove a long way for ice cubes.

There are also a lot of different ways to play it out. You can be friendly, you can resort to piracy, you can smuggle resources between stations, you can join guilds, or you can simply float around the universe doing who knows what. It’s definitely got a very laid back feel to the progression. Sure, there’s a story- but who has time for a story? There’s a distress beacon over here, a delivery over there, a small trade convoy carrying valuable cargo to the south, and a few stations between here and there. It’s quite the change of pace for me.

Which is the entire reason I decided to pick it up in the first place.

I wanted to do something a little different. RPGs and ARPGs have always been the two staples of my library, with many of my favourite titles, such as Chrono Trigger or the Final Fantasy series, falling into one of those categories. But I’m looking to add more staples to my library.

Staples, unlike glue, also tend to keep things held together. Glue usually degrades over time and things fall out all over the place. I can’t say that I’ll always enjoy the different titles I try, nor can I guarantee I’ll play them multiple times in different ways- but I value the experiences. Playing different things. Having to learn whole new sets of mechanics because you’ve never played something like this before. It also helps when I’m not in the mood to play a particular genre as now I have so many genres to choose from. In any case, we’ve had a lot of creative posts recently and I figured I’d do something a little different for those getting burned out looking at my scribbles.

Have a nice weekend, 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