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

Pleasant Surprise(s)

Sometimes the answer is sitting there on your shelf collecting dust.

I decided to reinstall SpellForce the other day. This is a title I’ve not spoken about here on Moggie @ WordPress before because I’ve had it about six years, I’ve not actually started the main campaign until now, and I didn’t even know if it would work on Windows 7 or Windows 10 to begin with. The last time I installed it I was back on Windows XP with my old machine. Which, I might add, was an underhanded marketing strategy on Microsoft’s behalf- there were no experience points in Windows XP at all!

It does work, though. Oddly enough it works without much tweaking besides setting administrator privileges for it.

SpellForce comes as quite a surprise. I wasn’t really expecting what was waiting for me when I roughly planned out the new character for the main campaign. The way you build your avatar- and the freedom you have over it- is quite unique for a title of this nature. Equally, how they develop later in the game as they begin to accrue precious levels is also quite interesting. I started a two handed weapon fighter who was primarily going to just hit things and be hit in return. I was expecting, as experience has suggested, that he would likely continue down the road of improving damage or defences or resistances.

However, on gaining his very first level there were so many more options I could choose. Such as taking healing magic to heal himself and allies. Or branching out into buffing capabilities. Which is odd considering you’re never usually afforded that kind of flexibility, freedom, or unique development when you play an RTS (in my experience).

Stationed on either side of the settlement is a few soldiers to protect the main road(s).

Stationed on either side of the settlement is a few soldiers to protect the main road(s).

Building armies and settlements is handled rather interestingly, too. You can summon additional heroes via runes that you find/earn throughout the course of the game, who, if I’m not mistaken, can take advantage of equipment and other goodies you have in your inventory. Which is another thing that’s pretty surprising- the inventory. It feels a little like an ARPG with requirements on equipment but a lot of freedom in what you use, who uses it, and whether it’s worth keeping. I’m not sure if the maps in the campaign flow and you’re going to summon a whole host of heroes and have a permanent core group with minor units changing. Or whether you’re going to maintain the same list of equipment or what have you between maps.

Still, whichever way it progresses, it’s still a rather welcome surprise to find something so interesting after installing it on a whim.

I also decided to pick up Sacred 2 in a sale recently. This is a title I’ve spoken about a few times here and it’s one that I purchased with much hesitation as I have read of many issues regarding it, which, according to most, require the community patch to fix. However, it was quite cheap so I took a gamble. So far it’s working and it has actually managed to impress me even with as little as the character creation screen. There are a lot of options, choices, and classes to choose from. The new systems enhance these choices to give quite a strange but welcome experience.

Admittedly it’s still early days (and the camera has thrown me off a little) but I am enjoying it. It definitely feels like an improvement on the first in the series with the same open world, exploration heavy, getting lost for three hours at a time vibe.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie.

Taking the Longest Way Around

I’ve spent a long while roaming the vast world of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and have collected some thoughts.

The world itself is a lively, beautiful, and very immersive place.¬†Towns feel as if they’re actually alive with the day to day routine of the inhabitants, the wilderness feels as though it is a dangerous and untamed place, the roads are littered with highwaymen, and every nook and cranny in the world is filled with delightful points of interest. There are changes to be made- big and small- which determine (and shape) the world around you. There’s a lot of freedom to be enjoyed and there’s a whole heap of things to do.

However, I do feel, as you progress through the main quest, you’re taking the longest way around every possible task in front of you.

While it may not be of this world- it sure is beautiful!

While it may not be of this world- it sure is beautiful!

We’ve all played those RPGs where the fate of the world depends on this one very time specific action that is of the utmost importance… right after you collect five clumps of wolf fur. It seems a bit silly, but, generally, these are confined to the opening few hours of the game. Where (more often than not) you’re going through a tutorial and learning the ropes of the game as you do.

One thing that I have found disappointing about The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt so far is that this is a trend that never goes away. In fact, in some later areas, it only gets worse by offering you quests which serve no purpose other than to serve no purpose. Minor spoiler- when looking for a certain character later in the story you are tasked with talking to several people. At the end of this long chain of dialogue and questing you learn absolutely nothing of use. I believe purposefully so. Which, to be honest, really frustrated me as it didn’t feel at all necessary nor relevant.

Equally, several of the main quests you go on in the course of the first half of the game feel very… pointless.

Most information you receive, if any, doesn’t really help you at all, while it’s often hidden behind another series of quests. As in, you’ll go to a specific person who has information you want/need, they’ll give you said information if you do a few hours of quests, which repeats almost every time you speak to someone about the main quest. To the point where, at the time the story begins to pick up, and you’re steps away from the goal you’ve been working toward- you are tasked again with finding three random people. It doesn’t really help the story immersion at all as you start to really enjoy it and you’re forced into another unnecessary quest loop.

While it certainly adds longevity to the main story it does grind on you after a while. Especially considering you can’t skip any of the quest parts where there’s a choice of three different follow up quests, as, eventually, you’ll have to do all of them to push that block of story forward. Which feels really odd to me when you consider this is an open world setting.

I don’t know how to describe it. But, while I enjoy the game, and enjoy the improved (and more complicated) combat, there is something about the quests that I don’t enjoy. At all. To the point where it has become all too predictable that nothing can be solved in two quests or less. Which, considering the whole main story is somewhat time sensitive, doesn’t really fit the sense of urgency portrayed at the start.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie.