First Impressions of… 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.

There be bears in this here forest.

Ember also features 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.

It’s refreshing to be allowed 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 at a later date. 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. What makes this even better is that even at full price it’s only ¬£6.99 on Steam. That’s an absolutely insane price for something that seems to be making good on its promise of a lengthy campaign, a gorgeous world to explore, and unrestricted adventure abound for newly resurrected Lightbringers.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

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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

Forward to the Future

If I start to repeat “It’s here!” and wag my tail excitedly just know I’m happy.

Just a quick note before we start, it’s not my intention nor wish to spoil anything for anyone regarding Fallout 4 and so this is mostly talking about the mechanical changes you’ll experience.

Fallout 4 has arrived! The much anticipated sequel (both personally and commercially) reinvents certain aspects of the core mechanics which many of the modern Fallout players will have come to know and (possibly) love. The biggest change surrounds the S.P.E.C.I.A.L. system and how perks are handled. You’ve got less S.P.E.C.I.A.L. points to spend at creation (28 down from 40) and these are more closely tied to how your character uses perks and develops over the course of the game.

The perk system also replaces the skill system (which is now removed) in determining what your character can do for the most part.

It also features some fairly broad changes with regards to how you build, maintain, and use weapons. It would seem that for the most part the classifications of Small Guns, Big Guns, Energy Weapons, and so on are mostly removed. Instead focusing on whether a weapon is non-automatic, automatic, a rifle, a pistol, or what they classify as a heavy gun. I can only imagine that heavy guns will for the most part replace what used to fall under Big Guns. They also seem to have removed weapon and armour maintenance with neither of those items having durability now.

Just a sunny post-apocalyptic afternoon.

The lack of durability could be a sore point for some. Personally, while I tend to like traditional mechanics, I can’t say that durability ever really affected me in either of the previous two modern Fallout titles. I had enough money, resources, or whatever it was that I needed to repair all of my equipment constantly.

Power armour has had a significant redesign and now actually feels like the pre-war technology it is supposed to be. It now features insanely good resistances to various damage types and is a suit you have to climb into, as opposed to wear like any other armour, and features a whole new HUD while you’re in there. The downside to it is that it’s quite heavy/bulky and has to be powered via Fusion Cores. So it doesn’t last forever unless you have a few spare cores. You do have to repair it, too. With many of the sections of the armour being removable/replaceable over the course of the game. It’s a pretty awesome mechanic but one I’m not sure I’ll be taking too much advantage of.

Weapon and armour (and settlement) crafting seems pretty fun so far. The amount of flexibility given to various guns and how you can modify, improve, or adapt them to fit other situations is pretty great. However, it is a bit of a guessing game (at first) as to how you classify what would be considered a rifle or a heavy weapon.

Which is where I would say Fallout 4 lacks a little- explanations. The updates to the S.P.E.C.I.A.L. system are quite extensive but at creation (and even after) you’re given little information as to what all of these statistics do. Same with weapon and armour crafting where you won’t always know what your modifications will produce or if it’s suitable for you. Finally, I am a little sad to see the recently reintroduced traits being removed again. That said, one could say that the way magazines work is a trait system in itself.

Just a case of seeing whether it can live up to the replayability of Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas now.

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’s Proclamations 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.

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.

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

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

Games Like Those of Yesteryear

You ever get that nostalgic itch that you scratch and scratch but it never goes away? I do. Oh the itchiness.

Years ago, when I were a wee nipper, I made the discovery of a lifetime- gaming! Which in turn led to my creative pursuits. It’s a funny world when you consider everything is interconnected, or, if you will, tangled like a ball of twine.

Over the many years and the many systems I have played I have uncovered a number of gaming gems. Classic titles that boast mechanics and stories unequalled. However, these days, it seems to be hard to find a really good RPG experience like those of yesteryear.

So here are a few titles that offer those experiences of yesteryear without needing to be run in 800×600 resolution.

Legend of Grimrock was a rather spontaneous purchase late last year and if you can get past the grid based movement and combat system then you’ll probably enjoy it immensely if the above tickles you. Or if you enjoy grid based movement and combat systems you’ll probably enjoy it, too. One thing I really love about this title is, while there isn’t an open world, or any kind of world map for that matter, there are a number of things to explore and puzzles to solve. There is a lot of content and party management as each of your party members is required to successfully overcome the dangers you’ll face along the way.

The sequel Legend of Grimrock II takes an almost opposite approach to the basic elements. Now you have more classes, more races, an entire island to explore, lots more loot, lots more customisation, and more varied encounters. It’s an amazing step up from the first and will take you some time to work through the puzzles, traps, bosses, and the secrets hidden along the way. You will probably really enjoy it if you enjoyed the first- but there’s no requirement to play the first- save one achievement and secret found in the game. Really. It’s one of the best RPG experiences I’ve had in a good long while.

Lords of Xulima, an indie game, if I am correct, is a title that throws back to the days of Icewind Dale. You create your party of people, start with limited equipment, control each in turn in battle, and you explore the island you have sailed to. There is an enormous amount of content and the classes are quite interesting. There are many different takes on the development of each class and the battles are balanced but tough. You will get killed more than once and there is a little luck to it. However, for the price, you are getting an experience which boasts a number of developed systems and delivers on each one without fail.

Divinity: Original Sin is a game you have probably heard a lot about already if you’re following RPGs. If, however, you don’t like the Divinity series in general, or you live under a rock- this game is an absolutely stunning experience. The music, the visual style, the party banter, the questing, the exploration, the inventory management, the crafting system, the need to uncover every string of conversation, and to explore every last location is without equal. It starts a bit slow and features sometimes unforgiving combat but it also gives you a lot of freedom of choice and offers a lot of additional experiences if you explore.

If you’re in the mood for something of an RPG nature and don’t know what to get- give these a try. You might be surprised!

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie