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Monday, 09 February 2015 00:00

Rollers of the Realm [PS4]

The fun thing about indie developers is that you never know when they are going to come up with something unique. Take for example Rollers of the Realm, by developer Phantom Compass; it combines video game pinball with a role-playing game (RPG).

Since a majority of your gameplay will be playing pinball the story is kept light, but engaging. You start as the Rogue. She has come to town with her dog looking for some easy targets. Eventually her dog gets kidnapped by the town blacksmith who wants to make the dog his dinner. The Rogue encounters a drunken Knight who decides to help her recover her dog and a Healer who wants to help defeat the blacksmith. You work your way through different pinball tables, which represent various parts of the town, until you finally encounter the Blacksmith in his forge. When you finally defeat him you find out his brother is the evil Baron of the realm and now you have to hide in an outlaw camp to avoid capture. Here is where your adventure really starts.

The gameplay mechanics are your typical video game pinball: flippers, bumpers, teleport holes, rails, etc. What makes it different is that each character in your party is represented by one of your balls on the table. Each ball has its own specialty. The Rogue has the ability to steal gold from characters on the table and does "backstab" damage to enemies. The Knight is a larger armored ball that can do more damage and can break boxes easier. The Healer can heal your flippers and has a special power of bringing back lost balls, if you have enough mana. All the balls can generate mana by hitting things like torches and other special items on the table. The other characters can also use the mana pool in order to activate unique magic powers. The Rogue can summon her dog to the field for "multi-ball" action and the Knight can temporarily block the gutter so he can't "die." You can swap between the balls as needed by trapping the ball with one of the two main flippers and then selecting the character you want.

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As you play you gather gold. This gold, in typical RPG fashion, can be taken to shops where you can purchase items to upgrade each character. You can even add new members to your party by "hiring" them from the shop.

The tables play out much like any other pinball game; somehow make the balls into certain places to progress further. Other times you have encounters where you have to defeat all the enemies on the table. For the most part, the pinballs physics are sound given that there are certain exceptions for powers of the characters. Difficulty does ramp up as the game progresses; you'll even eventually get tables that are multi-tiered that you have to work through section by section to clear the whole table.

I love both video game pinball and RPGs so for me Rollers of the Realm is a bit of a no brainer. I do have frustrations with the pinball aspects, but then again I have those same frustrations with regular video game pinball. I may love the genre, but I am no master of it, so sometimes trying to manipulate a ball to go into certain places can be a little bit of a challenge.

I am really enjoying Rollers of the Realm. There is an arena mode that you can open up after a while that lets you "grind" to earn more gold so you can buy those power ups you just know you are going to need for later levels. In fact the one complaint I would have is gold seems to be hard to earn so grinding takes a bit longer, but if you've spent any amount of time in World of Warcraft you know grinding all too well.

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I say if you like video game pinball definitely check out Rollers of the Realm, the characters and powers add a unique twist on the normal fun game of pinball. If you are an RPG fan it might be hard call to recommend. You have to be up for something very different than what you are used to as far as "adventure."

Published in Playstation 4

 SMH - Shaking my head about the "third" party funding of the Shenmue 3 kickstarter which successfully ended on July 17, 2015.  If you haven't heard, Sony is the "third" party.  Yes -- I get that Shenmue 3 was a long awaited video game, and yes, I understand  the ultimate goal is to get full funding of a video game to make sure  the video game actually comes to fruition.  What I do not get is a video game that garnered over $6 million dollars while at the same time having the financial backing of a major company like Sony.  

Call me naive, but I thought the purpose of a kickstarter was to be the primary funding vehicle to ensure there is enough money to follow through on making a video game or whatever project the funding was being asked for.  I was unaware, until I did some research, that Shenmue 3 was guaranteed to be made regardless -- mainly because of the backing of a giant software/hardware company like Sony.  It's news to me that a kickstarter can be used to subsidize the funds a company already has earmarked for the game.  Since that company is Sony, I'm sure the amount funded for Shenmue 3 is in the millions.

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Let's talk numbers.  The requested amount for the Shemue 3 kickstarter was $2 million.   The kickstarter's goal was reached when over $6 million was raised at its conclusion. It was indicated the game would be produced if only $2 million was raised;  however, if $10 million dollars were raised, there would be more of an "open world" for the Shenmue 3 video game. It's my understanding some gamers and backers of the kickstarter wanted to know more specifics about what the funds would be used for; however, this information was not provided. This nondisclosure did not seem to negatively impact the funds raised for Shenmue 3 during the kickstarter.  In fact, Shenmue 3 broke records by being the first video game to raise the largest amount of money within 8 1/2 hours of the kickstarter being announced.

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So just what was Sony's part in the funding, other than guaranteeing the game would be produced?  Well, when the Shenmue 3 video game is completed, it will be playable on its gaming system -- the PlayStation 4 as well as the PC. Sony is also the publisher of the video game.  Given its deep pockets, Sony has stated that additional funds will be provided to market the video game for its PlayStation 4 video game system.

Even though it was not specifically stated in the kickstarter that Sony is involved in the funding, the partnership of Ys Net  (developer) and Sony was mentioned during an interview with Sony's Adam Boyles.  It was also inferred the kickstarter was used as a means to guage the level or range of interest for a Shenmule 3 video game to be produced.

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A question that begs to be asked and answered is how much money did Sony provide to ensure Shenmue 3 was made.  For now, mum's the word since, to date, Sony has not divulged the amount.  I'm sure this amount is and will be sizeable.

My thoughts are with all of the other hardworking developers who may have dreamed of having a kickstarter, or who may have even had one; however,  were not given the extra boost of being backed and funded from a multi-billion dollar  company like Sony.  My advice to these developers is that even if a strong backing from a large  company for your video game is not forthcoming, continue making exciting games that  will be of interest to gamers on a large scale.   In other words, build a better mousetrap, I mean -- build a better video game, and the gamers will fund your project, maybe even to  level of success  experienced by the developers of the Shenmue 3 video game.

Shenmue 3 is scheduled to be released December 2017.

Published in Mom's Minute Blog
Tuesday, 04 February 2014 00:00

Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Edition Review [PC]

 

Christmas is over. The two super hyped "next generation" consoles have released to massive sales even with very limited libraries. Everyone has finished the launch titles they were interested in and the rest have not come down to the magical preowned pick up price yet. There is nothing new on the horizon with naught but a trickle of ports and indie games to keep gamers going until the tail end of march when the next big system sellers Titanfall and infamous: Second son come out.

Looking at the respective stores for new releases each week is like looking for a snowball in the desert.
So these next gen consoles are relegated to being pretty dust collectors for the time being as gamers look elsewhere for the next gaming fix.

PC & iOS seem to be evergreen sources for games however this January again both are rather sparse on the release front. However there is one shining beacon through the bleak winter: Baldurs Gate 2: Enhanced Edition.

baldursgate screen02Originally released back in 2000 (14 years ago at time of writing) based on Advanced D&D mechanics Baldurs Gate 2 managed to sell over 2 million copies, no mean feat considering how complicated this system is.

Combining the original campaign Shadows of Amn with both add ons Throne Of Baahl and Black Pits 2: Gladiators of Thay, there is a massive amount of content contained within, encompassing hundreds of hours of gameplay.

Baldurs Gate 2 features the traditional Isometric RPG with movement and actions controlled via mouse clicks and hot keys (if you so desire). It's very simple on the surface but as soon as you dig into the menus and all the options available for each character within, things start to get real complex, real fast. This is not a game for the casual gamer.

This is further reinforced by the steep difficulty curve, beginning in a dark dingy dungeon (as is common with many RPGs these days) with a group of up to 4 (depending on conversational choices) facing off against ever growing groups of goblins swiftly becomes tricky if you don't have your wits about you. Upon finally exiting this dank dungeon you are greeted with a diverse interesting world to explore and the adventure can truly begin. I wouldn't like to spoil the story for those reading this review but I will say that it's not exactly Lord Of The Rings in terms of quality but it is a compelling story nonetheless that is well worth playing through and has more than a few twists and turns along the way to keep you guessing.

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For this enhanced edition, several new areas have been added into the main game which are all presented organically into the main quest and extend the playtime still further, if you were to attempt to see everything in the game you probably wouldn't need to play anything else till the summer.

Yes there's nothing groundbreaking or particularly new here but this is the best version of one of the greatest RPGs ever and that in itself is to be applauded. The graphical update is noticeable and more than acceptable but can't quite quite match the polish of more recent games of a similar ilk such as Diablo 3. The soundscape is well crafted and everything is as you would expect sword clattering, box opening noises are all present and correct and the score is well realised. The voice acting is fairly good though the characters aren't quite as well realised as they could have been.

Throne of Baahl adds more of the same adventuring contained in the main campaign but here it finishes up the story started in Child of Baahl, which can be found in Baldurs Gate: Enhanced Edition.

Black pits 2: Gladiators of Thay is the weakest part of the package focusing on gladiatorial combat confined within an arena whilst it looks and plays just as well as the rest of Baldurs Gate 2, the lack of freedom holds this section back with it's lack of a sense of scale and without a particularly compelling story it's rather a damp squib when compared to Shadows Of Amn and Throne Of Baahl.

Overall this is a great package and unlike other so called enhanced/definitive/Goty packages it is fairly priced at $24.99.

Baldurs Gate 2:Enhanced Edition is available now on iPad, PC, Steam and Mac.

8/10

Andy Urquhart
42 Level One

http://www.42levelone.com=

 

Published in PC
Friday, 14 August 2015 18:01

Spearhead’s Stories

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Stories: The Hidden Path is an action-RPG brought to you by Spearhead Games, and will be coming soon to your Playstation 4.  The design director and game designer on Assassin’s Creed III and Assassin’s Creed II, respectively, bring you a magic filled world full of adventures where your every decision affects the game in real time!

Adventure as Reynardo the corsair as you battle the Armada with its eyes set on domination of the entire realm.  Slice your way through your enemies or fly in your airship but be careful what you choose to do as it will have an effect on the outcome of the Story.

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Published in News
Wednesday, 09 April 2014 00:00

The Next Mass Effect

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The next Mass Effect video game is shroud in mystery

Your guess is as good as mine as to when the next Mass Effect video game will finally materialize.  It looks like Bioware is in no hurry to whet the appetite of Mass Effect video game fans who are anticipating the next Mass Effect video game.  Is it possible that Bioware is still  treating its wounds as a result of the pounding it got from the Mass Effect fans over the ending or endings of the last game in this video game trilogy?  Not to rehash what now seems like ancient history -- but you may recall the [virtual] lashing that Bioware got from Mass Effect video game fans who were not shy about letting the company know in no uncertain terms  they were not satisfied with the so-called endings of the game.  The good news is that  Bioware was receptive, and tried to appease the fans by re-doing the video game's ending or endings.  Refunds were even given out by some retailers.  However, in my opinion,  video game players would probably have prefererd a better ending for Mass Effect instead of an apology or even the refunds.  

Fast forward to the present and it appears as if die-hard Mass Effect video game fans may be ready to give Bioware a second chance.  Bioware, on the other hand, seems to be slow to reciprocate.  It looks as if Bioware is taking its time to create, design, produce and ultimately deliver the next Mass Effect video game.  To date, little is known about the next Mass Effect video game except there will be a whole new set of video game characters which will exclude Commander Shepard. 

Bioware has announced they will be taking it slow on the Next Mass Effect to bring a good, quality video game to you, the video game player,  instead of rushing to develop another video game. The company has also been relatively quiet about the storyline, the characters, type of characters, i.e., aliens, astronauts, etc. The two facts known about the next Mass Effect video game is that it will not be called Mass Effect 4 and that Commander Shepard will not be featured anywhere at all in the game.  However, the location of the video game story as well as the action will be set in the same Mass Effect universe from the previous video games in the series.

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Commander Shepard will not not make an appearance in the Next Mass Effect video game.

Just how slow is Bioware taking to make the next Mass Effect game?   The answer is "very slow."  Progress is being made -- but it is being done at a relatively slow pace.  A few days ago, it was reported there were new graphics created for the next Mass Effect video game by developers within the span of about five hours.  Of course we were not privy to look at these creations which could be due to a number of reasons.  One of the main reasons I think Bioware  is hush-hush about the next Mass Effect video game is they are taking their time to search for or create a story that will resonate as favorable with video game players as the former Mass Effect video game did -- sans the poor endings.

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Until a name is revealed for the next Mass Effect, Bioware appears to not mind in the meantime, if the upcoming video game is called the next Mass Effect -- just do not call it Mass Effect 4.  According to Bioware Chief Yanick Roy --  calling the new game Mass Effect 4 would be a disservice, since the Mass Effect triology is complete, and a new story will emerge.  In other words, it would be misleading to name the next video game,  Mass Effect 4 when it will not be a sequel  for the previous video game. 

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Commander Shepard will go; Mass Effect universe will stay

The latest rumor regarding the next Mass Effect video game is  Bioware may do a reveal at the June, 2014 E3 Expo  while others say nothing will happen until around 2015.  With E3 just a few months away and if Bioware makes an announcement-- hopefully more will be revealed about the next Mass Effect video game, including when it will be released, as well as its name.

The next Mass Effect video game will be rated M for Mature and is expected to be playable on the previous and next generation video game consoles.   As a side note -- given the volatile atmosphere and competitive nature of the video game market, I would not be surprised if Bioware decides to speed up its production and complete the next Mass Effect video game -- sooner than later.

{youtube}https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gfdHWKkwqDM{/youtube}        

Published in Mom's Minute Blog
Wednesday, 05 August 2015 21:23

Demons Age Announced by Bigmoon Entertainment

Bigmoon Entertainment is bringing Demons Age to the Playstation 4, Xbox One, and PC in 2016.  Demons Age is a turn-based, fantasy, role playing game developed by the people who brought you Trapped Dead: Lockdown and Space Empires V: Battle for Artemis.

In Demons Age you will set up your character and be able to hire a cast of diverse characters to help you in your adventure. You can play a single character or in party mode.  Level up by following the main story, solving puzzles, and performing side quests.  Watching the video you can see that it has that classic dungeon crawler feel that makes me reminisce about my days playing D&D.  So if you want to don’t want to roll your dice for your Listen check find out more info at http://www.demonsage.com

Demons Age Screenshot

Published in News
Tuesday, 05 August 2014 00:00

Review - Divinity: Original Sin [PC]

Growing up, I always felt western role-playing games on the PC were underrated. Maybe it's due to the fact that I was only two years old when Wasteland was released. Ten years later when I was enthusing about Baldur's Gate, most of my twelve-year-old buddies were busy anticipating the release of the next Final Fantasy game on console. I mean, yes, I love Japanese RPGs as much as the next gamer, but the communities for the computer games I grew up loving always seemed scarce or closed in by comparison.

Fast-forward to the current era of gaming where we have the introduction of Steam and crowd-funding websites, and a different picture is emerging. In an arena where consumers can have direct involvement and influence on the types of games they want to play, there has been a reemergence of these very games. And while the Divinity series of games may not span as far back as some others, they certainly have harkened to this earlier era of RPGs in their latest release Divinity: Original Sin.

The game was completed and enhanced through Kickstarter funding. Different aspects of gameplay were unlocked as levels of the funding were reached, and thanks to all of those who contributed, the game is intricate and vast. The self-published title from Larian Studios also runs on their own engine, complete with a tool kit for designing customized levels. While the game is available on Mac and coming soon for Linux, mods for the PC version are available and can be published through the Steam Workshop.

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The first thing you'll want to do with the game is decide whether to play the campaign in single-player or drop in multi-player mode. Both modes require you to create two characters. You will choose the name, sex, appearance, portrait photo, and class for each character. Advanced players can mostly disregard the pre-built classes, as the Divinity gameplay allows fluid and complex class building. Don't feel like you must limit yourself to be strictly caster, ranged, or melee. Various items found in the game, along with perks, traits, and skills, allow you to reach outside of basic class structures. Customization is more involved than the RPGs the game emulates, but it's still more simplistic than a lot of modern RPGs. The game offers a variety of skin tones and hair styles, but sadly falls short in offering any variation in body type. Once you have your character looking stunning, it's time to give them a voice (three options per gender) and most interestingly, an AI personality. AI personalities, such as Loyal, Knight, or Rascal, are more than just clever fun for dialogue- they offer unique insight and development for your playable characters.

You start the game with only two characters, but you can add certain people you encounter to your party. You have the ability to change their gear and assign skill points, as well as control them in battle. However, they are still separate from your main characters, as you cannot speak for them. If you choose to play multi-player, LAN or internet connection are available for drop in/drop out gameplay. The person hosting the game can assign characters to those who join and also determine whether they can change certain aspects such as gear or skill points. I absolutely loved the simplicity of playing in multi-player. However, it would be great to have the option of more than two original characters for a team. Events in the game don't just happen to your characters, your characters also take time to reflect upon events and even their own actions. This is where the exciting addition of the AI personality really shines, allowing the player to create exchanges between their characters. The options chosen in many dialogue exchanges not only shape the character in the player's mind, but they also contribute to certain traits gained through gameplay. For example, if a player chooses kind options, they can receive the Compassionate trait, which gives them a bonus to critical hits. If a player chooses to be cruel, they can receive the Heartless trait, which increases their chances to hit while backstabbing.

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Another unique aspect of the game is the bartering system. The game still offers vendors for particular items, but player purchases are not limited among them. Every person in the game offers not only a chance for better information and possible quests, but a selection of items they are also willing to trade. This is one of the ways that the game really emphasizes thorough exploration. And if talking to every person in the game isn't enough, there is also the option to take on the Pet Pal perk, which allows your character to speak with the various critters found throughout the game. Aside from humorous banter and the realization that the animals are more pleasant company than most of the humans, this perk can also help provide solid clues to solving quests and puzzles.

Talking to every creature great and small isn't the only thing that will take some time. Turn-based battles set the pace at self-determined and much slower than an action RPG, especially if you're playing multi-player. This, along with the ability to see rolls for each action, really give the game an old school tabletop feel. The battle system is quite easy to learn, which allows the player to focus on customization and tactics. With every move and attack costing action points, it's important for players to understand what each spell and skill can do. It's also vital to pay attention to the hit percentage that will pop up, along with the area of damage, since friendly fire is very possible and likely with certain magical and elemental attacks. The battle system here allows the player's inner strategist to really shine as they discover attack and elemental combinations. There are many barrels filled with water, oil, etc, but spell casters can also create elemental changes, such as rain. Use these abilities together to create poision gas clouds or electrically charged steam. The creative battle techniques are really what set this RPG apart not only from action RPGs, but also from other turn-based RPGs that place far less emphasis on atmosphere and status effect combinations.

The basic gameplay is straight-forward and great fun to explore, and once you've felt your way around most of the game (which will take many hours depending on how thorough you are) you might get the itch to take your creativity to the next level. Divinity: Original Sin does a fantastic job of merging the organic feel of tabletop with the best offerings of contemporary gaming technology. The next step in staying true to these roots is to allow players the ability to build levels within the game's engine. The engine is solid and provides for smooth gameplay even on less advanced set-ups, though my one small complaint is load times, which of course vary by computer. The Divinity Engine Toolkit is far more advanced than many level editors in other games of its ilk. As a player who loved to create levels in games like the original Warcraft games and Lode Runner, I had all the creative will, but very little of the modding and world editing advanced knowledge. Larian has provided many videos to help those who are newer to level editing on this scale. The step by step guidance was extremely helpful for me, and while building levels this way is definitely more complex and time consuming than in other games, it also creates a more detailed and personalized product.

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Divinity: Original Sin is a sampling of some of the best offerings from both old and new schools. A fitting homage to the games I grew up playing, it also establishes an identity of its own and can be grouped in among the best of the genre. It's a fine example of what can be achieved when a good balance between a development/publishing team and players is created. Between all of the creative ways to construct in the game and the sprawling world to explore, the game brings apt innovation to an already solid genre.

SCORE: 9/10

Published in PC
Saturday, 08 August 2015 16:03

Divinity Trailer at Gamescom!

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Larian Studios revealed the Divinity: Original Sin trailer at this year’s Gamescom.  Divinity: Original Sin Enhanced Edition is being published to your Playstation 4 and Xbox One this Autumn by Focus Home Interactive.

                This classic RPG game has turn based combat that will keep you on your toes (or on the edge of your couch if you prefer), use your spells and abilities to take out your enemies alone or with a friend.  In Divinity you will be able to explore the world of Rivellon by yourself or in co-op mode where you will share your couch and the screen.  Stick together and you will be on one screen, wander apart and you will automatically be moved to a split screen!  For more info check out www.larian.com

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Published in News
Friday, 18 July 2014 00:00

Review - Divinity: Original Sin [PC]

 Recently I received a gift of Divine Divinity and Divinity: Original Sin on Steam as a belated birthday gift from one of my best friends, David. He had been keeping watch on Divinity: Original Sin while it had been in development and thought I might like it. I had never heard of the series nor its creator Larian Studios, but I was willing to give it a go.

Divinity: Original Sin is a top down, third person, isometric view RPG. Think of the way the Diablo series looks and you get the idea. However, the game play has very little in common with the Diablo series.

First things first. The character creation.

Character creation is interesting because you start by making two characters. The appearance editor is okay. It has a several options for both male and female characters, but nothing really to write home about. However, the class or abilities portion of the editor is where it shines. Yes, you have 11 classes to choose from, but each of these can be modified by the player during creation. Playing a Wayfarer but don't want the Pet Pal talent? Change it to something you feel will be more useful. The only part of the editor I took issue with was the character portraits. Despite there being many, I really felt like it was still too easy to come up with an appearance for your character that didn't have an analogue in the portrait selection.

The visuals and audio for the game are both well done. The maps and general animation are on par for this style of game, but the spell and particle effects really kick it up a notch. Some areas you walk through will have seeds and leaves blowing by your field of view, making the game feel more alive and further immersing you in the game. The sound track for Divinity: Original Sin is truly top notch. Normally I tend to turn music way down or off in games because often times I find it jarring and that it doesn't fit the mood of the game. Not so in this case. The first time I heard the theme music at the beginning of the game I was hooked. And the music in the game is no different. It just sounds great and works.


Looks like you passed out around a lot of combustibles, little goblins.

Divinity in gameWhere Divinity really shines for me is the feel of the game play. I have never played an RPG video game that feels so close to playing a pen and paper RPG, ever. The game doesn't spoon feed you your quest information or where to go. You have to spend time conversing with NPCs and looking for clues. For the most part I really like this, but there have been a few times now where I've missed a vital clue or it just seemed there wasn't one.

The combat also feels like a table top RPG too. When out of combat you just roam around at your leisure, but once you go into combat it goes to an initiative based turn system like most pen and paper RPGs. Once in a fight you rely on action points to determine your movement and what attacks or actions you can take. This might not sound very interesting, but believe me when I say that the combat in this game is some of the best turn based combat I’ve ever experienced in any game. There is so much that goes into an encounter that it's really hard to describe it with out writing a small book, but i'll touch on one of the coolest parts; that being the area effects. With your elemental attacks as a magic user or a ranged attacker, you can set the field on fire to burn anything coming at you. Fire isn't working? Cast a rain spell to douse the fire and create steam clouds which you can then hit with lightning to electrify. This is just one example of many.

My only real issue with Divinity: Original Sin is also one of its strengths. The conversation. On one hand you have these great moments of dialogue between your two main characters that can reveal a lot about their personalities and back story and reward you with in game bonuses. On the other hand dialogue with random citizens is the same thing over and over. I would have preferred that there be no conversation option with the background players because they all pretty much have the same dialogue options which tend to be pretty jarring and pulls me out of the immersion of the game.

Divinity: Original Sin in a very well done RPG. I think for true fans of the genre it's a game well worth owning and playing over and over again. If you are hoping for another Diablo clone or something hack n' slash, don't bother.

 This review originally appeared on GameonGirl.com

Published in PC
Wednesday, 22 January 2014 00:00

Eschalon: Book 3 Preview [PC]

 I recently got my hands on a preview copy of Eschalon Book 3. Since this was a preview of the final release, and not the final release, I’ll be giving my thoughts on the game while ignoring any and all issues with the game’s running stability, as those aspects have not been fine tuned for this build.

The two easiest words I can use to describe Eschalon Book 3 are intense and intimidating. The character creation is similar to a D&D character sheet. There is an easy way around this, where you simply choose one of the classes and let the game build a character for you, but doing this leaves every single attribute to the discretion of the system. You will have a character that works in the class you wanted, but you will not have chosen their gender, name, race, religion, or any of their unique skills. I chose a randomized character, not knowing that the attributes I had my character randomized.

eschalon3 elderoakDifficulty selection is done in a very interesting way, in that you don’t select a difficulty at all. Instead, you choose whether or not to use four different rules. The first rule makes food and water a requirement for you character’s survival. The second makes your weapons degrade with use. The next two get into insane territory. The third rule makes the player unable to save or load the game while diseased, poisoned, critically injured, or near enemies. It is worth noting for this rule that I was diseased almost immediately after starting the game, and remained diseased for several hours as I could not afford to cure myself. The fourth rule makes any probabilities seeded instead of random. This means that if you are trying to hit something, instead of doing a 20% probability dice roll each time, the game follows a pattern to ensure you only hit that thing 20% of the time. Depending on the rules you pick, you are assigned a difficulty level that describes your gameplay. Each level affects the score you will receive with either a penalty or a bonus. I wanted to at least stay at Normal difficulty, but hate weapon degradation, so I activated rules one and four.

After you have created a character and selected the difficulty rules you are given a brief story introduction. Your character was attempting to destroy two powerful items known as crux stones. Alien Voldemort showed up and tried to kill you. He failed and destroyed one of the crux stones, teleporting you without your memories some place far away. You wake up lost, confused, and with the Crux of Fire. Your goal is now to find out more about the Crux of Fire, and the land you are in. Another goal is to not die. This one’s going to prove a bit difficult.
This game is hard, from the moment you start any combat whatsoever you’ll understand this. When you are a level one character you’ll spend most of your combat time wishing you weren’t constantly missing your targets. I started as a ranger, which is sort of hard, given I had no weapons skills other than a bow and arrows are hard to come by and get wasted because of all the freaking missed shots. The one advantage to the gameplay is that it is entirely turn based. You don’t have to worry about getting everything you need lined up quickly, but rather with as few actions as possible. If you need to open your inventory, you won’t be attacked a bunch while searching for the items you need. Only when you use an action to actually use the item.

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Once you’ve managed to actually get yourself a character that can handle fighting cock roaches (this takes a lot of time) you’ll note that you must now go and face greater challenges. It’s not possible to grind in Eschalon, as enemies don’t respawn. This has upsides and downsides. It does make for a better gameplay flow since you can’t just beef up your character so that all things in your path are like mere insects. But it also means that you can’t level to just the point where you feel comfortable with the difficulty curve. You have to handle whatever the game is going to throw at you. The other issue is that the game is entirely non-linear. You are meant to explore new areas and complete quests based on what you are capable of. Without the ability to grind, you’re generally left finding out where you should go by entering an area, having a near death experience, and then running away. This often wastes your food, water, and gold on recovery.

Overall, Eschalon Book 3 is a fun game if you enjoy a seriously difficult RPG. Its story is based around total mystery, its world is entirely unknown, and it is seriously freaking hard. You don’t enter the game feeling like the messiah from on high that all have awaited. Instead, you feel like some jackass with minor combat skills being thrown into a situation that you are not prepared for and hardly understand. This makes Eschalon Book 3 a realistic and engaging game.

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Published in PC
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