I have to say, I had a good feeling about this right from the start. Okay, I must have had, why else would I have backed it? Now with the first public beta available, I was surprised in a positive and a negative way. For a beta it still seems to be kind of… alpha. Too many parts are not even implemented yet. It’s not just that it takes place in a town that won’t spoil the story and that all scripted potential party members are missing. For a proper beta test the game should be in an almost final state, so that only bug fixes still need implementing. I don’t see how testing an unfinished product would be especially fruitful. The earliest Wasteland 2 beta seemed more complete. Not that this has to mean anything.
Josh Sawyer has mentioned a lot that they still intend to publish this game 2014. Judging from the beta they’ll still have a very long road left to go, if they intend to pull this off. At first glance I’d say they either have to postpone the release or shove it out the door containing lots of bugs. Another possibility, of course, might be that this beta is more or less something they just whipped up in a hurry to fulfill the promise made during the KS campaign and their internal build is leagues ahead of it.
The rest of the game, this much is apparent too, is a dream come true. To me at least. I started whining years ago why no one would make THIS game. I don’t know of a game, that has such detailed high resolution 2D backgrounds AND marries them with current tech effects for everything else. There might be some games with such 2D backgrounds (excluding those that don’t look great anymore because they are classics), but then those lack the level of animations for water (and so on), Pillars of Eternity can show off. The only real reason to not like those graphics, is that one would discard such 2D backgrounds in general – which is ridiculous. Especially in the context of such games, they just work. It is about time that developers start to remember that. I liked what Josh Sawyer said in a recent interview (I’m not sure, it might have been this one – too lazy to skip through it just to find this remark), that it was basically a self-fulfilling prophecy, what started the decline of such games. If no one is making these games anymore, then obviously no one can be buying them. Duh!
The rest of the game continues the positive impressions the graphics immediately give. They kept almost everything that made infinity games great and let all of these features grow guided by the experience these developers gained over almost 20 years of making such games. Given that characters and story were always Obsidian Entertainment’s biggest strengths, there is little left that could still go horribly wrong with this game. According to what my mind tells me.
+Added line of Venus to get rid of the turnstile in Club Confession.
+Added sound to blood guardian summoning and removed a blood trail.
+Added occult item Research text and fixed issue with Heather quest.
+Added library note inspection and restored tree to Leopold Society.
+Improved Gimble to Vandal dialogue and options to get Trip’s quest.
+Fixed volume of Blood Hunt music and active discpline’s durations.
+Fixed beachhouse dog clipping and tutorial guard attacking player.
+Fixed missing blood pack after blood hunt and Barabas breaking out.
+Fixed Nosferatu issue for male blooddoll and warrens spiderchicks.
+Corrected library decal problems and stuff in bloodless apartments.
+Corrected library and Asylum elevator problems, thanks vladdmaster.
+Made Hallowbrook atrium skipable but moved Ra blade there as goal.
+Updated Free View Weapons to plus version and fixed some histories.
+Halved damage of Giovanni ghosts and increased Obfuscator trigger.
+Changed Sheriff’s sword from Brawl to Melee and improved Lily line.
+Delayed quick Nosferatu leaving and improved Pisha leaving issues.
+Moved unused Asian music to Kamikaze Zen and restored Lotus music.
+Forced Skelter dialogue a second time and moved saves to old/save.
Added Nines’ gesture and improved Wong Ho one, thanks vladdmaster.
Removed Beckett warehouse stealth message and sleepers standing up.
Removed visible Pisha victim and improved scary Ocean House sounds.
Fixed tutorial invisible-popups-teleporting and minor text issues.
Fixed sewer sound transitions on SM, Hollywood and Chinatown hubs.
Fixed map holes at Skyeline vent top and Leopold Society sea cave.
Fixed Christopher, Damsel, Gary, Johansen and McFly dialogue bugs.
Repaired possible Ming after Hallowbrook bug and warrens doorblock.
Corrected syntax errors using VTMBedit and fatguys not using claws.
Corrected tilted Hollywood streetlights and removed Asphole block.
Made Steam default folder and added numbers to Empire Hotel floors.
Repaired Grout’s candles and Heather’s clothes, thanks vladdmaster.
Adjusted health bar frame and weapon/discpline highlight graphics.
Hid Blood Hunt flickering with dumpsters and removed sewer copcars.
Restored Giovanni meeting guys and fixed Ocean House model details.
Quite early in the game, the player is forced to make the decision, which one of two characters has to die. I thought that was quite odd. For one, it’s the sole choice of this nature the player can/has to make during the entire game AND it’s so close to the beginning of the game, that the player can’t possibly be already rooting for one of the characters, which thus made me pick someone at random. So every event after that is then called “timeline x”, where x is the name of the surviving guy. Was this done to add more replayability?
I’m one of apparently only ~5 people on earth who really like id tech 5, it feels so refined. IMHO it gives this game the right stuff. It’s all very slick/responsive all the time. There’s this moment when you instantly know which engine a game was created in when you start playing it, even without reading about it beforehand. I like it when that happens. It’s a little bit like coming home. I also didn’t encounter a single bug in my playthrough, which is an incredibly rare event.
The rest of the game does everything I expect an FPS to do. It’s a well oiled machine and it reaches a grade of perfection, where I’d say that it’s no longer possible to still significantly improve the game without redefining what a shooter is and ending up with another/new genre or a more severe mix of several.
The gameplay already contains mechanics like character progression based upon playstyle, which forces players to either adapt new tactics throughout the game or miss out on many abilities. That’s a really interesting concept, because that made me realize that I usually “learn” how to play a game and then stick to it. Games that reward experience points, that can be distributed freely, for completing whatever, never make me switch my habits. Wolfenstein’s system did. Sometimes I would use stealth and another time a gun I had neglected so far (which is more fun ingame than I make it sound here).
Exploration is also very much a thing in this game, because levels usually offer more than just these narrow paths, too many games are now cursed with and hidden collectibles reward observant players. The ride is complemented with (optional) “dreams” of the first Wolfenstein with fitting throwback graphics and it all ends in a scene hat didn’t really satisfy me, but William “B.J.” Blazkowicz probably has to be back anyway, because… the show must go on! The New Order was also the first game I played in some time, that didn’t have a scene after the ending credits, so yeah… don’t wait (unless you want to see all the names, of course). ;)