Archive for April, 2015


Falcon Punched

Cognition is about an FBI agent who has to apprehend a serial killer dubbed Cain because she has a conscience. And of course there is more which makes it personal. She’s also blessed with a kind of supernatural abilities, which make her ideal for the job. It’s important to note, that however cliche this might make the game sound at first, it’s not an issue and everything comes together nicely once ingame.
This game was released in 4 episodes, but apart from that, this is a more classic adventure game, which means the player has to use brains instead of only reacting to QTEs (I just lost my one reader :P). There are sometimes also scenes in which stuff happens like people dying, depending on the player’s performance, so it can pay off to actually try to do well…
I thought the third part was probably the strongest (lots of story and reveals), but after my brain merged all the pieces to a whole, I liked it as such. I think this was the first game (or one of the first games) developed by Phoenix Online, so I have to say this was already quite good.
Several ideas in this game are really ambitious, be it the cognition powers that grow and become more and more elaborate during the course of the game or having the player’s actions result in gaining or loosing trust with certain characters. It absolutely shows that even in the adventure genre, that’s typically not seen as the most innovative field, there are still things that can be done to make it more interesting or fresh, even without affecting classic elements such as inventories or more complex riddles.
The tech might not be the most powerful out there, but I never thought it was affecting the experience in a negative way. The art in cutscenes was even very pretty.
A bigger budget might have been nice anyway (yes yes, I know), because some of the characters (especially thinking of Terrence, as a friend of Erica’s, it would have made sense for him to show up again) just vanish along the way and the reason for this surely wasn’t that they had all the time and developers in the world to do them more justice.
I’d really like to play a continuation, but considering how long this game is already out (and I haven’t read anything), I’d better not hold my breath. :( That won’t keep me from hoping though. :)
But on the bright side, I think I’m ready for Broken Age now. :P

Da Dinah

I continue to be impressed by how they make scenes have an impact on me, without forcing me to punish Q and/or E like a madman. I still can’t say that I have a concrete idea as to where they are going with this, but Episode 2 is definitely a satisfying follow up to 1. While waiting for 3, I gladly replayed 2 and still enjoyed it. With the exception of the wonderful TWAU, I have never done this with a TT game. And those really aren’t bad or anything.
This Episode had a few fresh tricks up its sleeve, I thought, I didn’t expect them to play with the rewind power, but they did and it was exactly the kind of smart idea that makes a story/game better. The ending to this Episode was a really powerful moment and I actually cared about the outcome. You can’t demand more.
I just hope that the next Episode will start to reveal a lot more about what is going on and so far was only hinted at. If it’s still going to be extremely vague, they will either have to put everything close to the very end of the season or leave a lot unanswered. While a really intense finale is always welcome, I still hope they choose neither of both paths. Stretching things out a bit more, might turn out to be the bigger boon to the overall season.
It’s a good thing that there are now only a few weeks left until 3 comes out. :)

random links (2)

  • +Recreated Malkavian Maze and Warrens Shortcut, thanks EntenSchreck.
  • +All four new levels optimized, thanks to atrblizzard and Psycho-A.
  • +Improved library quest emails and restored big moon to Ocean House.
  • +Made tutorial guard and Luckee Star easter egg vanish after scene.
  • +Fixed blood pack appearing in SM haven and Skelter blocking stairs.
  • +Improved library and atrium maps and removed Giovanni well spirit.
  • +Made it possible to do the cemetery quest after getting Romero fun.
  • +Included eye replacer mod, but made it deselectable, thanks Nivea.
  • +Added installer option to deselect casting and changed disciplines.
  • +Corrected beachhouse dog vanishing and dealing damage after death.
  • +Made auto-move and walk/run toggles be definable, thanks to Malkav.
  • +Fixed Johansen always following you and Romero’s whore trying too.
  • +Made it possible to freely select one of Beckett’s new disciplines.
  • +Corrected cabbie sewer animation and Venture Tower elevator issue.
  • Repaired Confession cross and restored dance spot, thanks Psycho-A.
  • Fixed Plaquebearer quest bug and added all concept arts to Extras.
  • Made abandoned warehouse bum leave later if you didn’t talk to him.
  • Removed character sheet music overlaying others, thanks Zer0morph.
  • Fixed three mirrored keycard backsides and centered the area icons.
  • Improved Grout’s wife tube and electronic voices, thanks Psycho-A.
  • Fixed hostess, Boris, Phil, Johansen, Gimble and LaCroix dialogues.
  • Made Empire Hotel TV unreactive and prevented invincible Cathayan.
  • Added museum light, Chinatown newsboxes and fixed minor map issues.
  • Moved Knox/Bertram XP to Knox dialogue and added pics reflections.
  • Fixed walk-through columns at Venture Tower and warrens reflection.
  • Made Igor react to killed allies and heart monitor to dead victim.
  • Stopped several dialogue NPCs staying tranced after being fed upon.
  • Restored two cool unused lines for Knox and fixed Venus money bug.
  • Improved wet reflections and other texture issues, thanks Psycho-A.
  • Showed Carson’s finger and fixed Flynn’s eye clip, thanks DDLullu.
  • Added mod -game loader and improved SDK, thanks Behar and Psycho-A.
  • Improved Blender scripts and added sheet injector, thanks DDlullu.
  • Fixed player in Carson cutscene and unlocked door, thanks Psycho-A.

Pillars Of Eternity

How often does someone develop the game you have dreamed of for years?

I said it before and I’ll gladly say it as many times as I feel like it: Pillars of Eternity does everything Baldur’s Gate does, just better – thus it being the better game overall. Sorry! Loved Baldur’s Gate since its release and yet, I won’t lie to protect it.
Now, after writing about my “first impression” because I couldn’t hold it in any longer, I’ve finished the game AND (seriously) have already started my second playthrough. The reason for this obviously is the stellar brilliance of this game, meaning, in this instance, that countless character builds are valid. So far, in most RPGs, I’ve always felt as if I would need a specific character class to really be able to get the most out of the game and tp play it the way I would want to. PoE is just different. I truly think it’s designed much more intelligent than the typical RPG. It begins with Might “just” being the thing to determine how much damage someone does, no matter if it’s a mage or a fighter. It might (ha) not sound like much, but this is incredibly brilliant. First of, it’s a system that is easy to comprehend (and it’s always important to understand what’s going on) and second it allows for countless viable character builds. After I was finished, the first thing I did, was ask myself how the game would play with a different character. That’s why I started again so soon. With most other RPGs I’m just done at this point. PoE has so many instances in it, that different races, classes, backgrounds, skills […] truly make a difference. I’ve never played a game that would actually take this many elements into account during almost every interaction. It’s so rewarding to play as a druid, but so is playing as a cipher and so on… it simply pays off in different ways.

The world of Eora, they developed from scratch, isn’t any different. Their guidebooks explaining Eora’s people, culture, history, politics, languages, religions […] are simply stunning (Tim Cain’s cookbook…). They obviously thought of every little bit which might contribute to such an RPG experience and then created it. It’s such an incredible task they accomplished here. These people were given the task to do a game that could hold a candle to these old infinity engine games, but they went way beyond the call of duty here. Baldur’s Gate didn’t have to come up with as many stuff, since they “just” used D&D. I really hope they end up in a position, that allows them to make more with this massive potential.
This really is KS at its best though. Throughout the game, I thought that all these little backer moments added a flavor and soul to this game, other games almost inevitably lack. I’ve never seen this done better, because it never distracts or undermines the game Obsidian wanted to and could develop. There is no conflict here, that can sometimes pop up, if people have a say who aren’t developers.

If I would really have to force myself, to find something negative in this project, then I’d say the commentaries could have been implemented a little bit better. By only playing them, if the user starts them, for example. As it is, they start playing automatically after entering a new area and this can result in them being played over the sounds of a fight (monsters often lurk around at the edges of a map) or a conversation between the characters. They also can’t be repeated if something wasn’t understood during all the action.
The characters are all good, but they don’t include eternal favorites like Minsc and Viconia or Morte. That doesn’t make them bad or anything, but they are first and foremost solid and work within the story of that game, supporting it. They are very integral to the major mythology of this story. Some players might prefer it this way, others might like characters more, which work more independently. But I guess that’s what the adventurers hall is for. Everyone can come up with own heroes, if they want to. I must admit I’ve never used the feature and should probably at least try it in the future.
That’s already it. I can’t think of more less than perfect elements. Have I already talked about how pretty the graphics are? No? Shame on me then!
Pillars of Eternity is one of these games, that are satisfying in their story and characters, but also the raw gameplay mechanics. Think Batman: Arkham City. Mages, ciphers, priests, chanters and druids have countless spells at their disposal, that just make each of them worthwhile. Even all the different types of casters have unique traits that set them appart. Mages get their spells from a grimoire (grimoire slam is awesome!) and ciphers have to create focus (done passively with the soul whip) to keep casting. Again, all this stuff is part of very smart game design, that hardly any other games of this genre have showcased so far.
The same is true for camping supplies and no combat XP besides bestiary entries. Restrictions for mages are meaningless, if all they do is teach players to rest after every battle. Making this a resource deals with that problem.
Same goes for restricting XP generation to actual quest solving. Pretty much every walkthrough for one of the old infinity engine games describes how to end a quest normally at first and then kill everyone to get these experience points as well. That stinks, it counteracts every type of meaningful choices and with a game working this way, designers might as well remove options like stealth altogether. Why sneak through a level, if it only makes the player miss the XP for killing everyone? This is the first time that sneaking actually makes sense, because you don’t loose XP and the party doesn’t even take combat damage, which saves them from having to use up camping resources again. That is the very example of smart game design. If the player has options he never uses, they were implemented wrong. This also proves that no one has understood and thought this type of game through like Obsidian has.
I also liked the reputation system a lot. The party can win influence with every single city, which makes so much sense, just because a character is a hero in one city, wouldn’t prevent him from being pursued for petty theft in another – nor would a negative event burn him everywhere. It goes way beyond the basic reputation a party could win in Baldur’s Gate. On top of that the main character even gathers a rep based on how the player behaved during conversations. That too is something much more intricate and satisfying than almost anything other RPGs ever featured. The player can be the ass or hero he ever wanted to be (or everything in between) and all of this has its advantages and drawbacks. Some people are glad to talk to someone more benevolent, others just see a sucker. Amazing!
I’ve really won the impression that if some future Kickstarter campaigns will have it easier to get their funding, it will be because of successful examples like Pillars of Eternity. This is crowdfunding at its best. I already loved Wasteland 2 but I think this project turned out even better. There is a vast amount of stuff to love here.
It took me over 70 hours to finish the game (according to save game time) and I tried to do everything. The game ends with enlightening epilogues, just like Wasteland 2 did and I’m so interested in learning what the already announced expansion might be about!

Obsidian didn’t drop the hammer after the release and already published patch 1.03, only one week after release and they seem serious in keeping it up. Patch 1.04 is already in the works!


Speaking of expansions, can you give us any details on what might be coming in the future?

Collaborative Storytelling In Pillars Of Eternity

Pillars Of Eternity

I backed (then) Project Eternity on KS because I missed this type of game, the level of detail that was lost in the transition from isometric to the typical 3D engine first or third person view. When I mention detail, I’m talking about the usually massive loss of information, that often occurs when also switching from text to fewer, voiced lines. Text, that could and never should be fully voiced, because reading is much faster than listening to a well pronounced interpretation. Not that there weren’t great games since then, there definitely were and are, but it’s just a different kind of experience.
So I thought, if anyone could get it done, it would be Obsidian. Loved every game they ever made. Just finished Knights of the Old Republic II AGAIN with all mods applied, before PoE was released.
And they did it. They didn’t just give it their best shot, they actually came through. This is sacrilege, I know, but I think Pillars of Eternity is better than Baldur’s Gate and I’ve been a fan of these games and their expansions forever. Obsidian kept everything of what made these games special and refined it even more. There is pretty much nothing that was great in BG and isn’t also in PoE, while there is hardly anything that was bad in BG, or could have been done better, that wasn’t done better in PoE.
It feels really good to have such a Kickstarter project live up to all its promises on top of it being a great game.
I’m really impressed by how well crafted everything in this game is. Originally I feared the lack of the proven (or FAMILIAR) D&D rules might be a problem, but it’s not. I think the rules Obsidian came up with and implemented here are even better. Obsidian truly seems to be the best company out there for a game of this type. It’s not just the big stuff that looks and works great, the game is intricate right down to the smallest bits and pieces. It’s astonishing how well thought out everything is and this makes the game very satisfying in its entirety.
I really like how the stats work in this game (e.g. might determines damage for everything, no matter if the character is a fighter or a mage – stroke of genius) and how powerful and meaningful the character builds are as a result. Everything makes sense and thinking a character through pays off. This might be the first game in which I really want to play as different classes and not just pick one because it seems to be the best amongst all of them for some weird reason. Everything can be made viable for different play styles. There is no lame druid you can’t do anything with. Or a dumb monk character you can’t find equipment for. Things like that used to happen all the time, but not in PoE.
The whole experience is this nifty. Interactive spots can’t just be highlighted, containers appear in blue as long as they contain items and grey out when they don’t. This is so helpful in such a game. Often the player has to memorize what containers he has emptied or at least hover over everything with the mouse, which is much less elegant (and so much more time consuming without adding anything of value). Many features with the same level of quality ensure I’m spending my time with playing, the thing I want to do, and not boring or even tedious chores. The fast mode is another welcome addition of that type. It makes even otherwise annoying backtracking bearable. During battles, however, combat can be slowed. This game man…
I also love the scripted, interactive interactions which are at first glance simple drawn pictures but turn out to be a powerful and smart way to add something important that solves several problems. It’s sooo effective when sounds are played to support the pictures and the text.

I’m not done with the game (it already bums me out that it will end), I’m only on level 8/15 of the endless paths of Od Nua for example, but I couldn’t wait this time to write something, because the excellence of this game is so energizing. As far as I’m concerned, the game hardly could be any better. They did so much more here than “just” fulfill the KS promise. I’m actually a little bit stalling right now, because this week a patch is supposed to come out and I would really like to install it before continuing. So far I didn’t really encounter any gameplay-affecting bugs, but not everyone was so lucky. Besides, improvements are always welcome.


Pillars of Eternity Interview with Josh Sawyer

How Pillars of Eternity rewrites the rules for role-playing