Posts Tagged ‘RPG’

The RPG Scrollbars: Avoiding Adventures In Sorcery!

Last week saw the release of Sorcery 4 [official site], the final part of what’s technically Inkle Studios’ conversion of the hit-80s books, but in practice is easily the most crazily advanced, ambitious CYOA ever put to page or screen. I won’t go into too much detail here, because you can read John’s WIT of the series as a whole, or maybe my own interview with the devs from the start of the year. Suffice it to say that it’s been one hell of a ride, and I for one can’t wait to see Inkle’s next game – hopefully, like the masterful 80 Days, something else that breaks the mould harder and faster than Smash Mouth fleeing the Mystery Men in favour of the big green Shrek dollar.

But something I’ve been wondering about for a while. With all these choices… what if your choice is not to play? To refuse the adventure. Onwards! Reluctantly!

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Wot I Think: Sorcery! Part 4

With Part 4, Inkle’s triumphant Sorcery! series [official site] reaches its conclusion. It’s still sourcing its core tale from the Steve Jackson classics, but having taken wonderful leaps away to include its own far more elaborate possibilities. And the trajectory of each game being better than the last is not broken in this fourth release, the best yet, and indeed one I now feel comfortable calling one of the finest RPGs ever made. This is spectacular. Here’s wot I think:

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The RPG Scrollbars: MMO Jails And Virtual Porridge

Backstage areas have always fascinated me. Behind the scenes in theatres, where all the glitz and glamour dies instantly the moment you step where the public isn’t meant to see – down lethal staircases and in filthy preparation rooms. The tunnels in places like Walt Disney World, where cast members travel to avoid ruining the magic, and tough security guards probably not wearing mouse ears emerge to haul off trouble-makers. And in games, especially online ones, there’s often parts that we’re just not meant to see, from developer tricks to places for the GM team to hang out.

Quite often, these include prisons. For the really naughty players to go.

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The RPG Scrollbars: A Trip To Enderal

Even by RPG standards, Skyrim total conversion Enderal [official site] deserves some kind of prize for a depressing opening. A happy summer’s day twisting into a nightmare of dead family, fire and flesh. From there, starving aboard a ship with a friend, all in the hope of finding a new life across the sea. Discovery. Murder. Near drowning. Waking up to find that you have special magic powers… and almost as quickly that in Enderal, that’s pretty much the local equivalent of coming down with the clap. An illness to be treated, which will probably lead to insanity and an agonising death. Anything else, world?

On second thoughts, better not ask. Just play this excellent mod.

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The RPG Scrollbars: Invasion – Azeroth (And Others)

As many hours as I’ve spent playing them over the years, MMORPGs always fill me with a touch of sadness for what they could have been. I’m thinking of the original optimistic dreams of people like Richard Garriott, talking of his world where players accidentally killing too many sheep would draw the wrath of a nearby, now hungry dragon, back in that innocent time before it was accepted that players would not only kill the sheep, but the dragon, and any other living creature within murder range. There’s many reasons why the modern theme park style ended up being dominant, but as stories from games like Eve regularly demonstrate, we definitely lost a lot in that philosophical and pragmatic shift towards PvE content and fixed interactions.

At least we’ve still got world events. I love world events.

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The RPG Scrollbars: Hello From The Magic Tavern

Pubs would be so much more interesting if they were like RPG taverns. Go in for a refreshing beverage. Leave on an epic quest to save the world from evil, instead of to pick up that knock-off TV you accidentally bought from the tattooed bloke who really didn’t understand the meaning of the word ‘no’. True, ‘You all meet in a tavern’ is the Dungeon Master equivalent of ‘It was a dark and stormy night’, but it’s hard to argue with the efficiency. Where else would heroes assemble, to eat, drink and be merry?

Hello From The Magic Tavern is what happens when they do a podcast instead.

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2016’s Most Promising RPGs

We’re almost half-way through the year, and it’s not been a bad one. The finale of The Witcher 3. Dark Souls III, for those players who consider it an RPG. A couple of late-arrivals, like Dragon’s Dogma. But as the nights again start to draw darker, what’s up next? Here’s some of the big quests still promised for 2016. As ever, don’t be too surprised to see a few more jump from A to B.

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The RPG Scrollbars: The Rise And Fall Of Audio Logs

“Day 4. I’ve looked everywhere, but I can’t find anything to eat or a clue to get me off the ship. Just… more audiologs! They’re everywhere! For some reason I keep listening to every minute of every one thinking there’ll be some useful information but… they’re just filler! Filler that’s driving me to madness!”South Park: The Stick Of Truth

It’s hard to argue. They’re kinda dumb. But I’m still fond of this stupid little trope.

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The RPG Scrollbars: Voices In Your Ear

Looking back on System Shock, one part inevitably stands out more than any other. SHODAN. The goddess of Citadel Station. With her words she turned a futuristic maze into a horrific hunter/hunted situation, where survival was about clawing back control and beating the machine at her own game. It’s an impressive achievement… but especially when you consider that really, she was little more than a few well written voice files and a world that let them temporarily seem like something more.

Since the start of gaming though, there’s been technology… and there’s been showmanship. One often gets mistaken for the other. We see advanced AI in characters that simply broadcast what they’re doing. A simple line of dialogue at the right moment can make a game. In Deus Ex for instance, being shouted at for going into the ladies’ wasn’t simply a cute bit of scripting, but its way of saying that it was always watching. And you were never going to know what it was watching out for.

Sometimes, characters just commenting at all can create wonders.

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The RPG Scrollbars: Azeroth’s Ragequit Referendum

Dateline: Year 634 by the King’s Calendar. Azeroth’s political woes go from bad to worse as the continent of Kalimdor continues its push for official separation from the Eastern Kingdoms. “Our citizens grow weary of being mixed in with some grand political empire that increasingly does nothing for them,” complains Troll leader Hyjal Farage. “With this vote, we will prove our independence once and for all. Mon.”

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The RPG Scrollbars: Breaking The Superhero Curse

In this era of a hundred comic book movies a year plus spin-off shows, it’s getting harder and harder to remember that not so long ago trying to take a superhero off the printed page and onto some kind of screen was basically a recipe for failure, mockery, and a way of flying a promising creative career into a great big rock. Hell, even now most superheroes without the word ‘Bat’ in their name are still waiting for someone to even attempt a game, never mind make a good one. For every Batman on NES or Arkham Asylum, there’s an Aquaman or Superman on Nintendo 64.

On PC, it’s always been particularly weird. Especially when you look at which companies have tried and failed over the years to bring us the ultimate superhero RPG. Is there anything out there that comes close? Ignoring Freedom Force, since that’s not an RPG? Well, some! Enough not to have to hold out for a hero, at least.

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The RPG Scrollbars: Rise Of The MOBA Heroes

Hello there. This week, I’m writing not just as an RPG columnist, but as president of the newly formed League Of Folks Who Don’t Really Play MOBAs But Are Bizarrely Hooked On All The Trappings. As far as I can tell, our membership is roughly a billion people and counting. That’s what happens when the likes of Blizzard and Riot spend literally tens of dollars creating gorgeous videos to promote their worlds, yes, but it goes somewhat deeper than that. Have you ever watched a new character reveal for a game you know you’re never going to play? Then the sickness might have spread.

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The RPG Scrollbars: Warcraft

The Warcraft movie hasn’t exactly been drowning in plaudits after its premiere… to which I wasn’t invited, so I’m typing this in a Frankie and Benny’s immediately after my local cinema’s first non-midnight screening because hahahaha, no. That’s how devoted I am to timeliness: a bit! But, as a long-time player of World of Warcraft who actually plays for stuff like the story and the PvE content, I still held out hope. If it simply wasn’t for others, as the mood seemed, might it be for me?

Answers as soon as I order this burger. Bacon, lettuce, no cheese…

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Wot I Think: The Witcher 3: Blood And Wine

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt [official site] is one of the best RPGs ever made, and the first DLC, Hearts of Stone, certainly didn’t let the side down. Now, Geralt’s final adventure comes to an end in a terrorised land. Is it a fitting finale? Here’s Wot I Think.

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The RPG Scrollbars: The Mys-Tree of Savior

Steam Charts can be fascinating things. They’re usually pretty predictable. The latest big thing, except for Battleborn, apparently. A few sad spoors of games that never made it, like the sight of Evolve’s player still looking for a new game or hope that it’s finally about to take off. Dota 2, because I’m pretty sure that there’s a prophecy that the world will end if it doesn’t have at least half a million active players.

And then just occasionally, something a little unexpected. Like Tree of Savior, as in either “What the hell is Tree of Savior?”, or to the tens of thousands of people playing at the time of writing this, “You know, the successor to Ragnarok Online.” Amusingly, it’s jockeying for position with Dark Souls 3 at the moment, and two more different genres it’s hard to imagine – the land of ‘git gud’ next to the realm of ‘git yur credit crd’.

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The RPG Scrollbars: Final Fantasy And Me

Since we’ve got a little bit of a gap in big RPG releases at the moment, I’ve spent the last couple of weeks playing catch-up. A couple of games I missed when they came out recently. One… quite a bit older. Final Fantasy IX was one of those games that slipped past me at the time, not because I wasn’t aware of it, but because I didn’t have a Playstation at the time, and by the time I bought a cheap PS2, a double-whammy of Final Fantasy X and X-2 made it tough to go back to the previous generation. Square’s recent rush of re-releases finally offered a good chance to catch-up. But I’m not really planning to talk about that specifically. Instead, I was pondering the sad fate of that most cursed of Final Fantasy fans… those of us who came to them on PC. Brrr.

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The RPG Scrollbars: Quests Done Quick

I must confess, since finishing Siege of Dragonspear the other week, I’ve not actually fired up any RPGs. It’s not for want of them to play. I’m particularly looking forward to finally trying Final Fantasy IX, which I missed back in the day, and Beamdog’s recently announced interquel, Planescape Torment: The Nameless One And A Half. (It’s very similar to the original, only now whenever someone asks “What can change the nature of a man?” a furious little goblin pops onto the screen to yell “#notallmen!”)

The problem has simply been timing – not having a nice satisfying chunk of time to really settle down for an epic experience. So instead, I thought I’d take a look at a few speed-runs, and see how fifty hours suddenly becomes a minute and a half… provided you don’t include the hundreds of hours to get to that point. Here’s a few of them I dug up to make your completion times look like crap, from RPGs old and new.

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The RPG Scrollbars: Hollow Pursuits

Ever had one of those games that you just long to get into, but can’t? There haven’t been many I’ve wanted to get into more than the Dark Souls series. To sink into the world I see people talking about on my Twitter feed. To have that sense of discovery in ash and ember. For that crumbling world to feel like something more than just a succession of traps and gauntlets. I want to like Dark Souls. I really hope Dark Souls 3 is the clicking point. But… so far, (whispers) I’ve never managed to like Dark Souls.

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Wot I Think: Baldur’s Gate: Siege Of Dragonspear

Sixteen years ago, BioWare bridged the gap between Baldur’s Gate and Baldur’s Gate 2 with, more or less, “And then some other stuff happened.” Now Beamdog has gone back, filling in the gaps with Siege of Dragonspear [official site]. Is it worth putting the band back together for one more trip to the Sword Coast? Here’s Wot I Think.

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The RPG Scrollbars: Story Mode

About eighteen years or so after marking Baldur’s Gate off my To-Save list, I’m knee-deep in the Infinity Engine once again with Siege of Dragonspear. I’m not going to talk too much about it here, not least because there’s a full review coming soon. But there’s one thing I do want to talk about – not one new to the Enhanced Editions, admittedly, and that’s its Story Mode option. Essentially, at any time you can flip a switch and even a Level 1 mage can suddenly wander into a Beholder’s lair and poke every single one of its eyes out without the slightest danger. You can’t die. At all. In every possible way, you render playing large chunks of the game pointless.

I entirely approve of Story Mode.

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