Lately my videogamin’ time has been exceptionally RPG heavy. I get really into the big, expansive worlds of roleplaying games and tend to focus on whichever one I’m playing until it’s over, before switchg up for something lighter. Unusually 3 have come along in rapid succession. Join me for some discussion of each one!
Enderal – The Shards Of Order
I’ve blogged about Skyrim before so it’s probably no surprise to learn that I really like Skyrim and the other Bethesda games, despite the many problems that longtime fans of the series can point out to you. Luckily, the games are very moddable so if there’s something you don’t like there’s probably a mod to fix it.
In this case, a bunch of Germans decided that the thing to fix was “everything” so this changes Skyrim into a completely new game: new storyline, new landscape, new backstory, new characters. The combat system remains the same, but there’s limits I suppose.
The main quest they came up with was, surprisingly, pretty good. There’s nits to picked if you care to – the english translation is good but stiff at times, the plot is overfond of “and then you got knocked out!” and there’s a handful of quests/areas where the quality nosedives- but the characters are solidly written and the world is as pretty as the skyrim engine allows it. Even the voice acting was generally, at worst, “not bad”. That’s lucky because a far too high proportion of the storyline is “stay locked in place while NPCs talk to each other and you for goddamn ages” – just tell me the basics and let me ask for details in my own time if I want to! That said, I’m willing to be generous about faults like that because its a free download and I don’t intend to replay it, the few times I messed up and had to sit through an exposition speech twice were bad enough.
Overall, Enderal was a competently done RPG with a few highpoints that exceed even Skyrim’s best parts. Extremely impressive for an amateur group; had it been released as a paid expansion (with tweaks so it fit in with the Elder Scrolls setting) it would have been regarded as by far the best Bethesda have ever put out.
But no sooner had I finished that but what should I get but…
Pillars Of Eternity
I’m a bit of a stranger to party-based tactical RPGs like Pillars. I never really played either Dungeons and Dragons or the computer game adaptations that this is a spiritual sequel to. Actually, the closest game I’d played to this beforehand was probably… Pokemon. Yeah.
I haven’t finished this one yet- just arrived in Act 2- but I am liking it so far. I’ve started to get used to the combat system as real time with pause is entirely new to me. I do have 2 problems with the game though. The first problem, oddly enough for a game that I knew going in was known for the quality of the writing, is that I can’t stop clicking on “tell me more”.
In other RPGs, say Skyrim or Mass Effect, I’d compulsively make sure I exhaused all the dialogue options before moving conversations forward because sometimes you get some hints or a reward or a little background detail. The difference is both those games are fully voiced, so it’s only a few sentences. Pillars isn’t, so NPCs can and will spew paragraphs on paragraphs in your direction if you ask them to. You don’t have to ask, of course. And the game’s reputation is not undeserved, what I’ve seen so far has been well written indeed.
I even saw this coming too. The character creation screen is laden with dozens of stats and options, none of which I understood particularly well so I went for the hard to mess up option: Barbarian wot hits things with big sword, figuring I’d just blast through the game not bothering with talky things and start a second playthrough with a smart, Intelligence based character to do side quests when I had a better idea of what was going on. That I keep getting sucked in is praise for how interesting the quests sound when you stumble on them and how I want to find out more details about what’s going on!
One little touch I like is that if you can pick responses consistently you get a reputation for it, ie if you keep refusing rewards you get known as “benevolent”. Oddly though, my character simultaneously has a reputation as a passionate, aggressive sort but is also renowned for his stoicism. It seems like they should exclusive?
The second problem I have is that…well, it’s a very serious game. The matters discussed are weighty and your character is often called on to decide how things should be resolved between two sides with good cases, while your companions may support your decision or oppose it, depending on their beliefs.
I said the game wasn’t fully voiced and it isn’t: only important stuff is voiced. NPCs talking about the main quest are voiced, your companions are voiced and of course, your character has a voice. I’d already picked out a barbarian, made him the huge race and of course given him a flowing red mane of hair and matching armour. All very barbariany, a la Red Sonja. Then I flipped through the voice selection, and one in particular seemed to… somehow belong. It was somehow familiar. So I looked at my red dude and listened to the voice clips and all of a sudden knew the connection my brain was making!
And that’s how, in this fantasy epic, I came to call my character Knuckles The Echidna.
…It’s entirely possible all the problems I have with this game are of my own making.
But as I said, I haven’t even finished this yet and one of my regular gamin’ pals surprises me with…
Divinity: Original Sin
A daft name, but like Pillars it’s a party-based RPG. Unlike Pillars, you can play it co-op with a friend and it’s not so grim and dour. I don’t think any game can be once other people get involved and there’s nothing stopping them from running in circles around you in underwear while you’re trying to investigate a murder. The co-op aspect is particularly well realized as well, both of you can get involved in dialogues and have your own opinions-any disagreements in approach are resolved by rock, paper scissors matches, winner gets their preferred outcome!
So there’s bright colours, there’s jokes and as a witch I can talk to animals- I got a quest from a cat! On the downside, we haven’t quite figured out the combat yet: it’s entirely turn-based and heavily dependent on combos that we’re still pretty bad at setting up. Still, we’ve only played for a few hours so far most of which were spent bumbling around the starting town annoying people and I’ve already worked out I can teleport oil barrels on top of enemies and then blow the whole thing up.
A promising start!