First Impressions of… Operencia: The Stolen Sun

An unending darkness veils the land.

Operencia: The Stolen Sun is an ambitious old-fashioned dungeon crawling experience with modern sensibilities. It features numerous innovative approaches to traditional mechanics, notably when brewing potions, as gathering raw materials won’t be necessary, but you will need to discover and decipher the recipe. Potions replenish each time you rest, too. So you won’t need to repeatedly brew potions as you use them. Resting is accomplished via camping and is limited by the amount of firewood that you have, which encourages planning ahead and utilisation of different resources.

Exploration is generally pleasant while the majority of puzzles are logical enough.

However, party management is crucial, and that’s where this experience feels most flawed. Companions can be incredibly helpful or remarkably mundane, with the only capable healer being the last companion to join your party. Building anything but a Mage also feels extraordinarily ineffective.

As there are few companions that can cast magic, and ironically the most capable is the aforementioned healer. But only with lightning damage. There’s an abundance of companions that deal physical damage, though. But there’s only one companion built for ranged weapons, and his skills are limited in effectiveness. Which was one of my only sources of elemental damage while exploring the first few areas, as I’d opted to build a Warrior. As I (obviously) would. That’s not to say that companions aren’t useful. They are, but they can be confusing as sometimes their attribute points reflect completely different proficiencies than their skills suggest. Jóska has ridiculously high Agility, but doesn’t really seem to benefit from it as he has few skills requiring the use of a bow. I’ve honestly found his Stealth tree to be the most useful.

We’ve not once questioned the legitimacy of their claims, and now we’re just going to open an ancient portal?!

I’ve got mixed feelings about Operencia: The Stolen Sun. It’s definitely an interesting and entertaining dungeon crawler when you’re exploring the world, discovering secrets, and revisiting areas. But combat feels so wildly unpredictable, and certain skills, like those that stun enemies or put them to sleep, seem pointless to even invest in as the majority of enemies are immune to them. Which is absurdly annoying when an enemy spawns other enemies, as you’re unable to interrupt that process. So you quickly become outnumbered as they spawn one new enemy with every turn that they take.

It certainly feels like something went awry at some point.

When customising the difficulty I did set the (strangely named) Betyár setting to hard, which affects combat difficulty, but I doubt that has fundamentally changed how combat feels, as the aggressiveness of enemies (and their damage) is not an issue. It’s how unbalanced most encounters seem to be.

I’ve no issue with criticising something that doesn’t seem to be working as intended, but I don’t like to be inherently negative about something. So I hope that this post doesn’t read that way. As I’ve been enjoying the majority of my time with Operencia: The Stolen Sun, and it has the potential to be something truly wonderful. But certain things significantly detract from the experience. Not that it seems that it was always this way, as earlier information suggested that combat was unpredictable but not to this extent. So this could be the result of balancing which could change again in the future. I can’t really fully recommend Operencia: The Stolen Sun, as while it is an engaging RPG experience, it is unfortunately marred with inconsistencies in combat, but I’m hopeful that the developers will address these issues in a future patch.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

First Impressions of… Legends of Amberland: The Forgotten Crown

To break an ancient spell.

Legends of Amberland: The Forgotten Crown is a wonderfully charming grid-based movement dungeon crawler featuring extensive character creation, multiple character classes (including racial classes), numerous quests to undertake, and an expansive world to explore. You’re encouraged to trek across the land to uncover its secrets, and to delve deep into dungeons to acquire exceptional equipment. It’s a somewhat simplistic approach but it’s so incredibly satisfying. As it perfectly encapsulates the overflowing sense of wonder you get when exploring a vast open world for the first time.

It truly is a wondrous experience.

Rather surprisingly there are fast travel mechanics, too. They’re not immediately available, but it shouldn’t take you too long to gain access to them. Unless you do what I did and fight the troll on the bridge. If you do, then you may not fully understand how that particular boat will benefit you.

Not that there are any drawbacks (that I’m aware of) to owning different boats. Other than remembering where you’ve left them all. Or randomly discovering a new island overflowing with colossal creatures which decimate your fledgling adventurers, but that’s why exploring a vast open world is so fun. You’re going to find dozens of things that you’ll need to come back to. There are no quest markers, either. So you’re relying on what people have told you, what you know about the world, and the information in your quest log to guide you. Thankfully, quest items don’t (mysteriously) spawn into the world once a quest has been discovered. So you’re able (and encouraged) to explore locations as you discover them. It’s a refreshing approach, and greatly reduces how often you’ll need to revisit locations to complete quests.

The fearsome red dragon protecting their cave of treasures.

While there is an abundance of combat throughout, revisiting locations is relatively safe as enemies don’t respawn once they’ve been defeated. Which means that you won’t need to trudge through countless random encounters while exploring. This certainly accelerates the pace at which you can collect quest items, discover new locations, and progress through the main campaign. On the other hand, it also means that you won’t be able to farm random encounters to level up. This is likely to affect higher difficulty levels, where the amount of experience points required per level is greater than usual.

So higher difficulty levels should be consistently challenging.

While character creation is extensive, character development is fairly simplistic. Once you’ve gained enough experience points simply visit a town and speak to a trainer. The character classes dictate statistical growth and skill acquisition, while bonus attribute points can be invested as you see fit.

I’ll admit that I’ve been consistently surprised by how much I’ve been enjoying this casual RPG experience. Legends of Amberland: The Forgotten Crown doesn’t necessarily do anything that you’ve not seen before, but what it does do it does capably and it does so by sculpting an enchanting world to explore. An enchanting world which is peppered with castles, caves, fortresses, and towers of every description. An enchanting world which is teeming with great treasure and even greater dangers. It’s arguably one of the oldest (and simplest) concepts for RPGs, but one that is also painfully absent from the majority of modern releases. While this experience could be considered an acquired taste, I feel that those who enjoy RPGs will find something to enjoy here. For that reason, I highly recommend it to fans of RPGs old or new!

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

First Impurressions of… Cat Quest

Only the finest cat puns for my readers.

Cat Quest is an utterly adorable, surprisingly engaging, and rather satisfying ARPG peppered with countless cat puns. Everything from the Samewrai equipment set to (the excellently named) Purrserk is exquisitely feline-themed, which provides nothing but joy while exploring the vast kingdom of Felingard. Just imagine being a Samewrai. It’d be pawsome. I’d wear the set just for the aesthetics if it was in any way appropriate for my build. It’d normally be ideal for me as it’s purrfectly suited to close quarters combat, but I decided to invest in both physical and magical damage with this build.

Hence why I originally wore the Squire set.

There’s no requirement to wear the entire set, though. So I’d also use pieces of the Chainmail set for their armour rating. Which resulted in some rather interesting statistical bonuses, and allowed me to focus on either physical or magical damage when certain situations (or monsters) presented themselves.

Acquiring new (and upgrading existing) equipment is handled quite differently in Cat Quest. You can buy new equipment, but you can’t dictate which piece (or even which set) you want to buy as the chests have a randomised drop chance. As such the blacksmith chests function as the chests in the dungeons do. That said, I don’t believe that there’s any requirement to own the Golden Key to buy their golden chests. But I feel as though it’s easier to complete the (deceptively difficult) quest to unlock the Golden Key and acquire the contents for free. As there are quite a few regular and golden chests available in the numerous dungeons littered around the world map, and through those you’re likely to upgrade quite a few pieces of equipment without additional investment.

That’s the largest scratching post I’ve ever seen.

Visiting the different Arcane Temples allows you to unlock (and to upgrade) various skills. You’ve no requirement to revisit the Arcane Temple where you originally learned the skill to upgrade it, but you do need to visit each one to unlock the skill for the first time. Skills can be much easier (but more expensive) to upgrade due to the simplicity of spending gold on them. The randomised nature of chests (and the blacksmith) might mean that you’re trying to upgrade a piece of equipment but it doesn’t drop, whereas skills only require the jingling of a healthy coin pouch to be more efficient.

This can be pawticularly useful in Mew Game.

As some of the challenges presented therein restrict the use of equipment or prevent you from levelling up. Therefore, investing in and utilising certain skills can help to alleviate the difficulty of challenges as you only require more gold. Gold which can easily be earned through various side quests.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from Cat Quest but I was pleasantly surprised by how fun it is. That’s what makes it great. It’s a light-hearted, engaging, enjoyable, and surprisingly capable ARPG that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Being able to revisit existing content in exciting ways through either Mew Game or New Game+ is great, too. Assigning different challenges to each attempt lowers the likelihood that you’re going to sluggishly stagger through the main campaign again. Not that the main campaign is particularly lengthy. It is, however, filled with cat puns. So many cat puns. Unlike this post which has a scarce few. For these reasons and more I’d highly recommend Cat Quest to those who love ARPGs and/or cats!

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

First Impressions of… Children of Morta

One family to stand against the encroaching corruption.

Children of Morta is an exceptionally satisfying ARPG that functions as a dungeon crawler. An exquisite narrator tells the story of the Bergson family in their tireless struggle against an unnatural corruption, while the main campaign affords myriad opportunities to learn more about each family member and their motivations. There are numerous events to view or quests to complete throughout the main campaign that award permanent progression, too. These may unlock playable family members, build on the rich history of their ancestral home, or simply tie the main campaign together. It’s a simplistic but effective approach.

One that is painfully absent in modern RPGs.

ARPGs are rarely known for their engrossing main campaign stories, but Children of Morta wholeheartedly relies on telling that story and having you invested in the characters and events found therein. It feels natural and illustrates how the struggle against the corruption wears on both body and spirit. It’s an enthralling joy to play.

Each family member is rather interesting as well. John is the stalwart defender whose shield and sweeping attacks afford exceptional close combat proficiency, while Linda has heightened mobility and can pierce enemies with a hail of arrows. Kevin can dash effortlessly between enemies slicing and dicing with deadly efficiency, while Mark can draw enemies close before pummelling them mercilessly. I’ve had most success with Linda, Kevin, and Mark. I’ve never been particularly good at much of anything with John. While Joey is the newest addition and the character that best fits my usual approach to ARPGs. His potential for damage is quite impressive given that his health has been bolstered substantially. He can also charge through enemies like a burly lunatic.

Things are certainly starting to heat up down here.

Character development is extensive and intuitive. Levelling up any of the six characters allows you to unlock skills and (through investment in those skills) traits. Traits are shared with the family, and they provide an enticing incentive to level up multiple characters as each contributes to the proficiency of the rest. On the ancestral grounds you can invest in both Uncle Ben’s workshop (which improves various character attributes) and the Book of Rea (which offers dungeon crawling bonuses) to further empower the family. These investments affect the family equally and allow you to develop everyone at the same time.

Which makes using a less experienced character more viable.

While they might lack the skills or the traits of their more experienced kin they’re still quite powerful in their own way. Having more health, a better chance of landing a critical hit, or a higher dodge chance can certainly smooth out the difficulty curve in later areas. By surviving longer they contribute to the continual investment, too.

At first glance Children of Morta seemed like a rather engaging ARPG, but I’ve found it’s more of a dungeon crawler that’s actually quite reminiscent of Diablo in its execution of certain mechanics. The way that dungeons are divided into different areas, the obelisks which offer substantial bonuses, the deadly traps, and the possibility of uncovering random events make me nostalgic for the blasphemous bowels beneath Tristram. That’s not to say that it doesn’t have strength in its own convictions. It does. There’s an intriguing story that’s told exceptionally well by both the narrator and the various events or quests. But it’s still a unique approach that I’ve only seen attempted a scarce few times before, and fewer still have been successful in delivering the desired result.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

First Impressions of… Last Epoch

Across the landscape of time we travel!

Last Epoch is a rather ambitious Early Access ARPG featuring a broad (and entirely customisable) skill system, five distinct character classes (which specialise into various Masteries), travelling across time through four (increasingly post-apocalyptic) eras, and a steady flow of developer updates to expand on existing content. They’re quite frequent at the moment and I doubt that they’ll maintain that frequency, but it is nice to see that the developers are addressing various issues and adding new features while Last Epoch is in its infancy. It shows their commitment to creating something truly special.

Which, to be fair, Last Epoch is on its way to being.

I’m quite fond of the time travel mechanics. Not just because I love time travel mechanics, but because you’re working towards reversing the events that eventually left the world a smouldering ruin and more or less preventing the apocalypse. It’s a rather unique main campaign story for an ARPG at the very least.

There are five character classes (with the fifth yet to be implemented) and each represents a concept. The Sentinel, for instance, is a tough close quarters fighter who (through the three different Masteries) can adapt to fighting with various weaponry. Each Mastery representing a more specialised variant of the base class. The Paladin, for instance, being focused on healing and recovery. While the Primalist is a hardy survivalist and can summon animal companions to his side. Or turn into a ferocious beast through the Druid Mastery. Likewise the Acolyte represents the more unsavoury magical pursuits, and is the opposite of the Mage who focuses on wholesome magical pursuits. Like being a Spellblade. In many ways, the character classes are the reason that Last Epoch is so enjoyable as they’re so flexible.

Bathed in the tainted void.

To add to that flexibility is the rather engaging skill system which allows you to specialise into a handful of skills. These skills have their own development trees allowing you to drastically alter their behaviour. Such as adapting Warpath to do more damage when you’re using a two-handed weapon, but then allowing you to eventually block while spinning. Making use of the plethora of block-related passives of the Sentinel’s various trees. As such, there is a great feeling of experimentation and developing classes to whatever you wish them to become. Even if those ideas seem completely outlandish.

Crafting is also quite intuitive but rather unique.

You collect various crafting tokens which are basically prefixes and suffixes that can be applied to different types of equipment. You can then combine those tokens with existing equipment and get the exact bonuses you want, which is more favourable than collecting raw materials only to create vendor trash items.

There are, however, a few issues which have yet to be resolved. The framerate staggers quite significantly at times, there’s an odd issue with the screen resolution when logging in, and sometimes the chat box refuses to go away. But these are minor issues and are expected of something that isn’t completely finished yet. That said, if you can look past those issues and are looking for an incredibly solid Early Access ARPG then I can highly recommend Last Epoch. It’s an absolutely enjoyable experience. It’s also a rare example of a modern ARPG that is looking to reinvent the wheel to some extent. Working with existing conventional mechanics but adding something all their own to them. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing how it develops over the next year or so!

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie