Burdened By Sin

Past misdeeds reveal themselves.

Much like the innumerable secrets of the Well of Khalaza do as you traverse its poisonous miasma and delve deep into its many labyrinthine realms. Seeking great treasures but usually encountering great dangers. Or trolls who like to throw their faeces at you. That was arguably the most unpleasant realm of them all. Being shrouded in suffocating miasma is expected, but being plastered in poop isn’t. Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk is a delightfully enjoyable dungeon crawler in which you explore a mysterious well with a brigade of puppets and a curious book.

A curious book with a soul.

Where that soul came from and how it ended up in a book is eventually explained. But what’s important is that we’re exploring myriad dungeons. True adventuring spirit needs no form of exposition whatsoever, as we’d only ignore those directions and stumble upon mysteries of our own.

I hadn’t anticipated that there would be so many mysteries to uncover, but that’s how Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk creates such an enrapturing adventure. There’s always something new to discover or a new challenge to overcome. There are few things that I enjoy more than encountering a boss that feels insurmountable only to eventually defeat it, either by utilising different Pacts or employing different Facets. Pacts are interesting as you don’t typically have any that represent traditional archetypes, as most are thematic, and grant a handful of abilities, but rarely feel truly powerful. I’ve mostly made my decisions based on how many puppets they allow me to use and how they fit into my current formation. You could have up to fifteen active puppets were you to use five three puppet Pacts.

It did become tiresome relying on certain Pacts to defeat certain bosses, though. The majority of these bosses were optional, and all required powerful puppets, so you’d need to invest heavily in the Soul Transfer mechanics to be able fight them, but it wasn’t fun having my progress halted due to an arbitrary requirement. I don’t know if it’s even possible to defeat them without those Pacts. I don’t think that you could, as they usually deal ridiculous damage to the entire brigade on the first turn and it’s unlikely that you’d be able to recover on subsequent turns.

It’s a fairly trivial criticism.

And I don’t have any other issues with the combat (or character development) mechanics, but it does considerably diminish your efforts when you simply can’t fight something. Especially when spending hours grinding through Soul Transfer mechanics is a significant part of the experience.

It is, as a whole, a uniquely bizarre dungeon crawler that has engaging exploration mechanics, but does require the aforementioned hours of grinding to experience all of the content. Which doesn’t necessarily bother me. And it might not be required should you ignore the optional bosses, whereby Soul Transfer might never be used, especially if you’ve not altered the difficulty level via Witch Petitions. Not that I regret raising the difficulty level. It’s an actual challenge and (the majority of) bosses are a threat, which resulted in utilising numerous mechanics just to survive encounters. For those reasons, I highly recommend Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk to those who enjoy dungeon crawlers and/or JRPGs. It’s an unconventional but incredibly satisfying dungeon crawling adventure.

Have a nice week, all!


Under New Management

Best described as a hostile takeover.

Despite what the corporations might suggest, Halcyon has issues with everything from providing basic necessities to an infestation of aggressive wildlife. Starvation and sickness plague those within settlement walls while lawlessness and indecency plague those outside of them. Due to the incessant mismanagement, it’s time for a change, and I can think of no better candidate than a recently defrosted colonist. They couldn’t do any worse at least. The Outer Worlds is a delightful narrative-driven RPG which tasks you with uncovering the truth behind the colony of Halcyon.

Which is exactly what I did.

I didn’t get immediately distracted by numerous side quests and miscellaneous objectives. Or by aiding companions in their personal quests. Or by revisiting the Groundbreaker to acquire new equipment. Or by repeatedly looking for the UDL Lab Weapons Terminal Keycard. No. Not at all.

I certainly didn’t revisit (and search) the facility multiple times to no avail, only to discover that the UDL Lab Weapons Terminal Keycard was on the table upstairs the entire time. That’d be silly. Definitely not something that the captain of the (aptly named) Unreliable would do. Exploration is where The Outer Worlds is at its best, though. Travelling from planet to planet and discovering new locations, then obsessively searching those locations for their secrets. I wasn’t anticipating the experience to be as content-dense as it was, and I was pleasantly surprised by how Peril of Gorgon seamlessly built upon its impressive foundation. Seldom does the opportunity to become wholly absorbed by an open world present itself, but the developers’ dedication to this nightmarish universe have made it possible.

I’d be lying if I said otherwise.

Companions have a similar prominence. Not only are they surprisingly useful, but they have distinct personalities and motivations which help them feel like they’re a part of this universe. They’ve often got contextual dialogue to share when encountering factions, visiting locations, and making decisions. Supporting them during their personal quests will unlock additional benefits, further improving their effectiveness and developing (or altering) their personality. They’re reasonably capable in combat, too. Despite their proclivity to mindlessly soak up incoming damage.

But you’d expect them to do that.

They’re also customisable and can be developed much in the same way as you develop the protagonist. However, the character development mechanics are underwhelming, and you’ll rarely find anything that fundamentally alters a build in the assortment of skills and perks available.

I had hoped for greater depth to the character development mechanics and for a wider variety of equipment, but the lack of either doesn’t detract from the experience. The Outer Worlds isn’t your typical adventure, though. It leans on its narrative-driven approach throughout the main campaign, and is defined by its action-orientated combat, and it favours build diversity through skill checks in dialogue, but the majority of character builds lack individuality due to uninspiring mechanics. It might not have been exactly what I’d expected it to be, but that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t an enjoyable experience. It was just, at times, an overly simplified one. And I’d still wholeheartedly recommend it to those who enjoy first-person narrative-driven RPGs but are looking for something refreshing and unusual.

Have a nice week, all!


Render Unto Caesar

A bleak future for humanity.

At the end of her surprisingly long campaign, Murderous Mabel delivered one final gift to the Mojave Wasteland and its people which ushered in a new era of oppression and slavery. No faction was left unscathed (even Caesar’s Legion) as disharmony became the foundation for future generations. Her actions won’t soon be forgotten should anyone be alive to remember them. No-one can be entirely sure of what the future holds, but the recently promoted Legate Lanius, who became Caesar following his predecessor’s untimely death, minted a coin in her honour and that’s neat.

Sure to be worth the hundreds of lives that it cost.

Of the many builds that I’ve attempted in Fallout: New Vegas, Murderous Mabel is definitely one of my favourites. Being unable to rely on Speech to resolve quests, the (most convenient) answer was usually violence, and that often meant aligning with factions that I don’t usually align with.

Of her achievements, of which there are a few, successfully completing Return to Sender was arguably her finest moment, and perfectly illustrates how diverse her approach to things had to be at times. Which is especially true of her time with Old World Blues, where scrounging and crafting ammunition was the only way for her to successfully complete its campaign with her conventional weaponry. Dead Money was (oddly) less challenging for similar reasons. Despite the opposition being super-absorbent bullet sponges, the abundance of Police Pistols (and varied ammunition) meant that I was able to avoid using Knife Spears. Using weapons adjusted by Guns or Explosives was always preferable, even if they weren’t affected by her perks, as her middling investment into Melee Weapons offered few viable alternatives.

Ensure that the mistakes of the past aren’t repeated in the future.

This is also the first time that I’ve experienced Dead Money in its entirety. It’s certainly an interesting concept, but one that feels absurdly convoluted as you haphazardly dash through hallways haunted by the ever-present beeping of your bomb collar. Searching for radios or speakers only to discover that the majority of them are shielded or otherwise inaccessible. Wondering why anyone would construct this elaborate scheme, when a single mistake would result in the deaths of those that they’ve brought together for this specific purpose thus nullifying their efforts.

It was a truly perplexing expedition.

Given that one of the reasons that I conceived this build was to see things that I’d not seen before and do things that I’d not done before, I’m quite pleased with how this build has developed. I don’t tend to stringently adhere to the ideas that I had at their conception and this is why.

I like to see how builds adapt to the challenges that they face and Murderous Mabel has faced many. I was most impressed at her ability to effortlessly complete numerous Gun Runner’s Arsenal challenges, while being a walking arsenal ensured that she always had a weapon suited to the situation at hand. Whether it was the explosive fury of Thump-Thump or the deadly accuracy of La Longue Carabine. The versatility of All-American or the thundering shells of the lever-action shotgun. There was always an answer. I didn’t intend for these posts to form a short series, but I’m glad that they did as I wouldn’t be able to express everything that I enjoy about Fallout: New Vegas in a single post. Nor would I want to. Even ten years after its release it’s still one of the most engrossing post-apocalyptic RPGs that I’ve ever played.

Have a nice week, all!


The Realms of Atlantis

Simulations designed to perfection.

From the golden fields of Elysium, to the haunting desolation of the Underworld, to the sprawling cityscapes of Atlantis there many trials for Kassandra to undertake before she meets the Heir of Memories. By understanding the triumphs (and failings) of the Isu, she will learn to resist the corrupting nature of the Staff of Hermes Trismegistus. Known mostly for its confusing pronunciation. The Fate of Atlantis is a magnificent post-release DLC for Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, in which you experience the Isu civilisation at the height of its cultural and technological developments.

Their fondness for humans is endearing if not slightly concerning.

Content is once again delivered (and experienced) in an episodic format and (counting The Lost Tales of Greece) took roughly forty hours to complete. While there are quests aplenty, the majority of content encourages swift character development as Kassandra embraces her role as Keeper.

Destroying Marble Maiden Tributes, sealing Tartaros Rifts, and scanning Isu Data Caches all afford an abundance of ability points. As does uncovering the Keeper’s Insights, which also allow you to fundamentally alter the functionality of certain abilities. Each quest awards an absurd amount of experience, too. Completing any (or all) of the above rapidly accelerates Kassandra’s progression, and exponentially increases her fighting prowess to such an extent that combat becomes somewhat trivial. Upgrading equipment quickly becomes prohibitively expensive, though. But there are numerous legendary equipment sets available if you’d prefer to use those, and one is actually required for progression. Or you could simply engrave that legendary perk onto your boots to continue unimpeded with your existing equipment.

Terrifying beasts roam this desolate landscape.

I was surprised (and impressed) by the diverse means required to progress through the second and third episodes. In the second episode, Tartaros Veils could only be traversed were to you acquire a legendary equipment set. In the third episode, certain locations were only accessible after filling the Isu Knowledge Sequence. New mechanics were continually introduced even as The Fate of Atlantis drew to a close, resulting in an incredibly satisfying conclusion to what had already been an indescribable journey through breathtaking scenery and stout opposition.

The beginning of which is barely recognisable now.

While Legacy of the First Blade was spectacular in its own way, The Fate of Atlantis featured the best iterations of existing mechanics in Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey and focused solely on exploring its vast simulations. It also featured no mercenaries whatsoever. Or naval warfare of any kind.

Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey may not be the most loved entry in the Assassin’s Creed series, but it is an extraordinarily enjoyable and delightfully engaging one-of-a-kind RPG experience. I have nothing but the highest praise for its mechanics. For allowing me to build (and develop) Kassandra as I saw fit. For the meticulous attention to detail present throughout its vast ever-evolving open world. And for the many other things that it does so incredibly well. I was never really sure what to expect from it, and while it may have felt insurmountable at times, there are few RPGs that have nearly two-hundred hours of content, and that makes it an experience that I won’t soon forget. Having concluded my adventures with Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, I can’t recommend it highly enough to those enjoy expansive RPG experiences.

Have a nice week, all!


Origins of the Order

They’re out for blood.

Specifically the blood of the Tainted Ones, of which the storied Eagle Bearer, Kassandra, is one. It really wouldn’t be the same if she wasn’t. How else would she find herself embroiled in the nefarious scheming of a secretive organisation? Besides accidentally assassinating one of them in a cave somewhere in Messenia. Not that they noticed nor (seemingly) cared about that. Legacy of the First Blade is an exhilarating post-release DLC for Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, which tasks Kassandra with uncovering the true reason behind the Order of the Ancients’ sudden appearance in Greece.

Sadly, it has nothing to do with the lovely weather.

Content is delivered (and experienced) in an episodic format and took roughly twelve hours to complete. Unlike the main campaign, there are less reasons to diverge from the story, while most quests are fairly linear, and hunting down the Order of the Ancients’ operatives is greatly simplified.

There are only a handful to discover in each region compared to the impressive numbers in the Cult of Kosmos, with most being discovered while undertaking quests. Others can be discovered by exploring and/or searching for clues. However, unlike the Cult of Kosmos, where defeating cultists resulted in a Sage being revealed, there are no such requirements with the Order of the Ancients. Magi are revealed at the conclusion of an episode. But that’s not to suggest that you shouldn’t mercilessly hunt their operatives, as doing so often results in the acquisition of legendary equipment. The perks on which can be utilised (albeit at a lesser potency) via engraving, or invested in through the Mastery mechanics, affording the opportunity to make use of their unique benefits regardless of existing equipment choices.

It’s always the ones we love we hurt the most.

Despite the obvious flaw with legendary equipment, which is that it has only two inherent bonuses, while epic equipment has three, it’s still surprisingly useful and definitely worth pursuing. Due to the equipment customisation mechanics, you can effortlessly combine the unique benefits of countless pieces of legendary equipment into one heavily augmented set. Having legendary equipment perks that affect mechanics (rather than just abilities) certainly helps, too. Allowing you to build the character that best suits you, rather than the one that best suits your equipment choices.

It’s a simple concept but one often absent from modern RPGs.

Following the completion of Legacy of the First Blade it was finally time to begin my journey through The Lost Tales of Greece. I won’t be attempting to complete them all before The Fate of Atlantis, though. As I’d previously decided to distribute them between the two major post-release DLCs.

Doing so will balance the remaining content, while allowing me to do everything there is to do without it becoming stagnant. Which doesn’t mean that I haven’t been enjoying The Lost Tales of Greece. It’s just that there are dozen of quests to undertake across numerous regions, and I don’t want to rush through them to reach Atlantis. I’ve been looking forward to exploring that sunken city since I first discovered it. I’m just so curious about what exists there. Being an entirely separate map makes it difficult to guess which locations other than Atlantis (if any) that you’ll be able to explore, and whether there will be more mythical beasts to defeat. I’m hoping that there will be. I’d also be appreciative of new legendary equipment. Not that I’m likely to equip it, but that doesn’t mean I can’t hoard it to sate my irrational hoarding tendencies.

Have a nice week, all!