Amorphous Experiences

Exploration is at the heart of every great adventure.

Whether you’re exploring the irradiated ruins of post-apocalyptic societies, the vast expanse of space, or the vibrancy of ancient Greece there’s always something new to see or do. I seem to be drawn to these experiences nowadays. I don’t really know why, though. Whether it was a conscious decision wrought from previous experience, such as the hours spent scavenging the desolate landscape of the Capital Wasteland, or whether it was the various MMORPGs that encouraged me, is hard to say. But it’s been an interesting transition from the countless JRPGs of my formative years.

Not that I’ve abandoned JRPGs entirely.

Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch and Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom were both excellent JRPGs. I’ve just decided to invest hundreds of hours into the most recent releases of the Assassin’s Creed series, too. Mostly because of those pesky question marks. Oh, how they haunt me.

Prior to Assassin’s Creed: Origins I’d never experienced anything from the Assassin’s Creed series. While that entry (and those that follow it) are considered the black sheep of the Assassin’s Creed family, I found myself wholly absorbed by the sheer breadth of content available. It’s an incredibly competent RPG with an enthralling main campaign story. I feel the same way about Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, too. Not that I’m anywhere near finishing its main campaign. It’s like a towering chocolate gateaux, where each layer of sponge is a new task to complete and each chocolate curl playfully dusted atop its peaks is a new mechanic. While it may be incredibly alluring- and undoubtedly satisfying- it is best consumed in smaller portions. It would be unwise to attempt to eat a chocolate gateaux of such magnitude in one sitting.

Some doors are better left closed.

Not that I’m complaining. I couldn’t be happier with these purchases, not only have they exceeded every prior expectation but they exhibit complexity often woefully absent from modern RPGs. Divinity: Original Sin has similar immensity, as does its sequel, Divinity: Original Sin 2, both featuring noteworthy character development mechanics. I’d always considered statistical development to be the staple of any RPG but I’ve found many RPGs to be sorely lacking. Offering no attributes (or abilities) to invest in, or affording insignificant progression for doing so.

Which is why the release of Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning has inspired me.

The original release, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, is an outstanding RPG, and one that I’d like to revisit. Naturally, the remaster would (arguably) be the best way to do this. But I’ve still got a handful of achievements to unlock in the original release, and I’d like to attempt to unlock those first.

As a result, I’ll (eventually) have two character builds. I’m considering a Finesse/Sorcery hybrid build for the original release, while I’ll probably settle on a Might build for the remaster. I’ve not actually done one of those before. I’ve built a Might/Sorcery hybrid before but never solely Might. I’ll be focusing on various quests in the original release, as many of the achievements I’ve yet to unlock are related to certain quest lines. While I’m greatly interested in the post-release DLC, Fatesworn, in the remaster, as that promises new content. I’ve been intending to revisit Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning for some time, but much like Dark Souls or Fallout 3, which I’d also like to revisit, I’ve not set aside the time to do it. I’m always busy with something else. But I’m going to try to make time for these (and my creative pursuits) in the future.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

To Attain Divinity

I’ve never been fond of the idea of being a god.

Divinity: Original Sin 2 is an exceptionally enjoyable RPG which builds on the mechanics present in Divinity: Original Sin to provide a fresh, engaging, and thoroughly satisfying experience. Most revised are the combat mechanics which now offer a physical and magical armour system, more abilities, and expanded skill trees. Skill trees will offer inherent benefits once invested in, while the new abilities provide the freedom to choose between different weapons in the same combat style. No longer are you tied to bows or crossbows due to prior investment.

Not that I ever had that issue in Divinity: Original Sin. No, not at all.

In the sequel you’re presented with the choice to play as a custom character or to play as one of six predefined characters, three of which can join you even if you’re playing as a custom character. All of the predefined options offer their own stories, quests, and insights into the world and can drastically change the experience. Some with the possibility of providing alternate endings.

You could even completely forego the predefined characters and hire mercenaries instead. Or use the reworked Lone Wolf talent to write an entirely different story. In many ways this is the concept that I’ve loved most about Divinity: Original Sin 2, and I’m interested in seeing how the three of the six that I didn’t choose will present different opportunities. I’m also glad that there are multiple default endings, that there are character-specific endings, and that you are writing a story that features more than just yourself. It’s about the people you’ve worked with, worked against, those you’ve helped, those you’ve hindered, and the consequences for those actions. It’s such a refreshing experience in what has become quite a stagnant genre in recent years.

I’m not concerned as to how we got up here, I’m more concerned as to how we’re going to get down again…

Many NPCs will follow your journey across the harsh wilds of Rivellon, too. So expect to see more than a few familiar faces providing their own contributions to your claim for Divinity, along with more than a few vendors that will (quite literally) follow you around. I’m glad those vendors exist, though. While I enjoy the new opportunities to find (or steal) higher quality loot, I find that much of the loot has numerous bonuses which don’t seem to be very useful at all. Some of the unique loot will offer really good bonuses that seem absent on other loot.

Like being able to get +Strength or +Finesse on gloves.

That said, these issues may have been resolved in the Definitive Edition as I am (once again) playing the classic version. So take that criticism with a pinch of salt. In more than one way the sequel is a resounding success (and nothing is truly perfect), but there are some niggling concerns which slightly lessen the experience. Thankfully they’re very few and far between.

I’m still not entirely sure what possessed me to revisit the Divinity: Original Sin series but I’m glad that I did. I definitely miss these experiences and the sheer flexibility of being able to build any character I want, while being able to enjoy combat that is challenging and (best of all) engaging. I’ve also spent nearly two hundred hours with the series in recent memory. So that’s something. You don’t get too many series which keep you engrossed for that long, or even provide non-repetitive content for that long. Which is probably the greatest achievement of the series, as you rarely find RPGs that provide numerous quest types which can be completed in many different ways. In case you’d not guessed- I highly recommend Divinity: Original Sin 2!

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

No Stranger to Adversity

Quite the opposite really.

I recently finished Divinity: Original Sin, which, despite its flaws, was an incredibly enjoyable RPG that provided the opportunity to build many varied characters. It was quite a refreshing experience. I’ve not encountered many RPGs released in the last five years that allow you to freely customise your party- building both their strengths and their weaknesses- and I find that significantly diminishes the experience. I personally prefer it when characters are not automatically proficient in every skill, talent, or ability ever.

Or, at the very least, I prefer it when my choices actually have consequences.

For instance, in Divinity: Original Sin I was quite concerned about the way I chose to build Cornelius. He was a typical ranger with some magical capabilities, but it quickly became apparent that he used magic more than he used his bow in most encounters. However, the two governing attributes were completely different. It also meant his ability points were spread quite thin.

That said, despite initial concern, and with clever use of Geomancer summoning skills, he was able to reliably contribute in a meaningful way to most encounters. Later in the story he actually became one of the highest sources of damage in the party. But it was a very long road reliant on many later skills. I’m glad I stuck with that particular build, though. It definitely provided many unique benefits that I didn’t get elsewhere and was quite enjoyable. What was more enjoyable was the fact that I had the opportunity to ruin that character. It seems like an odd thing to find enjoyable, but it was nice to have to think about how best to develop his abilities in order to best utilise his unique benefits. To consider different options and possibilities.

See? These are what spawn when you call upon Source magic.

That was one of the more disappointing mechanics in Diablo III. It was also one of the more disappointing mechanics in Fallout 4. In both cases, you weren’t necessarily completely proficient at everything but you could have been. Long gone were the days of committing to being good at Small Guns due to having high Agility. Or being better acquainted with cleaving because your Strength was higher and afforded more close combat perks. Or even being able to build a unique Barbarian that combined unusual or interesting skills.

It definitely helps the longevity of the experience.

But it also definitely hurts the enjoyment you get from the experience. There’s no real reason to want to build a new character, and in turn experience the earlier struggles (and feeling of accomplishment in overcoming those struggles) due to a lack of something. One of my favourite Fallout 3 characters was the one that used exclusively Energy Weapons.

Mostly because that almost completely useless laser pistol in the Super Duper Mart was their only friend. Which meant that they needed to invest much more into every shot they fired, as each one was an expensive purchase (at that time) and only degraded the condition further. I was quite happy that my choice had consequences, though. It felt like I’d actually built a character that was at least somewhat unique in their experiences. Following Divinity: Original Sin, I started the main story for Divinity: Original Sin 2 and I’m glad to see that character builds are still a possibility. I’m also glad to see more complex (and better developed) mechanics for some aspects of the experience. I just wish there were more opportunities to have these experiences.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie