An Unrelenting Onslaught

Savagery raging unabated.

I’m not really that surprised by the hostility, as I’ve been wielding a sizeable polearm for the majority of this adventure and I’ve not been shy about using it. Before that I was wielding a ridiculously huge two-handed sword. But, despite the impressive damage potential, it was simply too slow for me to feel comfortable fighting with it. It was rather effective at blocking damage, though. Not that I’d intended this build to be proficient at blocking. Despite my preferred Blood Codes being Berserker, Hermes, Atlas, and Fionn which are all suited to blocking with their inherent damage resistance.

But I preferred dealing damage to tanking it.

Then I unlocked Chariot Rush and decided that I’d never desire anything but the exhilarating thrill of rolling away from lethal damage. Not that I was always successful in that endeavour. But that’s the fault of the bosses and their ridiculous damage potential, and not the fault of my reflexes.

In all seriousness, I’m not particularly fond of how bosses can kill you instantly with a handful of their attacks. It wouldn’t be as frustrating if they didn’t have an abundance of health. But they do. The majority of bosses are not necessarily difficult, but the encounters quickly become tedious as you slowly chip away at their health knowing that one mistake could end that attempt. It’s certainly a way to make things more difficult, but it’s not entirely fun. If the bosses had slightly less health the encounters would feel better. They’d be fun. You wouldn’t even mind the possibility of being instantly killed. But instead (the majority) feel like they’re being artificially extended by the ridiculous health that bosses have. With the considerable damage polearms (or two-handed swords) do, I can’t imagine how tedious they would be with a bayonet.

As dangerous as it is beautiful.

That’s my only significant criticism of Code Vein, though. Otherwise the world is vast and enjoyable to explore, while the bosses are rather delightfully tailored to the locations that they’re fought in. Care and attention definitely went into designing the different areas as well, as each poses specific challenges and feels wonderfully unique. You’ll need to adjust your Gifts as you explore to counter various environmental hazards, too. It’s a refreshing approach that makes locations memorable. Even if those memories are ones you’d rather not recall, as you were suffering throughout.

Then again, they’re still the best memories of being on vacation that I have.

Of the other mechanics present in Code Vein, I’m enthused by the Blood Codes. I adore how much flexibility they afford when building characters. There are very few Gifts that can’t be inherited, and being able to draw from multiple Blood Codes to form your build is a satisfying experience.

I’ve greatly appreciated how the developers have attempted to be innovative through (surprisingly) coherent mechanics, and I’ve found the overall experience to be a pleasant one so far. It’s been fun, too. Which I wish I could say more often than I do. Unfortunately, it would seem that longevity outweighs enjoyment in (the majority of) video games nowadays. But Code Vein is an excellent example of when developers choose to prioritise engaging mechanics over never-ending content, and it delivers a rather unique post-apocalyptic JRPG as a result of it. I’m hoping that the developers will consider a sequel as it certainly deserves one. I’d be interested to see what they do next. Whether it would be more of the same, or whether they would diversify with something entirely new set in the same (or a similar) universe.

Have a nice weekend, 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

The Adventures of Rosey and Cornelius

The dynamic Source Hunter duo.

Divinity: Original Sin is a rather enjoyable yet devilishly difficult RPG which features CRPG mechanics. For the purposes of this post, I’ll be discussing the original release and not the Enhanced Edition so take some observations lightly. I’m sure that the Enhanced Edition has better tuned mechanics. Hopefully. It’s also worth noting that it’s been roughly four years since I last journeyed around Rivellon, and that I wasn’t too far through the main story the last time that I did. But I’ve been having a lot of fun with it this time around.

I even bought Divinity: Original Sin 2 because of it.

Character creation is definitely one of the best things about Divinity: Original Sin. Both the Source Hunters you begin with and companions that join you are fully customisable, and if you don’t feel like playing with others you can completely forego companions by acquiring the Lone Wolf talent. You can even develop characters with myriad non-combat abilities.

On that note, I was slightly disappointed that I would need to move items to a character in order to utilise Blacksmithing or Loremaster. That’s something I know that they’ve changed in the Enhanced Edition. I’m also slightly disappointed by the lack of variety in companions. I would’ve liked to see more of the unique character classes being represented. That said, I chose Jahan and Madora to fill two very simplistic roles in the end. One being the ever-murderous valiant knight who would tank damage about as well as my Source Hunter, while the other chose a more scholarly yet no less destructive route of raining fire down on anything and everything. I’m not disappointed in the range of skills you can choose from, though. They’re pretty great overall.

Not so invulnerable now, are you?

On the other hand, while the skills are great, the flow of combat can sometimes be weighed heavily in your opponent’s favour. It’s fairly obvious that most enemies have higher resistances and better chances to apply status ailments than you, which would be fine if you weren’t perpetually outnumbered. Worse still when you’ve invested significantly in Bodybuilding or Willpower to affect those saving rolls and they still apply the status ailment. Enemies seem to act rather randomly, too. So it’s almost down to luck whether you’re going to make it out alive.

Which also would be fine if resurrecting wasn’t an inconvenient annoyance.

But the synergy between your skills is incredible. Being able to create poison surfaces which you can later set alight, or being able to freeze the ground to cause enemies to trip, or even being able to use Teleportation (which is the best skill) to drop an enemy into lava is ridiculously fun. The combat can simultaneously be the best and worst part of the experience.

I would say that Divinity: Original Sin is a great experience if not a little flawed. The quests are certainly engaging enough and not every single one requires combat, but the progression through new areas feels a little disjointed. Often you’re expected to travel to higher level areas to complete lower level quests. That said, it never ruins the experience it’s just a little frustrating at times trying to figure out where to go next. I also wish that crafting in the original release made any sense. I’m certain that the Enhanced Edition will smooth out this experience to make it more enjoyable, and so I’ve no hesitation in recommending Divinity: Original Sin to all who enjoy RPGs (and CRPGs) as it’s worth the time invested. Without question.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Celestial Brushwork

The brush is mightier than the wolf.

Okami HD (as the name would suggest) is a remastered version of the original Okami released in 2006 (which I have never played), and is a rare example of an experience that is complex yet thoroughly enjoyable throughout. It features a large open world and a surprising amount of freedom to go with it. In fact, I would go so far as to say that you’re encouraged to explore this open world as soon as you complete the starting experience. As there is so much to see, do, and unlock even with the limited variety of brush techniques you’ll have at that time.

There are plenty of secrets hidden in this vast world, too.

The focal mechanic of Okami is the use of the Celestial Brush. This allows you to draw onto the environment for a number of different effects, which are directly linked to the number of brush techniques you currently have access to and will be invaluable in unearthing secrets or making progress. It’s an expertly implemented and meticulously utilised mechanic.

Alongside this there is a rather interesting levelling mechanic which is vital to your success. While you can collect three Sun Fragments and increase your health, the primary way to increase your various attributes will be through the acquisition of Praise. Which is something you can find anywhere and everywhere in the world. Mostly acquired from restoring nature to corrupted lands or feeding animals (which is a whole mechanic of its own), you’ll also acquire praise for defeating certain enemies. Praise can then be spent to increase your health, the number of ink wells you have, how many Astral Pouches you can carry, or even how much currency you can hold. It’s an oddly refreshing system that doesn’t promote grinding out battles for experience.

Such a colourful and diverse creature you are.

You’ll also find (and hopefully equip) various weapons in the course of your adventure. Each class of weapon promotes a different advantage be it speed, strength, or combo potential. Visiting the Dojo will allow you to unlock new techniques or bonuses related to each class of weapon, too. While you can also earn rare Demon Fangs which can be used to buy various Holy Artifacts. These are not required for completing the story, but they do have unique bonuses for Amaterasu that you can’t find elsewhere. Especially if you collect all of the Stray Beads.

New Game+ helps greatly in acquiring them all.

One of the other focal mechanics of Okami is the unique storytelling approach. The story itself is an enjoyably awesome tale of epic heroes and ancient demons, but it is presented with such a gorgeous illustration style and brings together the visual style of the title quite well. It’s also rather light-hearted, comical, and it doesn’t take itself too seriously at any time.

There were many things that I enjoyed but the freedom to explore was most enjoyable of all. It’s rare to be allowed to wander around the map as and when you want to, while it’s equally as rare to be allowed to return to earlier areas to use your new brush techniques. You’d usually expect that to be hidden behind New Game+ or the like. In fact, New Game+ is rather well implemented as it isn’t required to access anything. It only really makes it easier to earn the resources required to collect anything you missed the first time around. In either case, I’ve greatly enjoyed this title and can easily recommend it to anyone who enjoys having fun while gaming. Which, in my opinion, is the only reason you should be gaming in the first place.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Garrison Architects

Today is a good day to build.

It’s also a good day to run around the overflowing wilderness of Draenor trying to earn the Draenor Pathfinder achievement. It’s an interesting achievement that is feasibly doable at Lvl 100 if you’ve got the gear for it, which only the daily reputation quests might prevent if you’re going solo. But only if you’re having trouble fighting the elites out in Tanaan Jungle. Otherwise it’s just a few daily quests. Moggie was fully geared during the pre-Legion invasion event so he’s pretty much able to kill anything and everything Draenor has to offer.

Even as far as being able to solo some of the dungeons out there.

I’ve managed to get through Bloodmaul Slag Mines, The Iron Docks, and Auchindoun with relative ease. I don’t really want to push much further than Auchindoun, though. They nearly managed to kill ol’ Moggie. The dungeons in Warlords of Draenor are smaller and less loot intensive than those I’ve experienced prior, but they’re still well made encounters. They’re diverse, too.

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the steadily decreasing size of dungeons (and other instances) since Wrath of the Lich King, though I am pleased to see more story being put into them. Story that usually ties into the zone the instance is in or the quests available in the instance. By the way, if you’re wondering, this post isn’t particularly related to the ongoing series– I’m just reflecting on the joy that is Warlords of Draenor. Attempting to earn the Draenor Pathfinder achievement (and working towards adventures with Legion content) has reignited my interest in this expansion. It’s pretty good. I’m really enjoying how the garrison helps to not only develop your professions but also opens up new locations to visit. The shipyard is particularly neat to look at, too.

The Temple of Karabor.

It’s definitely a gamble as if you don’t enjoy the garrison you’re out of luck. Incredibly out of luck. You’re also going to have to deal with being on the ground for the majority of it, either until you earn flying or leave Draenor never to return. But I like it. I can’t really explain why but there’s something about it that’s refreshing. The crafting is incredibly simplified compared to other expansions (including Legion it would seem) but it’s enjoyable all the same. Especially if you’re planning to carry on to Lvl 110 and want to easily burn through 600-700.

The art direction is perhaps the best I’ve seen in World of Warcraft, too.

The halls of Auchindoun are ridiculously beautiful. The dark, charred, Fel scarred landscapes are gorgeously haunting. The music is deliciously fitting and helps tremendously to create an enchanting atmosphere, whether it’s holy or unholy, which helps to deliver key story elements. I still enjoy the core gameplay but a lot of my return is thanks to Warlords of Draenor.

I’m particularly fond of the Horde story as Thrall is a major part of it. For reasons I won’t explain (as not to spoil it) he’s a particularly notable inclusion in the events to come, which helps develop his character further. The Alliance story is pretty great, too. In fact- all of it is great. It’s probably a good thing that I’ve got numerous other characters to experience the content with. In any case, I just wanted to highlight this expansion as more than just a setting for my ongoing series. It really does deserve the praise. I’ve also got three out of the five requirements for Draenor Pathfinder met, with the last two being the quest lines for the zones and the daily reputation grinding. So I guess I’ve got some work to do.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Steam Assimilation

Further down we go.

SteamWorld Dig is a rather charming, interesting, and somewhat unique approach to a classic formula. Unlike other platforming titles you quite literally build the path downwards as you continue exploring. It’s an approach that can leave you stranded if you don’t make use of the ladders, lamps, and teleporters so generously provided by the townsfolk. But it’s also one that provides innumerable secrets as you unearth new ways to approach old locations. It’s not a particularly lengthy adventure, either.

So it’s quite enjoyable revisiting old locations frequently.

These secrets will award you with precious minerals and mysterious Orbs. Both are used to purchase upgrades to make Rusty more durable, carry more water, take more damage, or dig even faster. The later updates which are more technological (and thereby more powerful) have an additional Orb cost. But earlier iterations are easily affordable with gold.

It’s a neat progression system, too. As you’re introduced to the concept that this is a fading mining town and the money that you provide through your adventure revitalises it, which is evident when you see the town growing and more vendors appearing. You’ll also unlock paths back to town at each major location, which makes returning to town incredibly easy in a way that reminds me of the first Diablo. The immediate approach to returning to town is to use teleporters. These will be found at certain locations, but you can also purchase your own (for a small Orb cost) and place them wherever you like. You might be hesitant to spend Orbs to acquire them but I bought four-five and could still afford all of the upgrades.

I don’t think this is the confirmation that they wanted.

Alongside the aforementioned range of upgrades bought in town, there are key upgrades which you’ll find at certain locations in the caves that afford you entirely new abilities. Such as being able to propel yourself upwards with the power of steam. Or the classic double jump. Or even the ability to detect minerals. Of the available options, my personal favourite is the removal of fall damage. All fall damage. Forever. It’s so nice to be able to dart down large, open, excavated caverns without a care in the world.

I don’t believe it’s possible to miss those upgrades, either.

In this way, SteamWorld Dig is surprisingly content dense and enjoyable as a result of it. It’s not a massive, sprawling, open world but what there is to explore is crammed full of secrets and other goodies. It’s easy to miss it, too. Especially with the earlier secrets that require relatively late upgrades. It’s certainly a credit to the developers and their ambition, though.

I’ll be honest and admit that I bought this mostly in anticipation of SteamWorld Heist, but it has grown on me. It has a certain charm that reminds me of childhood days spent with the SNES and all of the adventures therein. Something that’s just fun to play. That’s interesting and enjoyable. That has controls which actually work and where every aspect feels intuitive. Those are not feelings that I generally get these days with many things I’ll play, but, for those reasons, I would highly recommend SteamWorld Dig to anyone looking for some good ol’ fashioned fun. The kind we had back in the day. Which I am almost old enough to say now. Which doesn’t concern me or fill me with thoughts of my own mortality in any way.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

The Island Master

You wash up on a beach, locked in a cage, surrounded by three friends, and with nowt more than a stick to hand.

You guessed it! It’s time for another journey through the magical universe in which the Legend of Grimrock series is set. I have to say that of all the sequels I have played there are few who hit the nail more squarely on the head than the team behind this series. It’s a beautifully engaging story set in a massive world with several dungeons, many secrets, an open world experience, and best of all much more character customisation. There is a lot to do and you’re going to need all the food you can get to not starve until the deed is done.

You start with a choice of five different races, eight different classes, new traits, and a completely revitalised skill system. Now the classes are more the base guidelines for how the characters play. Such as the Knight gaining double the evasion bonus from shields. Or the Barbarian having no actual unique traits save for gaining one point of Strength every level.

There are so many beautifully rendered environments everywhere you go.

There are so many beautifully rendered environments everywhere you go.

This allows you to pick a range of classes and not have to worry that you’re going to miss out on a particular skill, or attribute, or style of play, as they are pretty flexible in their approach. Of course if you are planning to use shields then a Knight is a good choice, or if you’re planning to dual wield then a Rogue is a good choice, or if you fancy dual wielding and using several different weapons the Fighter comes in as the jack of all trades. This also means you don’t need a Wizard or Battle Mage to cast magic (but they are the only two who can cast with their bare hands).

The skill system is also concentrated as there is only one point gained per level, but each skill caps at five points, while with a few points of investment most skills gain a unique bonus.

There is a whole host of different locations to visit, different enemies to face, new puzzles to solve, tonnes of new items to find, a whole revisited alchemy system, and many more spells despite less points being required to unlock them. Along with this, a new addition, firearms, which as the name suggests is any kind of musket or cannon. There’s a lot to keep you busy and more than enough to keep you entertained. Also included are actual boss fights where you face tougher enemies with unique mechanics or attacks.

All of this makes for a satisfying RPG experience that is both tough and unforgiving but enjoyable enough that you press on regardless.

One of the things I would like to highlight is that this is definitely a role playing experience. This isn’t a watered down case of making choices that don’t really matter or affect anything- your team and everyone in it is important to your progress. There are some hints that you won’t find until later in the game which uncover things earlier in the game, or some locations that simply cannot be opened until you uncover their secrets, and the like. But who you take, the decisions you make, and how you explore will be different every time you play.

Making good use of the map, making notes, adding markers, and being generally vigilant in everything you do is the key to success. A sorely missed quality in most modern games which are pretty much the same no matter how you play them or how many times you play them.

Have a great week, all!

Moggie