Griftlands Early Access — Is It Worth It?

Early Access is so often little more than a grift, a calculated money grab intent on screwing the players over little more than a promising idea – but that has not been the case with Klei Entertainment’s previous games, and it certainly isn’t with the developer’s latest. Griftlands is an excellent roguelike deck builder with modular storytelling that you’ll be well pleased with. It has excellent protagonists, two sets of decks, and the kind of worldbuilding that engages with the player on a constant basis, which makes for plenty of moments of emerging storytelling. I’m eager to follow its development. References: More on Modular Storytelling here: https://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/David… Adam Millard’s “What Makes a Great Deckbuilder?” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d_gBR… ——————————– If you’d like to read the script for this video, please visit https://fantasy-hive.co.uk where I host a gaming column, in addition to acting as Assistant Editor! DON’T FORGET TO LIKE, SUBSCRIBE AND RING THAT BELL FOR NOTIFICATIONS! IF YOU’D LIKE MORE CONTENT… FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER: http://bit.ly/2op2jmt

Darkest Dungeon: The Butcher’s Circus – A Free Mode Nobody Wanted

The Butcher’s Circus offers one thing I never thought to see in the Darkest Dungeon – a PvP mode! I could hardly believe it when I first saw the announcement. But curiosity won out in the end, and here I am, sharing with you my impressions – short as they are.

The narrator makes his return with a few blood-curdling lines, but I think voice actor Wayne June could’ve been commissioned to do some shoutcrafting along the lines of “The Vestal breathes her last under the eldritch horrors of the Occultist.” That would’ve shown some extra commitment to the mode.

It’s not a bad piece of free content to dabble in – but it is also absolutely not the kind of content I expected to ever see from this game. At the foundation of Darkest Dungeon has always been a test of endurance – for the characters, in their repeated attempts to map out the Estate of the Ancestor while surviving its untold horrors; and for the player, as he learns to cope with mechanics which often might leave him furious with the injustice of it all.

The aspect which makes this entire mode infuriating is the Death’s Door mechanic. Logic dictates, the folks at Red Hook Studios should’ve removed or heavily modified it. Death’s Door, for those not in the know-how, is a last chance for your characters to survive at zero hp – the name says it all. Your adventurer can die immediately on the first hit after they fall to zero hp, or they could take five or more hits and still, miraculously be alive. Can you see the problem such a mechanic imposes on the game in a PvP setting? Yup, it’s all about that sweet, sweet RNG – which causes plenty of people to play with specific builds in mind, builds which rely on a sure-fire way to win. These builds are all about increasing the stress of your characters to 200, at which point they get a heart attack and die. This is the kind of meta born out of necessity and not particularly enjoyable to engage in – and I picked up on it after but a few matches.

I’ve also heard about disconnect issues – and that whole menagerie of problems so common to many multiplayer modes of otherwise stellar singleplayer games. My advice? If you’re a committed Darkest Dungeon fan, skip this mode and keep your eye on news for the release of the sequel – and if you’re brand new, just play the bloody main game already. If I hear you complaining about having no games to play one more time, I’m gonna smack you!

Maybe there’s more to the Butcher’s Circus. Maybe it’s aimed at a different kind of player, the kind that enjoyed the combat of the game more than any other element, and that kind of player will find the testing of wits against living opponents a challenge worthy of sinking a dozen hours, or more. But with a meta game that forces you to play in one certain way over others, that seems to be very unlikely. That said, Red Hook studios has always listened to their players – I am curious to see if they will show the initiative to tackle the Death’s Door issue, at the very least.

DOOM Eternal Review: Nearly a Masterpiece

Here it is, my latest gaming review/essay on Doom Eternal’s design! Take a look, I’m happy how it turned out.

DOOM Eternal is the most intense first-person shooter I have ever played and would’ve been a masterpiece, if not for a few strange, bizarre, and downright bad design decisions which take away from the experience. Which is a shame, because the underlying design philosophy of DOOM Eternal is excellent.

There’s also a story! I don’t think anyone much cares for it, so I spoil it a bit — but this is Doom, you really shouldn’t care about the story.

Update on the Denuvo Anti-Cheat Software I speak about at video’s end: Over the last few days (as of 25.05.2020) DOOM Eternal’s executive producer Marty Stratton announced that the software will indeed be removed come the next patch of the game: “Despite our best intentions, feedback from players has made it clear that we must reevaluate our approach to anti-cheat integration,” Stratton said. Good riddance, I say.

The Outer Worlds Review – Great Dialogue, Good Characters…Okay-ish Gameplay?

The Outer Worlds was one of the games I was most excited about in 2019 – so why did it take me this long to finish it? It’s got a lot going for it – the great dialogue, the memorable characters who don’t get nearly enough screen-time, and the…okay…gameplay? No, that doesn’t sound right – Obsidian wouldn’t do something like offer the minimal amount of customization in terms of weapons and equipment, right? They wouldn’t offer us a really boring Perk system in the place of Fallout’s V.A.T.s, would they?

Oh, they would? Ah, then.

That is unfortunate.

It’s not that I disliked The Outer Worlds – but I’m nowhere near as taken with it as I hoped I would be. In this twenty-two minute long video, I’ve gone at great length to explain what my problems with Obsidian’s latest consist of.

Afterparty Review – Crude Fun, Surprisingly Deep

Afterparty, the latest game by Oxenfree developers Night School Studio, swaps suspense for crude, crude humour, while holding onto the good old-fashioned interpersonal drama that might be familiar to you from their previous title!

Does it work? You’d be surprised. Several factors help Afterparty along, foremost among which is the fact that Milo and Lila are a pair of really likable protagonists. The sharp dialogue and its delivery by a stellar cast don’t hurt none, either. Overall, this is an excellent game and I am happy to recommend it…but don’t take my written word for it, watch the video! Go on, you know you wanna.

Darkest Dungeon In-Depth: Introduction and Overview — Everything is Resource Management

Hullo, everyone, and welcome back to the recurring topic of this blog nowadays, which is indeed nothing less than the much-loved aphorism, #EverythingIsContent.

This one is in video form! But if you’ve got preference for reading, after the embedded link, I’ll also drop my script — which is most of the vid but not all of it. I tend to go off-script whenever genius strikes!

The Script

Hello and welcome to Darkest Dungeon In-Depth

I’ve spent dozens of hours over the last several weeks playing Darkest Dungeon; spending so long with one game over such a short period has lit in me the desire to take a deep dive into the many facets of this excellent game of tactics, survival and Lovecraftian horror. This I will do in a series of videos released twice weekly, over the next few weeks. Ever since before it was officially released, I’ve thought that Darkest Dungeon is truly an exceptional game, and once I heard about the announcement of the sequel, I realised I’d never actually properly finished it. The thing is – it’s a massive game, especially if, like me, you don’t want to just go through the easier, “Radiant” option; no, a game like this deserves an in-depth dive, in more ways than one. I’ve spent over a hundred hours playing it.

Disclaimer: I’m not going to pretend I’m a good player – I’ve made more mistakes than I’d like, but I am learning, and I have put a of research in each of the different sections of what will, a few weeks from now, turn out to be a fairly long mega-video. Without further ado, let’s get into part 1—the overview.

01: Introduction and Overview      

Darkest Dungeon is, at its core, a game of resource management. These resources come in many forms: first and foremost, they come in the form of the dozens of adventurers you go through over the extent of your journey into the Ancestor’s Estate. In the Hamlet, the resources you manage are gold, and the four types of relics with which buildings are upgraded: portraits, crests, deeds and busts. And in each expedition you send your weekly group of adventurers, the resources you manage range from consumables, like bandages and medicinal herbs, to the very limited inventory space which will force you, time and time again, to decide between riches, baubles, trinkets and the other type of currency mentioned earlier.

Resource management goes very deep indeed, where characters are concerned. Every class of characters has their strengths and weaknesses – the leper delivers devastating blows but his accuracy is a problem, especially on higher level expeditions; the hellion has the ability to buff herself and a reach unlike most other melee characters, as well as take on three enemies at once in a massive assault with her glaive but at the cost of lowered damage and speed; and the vestal…well, okay, she’s the perfect virtuous healing machine. But this isn’t meant to go into the strengths and weaknesses of the different classes, but rather to reinforce my statement – everything is resource management. The weaknesses I discussed can be neutralised with the use of trinkets, as well as the locking in of positive quirks.

Trinkets, I think, are self-explanatory. What’s interesting about them is that the majority have not only a beneficiary effect, but also introduce some new weakness, taking away from characters’ speed, or just about anything else that can negatively impact an adventurer. Perks of the positive variety are  somewhat more interesting, and they can allow for a good deal of hair-thin customization.

Using one of the buildings in town, the medical ward, you can strap on the characters to fancy leather chairs and prod them with needless until the positive quirk is ‘locked in’ i.e. it won’t ever be exchanged by something useless at the end of an expedition. The process is obscenely expensive – which is why I only began locking in positive quirks of characters once they hit resolve level 5, i.e. became champions of their class. Definitely because I hadn’t yet realized that was a possibility by that time, nope.

To conclude on the topic of the original Negative quirks range from mildly annoying to seriously debilitating, depending entirely on randomness. You can remove the

So much for quirks, negative or positive.

Resource management in town is…kind of a pain, sometimes. Fully upgrading any one building in the Hamlet costs hundreds of crests and one additional of the collectible ancestral resources. Paintings are the most rare of these, and are a nightmare to carry, as they stack in threes. For reference, crests stack in twelves, while busts and deeds stack in sixes in your inventory during an expedition. Not that there aren’t plenty of each, and as you’ll be going on dozens of expeditions –even hundreds – the Hamlet will expand before your eyes. In my view, the best buildings to work on are the blacksmith, the guild hall and the recruitment coach, on account of the fact that upgrading the first two allows for unlocking higher level skills, armor and weapon upgrades, as well as cheaper prices in terms of these upgrades. With these upgraded, the coach can in turn be upgraded in order to offer a chance of recruitment of more experienced adventurers, who come in with better gear and access to all combat skills at the level they’re recruited at. While you’ll never recruit a character above resolve level 3, these still save a bunch of money in terms of investing into gear and skill upgrades.

So much for resource management in town. Coming next, Apprentice and Veteran expeditions.

Octopath Traveler, Diary Entry 03: Hedge Knights and Exultations (Olberic, Chapter 1)

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Cobbleston, home to beautiful women, sturdy young men, and quite possibly the realm’s mightiest retired knight. Cobbleston, Cyrus and Tressa soon enough find out, is home to Olberic, the warrior.


What a badass, this guy.
Olberic’s tale begins with a flashback, as is sometimes the case with badasses. This one takes us back years from present times, at a time when Olberic was not a glorified sellsword going under the name of Berg but a true knight, serving his king and kingdom.This flashback is seventeen different kinds of epic, starting with Olberic holding off an entire platoon of enemy soldiers without so much as breaking a sweat. He’s immediately likeable, owed to his no-nonsense personality. The low, dangerous voice he has doesn’t hurt any, either.And when someone knows you under that moniker, you’re either a helluva fighter, or a damn good lover; and I wouldn’t be surprised to find out Olberic is both!
But Olberic has something that neither Cyrus nor Tressa have – – a nemesis. This flashback, in fact, is little more than Octopath introducing us to the first real antagonist I have come across in my ten hours of play.Did anyone ask for a fresh serving of “Assassin of Kings”? Think I’ve got that order squared away for ya!
Erhardt is just the kind of villain you learn to hate with surprising ease. He used to be Olberic’s sparring partner and dearest friend, and that betrayal stings all too deep, despite just coming into Olberic’s story.
At any rate, Erhardt wins this round, and Olberic fails in his last duty to avenge his liege. All the years since,
Olberic has toiled away as a hired sword from town to town, teaching the youths to fight, and protect their homes from roving bands of brigands.  Far from glamorous indeed, but it’s better than thieving, isn’t it, Therion?! Cough, cough, I’m getting ahead of myself.
From all the village miscreants, Olberic took a liking to one in particular, a fatherless lad named Philip, gasp! Okay, okay, that’s not him, that’s another Filip, with an F. Lemme try again.Huh, those two look rather similar. I’ll file this under “to be researched further”. Philip is a nice enough lad, even if a bit impatient;a little bit too young to see combat, he nevertheless clamours after it. Others, too, are promising students, especially a pair of young men who remind the expert swordsman of himself and an old friend, almost painfully so.
All goes well for a time, Olberic using his Path Ability, “Challenge”, to teach a great many of the villagers a lesson. What this lesson is, no one is quite sure, but when a swordsman smacks you stupid with the dull of his blade, you better thank him, or else!
Then, shameless and in the light of day, brigands attack.Yeah, those lads, it turns out we’re asking for it. Olberic is not a man to shy away from combat, though, and his skill was more than enough to take. Them. Apart.A level slash of his blade, and they were done for. But little did Olberic know, in another part of town, a brigand had snuck away and taken young Philip. Queue the Liam Neeson-style Taken moment, when Olberic decides to murder his way through an entire band of brigands to get the lad back to his mother. It was then that we, COUGH, I mean, Cyrus and Tressa, came upon the man, as he made his preparations to crack open a circle of hell as yet unimagined by any brigand.Now would be a good time to spend a few lines to recollect the time spent on the road, and how Cyrus and Tressa have so far gotten along! It went something a little like this:Cyrus: Do you like books, dear girl?Tressa: I sure do! How about you?Cyrus: Love them!T. : . . .C. : . . .*Companionable reading ensues for hours, until Tressa comes across a person and buys everything they have, including the clothes on said person’s back, for pennies. *
Good Times.


Needless to say, both Cyrus and Tressa were all too happy to save young Philip. And besides, after the episode with the pirates, it only seemed the next logical step for Tressa to rob some brigands blind, next!
What did folks say about a road paved with good intentions? The pavement’s real high-quality? No, no, that’s not it. Well, I’ll figure it out!
The brigands were, needless to say, not too impressed by our merry band of rag-tag adventurer-scholars and traveling merchants.



But Olberic is far from all bluster, and his skill catches many of the petty criminals unawares.


Of course, the leader of these brigands is no random comic relief sidekick, the scholar noted while throwing Tressa the stink-eye.
The blade he wields, Olberic realises with cold horror, used to be the weapon of Erhardt! Blade or no blade, thoigh, Olberic will have Philip freed… And now, he will have answers, too!
What’re Cyrus and Tressa to do but provide covering fire?
Okay, covering fire might not quite xdescribe it. How about, Blazing Inferno! (Trademark Pending)

Aye, the brigand leader was taken care of, after a fashion. Defeated, he expected death for himself and his men. Olberic surprised him, and perhaps himself, when he offered another option.
Overcome by Olberic’s mercy, the brigand leader gives the warrior what he is most desperate about – – the chance to find information out about Erhardt. Uh-huh! By the end of that little tête-à-tête, this Gaston fellow figures out just who the hedge knight’s true identity is! Queue the gasps!
The brigands defeated, Philip safe and sound, our knight errant decides to move on with his new-found companions, to clean up the rust of his blade with some sweet, sweet monster blood, and-oh, yes- deliver the villainous Eirnhardt to justice. After, that is, he finds out why his friend betrayed their monarch.

It’s a full plate Olberic has, but with good friends along the way, he’s sure to have a hell of a journey!
Olberic’s introduction was easily the most blend of epic-tragic storytelling Octopath has delivered thus far, to my great joy. Good voice acting all around, excellent writing, and Olberic himself is an excellent party member to have in a pinch!
Together with Cyrus and Tressa, these three will take the wilds by storm, as they explore the next few cities over. Who will they come across next?
The answer might surpri–it’s the thief. It’s Therion, that smooth, white-haired anime protagonist.

Until then, thanks for reading!

The E3 Titles I cared about, 2018 Edition!

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Well, well, well! Another year, another set of E3 press conferences with all those entail – cringe-worthy moments, EA sports segments making you seriously reconsider a membership amongst the living on this wonderful blue orb of ours and, occasionally, games which look just promising enough they might be worth putting a mortgage on my house.

If I had a house, that is.

The following post will go into all those games that caught my eye and, in a few cases, my imagination. There’ll be links to whatever trailers were released, so if you see anything unfamiliar, click the link and familiarize thyself!

Control looks gorgeous, seems to be a psychological thriller with more than a smidge of X-Files to it, a wonderful gun that makes everything explode in glory, and one hell of a trippy setting which shifts and generally defies the laws of physics.

There’s also what looks like telekinesis, with the protagonist throwing around pieces of the environment, much to the joy of all us fans of pure destructive chaos.

Kingdom Hearts 3 is finally coming on January 29 and I can’t begin to describe how excited I am about that. The second game, which was the first I played, meant the world to me at a time when I was lost and alone and I didn’t know how not to be.

I still don’t, sometimes. But Kingdom Hearts taught me lessons which helped ground me and it made me laugh and cry and it showed me hope. (It also made me talk like Xehanort but you gotta take the negatives with the positives, right?)

I don’t know how it did all that it did. I don’t need to know. But I can’t wait to see what Kingdom Hearts 3 will teach me, in its turn, a lifetime later.

Prey got a DLC with some very good ideas and it’s out now! It’s called Moonsomething and it’s got rogue-lite content, five characters, some additional features to be added in among which is an Evolve-ish 4v1 PvP mode, apparently? At any rate, it sounds like good fun, I reckon. It’s 20 euro, which is a bit more than I can afford, wot with Vampyr, Tales of 15 euro, and the small fortune I spend on sci-fi and fantasy books monthly. And besides, while the idea of that DLC excites me, I’m still happy with the 40 hours I spent with Prey earlier this year. Maybe next year.

Why do I care about Assassin’s Creed Odyssey? It’s probably the setting, might be that they’re finally going in a more RPG- style direction. I didn’t care about the one set in Ancient Egypt. Or about the dozen before it, perhaps with the exception of Unity which I still never bought. But this one looks nice enough. One thing, though–if you Ubisoft guys are going to be doing right by Ancient Greece, you might want to add some blood in your big-ass Spartan-on-Athenian battles, eh? Blood is good. Important. Comes out of people when you stab them. Not the same without it!

Kojima showed yet another Death Stranding trailer, which cleared up nothing while confusing everything. Seems like there’s plenty of walking around in gorgeous environments but the rest of the game still seems a murky, inexplicable void to me and most of the Internet. Not to say it’s not the sort of thing that piques my curiosity, gods, no! I’m just confused, and affected by my friend’s continued proclamations that Kojima is making a movie and dressing it up as a game…which, with that cast isn’t as unlikely as us lovers of games would like it to be, innit?

Ghosts of Tsushima! It’s another PS4 exclusive which looks gorgeous and if the gameplay actually looks the way the demo played, I might need some help picking teeth off the floor, since that’s how hard my jaw will hit it! Give me Mongol-killing samurai, and give them to me soon! Beautiful colours, stealth gameplay that looks like a lot of fun, where do I sign up?

The Last of Us II, twice as violent and bloody as its predecessor, with a lot of head-chopping and girl-on-girl romance. The animation of this one is a head-turner, too and ever since finally playing the PS4 remaster of the original last year, I’ve been hungry to get back and see how Joel and Ellie continue to deal with the good ol fun-pocalypse. The fun- is a stand-in for funghi!

Babylon’s Fall is a game developed by Platinum in collaboration with Square Enix. I know next to nothing about it but it’s Platinum and Square Enix, and so I am unreasonably cheery in my expectations! You must realize, this is unlike me–I hate to get hyped up for something without having a semblance of an idea as to its gameplay.

But you know what looks bloody brilliant, gameplay and all? Devil May Cry 5! Dope. So frikkin’ dope. Can’t wait for more excellent spectacle fightin’, this time with Nero! ( That was Nero, right?)

Dying Light 2’s narrative design is worked on by Chris Avellone! I never got to play the first game but now I have to, don’t I? Avellone hasn’t once disappointed me with any of his games and while it was pretty sad to read about what went down between him and his former employers/co-owners at Obsidian, his talent in crafting deeply engaging, morally gray and complex stories is well on record. Tyranny, my beloved KotoR 2, New Vegas and many, many more are but a part of his impressive catalogue.

Tunic looks cute and cuddly and I don’t mind seeing more of it! The piece of soundtrack used with the trailer also sounds quite good, doesn’t it?It’s foxes wielding one-handed weapons and shields, man, that’s where the money is. Ask anyone, they’ll tell ya.

Is that it? The stuff I’m excited about this E3?

Nope, two more!

Beyond Good and Evil 2!  Need I say more?

And the last one is coming rather soon…Marvel’s Spider-Man! The Sinister Six was announced, the combat looks like fun, it’s been years since I’ve gone swinging through the streets and skyline of New York and I am beyond excited to do it again! September really can’t get here soon enough now, can it?

There’s plenty of other games which look interesting enough but I either have some healthy scepticism around their developers/publishers or I just don’t know enough about their games.

 

Saturday Night Gaming: Talking about Narrative in a Life is Strange, Before the Storm Review

Oh, look! I’m going to talk about talking about games! Bit redundant, if you ask me, but I ain’t the one who decides what goes up on the blog, am I?

What do you mean I am? I-I am?

Welp. There goes that excuse.

Anyway, I’m hard at work at a video review for Before the Storm, the prequel to the excellent Life is Strange(2015), and I’ve been wondering whether the way I decided to go about making the video is right and proper.

How did I go about writing the video?

I spilled the beans about what happens during the game. Step by step, I do my best to present the thread of the story, along with my take on it, what impression major choices left me with, and the like.

I could’ve gone another direction — like most review sites, I could’ve chosen to keep mum about the details of the story, could’ve talked about how the general lack of fantastic elements and the time travel mechanic grounds the story in reality and whether that’s a good thing, or a bad one; I could’ve probably spent a good five-ten minutes on that, while keeping generally vague on any significant plot points.

The thing is, I want to talk about the story. With what the narrative does right, with that one topic it handles wrong. I want to give my viewers — all fourteen of them — concrete, honest thoughts.

That’ll probably eat in whatever tiny number of people would consider watching a 30+ minute video by a no one on YouTube, and that’s alright. I don’t make these videos to please anyone but myself.

If anyone ends up watching along the way — brilliant!

If not…That’s alright, too!

Thank you for reading. Before the Storm is brilliant, by the way, even if the post ended up being less about the game and more about my review-to-be about the game! Hope you’ll check it out when I post it on Monday!