Pillars of Eternity: Blind Playthrough

Despite owning Pillars of Eternity for a long while, I’ve just recently gotten around to trying it out. I’m a big fan of isometric RPGs — both the action and party based varieties, and have been since the early days of Diablo and Baldur’s Gate. Obsidian was involved in the creation of some of these old school RPGs, and their experience shows! This isn’t the action RPG variety, but rather the party based kind, where the action is more strategy based than how fast you can mash buttons. Most gamers will know all about this sort of game, and most RPG fans probably ran through this title more than once by now. Pillars of Eternity 2 is already on the horizon as well, so this was a good time to dive in and try to strike one of the deeper games off of the backlog list. I have plenty more to go as far as the backlog goes, and plenty more to explore in Pillars as well. I’d like to notate that despite knowing about the game and knowing that it was similar to cRPGs of old (along with reading good things around the blogosphere) I’m basically going into this playthrough blind. I’m going to attempt to not look up anything and just play through naturally.

After firing up the game and watching a short into movie, I was greeted by the character creation screen, and I was surprised by how feature full it was. The cRPGs of old that I keep referencing made use of AD&D rulesets and so the character generation would reflect that and though this feels similar, there are races and classes that aren’t D&D specific. The stats and skills for each character feel fairly original as well, but that old school feel is still present. It’s just a prettier version of the tried and true, and sometimes that’s all the Old Guard needs. I was taken aback initially by the amount of race and class combinations possible, but assumed that it wouldn’t really matter as you tend to pick up a fairly balanced party in these types of games. I ended up settling on playing a Druid.

I went heavy on Intelligence because I figured if this game was anything like other modern RPGs I’ve played (such as the Dragon Age series), having a bevy of spells at your disposal is rather useful, and sitting in the back with your main character while your AI controlled party beats on things tends to be the best approach. However, it seems that the druid is more about shapeshifting into bigger animals (I chose boar form) and diving into the fray. Whatever the case, the choice doesn’t seem to have made much of a difference as I suspected.

The story unfolds in a similar fashion to most isometric titles, with some in-game dialogue scenes, and then other more animated cutscenes. The graphics are crisp and the animations tight and the lighting effects are excellent. Combat flows well, though I have to get used to only being able to cast spells a certain amount of times per day… but it’s such a throwback and tugs on the right nostalgia strings nonetheless. Apparently you’re a traveller who’s sick and trying to find out what’s going on, but there’s a shroud of mystery that has yet to be lifted. I’m still fairly early on in the campaign, travelling a modest distance to this point.

Earlier this evening I reached Magran’s Fork after being turned away from the Gilded Vale, but I did pick up a wizard buddy. We were clearing the zone when a pack of wolves overwhelmed us and I called it a night. Overall I’m really enjoying this title, it feels really good to have the nostalgic feel in a modern title that still shows its roots. The Dragon Age and Mass Effects were true to their roots in a similar way but still upped the graphics and brought the gameplay in the 3D realm so they were good but this is good in a different way.

It’s refreshing.

The Council: Episode 1

I didn’t hear about The Council while it was in development. I didn’t even know it had released, but spotted it on the Playstation Store recently, and was intrigued by this lead photo. Clearly there are some historically impactful people in that picture, and I was interested to see what it had to offer. The description of the game led me to believe that it was a “choices matter” style of narrative adventure, and this is what you can expect. You could point to similarities between this title and the variety of Telltale Games’ well-known series, but honestly it’s more akin to Monkey Island than any of their recent titles. Still, it can be said that if you enjoy Telltale’s narrative style you will probably enjoy this game and  your choices do matter. However there is a bit of depth added to this game that wasn’t present in many of TTG’s. First of all, you’re given the ability to choose a class:

I rolled with becoming an Occultist because it sounds rad, and honestly it doesn’t really matter which one you choose due to the fact that your gameplay (choices) can open up the other options. Furthermore, you’re presented with a set of skills based on your class, all that will start at level 1. You can further level these skills using points granted to you as you gain experience. Different actions you take within the game accrue this experience, and it is given to you when you complete “quests.” These are quests as you would think of them in the RPG sense, because you are only walking around from room to room scavenging for clues and having the periodic conversation with the other characters. But things are tallied up at the end of these quests and you’ll gain more points to acquire more skills. Some can be later unlocked by reading books and performing actions so then you can put your leveling points into those as well to open further actions and dialogue options. The game will point out when you lack a certain skill and you’ll know that you’ve missed a certain path that could have been taken if you had it.

There are parts that require your attention, such as puzzles and conversational battles of wits. Confrontations only allow you to make so many mistakes, and your dialogue options will change as your skills do. You have an effort bar that will be used to perform certain actions or use dialogue options that pertain to skills and there are consumables to refill this bar (and remove negative conversational effects). I guess this is starting to feel more like an RPG after all! Opportunities are more like the QTE’s you’d be familiar with from Telltale games. They do help you on your way though so you should be paying attention while you play this game.

At the end of your missions, aside from gaining XP and being able to spend your points, you’ll also get a breakdown of ways you succeeded and ways that you failed during that quest. Alternative pathways are also presented, presuming you’d want to play through another time. I was halfway tempted once I saw the trophy list, as many of the achievements will require additional playthroughs, but I believe I’ll wait until I’ve played through the additional episodes. It’s an intriguing political romp, where you’re rubbing elbows with the people who rule the world in their day and age. I won’t spoil anything as this is a fairly new title, but it was very enjoyable and I look forward to more! It’s unclear at this point as to when episode 2 will release, but if we typically expect episodic content at a fairly rapid clip I expect you’ll hear more about it from me within a couple of months. The Council is also available on Steam.

The Order 1886: Complete

In a strange turn of events, I’ve managed to complete another game from the backlog in under two weeks. I’m not sure how it happened but my focus was on this title and it was short enough I suppose that I finished it in a reasonable amount of time. In only a few short play sessions I managed to knock this one off the list, culminating in the finish last night. The story line was managable but not necessarily the best thing I’ve ever experienced. The Steampunk alternate time-line London felt realistic enough despite the existence Lycans, mainly because of the inclusion of real world locations and people. Nikola Tesla made his appearance early on and continued to be a staple throughout the title. The game takes place in Whitechapel and that’s a real world location as well. It felt firmly planted in reality and the supernatural and technological details were original enough that they didn’t deter from the game as being something you’ve seen a thousand times before — nor were they so over the top as to harm your suspension of disbelief.

The culmination of the conspiracy plot ended in a way that there was clearly the intent to make a sequel, though looking around I can’t find whether or not this is in the works or will never come to fruition. Clearly the devs were interested in making sequels when interviewed, saying “The Order was never written as a one-off story,” however it doesn’t seem to be in development either. Cliffhanger endings like this suck when they happen in any medium (more common with TV shows I’d say), but it is part of the business.

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We may never get to see what’s in store for Galahad and the Knights of the Round, but it can be concluded that the Order isn’t going anywhere, and Galahad will likely be up to his own agenda working as a sort of vigilante. Perhaps one day we will see for certain, but for now I’ll just say that the game was fair. It looked nice, played well enough, and wasn’t too frustrating. I would be interested to play a sequel if it ever comes, but either way I’m glad to have completed another game from the backlog!

Joining The Order

Having finally completed the Bioshock trilogy, I had to start looking at other games in my backlog that I felt would be easy to strike off of the list. With most of these story-driven shooters, you can expect a completion time of around 10 hours, so I knew clearing them from the backlog would be much easier than some of the RPGs that I have collecting dust which can take 50-100 hours each. As such, the next game I selected to playthrough is The Order 1886. It’s a couple years old at this point, but was a game that I highly anticipated prior to its release. I have owned it for probably a year at this point, picking it up on some random sale. I’ve been wanting to play it for a while but needed to finish the project I was already working on. At this point I have started it up and played for a few hours, clearing the first few chapters.

The game has a very cinematic feel akin to experiences like Uncharted or The Last of Us. Cut scenes meld into game play and vice versa, bouncing back and forth without a noticeable change in graphic quality.

The game is split into chapters that feel appropriate in length. It’s one of those titles that autosaves between plot points and you’ll want to clear a chapter before quitting for the night. The storyline revolves around The Order, which is a paramilitary force that specializes in taking out rebel scum along with Lycans, which seem to be a plague on Whitechapel.

You’ll be working your way through said city, using cover shooting tactics and a variety of gadgets and weapons that seem very high tech for London in 1886.

Eventually you’ll meet up with Tesla (yes, that Tesla) and see a bunch of cool things that he’s working on. His rivalry with Edison seems to be a joke here, but I found it pretty hilarious. The real-world element makes the game feel more grounded. The gun play is still pretty standard, with enemies being bullet sponges to a certain degree.

I thought this was a pretty cool easter egg, finding Sackboy from Little Big Planet hidden amongst other debris. Not sure if that was just an ode to another Playstation game of if the same company made both games, but cool nonetheless.

At this point I fought off a ton of rebels and made my way through the city to a point of distress, where a huge amount of lycans had taken over a building. I assume the next step will be to head inside and take them out. So far I’m enjoying the title, and I’ll return once I’ve completed it to share my final thoughts. Until then.

Bioshock Infinite Complete

Over the weekend I was able to put a few more hours into the final entry of the Bioshock series, and can finally strike another game off the backlog list! I started the trilogy back at the end of October, finishing each in about a month’s time and I’m finally done. I have to say that it was a fantastic series, and I’m glad that the third game finally swung around and linked itself to the first two. While the second game ended up being a more direct continuation of the original, this game didn’t really seem related except for the base concepts. Rapture was underwater and created by someone who fancied himself better that the society on Earth. Columbia was floating in the sky and created by someone who fancied himself a God. Both were unique yet similar scenarios. Where Infinite set itself apart was through the main character who actually held an identity and throughout the story twists into something different. I won’t spoil anything (though the pictures I’m about to share might be spoilery!) but you aren’t who you think you are and the ending was similar to the ending of the second game — but a bit of a shock.

Overall I really enjoyed the series, and despite the sequel being the weakest of the bunch, they were all fantastic games played in fairly rapid succession. Here’s some screens from the end of my playthrough:

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Columbia was a bit of a different beast from Rapture, but it was beautiful. I loved the graphic design and character of the game. Having a partner to help you out through your fights was a boon as well, and something sorely missed in past titles. It’s a shame we won’t be seeing more of this multiverse, as co-op was the next logical step and would have been a blast! If you haven’t played these titles (or it’s been a long time) I’d recommend running through the remastered versions of the series — it was very enjoyable.

Next up on the list: The Order 1886!