Editorial - posted by DarkUnderlord on Thu 27 January 2011, 01:09:34Tags: The Year in Review
If 2009 was the year stuff didn't happen, then 2010 is perhaps as good as it gets to the year stuff did happen. Sort-of. The year opened with a bang as BioWare released Mass Effect 2, the sequel to their previous space romance simulator Mass Effect. It was a design goal right from the start for you to be able to continue with your Mass Effect save games into Mass Effect 2. What remained to be seen was how BioWare would overcome the problem of finishing the first game with an awesome character capable of kicking ass and chewing space-gum - and yet still allow you to level-up your stats in the sequel. The answer of course, was an ingenious and revolutionary system that...
Until next year.
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Information - posted by JarlFrank on Thu 23 December 2010, 01:42:44
JarlFrank takes a nostalgic look at the early games created by Event Horizon Software, that is, the years before they became DreamForge Intertainment (that "I" is not a typo - God only knows why they picked that monicker):
While their earlier works were much more obscure than the EoB-style games they made later on, they were very interesting and, at the time, unique experiences that can be put into the same sub-genre as Diablo, but with much more depth than either Diablo or any of its clones would ever achieve. If they had continued to develop games in the style of Dusk, Summoning and VoD, maybe the sub-genre of the Action-RPG would look vastly different today, with more dialogues, non-linear stories and puzzles than Diablo’s simple kill-and-loot gameplay.
This is what happens when you change your company's name to some kind of popamole bullshit.
Review - posted by DarkUnderlord on Sun 5 December 2010, 02:03:14Tags: Fallout: New Vegas; Obsidian Entertainment
Fallout: New Vegas is an RPG made by the same company that brought you Alpha Turd, that slightly unpolished spy thing. Did they do better with Fallout: New Vegas? Find out as[URL='http://www.rpgcodex.net/content.php?id=215'] TNO reviews fellates New Vegas[/URL]. I could say it's an in-depth and comprehensive analysis of one of the most important RPGs of the century but that'd just be lying. Nope, TNO pretty much just sticks to the fellatio with this one: [INDENT] Fallout: New Vegas is one of the best RPGs of all time. A masterpiece, although not an unblemished one - the Obsidian trademarks of beta-as-release candidate, consolized interface and badly optimized graphics are there. But so is a cracking story, clever, intricate quest/C&C design, and the wasteland brought back to life in the same blackly jaunty way Fallout did. If you've been after a proper successor to Fallout, or simply something to redeem the genre after several years in the doldrums, look no further. Welcome back, MCA: all is forgiven.[/INDENT] Agree / Disagree? More importantly, what does this mean for Dungeon Siege 3?
Competition - posted by DarkUnderlord on Sat 4 December 2010, 11:29:21
Well, it's time we announced the winners for The 2010 Codex Top 5 RPGs Short Story Contest. From all the stunning entries we received (of which you may inflict the pain of reading them upon yourself by turning here), the judges spent some considerable time in deliberation and, after much debate, have chosen the following winners:
Notable mentions but ultimately deemed unworthy were:
- Zed's graphic rape story that might've worked better if it had pictures.
- zelda64whatagreatgame for his tale of a new 'artistic' approach to a store.
- Callaxes', who tried to grab our attention, did so mildly successfully at one point but then didn't go anywhere with it. Also "burrowing" ladders lulz.
Special thanks of course goes to all those who decided it'd be funny if they inflicted their crappy writing skills on us participated. Winners will be contacted with their prize details shortly (or should hassle VoD).
Interview - posted by VentilatorOfDoom on Tue 30 November 2010, 23:05:54Tags: Divinity 2; Larian Studios
Swen Vincke of Larian Studios took some time to answer our probing questions about Divinity 2: The Dragon Knight Saga and future Larian titles.
<blockquote>Another rather nifty idea in Divinity 2 was the mindreading. In my opinion the *thank god no one knows the location of mah trezure*-kind of application was a bit overused and in FoV it was a bit too expensive XP cost-wise but it was a nifty mechanic nontheless and enabled some nice unique quest solutions. Can we expect to see this or a similar mechanic in future games or was it an one time thing for Divinity 2 only?
I’m glad that one received so much positive attention. It was quite a lot of development work to put it in there, and I’m pretty sure many people in QA wished it wasn’t there. I remember when introducing it, the team looked at me as if I’d been taking drugs. Already they were overloaded with work to get all of the content in, and here was this madman telling them that every single dialog should get a mindread path because of this new cool skill. Considering the amount of dialogues in the game, that really added a lot of work to their plate, so you can understand that on occasion they took a shortcut, but there really are some very cool mindreads in there. And yes, we’re thinking of similar ”small” things when it comes to our next RPGs.</blockquote>
Review - posted by DarkUnderlord on Wed 17 November 2010, 15:33:10Tags: Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny
For those of you who don't know BLOBERT, he's a pretty cool BRO isn't afraid of anything. He also writes in ALL CAPS a lot. He also likes RPGs and in our ongoing serious of Forgotten Gems, takes a look back at Ultima V:
It only gets better from there.
Review - posted by DarkUnderlord on Sun 24 October 2010, 05:23:21Tags: Gothic 4: Arcania; JoWood Productions; Spellbound
Darth Roxor [URL='http://www.rpgcodex.net/content.php?id=211']tells us all how much he enjoyed Gothic: Arcanum IV[/URL] - Spellbound's Magical Scrotum. In his review he talks about the game' deep sense of immersion: [INDENT=1]That's right. The whole game is, basically, a linear progression through a handful of extremely small and hideously closed areas. Each time you want to advance from one section to another, you have to do all main quest-related tasks to remove the obstacles that block your path. These obstacles often feel half-arsed and could have been easily omitted, but alas. For instance, to travel from the city of Stewark to the Valley of Blood (bonus points for the very original name), you have to obtain permission from the duke. Okay, fine. But the whole checkpoint leading to the valley is just a shoddy wooden gate with a trapdoor and one guard. Why exactly can't I just knock the guard out and proceed anyway? Just because. There's no sense in asking yourself 'why?' while playing this game. In the magical, mystical lands of Argaan, things rarely make sense. And it wouldn't be so glaringly bad if it happened only once, but no, it's abused all the time. Also, there are so many artificial barriers blocking you from going further that it's ridiculous. Every section is surrounded by an impenetrable mountain range and some auxiliary roads leading out that are always blocked. Another funny thing is, you also never return to the sections you've previously unlocked. Just forget about them and move on, citizen.[/INDENT] ... improvements the game has made over Oblivion: [INDENT=1]I know it often seems far-fetched to call something 'worse than Oblivion', but I think this game has done it.[/INDENT] ... the highly enjoyable role-playing aspects: [INDENT=1]Thanks to the 'interface elements', you can make this game 100% idiot-friendly. Minimap? Check. Quest compass? Check. Flashing weapon telling you when to click? Check. Roleplay activities? Che... wait, what are roleplaying activities? These, gentle readers, are all sorts of things that you can use to LARP the night away, as they don't influence the game in any way.[/INDENT] ... and even the meaning behind the game's title itself, buried deep within the game's lore: [INDENT=1]And I still have no idea as to why, exactly, it's called 'Arcania'...[/INDENT] In the end he enjoyed it immensely and recommends you should all pick yourselves up a copy. 5 stars.
Review - posted by VentilatorOfDoom on Sat 2 October 2010, 11:42:38Tags: Strategic Simulations, Inc.
Local powergamer and pun aficionado VentilatorOfDoom loaded up DOSBox for another run at SSI's Dark Sun: Shattered Lands.
Other than completing the main plot there are a couple of areas to explore, many of which will have a subplot or a few interesting sidequests to do. Contrary to the “escape the arena” solution, the violent approach isn’t always the best. Sometimes settling a conflict peacefully gains you the best rewards. Of course, being an AD&D game, Dark Sun: Shattered Lands has no skills, as diplomacy and the like, so instead of skill checks in dialogues it’s generally up to you which course of action you choose when talking to NPCs. It’s most likely wise to be not overly hostile; sometimes you might find unexpected allies against the Drajian army.
Review - posted by DarkUnderlord on Sun 5 September 2010, 03:54:27Tags: Heroic Fantasy Games; Knights of the Chalice
[URL='http://www.rpgcodex.net/content.php?id=209']Darth Roxor takes a look at Knights of the Chalice[/URL], that turn-based indie D&D game which has been known to rape the less experienced: [INDENT]Next thing that deserves mentioning is the enemy AI, as it really is top notch. It adapts to your party tactics and line-up well, effectively uses spell combinations and abilities. For example, is everyone in your party engulfed in web? You’re bound to have a fireball going your way to achieve extra fire damage. Some of your party members are protected by death ward? Archers with slaying arrows will be less likely to target them. It’s also common for pretty much your whole party to be completely disabled, due to good choosing of priorities and abilities among the enemy. The knight? Grappled and pinned by a giant. Wizard? Counterspelled. Cleric? Three archers are ready against his casting of spells. Second knight? Charmed. Have fun, you’re doomed.[/INDENT] But is the game fun? [URL='http://www.rpgcodex.net/content.php?id=209']Read the rest[/URL] to find out.
Review - posted by Elwro on Wed 18 August 2010, 10:10:28Tags: Basilisk Games; Eschalon: Book II
While travelling through the world of [URL='http://basiliskgames.com/eschalon-book-ii'][B]Eschalon: Book II[/B][/URL], Elwro learned the hard way that if you love a puppy, you must let it go and not sell its pelt to unscrupulous shopkeepers. [INDENT] There are a few well done locations (Port Kuudad has its fair share of secrets) and quests. For example, to cut a long story short, a dwarf asks you to steal a puppy from a big wolf. You are told to bring exactly one puppy and leave the rest in the den. You will be tempted to take more than one, because they are valuable and you could certainly use the cash. You are told that something bad will happen if you take more than one puppy... and let me just tell you that it does happen. You have to weigh this consequence against your heavier purse. A real choice, a good quest. [/INDENT] [URL='http://www.rpgcodex.net/content.php?id=206']Read on for his full review.[/URL]
Review - posted by DarkUnderlord on Mon 19 July 2010, 09:13:03
TNO got bored of all the New Shit™ and decided to take a quick look at some Good Old Shit™ by reviewing Outcast. Outcast is more a puzzle-adventure-type-thing than an RPG-type-thing but here's a bit:
The dialogue is broadly good, and is also broadly well acted. The music is utterly sensational: well composed, well motifed, and well performed by the Moscow orchestra and chorus. Three examples although I really could have taken any of the tracks: 1 2 3. Also the incidental sounds (especially the beast calls) make the world of Outcast come alive.
Helping this is the careful scripting of the NPCs. Talanzaar, the bazaar-esque trading hub of Adelpha is a case in point. Dozens of NPCs carry loads, move to and from each other, go on set 'rounds' or patrols, go to their workshops to craft items for you and generally, well, make it look like the bustling bazaar. It simply beggars belief why games almost ten years later still can't do something similarly convincing. Similar sentiments apply to the fauna too.
If the game sounds mildly interesting, you can pick it up from GOG these days. /Shameless plug
Interview - posted by DarkUnderlord on Mon 12 July 2010, 15:56:04Tags: Annie VanderMeer Mitsoda; DoubleBear Productions
Annie Carlson, formerly of Obsidian Entertainment and currently of DoubleBear Productions, took some time out of her busy two-job schedule to answer us some questions. She speaks of DoubleBear, babies, Zombies:
Can't go into details about our stage of development, but that focus question is a good one so I'ma address that. Functionally speaking, I'm going to say we have to get the combat working on a solid model, because it's tied into a lot of basic character creation skills. Also it's a common adage among designers that "if the combat sucks, your game is fucked," so we want to get the basics of that working well before we get the survival/management aspects ironed out. I'd say they're of equal importance, but perfecting the functionality of the combat I think is a little higher priority, but also easier to do at the early stages and will require fundamentally less polish and tweaking than the management aspects will.
... and turds:
I recall being fantastically pissed-off at Dark Cloud - not only because at the time I had no money for games and my computer would play basically nothing at all, but because you could get trapped in an attack combo that could break your weapon right in the middle of it. Since you didn't really gain levels but your weapon did, that meant you were suddenly fucked. Also you had to eat and drink, which was implemented particularly shittily. It's not that I can't handle food in an RPG, it was just really terrible in that game. It was poo topping on a crap sundae.
Interview - posted by Jason on Sun 13 June 2010, 08:47:48Tags: Avadon: The Black Fortress; Jeff Vogel; Spiderweb Software
Any future plans not related to Avadon?
Quite a few. We’re looking hard at the future, figuring out if we have a place in it. In the near future, will will be releasing new, highly upgraded versions of the first Avernum trilogy. They are about a decade old and really showing their age.
We are also looking hard at other platforms. Specifically the little ones that you carry around everywhere.
Editorial - posted by DarkUnderlord on Fri 11 June 2010, 04:47:57Tags: Mass Effect 2
TNO follows up from his earlier escapades of looking at the story side of things in Mass Effect by casting his eye to the aptly named sequel in: Mass Effect 2: A Narratological Review.
The real problem is the titanic catastrophe of the plot itself. There are lots of little niggles with ME2 (“Why do I start looking like the terminator if I pick nasty options in dialogue?” “If the Collectors go through the O4 relay, why don’t people notice this/why not just blockade it or blow up the relay?”) but these are sufficiently minor that you assume some semi-plausible explanation can be fan-wanked in. The main plot of ME2 careens from the simply sloppy (reliance on plot coupons and McGuffins), to the irredeemably bad ‘oh-god-I-hope-this-gets-retconned’ stupid (the human Reaper).
Jetting off half-way across the galaxy to lift emotional baggage for the party made them less a crack team of elite specialists and more an angst battalion.
Fan-wanking commence! Your angst battalion has been attacked!
Editorial - posted by DarkUnderlord on Tue 18 May 2010, 02:29:38
Gothic 2 was, in the eyes of most fans, the very best installment of the series. It had a reasonably-sized world (quite large, but not too large), every single encounter was hand-placed which led to perfect balancing, and it had the best NPC schedules since Ultima VII. The capital city of the game really felt alive, with NPCs going about their daily business, going to the pub in the evening and sleeping at night. Many quests had multiple solutions (there were at least three ways to enter the city, and the expansion added another one) which, sometimes, required you to use your brain.
We've included our personal picks, did some argy-bargy to pick a "top #5 that you should play", before finishing off with the Your Choice Awards. That's where we asked you to send in your pick for RPG of the decade. You didn't but we've included the responses of those who did. We also picked three random winners from that competition which without further ado are as follows:
- stony3k (Arcanum)
- Ronald Abadi (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic)
- Dandelion (Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines)
They'll each be getting a free game of their choice from Good Old Games.
So go on and read our conclusion to the 2000's in RPGs.
Information - posted by DarkUnderlord on Fri 16 April 2010, 06:02:24
It's been 10 long years of RPGs. In our RPG of the Decade - Developers' Choice we take a look back at the decade that's just been and go over some of the more notable events. We then asked a bunch of better-known developers in the RPG field what their RPG of the decade was:
I mentioned earlier that "choice and consequence" is a catch-cry here on the Codex. Well, choice and consequence is not an ingredient in a Bethesda game. In your typical Bethesda game, you get to role-play everyone. You get to make every choice, typically without any consequences.
And by God does that make their games hugely successful.
Tim Cain: There were so many good RPG’s released in the last decade that it is hard to choose the “RPG of the Decade”. I am embarrassed to say that I haven’t played some of them, and I only want to nominate a game that I have played. And that list is still large: Baldur’s Gate 2, Icewind Dale 2, Neverwinter Nights, Dragon Age (Bioware is on a roll in my list, you can see), Fable, Deus Ex, Fallout 3, Geneforge. So I am going with a game that captured my imagination and that I played for many many hours, and that I think about when designing my own games. And that game is…
Interview - posted by Jason on Sun 11 April 2010, 04:40:31
The gameplay is much more dialogue oriented than the typical adventure game, as shown by Sierra and Lucas Arts, where you mostly collect and combine items. What made you decide to deviate from the traditional adventure formula and focus on dialogue instead of items?
Even though Blackwell deals with ghosts, it’s very grounded in reality. And in a setting like that, it’s hard to justify the usual adventure game puzzles of using objects in obscure ways to solve arbitrary puzzles. In you’re in a fantasy game and you find a door that can only be opened by six mystical bagels, then fine. You can accept that. But when the setting is urban noir, it’s more difficult to suspend your disbelief. So instead I focused more on dialog-related puzzles and gameplay. I’ve always been a sucker for games like that.
Editorial - posted by DarkUnderlord on Mon 5 April 2010, 09:11:26Tags: Mass Effect
TNO decided to take a look at Mass Effect but not from the usual game point of view, instead by taking an in-depth look at its story (He originally posted this in our forum but why just leave it there?). Here's what he came up with:
These are good subversions, but they aren't pulled off properly. Humans are still 'special', and one of the endings of the game lets you put them wholly in charge. Whatever choice you make humans become the top dog, as all of the other species get mauled by the terminators. The reveal of the real big bad (the 'Reapers') does set them up as nasty villains ("slaughtering all life in the galaxy? peh. We've done that repeatedly for millions of years.") But no explanation is ever offered for why they bother doing this - Bioware hides behind alien inscrutability (you can't possibly understand, beyond your comprehension etc. etc.) Maybe sequels will satisfy this, but I don't hold my breath for this explanation being any good.
One thing that deserves a rant are the SPECTREs (Special whatever and Tactical Reconassaince, or whatever the backronym was.) Another part of Bioware's formula is having a leet crew of kewl people who have absolute power to protect the established order by any means necessary (see the Grey Wardens). This trope is rammed into the game with barely any justification. Intelligence services? Sure. Black ops? Fine. But mankind has never done this 'special dudes who are cool and answer to no one' as the best way of doing these things. Why would wider alien community (of multiple species) agree to this sort of thing? What if one of them discovers a plot device of doom and goes crazy?
Crazy is good.
Interview - posted by VentilatorOfDoom on Mon 1 March 2010, 22:59:31Tags: Knights of the Chalice
Newsposting machine VentilatorofDoom caught up with developer Pierre Begue to find out his thoughts since the release of Knights of the Chalice.
5. In contrast to most of today's RPGs you didn't include skills and skill dependent non-combat gameplay. Different skills are typically a prerequisite for alternate quest solutions, the handling of specific situations (diplomatic, combat, stealth etc.) and the like. What's your stance on that?
I am totally in favour of having distinct solutions to quests, but as a designer I prefer to leave it to the player to decide what course of action he would rather take. In other words, I am not in favour of leaving out options to bluff, lie, tell the truth, intimidate, or be diplomatic at any point just because a character lacks points in one skill or another. Now it may well be that you need to perform a skill check to see if the bluff or diplomacy was successful, but you could instead make a check based on one of the character's main abilities (Charisma, Wisdom, etc). So I don't see skills as essential to the system.
Furthermore, in my opinion, it's much more important and interesting for a CRPG to provide a few options with distinct follow-up outcomes, than a lot of options all leading to the same outcome (even if they go through a different skill check).
Editorial - posted by DarkUnderlord on Thu 18 February 2010, 12:35:33Tags: The Year in Review
In the time-honoured tradition of reminiscing about the year just gone, we take a look at 2009:
Another thing that didn't happen in 2009 was Obsidian's much talked about RPG set in the Aliens universe. Josh Sawyer's run of bad luck heading up projects that get cancelled continued. Rather than being released or even having development continue at a merry pace, it was cancelled in early February... or later in June depending on who you want to believe. Staff were laid-off, assets may have been disposed of and children may have been harmed in the end of production.
2009: The list of things that didn't happen.