Editorial - posted by Infinitron on Wed 25 February 2015, 20:10:09Tags: Chris Siegel; Jeff Kesselman; OtherSide Entertainment; Paul Neurath; Scott Kimball; Tim Stellmach; Underworld Ascendant; Will Teixeira
If you were a computer RPG fan of a certain type in the 1990s, your preferred brand of gaming came in two distinct flavors. There were the top-down/isometric RPGs, such as Origin's Ultima series in the early 90s, and the RPGs from Black Isle and BioWare later on. And then there were the first person games from Looking Glass Studios - Ultima Underworld, System Shock, Thief - which would form the foundation of the genre that Warren Spector would retroactively dub the "immersive sim". Despite the seemingly wide differences between these two genres, they would end up following strikingly parallel paths. Both would place an increasing emphasis on developing the concepts of player choice and reactivity, and both would suffer a precipitous decline in the early 2000s, due to destructive trends in the gaming industry which have been heavily discussed in our forums and elsewhere.
With the rise of big budget crowdfunded gaming in 2012, isometric RPGs made a huge comeback. But that other type of RPG, the Looking Glass-style first person immersive sim, was nowhere to be seen. Perhaps, people reasoned, this was due to the fact that producing a good-looking first person game requires more budget than even a successful Kickstarter can possibly provide. Or maybe it was because the veterans of Looking Glass and successor company Ion Storm Austin had scattered to the four winds - to Irrational Games, Arkane Studios, Valve, Bethesda and Zynga. It would seem that the implosion of the latter company due to the bursting of the social gaming bubble was what finally changed the situation for the better.
Back in July 2014, we first learned of the creation of OtherSide Entertainment by Paul Neurath, founder of Looking Glass Studios, after his departure from Zynga. Joining him was Tim Stellmach, lead designer of Ultima Underworld II and the Thief series. Their first project would be "Underworld Ascension", a successor to the Ultima Underworld series. After six months of quiet behind-the-scenes preparations, which would see the project renamed to Underworld Ascendant, the inevitable Kickstarter was finally announced in late January. It's now been three weeks since the Kickstarter's launch, and while it will clearly make its $600,000 goal, it's not the huge success some may have hoped for. I can think of any number of reasons for that, but that's outside the scope of this post. Suffice it to say, the same people who thought a first person Kickstarter game was a non-starter due to budgetary reasons are likely to be skeptical about the viability of this one.
Regardless of the Kickstarter's success or lack thereof, the prospect of a Looking Glass Studios revival is a matter of the utmost importance to a site like ours. For that reason, several weeks ago, we made arrangements for a personal visitation by stalwart Codexer mindx2 to the humble headquarters of OtherSide Entertainment in Boston, Massachusetts. That visit took place last Friday, and mindx2 would spend the entire subsequent weekend compiling his discussions with Paul Neurath and the rest of the OtherSiders into a lengthy interview/report. I don't know if this report will change anybody's mind about pledging to Underworld Ascendant, but you'll definitely view them more sympathetically after reading it. Without further ado...
Read the full article: RPG Codex Report: A Codexer visits OtherSide Entertainment!
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Editorial - posted by DarkUnderlord on Sun 22 February 2015, 01:47:21Tags: bitComposer; Chaos Chronicles; Divinity: Original Sin; Expeditions: Conquistador; Kickstarter; Paper Sorcerer; Shadowrun Returns; South Park: The Stick of Truth; The Year in Review; THQ; Wasteland 2
Do you enjoy reminiscing? Looking back on years past as if the years that followed them hadn't happened yet? Well, since everything in 2013 got postponed, we thought it gave us the perfect excuse to postpone the 2013 Year in Review.
Until now. We look back on the games that were released:
... the games that weren't:
And it was all downhill from there.
... the publishers that died:
... the delays:
... the birth of Steam Early Access:
Not so anymore! 2013 finally saw the year when the standard industry model... actually became the standard industry model. And it pretty much happened that quickly.
... and more!
It may give you a weird feeling reading it now since we talk about games "slated for a 2014 release" that have been out for months. But come with us now, on a journey through time and space, back to 2013.
Review - posted by Crooked Bee on Wed 18 February 2015, 01:00:18Tags: Ancient Domains of Mystery
Rare are the times that the Codex's front page braves the dark and fearsome world of roguelikes. Being predominantly a traditional RPG, not roguelike-focused website, permadeath scares us - all of us except the courageous Deuce Traveler, who in this review ventures headlong into ADOM from the perspective not of a roguelike expert, but a fellow veteran RPG player. One of us, then! Let's hear what he has to say.
Well, I highly recommend that every Codexer play the game once, but I don't recommend that you attempt to actually beat it. I know that seems like a contradiction, but while ADOM is a treat for those who enjoy RPG design, it loses its charm as a game and begins to feel like work after your 20th or so character death. I suggest playing the game for a few hours without backing up save states or looking at the ADOM wiki. Then, when you begin to feel frustrated with the experience, go ahead and look at the wiki for dungeon locations and to get a general idea of where you should explore next. If you still find yourself feeling frustrated after that, leave the game and go find something else to play that is more enjoyable. But if you feel driven to beat the game and are still enjoying yourself, then you'll be able to spend the next few months or even years defeating it. Good luck, and don't get eaten by a grue.
For the details leading up to this conclusion, be sure to read the full review.
Review - posted by Infinitron on Fri 6 February 2015, 21:30:45Tags: Dead State; DoubleBear Productions
Most of you should already be familiar with the story behind DoubleBear Productions' Dead State. Originally revealed all the way back in August 2009 and officially announced a year after that, the "zombie RPG" from Black Isle/Troika/Obsidian veteran Brian Mitsoda and his ex-Obsidianite wife Annie Mitsoda languished in vaporware status for years, until it was revived via Kickstarter in the heady days of 2012. Dead State was finally released in December 2014, now just one of many fish in the recovering oldschool RPG sea. Between that, its rather low fidelity 3D graphical presentation, some unfortunate Steam forum drama that led to a predictable backlash, and even some genuine post-release bugginess, Dead State seemed like it would quickly be left behind and forgotten.
But the Codex doesn't forget so easy. Two months ago, we hired Zombra, a rather mild and mellow fellow with a very appropriate name, to take Dead State for a spin and give it a fair appraisal. What he found out may surprise some of you. We proudly present...
Read the full article: RPG Codex Review: Dead State
Review - posted by Infinitron on Sat 31 January 2015, 23:57:37Tags: BioWare; Dragon Age III: Inquisition
The years 2011-2012 weren't too hot for BioWare. The triple whammy of the rushed and poorly received Dragon Age II, The Old Republic MMO which predictably failed to "kill" World of Warcraft and quickly went free-to-play, and the Mass Effect 3 ending fiasco was a serious blow to the company's reputation. Realizing that the BioWare brand was on the verge of being tarnished beyond repair, the corporate overlords at Electronic Arts wisely decided to give the Edmonton studio extra time to finish their next game, the third installment in the Dragon Age franchise, which was formally announced in late 2012 as Dragon Age: Inquisition.
DA:I was released in November 2014 to unanimous acclaim from the mainstream gaming media. 8/10s, 9/10s and 10/10s were the rule of the day. And at the year's end, it won GOTY award after GOTY award. By all accounts, BioWare had finally achieved the holy grail of roleplaying game design, combining the open worlds of Bethesda and Ubisoft with the storytelling of BioWare to create the perfect RPG.
...well, almost all accounts. More than two months ago, we dispatched Delterius, a scarred veteran of many battles on BSN, to closely examine this new masterpiece for himself. With the help of kris and Vault Dweller, he composed a comprehensive report detailing his findings. Without further ado, it's time for...
Read the full article: RPG Codex Review: Dragon Age: Inquisition
Codex Interview - posted by Crooked Bee on Mon 26 January 2015, 19:40:04Tags: Activision; Electronic Arts; Escape from Hell; Prophecy: The Fall of Trinadon; Retrospective Interview; Richard Seaborne; Tower of Myraglen
This month, January 2015, marks the 25th anniversary of one of the most unique titles in CRPG history, Electronic Arts' 1990 Escape from Hell, designed by Richard L. Seaborne. Imagine something like Wasteland -- a party-, skill-based top-down RPG -- that has you band together with famous historical and literary figures, from Genghis Khan to Hamlet, and explore, literally, the circles of Hell. Along the way, you fight the likes of Al Capone and Satan, learn new skills from Thucydides and Wyatt Earp, among many others, and solve your own and the denizens' problems, which Hell has in spades, with one overarching goal: escaping back to the real world.
As far as CRPG settings go, there has hardly been a more unorthodox one. And the character portraits were fantastic, too.
To celebrate the game's anniversary, we've interviewed Richard Seaborne, who currently works at Microsoft, about Escape from Hell along with two other RPGs he worked on, Tower of Myraglen (1987) for the Apple ][GS and Prophecy: The Fall of Trinadon (1989) for the PC. Here's an excerpt:
Prophecy’s spell system was fun to make. I think people really enjoy controlling things where their decisions and actions materially change things in the games they play. And they delight in seeing their creations come to life or even blow up in surprising failure. The magic is that their actions had consequence, and they can get better. I wanted the player to feel like an alchemist that could craft their own magic spells according to consistent rules for any situation, seeing magic as a science they could control once learned.
I imagined players would really like having the ability to “program” their own spells through a spell language that included a prefix power amplifier, effect inverter, and foundational spell function. Spells included implicit properties (fire, ice, poison, harm, heal, etc.) and targeting (individual, missile, area of effect/AOE, etc.). A heal spell could be reversed with an inverter to make the spell harm, and a harm spell could be reversed to heal. Spells had a sense of physics too, so if you cast an AOE spell in too small of a space the blast would ricochet off walls and keep expanding through corridors until its “volume” filled its effect area. Adding the most powerful modifiers to an AOE spell could fill most of the screen with a powerful blast, which might be bad for the player if they were in the path of destruction.
How did Electronic Arts end up publishing Escape from Hell? Were they involved in the process of development, and did they influence the final product in any way?
I had always admired Electronic Arts (EA) for their game quality and innovation, and so pitched the concept of Escape from Hell to them not long after Prophecy had shipped. I learned quite a bit about formal planning and ideation while working with EA. I spent nearly six months of the total 12-month development cycle in pre-production, developing engine technology and tools that would ultimately be the foundation of the game and refining the concept with some of EA’s leaders including Trip Hawkins, Bing Gordon, and Dave Albert. It was during this process that Escape changed from a serious traditional RPG to the contemporary grim comedy RPG.
Perhaps the biggest influence that EA had on Escape from Hell was the business pragmatism of Cost of Goods (COGs) and Return on Investment (ROI). They made the decision to reduce the number of discs the game shipped on in half because retailers demanded the game be available on both 5¼” and 3½” discs. It was an unfortunate time in the industry where many computers had just one disc drive size, and so EA had to ship on both disc sizes. To keep costs down, they required Escape to get a lot smaller so the same COGs would cover both disc types.
You can imagine how that went down in terms of the game’s vision and scope – a lot less character and monster art, 9 circles of Hell collapsed to 3 planes of Hell, time & dimensional shift opportunity reduction, and a lot of loose end tying up with these changes. EA offered a Technical Director to help with compression algorithms to fit as much as possible on the discs and a professional writer to brainstorm and help the narrative be as cohesive as possible within the revised scope.
Escape from Hell was released in January 1990, so that January 2015 marks its 25th anniversary. I'm very interested in the way you feel about the game now. Let me put it this way: what is your first thought whenever the game's name comes up? Retrospectively, are you fully satisfied with what kind of game Escape from Hell turned out to be?
Disappointed. Disheartened. Proud. It’s a bit mixed as you can tell.
Escape shipped and had its place in history. I firmly believe it would have been better if it hadn’t had its media budget cut in half, forcing it to miss out on all Nine Circles of Hell, signature art for key characters, more demons, monsters, & gear, and more map & script variances according to player actions, party members, and Trident time control. On the other hand, I am proud to have contributed to the early era of CRPG’s, influencing a lot of features, design tenants, and concepts in many games over these twenty-five years.
Read the full interview for many more details about Richard's games, as well as things like team sizes, D&D modules, nudity warning labels, IBM PC vs Apple ][GS, and Trip Hawkins' and other senior EA people's involvement with Escape.
Codex Interview - posted by Infinitron on Wed 21 January 2015, 00:31:22Tags: Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn; BioWare; Brent Knowles; Dragon Age; Neverwinter Nights; Neverwinter Nights: Hordes of the Underdark; Neverwinter Nights: Shadows of Undrentide
In the year 2000, BioWare released Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn, one of the most acclaimed computer RPGs of all time. In 2009, they released Dragon Age: Origins, a game that was purportedly similar, but very much a product of its time. It was the product of a company which over the course of that decade, had gone from being a small developer of PC-exclusive D&D RPGs to a cinematic console RPG powerhouse, with titles such as Knights of the Old Republic, Jade Empire and Mass Effect. And between them was Neverwinter Nights, controversial and misunderstood black sheep of the family, along with its expansion packs, Shadows of Undrentide and Hordes of the Underdark.
The truth is that you could probably write a book about what happened to BioWare during the first decade of the new millenium. Since DarkUnderlord doesn't pay us enough to write books, we'll have to make due with interviews, which can give us a glimpse at what was going at the company during that time. And what better individual to interview than Brent Knowles, the man whose career at BioWare spanned that exact duration? Starting off as a junior designer on Baldur's Gate 2 in late 1999, Brent eventually rose to become one of the lead designers on NWN, sole lead on its expansion packs, and most famously, lead designer on the Dragon Age franchise, until he was replaced by one Mike Laidlaw after leaving the company in 2009.
You might remember that Brent was briefly famous during the Dragon Age II brouhaha, when his personal blog posts describing the end of his tenure at BioWare, which confirmed fans' worst fears about the direction the franchise was heading, were brought to public knowledge. With the recent release of Dragon Age: Inquisition, we felt it was a particularly appropriate time to revisit Brent and ask him a few questions about his time at BioWare. To be honest, it was actually way more than "a few", but Brent graciously replied to them all anyway. Read on, then, for...
An interview with Brent Knowles
Read the full article: Brent Knowles Interview: An Insider's Look at BioWare, 2000-2009
Community - posted by Zed on Tue 13 January 2015, 02:10:18Tags: RPG Codex; RPG Codex Awards
This has been one of the first good years in computer role-playing games since the inception of RPG Codex. To celebrate, we figured it might be fun to have a proper Game of the Year awards ceremony. So here it is:
Read the full article: RPG Codex 2014 Role-Playing Game of the Year Awards
Review - posted by Crooked Bee on Tue 6 January 2015, 19:04:32Tags: Sega; Valkyria Chronicles
Aside from a good number of new RPGs, 2014 saw the release of a few notable PC ports of RPGs that had been formerly only available on consoles. Of these, one of the most surprising and welcome was SEGA's port of the 2008 Japanese Strategy RPG Valkyria Chronicles (available on Steam). In this review, RPG Codex staff member WhiskeyWolf dissects the game to see what it has to offer.
Here's a snippet:
The Battle of Live Tactical Zones (BLiTZ) divides the battle into two modes. The first one is the Command Mode where you are able to oversee the battlefield from above, as if you were looking on a map. All your units are marked on it, as well as the enemy units that are within the line of sight of your forces. Apart from giving you the general feel of the tactical situation, this mode also allows you to issue Orders and allocate Command Points. Command Points are – as the name would imply – points which are issued every turn to you and the enemy. Each point allows one of your units to take action (two points are required if said unit is a tank). Orders are mostly, but not only, stat related boosts, and require various amounts of points to issue. You only have a few at your disposal at the beginning, but you can acquire new ones as the game progresses.
So far, this is pretty much the standard TRPG formula. That is, until you issue a Command Point to one of your units. As soon as you do that, the view shifts to a third person perspective, and the gameplay becomes sort of pseudo-real time where you are able to directly control the chosen unit. This is the Action Mode. Please note that this does not make it a third person shooter, as movement and shooting are done separately. Once in direct control, your unit is entitled to a certain distance it can move and a single action it can perform (there are some environment related events that do not use up the action). All this depends on the class of the unit you are currently using. Suffice to say, most of the ‘actions’ that you will be performing are about making the other guy die for his country. [...]
Now, if you are familiar with some of the classic western TRPGs – like Jagged Alliance or X-COM – you will be familiar with the term ‘Overwatch’ or ‘Reaction Fire’. The developers of Valkyria Chronicles decided to use a similar mechanic… minus the action points. While in Action Mode, if you get too close to an enemy solider that is facing your way, he will fire upon you even though it is not his turn (this does not apply to Lancers and Snipers). And he will keep firing until you get out of range, your unit takes too much damage and gets downed, or you shift into the aiming stance. This reactive fire mechanic, which applies to both enemy and player units depending on whose turn it is, successfully adds some dynamism to the gameplay and makes positioning crucial.
[...] Let's be clear, Valkyria Chronicles is not a perfect game. Its gameplay is noticeably flawed, it has limited replayability and a story chockfull of idiotic clichés. Yet even all those drawbacks combined cannot overshadow what truly is a good game. When it was initially released on the PlayStation 3, everything about it was new: the quasi-European setting circa 1935, the CANVAS graphics engine that resembles a watercolor painting in motion, the fresh take on turn-based gameplay. Well, maybe except SEGA’s marketing – which could explain the poor sales – that still aspires to the golden standard of ‘fuck all, why bother’ even after these six years, if this latest release is anything to go by.
Thankfully, this time SEGA only had to release the game and watch the money roll in. An established loyal fanbase and years of positive word of mouth made sure that on the first day, Valkyria Chronicles topped Steam charts ahead of blockbuster hits like Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare and Assassin's Creed Unity that were also launched back then. Furthermore, the port was way, way better quality-wise than anyone dared to expect at the time, particularly based on previous experience. Now if only SEGA continues this trend, there could be a pretty penny for them to earn, and it would make a lot of people happy, myself included.
Read the full article: RPG Codex Review: Valkyria Chronicles
Preview - posted by Grunker on Thu 11 December 2014, 23:24:35Tags: Blackguards 2; Daedalic Entertainment; The Dark Eye
We have to admit: we liked Daedalic's 2014 RPG Blackguards a lot. It was a turn-based, tactical, combat-oriented RPG with encounters that made us feel like they were crafted by a passionate GM leading a P&P campaign.
A lot of Codexers loved Blackguards. Some people from the outside (*shiver*) thought the game's pretty straightforward character system was "insanely complex." Fortunately, Daedalic said "fuck 'em!" and released the game without dumbing it down. In other words, Daedalic were bros. Yes, Blackguards was undocumented as fuck, which might have led more than one popamole casual-fag to stab himself in the eye with frustration. But after RPG Codex user felipepepe wrote an informative guide for the game, everything was just peachy.
In short: we couldn't wait for Blackguards 2. And now it's almost here! We were bursting at the seams with expectation when Darth Roxor received a preview copy of the game and started writing about the marvels we could expect.
So, without further ado, let's have a sneak peak into what he has to say:
Read the full article: RPG Codex Preview: Blackguards 2
Review - posted by Crooked Bee on Sat 6 December 2014, 20:54:54Tags: Almost Human Games; Legend of Grimrock 2
It would be fair to say that, at the time of its release back in 2012, the success of the original Legend of Grimrock took not just any one of us, but everyone by surprise. A first person tile-based dungeon crawler in the vein of Dungeon Master? An RPG without BioWare-like epic plot or any NPCs to speak of, taking place in a single underground dungeon? What is this, Wizardry: Proving Grounds of Mad Overlord (which, as a prominent RPG designer told us, wouldn't even be considered an RPG if it was made today)? And still, it proved to be a smashing success. Surprisingly, yet deservedly so. Yes, it was streamlined compared to Dungeon Master. No - I might add - it did not have the same sense of danger or the same feel of a living, breathing dungeon that Chaos Strikes Back had. In any case, though, it was a good dungeon crawler.
However, when your first title is so successful, how do you go about making the sequel? Playing it safe, or expanding upon it? Thankfully, Almost Human went for the latter - while also acknowleding the limitations that are pretty much necessary to make a focused game. No NPCs or branching dialogue, just non-linear exploration. No C&C, just exploring the varied world not limited to a single dungeon anymore.
In this review, esteemed community member Decado elaborates on that, and introduces LoG II in general to those of you who, for whatever reason, haven't played it yet. Here's just one good excerpt:
I have to point out: there were one or two puzzles that, in retrospect, seem particularly unfair. A hard puzzle is one thing, but a hard puzzle with no clues -- or worse, no indication that you're in a puzzle at all -- can be infuriating. And more than once I ran into game-stopping puzzles, e.g. things you had to figure out to proceed, as opposed to figuring them out for a hidden item or some nice loot. These weren't absurdly difficult for me personally, but they would probably be showstoppers for some other people. Finally, sometimes the visuals themselves could make a puzzle difficult. It is hard to know that you should throw a rock onto yonder pressure plate if you can't see the goddamn thing. And I don't know about you, but I don't have a bunch of free rocks to be throwing around. Rocks don't grow on trees, for chrissake.
The only other big hiccup in the game is the navigation. LoGII is a pretty big world, and even the improved minimap cannot fix the lack of narrative direction. You eventually figure out you're supposed to be collecting these floating crystals, and you get pushed towards a foreboding castle that somehow requires all of these things to enter, but that's it. Some scattered, smart-assed notes from a hooded jerk-off are all you really get by way of instructions. Now, I don't want my hand to be held the whole way through, and I suspect most people playing this game don't want that either. But the lack of a journal or some kind of overarching story besides "You're stuck on this island!" presents a big hole in the presentation, especially because LoGII is such a huge game. In the first game, you were limited to a certain number of squares per dungeon, and you always knew you were heading down so, getting lost was virtually impossible. The second game, with its huge outdoor maps and multiple connection points between areas, requires a more robust framework. I like wandering around, but I don't like wandering around because I don't know what the hell else to do. [...]
When you put it all together, you get a hell of game. Challenging combat, an interesting skills mechanic, great visuals, terrific music, intelligent level design, and an overall feel for developing a living, breathing, dangerous world, puts Legend of Grimrock II quite high on my list of favorite RPGs. I will have to play it a few more times to be sure where I rank it, but it is probably in my top five of the last 15 years. Which means I will have to move Dragon Age II off of my list.
Read the full review: RPG Codex Review: Legend of Grimrock II
Review - posted by Infinitron on Wed 19 November 2014, 18:25:47Tags: Eric Shumaker; InXile Entertainment; Vault Dweller; Wasteland 2
During the months leading up to the release of Wasteland 2, many were the unbelievers who cast doubts upon the game's quality, and the matter of who would be reviewing it for the Codex was an issue of some contention. Luckily, all that changed when the game came out and turned out to be pretty decent after all. Former RPG Codex editor-in-chief and reviewer extraordinaire Vault Dweller, formerly a sceptic of Wasteland 2 himself, was now happy to make himself available to review the game. To make things even better, he teamed up with none other than Barkley 2 developer and Shoutbox savant Eric "cboyardee" Shumaker. And review they did!
It's now been exactly two months since Wasteland 2's release, and VD & Eric can't wait to finally show you how much they liked it. Here are their concluding remarks:
Like most people here, I play a lot of RPGs. Recently I played 4-5 games that shall not be named and couldn’t really get into them. Naturally, I suspected that maybe I lost my ability to enjoy games and get immersed due to age/kids/stress/etc.
Then I tried Wasteland 2 and couldn’t stop playing. The more I played, the more I wanted to. It’s a wonderful yet rare feeling that every gamer can relate to.
Does it mean that you’re going to like it? It depends entirely on your expectations. If you expected a long overdue sequel or a game that allows you to chart your own course, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. If you expected a game like [Fallout / Jagged Alliance / ‘best game evar’], you might be disappointed.
Fallout was a game where you explored the setting and could kick some ass if you chose to. WL2 is a game where you kick ass (i.e. combat heavy, which is the very definition of old-school design) and can explore the setting if you choose to. If you don’t, your mileage will vary.
Lastly, it's important to understand the context of Wasteland 2. RPGs have essentially been dead since 2005. Wasteland 2 is the second game and the instigator of what is probably an RPG renaissance. Wasteland 2 isn't just important for being a good game, it's important for being the first stepping stone on the way to Wasteland 3, Pillars of Eternity, Torment 2, countless other RPGs that would have never been made if inXile hadn't taken the risk to show that people still care about this genre. Wasteland 2 is the game that reopened the floodgates for RPG development.
Now, bring on that Red Boots DLC!
Read the full article: RPG Codex Review: Wasteland 2
Review - posted by Grunker on Mon 10 November 2014, 10:35:16Tags: Dark Heresy; Fantasy Flight Games; Games Workshop; WH40k
The RPG Codex sporadically takes a look into the world of Pen & Paper RPGs. After all, this glorious hobby of ours was spawned directly from that cosmos. With the introduction of our beloved Gazebo, we started rolling out more tabletop content.
However, since Monte Cook's Numenera, we haven't been that active with the ol' pen n' dice, so we thought that now was the time to once again peek into the realm of soda cans and sweaty arm pits. This time, it is Darth Roxor taking a look at Fantasy Flight Games' Warhammer 40,000: Dark Heresy, Second Edition:
the main questions are threefold:
- Whether it managed to fix some of the original’s glaring flaws
- Whether the overall theme of roleplaying an inquisitor’s private retinue of investigators tracking down WITCHCRAFT, HERESY AND MUTATION was preserved.
- Whether Fantasy Flight Games managed to cherry pick some of the better additions from the previous supplements and offshoots.
So how does that go, we wonder?
Uh-oh. Read more to follow the trainwreck to its station.
Read the full article: RPG Codex Review: WH40k - Dark Heresy, 2nd Edition
Review - posted by Crooked Bee on Thu 30 October 2014, 15:01:00Tags: Activision; Nihilistic Software; Vampire the Masquerade - Redemption
One game the Codex never got around to reviewing is Nihilistic Software's Vampire: The Masquerade - Redemption, published by Activision in 2000 (and currently available from GOG.com). Compared to the much more celebrated Bloodlines, Redemption has fallen into relative obscurity and isn't generally considered a very good game. In this special Halloween feature, esteemed community member Deuce Traveler considers whether that reputation is deserved. (Spoiler: he thinks it is.) In the conclusion, another esteemed Codexer, felipepepe, offers a brief addendum on the game's Storyteller Mode.
Here's an excerpt to get you started:
I've played the tabletop version of the classic World of Darkness roleplaying game a handful of times, so while I'm not an expert, I know a bit about its Storyteller System ruleset. The Storyteller System was a d10 ruleset used by White Wolf for all of its World of Darkness titles, from Vampire: The Masquerade to Mage: The Ascension. The classic Vampire: The Masquerade rules that Redemption was based upon encouraged the use of skills for engaging in non-combat activities such as investigations and diplomacy. Often a group of Vampire players would investigate the activities of enemy Sabbat (the bad guys) agents infiltrating their city, or tread the interwoven politics of their own allied Camarilla (the supposed good guys). In Redemption, though, the designers went with the classic action RPG dungeon crawler formula, despite the fact that the Storyteller system was best suited for a less combat-oriented experience.
The game focuses on dungeon crawling and combat against larger numbers of vampires than would be reasonably expected to be residing in a single city. The skill system is completely tossed out - fighting is the only way of solving quests. There is also a bit of puzzle solving, which can be summed up as "find the hidden switch to open the next passageway". Instead of allowing you to explore the character of Christof and the world of which he is a part, the game takes the uninteresting Save The World route, without ever explaining how the big bad evil guy could take over the world when four vampires in trench coats can take him out easily enough.
Read the full article: RPG Codex Review: Vampire: The Masquerade - Redemption
Preview - posted by Grunker on Tue 21 October 2014, 19:29:29Tags: Stygian Software; Underrail
IS IT IMPOSSIBLE TO TOTALLY AVOID COMBAT IN UNDERRAIL?
It might actually not be, according to Blaine. It's been a long time since we last took a look at Styg's promising, upcoming game Underrail. Last time we did, we described it using such uncharacteristically bold language as
Hm. Well, the game has come a long way since then. We're hardly likely to use such words again, now that the game is much bigger and reality is sinking in, are we?
Perhaps we are. Here's a bit of what Blaine had to say about it:
Having said that, the game isn't without its flaws. As JarkFrank mentioned in his preview, there are a lot of typos, and boy, there really are a lot of them. They're present in skill/item descriptions as well as dialog. In addition, and this is my personal opinion, some of the NPC dialog is a bit awkward or rushed and should be copyedited and cleaned up. This is a very manageable flaw (though no small task) that could turn into a big one if allowed into the final release.
Also, the game is a little bit (really just a scosche) light on NPC dialog and C&C at the moment, though there is a good bit of dialog and C&C. Of course, the game's not finished, so it's hard to make a solid judgement, especially on the C&C front.
In conclusion, this game is great, and if you don't like it, you're a tasteless waste of oxygen and should be removed from the Codex. Grunker and/or Infinitron, you'd better not cut this part! It's important."
Alright Blaine, we won't. But what on earth does it take to make a Codexer use such strong, positive superlatives? Is Blaine a gushing fanboy, or is this game simply remarkably Codexian? Read the preview to find out! Who knows, maybe you'll be heading off to buy Underrail afterwards?
Read the full article: Underrail Preview MK2
Editorial - posted by Crooked Bee on Tue 21 October 2014, 15:48:15Tags: Barkley 2: Revenge of Cuchulainn; Falcom; Square Enix; Tales of Game's; Tokyo Game Show
An odd message arrived in the RPG Codex inbox in June. Codex user/lurker Math Fool was telling us he was going to the Tokyo Game Show, which was to take place September 18th to 21st, and that he could cover the show for the Codex if we wanted him to. Later, it turned out Tales Of Game's' and our very own eric_s' Barkley 2 was going to be showcased at TGS. And as you may know, we have been following that game fairly closely.
So we thought: okay, at least he'll take a look at Barkley 2 for us, and secured a press pass for Math Fool. Barkley 2 alone wasn't enough to make an entire article though, so we padded it out with general JRPG- and otaku-related stuff. You know, like we usually do here on the Codex.
Anyway, here's the excerpt on Barkley 2:
Barkley 2 embracing its Japanese roots.
Your choices impact the story in Barkley 2, and no game is quite like another. There are over 20 possible endings in this 15-hour quest, and every action is tracked in the game. Not only how often you die but the types of death your character experiences will contribute to his overall fate. You can earn experience points by playing video games, or choose to keep games in their original mint packaging instead.
Combat occurs in real-time using a dual thumb stick interface. I played using an Xbox One controller, and the action is fast and furious. In addition to standard combat, there is also a turn-based tactical basketball strategy game that was reminiscent of Blitzball from Final Fantasy X. Finally, there is a detailed item breeding and creation process in which guns can evolve over time and pass down their characteristics to future generations.
The turn-based B-Ball game
To be honest, I had never heard of Barkley 2 before coming to TGS. The story of both games are very unique, wacky and original. It’s the kind of game that normally falls under my radar screen, but it was good to play something that was not another big budget franchise sequel for a change.
Barkley 2 is coming initially to PC, Mac and Linux, with future ports to PS4 and XB1, and potentially the PS3 and Xbox 360. The game will be available “when it’s ready.”
On a related note, eric_s aka cboyardee recently posted on the SA forums that Barkley 2's quests will basically blow all the Kickstarter games out of the water:
He also says "it's taking long because we want it to be really good." No pressure at all, Eric.
Finally, don't forget to check out the full article, if only for the numerous booth babes pics. That's why people attend these kinds of events, right?
Codex Interview - posted by Zed on Fri 10 October 2014, 20:27:11Tags: Seven Dragon Saga; Tactical Simulations Interactive
Tactical Simulations Interactive, or TSI Games, were kind enough to answer some of our questions regarding their upcoming (spiritual) successor to the GoldBox RPGs of the late 80s and early 90s: Seven Dragon Saga. Set in a new fantasy universe and being based on different pen & paper ruleset, one may wonder if this game will be able to live up to the legacy of the classics. Well, I don't know. This is an interview; not a preview, not a review. You silly goose.
From this interview, we learn with certainty that TSI will indeed go the route of crowdfunding Seven Dragon Saga. Let this be a lesson to everybody seeking factuals from media outlets such as Kotaku. We also learn a thing or two about party sizes, combat, the world map and more.
A couple of cool snippets:
The player's party represents the Empire in a newly conquered land during a time of crisis, so the NPCs on all sides fall into factions, which we will track with a reputation system. Players' choices at critical junctures can also modify the relative strengths of these faction. For instance, if the player liberates a border fort, he may have the option to raise the flag of one faction or another, granting them control of the fortress and surrounding lands. Should they come to regret the choice, another conquest of the fort may be in order.
We are currently balancing out a Goals system for individual characters. During character creation, the player will be able to select from a limited list of Goals. When the resolution of a quest aligns with that character's goals, they receive a benefit. Not all quest resolutions will have the full range of Goal alignment, so simply having a 'Greedy' party will not provide an optimum solution. Choosing a range of sometimes conflicting goals provides the party a potentially greater benefit, but may begin to clash with the player's personal goals, or lead to the alienation of useful factions.
You have made it clear that Seven Dragon Saga is not another tale of a simple farmer's rise to power and glory. What exactly does this entail for the gameplay? Will the game still have the progression relative to a beginner's campaign, but cosmetically scaled up in power? Or will it be more like a playing a high level campaign off-the-bat?
Missing all of your attacks and having 4 HP simply isn't fun. Players can expect to start at a mid-level of proficiency with a reasonable set of skills and abilities to choose from. This means the player will not advance as quickly as some games where 10th level is only a couple of hours away, but endgame characters are more flexible and powerful. Part of this is through incremental improvements (spending points on abilities), part through acquiring new powers, and part through equipment (loot and constructed).
Enjoy the interview and have a great weekend.
Read the full article: RPG Codex Interview: Seven Dragon Saga - A Return To Golden Boxes
Editorial - posted by Crooked Bee on Mon 29 September 2014, 12:11:35Tags: Brian Fargo; Chris Avellone; Colin McComb; George Ziets; InXile Entertainment; Kevin Saunders; Nathan Long; Steve Dobos; Wasteland 2
Sometime in early 2012, when InXile's sequel to the 1988 cult classic RPG Wasteland was being crowdfunded, we at the RPG Codex ran our own fundraiser campaign for a Codex-themed in-game location and statue. When Wasteland 2 was finally released earlier this month, we got what we paid for -- have you found our in-game shrine already? -- which, incidentally, also included an invitation for two persons to attend the Wasteland 2 Release Party on September 19th in Newport Beach, CA, where the two lucky invitees would party, drink, and celebrate with the likes of Brian Fargo and Chris Avellone.
We wanted to find someone local to go on our behalf, but as it happens none of our staff or regular contributors live in California. So we turned to the esteemed community member MRY, who happens to live close to Newport Beach and who in his turn suggested the Californian artist/writer/music critic Daniel Miller (http://bydanielmiller.com/). Together, they went to the party on the Codex's behalf and also did two independent write-ups about what they saw and did there and how it all went. (With pictures! So be sure to read the full article.)
Here's a snippet from Dan's write-up...
This fellow was promptly hushed by Joby Bednar, ready to regale me with feats of code. This man personally built a 6502 emulator to embed into Wasteland 2, which allows the tech-savvy player access to a 64k computer right from an in-game terminal. Thus, a player can insert their very own 6502 programs and use them within Wasteland. Beyond this, there are apparently hundreds of other little tidbits scattered throughout the game, but Joby was thankfully forthright with a hint exclusive to this article: In a missile silo, there is a console which allows for player input. Type the word ‘Joshua’.
With that, Joby drifted away, and I noticed that a few had occupied a booth away from the group. At this table was a prominent member of SomethingAwful, name of Quarex, who informed me that we were tacit enemies. Seated around him were the scripters, the soldiers, whom I was hoping would be eager to gripe. With hands flailing, Ben Moise confessed the great labor that went into making sure that everyone was killable in Wasteland 2. In fact, a few people had a complaint about that feature, and it ended up being a favored question of the evening.
It would seem that most employees grudgingly accept the freedom of murder as an expected feature of the series. Asking the question in a more general sense though, I found a great deal of discomfort on the topic. A couple of people asked me if their answers would be on the record. The self-purported moral compass of the group cited her experience as a parent. A few were more diplomatic, saying that freedom to kill is necessary according to the needs of a specific game. When I finally got my moment with Kevin Saunders, he made raised more practical concerns: the feature was costly in time and effort and precluded child characters, unlike in Tides of Numenera.
...and a snippet from MRY's:
All the same, I could recount a hundred stories. Trying desperately to tie up Bobby's dog. Half-weeping as I had to shoot my way out of Highpool. Blood sausage. A misaimed howitzer. The best mayor a kid in DC could hope for. Dancing on tables. Faran Brygo. Sweating, unable to sleep, after reading a paragraph in the book that said I had been cheating and the police were coming to get me. Wondering for most of my life whether, in fact, you got to go to Mars at the end of the game. Scorpitrons. "Mom, what's 'herpes'?"
Now I'm 34 years old, and I'm recounting that last bit to Brian Fargo. "And that's how I learned about safe sex," I conclude, as he glances in horror toward his two young kids standing next to him. Shit. "How, exactly," he thinks, "do I get myself into these things?"
* * *
Talking to Fargo impresses several things upon me. The first is how young this industry is. Fargo's career seems to span most of its meaningful history -- I know, Chester Bolingbroke would say I'm leaving out decades of PLATO games -- and in fact covers my entire lifetime as a gamer, including almost every high point in it. And yet he's a youthful 50, and his kids are hardly older than mine. At various times over the night he describes himself as "just an entertainer" and "a gamer at heart"; in fact, he is at once an elder statesman and new frontiersman.
He's also, quite obviously, a shrewd businessman who has survived tremendous upheavals both in his own career and in the industry as a whole. At one point, he mentions that when doing a deal, he looks at the other side's headquarters on Google Maps and gets a feel for how lavishly they live. "It says one thing if they're in a strip mall. It says something else if they're in a palace." (*cough*Double Fine*cough*) I get the sense that he's had both sets of digs in his days.
The same savvy that has served him so well makes me cautious about drawing any conclusions about Fargo's inner character. He certainly seemed charming, sincere, generous with his time and attention, a doting dad, a gentle boss, a true believer in games, and so on. But, as the Bard wrote, "One may smile, and smile, and be a villain -- at least I am sure it may be so in Newport." Or something like that. I want to believe in him -- and I have no reason not to -- but I wouldn't stake my life on it.
Still, to listen to the man talk about games he's played, games he's made, games he's dreaming of making, it's hard not to fall a little bit in love. He complains passionately about reviewers who can't, or won't, understand complex RPGs, and vows that next time he's following Larian's lead and not distributing advance review copies. At one point, he declares that Sacrifice is the best multiplayer game of all time. Sacrifice happens to be one of my all-time favorites -- for the art design, the voice acting, the writing (which combines po-faced Soul Reaver-ism with sly subversiveness and lots of wordplay) -- but in my opinion the multiplayer is trash. I tell him as much, and he rolls his eyes. "I'm sure you weren't playing it 3 on 3." He's right. He launches into stories of thrilling matches over the years, of hustling kids in some tournament, of little cheats to juggle enemy wizards. The word "manahoar" rolls off his tongue with practiced fluency.
I want to believe.
Read the article in full: RPG Codex Report: Wasteland 2 Release Party
Review - posted by Crooked Bee on Mon 15 September 2014, 17:58:53Tags: Piranha Bytes; Risen 3: Titan Lords
It is something of a Codex tradition to have the esteemed community member Darth Roxor review Piranha Bytes' Risen titles. In this article, he shares his (mostly negative) thoughts on Risen 3: Titan Lords, concluding with the following rumination on the state of the Piranha Bytes of today:
That is the state of Piranha Bytes today, in a nutshell. They know that they must return to the old Gothic formula, and hell, they probably even want to do it, but they simply have no idea how. They grasp at the ideas and elements that were present in their most successful games, they announce that they are "going back to the roots", and they even attempt to fix the flaws that they've introduced, but they are not able to put those changes and fixes into proper context, nor design the same systems that once made them great. Thus, the final product is but a warped shadow of its original counterpart, a haphazardly glued-together Frankenstein’s monster that might be made of similar flesh, but can never be even one tenth as functional or “alive”.
Unfortunately, I doubt they will ever reach their past greatness again. This is made apparent both by the quality of their last two games, and by comparing the credits of Gothic 2 and Risen 3. Hell, even comparing Risen 1 to Risen 3 should be enough to draw the necessary conclusions.
Read the full article: RPG Codex Review: Risen 3: Titan Lords
Editorial - posted by Crooked Bee on Tue 2 September 2014, 17:46:36Tags: Kai Fiebig
There are many ways in which one can attend a convention like this year's Gamescom in Cologne. One may get hyped and be a fan and spend most of the day in super long queues just to play a bit of the shown-off game(s). One may hate the entire thing and complain about the queues and say "never again." Or one may forgo all the queues, enter the convention through the business entrance, and talk to the devs about their game as well as about how the whole thing sucks. Combine the latter two, add some poignant pictorial commentary, and you get our very own agent Darth Roxor's report, now in Part 3, or, "How and Why I Enjoyed Gamescom 2014." Have a couple of tidbits:
I didn’t take part in any of those “hands-on” showcases, nor did I wait around for hours straight to watch the big presentations. Mostly because this is not an activity that I would consider:
b) Conducive to proper information gathering.
c) An efficient use of my time, both free and “professional”.
d) Adhering to the basic principles of human dignity.
My only regret is that I didn’t actually get to play Pillars of Eternity. Maybe there was a communication error at some point, but I thought the presentation of it that I attended later was supposed to be hands-on, which was another reason why I didn’t bother standing around in those abysmal queues. But it wasn’t, so it wasn't, and so I was forced to nitpick its pseudo-paladins instead of taking apart its systems. [...]
At 3 pm I returned to Hall 4 to get ready for Hellraid, where I ran into Daedalic’s Kai Fiebig and Johannes Kiel, who had gone for a smoke. This time I had a longer conversation with them, about various topics but mostly about Gamescom itself. When I mentioned that I’d been to the Entertainment Area, they told me how glad they were that they didn’t have to set foot in that hive of scum and villainy. Kai explained that he was looking forward to the end of the convention, because the job of running the presentations is sheer hell. Imagine sitting in the same place for ten hours straight, repeating the same spiel again and again, and in a non-native language to boot. He said that he was glad that I'd found them, because he'd forgotten to mention one aspect of Blackguards 2 on the previous day. After hearing about that, I talked with them a bit about the gaming industry as a whole, and about some of the games that Kai had worked on in the past. When I brought up one of the games that I had seen at Gamescom, Kai told me how important it is to never trust anyone who claims he wants to deliver a game “made by the same developers as [classic]!”. He said that he hears that very often, but usually realizes after some checking around that these “same developers” who were the main driving force behind the [classic] are currently stationed in three different studios around the globe.
Be sure to read the full report, and also take a look at the pictures. If anything, do have a look at the comic that Roxor took the effort to translate into English. ; )