Tacticular Cancer: We'll have your balls

  1. Welcome to rpgcodex.net, a site dedicated to discussing computer based role-playing games in a free and open fashion. We're less strict than other forums, but please refer to the rules.

    "This message is awaiting moderator approval": All new users must pass through our moderation queue before they will be able to post normally. Until your account has "passed" your posts will only be visible to yourself (and moderators) until they are approved. Give us a week to get around to approving / deleting / ignoring your mundane opinion on crap before hassling us about it. Once you have passed the moderation period (think of it as a test), you will be able to post normally, just like all the other retards.
    Dismiss Notice

Review RPG Codex Review: Expeditions: Viking

Discussion in 'RPG News & Content' started by Infinitron, May 19, 2017.

  1. Make America Great Again Infinitron Trade Master Patron

    Infinitron
    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2011
    Parrots:
    62,367
    Codex 2016 - The Age of Grimoire Serpent in the Staglands Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 BattleTech A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire
    Click here and disable ads!
    Tags: Expeditions: Viking; Logic Artists

    Over the course of its 2+ year long development, I couldn't help but feel that the Codex community was turning its nose up at Expeditions: Viking. In the post-Skyrim era, its choice of setting was viewed by many as cliched and unambitious compared to its predecessor, Expeditions: Conquistador, even as they conceded that it looked like a solid product. That choice of setting does seem to have helped it sell decently enough for an indie title, despite a notoriously buggy launch. Such is the way of the world. Be that as it may, Viking is one of the few significant traditional RPG releases of early 2017 and it deserves a thorough review. For that, we enlisted the esteemed Tigranes, who proved himself with his Tyranny review back in January. In his review, he finds Viking to be a solid historical roleplaying experience, unfortunately let down by severe balance and difficulty curve issues. With the rate that the game is receiving patches, it's possible that much of this critique won't be very relevant in a month, but we had to draw the line somewhere! Here's an excerpt:

    The loss of this old formula is not an accident, but a price deliberately paid. For better or for worse, Viking has introduced a new formula to replace the old – and wants to be judged on those merits. As I said, Viking is much closer to a quest/story-driven WRPG, taking place in fully rendered towns – including genre staples like urban robberies, missing villagers and even a few FedEx quests. Given that this is the second game from a small studio, the level of quality and quantity achieved is generally impressive. There are plenty of quests, many of which exhibit a credible degree of choice & consequences by being weaved into the faction-based storyline. The premise is simple: you journey to Britain and suck up to the Picts and/or the Northumbrians – with the typical result that you side with one of them, or fight them both. There is a reasonably robust depiction of the interests and needs of the factions, and then the ways in which a marauding band of Vikings might enter that picture. Your landfall near a quiet English village is greeted by fear, anxiety, and language issues; should miscommunication (or your violent intent) result in a massacre, you’ll have to explain yourself to the Northumbrians soon after. The bishop will constantly preach on about how you are all doomed as heathens to the fires of hell, but admit willingly that even barbarians might be of use in weeding out another heretic cult. Throughout, the looting and pillaging work done by other Vikings – and sometimes, by you – will rouse resentment and suspicion that you’ll have to assuage one way or another. For the most part, Viking ensures that the sensible consequences to the course of events are charted out, though they never approach, say, the complexity of Fallout: New Vegas.

    The quests and faction politics are backed up by a setting that puts the historical backdrop to good use – but also has the good sense to refrain from ham-fisted clichés. There are no freedum-lovin’ rough-and-tumble Picts versus the civilised Northumbrians here (which would, in any case, not be particularly historical) – only two powerful fiefdoms that are both wary of foreign interlopers, and yet willing to do business with them where profitable. Priests will describe your faith as barbaric as a matter of course, but you will also find locals that are still wed to pre-Roman paganism, or a regional cult that exhibits a weird syncretism of Roman founding myths and Christian rituals. To be sure, if you’re looking for full fidelity to history, you won’t find it; but I think it was a wise move for the game to avoid, say, roping in well-known people and events from the history books, which would inevitably annoy anyone who knows the period well. The setting remains a backdrop, mostly avoiding egregious historical inaccuracies while leveraging the material for a sensible gameworld.

    All this is achieved through writing that, for the most part, knows when to do its job and when to butt out. Just as with Conquistador, this is not a game you primarily play for the intricate writing – and Viking, to its credit, has realised it. That sounds like damning by faint praise, but it is in fact high praise: there is nothing more obnoxious than a bad writer who won’t shut up (digging myself a giant hole here, etc). Dialogue rarely overstays its welcome. Companions are decent, if unspectacular, saying just enough lines to establish their character then getting out of your way. Sure, there is Ketill, the childhood friend whose quest involves finding his parents, and Nefja, who had to leave behind a sick sister to join the expedition; but the melodrama is largely confined to an optional quest or two, without devolving into Biowarian milksoppery. The writing also differentiates reasonably well between the views and beliefs of different characters, rather than each one mouthing the writer’s thoughts: Nefja, the same one so concerned with her family, will happily advise that the kid who helped you was ‘a coward and a thief’, and we might as well stab, behead, and desecrate his corpse to further your goals. The plot as a whole also stays refreshingly grounded, as well. You begin by newly inheriting a clan, whose sovereignty is challenged by a powerful neighbouring Thegn, and you end by proving at the Althing that you have gained enough military clout to protect your claim. There is no preposterously grandious war, Ancient Evil, or mysterious arcane phenomena that has spoiled so many other CRPG narratives.

    [...] And now we come to the combat – the most important aspect of both Conquistador and Viking, given that you spend the bulk of your playing time fighting. Conquistador had a very good turn-based combat system, which mixed in a robust spread of character abilities with an attractive lineup of consumables to offer a properly tactical experience. Shields must be batted away or broken down to damage the wielder; archers can be confounded by use of cover or distractions; trip-rope and caltrops foil the fast-moving flankers. Here, the underlying formula remains the same; players of Conquistador will recognise and enjoy Viking’s combat immediately. And yet. Once again, the changes to the combination of features in and beyond the combat system effects the experience in mixed ways.

    Let’s start with the positives. Viking provides a reasonably balanced and diverse set of abilities to customise your band. Dual-wielders, shield users, bow specialists, or healers versed in ‘totally-not-magic-we-swear’ witchcraft all play very differently. (Hell, Christian characters, allied and enemy, have their own pseudomagic tree in 'Benediction' - a nice touch.) There are sensible synergies built in as well: axemen are good for knocking away shields, opening the way for others to strike. A shield-user might knock an enemy down, at which point the knife-wielder can jump in for a deathblow. Spears can distract enemies, disabling their attack of opportunity as your archer flees the melee. Add in consumables, and Viking has enough toys in the basket to support the dozens of battles it has you fight. This comment also extends to the enemies, most of whom are human and share a similar range of equipment and abilities. The one exception, wolves, also feature several distinct characteristics. Viking’s switch to a more scripted RPG model ensures that there are few trash mobs, and the encounter design as a whole adds significant value to the game.

    The problem comes when you plug this combat into the game as a whole. By far the biggest, and most inexcusable, failure is the complete lack of any difficulty. The most difficult, ‘Insane’, might as well be called Story Time. Consider that you will often take six men with you into battle, and normally face between five and ten enemies. Most battles give you the initiative, and any halfway competent player can take out between one and three enemies in that first turn. You do the maths. After the half-way point in my playthrough, I realised it was a waste of time to bother with consumables, or indeed half of the abilities and tactics available to me, since I could roflstomp my way through almost every battle. (Ironically, if not for this problem, Viking’s difficulty settings would be worthy of high praise; it provides customisable sliders for everything that it influences.) This nonexistence of challenge sucks a huge amount of fun out of this kind of game. I realised I didn’t even need to camp after days of marching, because even a hungry and sleep-deprived band could easily emerge victorious. This is a huge departure from Conquistador, and by far the worst thing about Viking.

    [...] Is Expeditions: Viking a good game? Yes, yes it is. My criticisms are many, but they address the relatively lofty heights to which the game clearly aspires: a turn-based tactical RPG that somehow merges elements of an exploratory, resource-management strategic layer with a quest/story-driven model. The results are ambiguous, and in many ways, I prefer the tightly woven mechanics of Conquistador. But if you were to ask me whether it is worth the money, I would answer, absolutely: it is a game that provides robust turn-based tactical combat, a competently written historical setting, and plenty of entertaining quests. I dearly hope that the Expeditions series continues – and continues to tinker its formula.​

    Read the full article: RPG Codex Review: Expeditions: Viking
     
    • Brofist x 21
    • Informative x 5
    • Thanks! x 1
    • Fabulously Optimistic x 1
    • Shit x 1
    • Yes! x 1
    ^ Top  
  2. Imperialist Literate

    Imperialist
    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2016
    Parrots:
    19
    Thanks Infinitron!

    Playing E:V reminded me of watching the first three seasons of Amazon Primes: Vikings. E:V really has some interesting RPG elements like resting to regain stats, and the dialog was varied; don't know if the outcome changes with dialog.
     
    ^ Top  
  3. Make America Great Again Jack Dandy Arcane

    Jack Dandy
    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2013
    Parrots:
    2,409
    Location:
    Israel
    Divinity: Original Sin 2
    Ahhh - I am quite bummed to hear about the loss of the "Exploration" pillar.

    Still, looking forward to trying the game out.
     
    • Agree Agree x 3
    ^ Top  
  4. Make America Great Again vonAchdorf Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

    vonAchdorf
    Joined:
    Sep 20, 2014
    Parrots:
    3,987
    Thanks for the review.

    :obviously:
     
    • Agree Agree x 1
    ^ Top  
  5. CRD Learned Patron

    CRD
    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2014
    Parrots:
    152
    Divinity: Original Sin 2
    This is a game that would have benefited so much with 6 months of early access instead of a shitty QA using betas and 200 players

    Also, the genius who designed the time limit to finish the game, should go back to video-game design 101 class.

    They lost a ton of sales with early reviews pointing to those two things and scoring low.
     
    • Agree Agree x 5
    ^ Top  
  6. Tigranes Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

    Tigranes
    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2009
    Parrots:
    5,738
    Serpent in the Staglands Torment: Tides of Numenera
    Sadly, the game turned them into Soren Kierkegaardson and Carl Linnaeuson.

    I didn't mention the time limit, but it's such a weird thing to do: you make it so generous that you could only fail it by pointlessly walking back and forth 20 times across a map with nothing to discover, but by putting it in you still risk angering people who are stupid, OCD, larpy, or just like to take it very slow. Either make the time limit enforce some hard choices, or get rid of it.
     
    • Brofist Brofist x 14
    • Agree Agree x 9
    • Yes! Yes! x 1
    ^ Top  
  7. MRY Prestigious Gentleman Wormwood Studios Developer

    MRY
    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2012
    Parrots:
    2,823
    Location:
    California
    Isn't this mostly true of the time limits in FO and Star Control II?
     
    • Agree Agree x 2
    • Disagree Disagree x 1
    ^ Top  
  8. M0RBUS Augur

    M0RBUS
    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2007
    Parrots:
    199
    Location:
    Porto, Portugal
    People get scared of everything. Or rather everyone gets scared of something :P
    Norse mythology? Don't like elves. Resource management? Don't like survival mechanics. Party based? Don't like plots with more than one main character. Time limit? I want to play forever. The king of the world is evil? Don't like evil characters.

    As for the game, I'm loving the writing, to be honest, but I preferred the gameplay mechanics of Conquistador. It was a better game in that department, I feel, even if I sucked at it :P
     
    • Agree Agree x 5
    • Brofist Brofist x 1
    • Thanks! Thanks! x 1
    ^ Top  
  9. skyst Savant

    skyst
    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2010
    Parrots:
    276
    Location:
    Philadelphia, PA
    Review is solid and accurate, especially regarding the difficulty.

    Any somewhat competent player can make such powerful characters that doubling the number of enemies faced in battle wouldn't even make the game appropriately challenging. Main issue seems to be that your archers kill shit way too easily and your shield users are basically invincible.
     
    • Agree Agree x 1
    ^ Top  
  10. Imperialist Literate

    Imperialist
    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2016
    Parrots:
    19
    BIS pulled the time limit out of FO1 very shortly after the game released; it was the first update I believe, it doesn't add to the game.
     
    • hopw roewur ne hopw roewur ne x 1
    ^ Top  
  11. Make America Great Again Roguey Arcane Sawyerite Sawyerist Sawyer's Bride No Fun Allowed

    Roguey
    Joined:
    May 29, 2010
    Parrots:
    19,787
    I would hate a time limit that requires skipping content to succeed (How would you know how much content to skip?). That's Sierra adventure game garbage.
     
    • Agree Agree x 8
    ^ Top  
  12. MRY Prestigious Gentleman Wormwood Studios Developer

    MRY
    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2012
    Parrots:
    2,823
    Location:
    California
    Having time as a resource to manage is a good idea, but it is tricky to know how to best convey it to the player. I always thought that the time limits in FO and SC2 struck a good balance of creating tension without really causing trouble unless you played stupidly. It does create a real walking-dead risk though, which is never a good thing from a gameplay standpoint. Probably tends to work better if you have time be a limiting factor in how many things you can do and how well things work out in the end, but not a dwindling resource that can lose you the game.
     
    • Agree Agree x 6
    • Brofist Brofist x 1
    • Acknowledge this user's Agenda Acknowledge this user's Agenda x 1
    ^ Top  
  13. Tigranes Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

    Tigranes
    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2009
    Parrots:
    5,738
    Serpent in the Staglands Torment: Tides of Numenera
    My experience with the 'experiment' was that it actually only takes a couple of things swinging against you to shift the difficulty drastically, because when you have 'group turns' as opposed to 'individual turn order' (e.g. Battle Bros), having one extra dude live for one extra turn gives you an exponential advantage rippling through the whole battle. I suspect that if the enemy got the first turn in all battles, for example, you'd have a huge amount of added challenge because they're alpha striking 1/3 of your team instead of the other way round.

    Of course, that would actually be pretty frustrating. I think reasonable things they could do at this stage is to (1) allow difficulty sliders to go a lot further and leave it to player choice; (2) cut down significantly on available resources to reintroduce some sense of strategic scarcity; (3) possibly re-examine which fights should get enemy initiative. Even without touching encounter design, I suspect that would raise the general bar up to acceptable levels.
     
    • Brofist Brofist x 1
    ^ Top  
  14. Make America Great Again Barbarian Arcane

    Barbarian
    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2015
    Parrots:
    1,074
    I liked the game well enough but decided to hold on it for all the fixes and content that is coming. That is something I really dislike about so many modern developers. Nobody releases a finished product anymore. Good thing is this game is already great and most of the complaints will be addressed. I expect it to be a much better game in 3 to 4 games.

    I really liked quest design and C&C but there were some points where the game strangely railroaded you and it shouldn't. For instance you are given the option to be a germanic pagan true to your norse roots, or an anachronistic 8th century unbeliever who doubts the existence of the gods and the supernatural, but even though so many quests involve an alleged conversion to Christianity your character can't legitimately convert to that new faith(something that was so common to germanic pagans ever since their contact with the Cross to the eventual demise of paganism in europe). The northumbrian questline also comes to mind, I see no reason why you can't actually side with Osred and must instead enforce a coup d'etat to ascertain influence in Northumbria and forge an alliance in the region.
     
    • Brofist Brofist x 2
    ^ Top  
  15. Sensuki Arcane Cuck

    Sensuki
    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2012
    Parrots:
    9,031
    Location:
    Australia
    Codex 2014 Serpent in the Staglands Shadorwun: Hong Kong A Beautifully Desolate Campaign
    Good review, my thoughts are pretty much the same, although I have only had the time to play about 3/4 of where I got up to when I played the beta. I think overall Conquistador is a better game, even though I still quite like Viking and the increase in production quality is great. I too hope the series gets another installment and they find a good medium between the Conquistador and Viking design.
     
    • Agree Agree x 2
    ^ Top  
  16. Leechmonger Learned

    Leechmonger
    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2016
    Parrots:
    519
    Location:
    Valley of Defilement
    Because of the Fedex quests?
     
    • Funny Funny x 1
    ^ Top  
  17. HiddenX The Elder Spy Patron

    HiddenX
    Joined:
    May 20, 2006
    Parrots:
    1,580
    Location:
    Germany
    Divinity: Original Sin Shadorwun: Hong Kong
    Thanks for the review.
     
    ^ Top  
  18. thesheeep Arcane

    thesheeep
    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2007
    Parrots:
    5,437
    Location:
    Tampere, Finland
    Good review. Pity about the difficulty.

    Confirms my plan to wait until a linux version comes out as that will likely also be the time when the most important rough edges have been patched out.
     
    Last edited: May 20, 2017
    • Doggy Doggy x 1
    ^ Top  
  19. Jinn Augur

    Jinn
    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2007
    Parrots:
    441
    Great review! It addresses all my current complaints about the game succinctly. I've been holding off on playing this until the difficulty is turned up a notch or two, but loved what I saw from the first 8 hours I played. Really hoping the devs take a close look at this review.
     
    Last edited: May 20, 2017
    • Thanks! Thanks! x 1
    ^ Top  
  20. Abu Antar Arcane Patron

    Abu Antar
    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2014
    Parrots:
    3,465
    Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire
    Isn't this their third game and not second one?

    Good review, though. I want the next possible game to be closer to Conquistador. I also felt that the game felt more like a WRPG than than the first game did. I don't dislike the game, but I liked the style of Conquistador.
     
    • Brofist Brofist x 1
    • Salute Salute x 1
    ^ Top  
  21. Jonas Logic Artists Developer

    Jonas
    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2009
    Parrots:
    65
    Location:
    Denmark
    Great review, thanks :)

    We are aware that the upper range of the difficulty sliders needs expansion, and it's our main focus area for the next update. The problem with skills and crafting is partially due to a feature we were hoping to get in there, but we had to cut it for time - gating higher skill tiers by total skillpoints spent. That would prevent you from crafting tier 5 stuff until you're at least half way through Britain. Hopefully we'll get that in soon, along with more options to make things harder. One note about player initiative: we actually had a lot more enemy-initiated fights originally, but changed almost all of them to be player-initiated because we never managed to get a positioning phase in, and getting decimated before your first turn was a bit unfair. That's another thing we'll be looking into soon.

    Of course the main problem is that Avonaeon and I just straight up suck at game balance. Don't expect that to change in the future, you can pretty much count on a Logic Artists game to have a wonky difficulty curve :P

    (I can just hear our PR guy shaking his head in resignation and dismay.)

    Also don't expect the next game to be closer to Conquistador, but don't expect something similar to Viking either. We don't like to do straight up sequels, so it'll probably be just as different from both games as E:V was from E:C.
     
    • Brofist Brofist x 29
    • Salute Salute x 6
    • Informative Informative x 3
    • Thanks! Thanks! x 1
    ^ Top  
  22. Make America Great Again Infinitron Trade Master Patron

    Infinitron
    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2011
    Parrots:
    62,367
    Codex 2016 - The Age of Grimoire Serpent in the Staglands Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 BattleTech A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire
    Next game or next Expeditions game?
     
    • Creative Creative x 1
    • it is a mystery it is a mystery x 1
    ^ Top  
  23. Jonas Logic Artists Developer

    Jonas
    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2009
    Parrots:
    65
    Location:
    Denmark
    Hmm that's a dangerous question. I'm afraid you'll have to wait a bit for your answer :)
     
    • Friendly x 4
    • Rage x 3
    • Despair x 2
    • it is a mystery x 2
    • Funny x 1
    • Fabulously Optimistic x 1
    • Excited! x 1
    ^ Top  
  24. Jonas Logic Artists Developer

    Jonas
    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2009
    Parrots:
    65
    Location:
    Denmark
    I'll be honest with you. I just didn't have time to write that shit. We actually planned to let you side with Osred but it was just me writing the vast majority of this game (with a contractor, Elan, helping out with side quests in Denmark for a few months, and Avonaeon contributing a lot of the random events) and I had to sleep once in a while.

    Ultimately, choosing between Osred or Æthelred wouldn't have changed much for the war part of the story - just the name of a quest giver. But we'd have needed a lot more complexity in the dialogue, and as our patch notes attest we had quite enough of that already. So I cut it pretty early on for the sake of my own sanity. An added bonus is a little historical authenticity: Æthelred I actually did usurp Osred II somewhere around 790 AD.
     
    • Informative x 6
    • Brofist x 4
    • Friendly x 3
    • Salute x 2
    • Fabulously Optimistic x 1
    ^ Top  
  25. Tigranes Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

    Tigranes
    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2009
    Parrots:
    5,738
    Serpent in the Staglands Torment: Tides of Numenera
    Jonas Thanks for your thoughts.

    I'm not surprised, and very encouraged, to hear the formula will again be something different. I don't think Viking's formula was really a success, but I salute the effort to rebuild a formula with each game, and Viking does make me feel you guys can pop out something better than either of the predecessors if the stars align right the next time.

    The initiative/positioning problem is difficult at the moment because the whole way in which fights start is fucked for reasons you state. If you can manage to re-add the preparations phase, then yes, you could change 70% of fights to be enemy-initiated (which is also what makes sense story-wise).

    Balancing is usually a factor of how much resources you'll have to let people play through the game and then tweak values, and not a factor of how well you can conceptualise it out of thin air, so hopefully you'll get to do some (more) beta'ing next time round.
     
    • Brofist Brofist x 1
    ^ Top  

(buying stuff via the above buttons helps us pay the hosting bills, thanks!)