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You're in a desert, walking along in the sand, when all of a sudden you look down and see a tortoise. It's crawling toward you. You reach down and you flip the tortoise over on its back. The tortoise lays on its back, its belly baking in the hot sun, beating its legs trying to turn itself over, but it can't. Not without your help. But you're not helping. Why is that? Why are you not helping?

RPG Codex Report: Gamescom 2016 - Divinity: Original Sin 2

Editorial - posted by Infinitron on Wed 24 August 2016, 21:59:25

Tags: Divinity: Original Sin 2; Gamescom 2016; Larian Studios; Swen Vincke

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Last year, we sent Bubbles and JarlFrank to Gamescom, the annual video game trade fair in Cologne, Germany. The resulting multi-part report was one of the finest pieces of content the Codex has ever produced, and so when August came around, it was a no-brainer to send them there again. I can already tell you that our Gamescom report this year is going to break new records. For its first part, though, we'll start small - not with an article covering a dozen different games, but just one very important one. Bubbles and JarlFrank expected to have just half an hour with Divinity: Original Sin 2. They ended up spending almost three hours with it. Here's some of what they learned:

Bubbles: Since you mentioned the origin stories, let's talk about the writing…. I've played more of this version than I played with the prototype, but I still remember what was on the prototype. I saw some changes in the prototype from the original game, but I wasn't fully convinced that it had changed. What I'm seeing now is a radically different style of writing; stunning, absolutely...

Swen: I'm happy to see that you recognize it.

Bubbles: It's hard to imagine it being in the same game series. Bioware sometimes changes writing throughout their game series, but I can't think of many companies that would allow an example like this; this is actually a very strong example [of a stylistic change] for me. It's good writing… it convinces me. It's real – it's an enormous achievement compared to Original Sin 1 for me.

Swen: ...took sweat and blood and tears...

Bubbles: …how much has your writing team changed?

Swen: You'll be surprised, maybe, to hear that the leads on this team are the same writers that wrote OS 1. But they have time now, and time makes a very big difference. We've been iterating the writing [a lot]; if I would show you the initial dialogues, you'd say “that's shit!”, but that's just the process, right? Writing is something were you need to have time to go over it, start to get into the characters. We now have 8 writers, and they now have time to get into the heads of every single character and they have to “speak” like that character. So we think about each character: “What would they say? Would they say that? No, they probably wouldn't say that.” So it changes and changes, and the result… it feels a little better. We were also very explicit that it had to be the way you talk… it's a much more natural conversation style now. Of course, you played that noble [The Red Prince] and he still talks like a noble, but that's “him”; that's because of his upbringing. If you take Lohse [a lady who acts as a vessel for demons and spirits], she's gonna be talking like a jester, which is a completely different tone; same thing goes for Sebille, she was a slave in the Ancient Empire, so she's very bitter, she hates everything. It really changes from character to character; it's also different writers who write each of them, so they can really get into their heads.

Bubbles: Which part of this writing is by Chris Avellone?

Swen: He's doing the Undead origin story, and that one you're not seeing. That's gonna be something very special, so we're keeping that for later. So you haven't actually seen any of Chris's writing yet.

Bubbles: You mentioned 8 writers – who are they?

Swen: Let's see, we have Sarah Baylus, we have Jan Van Dosselaer, Devin Doyle, Charlene Putney, John Corcoran, Steven… uhmmm… Steven, so that's six, then Kevin vanOrd, then Chris, eight, and Kieron [Kelly], nine. So it's actually eight and a half, cause Kieron does writing as well as other artistic stuff.

Bubbles: Do you think that's a good amount of writers for the kind of project you're doing?

Swen: Yeah, I think so. The output of these people if they “just write” is enormous; I could fill what other games have in ten days with a team like that. But they don't [“just write”], because they take so much time with each dialogue.

Bubbles: If you've hired more people over the last few months, does that mean that the game has expanded in scope?

Swen: We've hired more people because we've learned we needed more. I will be brutally honest about this: we only figured out the identity of the game a couple of months ago. We were looking a long time for the right tone, and now that we've we figured it out – it's easy!

Bubbles: What did you figure out?

Swen: How people should talk. The length of the dialogues, the length of the phrases, the way that they talk, the things that they say – we figured that out a couple of months ago because of Sarah. It started with that one character that Devin did; we were playing Act 1, and we said, “That's a really good character!” Sarah picked up on that; she changed all of Fort Joy to fit that, and then we all played it and said “Fuck, this is good!” And then we started expanding it everywhere and we rewrote pretty much everything.​

Read the full article: RPG Codex Report: Gamescom 2016 - Divinity: Original Sin 2

There are 122 comments on RPG Codex Report: Gamescom 2016 - Divinity: Original Sin 2

[Quickie Nr. 004] Prelude to Darkness Retrospective Review

Review - posted by VentilatorOfDoom on Tue 23 August 2016, 12:31:10

Tags: Prelude to Darkness; Quickie; Zero Sum

I know that a lot of the regulars around here were holding their breath, anxiously awaiting the next entry in the prestigious RPG Codex [Quickie] review series, and despite that it took years for the next entry to emerge, Konjad bounces back big time, bringing us his retrospective review on the merits of Zero Sum's Prelude to Darkness.

The turn-based RPG called Prelude to Darkness was released many years ago. So many years that its most current version is already a decade old. Nonetheless, few role-playing games fans have even heard of it and even fewer played it. Here, on RPGCodex, we even have an official subforum for this game… and it’s almost dead. Posts rarely are written there and few people bother to even visit the place. Is the fate of the game well deserved or is it just a decent product that never managed to gather enough players to reach the critical mass of popularity and spread around through positive word-of-mouth?​

Stay tuned, fasten your seat belts, and follow Konjad into the depths of the rabbit hole. Read the entire [Quickie Nr. 004] here.

- Zero Sum homepage
- download version 1.7
- download version 1.8
- here's a small patch by Codexer Fowyr that fixes a few things (see readme)

Read the full article: [Quickie Nr. 004] Prelude to Darkness Retrospective Review

There are 24 comments on [Quickie Nr. 004] Prelude to Darkness Retrospective Review

Wed 24 August 2016
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided Released

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Wed 24 August 2016, 00:40:28

Tags: Deus Ex: Mankind Divided; Eidos Montreal

Back in 2011, there were many that considered Eidos Montreal's revival of the Deus Ex franchise, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, to be the epitome of the "good for what it is" AAA title. In an era of ever greater streamlining, it was a game that wasn't ashamed to throw walls of text at you in its first five minutes. Its maps were reasonably spacious, the dialogue and atmosphere were decent, and it even had a grid-based inventory. The sins of Invisible War were washed away at last.

But five years later, things have changed. The RPG world is completely different from what it was back then, and Eidos Montreal have spent that time soiling their reputation with games like the Thief reboot and tablet spinoff Deus Ex: The Fall. Ever since it was officially announced last year, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided's impending release has thus been regarded with a certain sense of trepidation. Last week's reviews seemed to confirm that the game was a disappointment, but today, we can finally find out for ourselves whether that feeling was justified. You've already seen the launch trailer, so here's the game's brief description:

The year is 2029, and mechanically augmented humans have now been deemed outcasts, living a life of complete and total segregation from the rest of society.

Now an experienced covert operative, Adam Jensen is forced to operate in a world that has grown to despise his kind. Armed with a new arsenal of state-of-the-art weapons and augmentations, he must choose the right approach, along with who to trust, in order to unravel a vast worldwide conspiracy.​

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is now available for $60 on Steam. There are a couple of crappy $5 item pack DLCs and a $30 Season Pass that promises two The Missing Link-style story DLCs to be released later on, along with the aforementioned item packs and other assorted garbage. People are reporting that the item packs work like microtransactions - you can only bind the items that they include to a single playthrough, and then they're gone. I don't know if that's a standard thing now, but please don't buy them. As for the game itself, that's up for you to decide. In this age of Denuvo I suspect the Codex consensus of Mankind Divided will be a bit slower to form, but we should have a solid opinion to offer eventually.

There are 65 comments on Deus Ex: Mankind Divided Released

Tue 23 August 2016
Tyranny Gamescom 2016 Previews at PCGamesN and RPGWatch

Preview - posted by Infinitron on Tue 23 August 2016, 18:53:33

Tags: Brian Heins; Obsidian Entertainment; Tyranny

The embargo on Tyranny Gamescom coverage expired today, but it looks like not many outlets were interested in previewing it. In fact, the only major English language website that previewed Tyranny is PCGamesN. You can chalk that up to competing RPG attention from Torment and Divinity I guess, plus the already extensive Tyranny material released by Paradox last week. Anyway, as I suspected, the game's spellcrafting system is a major topic of the preview, and the accompanying video also has some new gameplay footage, featuring a dungeon location known as the Oldwalls (a name that we've seen before) which sounds like it might be Tyranny's equivalent of Pillars of Eternity's megadungeon. There's also some information in the preview about Artifact items, which I guess are its equivalent of Eternity's Soulbound items. Here's the video and an excerpt:

All too frequently mages can feel like one of the more neglected classes in RPGs, but Tyranny is building spellslingers in an interesting new way. “One of the things we’re doing differently in Tyranny is that you create your own spells by finding magical sigils in the world,” explains Brian Heins, game director on Tyranny. “So you start with a core sigil like fire, frost or lightning, and then decide how that magic type is going to express itself, whether it’s a long range bolt or a cone, like a great cone of flames, or a fireball.”

In the game’s spell creation menus, these are represented by a series of runes that are attached together. Further sigil runes can be added to modify the way in which spells deal damage, too: “You can actually create a magical fireball that leaves targets bleeding on the ground. [There are] a lot of different effects you can apply to customize and craft your own spells however you want,” says Heins.

In combat, these spells become visual feats as ice spikes erupt from the ground and waves of rippling energy tear across dungeons. It quickly becomes obvious that Tyranny is one of the best looking isometric games made since the classic RPG renaissance began. Your party consists of just four members this time, making it a little easier to appreciate each of their animations in the swirling melee.

[...] One of the many things we associate with fantasy lore are legendary weapons, be they King Arthur's Excalibur or Gandalf’s Glamdring. RPGs frequently have powerful named swords, but there never seems to be a reason for their fame. Tyranny is different: for a sword to become legendary, it needs to accomplish something.

“Artifacts are these legendary items, everybody talks about them,” reveals Heins. “Each one has their own reputation. So the more you use an artifact, the more it accomplishes great deeds, and the more legendary it becomes.”

When you find an artifact weapon, the character who equips it gains access to a new ability, such as powerful debuffs or special attacks. Using the weapon builds a meter on its inventory page, and as that meter builds so does the weapon’s renown. The most renowned weapons in the realm are, naturally, powerful tools that will see your enemies fall harder and faster.

And you’ll want powerful weapons too, as there are going to be quite a few classic dungeon crawls full of monsters and bosses. “One of the things we tried to do is create our dungeon experiences as much more of a classic dungeon crawl experience with traps, with interesting encounters and creatures and lots of treasure and loot to go and find,” says Heins. “So they’re very deadly experiences in the game but the reward is well worth it.”
Aside from PCGamesN, the only other English language Tyranny preview I've been able to find is at RPGWatch, where Myrthos offers a detailed description of his gameplay demo and complains about the game's more casual mechanics. Perhaps more previews will show up later on. We'll be publishing our own Gamescom impressions of Tyranny at some point, but don't hold your breath on that.

There are 35 comments on Tyranny Gamescom 2016 Previews at PCGamesN and RPGWatch

Underworld Ascendant Update #28: Stephen Russell, Lizardman Design, and Ultima Underworld Influences

Development Info - posted by Infinitron on Tue 23 August 2016, 03:06:57

Tags: Nate Wells; OtherSide Entertainment; Ultima Underworld; Ultima Underworld II: Labyrinth of Worlds; Underworld Ascendant

Ever since they announced that they'd moved on to the Vertical Slice phase back in early June, the folks at OtherSide Entertainment have been pretty quiet about the ongoing development of Underworld Ascendant. But not completely quiet. As summer draws to a close, now is a good time for a news roundup. In late June, OtherSide released a brief update announcing that Stephen Russell of Thief fame had been hired to voice Sir Cabirus, deceased founder of the Stygian Abyss colony, after which update frequency dropped down to once per month. Last month's update was more substantial, describing the evolution of the visual design for Ascendant's Lizardmen, who will appear in the Vertical Slice when it's released later this year. Here's an excerpt from that:

We've explored multiple looks for the Lizardmen over the past year and thought we'd share.

We started with a couple of different versions during the Kickstarter: A dinosaur-like take and one that loosely resembled a fishman from H.P. Lovecraft's Innsmouth. We even had a vote on which one the fanbase liked more. There was a healthy debate in the office, too.

After some time evolving in art direction of the game, we needed to come back around on how all of our creatures looked. Nate and the art team have been taking a new look at what the Lizardman might appear in this developing style.

[...] Although just clay, this is the first look at a Green Lizardman, the friendlier of the types you'll encounter.

Since they're a closely related species, we didn't want to deviate too drastically from the basic look. But as game developers we need to accomplish a few things when doing a separate species that is essentially the same. We've all seen this in games , the reds and the blues, the big and the little. In a 3d FPS game the silhouette is very important. Like spotters on ships in WWII being able to identify a silhouette at a distance can be the difference between life or death.

[...] To address this with the Red Lizardmen, we decided to adjust his shape slightly in bulk and to give them some easy-to-read attachments that Green Lizardmen don't have.
In the early study (above), you'll notice the frills on the Red's head and face... which Will wants to call it a "head sail" and Tim a "scalp tongue".

Another part we use to accent the silhouette is with armor and clothing.

In Nate's draw-over (on the right), he's added some feather attachments making it even more sharp and pointy-looking from a distance.

Now that the overall idea is agreed upon, the Red Lizardman is in the hands of art production and refinements continue to happen daily.
Today's update was about Ascendant's influences from the original Ultima Underworld games. Here too the Lizardman legacy is influential:

Ultima Underworld and Ultima Underworld 2 were ground breaking RPGs that influenced dozens of games - including, not surprisingly, our own. With Underworld Ascendant, our goals have been to do justice to those original games and be as innovative as they were at the time.

We have a number of innovative new features that we've yet to reveal (including a narrative system that our producer Chris Siegel calls "Looking Glass 2.0."), though intend to show in detail farther down the line.

But for many basic questions, like how survival elements should be handled or letting the player increase difficulty by descending to lower levels, we often look to the original Ultima Underworld for guidance. There's simply so much those games did right.

In our last update, we mentioned that the Green Lizard Men will be found in the neutral zone of Marcaul, an area featured in our Vertical Slice. That's a direct connection to one of our favorite moments in Ultima Underworld -- a game that, a year and a half before Edge Magazine famously said, "lf only you could talk to these creatures..." about Doom, let you decipher the language of a race of creatures, talk to them, and make alliances with them.

As you can imagine, we find this sequence pretty inspiring and intend to feature the Lizard Men prominently in the Vertical Slice. (We'll even drop the name "Ishtass" as a hint...)

Another one of our favorite moments in the series? In Ultima Underworld 2's Prison Tower of Tarna level, the player could: 1) fight your way through several levels full of goblins or 2) talk your way through past all the guards, access the jail on the top floor, and release a captured troll, who would then proceed to wipe out every single goblin in the place. Both were fun ways of solving the same challenge and allowed a large gameplay choice on a quest level.

As we've said before, in Underworld Ascendant, we provide players with a large toolbox and let them choose how to solve a challenge. While that's mainly meant on a moment-to-moment level, we're also seeing some interesting opportunities to feature Tower of Tarna-style quest choices as well.
The folks who have been worrying that Ascendant is going to be a pure sandbox might be happy to read that last bit. According to OtherSide developers on the game's official forums, the Vertical Slice is due for release "after summer". I suppose we'll find out what exactly that means next month.

There are 22 comments on Underworld Ascendant Update #28: Stephen Russell, Lizardman Design, and Ultima Underworld Influences

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Mon 22 August 2016
Divinity: Original Sin 2 Kickstarter Update #26: Early Access on September 15th, Gamescom Previews

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Mon 22 August 2016, 21:50:52

Tags: David Walgrave; Divinity: Original Sin 2; Larian Studios; Swen Vincke

Today is Divinity: Original Sin 2's big day. Earlier today, the embargo on Gamescom coverage of the game was lifted and numerous websites published their previews, including loads of gameplay footage. A couple of hours ago, Larian followed up on that with a new Kickstarter update, formally announcing that Divinity: Original Sin 2 will be released on Steam Early Access on September 15th, with a final release expected in 2017. The Early Access release will contain the game's first act and the arena mode along with multiplayer support, and all Kickstarter backers will receive a key. The game already has a Steam page, along with a shiny new official website. Here's the Kickstarter update video, which includes a copious amount of entertaining outtakes from Larian's visit to Gamescom. Watch for the erudite Bubbles cameo at around 5:12.

We are incredibly excited to announce that you’ll get your first taste of Divinity: Original Sin 2 on the 15th of September. We’re giving all Kickstarter backers access to the first act of the game: Fort Joy.

We’re going to level with you - it’s not a nice place. Think Alcatraz, but if Alcatraz was a leper colony. And the island was haunted. And the bay around it was full of sharks. With tentacles… It ain’t pretty, is what we’re saying. But we’re sure that a resourceful Sourcerer like you will be able to find some new friends. Or useful enemies…

We’ve been working on this for a very long time, and seeing it go out into the world is an amazing experience. We’ve already had some incredible feedback from the press but of course it’s your voices that we can’t wait to hear. You were all here with us when we started this journey, and we can’t wait to show you how far we’ve come. And we’re not done yet!
Here's a list of all the Divinity: Original Sin 2 Gamescom previews (in English) that we've been able to find:

There's a lot to digest in these previews, but one thing definitely worth mentioning is that yes, Larian do have plans to release a console port of Divinity: Original Sin 2. However, the game will be PC-exclusive on release. Our own Divinity: Original Sin 2 preview/interview should be published sometime in the very near future.

There are 37 comments on Divinity: Original Sin 2 Kickstarter Update #26: Early Access on September 15th, Gamescom Previews

Torment Gameplay Footage and More Interviews from Gamescom 2016

Preview - posted by Infinitron on Mon 22 August 2016, 19:44:10

Tags: Brian Fargo; Colin McComb; InXile Entertainment; Torment: Tides of Numenera

There have been several more Torment: Tides of Numenera Gamescom interviews and previews published since our last post about the game. Today, the console-centric German gaming site published their Torment preview, which notably includes eleven minutes of raw console gameplay footage - the same footage which we saw snippets of in last week's interviews. It shows the Last Castoff and his party finding their way into the Bloom through a portal in the Valley of Dead Heroes. After cutting open one of the Bloom's maws, they find themselves in the abode of a faction known as the Lascar, who are friendly at first, but don't remain that way for very long. Unfortunately the video cuts off before the battle is over, but here it is:

Other Torment-related items released over the weekend include an interview with Colin McComb at Fextralife and an interview with Brian Fargo by audio hardware company Turtle Beach, but the most interesting one is the interview with both Brian and Colin by Mhaire Stritter of Orkenspalter TV. For this interview, which I believe took place on the second day of Gamescom, Brian has apparently revised his estimate of the game's length down to 50-60 hours. Maybe somebody told him that 70-80 was a little high.

There are 80 comments on Torment Gameplay Footage and More Interviews from Gamescom 2016

Sun 21 August 2016
Chris Avellone's Beachside Chat at Reboot Develop 2016

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Sun 21 August 2016, 16:15:01

Tags: Chris Avellone

Nearly four months after it took place, the video of Chris Avellone's "Beachside Chat" panel at the Reboot Develop 2016 conference in Croatia has finally been uploaded by the organizers. It's a half-comedic, half-serious dialogue between Chris and Dan Pearson, European Editor of Gamasutra's writeup made the panel seem like it was an extended rhapsody about the comforts of his post-Obsidian lifestyle, but it's actually a bit more in-depth than that.

The chat starts out as an entertaining exchange of banter about Chris' pen-and-paper roleplaying roots, but later on it becomes more focused on CRPG design, including some discussion of his contributions to Pillars of Eternity. Interestingly, the idea of roleplaying evil characters comes up several times, and Chris cites (then only recently announced) Tyranny as the sort of RPG he'd make if he wanted to support that concept. It's an amusing watch all around - check it out if you have time to burn.

There are 27 comments on Chris Avellone's Beachside Chat at Reboot Develop 2016

Sat 20 August 2016
Brian Heins interviewed by Rocket Beans TV and GameStar at Gamescom 2016

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Sat 20 August 2016, 20:16:25

Tags: Brian Heins; Obsidian Entertainment; Paradox Interactive; Tyranny

The two German gaming sites that interviewed Brian Fargo the other day, Rocket Beans TV and GameStar, have published Gamescom interviews with Tyranny game director Brian Heins as well. As with Torment, the interview videos contain snippets of new gameplay footage, offering us a glimpse at some of the game's early locations, as well as the best look at its UI that we've gotten so far. Once again, the Rocket Beans interview is the more substantial of the two (despite the rather ditzy interviewers), so that's what I'll embed here:

Brian reveals that the next Tyranny dev diary is going to be about the game's spellcrafting system (which he offers to show to the interviewers, so it'll probably be a major topic of the post-Gamescom previews as well). He won't say exactly when the game is coming out, but at one point admits that he's going to be working on bugfixing and balancing "for the next month or so", which may be a clue. He also says that Obsidian are talking to Paradox about the possibility of expansions or DLC.

Other highlights of the Rocket Beans interview include the interviewers interrogating Brian about his opinion of Fallout 4 (which he handles as diplomatically as he can), and a question about what sort of games he'd like to work on in the future (a "magic in real life" low fantasy RPG or a Cold War spy RPG). In the course of answering the latter question, Brian confirms that Obsidian are not working on a Vampire: The Masquerade game. Sorry folks! Although it is nice to get a straight answer about something for once.

P.S. Brian also had a seven minute appearance on yesterday's Gamescom Twitch broadcast, but the less said about that, the better.

There are 24 comments on Brian Heins interviewed by Rocket Beans TV and GameStar at Gamescom 2016

Divinity: Original Sin 2 announced for Early Access in September, reveals gameplay video at GameStar

Game News - posted by Bubbles on Sat 20 August 2016, 11:32:46

Tags: Divinity: Original Sin 2; Larian Studios; tier 1 journalism

Intrepid community member LESS T_T has spotted a short preview blurb about Original Sin 2 over at German magazine GameStar:

Das Preview-Video zeigt die Verbesserungen im zweiten Teil. Überarbeitet wurde unter anderem die Charakter-Erstellung und das Runden-Kampfsystem. Auch in die Story und Dialoge haben die Entwickler viel Arbeit gesteckt. Neu hinzugekommen ist der Arena-Modus in dem Spieler zu schnellen Matches gegeneinander antreten. Im September 2016 tritt das Spiel dann im Early-Access an.​

This paragraph can be faithfully translated as

This preview video shows the improvements in the second part. Character creation and the turn based combat system have been improved among other elements of the game. The developers have also invested a lot of work into the story and dialogues. One new addition is the arena mode, in which players compete against each other in quick matches. The game will then enter Early Access in September 2016.​


The corresponding in-game video shows lots of new information about the game and reiterates the September 2016 date:

We'll try to spot any other videos revealing the new footage and update this post accordingly.

Update: The RPG Watch confirms the Early Access news.

There are 34 comments on Divinity: Original Sin 2 announced for Early Access in September, reveals gameplay video at GameStar

Fri 19 August 2016
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided Launch Trailer and Reviews

Review - posted by Infinitron on Fri 19 August 2016, 21:06:19

Tags: Deus Ex: Mankind Divided; Eidos Montreal

Even though the game was at E3 this year, and now at Gamescom, Eidos Montreal haven't released a Deus Ex: Mankind Divided gameplay video of their own since June. Instead we got a stream of crappy TV spots, bizarre real-life bionic tie-ins, a Human Revolution plot recap, and other nonsense. Time flew, and now the game is just four days away from release. Eidos Montreal published the launch trailer yesterday, and the reviews started going out today. Here's the trailer and a list of reviews courtesy of GameBanshee:

IGN, 9.2/10.
Polygon, 8.5/10.
PC Gamer, 88/100.
GameSpot, 8/10.
Giant Bomb, 4/5.
Eurogamer, Recommended.
Trusted Reviews, 3/5.
Rock, Paper, Shotgun, scoreless.
TIME, 4.5/5.
Ars Technica, Buy.
Forbes, 8/10., 7/10.
The Telegraph, 4/5.
GameInformer, 7/10.
The Wrap, scoreless.
PCGamesN, 7/10.
USGamer, 4/5.
Push Square, 7/10.
Hardcore Gamer, 3/5.
The Sixth Axis, 9/10.
Twinfinite, 3.5/5.
God is a Geek, 9.0/10.
Digital Trends, 8.0/10.
Bit-Gamer, 90%.
BleedingCool, 8.7/10.
Xbox Achievements, 88/100.
The Verge, scoreless.
CGMagazine Online, 10/10.
Mirror, 5/5.
EGM Now, 8.5/10.
IBTimes, 4.5/5.
We Got This Covered, 3.5/5.​

As you can see, the reviews are generally positive but not overwhelmingly so. Many of the slightly less positive reviews cite issues with the game's storyline - too short and constrained, not interesting enough, even unfinished-feeling - as well as a lack of mechanical innovation. Gee EM, maybe if you hadn't spent the last five years making a crappy tablet spinoff, a crappier Thief reboot and a "challenge mode" nobody asked for, you would have had time to address those concerns. Oh well!

There are 161 comments on Deus Ex: Mankind Divided Launch Trailer and Reviews

Expeditions: Viking Gameplay Footage on Twitch's Gamescom 2016 Broadcast

Preview - posted by Infinitron on Fri 19 August 2016, 17:11:53

Tags: Expeditions: Viking; Logic Artists

The Expeditions: Viking crew are at Gamescom this week, and today they managed to grab a 15 minute slot on Twitch's broadcasting schedule. Presenting the game was Teemo Ashton, Logic Artists' community manager, a charismatic fellow who managed to handily dominate Twitch's obnoxious hosts. He had time to show about ten minutes of gameplay footage, while explaining the details of the game's historical background and describing some of its interesting features and quests. I'm particularly impressed by the ability to engage in non-lethal combat, with appropriately different quest outcomes, as well as the possibility to lose any battle and have the game go on, with appropriate consequences. Here's the archived stream:

I have to say, Expeditions: Viking looks better and better every time I see it. The Logic Artists have emerged somewhat unexpectedly as a potential top tier RPG developer, and more people ought to be paying attention. The game has a Steam page now, so update your wishlists.

There are 32 comments on Expeditions: Viking Gameplay Footage on Twitch's Gamescom 2016 Broadcast

South Park: The Fractured But Whole Gameplay Trailer and Footage

Preview - posted by Infinitron on Fri 19 August 2016, 15:06:42

Tags: South Park: The Fractured But Whole; Ubisoft

Ubisoft's upcoming superhero-themed South Park RPG sequel, South Park: The Fractured But Whole, made a surprisingly good impression on us at E3 back in June. It's had a minor presence at Gamescom this week as well, with a new trailer produced for the occasion along with a series of parodic ads for a tie-in product called the "Nosulus Rift", the functionality of which I'll let you figure out for yourselves. Here's the trailer:

They're calling it a "gameplay trailer", but as you can see it doesn't contain all that much gameplay, or anything else for that matter. Luckily, actual gameplay footage has been provided to a number of websites, such as PCGamesN, IGN, GameSpot and Polygon. You might also be interested in GameSpot's preview of the game, which reveals its unlikely RPG inspirations in an interview with one of the developers.

There are 6 comments on South Park: The Fractured But Whole Gameplay Trailer and Footage

Wed 17 August 2016
Brian Fargo interviewed by Rocket Beans TV and GameStar at Gamescom 2016

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Wed 17 August 2016, 21:49:01

Tags: Brian Fargo; InXile Entertainment; Torment: Tides of Numenera

As you've probably heard, Brian Fargo and the rest of his team are at Gamescom this week to promote Torment: Tides of Numenera under the auspices of their publisher, Techland. Two tier 1 sites, Rocket Beans TV and GameStar, published their interviews with Brian today. Both interview videos include snippets of gameplay footage from Torment's console version (featuring an authentically Tormentian radial menu!), apparently taken from a gameplay trailer that has yet to be released. The Rocket Beans interview is easily the better of the two, so that's what I'll embed here:

As for the interviews themselves, they're mostly familiar material. The most interesting takeaway is Brian's claim that the game will be 70-80 hours long - a far cry from earlier estimates that the game would be "shortish". I had a feeling that would happen. He also says that a typical playthrough will only see 60% of the game's content.

There are 129 comments on Brian Fargo interviewed by Rocket Beans TV and GameStar at Gamescom 2016

NieR: Automata Coming To PC in Early 2017

Game News - posted by Crooked Bee on Wed 17 August 2016, 17:10:31

Tags: NieR: Automata; PlatinumGames; Square Enix

It's been a while since there has been any worthwhile PC JRPG news, which is, of course, what I'm here for. Today, however, I have the best news - news of the year - for those of you who care not only about Gamescom or how we were put on inXile/Techland's black list.

Namely, NieR: Automata, the action-RPG sequel to the 2010 cult-classic NieR developed by Platinum Games, directed by Taro Yoko and published by Square Enix, has been confirmed as coming to PC (Steam) in addition to PS4 in "early 2017." This was apparently announced in IGN's Gamescom stream, but it's now on Facebook too. Here's the excerpt from the stream that concerns the PC announcement, featuring the ever masked Taro Yoko:

Gotta love how he's pronouncing "Valve". Here's a gif of the announcement, too.

You can also watch IGN's Gamescom interview with the team here. It also includes the latest trailer for the game.

There are 42 comments on NieR: Automata Coming To PC in Early 2017

Tyranny Intro Movie and Character Creation Preview + Dev Diary Video #1

Preview - posted by Infinitron on Wed 17 August 2016, 16:34:38

Tags: Brian Heins; Feargus Urquhart; Matt MacLean; Matthew Singh; Nick Carver; Obsidian Entertainment; Paradox Interactive; Tyranny

Today is the first day of the annual Gamescom trade fair in Cologne, Germany, and as it happens, one of the first games to be showcased there is Obsidian's upcoming RPG, Tyranny. A few hours ago, project director Brian Heins and systems designer Nick Carver were guests on Paradox's Gamescom livestream, where they gave us our first look at the game's intro movie and character creation sequence. Tyranny's character creation seems similar to Pillars of Eternity, but also different, compensating for the lack of race and class options with additional background and cosmetic choices. Unfortunately, the demo cuts off right before the most interesting-sounding part of character creation - the CYOA sequence where you define your character's choices prior to the beginning of the game's story. You can watch the entire thing here:

As an unexpected bonus, Paradox have also uploaded a Tyranny dev diary video to their YouTube channel, the first in a new series. It's a basic overview of the game's premise, featuring various Obsidian personnel. There's not really any new information here, but a good deal of new gameplay footage. Oh, and apparently Kyros the Overlord is female? Here's the video:

Hopefully we'll see more of Tyranny before Gamescom is over. I'm still holding out for a release date announcement, too.

There are 97 comments on Tyranny Intro Movie and Character Creation Preview + Dev Diary Video #1

Mon 15 August 2016
Tyranny Interview at GameBanshee

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Mon 15 August 2016, 00:53:34

Tags: Brian Heins; Obsidian Entertainment; Tyranny

Shortly after posting about the interview with the Tyranny writing team yesterday, I discovered that GameBanshee had posted their own interview with game director Brian Heins. It's pretty good, four pages long and with many questions about the game's more interesting and/or controversial aspects (although Brian's answers aren't always very satisfying). So to wrap up this weekend of Torment and Tyranny, I've decided to give it its own newspost. Here's a small excerpt:

GB: Tyranny is set in the transitional era between the bronze and the iron age of its fictional setting. How much will the setting be influenced by that period of our own planet's history, and how much will the presence of powerful magical forces and fantastical creatures make it diverge? How will that influence the plotlines and mechanics of the game?

Brian: Tyranny is a fantasy RPG rather than an historical RPG, so it’s influenced by this period in our history but doesn’t try to emulate it. I decided to set the game at this transition point for a couple of reasons.

First, it creates a plausible reason to explain why Kyros was able to conquer. Creating bronze weapons and armor was expensive. Often you had to trade with neighbors to get the metals needed to alloy bronze. It took skilled smiths to reliably mix the metals in the proper ratio to create bronze hard enough to serve as weapons and armor. Both of these meant that most nations could only afford to outfit a small number of soldiers with bronze weapons or armor.

Iron weapons had the advantage of only needing a single source of metal to create. Once people figured out how to smelt iron ore, it became much cheaper to outfit a larger number of soldiers. Early iron weapons weren’t better than bronze – they were often heavy and brittle. A bronze sword might bend or grow dull in combat, but it wouldn’t shatter. However, when you can outfit ten soldiers in iron for the cost of one soldier in bronze, you’re able to bring a much larger force to the field.

This was one of the things that allowed Kyros to conquer. The Overlord controls the secret of smelting iron ore, so has access to a cheaper source of weapons and armor, and can outfit a much larger army than any other nation that tried to resist.

Secondly, Bronze Age warfare was more up-close and brutal. There weren’t guns or firearms that allowed you to kill enemies from a distance. You fought at sword or spear-length, or hurled javelins from a shorter distance. For a world where evil won, I wanted to capture some of that feel in our combat.

GB: Will Tyranny feature random encounters with enemies, or will most combat encounters be deliberately placed within the game? Random or not, will enemies be static in regard to their level/power or have you incorporated level scaling into the game?

Brian: Combat will occur with placed enemies, as with Pillars of Eternity. Some combats can be avoided or modified through dialogue options, but we don’t have any random encounter systems in place. We had ideas for systems along those lines during development, but ended up cutting them when we didn’t have the time to bring them to an acceptable level of polish.

There is level scaling in the game. Tyranny has a more open, branching structure than Pillars of Eternity did, which means that there are many different ways for players to travel through the world. The same area needs to support players arriving at level 5 or level 10, and provide them with interesting and engaging combat when they do so.

Enemies will scale within a level range, and their level becomes fixed when they are revealed by fog of war. So if you see an enemy and they are level 5, then leave the area, gain several levels and come back, they won’t suddenly increase in level. They’ll still be at level 5. On a different playthrough, if you went to that same area for the first time at level 8, the enemies would be a higher level.

The goal with this scaling is to keep combat interesting and not something you can just ignore on difficulty settings beyond Story mode. So far from our playtests its working out very well.
Of note is that this interview confirms for the first time that Obsidian have upgraded to Unity 5 for Tyranny. Hopefully that will help with the loading times.

There are 56 comments on Tyranny Interview at GameBanshee

Sat 13 August 2016
Interview with the Tyranny Writing Team at Game Revolution

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Sat 13 August 2016, 18:10:44

Tags: Matt MacLean; Megan Starks; Obsidian Entertainment; Paul Kirsch; Robert Land; Tyranny

With Gamescom coming up fast, Paradox have begin to promote Tyranny more heavily. Yesterday, Game Revolution posted an interview with the game's entire writing team - Matt MacLean, Megan Starks, Paul Kirsch and Robert Land. And then they took it down for some reason, but now it's back. It's a nice look at the game's inspirations and sensibilities, with a few story tidbits as well. Here's an excerpt:

Matt Maclean, Lead Narrative Designer: The dark setting was one of the original pillars of the game’s design. ‘What if evil won?’ was the question asked in the earliest pitch documents. So ‘evil setting’ was an owner mandate from day one and as far as design constraints go, that’s a fun burden to have around your neck.

Our inspirations included The Black Company, the Fallout series of games (Obsidian created Fallout: New Vegas), and the ‘What if evil won?’ question was unavoidably read as ‘What if Sauron won?’ so there’s always a little Lord of the Rings in any modern fantasy, though I’m proud to say we don’t have elves or dwarves or a lovable midget race of any kind.

For my own interpretation of the question ‘What if evil won?’, I’ve always assumed the answer would be ‘sounds like real life.’ Evil wins when people learn (or are shaped by ignorance) to accept it as required and normal. So most of my own inspiration for Tyranny has come from real life. I’ve never read a book or seen a movie with a fictional villain as fascinating as Alan Dulles, Qin Shi Huang, or Kim Jong-Il.

GR: Did you take any ideas from books, games, or movies for this environment of evil winning? Which and how?

MacLean: The Black Company was very influential, with is an excellent show of a world wherein the cast of characters know the stories and myths of the magical bigwigs but are only semi-aware of how it all actually works. Black Company also had a great sense of soldiers-as-people and it didn’t fall into the brash-hero/peasant-savior nonsense that most fantasy novels can’t help but repeat to death.

Myth: The Fallen Lords was also a big influence, with its grim take on the true cost of being a hero. Myth was also inspired by Black Company, and like Myth, Tyranny features magical sociopaths with personality-driven powers set alongside grim, desperate regular folk trying their best not to die.

A world wherein there’s one big evil dude on top really only works when it’s sold with great big lies that get the average person invested in the evil (or just dependent upon it), instead of willing to resist it. And for evil to win long term, it also needs to be immune to self-implosion (since we’ve all read enough fantasy literature to know that evil defectors are involved in 9 out of 10 evil regicides). So with that in mind, I’ve found most of my inspiration comes from non-fiction: fascism, American exceptionalism, drug cartels, capitalist corporations, and militaries through the ages have all provided a great deal of inspiration as to how evil wins.

GR: Do you have a favorite faction to write about/for?

MacLean: My favorite faction to write was the Scarlet Chorus, mostly because it’s a faction of grumpy jerks and I’m a grumpy jerk, so it’s a perfect fit. More a lawless mob than a ‘proper’ army, the Scarlet Chorus is made up of folks forced to join or die, with the masses kept in check by aggressive gang leaders who rule as despots until they are challenged and dethroned. The folks in this bloody motley have to be rough, jaded, and darkly optimistic to make it through the day, so they’re all tinged with sass and deceit, and that’s far more fun than writing honest villagers.

Kirsch: The Disfavored and the Scarlet Chorus are fun for different reasons. As the most militaristic and viciously patriotic, it can be enjoyable to test the Disfavored’s limitations—what a soldier will do for their unit, how they balance their emotions and needs against the needs of the legion, and how their personality measures up to the expectations of the legion.

When it comes to the Scarlet Chorus, this is more fertile ground for creative exploration. No form of psychological manipulation, physical torture, or all-around weirdness is off the table when the Scarlet Chorus is concerned. We’re talking a Fury Road magnitude of diversity and strangeness. Since every gang has its own rules and twisted leadership structure, there isn’t what you’d call uniformity in any gang of Chorus rats.

GR: The short stories suggest there's more to these factions than just burning and pillaging. Will we learn their backstories in the game? And is this indicative of how the narrative and role-playing will run in Tyranny?

Kirsch: If you want to understand the armies of Kyros, there’s no better entry point than the soldiers and Archons. Talk to everyone, take the time to ask questions and figure out who these people are. Even the Chorus understand that their way of life is unsustainable, and that someday the survivors will have to pick up pitchforks and boat oars for their intended purposes. If you’ve explored every dialogue option, we’ll know that we’ve done our job.​

If you'd like to learn more about the Scarlet Chorus, a detailed description of that faction, including its various subgroups, was posted on GameSpot on Thursday. Interestingly, in the Game Revolution interview, Robert Land mentions an Archon character named Sirin (who apparently appears in a short story which hasn't been published yet), while the Scarlet Chorus description mentions a captive Archon of Song. I'm willing to bet that those two are the same person, probably the unknown female character who appears in the game's logo alongside the other Archons.

There are 169 comments on Interview with the Tyranny Writing Team at Game Revolution

Thu 11 August 2016
Swen Vincke and Chris Avellone talk Divinity: Original Sin 2 on The PC Gamer Show

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Thu 11 August 2016, 02:57:28

Tags: Chris Avellone; Divinity: Original Sin 2; Larian Studios; Swen Vincke

The first stop on Larian's Divinity: Original Sin 2 publicity tour was The PC Gamer Show, PC Gamer's weekly livestreamed podcast, which Swen Vincke and Chris Avellone were guests on earlier today. It was a casual chat about the game's features, writing and various other stuff. Most of the stream was actually about other topics - the Original Sin 2 part starts at around the 48 minute mark:

There weren't really any new details here, although I must say Chris is looking rather um, healthy. Swen did reveal in the Q&A segment that there's going to be an RPG Codex vs RPGWatch rematch, which was news to me. I guess we can an expect an email from Larian soon.

There are 79 comments on Swen Vincke and Chris Avellone talk Divinity: Original Sin 2 on The PC Gamer Show

Wed 10 August 2016
Tyranny Dev Diary #8: Companion Overview - Lantry

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Wed 10 August 2016, 18:32:01

Tags: Matt MacLean; Nick Carver; Obsidian Entertainment; Tyranny

This week's Tyranny development update was supposed to be about the game's setting, but apparently they didn't have time to write that. Instead, Obsidian have delivered another companion overview, describing Lantry, the elderly spellslinger from June's gameplay preview. Although he's a bit more flexible than that. I quote:

Lantry is a Sage of the School of Ink and Quill. He’s a man of letters and numbers, a student of magic and nature, and an archivist obsessed with the accurate accounting of important people and events. His school is famous throughout the Tiers for amassing knowledge from all throughout the known world, but the Sages are even more famous for rarely sharing this treasure trove of learning with outsiders, despite their claims of preserving knowledge for the betterment of mankind. The Sages revel in knowing a little bit about everything, and Lantry is no exception – in his long years he’s learned the Sage’s traditional Preservation magic, as well as the arts of Healing and Concealment – styles of magic long ago pilfered from other Schools and Guilds that the Sages now boast as their own.

His life’s work has been contributing to the Chronicle, the running archive-of-all-things built over the ages through the long work of hundreds of Sages. Lantry uses his arcane training to witness history where it happens, as it happens – for him, magic is a tool to gain access to the battlefields, backroom dealings, and hidden ceremonies that most have to read about after the fact. For Lantry and other Sages driven on this pursuit often seem to live very long lives – a fact most Sages will laugh away as the byproduct of loving your work, but is in truth the mystic side effect of decades of use and practice of Preservation magic.

As a student of history, Lantry has a certain adoration for Kyros, for no one has the power to define the unfolding march of events quite like the Overlord – nobody in recorded history even comes close. So when Kyros’ armies came to the Tiers, Lantry was one of the Sages to argue for surrender – but his was the dissenting voice among the elders, and the Sages fortified their library stronghold of the Vellum Citadel in defiance of the Overlord. Old enough to know a suicidal plan when he hears one, Lantry fled the Vellum Citadel before the full force of Kyros’ wrath descended upon the Sages, in the form of an Edict of Fire that turned the mountainous archive into lava-soaked ruin.

Combat Role

Lantry was designed to be an efficient support character and a “jack-of-all-trades” of sorts. Being a well experienced Sage and learned traveler, he is the only companion to possess three unique talent trees. While these paths of specialization are not as deep as with other companions, they allow Lantry to be far more diverse in the development of his abilities.

Lantry is also an experienced spellcaster, which further adds to the flexibility of his kit. While capable of performing a number of roles in the party very well, we expect many users to find Lantry’s ability to heal, buff, and support the party to be extremely valuable.

In Combat, Lantry is skilled at wielding thrown weapons. He favors a set of iron throwing knives etched to resemble writing quills.

When designing Lantry’s talent trees, we wanted players to really feel like Lantry could fill nearly any gap in the party structure. Lantry’s Preservation tree focuses on supporting the party from the back line by buffing allies with renewing magic, healing them, and even bringing them back from the brink of unconsciousness. His Sage tree excels at emphasizing the use of spells and abilities that debilitate foes to aid the party. Finally, Lantry’s Quill tree shifts him into a deadly offensive thrown weapon specialist.

Below are some of the abilities available to Lantry:

Charged Throw: Lantry gains the ability to passively channel magical energies into his Quill as he throws it. Charged Throw makes Lantry’s thrown critical hits trigger explosions of arcane energy, damaging all nearby enemies.

Quillstorm: Raising his hands to the sky, Lantry forms a writhing cloud of arcane quills. With a wave of his hand, each quill is sent raining over his enemies, cutting deep and causing a lasting Bleed effect.

Stance: Mage Slayer: Lantry’s knowledge of workings of magic have also taught him how to quell it. While in this stance, each of Lantry’s attacks can silence enemy spellcasters and apply a lasting penalty to their magical abilities.

Watcher’s Judgment: The wrath of a Sage brings with it many levels of magical debilitation. With Watcher’s Judgment Lantry can charge his weapon and unleash a burst of energy on impact. This attack severely diminishes the enemy’s defenses against magical attacks. If Lantry can perform this action from stealth, the enemy is also Paralyzed.

Renewal: Lantry uses Sage magic to restore the party’s weapons and armor to pristine condition, increasing the protectiveness of armor and the ability for weapon’s to penetrate enemy defense.

Second Breath: Producing a small vial from his garbs, Lantry moves to a fallen comrade to revive them in battle.

Lantry has the answer to nearly any problem. Abilities like Renewal and Second Breath are largely helpful and can sway the tide of battle or even help to find victory in the face of defeat. With so many options available to him, one of the greater challenges when playing Lantry is simply deciding which area of the battle he is needed most and how to get him there. While a well-timed Silence attack might prevent a powerful spell from being cast, there may also be an ally nearing defeat who could use healing. Positioning Lantry on the battlefield where he is both safe from danger and can respond to as many opportunities as possible is key to playing him effectively.

Through flexibility, support, and high impact decisions, Lantry is an invaluable companion and a boon to any party.
With this update, we've now learned about all three companions from the preview. We do know that there are at least two more. If they're going to introduce them all before the game's release, it looks like it probably won't be out before October.

There are 12 comments on Tyranny Dev Diary #8: Companion Overview - Lantry
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