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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's 2017 GOTY - VOTE NOW!

Community - posted by felipepepe on Sat 20 January 2018, 01:53:01

Tags: GOTY 2017

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It's that time of the year again!

The voting for the RPG Codex's 2017 GOTY is now open! This year we have over 80 entries, divided into three categories: RPG of the Year, Best Expansion and Best PC Port/Remaster.


Has Larian truly delivered with Divinity: Original Sin 2?
Has Piranha Bytes redeemed itself with ELEX?
What's the verdict on Torment: Tides of Numenera?
Was Mass Effect: Andromeda really that bad?
Was Grimoire worth the 20-year wait?
Does the Codex enjoy robot waifus?

We'll soon find out!

There are 180 comments on RPG Codex's 2017 GOTY - VOTE NOW!

Tue 23 January 2018
Matt Chat 395: Interview with Leonard Boyarsky, Part One

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Tue 23 January 2018, 02:18:22

Tags: Fallout; Interplay; Leonard Boyarsky; Matt Barton; Stonekeep

It's been nearly a year since Matt Barton interviewed somebody of interest to the Codex. Back in the day, there wasn't a month where one of his videos wasn't on our front page, but it seems like ran out of famous RPG developers to interview at some point. Luckily, recent developments in the industry have led to new interview opportunities. Namely, the departure of RPG demigod Leonard Boyarsky from Blizzard and the recent unveiling of his hopefully soon to be announced secret project at Obsidian. The first episode of Matt's interview with Leonard starts with some followup questions about his SINFO talk from last year. Topics of discussion include Leonard's educational background as an artist, some of the challenges he faced designing the art for Fallout, and his experience working on the beleaguered Stonekeep.

According to Leonard, he was fortunate to have found himself working in roles, first as a junior artist on Stonekeep with few responsibilities and later on Tim Cain's Fallout team, that insulated him from the turmoil that was rampant in Interplay in those days. As such, he has few horror stories to share about his experiences there, although perhaps that will change when Matt gets around to asking about the circumstances that led to his departure from Interplay.

There are 12 comments on Matt Chat 395: Interview with Leonard Boyarsky, Part One

Thu 18 January 2018
Underworld Ascendant PAX South 2018 Trailer, Gameplay Footage and Previews

Preview - posted by Infinitron on Thu 18 January 2018, 01:43:33

Tags: OtherSide Entertainment; Paul Neurath; Tim Stellmach; Underworld Ascendant; Warren Spector

The annual PAX South event in San Antonio took place this past weekend. Among the games that made an appearance there were Pillars of Eternity II, Divinity: Original Sin 2 and OtherSide Entertainment's Underworld Ascendant. Despite high expectations, so far nothing new has come out from there about the first two games, but OtherSide have come through for us. Today they published a new trailer for Ascendant, featuring gameplay footage from the latest internal build and narrated by the one and only Stephen Russell. The trailer is combined with what appear to be old recordings of Warren Spector, Paul Neurath and Tim Stellmach dating back to the Kickstarter, and it serves a kind of introduction to the game. Check out that new logo:

Simultaneously with the release of the trailer, several previews of Underworld Ascendant have appeared on the web. The most notable of these is a two and a half minute gameplay video at IGN. Narrated by Paul Neurath, it demonstrates some of Ascendant's diverse gameplay options, including a bit of fiery deep slug action:

There are also a couple of preview articles at The Verge and TechRaptor, and a brief interview with Paul Neurath on a YouTube channel called Dropthespotlight. The interview is interesting in that it features a rather candid admission by Paul that the game has strayed away from its originally planned RPG roots as development has progressed.

There are 34 comments on Underworld Ascendant PAX South 2018 Trailer, Gameplay Footage and Previews

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Wed 17 January 2018
Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones demo now on Steam

Game News - posted by Zed on Wed 17 January 2018, 18:25:34

Tags: Cultic Games; Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones

Brighten up your mid-week blues with the news of Free Entertainment! in the shape of a demo of Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones. You can download it from Steam by navigating your internet browser to the product page (or search for the game in the Steam client).

We have covered Stygian before, but here's a short blurb to refresh your memory of what it's about, plus a new gameplay trailer:

Delve into a role-playing game of horror, loss and madness set in the strange worlds of HP Lovecraft. Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones offers a mix of rich role-playing and turn-based tactical combat, represented in an illustrative visual style. Can you find salvation in a dead world?​

Thanks, catfood!

There are 38 comments on Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones demo now on Steam

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Thu 11 January 2018
Dark Souls Remastered Announced, Releases May 25th

Game News - posted by Zed on Thu 11 January 2018, 18:35:38

Tags: Dark Souls; From Software

Following a recent announcement that the original Dark Souls would be hitting the Nintendo Switch with a remaster version (who cares!), Bandai Namco has also announced their intention to release the remaster on the PC (in addition to other current gen consoles - who cares!).

Dark Souls Remastered comes with an upscaled 4k resolution and it seems like it will be capped at 60 FPS, even on PC. Other features include an expanded multiplayer (up to 6 players) with dedicated servers, and the DLC Artorias of the Abyss as a freebie.
It will be developed by From Software themselves, and not outsourced to a third-party developer. The release is slated for May 25th.

There are 85 comments on Dark Souls Remastered Announced, Releases May 25th

Wed 3 January 2018
Mask of the Betrayer Ten Year Anniversary Retrospective by George Ziets

Editorial - posted by Infinitron on Wed 3 January 2018, 02:29:09

Tags: George Ziets; Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer

This past September was the ten year anniversary of Obsidian Entertainment's Mask of the Betrayer expansion campaign for Neverwinter Nights 2. For most of the gaming world, it's an obscurity, an expansion for an underwhelming also-ran title that itself is barely remembered. But for a knowledgeable few, Mask of the Betrayer was the brightest spot in a dark era for the roleplaying genre, a masterpiece that many will argue has yet to be surpassed. The man most closely associated with Mask is its creative lead, George Ziets, who is now the lead designer of Wasteland 3 at inXile. In an unexpected end-of-year post on his rarely updated blog, George has penned a retrospective of the game's development, with the aim of explaining the factors that helped make it so great. Here's an excerpt:

It’s hard to believe that it’s been ten years since Mask of the Betrayer… actually, at the time I’m writing this (in the final days of 2017), the ten-year anniversary has just about passed. After all this time, Mask remains the most fun project I’ve ever worked on, and I wouldn’t want to let the moment go by without spilling a few secrets about why the game worked pretty well (while others didn’t).

Mask had the benefit of low expectations… and no external interference.

When “NX1” (Neverwinter Expansion 1) was first described to me, it was pitched as a simple hack-and-slash adventure. Neverwinter Nights 2 was expected to do reasonably well, and the expansion would be a quick, relatively low-cost way to provide a followup product to fans. (Expansions never sell as well as the original product, so their budgets are proportionately reduced.)

I was not particularly excited about making a hack-and-slasher, so I pushed back on that particular point. To the credit of our lead, Kevin Saunders, he allowed me to pursue a much more expansive vision that required more work and longer hours. (Our schedule was not going to change, but if we could get more work done in the same amount of time, we could deliver something grander. Of course, not every lead would have trusted their team enough to give them a shot.)

Also, because Mask was expected to be a simple hack-and-slasher, the publisher paid little attention to what we were doing. Effectively, we operated under most people’s radar. This was great because we were able to pursue a vision that was shared among the team and didn’t suffer from interference from outside.

As in any industry, outside interference is a reality of game development. Sometimes it works out fine, as when higher-ups are heavily invested in a franchise, understand the core vision, and give well-informed feedback that improves the product. But the more a publisher or executive is separated from the project, the more likely they’ll give direction that doesn’t strengthen the game.

Case in point. Years ago, when I was working on Earth & Beyond (a science fiction MMO) for EA-Westwood, executives would occasionally fly in from California to play the latest build of the game. On one of these visits, the executives decided that they didn’t like the existing story and wanted the main narrative to be focused on a war instead. This meant that the lead writer (not me) had to rewrite everything she had done so far. The resulting story was fine… but the massive change invalidated many of the quests that the team had already built. So with months left on the clock before release, we had to create all new material to replace what was lost, which meant that we didn’t have enough time to finish the rest of the content we had originally planned. When Earth & Beyond shipped, one of the biggest complaints was that we didn’t have enough quests and other things to do, a problem that could be traced directly to that outside interference.

Mask never had a problem like that. Everybody on the team knew the vision, it never changed (apart from minor improvements along the way), and our schedule played out as expected.

We were able to focus on quests and narrative… not new game systems.

Designing the core systems of a game has one thing in common with designing a story - it can take a lot of time and iteration to get it right. But unlike story design, systems design requires multiple people – designers to write documents defining the gameplay and programmers to implement those designs. Then they play and test… and iterate… over and over again until the gameplay feels fun. It can be a long and unpredictable process, and if you start designing levels and quests before that process is finished, you might have to redesign those levels and quests when the gameplay changes. I’ve seen many games run into problems because their gameplay isn’t finalized before the design team starts building levels.

And if the game systems are new, level designers may not know how to build fun content with the new systems. That’s why expansions are sometimes more fun than the original game. Over the course of development, the team has figured out what works and what doesn’t, and they can apply all those lessons to the expansion.

Dungeon Siege 3 is a great example of this. DS3 diverted from the standard gameplay of the previous Dungeon Siege games, and it took us a while to figure out how to make fun levels using the new systems. By the time we developed the expansion, we’d figured out the winning formula - but by then, most people had written off the game.

Mask of the Betrayer, on the other hand, had no new systems. The core design team (Eric Fenstermaker, Jeff Husges, Tony Evans, and I) had all designed levels, combat encounters, and quests for NWN2, and we knew what worked and what didn’t. Three of us (Eric, Jeff, and I) had shared an office. We didn’t have to worry about learning new tools or figuring out each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Instead, we could focus all our energy on creating great quests and narrative, and that gave us a big advantage.

We let the themes arise naturally.

Some writers will disagree with me here, but I’ve found that it’s better to avoid thinking about themes and deeper meanings until after your main story is written. On Mask, I didn’t write a “themes” document at first. I let the themes arise naturally from the work… as they almost always do. Your subconscious will seed your work with recurring ideas and motifs, and as long as you’re attentive to them, you can identify and reinforce them later.

For example, the most obvious thematic element in Mask – the idea of “masks” – didn’t appear until after I’d written the story and decided to set the game in Rashemen. I started to notice that masks – in various forms – were cropping up in the narrative I’d written, so I reinforced that element (in names, like “The Veil,” in dialogue references, in items, etc.) as I fleshed everything out. The title of the game didn’t appear until close to the end of development, when Kevin asked me to propose some names for the expansion. Until then, it was just “NX1.”

In my experience, starting narrative development with a theme – rather than a fun or emotional story hook – can lead to a story that feels preachy or emotionally empty. That may not be the case for everyone, but I do think it’s a harder road to tread.
I daresay there's a bit of shade being thrown here, especially in that last paragraph. George's lack of literary pretension might be surprising to some, but it does dovetail with his past confession that he was only trying to write a Baldur's Gate 2-like story and somehow ended up making something more reminiscent of Planescape: Torment instead. It'll be interesting to see if that method of design can work again.

There are 81 comments on Mask of the Betrayer Ten Year Anniversary Retrospective by George Ziets

Sat 30 December 2017
The New World Update #22: Faction Leaders Overview

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Sat 30 December 2017, 02:18:59

Tags: Colony Ship RPG; Iron Tower Studios; Vault Dweller

For what will likely be our final newspost for 2017, Vault Dweller has delivered another cool The New World development update. The update offers an overview of all of the faction leaders in the game's setting. We already had an update about the factions themselves last year, with additional "Freemen" factions mentioned in various updates since, and it's interesting to see how their concepts have evolved. The original faction list has been expanded and formalized, now consisting of three main factions, four lesser factions, and three armed mercenary gangs. Here are the leaders of those three main factions, whose descriptions tell us a lot about the recent history of the colony ship and what their respective faction quests might be about:

[​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]


When Silas Reis was promoted, he was handed the same unfulfilled mandate as every Commander before him: restore order. The meaning of this directive was simple: to exterminate the Brotherhood wherever they skulked, crawled or hid, and finally end the generations-long Mutiny. If Reis were to doubt the likelihood of carrying out this objective, he was careful never to acknowledge it. Defeatism is heresy, and heresy is punishable by death.

Every member of the Mission Control Council which appointed Reis could trace his lineage back to the original crew. Since these wise elders occupied a perch far above reproach, any failure in furthering the directive must lie with the Commander. Failure at this level was also punishable by death.

Silas’ mentor, Commander Matheson, had been eight years in the role before his execution at the Council's order. They gave no reason for their decision but it was widely believed Matheson had been too timid in his persecution of mutinous filth. Immediately after his promotion ceremony, Commander Reis began planning a major assault against the Brotherhood. Whether or not his tenure would end in execution, no one would call him timid.


Bill Hanson, the Chairman of the Brotherhood's Executive Council, has served longer in that position than anyone before him due to his deft handling of the Council itself - a nest of bickering, backstabbing vipers. They were a never-ending headache and more dangerous, in Bill's opinion, than their archenemies, those blowhard fools calling themselves the 'Protectors of the Mission'.

In order to keep their teeth off his throat so he could bloody think for a goddamned minute, Bill had orchestrated a few small victories for the Protectors. The rapid reversal of those victories proved that the Chairman was a necessary evil to keep people safe, and talk of removing him from power had finally died down.

Taking advantage of this tiny bit of breathing room, Chairman Hanson had established an understanding with the Protectors' Commander Matheson, which may have blossomed into a working relationship and - just imagine it - an end to the hostilities. Then one of the snakes on the Council got wind of it and scuttled the whole deal.

Matheson was executed shortly thereafter and the Protectors appointed Colonel Reis, a known straight-edge and all round git, in his place. To Bill's mind, this kind of instability and rapid change didn't bode well for anyone. As for the Councilman who got Bill's maybe-friend killed... well, if there's one thing he could not abide, it was a snitch.


Chaplain-General Abraham Davis had been chosen by God to battle the Devil aboard Starfarer and to deliver her crew from evil. It was at times a wearisome burden. Some of his flock questioned the Devil's very existence. Hadn't they left the Father of Lies behind on Earth? Weren't they flying away from sin, and through the heavens at that? But Davis knew better, for God had opened his eyes.

The Mutiny had not been made by man. It was one of the Devil's sideways deceptions, pushing folks to choose either Protectors or Brotherhood as their saviors when both were the Devil's guises, diversions from the true path.

A less experienced leader would have struck at once. The two groups had been weakened by their endless skirmishing. But to bring the Church into their conflict prematurely, to leave themselves vulnerable to a counterattack, would invite the infection of the enemy's lies. The Chaplain-General was no such fool. He knew that once the Devil has made his home inside your door, no military victory would save you.

Instead, Abraham would bide his time and watch the two deluded factions like a hunter scouting dangerous prey. He would learn the enemy's habits and weaknesses. Sooner or later the Devil will make a mistake and then Abraham will strike. Then will be revealed the power and fury of the Lord.
Other faction leaders covered in the update include Mother Pale Glow, leader of the ship's mutants who we've read about before, Ava Miller of the enigmatic House of Ecclesiastes that controls the ship's life support systems, Mayor Jonas of the Pit and Captain Braxton of the Regulators, who we've seen before, Carlos Maney of the Grangers, an all-new faction that controls the ship's Hydroponics sector, Moses Jackson of Jackson's Riflemen, who we've also read about before, and Thomas Stanton of Thy Brother's Keepers, who have been mentioned before. Some of them don't have portraits yet, but according to Vault Dweller they should be added in the next few days.

There are 85 comments on The New World Update #22: Faction Leaders Overview

Pathfinder: Kingmaker Stage 2 Alpha Test Released

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Sat 30 December 2017, 00:40:20

Tags: Owlcat Games; Pathfinder: Kingmaker

The initial release of the Pathfinder: Kingmaker backer alpha back in September was kept under NDA and so nobody ever saw anything of it, which was pretty dumb in my opinion. The new version of the alpha, which Owlcat call the "stage 2 alpha test" in the game's latest Kickstarter update, was released this week, and thankfully this time they've invited people to livestream it. Among said livestreamers is the Codex's resident radio show host and LPer Shane Stacks, who has already recorded two episodes of gameplay. The announcement email he received from Owlcat tells us a little bit about what the new version of the alpha contains, but it's best to just see for yourself:

Have you got what it takes to rule a kingdom? With the help of your advisors you take care of the affairs of your subjects and communicate with delegates of the neighboring kingdoms. But it's not just all politics! Trolls, bandits, and other dangerous beasts are threatening the lands and it is up to you to end their threat. Explore, engage in real-time strategic combat, discover treasure and ancient artifacts, and become the ruler of the Stolen Lands!

But you won't be undertaking this adventure alone – many companions will join you on your journey, lending their strength to yours. Together, you can conquer any foe and overcome the greatest challenges. And they're not just soulless puppets - like you, they have their own story, goals, and motivations! Talk to them, get to know them by the campfire during your adventures. Watch them become your loyal friends - or turn on you if you betray their trust.

You won't get the complete set of abilities and spells planned for the final release version. Here is a quick look at some of the things you can look forward to in the Alpha build:
  • A first look at the Kingdom feature - Kingdom events, councilor management
  • 20+ hours of playable content from the first 3 chapters of the game
  • 14 classes (including new ones - Inquisitor, Magus, Monk, Paladin, Sorcerer, Druid, Bard)
  • All six core races (dwarves, elves, gnomes, half-orcs, halflings, humans)
  • Meet 3 new companions, who will join you on your adventure, including Nok-Nok designed by Chris Avellone
  • Raise your party to level 10 and choose new abilities and spells as your heroes get ever more powerful
  • Use a wide selection of spells for each spellcasting class up to character level 10, with more to come in the final release
  • Master feat chains like Two-Weapon-Fighting or Spell Focus
  • Fight a variety of creatures in the Stolen Lands as well as challenging boss battles
  • Overcome dangerous traps as you explore the Stolen Lands and their deadly dungeons
So, what are you waiting for? Golarion awaits!
In other news, our $4000+ pledge to the Kingmaker crowdfunding campaign means we get to help design a quest in the game, and apparently it's now in an advanced enough stage of development that Owlcat want to know our idea. Unfortunately we have no idea what our idea is, so if you like what you see in these videos, feel free to suggest something here.

There are 51 comments on Pathfinder: Kingmaker Stage 2 Alpha Test Released

Mon 25 December 2017
Copper Dreams Kickstarter Update #17: Gameplay Video, Block 24 Alpha Coming In February

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Mon 25 December 2017, 00:56:40

Tags: Copper Dreams; Whalenought Studios

Whalenought Studios have published an end-of-year Copper Dreams Kickstarter update to announce that the game's alpha test is now scheduled for release in February. The alpha will involve a raid on a location called Block 24, a syndicate stronghold crawling with hostile agents. It's not entirely clear, but it sounds like the release will actually consist of several versions of the mission, each one aiming to test a different aspect of the game corresponding to its core design principles. Joe and Hannah have put together a new gameplay video showcasing some of the features we'll get to play with. The graphics still need work, but there's a lot of cool stuff here:

We’re working around the clock to get a build ready for you all, so expect some news on that final date shortly. For $35+ backers, we'll be sending out information about getting a key in late January. Everyone else, expect your beta keys in the next couple months!

The alpha build will have some varying options for you test out a raid on Block 24, a syndicate stronghold full of petrified civilians and hostile agents. There will be a normal, mission-oriented version, as well as more mechanics-focused ones to mess around with in the playground-like map:
  • Golden-gun mode for one-hit kills
  • Don't get caught mode
  • Machine-gun mode
  • A few super secret modes to unlock if you beat previous modes
They should give a range of options to test for balancing and how things feel. We'll be mainly looking for feedback on our 3 vertical slice tests, which we'll describe below. After further iteration on the alpha-mission with your feedback, our next milestone is updating the build of the game with the first of the main campaign maps to check out, which we’ll just be doing in chunks.

1 — Visualizing step-by-step actions within turns

Goal: The entire game-world is built with turns that are visualized with ticks (.25 sec intervals in gameplay). In combat your individual actions take a certain amount of time, and then dictate when your world stops for another turn.

Execution: Play cat and mouse noise with an enemy combatant with turns, get into a firefight, and then lose enemy and have them return to patrolling. This has most of these mechanics that can be telegraphed easily with in-game notifiers and the tick display.

2 — Gameplay impactful damage and resources

Goal: Character damage should encourage a change of tactics, and be mechanically as profound as the damage. This needs to be done in a fun way, not to impede gameplay.

Execution: Attacking an enemy in the legs results in slowing their move speed. Attacking in the arms reduces aim quality, attacking in head lowers sight and hearing. Enemies will react to this and change tactics appropriately.

3 — Accessible environments, movement, and tools

Goal: Moving around the world needs to be simple and intuitive and not require any hand-eye coordination. The interface bar needs to give easy access to any available player skills equally, to establish an equal importance between them during gameplay. Sensory mechanics for both NPCs and the player need to be easily visualized within the 3d maps and with height.

Execution: A combination of auto-movement changes and manual toggles to navigate around an environment by running, walking, and sneaking, then climbing, jumping across a gap, crawling through a vent, ascending a ladder, swimming, manually jumping over a trap, and then manually opening and closing a door. Get every skill a player can put character points in within a click away on a uniform dock-like interface.
The update also has a section about Whalenought's ongoing work creating Copper Dreams' distinctive character model faces, including backer faces. There will be a variety of visual modifiers for character faces. For example, if your character is a veteran of "Ci-War 2000", his face will be scarred.

There are 17 comments on Copper Dreams Kickstarter Update #17: Gameplay Video, Block 24 Alpha Coming In February

Sat 23 December 2017
Druidstone Christmas Mega-Update

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Sat 23 December 2017, 20:24:02

Tags: Ctrl Alt Ninja; Druidstone: The Secret of the Menhir Forest

The next title to get an end-of-year update is Druidstone, the upcoming turn-based RPG from the former Grimrock developers at Ctrl Alt Ninja. They're calling it a "Christmas mega-update", although it's not really all that big. The new update introduces Druidstone's level editor, which seems quite powerful and is more evidence of the game's evolution away from its procedurally generated beginnings. The update also includes a few concept arts and screenshots, revealing new monsters and environments. Here's an excerpt:

[​IMG] [​IMG]

Ho ho ho! Welcome to the Druidstone development MEGA-UPDATE! As they say, time flies when you’re having fun, but it’s still hard to believe three months(!) have passed since the last blog update. So what have been up to lately? Well, many things, glad you asked!

For instance, we now have a full fledged level editor, which allows us to make much more detailed levels. A year ago, when the game design was more heavily oriented towards procedurally generated content, we thought that we would not need a level editor at all. The levels were supposed to be mostly generated with some manually crafted rooms thrown in. But as development progressed, we felt the need to make more and more hand crafted locations and the need for a proper level editor arose. We will still keep adding new features to the editor, but as it is now, it’s ready for some prime time and we can start making new content with it.

Some highlights of the Druidstone editor:

– Seamless integration to the game, so we can start playing the edited level immediately by pressing a button, and also summon up the editor whenever we’re playing the game.

– Tools for quickly painting objects, e.g. trees, plants, grass, on the ground with mouse strokes.

– Heightmap and texture painting tools, including configurable brushes and smoothing.

– Compared to the editor we made for Legend of Grimrock, everything is now much more wysiwyg (what-you-see-is-what-you-get). For example, with the Grimrock editor you couldn’t see the effect of painting dungeon walls on the grid unless you hit the play button. Now we can just paint the walls and you immediately see them.

– Multi-level undo/redo. Pretty basic thing but nonetheless crucial to have.

Apart from the editor we also have made a bunch of new monsters, some of which have been featured in our Twitter feed. Here’s the screenshot of the Basilisk and some others behind the scenes material, in case you have missed them. We’ll probably keep updating Facebook and Twitter more frequently than this blog, so if you’re not already following us on social media and have been missing our updates, you know what to do.

Oh, and talking about the new content, check out that new location and environment set above that we have been working on. It brings to the game much needed variation to the summery forests and dungeons you have been so far. And as I write this, Juho is already working on yet another completely new environment, which we’ll feature later as the work progresses. As you can probably guess from the screenshot, the world of Druidstone, the Menhir Forest is a magical place with several different kinds of areas with unique feel to them.​

Also featured in the update is a short sample from Druidstone's battle music. And finally, there's the news that the game now has a fourth playable character (which I guess is Ctrl Alt Ninja's term for "companion NPC") who is particularly unique, though apparently they're not ready to show him yet. Next year, then!

There are 15 comments on Druidstone Christmas Mega-Update

Bard's Tale IV Kickstarter Update #40: End of Year Status Update

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Sat 23 December 2017, 00:37:18

Tags: Bard's Tale IV; Chris Keenan; David Rogers; Greg Underwood; InXile Entertainment; Paul Marzagalli

Bard's Tale IV also got an end-of-year Kickstarter update today. It's a kind of variety pack from different members of the development team. It starts with a production status update from inXile VP Chris Keenan, who reports that the game is now feature-complete, and apparently also content-complete enough that inXile have begun working on backer content. Lead Systems Designer-turned-Creative Director David Rogers informs us that the winner of the class archetype survey from the previous update is unsurprisingly the Bard archetype, to be described in the next update. And Senior Programmer Greg Underwood announces his intention to tell us about his implementation of the iconic Magic Mouths, also in the next update. I'll post an excerpt, but first a couple of new screenshots:

[​IMG] [​IMG]

Season's Greetings, citizens of Caith! Chris Keenan, VP of Development, here to provide a status update on the production of The Bard’s Tale IV.

As you have seen in our previous updates featuring puzzle weapons, grid based movement, classes, etc., the Bard's Tale is hitting and passing a major critical milestone of all features and sub-features being completed and implemented into the game. Most of the elements of the game are built and where they need to be.

Now we are at the fun part of getting a feel for the game in its entirety, and most importantly in 2018 we are upping our QA efforts to minimize all blocker bugs, hangs, and crashes. We are proud to say that we wanted to get all community backer content into the game as soon as possible, and have been aggressively tackling everything from backer items, to item descriptions, to modeling our barfly heads! This also includes our stretch goal promises, and we continue to deliver those items as production rolls along. Furthermore, to our other backer promises, key team members are now focused designing our physical goods. Paul Marzagalli has done excellent job of collecting everyone’s information and bridging the gap of backers’ requests with our production team.

I am very excited about these upcoming months. This is the best part of game development: furthering the “fun factor." We have all our puzzle systems in, we're polishing the core combat loop, we've turned a corner, and now we're just playing the game and making it more fun. Lastly, with this year-end update, the team wanted to provide some new "stocking stuffers", give a look ahead to what you can expect for both backer updates and the game itself, and to get all of you as excited about 2018 as we are!

The Voters Have Spoken! Our Archetype Winner Is....

Hello backers, David back again to announce the winner of our Pick An Archetype contest. The winner was both surprising and yet totally expected: The Bard!

The Bard is perhaps the most versatile archetype in the game. The Bard has access to most of the melee weapon types, can access light or medium armor allowing them to gear towards strength or constitution builds, and the Bard’s magical boozes grant some on-the-fly versatility.

Within this archetype you can specialize into the following classes: the enemy-controlling Troubadour, the damage-bolstering Rabble Rouser, the aura-generating War Chanter, the resource-enhancing Minstrel, the nimble and lethal Jester, and the magical booze-concocting Brew Master.

In our next update, we’ll discuss not one but two of the Bard’s classes: the Rabble Rouser and Brew Master. We’ll explore the cool abilities and passives they provide and show you some examples of each in action.
In a podcast interview earlier this month, Brian Fargo announced that a major Bard's Tale IV gameplay trailer would be published in January, and the update confirms that. inXile have also launched another survey to determine which class archetype (Fighter, Practitioner or Rogue) to showcase after the Bard. It looks like things will be revving up next year.

There are 21 comments on Bard's Tale IV Kickstarter Update #40: End of Year Status Update

Fri 22 December 2017
Pillars of Eternity II Fig Update #43: Year in Review, Backer Beta Update 1 Released

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Fri 22 December 2017, 23:05:03

Tags: Katrina Garsten; Obsidian Entertainment; Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire

The next game to receive an end-of-year development update is Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire. The new update coincides with the release of a new backer beta version yesterday. The accompanying video, featuring as usual the affable Katrina Garsten, starts out with a summary of the year's previous updates, but quickly moves on to a description of the major changes introduced to the beta. You'll be familiar with those if you've read our newsposts about the past month's Q&A streams, but this is a much easier watch. Plus there's a fun bonus feature in the last three minutes.

Pillars of Eternity II will be at PAX South next month, on January 12-14. It's still unclear when exactly the game is coming out next year, but if we see some new content there that isn't part of the beta, perhaps we'll know it isn't far off.

There are 5 comments on Pillars of Eternity II Fig Update #43: Year in Review, Backer Beta Update 1 Released

Thu 21 December 2017
No Truce With The Furies Christmas 2017 Teaser Trailer

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Thu 21 December 2017, 17:18:55

Tags: No Truce With The Furies; ZA/UM

The last time we posted about No Truce With The Furies was back in March, when the game's publisher arranged for a live gameplay broadcast at PAX East. It seemed then that ZA/UM's unusual RPG might be released this year as planned, but clearly that's not going to be the case. With the year coming to an end, the developers have put together a new X-mas '17 teaser trailer confirming that the game will be coming out sometime in 2018. Besides offering us our first new look at the game since PAX East, it also features some sick new music from British Sea Power. Check it out:

No Truce With The Furies has had a store page on Steam since May. It's got a new tagline as well - "Isometric RPG meets cop-show" - which doesn't really capture the game's weirdness either but at least is less confusing than "police procedural". The Steam page now appears to proclaim that "No Truce With Furies" itself is only a working title, so expect more changes I guess. Hopefully we'll see more of the game soon after the holidays.

There are 55 comments on No Truce With The Furies Christmas 2017 Teaser Trailer

Exclusive Reveal: Realms Beyond, an upcoming fantasy RPG from the developers of Chaos Chronicles

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Thu 21 December 2017, 02:45:28

Tags: Ceres Games; Chaos Chronicles; Realms Beyond

With the release of Demons Age earlier this month, I declared that the Chaos Chronicles saga had finally reached a sad end. It turns I may have been too hasty. You might be aware that Peter "Hobgoblin42" Ohlmann, lead developer on Chaos Chronicles, left his job at SpellfForce 3 studio Grimlore Games last August, with plans to work on a mysterious indie RPG pet project on a full-time basis. Today he and his team, who call themselves Ceres Games and include our very own JarlFrank among their ranks, are finally ready to reveal their game to the world. I'm very happy to introduce Realms Beyond, a classical turn-based fantasy RPG based on Wizards of the Coast's Open Gaming License. That's right, it's Chaos Chronicles reborn. Behold:

Realms Beyond is a classically inspired fantasy role-playing computer game with turn-based combat and a party system that allows you to control up to six characters at any one time. Whether you yearn for an open world to explore at your own pace, tactical combat that allows you to plan your moves carefully, or want to lose yourself in the rich fabric of our world, trying to survive and make your mark, Realms Beyond offers endless choices, lands to travel, monster-infested dungeons and a host of storylines to follow. Adapting and responding to the player’s interactions with the world, you will find a depth and richness for your adventures that combines the very best of traditional gameplay with modern-day technologies. The result is a game world that comes alive, brimming with undiscovered stories, content, mysteries, and challenges.

Key Features:
  • Turn-based combat, featuring many favorite spells, feats and actions, based on rules described in the (3.5e) Revised System Reference Document (SRD) covered by the Open Game License v1.0a (OGL) by Wizards of the Coast, Inc
  • Custom-built, isometric graphic engine that combines zoomable 2D and 3D technology to bring to the screen a never-before-seen amount of detail
  • A bustling open world, spanning entire continents, replete with believable NPCs, complex cultures, factions, societies and a fascinating history
  • Create a party of up to six characters, with customizable appearance, ranging from 7 different races and 8 different classes
  • More than one hundred spells, each with unique, stunning visual effects
  • Thousands of individual items to use and interact with
  • An epic storyline, massive quests, uncounted missions, hordes of monsters and a world that is steeped in lore and mystery
  • Create your own adventures, campaigns or even entire worlds using the UrWelt RPG Engine framework
Platform: PC Windows

Planned Release Date: 2019
Additional details, screenshots, videos and more are available at Realms Beyond's official website. Hurrah!

There are 117 comments on Exclusive Reveal: Realms Beyond, an upcoming fantasy RPG from the developers of Chaos Chronicles

Underworld Ascendant Update #41: End of Year Update

Development Info - posted by Infinitron on Thu 21 December 2017, 02:09:51

Tags: OtherSide Entertainment; Underworld Ascendant

Nearly three years after its Kickstarter, Underworld Ascendant finally feels like a game that's in full-scale production. Shortly after last month's update, OtherSide's community manager Sam Luangkhot began publishing weekly mini-updates on their forums, and earlier this month the team had their second developer roundtable session (partial transcript available here) with more on the way. In short Ascendant has come a long way, and so OtherSide have decided to end 2017 with an interesting monthly update summarizing all the progress they made this year. I quote:

As this year draws to a close, we’d like to thank all of you again for your support as we continue to work on Underworld Ascendant.

We started the beginning of the year working on our first area, the ‘Trial of Ishtass,’ which was used to make sure that the main core systems of the game were functional. There were three main goals we wanted to get right: player skills, world interaction, and the look and feel of the environment.

For combat, we made sure our movement skills were all working, and that the player could swing a sword and block, and to make bows functional. The AI was stood up to be able to ‘see’ the player and have some basic interaction with them. Combat in general has been a constant challenge. UA is not a fighting simulator, but we still want combat to feel good. For example, we spent a lot of time discussing how we wanted the sword swing to work, something that is seemingly mundane and straightforward (it’s not). Should it be fast? Slow? Movement based? What we didn’t want was a ‘chopping the tree’ simulator.

Over the year, we proved out the basics. Combat has been constantly tweaked on the AI side, and problems like timing and distance have been tuned. Where we haven’t spent time until recently was expanding out the player’s moves in combat. Over the next couple of months that will all come online, and I’m sure cause some more adjustments to the AI and creatures.

If you remember, one of the two creatures that was shown in the beginning of the year was the Lizardman. He could shoot a bow or use a sword. He was ok, but did not match the look and feel we were looking for, so he was sent back to the creature factory for some adjustments. The new and improved Lizardmen will be coming to the Abyss really soon.

Over the summer, we introduced our Skeletons and were able to use their more humanoid models to prototype a whole bunch of other behaviors for other bipedal creatures. Some of the more exotic creatures were tested out using some VFX or other models that were approximately similar. This has set us up so that when the real creatures make it in from the art team, we already have the basic groundwork for their behavior and in some cases animation, and we can get to tuning them all that much faster.

Stealth at the beginning of the year was simple. If hidden, the AI didn’t see you. If they did, they saw you forever. It was truly binary. Now it is a bit more complex. Creatures can see or hear you all based on your skills. If they do detect you, you can hide, and they will eventually forget about you. We have fooled with how many alert states they have, and how easily it is to fool them, and how easy it is to get seen. Some of the main factors of stealth are about creature behavior based on alertness and distance. It is pretty easy to make Capt. Omnipotent or Capt. Oblivious. The trick is to get it to feel… juuuuust right. Recently it is getting better, and with more interesting tools to play with, and the AI getting smarter about world states (like boxes making noise, for example), it should play very well soon.

Magic started the year with Repulse, Slow Time (“Prolong”) and Gravitate. Repulse basically was part shield and part physics-push-object. Repulse could push other rigid bodies around the world and also reflect projectiles back at their users. Slow Time well, slowed time. You could dodge an arrow, or take more time to do some other action before the time bubble burst. Gravitate would gravitate a number of objects and attempt to line them up.

What we quickly learned is Repulse needed to be simplified. In our enthusiasm, we sometimes over-design systems. That was the case with Repulse. The original idea was a shield, but in our excitement, we started amping up the secondary effect of being able to push objects. Sometimes you follow the interesting idea down the rabbit hole, but in this case, we backed off and kept it as a defensive spell for the most part. You can still use the push ability to great effect, especially around ledges over bottomless pits.

Gravitate started as a ‘hey look I can move a thing from a distance’ into a much more interesting and robust skill. We like the idea of magic being ‘smart’ about what it is doing, so we had Gravitatenot only grab multiple objects, but then attempt to rearrange them into something useful. The obvious thing to do was to make a bridge out of crates. That led to Gravitating on a bunch of burning crates and bashing enemies with them, which incidentally doesn’t get old and does a ton of damage.

We have since fleshed out the magic system and are testing it to see what kind of fun we can have with it. We have finally added some purely offensive spells – as “purely” as an OtherSide game can be anyway. Of course, we are already seeing other ways to use spells than originally intended.

Setting up the world has been its own adventure. From tweaking the art style in both world and creature design, to letting loose the level designers, the Abyss is starting to feel like a place. Amazing to think just a few months ago we had a single space to play around in. That is no longer the case. Art and design are in a good spot with helping each other out, and having gameplay and challenges work well with the look and feel of a space. It’s not as easy as it sounds.

With interactivity as the centerpiece of the game, we have been spending the bulk of our time on our core interaction tools: player skills and the systems the player can interact with. We try to break down into the smallest bits on what we want to allow the player to do, like play with physics, manipulate the AI, playing with light and darkness as some examples. The player skills, the AI and the world objects need to take these interactions into account. It can quickly become a nasty web. I don’t want to give away too much on some of the interesting ideas that we have been working on since some of them will be core to the game, and some others you are going to have to discover on your own.

Beyond the core of what we were doing all those months ago, we have also been forging ahead in everything that supports the core game. From the UI, to the sound FX and the Visual wizbang we are starting to put in, it really is looking like a game.
The full update also has some screenshots that demonstrate the game's progress over the course of year, and a few anecdotes about the various amusing bugs that OtherSide have run into during development.

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Fri 15 December 2017
Leonard Boyarsky Mega-Interview at PCGamesN

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Fri 15 December 2017, 23:14:18

Tags: Arcanum: of Steamworks and Magick Obscura; Blizzard Entertainment; Diablo III; Diablo III: Reaper of Souls; Leonard Boyarsky; Obsidian Entertainment; Temple of Elemental Evil; Troika Games; Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines

Following on the heels of the semi-reveal of Obsidian's new project with Take-Two Interactive, PCGamesN have published a very extensive interview with co-game director Leonard Boyarsky. The interview covers three eras of Leonard's career - the Troika years, his decade at Blizzard working on Diablo III and its expansion, and his return to RPG development at Obsidian. He's not allowed to talk about the new game yet, but there are some interesting anecdotes here, a few of which might tell you something about his current frame of mind. Here's an excerpt:

And, of course, you were making nice and simple games, nothing too big, nothing too ambitious...

Yeah, we didn't do things where you could do anything you could ever possibly imagine, that was probably not in the timeframe of any realistic budget or anything [laughs]. Even though I feel like we could have got a lot more QA for all three of our games, especially Arcanum. I think [that] was a game where I'm not sure any reasonable person would have put in the amount of money and time needed to successfully test that game with all the permutations we put in there.

We virtually let you do anything. If you're a Dwarf, you immediately get penalised if you try to use magic, vice versa with Elves and technology. Which made [it possible to make] non-viable characters, but we were like 'oh it's so cool, people will love playing this!'. If we went back and did it now, we [could] say it was a racial thing [where] Dwarves are not able to use magic [and] cut out some of those things that were not viable builds, save ourselves a lot of headaches and still pretty much have the same game. Just things you realise in hindsight.

You think you could have found a spot along the curve where you weren't sacrificing too much, but you have a game that's a lot easier to make and test?

I think in a lot of ways it would still seem like the same game. I don't think you'd know we made that [other] version if you didn't know it existed. I don't think people would think it was any less reactive than it ended up being. You can present it in such a way that, of course, they can't do this, y'know? For both Arcanum and Temple we were just the victims of our own ambition, optimism, and enthusiasm. Tim has talked about it at length. I wasn't really involved beyond the contract phase of Temple, but 3.5 came out halfway through development, and Atari's like 'well why don't you put 3.5 in?'. We're like, 'well, can we have extra time?', and they're like 'no’.

Why don't you just... change everything?

Yeah, I think we ended up getting another month or two but it definitely wasn't as much time as we needed or asked for. Instead of us going 'welp, then you can't have it', we're like 'we can do it!'. Which was our failing every time, we want to do something extremely difficult that's gonna take extra time, we'll do it, we can do it, we'll stay extra. I mean I spent most of Troika's existence at work. Night time, weekends, I was there pretty much all the time. There were times we weren't but especially when we got into Vampire it was just crazy. It was crunch for something like two-and-a-half years, some insane amount of time.

There have been some rumblings of a game after Vampire being developed at Troika, is there anything you can talk about on that? Is it even true?

We did a bunch of pitch documents. We did a demo for what was a post-apocalyptic game, but all we had was some concept art and the engine demo. We had not really put a lot of design into it, we were just hoping that we could shop that around and people could see the promise there. We were fairly early in the development, that eventually leaked, but still no-one was interested in it. We weren't too upset it was out there.

We did actually make, I forget how far we got, we made I believe a workable prototype of one small little area that was like a Werewolf version [of Vampire]. We made a game where you could turn into a Werewolf or you could be a Werewolf, but it was only one small area using a lot of the assets if not all the assets from Vampire.

A lot of conversations with publishers, a lot of pitch documents. The one people ask about mostly is the post-apocalyptic one - what you see in those videos out there is what it was. There was no grand... I did a concept piece and I think we had a very, very basic pitch that's in a box somewhere at my house. I believe me and Tim and Jason all have copies of it, I could dig it up but I do not remember virtually anything about it. It was almost Thundarr the Barbarian-esque. Magic came into the world after the apocalypse - it was one of those things. It was like Conan with dark magic as you're running around giant ruined freeways and buildings.

Every game I've worked on in my entire career you start with a design and the game changes a lot from your original vision as you're making it. That happened even with Fallout, Arcanum had a bit of that [too]. So even though we had an original pitch for that post-apocalyptic game, I feel like it was barely the kernel of an idea. We would have taken a very specific direction, we liked to have a very tangible vibe and direction for the game, and I feel like that was very very early - we hadn't really solidified what that was going to be.

You're at Obsidian but you're also back with the people you worked with before - but there was a ten year gap in there. Was it like going back to the way things used to be or is there stuff that has changed for the better?

Yeah. Obsidian has this fantastic dialogue writing tool that is just great. We were writing dialogues in Excel, literally, on Arcanum and Vampire. They have processes that have been in place for years and years and years that we never got a chance to do at Troika. It's not to say that I didn't learn a lot of valuable stuff at Blizzard. Working with a whole different set of people.

At Troika, and when we were working on Fallout at Interplay, and probably at the beginning of Obsidian, they would have said the same thing, we were maybe a bit myopically focused on hardcore RPGs. Over the course of the past ten years or so, working with other people and talking with people who are passionate about games but maybe not the same games that I'm passionate about, really gives you a different insight into things and you learn different ways of looking at games, and different ways to accomplish the same goals.

Some things you look at you're like 'yeah, I wouldn't do it that way' and some things you're like 'I never would have thought of that, that's a really good idea’. So, in a way, when I say it's like coming home it's not like nothing has changed, but the big thing is working on another game that's really, really focused on the story and the way you play the story. [That's] the thing I love and the thing that felt like coming home more than anything.​

Read the whole thing, it's good stuff. Apparently Matt Barton is going to publish an interview with Leonard in the near future as well. Now that the news about Project Indiana is officially out there, hopefully information about it will start to trickle out.

There are 167 comments on Leonard Boyarsky Mega-Interview at PCGamesN

Pillars of Eternity II Q&A Streams #9 and #10

Development Info - posted by Infinitron on Fri 15 December 2017, 22:30:52

Tags: Aarik Dorobiala; Brian Heins; J.E. Sawyer; Nick Carver; Obsidian Entertainment; Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire

Two weeks ago, Josh Sawyer and Brian Heins ran a Pillars of Eternity II Q&A stream to answer questions about the recently released backer beta. It looks like Josh spent so much time responding to questions about mechanics changes that Obsidian had to run another stream the following week to finish covering the topic they had originally meant to discuss, which was showcasing various multiclassing options. For the first time ever Josh was absent, replaced by systems designer Nick Carver.

But that wasn't very interesting compared to this week's stream, where Josh and Brian returned once more to give us our first look at the upcoming next version of the beta. Josh demonstrated many of the changes he announced on Twitter last month, including the addition of more spell selection opportunities for Priests and more grimoires for Wizards, and the replacement of Might with Strength. He also revealed previously unseen features for the first time, such as the game's new Dragon Age-like character AI customization system (which even allows sharing AI script files like the Infinity Engine games) and the much-demanded walk toggle. Other topics discussed include traps, penetration, recovery time, and the return of grazing.

It's a pretty important stream for Pillars of Eternity II beta testers. Unfortunately it looks like Fereed from Reddit hasn't come around with a transcript this time. The new beta version itself will hopefully be released in the not-too-distant future. According to Josh, it was almost released this week but for some last minute issues.

There are 3 comments on Pillars of Eternity II Q&A Streams #9 and #10

Thu 14 December 2017
Tim Cain and Leonard Boyarsky's new game at Obsidian is being published by Take-Two Interactive

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Thu 14 December 2017, 19:14:14

Tags: Leonard Boyarsky; Obsidian Entertainment; Private Division; Take-Two Interactive; Tim Cain

The publisher Take-Two Interactive, parent company of 2K Games and Rockstar Games, has never been involved with RPGs before. That changes today with their announcement of the formation of Private Division, a "publishing label" for titles from independent studios. And what do you know, one of those titles is none other than Tim Cain and Leonard Boyarsky's unannounced secret project at Obsidian, known internally as Project Indiana. Tim and Leonard both appear in Private Division's swanky announcement video, along with level designer Dini McMurry:

Obsidian aren't ready to properly announce the game yet, but there are a few quotes about it from Tim and Leonard in an accompanying feature article about Private Division over at Game Informer:

Studio Partner: Obsidian Entertainment
Game: Unannounced RPG

The role-playing veterans at Obsidian are using their Private Division partnership to reunite original Fallout creators Tim Cain and Leonard Boyarsky for a new game set in a new universe.

“It was the opportunity to work with Tim on a new IP that we were creating from scratch again, because we did it on Fallout and Arcanum and those were great experiences and I just missed doing that, says Boyarsky, who most recently worked on Diablo III for Blizzard. “I missed working on single-player, in-depth RPGs with a lot of choice, consequence, and reactivity. I like making other types of games, but there is something special about the kind of games we started with Fallout that really appeals to us and speaks to us creatively.”

The duo plans to reveal more about the project at a later date, but Cain says “If people have liked our previous RPGs they're going to like this one in terms of how we make reactive worlds and especially our style of humor.”
The article also confirms that Obsidian will be retaining ownership of the game's intellectual property:

“I think it has all the strengths of the traditional publisher relationship but because we get to retain ownership of the IP, it's one of the things where I don't think we're worried about our goals aligning with the publisher goals,” says Obsidian Entertainment’s Tim Cain, who has reunited with fellow Fallout co-creator Leonard Boyarsky to develop a new RPG under the Private Division label. “We both want to see the IP be very successful because we are both vested in it.”​

Other titles to be published by Private Division include Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey by Assassin's Creed creator Patrice Desilets (who will hopefully finally catch a break), another unannounced action-RPG currently known as Project Wight made by ex-DICE developers, an unannounced sci-fi first-person shooter by a co-creator of Halo, and also an upcoming expansion for Kerbal Space Program. Other than the expansion, none of these games is going to be released before April 2019, so we still have a long wait ahead of us.

There are 175 comments on Tim Cain and Leonard Boyarsky's new game at Obsidian is being published by Take-Two Interactive

Sat 9 December 2017
RPG Codex Review: ELEX!

Review - posted by Infinitron on Sat 9 December 2017, 23:55:39

Tags: ELEX; Piranha Bytes

Nearly two months ago, Piranha Bytes released ELEX and proved that the RPG Codex Hivemind can make memes real. It's a good game, not perfect, but easily their best since the original Risen. Against all odds and after years of anguish, fans of Piranha Bytes' distinctive style of open world action-RPG once again have a future to look forward to. Darth Roxor has always been our point man on these games, and ELEX is certainly no exception. It is my greatest honor (no, not my other honor) to present his extensive review. Here's an excerpt:

The slice of Magalan where ELEX takes place is divided into five distinct regions – the lush forests of Edan, the highlands of Abessa, the desert of Tavar, the volcanic wasteland of Ignadon and the snowy mountains of Xacor. It might sound like a theme park on paper, but the terrain diversity in the game actually comes with a great degree of geographical plausibility that makes it feel like a real world. And what a huge world it is too! Barring Xacor, which is mostly an endgame kill fest level, all the others are extensive territories, each with its own city, old world ruins, local Alb invasion and lots upon lots of neat little things and secrets to run into. The openness of the world and the multiple connections between the respective regions are the primary thing that sets ELEX apart from the likes of Risen 2 and 3. The game takes place on a real map with real locations, and not a network of islands with conveniently placed ledges and corridors that all lead to the same spots.

That said, it must be mentioned that Piranha Bytes once again made the same mistake they did in Gothic 3. Namely, that the world is sometimes just too huge for its own good. The most glaring example of this is Ignadon – not only is it overall much lower in quality than the rest of the game, it also gives a feeling of having been rushed or subjected to big cuts. To be frank, when you think about the quests and content available in Ignadon, you can come to the conclusion that the entire region, except for its city, could have been removed from the game with no real repercussions, as long as a few of its better assets would be relocated to other parts of the map.

Nevertheless, there is still a chockful of things to do around every corner, all over the world. Exploration in ELEX is addictive as hell, and it seems like there’s not a patch of land that wouldn’t have something interesting to it. What the game does perfectly is recreate the feeling of curiosity as you travel through it – the sudden “ooh, I wonder what’s over there” that takes you on a detour spanning hours as you move from one point of interest to another. Combine that with the fact that the world is also fully open from the very beginning, with no invisible barriers whatsoever except for map boundaries, which are represented by convenient killer radiation fields, and the “Free as a Bird” main quest that you get at the start becomes more than just an empty slogan.

Mind you, this doesn’t mean that ELEX is a “hiking simulator” where you can go anywhere you want and observe pretty landscapes without running into any trouble. Hiking in ELEX is going to get you killed. The wildlife is vicious, mutants want to murder you at every step and bandits can’t wait to give you a lead injection. However, you have one significant advantage at your disposal that lets you get away from all harm. The jetpack.

PB were hyping the jetpack a lot before release, and I feared it would either end up as a tacked-on gimmick or something that would kill exploration. Turns out I was wrong, and the developers must have planned its inclusion with great care. Floating around from place to place, scaling mountains or old radio towers and flying away in panic from powerful enemies is much more fun and seamlessly connected to the exploration than you might think, and somehow it also never gets old. As I mentioned before, you also can’t use it to exploit enemy AI, because most foes have ranged attacks to shoot you down and some even sport jetpacks of their own. Its use in combat is also limited to quick repositioning or barraging gits from up high with ranged weapons, which makes it just another tool at your disposal, and not some kind of “I-Win” button.

[...] Yet in spite of the aforementioned issues, I’d say the world is still well-crafted and fun to uncover. Another point in its favour, which is also quite the surprise, is that despite looking really dumb and corny in screens or pre-release materials, Magalan actually turns out to be a very interesting and logical setting.

First, there are many small things that all act together to make it come to life, from environmental storytelling, through such details as city guard being divided into separate patrols of day and night watch, NPCs physically moving from place to place instead of teleporting around (even between cities), to the game having its own alphabet. Second, the factions in the game all have believable agenda, distinct themes and beliefs, and clear-cut axes of conflict between each other. The Berserkers (whose name doesn’t fit at all, but whatever) are a hippie gathering of viking-ish druids, who have a strict code of law, abhor all technology and want to purge the planet of Elex. This makes them a mortal enemy of the Clerics – psychic religious fundies with droids and lasers – who only tolerate the law set by their god and need the Elex to power their machines. Meanwhile, neither of the two factions is popular among the third, the Outlaws, who are Mad Max-type desert drifters that live among scrap and really love their personal freedoms and independence.

The conflicts between the factions are also portrayed nicely in the game itself. There is no open war just yet, but it’s clear that one might happen very soon. Every region and every city is infiltrated in some way by agents of all the factions, who try to further their agenda there. Not only does this contribute to the world feeling alive, it’s also a very welcome difference from Risen 3, where none of the factions interacted with each other whatsoever and where every region existed in some kind of hermetically sealed vacuum.

[...] Starting the game, I was dead sure that it would be horrible. Meanwhile I sunk into it for 85 long hours, which was only enough to complete one “full world lawnmowing” playthrough – save game counter tells me 70 hours, but I got an 80h playtime cheevo at 65, so I must have spent 15 idling and reloading (which sure is a lot of reloading). However, I also know that it took some folks just 20-something hours to breeze through it.

If I had to give you a short overall impression of ELEX, I would probably call it the same way one thread on our forums refers to Divine Divinity – it is probably the best shit game I’ve ever played. Sure, there are parts of it that are downright abysmal, broken or user-unfriendly. But at the same time, it is so incredibly addictive and fun that I don’t remember the last time a game sucked me in so completely for so long.

Perhaps a lot of it has to do with expectations and experience. I’ve witnessed the horrors of Risen 2 and 3 first-hand, so seeing the numerous improvements over these in ELEX was already a surprise for me, because ELEX is objectively an all-around better game than the both of those combined, which I suppose is at least one proven case of a developer being held back by an idiotic publisher. There is still a lot of room for improvement left to be sure, and I do hope Piranha Bytes do not waste the opportunity. If I had to give them at least one major piece of advice as to how ELEX 2 could be made better, it would definitely be to scale things down – reduce the world size, but improve its content. Gothic 3 was already an example of them overreaching, and ELEX in many ways repeats the same mistake.

Your very own expectations are also likely to influence how you will receive ELEX. If you are deluded enough to expect another Gothic, you might as well forget it. But if you still have that open world, no-nonsense PB game itch that needs scratching (and you know you do), ELEX might just be the thing you need. It looks dumb, it might be infuriating sometimes, but all I can say is: don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.​

Read the full article: RPG Codex Review: ELEX!

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Fri 8 December 2017
Underrail Dev Log #56: Version Beta

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Fri 8 December 2017, 23:48:32

Tags: Stygian Software; Underrail

It's clear that the Expedition expansion for Underrail will not be coming out this year, but Styg does have something to tide us over for the holidays. His latest development update announces the release of an experimental beta for the game's next version. It looks to be a major update, with new content and significant mechanical changes in addition to the usual raft of tweaks and bugfixes. I'll post an excerpt from the extensive changelog, but first a look at a few of the game's new critters:

[​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

Hi guys, we are releasing a new major update of the base game on the experimental branch. If everything goes as planned, we'll be releasing it to the main branch as well soon.

To play experimental branch on Steam, you right click the game in your library and go to "Betas" tab. To do so on GOG, you select the game and choose More->Settings. Make sure you don't override all your live version saves just in case something goes horribly wrong.

We have new creatures, items and feats.

  • Increased Coil Spider psi points and psi regeneration
  • Coil Spiders now have darkvision
  • Added Greater Coil Spiders
  • Added a new machinegun turret to replace the regular auto-turret in certain places and on certain difficulties
  • Increased dodge and evasion of burrower spawns, but also increased their susceptibility to AoE attacks
  • Dogs will now attempt to bump you out of stealth when the detection gets into ALERTED state, just like human NPCs (on normal difficulty or higher)
  • Added a stronger version of psi beetle
  • Increased crawler attack damage a bit; they also regenerate health now (even in combat) and have dark vision
  • Added a stronger version of crawler
  • Added stronger version of mutants Hunchback mutants
  • Because of the global map, some areas had to be added and some had to be reorganized (especially around the starting cave areas) in order to achieve geographical consistency
  • Added a number of possible random events around the world
  • Reworked a lot of encounters to scale with game difficulty (from easy to dominating). Normal was mostly kept as it is, but some encounters (typically mid-late and late game ones) were made more difficult on that level.
  • Reworked the Free Drone's final mission debriefing dialog with Trenton in order to better handle a certain optional outcome
  • DC mindreading will now take into account the number of killed Faceless, which will have negative effects of varying degrees depending on that number; however, kills during certain story-related events where combat is unavoidable will not be counted
  • Expanded the Hanging Rat bar and added a base ability check
Have fun with the new stuff and please stay patient as we continue to work on the Expedition DLC.
It's a brave new Underrail. Read the full changelog for details on the changes to the game's user interface, items, feats and more.

There are 44 comments on Underrail Dev Log #56: Version Beta

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