Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Crystals Are Boring

After a bit of tweaking, I managed to get Crystals of Arborea up and running. There was still one major bug in it, though - I couldn't save at all, which is an issue for an RPG. More on that later. First, though, this is one odd game. You play the role of an elf prince trying to find four crystals and restore them to their appropriate towers. There may be more to the story than that, but that's all that I saw. To help you in your quest, you have a party of six characters with you. It's always the same six people, but you can change their class from a choice of three - warrior, wizard, or ranger. You're plonked on a huge island map and you can tell any of your party members to go anywhere on the map - all except you, the prince. There are also monsters roaming the map, so you don't want to send your guys off on their own, but you are trying to cover as much of the map as possible to find the crystals and the towers. At the start of the game the map is blank, so you need to have a character move over an area of interest in order to discover what's there. That made it sound like there are highlighted areas that you need to check out, but that's not the case - you have to have your characters comb every inch of the map, and it gets frustrating very quickly. When you do find something, a crystal, say, only your prince can pick it up. The twist is that the prince can't be controlled on the map like the other characters, he is controlled in a flick-screen first person view (like Dungeon Master). So once you've located something, you then switch to the prince and spend ages trudging across the island checking the map every few seconds to make sure you're still heading in the right direction until you find the item you were looking for. Once you find the crystals, you also need to find the correct tower for each crystal. These towers are hidden on the map in exactly the same way as the crystals, so you still have to wander round for hours trying to find those. Also on the map you'll find houses with wise men in who'll give you treasure if you answer their questions correctly. I found one guy who said he'd show me the location of the final crystal, but it didn't seem to work, which was annoying. I did get a decent sword from one of the other guys I found, though. The other things you'll discover on the map are tunnels. These are straight forward dungeon crawl sections, but it's very hard to see where you're going or where you can turn, and in quite a few of them I just got hopelessly lost. I did try mapping one, but it seemed to go back on itself all the time, so I gave up. One of these tunnels led me to another island where I found a crystal, but none of the others did much at all. I did find a set of armour in one, but only a warrior could pick it up and I didn't have anyone with me at the time. I wondered around for a long time and managed to find 3 crystals and 2 towers, then the game crashed on me. As I mentioned, I couldn't save it and I'm not going to go back and do all that again, so I'm going to move on. It's touted as the first game in the Ishar series, but there's very little story or character to speak of, so I don't think I'm missing much by not finishing it. Onwards to Ishar proper.

Monday, 14 April 2014

RPGs = Restricted Progress Gaming

I'm in the middle of three long RPGs at the moment, so there's not much instant gratification progress going on. First up is Excelsior: Book 2. I am making pretty good progress along the main story here. There aren't many side quests to speak of, just tonnes of back-and-forthing around the world map for the main quest. I ran into a bit of a roadblock at one point where I didn't have the necessary spell to talk to a cat, so had to level up a couple of times until I could cast 'Speak with Animals', which was a bit of a chore, but other than that things have been going well. I just traipsed halfway across the world to reach a tower I need to climb (of course) only to discover that I needed a ship to get there and the nearest town that sells them is right back on the other side of the world. At the last point I saved, I'd just walked all the way back and boarded a ship, so I have a long sail and tower fight ahead of me. I feel like I've made quite a bit of progress in the game, but I'm still quite a low level, so I'm not sure how much I've still got to go. The damsel in distress at the top of the tower is the person I was sent to the planet to find, so I'm hoping she'll let me know who the big bad is so I'll be able to start out trying to reach him. Like the first Excelsior game, it's a fun old-school RPG that I'm really enjoying. The only issue I have so far is that the day/night cycle is a bit too intrusive, meaning that most of the time you're wandering round with seriously reduced vision. It may not be realistic, but in terms of gameplay I'd have much preferred a longer period of daylight than night (it's the other way around in the game, which is super annoying). Let's face it, in the real world, my character would be sleeping at night, not traipsing along 24 hours a day, so the whole day/night modelling thing is a tad artificial anyway. Other than that, all good.

I get the feeling that Sacred is going to be a monster game. It's a standard Diablo-clone in lots of ways, but it's a good one. Plenty of quests, plenty of loot, and plenty of running around and clicking on things until they die. One unique aspect of it that I'm not yet sure of is that usually in these types of games, when you level up you get a point or two to add to your skills, so you can plan your character build the way you want to play. In Sacred, though, skill points are random drops from enemies, so you have no control over which skill you're going to level up, or when. Even weirder, you won't just find skill drops for your character, you'll find them for different classes which you can't use, which is a bit odd. I've been saving them in a chest in case you can transfer them to other characters, but I'm not really sure what the deal is. I've made a bit of progress in the game - just cleared out the second town/quest hub with my elf archer, but I haven't really given it a great deal of attention yet. Even though it's quite an old game, it doesn't run brilliantly on my ageing box, so it's a graphics to minimum affair, which doesn't look great. Still, it's good mindless fun, so I'll continue plodding along with it.

Finally, it's Mass Effect on the PS3. This is the first of a ridiculously massive trilogy of RPGs, so I may be stuck at it for a while. I think I'm making pretty good progress through it so far, I've cleared up all of the available side quests, and finished the first of the two-part main mission quest that's available to me at the moment. The load times are sucky, and Elevators!, but other than that the game is fantastic. I'm pretty rubbish at the combat, but me and my girls are slowly setting the galaxy to rights and I'm very much looking forward to seeing the story pan out.

UPDATE: Oooh, I just finished Excelsior! It turns out that not only was the damsel in distress at the top of the tower, but the big bad guy was, too. I wasn't expecting that, I thought there'd be loads more of the game to go. There were still a few levels of spells I hadn't reached yet, and places I hadn't visited. Obviously I'm not going to go back and grind them out, but it did feel a bit rushed there. Still, I very much enjoyed my time with both Excelsior games, great little surprises that I'd never heard of before, and wouldn't have tried if it wasn't for the crazy quest. Next up on the series list is yet another long old-school RPG series, Ishar. There are four games in the series, the three Ishar titles, and the prequel, Crystals of Arborea, which I'm starting up next.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Power Clive

Let's face it, I am never going to be a rally driver. I'm bad enough in real cars, digital ones just leave me cold. Power Drive is a full on arcade game, which usually gives it a bit of merit for me above a full on sim, but I'm tired and my eyes are aching, and I just wasn't having it. It's a top-down arcade racer with only 3 keys - accelerate, turn left and turn right...it even has power ups (nitro and time bonuses that I saw)...it should be fun, but I couldn't even get past the first time trial. It might just be a dodgy PC conversion, it certainly didn't run *that* well, but I'm probably just being a bad workman...I suck at driving games. Onwards!

Next up on the randometer is...Sacred! Ooh, that should be a bit more fun. It's a Diablo-alike RPG click-fest that I had a quick go on a year or two ago, but it crashed out on me and I gave up. It was quite fun though, so I'm looking forward to going back.