To Boldly Nerd…

PC games, pen&paper RPGs and other nerdery

26/11/2014
by Kadomi
3 Comments

WoW: WoD – Two weeks after launch

It’s strange being back to WoW. My SO hates it. I’m excited to play again, at the same time I feel oddly adrift.

The good stuff: Leveling was good fun. It didn’t feel like questing on rails much, and the story was very coherent. Nagrand felt very grindy, but then, I guess that’s just how Nagrand has always been and always will be. I enjoyed the garrison integration, you really do get to feel like a commander raising outposts everywhere. The Nagrand frostwolf is the best thing ever. I also dig the whole follower mini-game, and get excited pushing them to 100, getting them gear and they in turn getting me gear. It’s awesome.

See? It could be any Titan playground., but it happens to be lush Gorgrond.

See? It could be any Titan playground., but it happens to be lush Gorgrond.

Overall, I enjoyed all the zones. Gorgrond felt like this weird mix of Sholazar meets Badlands. Talador is so close to Terrokar Forest, and yet so different. Nagrand will always be one of the most gorgeous zones in the game, no matter in which timeline.

Of all the pretty places in the world, I had to ding in a poop-filled cave of Sabermaw.

Of all the pretty places in the world, I had to ding in a poop-filled cave of Sabermaw.

The other big thing to enjoy is dinging 100. Within minutes, I took the portal to Orgrimmar, spec’d from fury into prot and got Gladiator’s Resolve. I had such a fantastic time playing around with it. I did silver damage proving grounds within the first hour of being 100, with a pitiful ilevel of 590. It’s all the fun I missed about prot warriors, without the tiresome responsibility of tanking. Speaking of which, I tried Proving Grounds for that as well, and can’t seem to get silver done, so there’s that. I might try again, eventually, but it’s no priority. Seriously, I am really loving that Blizzard made a Sword&Board DPS spec happen.

The meh stuff:

I don’t get professions anymore. I love that the new model is wonderful for catchup. My warrior is boosted, and not having to grind out to 600 first was very nice. In fact, I only just got like 150 mining and 137 blacksmithing. What I don’t love is that you don’t get to experience the satisfying impact of your profession while leveling. I managed to craft one piece of gear while leveling, a helmet, and in retrospect I wish I had saved the truesteel ingots. Right now, blacksmithing feels like this juggling game of work orders and eventually, weeks later, you get to craft an epic. What will happen once you have your maximum amount of epics? Post them on the AH and that’s it?

I always liked the economy metagame, but I no longer have any idea how to make gold on the AH. Throughout Mists, I crafted PvP gear and made a lot of gold that way. I am still sitting on 450k gold, but I haven’t worked out a new strategy yet. The other goblins in-guild don’t seem to have anything set up yet either.

Furthermore, I should be excited that melee is quite strong, from what it looks like, but it’s led to the result that my guild is full of level 100 melee and not much else. I tried my first heroic with guildies, DPS being two warriors and a DK, ending up in UBRS and…yeah, it was ugly. A wipefest. Frustrating. I like the challenge, but not the part where it seemed impossible with three melee and a tank. That’s a lot of venomous puddles to stand in on the 2nd boss. Which was where we gave up.

The ugly stuff:

I’ll be honest, it’s not a feelgood feeling when the first round of class tuning is done, and your chosen main gets a flat out nerf. Warriors get 20% less damage on Shield Slam and Revenge, the main damage abilities of a gladiator warrior, and of course the primary rage abilities of tanking prot warriors as well. I know no prot warrior who doesn’t love Shield Slam, and seeing that nerfed for both prot playstyles, it really sucks. I wish they had nerfed Gladiator Stance’s damage buff or Shield Charge, but not those two abilities across the board. Arms is not in a great place, Fury isn’t either and honestly was quite tiring to level as. Together with the abundance of melee, that might have been it for being a warrior main this expac.

I am currently contemplating my other options. There’s my paladin, and retribution paladin is a lot of fun right now. Holy has always been my paladin’s main spec, I could go for that. Alternatively, level a ranged DPS. I started leveling my priest yesterday, but honestly, shadowpriest is just not my thing. The next closest ranged DPS I have is a shaman that I leveled as enhancement. She’s level 78. I have all the mail int heirlooms so switching to shaman would not be a problem. They just got buffed too. Maybe it’s a sign.

I could go back to Yatalai, my DK. Frost is in a good place. It just doesn’t feel quite right to me at the moment.

So there you have it, my 2-week impressions.

18/11/2014
by Kadomi
1 Comment

Pen&Paper: Session 2 – Overwhelmed

Pathfinder-logoOn Saturday I had session 2 of my Rise of the Runelords Pathfinder campaign. It was great fun but at the same time it was frustrating and really showed me my limits as GM. I’ll really have to work on my skills, and am already nervous that the group might fall apart. That would make me very sad. But let’s start at the beginning.

My campaign consists of a seasoned player who used to play DSA, Germany’s biggest RPG, my SO who has some experience from our D&D group, and three co-workers and a spouse who have never ever played any Pen&Paper game at all. Everyone is very enthusiastic though, and they got really into creating their characters. As for the party, we have a half-elf druid, a human barbarian, an elven paladin, a half-elf rogue, a gnome ranger and a halfling sorcerer. We are playing Burnt Offerings, the first of five adventures of this adventure path.

The Rise of the Runelords Adventure Path starts with a peaceful festival in the town of Sandpoint that then gets raided by an unusual amount of goblins. The party is supposed to assist the citizens of Sandpoint, develop some attachment to the place and then figure out the sinister background why the raid happened. The first session in September went really well. I think everyone had fun at the festival, and then liked to kick goblin ass, defeating the raid.

On to Saturday’s session. The party had saved a noble, Aldern Foxglove, from the goblins, and our druid Calandria in particular caught his eye. They were to join the noble at the Rusty Dragon the next day at noon, because he wanted to express his gratitude and invite them to hunt with him. Problem number 1: the party split up. The paladin invited the ranger to stay at the crafter’s guild where he is living. No real discernible reason that the two would have bonded, beyond being a RL couple. My SO plays a very aloof loner druid, also doesn’t help. So the next morning, only two of six people are at the inn, and of those two, the halfling has IC reasons to not like humans. Awkward. The paladin and the ranger arrived late, so no opportunity for group bonding, or really, even an introduction. When the druid arrived, she decided to not join the others. Aaaaah.

The sheriff of Sandpoint arrived to ask everyone’s help, and no one really seemed interested in actually helping him heroically. At that point I already felt I was descending into railroad territory, because I really needed them to investigate the crypta. Hrm. Then the noble arrived, and invited them to the hunt, and no one seemed interested in that either. The druid latched onto him for very valid IC reasons, but the others simply weren’t interested. Now, the segment of Burnt Offerings we’re at is called Local Heroes. It’s to establish that the citizens view the party as valiant heroes and to establish a connection to the town. That part really did not seem to work.

Eventually, they did actually investigate the crypta, and found signs that goblins and a humanoid scaled the walls to steal the bones of the former town priest, and that they have left skeletons in their wake. The party dispatched of the skeletons and then investigated the outer town wall, for more signs of the goblins, before calling it a night.

The next day, the noble wanted to pick them up for the hunt, but the party was only interested in the free horses that he gifted to the characters. Not a single person wanted to join him for the hunt, which left a very miffed noble behind. Instead, they wanted to leave the town to find the goblin leader.

The plot continues to be that a scout of the town arrives to report that all tribes of the goblins seem united, and that there is a mastermind behind it. The sheriff then asked the party to please stay in Sandpoint to be available if the need arises, so that he can travel to the city of Magnimar to ask for more troops. Well, bugger that, none of them actually wanted to stay, or listen to the scout’s report. They wanted to leave the town and blindly go find some goblins. Here I had to use some extreme railroading and strong-armed by offering individual amounts of gold for staying, and Shalelu the scout actually called them idiots for not actively listening to her report.

They then went to see the mayor, because they all mistrusted the sheriff for wanting to leave the town in need. She confirmed however that he was leaving on her behalf, sweet-talked them some, and that was that. They still wanted to look for the goblins themselves and left town on their new horses. I had them run into Aldern who was still out hunting and they were attacked by a boar. We called it a night after they defeated the boar and gathered all escaped horses again.

I think my frustration should be obvious. The party is split, no one seems interested in the others, and for adventurers they’re rather…unwilling. It’s like they don’t actually want to be heroes. Maybe I confused all the new players by asking them to think of a character motivation. Now they’re all entirely focused on the character motivation and not really on the adventure. But I also probably failed here because I should just have run with it. Let them run free and look for goblins, create some random encounters and maybe a bit of a new backstory, and somehow try to get them back on track for the adventure.

Or maybe I am just a sucky GM. I am very anxious now.

17/11/2014
by Kadomi
0 comments

MMOs – And then LFG happened

And not a Dungeon Finder of any kind, but Blizzard’s documentary about WoW.

I was out sick last week, watched the documentary while laying in bed (yay, tablet!) and then not much later pre-ordered Warlords of Draenor and bought a game card. Sigh. I am weak. Though it pleases me to know that I am not the only one who crawled back to WoW for the expansion. I just had all the feels for WoW. It’s been such a huge part of my life since 2005.

So then this happened:

Kadomi 2.0 was born!

Kadomi 2.0 was born!

I originally rolled Kadomi on US-Bronzebeard in 2005. She was my main from Burning Crusade launch til October 2012. I only gave her up for Mists of Pandaria because I closed my US-account. Boosting her was a no-brainer. Have to say that I really enjoy the new female orc models and found a nice bitch-face for Kadomi. She’s got spunk. I am still getting used to her weird new run, but it’s okay.

The WoD launch has been terrible for me. On Thursday, the game was pretty much unplayable. Which is to be expected on a launch day. A lot of the pains were self-produced by Blizzard. I am not sure how you can think it’s a clever idea to tie a mandatory quest to create your garrison to an item that can only be clicked by one person. When Kadomi made it to Frostfire Ridge, I noticed something very strange. A long line. A very long line. You see, you had to click the Master Surveyor item on top of the hill. I play on EU-Argent Dawn, and it’s an incredibly polite realm. On other servers you end up with hundreds of people on mammoths standing on top of such items. On my server you get: THE LINE!

Not that this line had any point, because the item was actually bugged.

Not that this line had any point, because the item was actually bugged.

While I stood in this line for a good 45 minutes, Blizzard did a hotfix and suddenly the whole line in front of me disappeared. They changed it so proximity to the item was enough and you got ported to your garrison instance. The rest of the day was unplayable lag, huge amounts of phasing issues (I hate you, Bladespire Citadel), and near constant downtime of the garrison server.

On Friday, we got more of the same, and I had my first run-in with the queue monster. Argent Dawn is the highest population English RP server, and let me tell you, it’s very very full atm. On Friday afternoon I made the mistake of logging out around 4 pm to do groceries. When I tried to log back in at 5:30 pm, I was 3900ish in the queue. 6.5 hours later I finally got in, to play for the least satisfying 30 minutes ever, because bedtime. Yesterday, I tried to log in just after noon, and was 2600ish in the queue. Tonight after work, pretty much the same. I am 1931 right now.

At least when you can play now, there’s no lag. The Garrison is a lot of fun. I love my very own mine. I am a bit bewildered how professions work now. I didn’t powerlevel my boosted character’s professions, and it’s nice that I can tap ore out in the world, what little there is, for frustratingly low amounts of ore. That’s why I love my level 2 mine. So much ore! You can’t really craft a lot of items, was boggling a bit that there’s no items for leveling, and how prohibitive crafting costs are. Really, 100 trueiron ingots? That’s how many work orders? A lot.

As a self-declared TBC junkie, WoD works for me on many levels. I get misty-eyed with every familiar character or follower you run into. I spend a lot of time walking through the zones and trying to find hints of Outland. It was a bit tough in Frostfire Ridge, but then I found Daggermaw Ravine and the path to Gruul’s Lair. Memories. Same with the Crimson Fens, Zangarmarsh flashbacks. I am currently in Talador, which really is a colorful version of Terrokar Forest, and every familiar sight makes me happy. For all that alone, I am happy I returned.

The view from Daggermaw Canyon up to Bladespire Citadel

The view from Daggermaw Canyon up to Bladespire Citadel

I am not sure if I’ll continue to play Kadomi as main though. I feel an urge to level my tauren paladin, because I like healing, and everyone seems to play melee these days. Also, fury is not a good fit. I am very curious about gladiator stance DPS. We’ll see.

For what it’s worth, it’s good to be back, and I didn’t think I’d ever say that again. A huge thanks goes to my lovely guild, the Ashen Rose Conspiracy. I quit 10 months ago, and they were very welcoming in having me back. When I read ‘Welcome home’ I did have the warm fuzzies.

I still don’t feel that I really have time to commit to MMOs anymore, but I can piddle around in the garrison, sure.

03/11/2014
by Kadomi
2 Comments

Book Reviews: October 2014

I have lost a lot of momentum in my book reading this year. I started with the very ambitious Goodreads goal of finishing 50 books this year and for a majority of the year, I was ahead of schedule. It’s now November and I have two months to read 10 books. It might not happen. It didn’t help that I started numerous books and didn’t finish them because they bored me, or that I am using precious reading time to prep my Pathfinder game. Enough with the whining, here’s what I read in October. It was a good month, I read very solid books.

The first book of the Shadows of the Apt series

The first book of the Shadows of the Apt series

Empires of Black and Gold by Adrian Tchaikovsky is the first book of a 10-book series called Shadows of the Apt. I added it to my reading list when I was on a steampunk kick. It’s classic fantasy meets steampunk, with some rather interesting concepts. The fantasy world the series is set in sounds rather generic, but the people living in it are anything but. There are different races called Kinden, who have all descended from an Ancestor Spirit and share traits with insects. They are Ants who can communicate via telepathy, spiders who can crawl walls and plot nefariously, scorpions who have claws, flies who can fly, etc. People with insect traits. Fascinating. The Kinden are split again. There are some who are apt, like beetles, who can use and create technology like flying machines, trains, and cars. Those who are not apt cannot. Some, like the moths, cling to old and forgotten magic. Yet now they all have to come together, because they are threatened by a race of kinden that comes and offers trade and prosperity: the Empire of the wasps. Master Stenwold, a Beetle-kinden teacher in the university city Collegium, has witnessed how brutally the wasp-kinden advance their empire and is organizing a spy-ring for what he thinks is impending invasion of the Lowlands. He is sending his most promising students to the industrial city of Helleron, to get in touch with his contacts there, to find out more about the plans of the wasps. But the wasps interfere with the plan, splitting the group up, and no one knows the wasps’ masterplan just yet. – Yeah, so Stenwold is the Gandalf of this series, and his niece Cheerwell is a bit like Frodo. You have the classic party on a grand quest. I loved the book for the worldbuilding and the concept of insect-kinden + technology, that was very well done. The writing is probably the weakest part of the book, but I am definitely planning on reading the sequel.

My rating: 4 Stars (4 / 5)

Moon over SohoMoon over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch is the sequel to Rivers of London or Midnight Riot, depending on which side of the Atlantic you are on. Peter Grant, the street copper turned wizard’s apprentice copper, is dealing with the aftermath of his first adventure, when a new series of deaths is brought to his attention. Apparently jazz musicians keep dying, and he senses a touch of magic on the corpses. But why would jazz musicians die after performing? In order to solve this case, Peter involves his dad, the former junkie who plays jazz music, and gets involved with the girlfriend of one of the dead guys. The book introduces a recurring villain who has it in for Peter and his boss Detective Nightingale. – I loved the first book, but felt it lost momentum and tension in the later parts. Not so with this book. I love the super-dry British humor. I can connect a lot better with the British Peter Grant than the so-American Harry Dresden. It was funny, witty and exciting, sometimes creepy to read. Even if it dealt with jazz vampires, which sounds ridiculously silly. Or female assassins who chop off dicks with their vaginas. I want more.

My rating: 5 Stars (5 / 5)

The Cloud RoadTaking the prize as surprise of the month, we have The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells, the first book of the Books of the Raksura series. How many fantasy books do you get where all the races are unique and different? The kinden concept from the Shadows of the Apt series was cool, but the Raksura and all other races in this book, especially the fell, feel very alien. The world is called Three Worlds, actually, because it has realms on the ground, in the air and in the sea. Our protagonist is Moon who has moved from groundling tribe to groundling tribe in hopes of fitting in. But he is not a groundling. He can shift to be a creature with wings and claws similar to the most hated race of the world, the Fell, which inevitably gets him kicked out of settlements once people find out he is a shifter. He is alone, because his mother and siblings died, leaving him alone in the world. When he gets kicked out again from his latest home, he is rescued from certain death by a member of his own race that he didn’t even know existed. Stone brings him back to his tribe of the Raksura, where it turns out that not only Moon is a Raksura, but one of the rare consorts who can breed with a queen. But as Moon tries to figure out if he can fit in with his own people, an attack of the vilest sort is imminent from the Fell.

We have great world-building, with mysterious islands in the sky full of ruins, flying ships, and a race full of kickass-women like Jade, Flower and Pearl. Moon can be a bit whiny, but it didn’t stop me from pretty much devouring this book. Greatly enjoyed, will definitely read on.

My rating: 5 Stars (5 / 5)

November should be awesome too, as I am currently reading another great book. Cross your fingers I will make my goal!

29/10/2014
by Kadomi
2 Comments

RPG – Tools of the Game Master: Hero Lab

As I mentioned in my September post, I have recently begun to GM again, in a Pathfinder game with five friends and my SO. In the ten years since I last played tabletop, there’ve been a lot of technological advancements, and I am now looking for ways to enhance my GM experience using software and mobile apps to use at the game table. I might also post about game products that I find incredibly helpful, but we’ll see. It’s a bit of a departure from my normal game posting, but it’s what I am currently excited about.

Today I want to talk about the first investment I made in this area which I started using right around the time that my players were ready to create their characters: Hero Lab.

hl_logo

Hero Lab is the officially sanctioned character creation software for Pathfinder. You can use it for plenty other systems as well, e.g. D&D 4E, 3.5, Shadowrun, World of Darkness, Savage Worlds, etc. The software costs 29.99 USD and comes with one core rulebook enabled. Naturally, I picked Pathfinder. It also comes with free rule additions from the Paizo website, e.g. the player companions for Adventure Paths, including traits and items from there plus all the content from the Inner Sea Guide. If you want to use any additional sourcebooks for your character building, you have to purchase them. Prices range. I bought access to a couple player companion books (the races books) because my players wanted to use traits from there, and paid like 15 bucks additionally for those. If you are a completionist who wants to have access to every single splat book beyond the core rules, Hero Lab might be a bit pricey all in all.

So what does Hero Lab actually do? Above all, it’s a tool to create characters. You can then keep track of the characters and advance them with experience and level them up as you go. You can print out full character sheets, add images, have room for a full detailed background, etc. That makes it a sweet tool for players to keep track of their characters. It also makes it incredibly easy for me as GM who is quite admittedly really rusty when it comes to rules. I am still learning all the intricacies of the Pathfinder core rules, and the rules part has never been my biggest strength, I’ll be honest.

I installed the trial to test-roll a character, and was so happy with it that I bought it before the players showed up to create their characters. Character creation is quite easy. When you create a new character, you choose which rulebooks you want to include, which advancement track to use, but it also allows you turn off stuff like encumbrance rules if that’s what floats your boat. Hero Lab has 15 tabs for each character, which sounds overwhelming but to me is very organized. They range from Classes to Abilities to Feats, Gear, etc. When creating a character, the software always makes it fairly obvious when something has been forgotten.

In this example, the stalwart paladin Phileas forgot to pick a language.

In this example, the stalwart paladin Phileas forgot to pick a language.

What makes this so wonderful for me is that it calculates everything. Player picks Improved Initiative feat? Without me having to think about it at all, Hero Lab calculates the correct Iniative values for me. You can also easily keep track of which spells have been used up, how many arrows are left, how many rounds the barbarian’s rage will last and how this affects his health and combat rolls. And so on and so forth. The In-Play tab of each character lets me easily keep track of things like that, or apply damage or heal them.

Here I can fiddle with the barbarian's options. He's been injured, and hasn't raged any at all yet.

Here I can fiddle with the barbarian’s options. He’s been injured, and hasn’t raged any at all yet.

Hero Lab offers a tactical console that will handle combat rounds for you. It will roll initiative for the PCs and determine attack order that way. But as my players roll initiative themselves, and it’s very awkward to adjust the order, the tactical console didn’t really work for me. If your players don’t enjoy rolling their own initiative, it might be an idea. To help me out with combat, I bought Paizo’s Combat Pad instead. We’ll see how that goes. I might test other software options as well.

Another Gamemaster tool is the encounter builder, which allows you to build encounters based on the desired challenge rating, from a wide list of NPCs included in Hero Lab. You can then import them as enemies and control them via the tactical console as well. You can also add friendly NPCs that way as allies and use them to assist your group with a few mouse clicks. Quite handy.

Here I am in the process of building an encounter with goblins, for my party. APL 2, desired CR 3.

Here I am in the process of building an encounter with goblins, for my party. APL 2, desired CR 3.

For those of you who are playing Pathfinder online via either D20pro or Fantasy Grounds, Hero Lab is integrated and any character created can be easily transferred to the virtual tabletops. I haven’t used either and think Roll20 is more widely spread than those two, so there’s that.

Me, I am happy I sprang those 30 bucks on the software. I run Hero Labs on the laptop at the gaming table and feel like it helps me a lot more with the rules-end of things, for sure. Hero Lab is also available for ipads, so I am sincerely hoping they’re going to release an Android version eventually as well.

If you want to give the software a shot, a trial version for Windows and Mac is available.

27/10/2014
by Kadomi
0 comments

Steam Pile: Remember Me

Remember-Me-01-515x271

Due to a trip to the USA, this review has been a bit delayed. It’s been a good while since I finished it, but nevertheless, it’s one of those games I definitely wanted to write a review for. I had wanted to play this game for years, but never got around to it. It’s been very under the radar, and I wish it had gotten more spotlight, if even just through Steam sales. It never seems to be one of the games on the list for flash sales or heavy discounts and that’s a real shame, considering how important Steam sales are for PC game visibility these days. I don’t know about you guys, but aside from Bioware releases like Dragon Age or Mass Effect I haven’t really bought a full price AAA game for years.

I bought Remember Me during a midweek sale, one of the few times it actually got a discount, and now I wish I had played this game a lot earlier. It pushed a lot of the right buttons for me. Story-wise, Remember Me is set in a dystopian near future in the late 21st century. Europe seems to have fallen apart, and a mega corp has risen using the Sensen technology. Everyone has them implanted, allowing people to import, export and modify memories. Like drug users, people are hooked on only reliving their favorite memories over and over again, while the corps can use Sensen to influence people. In comes Nilin, our protagonist. She’s a mixed blood female and the best memory hunter around, and for the latter she gets captured, about to have her memories wiped. With the help of a terrorist or, as they’re called here, ‘errorist’, named Edge, Nilin manages to escape from the facility, out into Neo-Paris, the cyber-punk remains of the great city that is now a crazy mix of slums, former glory and the rich hiding in their high-security buildings. As some of the memory wipe was already successful, Nilin sets out to regain her memories, aiding Edge and his group along the way.

The views of Neo-Paris are sometimes quite gorgeous.

The views of Neo-Paris are sometimes quite gorgeous.

The story and the atmosphere really grabbed me. Neo-Paris just oozes atmosphere, and the glimpses, the views you get of the city are breath-taking at times. The gameplay however has its weaknesses. It’s got two facets. You spend a lot of time running, jumping and climbing, but always on a leash. It’s close to Assassin’s Creed’s parkours, but without the freedom of the open world. An orange indicator from your Sensen always shows you the way. I hear the closest comparison would be the Uncharted games, but as I have no console (yet) I wouldn’t know. While you jump and climb your way through Neo-Paris, you sometimes run into foes. There are leapers, tragically addicted Sensen users who reminded me of husks in Mass Effect. Then there’s security staff and security robots. Running into them triggers combat, one of the most fun and yet also most frustrating aspects of the game.

Nilin usually kicks ass by using martial arts but in case of robot enemies, she has to use a zapper as well. Combat is similar to the Arkham Batman games. You dodge when the game indicates that you are being attacked, and otherwise try to build combos. The further you play, the more so-called pressens get unlocked. If you play with an X-Box controller like I did, the pressens use either the X or Y buttons on the controller for your attacks. Some pressens do damage, some heal you, reduce the cooldown of your S-Pressens (your big special abilities) or enhance others. You start with a short combo, but eventually end up with having rather complex combos. I set up one for damage, one for heals, one that mixed damage and cooldown reduction for boss fights, etc. Sometimes you may have to adjust them for specific boss fights.

A look at the combo lab where you unlock pressens and form combos.

A look at the combo lab where you unlock pressens and form combos.

Boss fights are usually what caused frustration for me. They’re usually at the end of story chapters and either really boring (here’s looking at you, Madame) or very challenging (damn you, fucking leaper twins at the end). They all rely on using specific special abilities to deal with them. That often means that you just have to hang in there and use your cooldown reducing combos until you are ready to attack the boss again.

Sometimes, Nilin gets to show why she is the best memory hunter in the memory remix sequences. For example, she has to change the memories of an assassin to stop her from killing Nilin. You watch a memory the victim treasures and then have to rewind it and change it to a different outcome. There are specific objects in each sequence that you can change and it is up to the player to figure out which changes will result in the correct outcome you want. It’s very interesting, and definitely cooler gameplay than some bossfights. There are however only few memory remixes in the game, which is a real shame.

A memory remix in action, with two possible actions how to change this particular memory

A memory remix in action, with two possible actions how to change this particular memory

My verdict: it’s an underrated gem. Despite middling reviews, it’s been one of the best games I have played this year. The story is thought-provoking, the combat is fun when it works, and the setting is so great that I would love to see more of it. Which is unlikely to ever happen, because it sounds like it bombed in sales. Such a shame! Anyone who’s looking for a strong female protagonist in a game that’s definitely more than eye-candy, go ahead, meet Nilin.

30/09/2014
by Kadomi
0 comments

The State of the Kadomi – September 14

As it’s been another month since I last posted, I decided I’ll just go with a State post and might post those more frequently as a thought dump. So, how’s life? I’ve been incredibly busy. I got a promotion at work, hooray, and picked up a new, old hobby. More about that below.

Games:

After finishing up Black Flag, I did a quick Twitter poll and was urged to play Kingdoms of Amalur. Maybe it’s my dislike of anything written by R.A. Salvatore (aka the most generic Mary Sue fantasy ever), but I just couldn’t get into this game. Mostly, because I am a snob. The graphics are just unbelievably bad after having played Black Flag. Additionally, the story and the quests just don’t grab me. A Dragon Age they are not, for sure. There’s one chain of quests that I thought were interesting so far, and that’s it. There’s also way too many of them. So many quests. It’s like playing an MMO, just with kinda more boring quests. The combat is fun though. My favorite part. Plays really nicely with my Xbox controller. I intend to finish this eventually, but maybe not with a completionist approach. I felt justified with my ennui about the game when I read Azuriel’s review. I don’t quite understand why so many people recommended it excitedly, maybe I am missing something obvious. I am only 11 hours into the game, so it’s possible.

I am currently wrapping up the last of Remember Me, and am enjoying the hell out of it. More people should play Remember Me. It’s absolutely underrated. I will post a full review asap.

My current plan is to follow it up with either Arkham Asylum or The Witcher 2, in another attempt to play the latter. Now that I am mostly using a controller to play, I think I will have more fun.

I am still not playing MMOs again. I pulled the plug on Wildstar this week, which makes me sad because it was so awesome to be excited about an MMO again. But you can’t turn back the time. If even Blizzard is pulling the plug on future MMOs, it’s maybe a sign. If you want to read some thoughts about the cancellation of Titan, I really enjoyed reading Gazimoff and Spinks’ thoughts on this. Speaking of Spinks, is anyone else excited to see her writing again? I sure am! :-)

Books:

I set myself a goal of 50 books this year, and while I was way ahead most of the year, I read a few clunkers that really slowed me down. I wish I could say I read more outstanding books than I did. So far I finished 37 books. Three months left to read 13 more! In September it’s only been two books. The Iron Duke, which was, uh, let’s say, not my usual fare in books. Even the cover screams romance novel and I don’t read those. The book should win the award for ‘Potentially coolest Steampunk setting ever’ and then get booed for being terrible porn wrapped into a decent Victorian-style murder mystery plot. The protagonist is a female Detective Inspector, and there’s lots of travel on airships to exotic settings. There are zombies, the Mongol horde and strange nanotechnology. And smut, let’s not forget the copious amounts of smut. The Iron Duke himself is one of the most unlikeable characters ever. Just ugh. The follow-up is supposed to be better, so I might eventually brave that.

The second book continues my trend of reading alternate history stories set in the United Kingdom. His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik is an enjoyable story set in alternate 19th century, with Napoleon at the helm of the French empire trying to conquer the world. Only in this world, there are dragons on all sides of the conflict as well, being ridden into battle. Our protagonist is Captain Will Laurence, a naval commander who plunders a French vessel with interesting loot in the hold: a dragon egg close to hatching. As the guy chosen to put a harness on the newborn dragon fails in his duty, Laurence goes ahead and thus bonds himself to Temeraire, a rare breed of Chinese dragon. From there, Laurence has to move to training, because they will be needed in the war. Napoleon and his fleet, plus dragons, want to invade, and it is up to the British dragons to stop the invasion. It’s a very militaristic book in its way, but I really enjoyed reading about Temeraire’s training, felt angry at a rider mistreating his dragon and liked to see the inclusion of strong female members of the aerial corps as well. Looking forward to the next book in the series.

I am currently slowly plodding through Empire in Black and Gold. Plodding only because of lack of time and so many other things to distract me. It’s a very traditional fantasy setup, with a questing group of young heroes set up to save the world with the assistance of a wise old master, but with a twist. The world of this series has so called Kinden. Different breeds of humans who all share traits with an insect, which grants them special powers through an Ancestor Art. Fly kinden have wings but are small, beetles are stocky and industrious, spiders are manipulative and political, and often poisonous. Some of the Kinden are Apt, which means they can use technology, which gives this world a distinct Steampunk flavor that is very enjoyable. The Empire in question are the wasp kinden who threaten to invade the lowlands of this world, and only beetle Master Stenwold and his protegees know what the wasps are really up to, trying to stop them.

The world-building as far as the races goes is fantastic. I just wish I had more time.

RPGs:

The bulk of my time has been eaten up my new obsession. I am an obsessive person by nature and when something grabs me, I give it my all and want to do nothing else. For many years this used to be WoW. Right now, it’s my obsession with Pathfinder. A brief history of Kadomi and pen&paper RPGs. When I was 14 or 15, I bought a box I had seen at the toy store: Das Schwarze Auge. It’s the biggest RPG system in Germany. I played it with three female friends from highschool. They thought it was ridiculous, and mocked the story of the module. I was disappointed, I thought it was very cool. Around the time I graduated from highschool, another female friend introduced me to a local game store, and I was in awe. So much stuff like DSA. So many colorful sourcebooks, most of them in English. I picked up AD&D right that day. I picked up the original Forgotten Realms box. I wanted to play. I joined a local game group from the store to just play AD&D as a player, but that didn’t really work for me. I just didn’t connect with the strangers, a bunch of fairly hardcore players. I convinced friends to play with me, and this time it stuck, because my friends were actually interested in fantasy and boardgames now. Eventually the group fell apart though because couples broke up, and the like. Eventually, when D&D 3E was released, I managed to start a new group and tried to run the Wrath of the Immortals box for them. We stopped playing just about 13 years ago. I sold all my books on Ebay and that was that.

There are entirely too many Pathfinder products out there that I want to own now.

There are entirely too many Pathfinder products out there that I want to own now.

Fast forward to earlier this year. A former co-worker and friend of my SO is a dedicated player and GM and has been for many years. He wanted to start a new D&D campaign with folks who are maybe more interested in roleplaying than roll-playing, and asked me and the SO to join them. So we did. We play about once a month, and hence we’re only lowly level 3s. We play halfling twins Euphoria the asocial ranger (my SO) and Discordia, the rogue who is convinced she’s a diplomat because her mentor taught her that’s what she’s doing. It’s fun, and enjoyable, though sometimes the guys in the group like to control the group too much, which I find is a problem. We’ll see how that works out.

Now, I haven’t really set foot into a game store for years. I used to be a Dragon and Dungeon reader, and felt like I was up to what was going on in the RPG world, but that was before I quit. Nowadays, whenever I hear someone talk about RP on Twitter, it’s usually about Pathfinder. So I investigated what this Pathfinder is. I read the PRDs and was blown away you don’t even need a rulebook to play. Then I looked at their adventure paths, and the whole Pathfinder society concept and kinda fell in love. But what to do? I didn’t want to invite my D&D group to play, because a) they’re way too hardcore to a certain degree and b) I think I am not that great a GM. But I make up for poor GM skills (I suck at rules, I really do) with a great ton of enthusiam.

Now, let me wax poetic about my co-workers. In a way I am the luckiest girl ever because the majority of my team is full of nerds. Gamers, fantasy fans, Lego and Star Wars enthusiasts, the list goes on. So first I asked the one co-worker who played the German game, DSA, for a couple of years. Then I asked my SO. Then I asked my co-worker Anika if she and her boyfriend might be interested. Yup, they all were. On a lark I asked my desk neighbor, the Lego enthusiast. He was also keen on it. Then another of my co-workers asked me if he could play too. Suddenly I had six players, with four of them who had never ever played and didn’t even know how it might work. I invited them over to roll characters. I installed a forum for the group and posted tons of information there. It’s on my to-do list to create a Wiki as well, because it’s just easier to do links and cross-references than in a forum. I threw myself into it. I am loving it.

The cover of Burnt Offering, the first part of the Adventure Path

The cover of Burnt Offering, the first part of the Adventure Path

I decided to go with the Rise of the Runelords Adventure Path. The Anniversary Edition is really of such high quality, it’s outstanding. It’s really perfect for someone who wants to GM but doesn’t really have the time or skill to write their own adventures or setting. We had our first session 1.5 weeks ago, and we started at 6 pm and played til 2:30 am. I think everyone had a great time. I sure did. I got to sing in a goblin voice, what’s not to love? As expected, I was clumsy with rules, but I think everyone did absolutely fantastic understanding the Pathfinder combat rules and skill checks and all. It was grand. I can’t wait to play again.

Unfortunately our next session will be hugely delayed, as we’ll be in the US for two weeks in October, and everyone’s busy. November 15 seems very far away. Gives me plenty of time to prep though, install a Wiki, test more apps, play around with Hero Lab some more, and be excited all over again. I think you’ll get to read a lot more about this.

TV:

Last but not least, we are continuing our Friends marathon in honor of the 10-year anniversary of the show. We’re currently a little over halfway-through with season 6. The alternative history episodes in that season are pretty lame. Looking forward to starting a Netflix trial next month because Netflix just came to Germany, huzzah.

And that’s a wrap.

28/08/2014
by Kadomi
0 comments

Steam Pile: Assassin’s Creed IV and more

Vacation is over and my post count plummets. It’s always the way.

I did however spend my vacation playing many many hours of Assassin’s Creed games. I should mention that I have a fierce love for the series, despite its many shortcomings.

I started playing the series when Steam did a summer sale that included Assassin’s Creed, AC2 and AC: Brotherhood, in the summer of 2011. I started playing the first game and was kinda wowed by the graphics and the freedom of climbing. That’s really the thing I love most about the game. To climb tall buildings, see fantastic views and then do a leap of faith into the nearest haystack. Aaaaah.

The moment that made me fall in love with the game. Viewpoints!

The moment that made me fall in love with the game. Viewpoints!

The gameplay was interesting at first, and then quickly incredibly repetitive as you did the same things over and over again before you were able to attack your Templar targets. It’s easily the most dull of AC games. But the story. The wild mix of experiencing historic cities and crazy modern conspiracy theories, it reeled me in. AC2 was a mindblowing experience. Not only do you get to experience beautiful Italian Renaissance cities, but you get to meet Ezio Auditore di Firenze, a character I kept mentioning in the recent gaming survey. He’s fantastic. The gameplay and controls were highly improved, with a vast variety of different mission types. Brotherhood and Revelations completed the Ezio trilogy of games, with only minor adjustments to gameplay elements, like game economics in Rome, or the hookblade and various bombs in Revelations.

Then came AC3, switching to the Liberation War in the US in the 18th century. No more charismatic Ezio but instead the very bland half-blood Connor. Climbing trees and church towers in the New World simply didn’t feel as satisfying as climbing the colosseum in Rome, and the story never really moved me.

Come the summer of 2014 and a Ubisoft sale, and I am back in the AC groove. I had long wanted to try Liberation, with its first female assassin, and was really excited for the game. I believe the game uses the AC3 engine and runs parallel to AC3. Aveline de Grandpré is a half-blood raised in a good merchant house in French New Orleans. But there’s some foul Templar plot afoot involving slaves and Aveline tries to get to the heart of it. The new gameplay mechanic of Liberation is that Aveline has three different personas: the assassin, who is strong in combat, can do free-running and unfortunately is always in conflict. Nothing you can do about it, annoying as heck. Then we have the slave. She can free-run and is best at stealth, because she blends in as worker, but she is very weak at combat. Last we have the lady, who doesn’t even feel like an assassin. The only useful thing she can do is to use her parasol as blowpipe. She can’t run, jump, climb or anything that makes AC games fun. Here’s where the persona gameplay has issues: the limitations do not feel like fun. It’s not fun to always be on the run as assassin. It’s not fun to be unable to free yourself through a little combat action as slave. It’s not fun to be a lady. Ugh.

Aveline's three personas. Only fun in theory, though assassin Aveline looks badass.

Aveline’s three personas. Only fun in theory, though assassin Aveline looks badass.

Additionally, the story is the most confusing story of any AC game ever. It randomly jumps without warning. First we meet Aveline as kid, suddenly she’s an assassin, and there’s nothing but full-blown wtfs from me. I enjoyed the bayou setting in the second part, but that was just about the only enjoyable part of the game. The mission design is incredibly dull as well. In New Orleans there are plenty of missions where you just walk or run from point A to B. On top of that, you have very lackluster voice acting, some of the worst I have heard in a very long time. Grating accents galore.

I think I was at about 50% sync or less when I told myself ‘Fuck it’ and moved on to the other game I had bought, AC IV Black Flag. Unlike Liberation, it had received top reviews everywhere.

For a reason. It’s the best game since AC2. It’s meaty, it’s gorgeous, it’s slightly addictive, but above all, it’s fun. It’s also the least assassin-y of all AC games ever.

The prettiest viewpoints of all AC games, ever.

The prettiest viewpoints of all AC games, ever.

Black Flag takes you to the early 18th century. Edward Kenway, grandfather of AC3’s protagonist Connor, is a Welsh privateer who comes to the Caribbean to win a fortune. He’s left his unhappy wife behind to seek glory and riches, which aren’t that easy to achieve. Early in the game, he gets stranded on an island together with a defecting Assassin who wants to sell maps to the Templars. Edward kills him, steals his Assassin outfit and goes off to get rich from the Templars. Which doesn’t quite work out. Then he earns his own ship, The Jackdaw, and the rest is history.

Unlike every other AC protagonist in the series, Edward isn’t really in it to follow principles or the creed, or because he wants revenge on the Templars. He’s in it for the money. If this means killing Templars and Assassins both, he does it. It’s only very late in the game that he comes to accept the Creed and joins the Assassins. Well, maybe that’s why Haytham Kenway, Edward’s son and Connor’s dad, turned out the way he turns out in AC 3. As Grand Master of the Templars in North America, tsk.

Black Flag offers a vast variety of things to do that have nothing to do with the main story missions. You can sail around and gather collectibles, like Animus fragments and treasure chests that are in every segment of the map in uncharted waters. The three cities of the game, Havana, Nassau and Kingston, are full of viewpoints, assassin contracts, gathering collectibles like shanties (which will then be sung by your crew when you are sailing), freeing pirates from mean English men or Spaniards, etc. Viewpoints are now doubly important because not only are they utterly gorgeous but they also serve as fast travel spots. So convenient. There are many islands full of tropical beauty, with waterfalls and Mayan ruins, and even more collectibles. They’re so addictive! Every AC game has had collectibles, but they have never been as fun to collect as in Black Flag.

Then you have your ship, the Jackdaw. The sea is full of easy targets, and while you stick to schooners and brigs at first, nothing gets your heart pumping like fighting a frigate or a man o’war with their vast amount of plunder, once you have upgraded your ship with said plunder. I was a menace of the seas, I tell you, though I have yet to try attacking one of the four legendary ships on the map, which are supposed to be very challenging. I was worried about the ship combat at first, but using my XBox controller, they soon came naturally. Ship combat was vastly improved from its first incarnation in AC3. While you’re sailing, you can also hunt sharks and even the white whale, which allows you to craft powerful upgrades for Edward.

Ship combat during a storm with rogue waves? Crazy fun and intense.

Ship combat during a storm with rogue waves? Crazy fun and intense.

Another mini-game is to use a diving bell to dive for treasures in shipwrecks. This was the most frustrating part of the open world, because sharks are annoying and you had to get used to being desynchronized and try again, over and over. Annoying. I was glad when I finished all the wrecks. Stupid sharks.

Being eaten by sharks while you run out of oxygen? Not so much fun.

Being eaten by sharks while you run out of oxygen? Not so much fun.

The open world game of the Carribbean is really the best its ever been in AC. Regardless of sharks, really.

The main mission however, not so much. For one, Edward apparently never needed any training, he was already born an assassin. And then it felt odd playing someone who’s so obviously a greedy bastard. I love the conflict between assassins and templars, and that really wasn’t the main deal here. I did like the interesting information you receive about sages, with the crazy pirate Roberts and the various letters you can find as secrets throughout the world. Furthermore, the main story missions were full of two of the worst mission types to evolve from previous games: tailing someone and eavesdropping. Especially the latter is ridiculous. You have to tail so closely that you are always in danger of discovery, and if you make one slight mistake, you are screwed. There was one mission I had to do over and over again, it was rage-inducing. Same with chase missions. One missed jump? Too bad, your target got away.

The best news to come out about AC: Unity is that they’re doing away with such mission design, allowing you various different approaches on how to kill your target. Finally.

The meta-game was a bit weird but also fun. Desmond is gone after the events in AC3, and instead you are now an employee at Abstergo Entertainment. For those in the know, Abstergo is the Templar-run company bent on taking over the world, and with their entertainment branch, they try this through computer games. Abstergo Entertainment wants to create a game about pirates, and they use the Animus and your character to do research. What they’re really trying to use you for is to find more info about The Observatory of the first civilization, but it’s all in the guise of a game that they are creating in a cooperation with Ubisoft. How’s that for meta?

You get cameos of Shawn and Rebecca, meet crazy IT guy, and hack computers. I had fun with that part of the game. Seriously, all the collectible stuff, in the meta-world too, was so good.

Ultimately, I spent 61 hours playing Black Flag for a total sync of 93%. My previous AC record was 56 hours of AC2, and a sync of 80ish%. That should be a testimony to how much fun exploring was.

Avoid Liberation, play Black Flag. It was good enough that I am considering a Day 1 purchase of Unity in October.

21/08/2014
by Kadomi
3 Comments

Jasyla’s Gaming Questionnaire

You can tell I am off work this week, because I actually have time to blog.

Jasyla over at Cannot Be Tamed just made the transition over from WoW to general video gaming blog. In order to settle into her own niche, she started a gaming questionnaire that I thought is pretty neat. Also, I highly recommend her blog, I really enjoy her game commentary.

  1. When did you start playing video games?

    I must have been 9 years old, when I first saw and played a video game. I actively started playing them on my own when I was 14 years old and begged my parents to buy me a Commodore computer.
  2. What is the first game you remember playing?

    The first video game I remember playing was Pong, at my best friend’s house. I must have been 8 or 9 years old. They had one of those new-fangled consoles. I was so amazed, and a touch jealous. I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I sucked at it though. Then for a while there was nothing, until suddenly little handheld games got popular in Germany. My friends all had Pac-Man. My parents bought me a game called Tutankham. I played this months. It had a little thumbstick you used to control your dude through the maze. Good times.
    This was the handheld I had. Oh man, I feel 13 all over again.

    This was the handheld I had. Oh man, I feel 13 all over again.

  3. PC or Console?

    PC, aaaaaaaall the way. I bought my first PC in 1992, and while I convinced my ex that it was for studying, it really was all about the games, even then. The first game I got for it was Civilization, the first one, and that already went way over my head. I never ever owned a console. Ever. There wasn’t a single game that I wanted to play that I couldn’t play on PC as well. This has changed in recent years, and I am seriously considering getting a console.
  4. XBox, PlayStation, or Wii?

    If I were to buy a console, it would be a Playstation 4. I would love to play Uncharted 4 and The Last of Us, those are really two of the games that convince me that a PS4 is a must. Also, I dunno, I don’t like some of the things that Microsoft are doing with XBoxOne, including that aggravating exclusivity deal for Rise of the Tomb Raider. I was never tempted by a Wii, because I knew if I used the fitness stuff, it’d be a fad and I’d never touch it again after a week.
  5. What’s the best game you’ve ever played?

    That’s a very subjective question, because over the years there have been many ‘best’ games. As a whole, I would probably say the Mass Effect series considered as a whole. It’s one of those once in a lifetime experiences for me.
  6. What’s the worst game you’ve ever played?

    I try to pick the games that I play carefully so that I don’t end up with total shite. I’d probably have to say Ultima VIII. Ultima IV until both parts of VII were amazing games, so expectations for VIII were incredibly high. And then you ended up with a buggy game with platforming, no more turn-based combat and above all a deeply disappointing story. I never tried Ultima IX after this disaster.
  7. Name a game that was popular/critically adored that you just didn’t like.

    Civ IV. Everyone seems to call it the pinnacle of the series. I bought the whole package including all expansions during a Steam sale. I played the tutorial, didn’t get it at all and gave up in frustration. I just don’t get Civ-games. My runner-up would be Skyrim. Take your sandbox games and love them, but stay away from me.
  8. Name a game that was poorly received that you really like.

    Dragon Age 2. People like to claim that this is when Bioware jumped the shark. It has a user score of 4.3 on Metacritic. It recycles almost all of the game areas, because I think the devs had a lot of pressure to release this game earlier than it should have been. And yet for me it beats DA:O hands-down, for better story and by far the deeper characters. Some of the best characters Bioware ever wrote. I love this game. – As runner-up, I want to mention Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, which I thought was a fitting end to the Ezio trilogy of games, who is one of my all-time beloved video game characters ever. I seem to be the only one who really enjoyed it. It could have done without the Tower Defense mini-game, that part sucked.
  9. What are your favourite game genres?

    RPGs, good action-adventures, stealth games.
  10. Who is your favourite game protagonist?

    My favorites would be FemShep, sassy Lady Hawke and Ezio Auditore.
  11. Describe your perfect video game.

    My perfect video game excels through story-telling. It makes me deeply care about the characters in it. The genre almost doesn’t matter. I would love for a crazy conspiracy theory setting. A bit like The Secret World, but single-player. Maybe even dystopian. That’d be cool.
  12. What video game character do have you have a crush on?

    Probably Lady Hawke, or Liara T’Soni. FemShep is too intimidating.
  13. What game has the best music?

    For video game music, I am afraid nothing gives me the shivers as much as the World of Warcraft vanilla soundtrack. I also enjoy listening to the Mass Effect soundtrack a lot.
  14. Most memorable moment in a game:

    When you get the Reaper reveal in Mass Effect 1. Total game changer. It changed everything. What a stunner. Watch the video at your own risk, major spoiler for ME1.

  15. Scariest moment in a game:

    I don’t play horror games because I am a big sissy. I also don’t watch horror movies, but have read all Stephen King books, go figure. The one exception being The Walking Dead. The whole of Episode 2 in season 1 filled me with such terrible foreboding. When you then find Mark at the dairy, late in the episode, I thought that was just utterly dreadful.
  16. Most heart-wrenching moment in a game:

    I sobbed my eyes out when I played Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. The whole last stretch of the game. Utterly heartbreaking.
  17. What are your favourite websites/blogs about games?

    As far as websites go, I enjoy reading Polygon. I also read Eurogamer, but tend to avoid the cesspit of comments there. Lastly, I go to Rock, Paper, Shotgun as gaming blog.
  18. What’s the last game you finished?

    The Wolf Among Us
  19. What future releases are you most excited about?

    Dragon Age: Inquisition, arrrrrr. Curious about Mass Effect 4. I would have added Rise of the Tomb Raider, but meh!
  20. Do you identify as a gamer?

    Yes. I have played video games since I was a kid, and it was always this pastime that was just as important as reading to me, and more important than watching TV or movies. I love knowing fellow gamers and being able to talk about fantastic game experiences with them. I love games enough to write about them.
  21. Why do you play video games?

    As form of entertainment that I personally find more engaging and immersive than, say, watching TV or a lot of movies. Games suck me in and allow me to experience stories first-hand, or challenge the mind. For me, there’s always something joyous when I start a new game, and fall in love with the medium all over again.

20/08/2014
by Kadomi
3 Comments

Steam Pile: Bastion

As I described in a previous post, my return to work co-incided with a sudden lack of time to actually play games, plus a Steam sale that magically sucked money out of my wallet. With a fresh badge of Steam games acquired, I decided I would use my time to actually finish games in my library that I had started before. The first game that I completed then was Bastion. This means that it definitely wasn’t Liore who finished this game last, hah.

Bastion is the first game by the indie developers Supergiant Games. They have since released a second game, Transistor, which was one of my summer purchases. But back to Bastion. It’s a colorful action-adventure. I first started playing this months ago, and to put it kindly, I pretty much sucked at it. I have since acquired an XBox controller for my PC and find that many games that were released on multiple platforms are actually way more enjoyable when you use a controller instead. Bastion is one of those games.

In Bastion, your character never has a name, though the narrator refers to him as The Kid. He wakes up in the City of Caelondia which has fallen into ruin after an event called the Calamity. As you move about, the ground forms under your feet, isometric-style, and your story gets told by the only other survivor you meet, Rucks, an old man. Once The Kid makes it to the Bastion, a place of safety, Rucks sends him to other parts of the ravaged world, to collect Cores to power the Bastion.

The Bastion that lends the game its title

The Bastion that lends the game its title

While in the beginning, you know absolutely nothing about what happened to the world, the story-telling is done completely by the narrator, who reveals more and more of the truth of what really happened. By the time the end of the game came about, I was deeply moved by the story. There’s a seriously haunting moment in the game when The Kid has to make a decision, and this moment combined with a really fantastic soundtrack really made the game for me. The narrator does not only provide more and more background info, but also directly comments on what’s going on, for example if you happen to fall off the platforms (like I managed multiple times) or if you chuff one health tonic after the other.

As for the gameplay, you play various highly colorful levels with isometric view and fight your way through them until you have found the core or later in game the shard. A variety of different monster types are in your way, from small scumbags, to bigger creatures, and you have to adjust your battle strategies accordingly. You have to choose a main weapon and a special attack at a blacksmith, e.g. at the Bastion before you go to another area, but sometimes you find new weapons in levels and can swap to them on the go. Weapons include a hammer, a very fast sword, various kinds of guns, etc. It’s always a strategic decision and I switched it up a lot. Each level you complete allows you to use the core to build something in the Bastion that allows you to improve the various weapon, or if you like challenging modes to make the game harder for higher experience rewards. The Kid levels up and gets more powerful, though it’s not a huge part of the game. I think I was level 5 by the time I completed the story.

Interspersed are areas where you can practice the different weapons and the better you do, the better the reward you get for defeating the practice challenge. I never got more than silver for the challenges, because I am not that awesome.

The art-style is very steampunk meets Firefly, with a wild west vibe in the way The Kid dresses, and the soundtrack strongly suggests this as well. As mentioned above, the art is very colorful and never dull. Levels are vastly different. From bogs and marshes where you can never see what might be lurking in the tall grasses, to the crumbling city of Caelondia, to sky ships carrying you through the air while air defenses shoot at you from every angle. It’s quite diverse, and I thought it was beautiful.

Combat with these fellas requires a lot of dodging their painful hammer blows.

Combat with these fellas requires a lot of dodging their painful hammer blows.

Bastion is a short game, clocking at 9 hours for me for my playthrough. There’s a New Game+ that gives you access to all weapons and abilities right at the start, but I wasn’t tempted to play that. If you enjoy action-adventures, it’s a fun one to play for sure. The unusual story-telling through the narrator might not be to everyone’s liking and probably makes or breaks the enjoyment of the game. Or maybe that was just me. In any case, if you do enjoy action-adventures, I highly recommend picking it up. It’s usually one of the items that gets a heavy discount during the Steam sales.