Posted in CRPG, CRPGs

Wildermyth: The Enduring War begins

This? This is my excited face as I start a brand-new Wildermyth campaign — and my first five-chapter journey — called The Enduring War. This time around, I’m selecting the “carved in stone” option, which autosaves progress and doesn’t allow me to revert to older saves. So character permadeath, bad choices, the whole lot. It’s for the story, not the min/maxing!

I also went with a randomized party: Cobivia the goofish loner, Onari the greedy leader, and Syla the poetical snark. Feels really weird to be hanging out with these three after having bonded with the previous company, but I assume I’ll grow to love them just as much.

As this campaign begins, the trio are sharing stories when all of the sudden, bizarre bio-mechanical constructs lurch up out of the ground and begin wreaking havoc. Onari tries to boss Cobivia around, but she’s not having it. Bit of a friction there, I can tell.

After the successful, if clumsy, fight, Styla suggests that their newfound company be named The Bards of the Strange Fury. Our fury is the strangest of all the fury. They also pick up a fourth member, Elantha.

In the nearby woods, the company bumps into a slightly loony older gent named Yore who is burning down fennel to save the eagles. Or something.

The good news? The fire eagles were saved. The weird news? A fire chick brought as bait has really taken a liking to Styla. She reluctantly keeps it as a pet, calling it Sparky.

In the middle of a particularly bad fight, Onari takes two hard hits in a row, which deplete his hit points. Wildermyth does something interesting here — it lets you choose if you want the character to die (but do a lot of damage to that attacking monster), take a health hit for the rest of the campaign, or have an ally take a health hit. None of it is good, but at least it’s a choice.

I hate to do it, but I let Onari die. The fight was bad enough, and having the ability to insta-kill a boss was invaluable. Plus, he never really got on with the rest of the group.

Oof. Now I’m regretting disabling the restore save function. In addition to losing Onari entirely, the three other members are defeated and maimed, limping away. The company survives… but barely. Don’t even know if I can salvage this at this point, but I’ll try.

Once they heal, they recruit a new warrior — Woruna — and head back to Ollin Forge for another attempt.

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Wildermyth: A gorgon to end all gorgons

On their way to confront Ulstryx, the company decides to divert to a nearby region to help stop a gorgon incursion that’s currently stampeding all over the land. They hastily construct defenses and hunker down to wait.

It’s by far the longest combat scene I’ve encountered so far, with a few waves of bad guys crashing in, but I keep my guys clumped together and whittle them down without losing any of the company (but let us have a moment of silence for the villager woman who died by raccoon attack).

A little critter makes off with Geeve’s lucky coin (Geeve is a “lucky coin” kind of guy) and leads the party to a cave, where they get a jump on some bad guys. Afterward, Walshae adopts the little guy, making it the first official pet of the company. AWW.

With the world flooding, The Bringers of the Things We Lost prepare to make their assault upon Ulstryx and hopefully reverse the global calamity. Final preparations are made for this “unwinnable fight.”

The final battle begins, and it’s a doozy. The company has great gear, strong passives, and a willingness to see this through. But will they prevail? I honestly didn’t know if we’d make it. Ulstryx herself was tough, with loads of armor and hit points, but she also could keep calling an infinite supply of monster assistants — and throw them right into the middle of our group. Only by ignoring all of the other mobs and doing whatever we could to hurt Ulstryx did we eke out a victory.

And that’s it for the first campaign! We saved the world and grew together doing it. And, somehow, Fala got turned into a skeleton, which I only saw at the ending scene? Not sure what that was about. In any case, the company graduated to becoming legacy heroes, and their story has come to an end. Time for another one, eh?

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Wildermyth: The rains came down and the floods came up

As Chapter 2 of this introductory campaign in Wildermyth concludes, time marches forward again by 10 years. Welshae decifers the book she found by the guardian statue, Geeve picks a future from a spirit, Courette takes up smithing, Fala weeds, and Galadiel becomes a mountaineering guide. What really surprised me is that the party gains a new member — Courette’s daughter Grifette, who has come of age and is a mystic. Welshae’s transformation progresses, allowing her to shoot lightning up out of the ground, which is pretty spiffy.

The adventurers, now in their mid-40s, are deeply troubled by a nonstop deluge of rain that begins to flood the world. Soon enough, their suspicions are confirmed by a mysterious visitor — the gorgons are flooding the world — and there’s only one chance to stop them. They have to assemble again to go figure out how.

As the company travels to a distant land to find out some information from a stranger, Fala attempts to slip away to destroy a cursed knife. Geeve and Courette spy her doing this and come along, because what else are friends for? Once they get to the forge, the dagger gives Fala a vision — and a choice. Cast aside the dagger and struggle in the upcoming fights, or use the dagger to win… and be corrupted by it. Fala thinks long and hard about it, and keeps the dagger. It’s her choice, after all.

I very much love the comic panel interludes and the various conversations that your characters have. Makes ’em feel more *real*, if that makes sense. Or at least more than pawns on a chessboard.

The worldwide flooding continues to grow more dire as the company reaches their destination. Their frail allies tell them that the gorgons have nullified a godbeast who was keeping the world’s weather in balance. Without the godbeast’s balance, the world will turn into “gorgon soup,” with us the onions. The only hope they have to counter this is to use a special herbal mixture — a “rootbeer” if you will — to unpetrify the godbeast.

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Wildermyth: Wandering with reckless abandon

It’s 10 years later for my Wildermyth party (who are now in their early 30s), the Bringers of the Things We Lost, and they are setting out once again. This time it’s to investigate the mother gorgon that they heard about previously, to see if they can track down the threat before it overwhelms the land.

On the way, however, Geeve decides this is a good time to bury the ashes of a storytelling friend. It’s a sweet little tale as the crew finds the spot where the storyteller wanted to buried, fight off a few bad guys, and in the end decide to enjoy nature rather than recall old stories.

Gorgons are finally spotted in some ruins, where a farmer is wandering around monster country. I’m getting better with the combat scenes, grouping up my party for added protection, forming a shield wall with my paladins, and using my mystic’s infusion ability to turn the environment against the bad guys. I love infusion, it’s really so much fun. After the fight, the farmer said that he’d heard of some sort of shrine that lends people extra power, so he’s been coming up here to try to access it and use it to protect his family (and goats).

The farmer chickens out of using the Stormwell, so Walshae does it instead. She gulps this magic water down and gets a big glowing star on her forehead. This makes the third party member I have with some sort of facial deformity. Just hope it was worth it.

With less than 300 days to get to the root of the Gorgon problem, the party heads to unknown territories. Along the way they stop in Pebbleham, where they pick up a fifth party member — Galadiel, a hunter who’s got a boasty mouth on her. I like her already. And then I promptly forget her in the town, which I don’t realize until I’m three tiles away, she’s not equipped, and I don’t have the time to go back and get her. What is my life?

Welshae encounters an ox with a strange growth on it. It talks to her mind, sketching out a map to the enemy before asking the party to put it out of its misery.

Let’s see… lot happens in this next tile. The company gets trapped in a cave, finds a mysterious underground temple, swipes a book, causes a second cave-in, then emerges to attack a group of baddies. Oh, and Walshae catches a cute little water spirit and forces it to transform into a stronger magic staff, because that’s what you do with cute things — make better loot.

With a single day left — yes, I was cutting it close to the wire — the company finds the big sentinel boss, claws, paws and all. Defeating it nets the team a tier 3 spear — and an endless wave of gorgons. All seems lost:

The company starts to make a run for it through a gauntlet of monsters in order to reach the exit on the far side of the map. I am on the edge of my seat right now, I kid you not. After a nailbiting set of rounds where everyone takes damage and dashes wildly for the exit, the company emerges from the cave system victorious — and with a weapon that buys them some time. Ten more years follow.

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Wildermyth: A sublime storybook RPG experience

My monthly entertainment budget is just enough for me to buy a single game, expansion, or season of TV. So whenever the first of the month rolls around, I deliberate a whole lot on what my one purchase will be. However, come this past October 1st, I already knew what I wanted: Wildermyth. I’d simply heard too many great things about it and knew that it’d be a perfect “lunchtime game” for me. Easiest purchase I ever made.

The best way to describe Wildermyth is a game that seeks to replicate tabletop RPGs, down to the visual style (including cutouts on a grid), branching storytelling, and evolving characters. In fact, it’s this last part that’s the most exciting, because your party grows into veritable legends that have good and bad things happen to them, develop relationships, grow old, and establish themselves as legends that can affect future campaigns.

My first adventure began with a trio of friends: street urchin Courette (fighter), troubled Geeve (hunter), and cowardly Walshae (mystic). During the opening chapter, strange monsters started attacking settlements while Welshae discovered both a mysterious book and the ability to do magic. In Wildermyth, the magic system is pretty cool — it’s called “infusion,” which allows you to bond with an object on the playfield and then transform that into a magical attack of some sort. Fire becomes fireballs, cloth can constrict windpipes, chests can explode in wooden shards, and so on.

Anyway, after a good battle, the three decide to form a company of heroes called The Bringers of the Things We Lost to go and help other regions. Their battles take place on a visually striking grid system where you move your party around, take actions, and then see how the enemy responds. It’s slick and straight-forward, which I appreciated, while also taking advantage of the layout and landscape for battle decisions.

There are a lot of these little events, kind of choose-your-own-adventure decisions where you make choices that impact your party. For example, I sent greedy Geeve to pry out a gem that promptly stuck itself right into his eye socket. His girlfriend Walshae is not amused.

They also find a little monster, whom Courette (now sporting a shiny rapier) argues that they care for. The company spends the night tending it, but it dies anyway. Bummer, I would’ve loved a monster pet.

After liberating a couple more zones from pests, the company returns to town and recruits a new warrior, Fala, who leaves her fields to see where the open road will take her.

I like their mid-adventure chatter. Gives them personality and keeps me going for the story alone.

Getting gear upgrades after a fight is a heady thing, and I definitely did a manly squee when Courette stumbled upon an artifact shield from a previous adventuring company. Unfortunately, she promptly got kidnapped by some crazy villagers who tried to offer her up as a sacrifice to a “Great One,” whatever that is. I love that Courette mocks them as they try to do this.

Ah. That’s a Great One. Cute!

Anyway, the company finally gets to the center of the conflict in this area, which is a gorgon that’s turned a whole village worth of people to stone. The crew slays the gorgon, but not before it implants something in Courette’s ear and hints at a greater gorgon master out there.

With Chapter One over, the game goes into an intermission during which it tells you what happens during the subsequent 10 years of peace. Courette’s stony mark grows, Walshae and Geeve get married (yay), the crew crafts some better gear, and enough knowledge is learned to start hunting down the gorgon threat.

Posted in CRPG, CRPGs

Pillars of Eternity 2 goes down smooth like butterscotch and rum

I’ve been sorting through my gaming backlog for a good title to play during lunchtime, and Pillars of Eternity 2 slid onto my lap as the obvious candidate. I think Pillars of Eternity 1 may be the last CRPG I’ve fully played through and beaten (expansions aside), and I’ve heard pretty good things about the sequel, even though it underperformed financially.

I don’t think enough recognition’s been given to Obsidian for creating CRPGs that don’t involve frustrating camera controls and fiddly turn-based combat (Divinity Original Sin 2 is getting some side-eyes from me here). It’s quite familiar to anyone who’s ever played those old Infinity Engine titles like Baldur’s Gate 2, just gussied up for the modern age. And hey, the sequel is pirate-themed, so why wouldn’t I play it?

I had the option of importing my old character and choices from the first game, although I did neither. POE2 also allows you to hand-pick every choice or pick a general summary, including a tempting one called “Everything Bad” where you’ll have to play in the wake of making an uninterrupted string of horrible decisions. I wasn’t quite brave enough to pull the trigger on that (I really didn’t want certain NPC party members to be dead at the onset of this game), but so I went with something more in the middle.

This time around, I rolled up a fuzzy little Orlan Druid who specializes in summoning critters in a fight and is generally sarcastic and flippant during conversations. The story has me chasing around a giant god who’s on a rampage through a chain of islands, doing the usual CRPG stuff of finding party members, doing quests, and gradually becoming Grade-A Amazing.

What else is there to say? So far, I’m having a good time. I love how these games are drenched in good writing and dialogue and voice acting. It goes such a long way to drawing me into this world, and I appreciate how many little choices I can make simply in a conversation. The graphics are decent — not astounding but workable. It’s probably the game’s weakest point, although it’s not all that weak as long as you are cool with an art style that looks lifted from 2000.

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Up and in Cyberpunk 2077’s Night City

Last Thursday I got my last Christmas gift of the season: a new graphics card! OK, it’s not the most powerful or latest model or anything, but putting a 1080 Ti into my machine was a big step up from the GTX 950 I had in there. That’s Syp: Cutting edge for three years ago!

Hey, at least it’ll allow me to run some of these modern games that I hadn’t been able to, such as Cyberpunk 2077. That’s been sitting in my folder since I got it from Epic with a $10 off coupon. I wasn’t in a huge rush to play it, but still, I want to get through some of these big CRPGs this year that I have in my library, so I didn’t want to wait forever either.

And I definitely am intrigued to see what such a game looks like in a cyberpunk setting. It’s not an over-mined genre, but I’ve always liked it for the gritty and techno-happy look at the future.

I took my time getting into the game, spending an hour on character creation. It’s a little disconcerting that my character spent that entire time completely nude — is it too much to ask for a bathrobe on the character creation screen? It’s chilly in there!

So that’s my V up there: A little bit punkish, but I didn’t feel like going overboard with the tatts and piercings. I thought it was a little difficult making a decent-looking character — not Fallout-hard, but it wasn’t easy. I decided to put her background in the corporate world because that sounded the most interesting to me. Ideally, I’m going to play her as nice and altruistic as possible to see if I  can push back against an oppressive setting.

It’s nice that you get a small apartment, because I’m going to need a safe haven to retreat from all of this urban density. For someone who wants to see everything and poke around everywhere, this might take a while… but for now, I’ll just follow some of the quests and see where they take me.

I’ve learned early on that Cyberpunk 2077 isn’t a game where you can really talk or navigate your way out of a bulk of combat. This is very much an action combat game with lots of set pieces, so I’m going to have to find some setup that works well for me. It probably will involve a shotgun.

I’d laugh at them, but I’m playing just as much a tourist as I gawk at everything and take unscheduled detours from the missions. I’m also gawking at all of the weird glitches, most notably far-off fauna that pop through everything else. It’s like I’m being haunted by the ghosts of palm trees.

So I’m really not sure on the combat and core systems yet, but I do like the world — and in a CRPG, that’s 70% the way to wanting to stick around and marinate in the atmosphere.

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Octopath Traveler: Looking for a group

I’m not super sucked into Octopath Traveler — at least, not yet — but I am really warming up to some of its aspects. The combat in particular is pretty satisfying, and I like how I’m not completely lost and confused at this stage.

I’ve also been playing the game with a controller ever since my second session. That isn’t something I do with computer games — pretty much *ever* — but this title was clearly designed for a controller and is awkward as all get out with just the keyboard. I don’t resent having to use a controller, although the rumble pack in mine is way too aggressive and wants to vibrate my hand off.

With my first character under my belt, I’m following the game’s gentle instruction to go around and assemble the other seven main characters. I figure that just going around the game map clockwise should do fine for this, so next up was Alfyn.

This was a good move, since Alfyn is a healer who wants to go out and heal the world or somesuch. Honestly, his introduction is really lame, but I do like his upbeat attitude and the fact that he brings much-needed heals to the table.

With a second character in the party, we head up north for a third. It’s a very relaxed kind of trip, allowing me to level up from fights, explore nooks and crannies, and otherwise enjoy the gorgeous backdrops.

It’s a good thing that I’m not in a rush, because the trip really does take a while — especially with all the random fights. The good news is that I’m getting very practiced with taking down mobs. I wish that I was seeing gear drops, but hey, levels are levels. Can’t hurt to have more of them!

Here, the small party enters some northern forest… very dreamy.

It’s here that I start in on the tale of H’aanit (don’t ask me how to pronounce it), a hunter in the dark woods who lost her master a year ago. Square-Enix does seem to love dousing particular cultures in its RPGs with super ye olde fashioned speeche, and this place gets the heaviest dose I’ve ever seen.

For such a “dignified” hunter of renown, H’aanit ends up fighting the doofiest-looking boss I’ve seen yet in this game. Derpy derpy do. And what about the drool situation, there?

Ah well, at least now I have a party of three to call my own!

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Octopath Traveler: This kitten’s got claws

Finally a bit of time freed up on my gaming schedule to allow me to dip into Square Enix’s Octopath Traveler — a title I’ve been hearing about for a while now from friends who gush about it. I’m approaching it with the same relish that I would opening up a big novel that I know for certain I’m going to enjoy.

At the start of the game, you get your pick of one of eight pre-established characters to explore. After reading through all of their descriptions, Primrose’s story leaped out at me — the tale of a dancer who grew up an orphan after her father was slaughtered by a trio of mysterious men.

Very early impressions? The quality and polish of this game hit me smack in the face — so far, it’s really fantastic. The first thing that really grabbed me was the presentation, which is a wonderfully modern take on old school JRPG visuals. The characters are all sprites (huzzah) but the landscape is side-view 3D done in pixel art to give it some depth. With the borders of the screen fuzzing out somewhat, there’s just a very distinct look to this game that feels like you’re playing an elaborate diorama. That’s the best way I can describe it.

So Primrose is working to follow up a tenuous lead on one of the three people who killed her father, and at the tavern where she dances, she finally spots him and follows him into the nearby catacombs. There I finally got some combat, which is *also* old school — turn based, menu-driven combat with incentive to break an enemy’s shields with certain attacks. I love how Primrose can “allure” townspeople into becoming her temporary companions for a set number of summons. I hauled in an elderly woman with me into the dungeon and kept laughing as I brought her out to join the fight. She didn’t sign up for this, no doubt.

I like that this game isn’t super-easy on you right out of the gate. I actually died — twice — in the first dungeon before I started to get a handle on the vulnerability system and how to boost attacks. Not having a second character or any healing skills (other than, er, grapes) doesn’t allow for as much room to fail.

Obviously there was going to be a big showdown with Primrose’s “master” — the game telegraphed that so strongly that I would have to be blind, deaf, and a JRPG newbie not to see it coming — but it was still satisfying to knock off the fat pig.

From there, the game gave Primrose her overarching quest, to find the three Crows. But I have the freedom to make my own path, and it’s heavily suggested that I recruit all of the other seven travelers. So that’s my goal for the time being — that, and unlocking city fast travel points to free up the map. One hour in, and I’m really digging this!

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Divinity OS2: If someone asks you if you’re an undead necromantic abomination from another era of history, you say YES

One title that’s been weighing on my backlog more than others is Divinity Original Sin 2. It’s not even that it was a gift from a generous reader (although that’s part of it), but that this looks like a meaty, story-rich RPG that I would love. I just needed to carve out 100 hours or so of my time to get through it.

Or, you know, 200 half-hour segments over the better part of a year.

In any case, over the last few weeks I have been making my way through Fort Joy and the starting island in this game. Out of the six starting characters, I went with Fane, because who wouldn’t want to be a skeleton with necromantic powers from an ancient civilization? That’s by and far more interesting than all of the other characters’ backstories, so there we go.

Readers with greater memories than mine may recall that I did try DOS2 a while back and didn’t get very far into it. I have greater hopes this time around, partially because somewhere along the way the dev team released an update for the “definitive edition” that comes with a lot of improvements and bells and whistles. It doesn’t seem that much different than before, but I’ll trust that they ironed out some of the rougher parts. I did select “explorer” for my difficulty level, which is not quite the easiest mode but it’s down there.

My reasoning for this is that DOS2’s combat just takes forever. It’s a turn-based RPG where each encounter might take five or more minutes to play through. That offers a lot of strategy and tactics, but it’s slow as crap and is not something I’ll want to repeat many times over to beat particular mobs. Another nice thing about this difficulty level is that you can raise any killed allies after combat without having to worry about stockpiling rez scrolls.

Probably my only other major quibbles with the game so far is the camera, which I keep having to rotate due to the game’s large landscape graphics (which results in me getting disoriented) and a pretty crappy map (which lacks quest markers). If a game’s going to be in a pulled-back camera mode, it might as well lock into an isometric viewpoint like Pillars of Eternity.

What does keep me going is that the characters — both in the world and in my party — are downright fascinating, the dialogue is really well written, and there are so many odd things that happen that I keep wanting to explore to see what else is out there. You don’t get much better than finding a squirrel riding a skeleton cat and acting like a knight. I have no idea what the story is around these two, but they’re following me around and that’s cool with me.

I did make sure to grab the feat that lets me talk to pets, because there are so my bizarrely wonderful conversations you can get into with animals.

Probably the most touching of these is Buddy, a dog who lost his best friend Emmie when she was taken away to be trained as a Source Hound. I was really excited to find Emmie later on and let her know that Buddy is still out there, waiting for her. Doggie love!

At least I’ve been able to get further into the game — past Fort Joy — than I did previously. There was a really creepy section where my party tore through an underground torturer’s playground, and my party’s skills are starting to shape up as each combat encounter gets easier to handle. I am picking this one feat for all of my party members that turns their allies into zombies if they die in a fight, because that is awesome. You kill me? BAM, now I’m back in zombie form. Big mistake. Big.