Posted in CRPG, CRPGs

Pillars of Eternity II: No one knew where the druids came from…

After playing through and beating Pillars of Eternity a couple of times, I’ve been meaning to give Obsidian’s follow-up the same attention. I’ve started Deadfire a couple of times but haven’t dedicated myself to playing much more than the intro, so it’s been on my 2023 gaming list to see more (or perhaps all) of this seafaring RPG sequel.

I really like this opening part, where you’re a disembodied spirit called back from the afterlife to be pressed into service again. It’s entirely possible during this character creation process to argue strenuously enough against going back that the game just gives up and ends.

My character is Syperia, an Ancient Druid who’s a bit cocky and likes to use a pistol for some reason. I always liked Druid classes in the Baldur’s Gate series, so it feels right to continue on with that here. She wakes up on board a ship that’s being boarded by pirates, so it’s time to put that pistol to good use!

It feels like the game bug bit pretty hard right away, as I almost immediately got a lot further than I have in the past doing the opening island quests. It’s a lot of getting used to the lay of the land, making sure to scope out every location for named NPCs and free loot, building up a bank account, and getting (re)used to the combat system. Before long, I have a fighter (whom I’m training to be an unarmed MMA-style grappler) and a priest joining the cause of… vague wandering?

Hey, you know what you really shouldn’t do? Crowd all your party around a barrel full of gunpowder and then shoot it for fun. The above is what happens about two milliseconds after stupidity has free reign.

Posted in CRPG, CRPGs

Disco Elysium: Just call me… Hobocop

Taking a break from JRPGs this week, I turned back to a recent favorite CRPG that I wanted to explore a second time. Disco Elysium was a wildly different RPG experience than I’ve had in the past, and with its “Final Cut” update, I knew I wanted to see it again with all of its improvements. Plus, I wanted to unleash my inner craziness and go as weird as this game will let me.

Spoiler: It’s a whole lot.

This unusual alternate-world murder mystery begins with a completely soused detective coming to in a trashed room. He’s about as unlikable and unattractive as any film noir P.I. might wish to be… and mostly naked, too. Also, his head is filled with different voices that keep talking to him, but that’s part of the game’s setup and one must go with it. The bender was so bad, apparently, that it’s practically wiped out his memory (letting the player fill it in with choices).

Disco Elysium is a weird game to try to explain. It’s nominally a detective RPG that’s more about dialogue and investigation than combat. It’s got a very unique character growth system where you fashion your character out of 16 skills and various “thoughts” that can take root and grow into definable traits. For example, a conversation planted the idea that I could be a Hobocop… so I decided to pursue this to become even more unstable than I already am.

There are a lot of useful things to do right away on the first day. There are some helpful items — crowbar, flashlight, gloves — to grab, a partner to meet, a street map to swipe, and, most important of all, a yellow bag that allows you to scrounge for cans like a homeless bum. HOBOCOP!

I keep making detours on this first day, most notably to a nearby bookstore that is purported to be under a “curse.” After investigating the whole building, I find out that not only did there used to be a company there that did wireless RPG adventuring (which sounds really neat) but also there’s a die-maker who’s been peacefully making roleplaying dice.

The main thrust of this game is to figure out who killed this man who’s been hanging behind the hostel for a week now. It’s like a Laura Palmer/Twin Peaks thing, where the murder is the catalyst to crack open a can of worms on the area. The crime scene investigation is a lengthy bit with a whole lot of analysis and even feats of shooting (I mean, how do you get a hanged guy down when you don’t have a ladder or crane?).

Once you realize just how much freedom this game’s developers are willing to give you to act on pretty much any impulse you have, the fun really begins. For example, the murder victim is left with a pair of custom-fitted high tech armor boots. Boots that I kind of wanted, even though that would be stealing. So I didn’t have the body taken away just yet — I waited until my partner went to sleep for the night, came back to grab the boots, then went to the hotel’s kitchen to use a pot to boil the boots clean of… leftoevers. And now I’m wearing them proudly while the game tells me that my partner is deliberately ignoring their presence on my weird body.

Posted in CRPG, CRPGs, Octopath Traveler

Octopath Traveler: A cleric, a hunter, and a thief walk into a bar

As I continue my party round-up of Octopath Traveler’s eight companions, I confess I’m relieved to get to this next one — Ophilia — because that means I get a dedicated healer. She’s a good-hearted adopted daughter of the archbishop who conspires (but in the NICEST way) to go on a world-spanning pilgrimage instead of her sister when dad grows ill. I really like her bonus ability, as she can convince NPCs to follow her and then throw them into combat as summons a certain number of times.

Let me tell you, I really don’t mind slowing down on certain screens to grind out a few more levels. The combat is that right mixture of snappy, visually pleasing, strategic, and flexible. It might well be the best turn-based RPG system that I’ve ever experienced. And it doesn’t hurt to get everyone above level 10, especially since some of those skills start getting very costly to buy.

Continuing to journey counter-clockwise around the map, I ended up in the deep forest where we met H’aanit the hunter. She’s fine, I guess, but she talks in that annoying pseudo-Elizabethan writing style that Square Enix sometimes fancies. Anyway, her main quest is to track down her mentor, whose hunting pet returned to the village without him.

Companion #5 is Therion the thief. He’s a walking stereotype of the loner thief (who hesitates not one second to join your party) with a sarcastic quip for every occasion. But he’s definitely going to be part of my main party because he can (a) steal from NPCs and (b) open purple chests with good gear.

Posted in CRPG, CRPGs, Octopath Traveler

Octopath Traveler: Show me the money

It’s been a while, but as Octopath Traveler 2 is coming this year, I thought it was the perfect time to return to — and actually finish — the first game. The last time I played Octopath Traveler it was December 2020, but honestly, who remembers anything from that year? I know I liked it but as I only put 5.5 hours into it, I had only scratched the surface of this charming JRPG from Square Enix.

So let’s see if I can actually make it through this puppy in 2023!

Something I didn’t really understand my first time playing is that while you can collect all eight characters, your *first* will always be in your party as your main character and end up out-leveling everyone else. So that first choice is very important to make. After a lot of deliberation (and reading around on the subject), I’m going with the merchant Tressa for her ability to make money hand-over-fist. More money is NEVER a bad thing in RPGs.

Tressa’s tale begins with pirates roughing up the town and stealing various goods from hard-working folks. Tressa, the merchant daughter of two shop owners, decides to use her advanced purchasing power to do something about it — namely, to buy sleepweed and drug the pirates’ wine. I then farmed random mob encounters for a while until she was level 6 and was able to buy a couple of new skills.

The boss battle reminded me how much I like Octopath Traveler’s turn-based combat system. It’s not just that it’s snappy (although it is), but that there’s a decent level of strategy that goes on as you use an enemy’s weakness to “break” them and then pile on saved-up attacks to wipe them out. Tressa uses the spear, bow, and has wind magic, so she’s got plenty of options.

Once the pirates are defeated, she makes friends with a visiting merchant captain who used to be a pirate himself. He gifts Tressa with a book of adventuring tales — tales that end up inspiring her to leave her hometown and become a traveling merchant herself.

This game has eight collectable characters — all which start with a different letter of the word OCTOPATH — and so the first part of the journey is to collect ’em all like Pokémon. I’m taking Tressa counter-clockwise around the map, so first up is Cyrus the scholar. His fairly dull tale kicks off with a detective-like search for whoever stole some rare tome from the library. Once he beats up the thief, he then sets out to track down an even more rare, even more stolen book.

With two heroes collected out of eight, the party heads up into the mountains in search of a healer. Love that falling snow effect!

Posted in CRPG, CRPGs

The Outer Worlds: Project Gorgon… no, not that one

The race is on! With most of the base game done, all I’ve got are the two DLCs and the final prison break sequence. But as I’ve never done the DLC before, I don’t know how long it’ll take me. Some sites are citing between 5-15 hours for each, depending on how much is completed. In any case, my goal is to be fully done with the game by the end of the month, so I’ve got to get a move on.

I kicked off with Peril on Gorgon, the lower-level of the two. This one started with a mysterious package sent to the ship by a former associate of the former captain (both now deceased). It invited me to a manor on a giant moon for a lucrative job. Sure, why not!

Right away, we’re greeted by a butler robot who stumbles over the edge and falls to its demise. “Heh, been there little guy,” says Nyoka.

Outside there’s a “pond” where these little mechanical fish follow a track around in circles like they’re swimming. It’s part of the fake-it-till-you-make-it atmosphere of this game that I love so much.

So the rich orphan of the manor wants the Unreliable crew to investigate her mother’s previous project — and disappearance — working for Spacer’s Choice on Gorgon. As a bonus, I get full salvage rights and a paycheck!

Even though Spacer’s Choice evacuated Gorgon for an unknown reason, it’s not as though the asteroid is empty. SubLight set up shop to salvage, and there are a few who’ve remained behind at the wonderfully named Sprat Shack. It’s legally owned by a sprat on the Groundbreaker.

Yeah, absolutely nothing good goes on in here, I guarantee you.

This office building has more gold plating than a Trump hotel, let me tell you. And as we get closer to the secret of Gorgon, we hear from a mysterious figure that it has something to do with Spacer’s Choice actually creating Marauders from convicted criminals.

And after another hour of chasing down leads to unlock a building to unlock something else to have the game repeatedly crash on me… guys? I think I’m done with Outer Worlds. I’ve been playing it for over two months now, and I’ve just hit that “I’ve seen and enjoyed all I’m gonna at this point” threshold. It’s time to move on to another gaming project. Not that it hasn’t been fun, mind you! I still eagerly look forward to Outer Worlds 2. But my time here is finished.

Posted in CRPG, CRPGs

The Outer Worlds: Brought to you by the flavor ‘purple’

I begin my Outer Worlds adventures this week going through the surprisingly big Rizzo’s underground complex. Will it be abandoned? Scary? Purple? I don’t remember, but as Ellie said, this place smells like despair. And purple.

Basically, this level is Aliens mixed with Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory — and yes, it’s every bit as awesome as that sounds.

It looks like the place got taken over or invaded by Mantisaurs, so there’s my primary enemy for the next hour. I do find it adorable that the robots elevated the threat to “Petrifying Purpleberry.” I would totally take a swig of that.

Anyway, the whole job here is to steal a bunch of gas from Rizzo’s for Sublight. This makes that corporation very happy — and nets me another job, this time to steal an entire space station.

“All right, ladies. It’s time for a moon dance.”

The station is eerily quiet. In fact, I don’t get into a single fight the entire time I’m there, thanks to talking down some wanna-be boarders and using my hacking skills to deactivate the security robots. But as I claim the place for Sublight, there are indications of weird science experiments happening. Back at Sublight HQ, my contact says that this is proof of alien sentient life — and a conspiracy to twist humans to become more like monsters. Or something.

Back on Monarch, I get MSI and the Iconoclasts to stop fighting long enough to bring some measure of peace. This lasts for about 30 seconds until a spaceship crash lands with tech that both sides want. And a race is on! A race that I won, so I favored MSI and ended up killing all of the Iconoclasts. Honestly, I was tired of their bickering anyway.

Last time I played Outer Worlds, I didn’t recruit the sixth and final companion SAM (for some reason). Corrected that oversight this time around, as who wouldn’t want an overly cheerful cleaning robot on the team?

With Monarch done, it’s off to Byzantium on Terra 2. Despite looking like a super-rich city, this place has obvious cracks (some literal) in its foundations. As my intelligence contact puts it, something’s off here. Things are breaking and never getting fixed — which is especially noticeable if you slow down and look at all of the minor details in the streets. It’s opulence decaying. And that bodes well for nobody.

And it’s here that I find out another cover-up that’s going on: Halcyon is dying. The plants the colonists brought from Earth aren’t providing enough nutrients to sustain life. And they’re planning to freeze most of the colonists to preserve the real food. And on top of that, a huge ship that was supposed to be bringing help from Earth went missing a while back. Oh, and they’re using a lottery system to select colonists for “early retirement,” which sends them into a big room where robots blast them to bits.

All paths lead to the Hope, the lost colony ship that I was originally taken out of. The plan here is to couple the Unreliable with it to help the Hope skip jump within the system to land next to Terra 2 so that the people can be rescued.

Logs aboard the Hope tell a grim tale. The ship didn’t arrive on time but woke up the crew far too soon anyway. Without an option to go back into hypersleep, the crew tried to find solutions for food. And hey, there’s a whole bunch of frozen meat-people ready to eat. You connect the dots.

Soon after, the Board storms Phineas’ lab — possibly because I led them there — and hauled him off to a maximum security planet. But before I get to that, I’ve got to get some DLCs done!

Posted in CRPG, CRPGs

The Outer Worlds: Making friends the old-fashioned way

I’m not the biggest fan of Monarch as a planet in The Outer Worlds for a few reasons. One, the aesthetic isn’t that interesting to me. Two, it goes on forever with multiple quest hubs and missions. Three, there is a lot of annoying terrain to navigate.

So I took a quick break to follow Nyoka’s companion quests. It’s so painfully obvious that this game is a thinly veiled fanfic of Firefly, and you don’t see that anywhere as clear as with the crew. Nyoka is a more drunk Zoe, Parvati is Kaylee, Vicar Max is Shepherd, and so on. I like Ellie and Nyoka for my constant companions.

Speaking of, I took a break from regular questing to work on each of my companions’ quests. They each get one, and those missions are generally worth doing for the story and rewards. With Nyoka, I helped her find the remains of her former crewmates and give them a proper burial. A bit sad, but as she said, she’s hopeful that she found another crew in the Unreliable.

And then I dropped space-acid with Max to help him come to some sort of greater realization about who he was in the grand scheme of things. And then I tried to eat my clothes.

I found Rizzo’s secret lab! What wonders will I plunders from here? Probably something very, very purple, I’m guessing.

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The Outer Worlds: Migrating to Monarch

After a few side quests — and 15 levels — in my back pocket, the crew of the Unreliable finally heads to Monarch to see if we can’t track down some much-needed chemicals to revive the Hope’s crew. Monarch is a pretty large planet (for this game) that’s situated right off of a gas giant.

Down at the settlement of Stellar Bay, we seek out Nyoka — a local guide who’s as drunk as she is fierce. And a future member of the crew, if I recall. But before I sober her up to go on adventures, I help resolve a worker dispute and obtain a tossball poster for a very whiny and needy fan.

And when you need a break from killing space pirates and giant apes, you can always dive into a bit of romantic fanfiction that’s tucked away on individuals’ data terminals.

Why yes, that IS a nice hat. It’s actually its name, “A Nice Hat.” Because if you’re going to go out, you might as well do so in style. Meanwhile, I’m rocking an auto-pistol that’s been tricked out a bit for some nice DPS.

Sooner or later, every fantasy, scifi, or post-apoc RPG is going to have you do a quest where you stumble into a house populated by cannibals. So this is Outer Worlds’. The only good thing about cannibals is that you can go on a shooting spree and not feel guilty about it.

Another session, I infiltrated a boarstwurst factory — you know, where they feed cystpigs so that people can just pick a chunk off their back and snarf it down. This universe has a lot of disgusting food options, I’ve noticed. I *am* able to feed them a toxic amount of food, for some reason. And so I do.

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The Outer Worlds: The moon in the man

Next up in my amazing Outer Worlds adventures, it’s off to investigate a distress call — that is most certainly, 100% a trap — at Roseway Gardens on Terra 2.

It’s actually not so much a trap as it is corporate stupidity. An Auntie Cleo scientist discovered the formula to the “ultimate diet toothpaste” that needs enzymes from killer reptiles. Said reptiles got loose and started slaughtering indiscriminately. So time to clean up a mess and get back to brushing teeth!

You know it’s a secret, ’cause it’s in the name! As a plaque inside says, “Remember to keep Auntie’s secrets secret.” Time to take my super-powered science hammer here and go smashing up as many abominations as I can find.

Dear scientists, maybe consider not improving every lethal species in the galaxy? Thanks. Sincerely, adventurers everywhere.

I don’t care if it only gives me a small bump to temperament, how could I *not* wear the moon helmet in this game?

While I did get the research returned for the lead scientist, I pointed out that this diet toothpaste will essentially starve and weaken workers — and that a whole bunch of people died already because of it.

Next up on my system tour is Scylla, a giant asteroid that happens to have a habitable region thanks to force fields and terraformers. The goal here is to find and secure a missing shipment of medical supplies for the Groundbreaker. The only problem? A bunch of scienced-up killer circus animals that escaped from a crashed transport.

Meet the mega-primals. Cute, aren’t they? They take just so much ammo from my heaviest machine gun to take down. And it’s not just their size — they also tunnel underground in mid-battle and shoot annoying N-rays at you from a distance. It’s a little bit past these guys that we meet an obvious Captain Kirk/Zapp Brannigan/Mal Reynolds type, a cocky captain whom we have to rescue. And Ellie gets in some really good digs at him, as they know each other.

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Shadows Over Loathing: Fishing for compliments

This is me in Shadows Over Loathing, attacking robots with my trusty goblin sidekick and a magical spider leg that shoots cheese. Just another normal day in this game!

My adventures in Chapter 3 continue on the S.I.T. college campus, where I’ve got to do about a billion quests to pass classes and get the doohickey that I want. The whole place is confusingly laid out, and I am not a fan. But there is an infinite hallway, which does indeed go on forever.

I did take a person detour in a secret lab to grind on endless waves of robots for XP. The way this game handles leveling is that you accrue XP and then can spend it on skills and other upgrades like a currency. And since I can get as much XP as I want here, I figured I might as well max out my stat sheet.

“What’d you do last night after I went to bed, babe?” “Oh, nothing much. Went fishing in a cursed sewer. STOP QUESTIONING MY LIFE’S CHOICES!”

This is where I confess that I uninstalled Shadows Over Loathing in the middle of Chapter 3. And I feel slightly bad for it, because it’s not a terrible game. It’s clever and witty and there’s lots of RPG/adventure game stuff to do. But I can’t deny that it feels inferior to West of Loathing. Maybe it’s the humor, which isn’t quite hitting the mark with me, or how convoluted many of the quests are. But after putting in a few lengthy sessions, I came away feeling completely ambivalent toward it.

And there are other games to play, so no need to pressure myself to complete this. It was decent fun while it lasted, but there are other worlds than these.