Starting up in Neverwinter

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I’ve been dipping my toes into Neverwinter for the past few weeks. It’s one of those games that I kind of forget about until I see it has an update. And it seems like it’s updated consistently. It’s also a game that I’ve never given a good chance. What initially got me interested was Telwyn’s posts about Neverwinter. Then I read some posts from Syp and more recently from Bhagpuss. What can I say? I’m easily swayed by the opinions of others.

For starters, when I logged in I was met with 2 characters who hadn’t been touched since 2014. I could have sworn I had made a bit of an effort to play Neverwinter on a 2 handed Weapon Fighter, turns out that wasn’t the case as he was sitting there at level 4. Well maybe level 4 harder to get to in 2014 but I doubt it. The other was a Dwarf Cleric who I played maybe once. Both of them were promptly deleted.

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The first character I made was a Halfling Ranger. I played her until level 19. I wasn’t digging the weapon swap mechanics. If I’m going to play a class with a bow I want to play with the bow all the time. Plus there were 3 extra skills to keep track of and I just don’t have time for that right now ok?….

Thus, Kadjik Kard, the Half-Elf Paladin was born. I like the Paladin class for two reasons. The first being he only has 3 skills I need to worry about. The other being I wanted to play a healing class and also wear heavy armor and carry a shield. Plus, with my own healing spells, I don’t have to spend money on potions!

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I’ve gotten to level 28 so far. I’m pushing for 30 so I can specialize and queue for dungeons as a healer instead of a tank. Speaking of dungeons, I’ve done two of them so far and have rather enjoyed them. I was actually surprised that the queue for a tank/healer and DPS were about the same length for the first dungeon I unlocked. It was a rather low key experience that I quite enjoyed.

Neverwinter has not been what I was expecting. For some reason, I thought it was a lobby based dungeon game. Nope! There are in fact open areas and instances that quests take place in. I remember hating the sparkly trail last time I played but I’ve learned to appreciate the simplicity it brings to questing. The biggest surprise is the lore pages are actually well written and I read them every time I find a new one.

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I feel like Neverwinter is the B-Movie of MMOs. It doesn’t quite have the production value as other games and the animations and character models are questionable at times.  The voice acting is also…questionable. There are some NPCs who’s voices completely change from quest to quest. There are some NPCs who are over the top and some that sound like they’re reading straight from a piece of paper. But I love them all! I find myself laughing sometimes when I probably shouldn’t be but I am very much enjoying my experience every time I log into this game.

 

Backlogged: Little Nightmares

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Time to Finish: 3 hours

That’s right, 3 in a row finished!

To be fair here, I only had about an hour of Little Nightmares left from my previous attempt to finish the game. I’m not sure why I stopped, I probably got stuck in a room and never went back. I’m horribly impatient with things like challenging puzzles that are not retally apparent…I do give things the ole’ college try but there’s a point where I no longer feel bad for looking something up. That goes double for a game I’ve taken a 4-month break from and straight-up forgot some of the mechanics!

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Things I liked:

The Setting: It’s both creepy yet wondrous. It reminds me a lot of the movie Coraline. It also has the same kinds of themes as well, like how growing up can be scary especially when we come across things we don’t understand. But where Coraline is definitely on the more whimsical side, it’s a kids movie after all, Little Nightmares sides with the creepy. And I do love creepy

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The Lighting: This goes right along with the setting but I feel it is its own thing.  There’s some really great contrast between light and darkness that creates a fantastic atmosphere for a horror/suspense game. It also leads to some fantastic screenshots.

The Sounds: Little Nightmares not only puts you on edge with its stealth mechanics and chase scenes but also the sounds of the game. Traiser Studios somehow found a way to make the sounds of washing the dishes not only scary but actually revolting. How about this: Do you want to listen to the lovely sounds of people scarfing down food as fast as they can? You can get that here!

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Things that could have been better:

The controls: I both loved and hated the control scheme at times. If you’re going to play this on PC I would highly recommend a controller. I have no idea how it plays with a keyboard and mouse but the controls on my PS4 controller felt really good. I especially liked how the right trigger was for grabbing objects and if you needed to hold onto an object you needed to hold down the trigger. It leads to a lot of intense moments of do I hold onto the key and make a run for the door or drop it and climb this pile of books to hide from the monster. But it also leads to times where I was trying to climb under a table and ended up pulling on it and getting captured.

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Things that didn’t fit in a nice category but were also not things I wish I knew sooner:

  • I liked this game but I didn’t love it. I didn’t get to the end and say “Wow I want more of that” So I’m going to be passing on the DLC.
  • I found myself looking up a video after trying everything I could think of. Usually, the solution was something I probably wouldn’t have thought of anyways. I completely forgot you could throw objects which lead to some frustration in a seemingly locked bathroom.
  • I still hear chewing noises when I close my eyes…thanks for that Little Nightmares.

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Backlogged: Old Man’s Journey

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Time to Finish: 103 minutes

A short post for a short game.

I didn’t know what to expect going into this. I don’t even know how this game ended up in my library. Which probably means it’s from a humble bundle of some kind. From the screenshots, it looks like some sort of point and click adventure game. But when I actually go into the game, it was more of a puzzle game, and one with a surprisingly sad story.

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Things I liked:

The Length: This is not a long game and it doesn’t need to be. I found the length to be a huge bonus for the fact that I could finish this in one sitting. I was engrossed the whole time, solving puzzles to lead this man further on his journey and get a few more bits of his life story..

The Artwork: This is a beautiful game and since there are is no dialogue the visuals have to carry the story. When the story starts off everything is bright and colorful. As the story takes darker turns, the world becomes bleak and rainy.

The Sound: The soundtrack was great and each piece fit right into the scenes. I also enjoyed the sound of the sunken ships underwater when you moved them. They were oddly soothing noises.

The Puzzle Difficulty: They might be on the easier side for some but I found them to be just the right difficulty. They weren’t so easy that I solved it quickly every time but they weren’t so hard that I felt like I needed a guide to figure them out.

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Things that could have been better:

The Controls: This one’s kind of nit picky but the controls bothered me at times. I know this is available on the App Store and Google Play store and I wouldn’t be surprised if this was a mobile game first. Dragging the hills around seemed like it would have been better with touch controls over a mouse. I constantly found myself grabbing the wrong path. But it didn’t hinder the game too much. I’m glad I played this on PC because the colors are amazing on my monitor.

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Backlogged: To The Moon

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Time to Finish: 3 hours

I went into To the Moon with very little knowledge. You see, I pride myself on my uncanny ability to avoid spoilers aka I know when to stop reading things…So the only thing I knew going into this game was that it was an RPG Maker game and it was about two people going into a dying man’s memory.  A lot of the times I find myself interested in games, movies, and books solely for the ideas they possess and not so much the story. So I’m kind of surprised I’ve been sitting on this game since 2015. Traveling memories is such an interesting idea to me and I’d say the game does a great job exploring some of the nuances of that.

Things I Liked:

The Story: There isn’t a whole lot of gameplay here so the story has to be on point which it definitely is. The story was nothing like what I thought it was going to be. I had heard this game pulls on your emotional strings and I can, in fact, confirm the story is a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. There are sad scenes, mixed happy scenes, and the two main characters provide some much needed comic relief when things start to get too depressing. Some times the dialog can seem a bit out of place, like random Dr Who references and some poorly executed jokes, but for the most part, I thought it was really well written.

The Gameplay: One of the things I hate in point and click games is when the gameplay gets in the way of the story. I would rather get to the next scene or story beat than hunt around for 20 minutes trying to solve some puzzle. There isn’t too much gameplay here and honestly, I’m totally ok with that.  Every scene has you hunting around for memory fragments to jump to another memory and solve a light puzzle in order to jump.

The Music: I still find myself humming the theme to this game…Sure, it may be a bit repetitive but the music fits each scene perfectly.

Things that could have been better:

RPG Maker Engine: I know I’m not the only one who has Steam filter out RPG Maker games. Most of the time they’re stock asset games that probably shouldn’t be sold. In fact, To the Moon is the only RPG Maker game I’ve heard of that’s worth playing. I’ve played around with RPG maker in the past and it’s fun for little personal projects and as a learning tool but probably shouldn’t be used as a production engine.

Display Size: Thanks to RPG Maker this game can be played in Full screen or in a 640 x 480 window. Both leave a little to be desired as windowed is too small and full screen leaves things looking a bit stretched.

Screenshots: As you may have noticed, this post lacks screenshots. That’s because RPG Maker doesn’t support screenshots through Steam. I didn’t realize this was something i cared about until I spent a good 15 minutes trying to figure out why my F12 key wasn’t doing anything except pausing the game

Things I wish I knew sooner:

  • You can swap between windowed and full screen by hitting alt+enter
  • If you want to take a screenshot, use the Print Screen key and paste it into a program like MS Paint.
  • There’s a sequel that doesn’t get mentioned as often.
  • The story really is that good!

 

Have you played To the Moon? Love it, hate it, want to play it? Let me know!

My Next 5 Games to Finish

So far my goal of only purchasing a few games this year has been going well. I’m not entirely sure I’ll make it through the entire year, there’s bound to be something interesting released that I didn’t account for. I’ve found myself not hunting through the Steam Store when I don’t know what I want to play and instead hunt through my Steam Library.

A neat little feature of the Steam library is “Sort By Recent Activity” It really puts into perspective just how long you’ve been sitting on a game. I have unplayed games all the way back to 2014 the year of my very first Steam Sale. And it’s interesting to see what’s been left behind. I haven’t played Trove since October last year. I could have sworn I’d played Limbo not too long ago but there it is filed under 2017.

Anyways, the point is that I was looking back seeing what games were out there that I have been meaning to play but never did. The first one was Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning which I just finished up this week. Looking ahead there are some titles that I want to knock out before diving into another 50+ hour RPG. As much as I like long games for their entertainment to money value I’m feeling a little burnt on the whole open-world thing at the moment. So these next few games will be of the shorter, more linear, variety.

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To the Moon

I remember buying this in 2015. It’s one of those games that is always recommended in various Reddit threads for it’s stellar story and the fact that it was made in RPG maker. After the sprawling fantasy world and story of Amalur, I need a change of scenery. How Long to Beat clocks this game around 4 hours long. The perfect amount to finish in a weekend or with a few hours here and there throughout the week.

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Old Man’s Journey

Another short one. How Long to Beat has this one at 1.5 hours. I actually have no idea where this came from but probably a Humble Bundle of some sort. I like games that can be finished in one sitting. One of my favorite games of all time is Journey which is about an hour and a half. This game also looks pretty, kind of like an illustrated storybook.

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Little Nightmares

I picked this game up over the summer with the intent to stream it during October. My interest in streaming by myself has been non existant since the fall. It’s another short game but alos one that I like the style of. I’ve started it several times but never saw it to the end.

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Epistory -Typing Chronicles

This is another one of those games I felt like I played not to long ago. Giving it another look in steam it seems I haven’t played it in 2 years…I liked the gimmick of playing an adventure game played with typing. Combat is based around typing words and so is unlocking doors and solving puzzles.

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Tales of Berseria

I’m thinking that by the time I’ve finished the above 4 games I’ll be ready to dive into another lengthy RPG. I actually put some time into this last February and I have about 10 hours clocked. However, I don’t remember a single thing about the story so I’m going to be starting over. I absolutely loved Tales of Zestiria so I’m looking forward to this one!

 

Backlogged: Kingdoms of Amalur Reckoning

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Time to beat: 52 hours and 55 minutes (Main Story and as many side quests as I could find.)

Now you might look at this and say I disliked more things than I liked and objectively that’s true from the list below. However, I really enjoyed my time in Amalur. The story, the little lore spread throughout, and the fully voiced characters helped tremendously to convey an interesting story in an interesting world. The combat got stale towards the end but I think that was because I choose to go full sorcery. When I play through the DLC’s I’ll be respecing to try out the other class trees. A lot of the time you’ll see this game brought up when people are looking for single-player games that feel like MMOs. I’d agree with that there are enough fetch quests and kill 10 whatever quests to qualify. But there’s also an expansive open world with a lot of little secrets and cool locations to find.

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Things I liked:

The World: The world of Amalur features a number of interesting locations. My favorites being the cities of Ysa and Rathir, the Gallows Tree in the Midden, and Nyralim the oldest living mortal who happens to be a giant tree.

 

The Lore: I went out of my way to learn about Amalur. I went through dozens of conversation options with hundreds of NPC’s and quest givers. I read all the books I could find and found all of the Lorestones in the zone for added stories.

 

The Side Quests: Kingdoms of Amalur shines with its storytelling. My favorite series of quests were the Faction Quests for The House of Ballads and The Scholia Arcana. Both were interesting and complete stories in their own right that outshined the main story. My favorite side quest included helping a local Nobel fake his own death by dueling a war hero and then shipping him off the continent. Only at the last minute his mother showed up and paid me to ship him to the war front instead!

 

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Things that could have been better:

The Loot: By the time I went to Klurikon and until the end of the game I didn’t find anything better to equip than what I had. The last 10 or so hours of the game I kept the same armor and weapons. It got to a point where I just stopped picking up loot and opening boxes. There were far fewer styles of armor and weapons in this game than I thought there’d be. It leads to a lot of items being stat upgrades but looking exactly the same as the thing you just unequipped. Even the purple named weapons which had a variety of flavor text ended up looking like common weapons.

 

The Combat: The combat starts out strong with a good mix of dodging and a fairly quick time to kill. As the game progresses and you’re given more skills and more armor dodging doesn’t do much except ensuring you can get your skill off. Halfway through the only thing that could damage me was a big creature, by the end of the game even the bosses had a hard time denting my health bar. I played on normal difficulty and perhaps the sorcery tree is a bit overpowered. At the end of the game, I cast 2 AoE spells that pretty much killed everything in one or 2 hits. I had stacked enough spell cost reduction that the only spell that cost me anything to cast was Heal because it relied on a percentage of my MP instead of a set number.

 

The Dungeons: The gameplay loop of KOA is getting a quest, going into a dungeon, kill whatever is in there, then get another quest. It’s all well and good until the dungeons start looking the same and don’t have any unique items at the end of them. The worst is when they don’t have an exit at the end of them and you have to run all the way back to the beginning of the dungeon.

 

The Housing/ Mining Operation/ Investment Banking?: By the time I finished Amalur I had 4 or 5 houses with maxed out facilities. Unfortunately, I never had any reason to visit them. There’s a mining operation in Detyer that you end up taking over and will net you profit over time. After I finished the main story I went back to the mine and was rewarded with 4k gold. Considering I have about 1.5 million on me it’s not a ton. You can have a Gnome invest for you in Adessa…it’s something I’ve never encountered in a fantasy RPG so I’ll give KOA credit for that.

 

Crafting: Crafting doesn’t seem worth the effort. I invested heavily in sagecrafting to make gems to augment my weapons but I didn’t use it much. Maybe blacksmithing is better but I didn’t see the point in making weapons when there were so many lying around

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Things I wished I knew sooner:

  • Tasks are repeatable quests and ususally can’t be completed so they stick around on your quest list slowly driving you crazy as you complete everything else. I’m looking at you “Gathering Flames”.
  • The Fateweavers can reset your abilitie points, destinies, and skill points for very little money. This would have been nice to know sooner as I spent a lot of skill points on sagecrafting which I didn’t end up using.
  • Fast Travel is your friend and it is a time saver for all the back and forth fetch quests you’ll be doing.
  • Max Detect Hidden as soon as you can. You’ll find hidden doors and chests, enemies will show up on the mini map, and the final point will show you the location of Lorestones on the map. I didn’t realize any of this until about 30 hours into the game.
  • The end of the main story is worth getting too even if the game loses a bit of it’s magic in Klurikon
  • The PC version of this game is full of bugs. But they’re the kind that make you laugh not the kind that breaks your game.

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Nearing the End of Amalur

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I’ve finished up the desert zone Detyre and I can confidently say it is my least favorite zone. The Gnomish city of Adessa wasn’t only confusing to run around, there were a bunch of Gnomes there who thought they were better than me and kept saying so over and over again! Detyre itself was, ok. Each zone had it’s own story again and most of that story was helping a Gnomish mining corporation kick people out of their homes and businesses….the Gnomes are wonderful people in Amalur. I enjoyed the Red Marches the most. The whole zone takes place in a big canyon which leads to some great screenshots. There’s also a tunnel system you have to go through to get to places you can see but can’t reach any other way. I thought that was nifty.

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The main story leads me to find Fomorus Hughes, who raised me from the dead, in some cave trying to recreate the Well of Souls. It turns out the gnome templar who was funding his operation also wants me dead…I hate these gnomes. After finishing up with that quest like and the zones of Detyre it was off to Mel Senshir to break a siege.

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Mel Senshir feels like where the game should have ended. It’s this massive battle where you’re completing objectives and hunting down the big bad Niskaru Balor who you must stop or Mel Senshir will be burned to ashes. The fight with the Balor is the first time I’ve actually lost a boss fight. I mean, this one has mechanics that need to be avoided, I couldn’t just meteor strike my way through it. The battle culminates in a thrilling conclusion where I rip the beast apart with my magic Fate powers and am celebrated as a hero!

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And then I’m told I have to go to a swamp. I can’t even enjoy my time as the “Hero of Mel Senshir”, which the locals now address me by,  because Gadflow still has to be stopped. I had mentioned that I was excited to see the zones of a Klurikon and Alabastra. The zones have cool names like Cursewood and The Twighlight pass. I though Klurikon was going to be more of a spooky foggy place but it’s actually a rotting swamp. The winter Fae live over here and while their counterparts, the Summer Fae, represent life and growth, they represent death and decay. So this swamp is their holy ground. The Midden is my favorite zone in Klurikon. It’s supposed to be a fae graveyard celebrating decay. But the Tuatha are using it as a graveyard for the mortals they kill. The most interesting set piece here is the Gallows Tree which takes up most of the zone and has hundreds of bodies hanging from it. Again, it’s supposed to be a celebration symbol as the Fae do not actually decay when they die. But the Tuatha stuck a bunch of mortals up there who do. Everyone in the zone keeps complaining about the smell.

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Klurikon and Alabastra have fewer locations and fewer side quests than the previous zones. This was a blessing as I’m starting to get a little burnt out on the game. There is a new faction questline for the House of Sorrows in Klurikon. To be honest, I’m not really sure what the point of it was but I did a lot of running around to collect “Sorrows” before someone else did which was supposed to aide in my fight against the Tuatha. It runs you through some dungeons throughout Klurikon but nothing really interesting comes out of it.

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Alabastra was even shorter than Klurikon. It’s actually very streamlined and I believe I only did one or two side quests here. There are some tunnels that will bypass some of the zones and get you closer to the final boss. I didn’t take many screenshots of the place as it’s just various shades of gray rock and blue crystals. At this point, I also stopped delving into dungeons. They were marked on the map and I kept expecting quests to lead to them but they never did so I never went in. Also at this point I’ve stopped looking in chests and even looting enemies because I haven’t seen single gear upgrade since Mel Senshir.

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I’m always surprised how long these zones take to get through. They don’t look that big on the map but by the time I finished Klurikon I had added another 5 hours to my playtime. Alabastra took another 3. I’m not complaining, I enjoyed my time but I also felt like both zones should have been over sooner.

 

 

 

Fleshing out Amalur

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While the dialog and books do a fantastic job of expanding on the general lore of Kingdoms of Amalur, it’s the side quests that flesh out each zone. Much like an MMO, the open world is split into zones with their own names and subsequent quest hubs. Completing a zone is satisfying, it plays on my enjoyment of checkbox gaming.

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Dalentarth

Dalentarth is the region the game starts out in. This is the Fae forest where the Fae mostly live secluded away in their city of Ysa away from mortals. However, I discovered upon visiting Ysa that mortals live there too and the Fae didn’t seem to happy about it. For the most part, the zones in this region had a series of side quest that had a story arch. For example, In Webwood the city has been under siege by spiders and all of the quest center around finding out why the spiders are attacking and stopping them. Glendara has the city of Didenhil which is experiencing a plauge brought on by the sudden appearance of bogarts in the area. The quests here center around getting medicine and finding out where the boggarts are coming from. These mini stories made going through the zones really enjoyable.

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The Wolds

The Plains of Erathell have not given me that same experience. The Wolds was the only zone that had any kind of theme around it. This is where refugees were escaping to from the war but the town didn’t want them so they camp out on the roads hoping for a better life once their allowed in. Tala-Rane was a zone filled with monsters and ruins of a city that used to be there but for the most part was a “kill 10 rats” filled zone which wasn’t that interesting. However, I enjoy the scenery in the Plains of Erathell zones more than Dalentarth.

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Ysa

 

I’ve visited tow major cities so far: Ysa and Rathir. These cities are whole zones themselves. Almost all of the quests take place within the cities themselves. Again this adds a lot of flavor to the cities via lore. Rathir has a whole homeless population living underneath it even though it’s a hub for wealth. There’s even a faction of people underneath who live by sorting through the garbage of the rich and selling it elsewhere. Ysa has the contentions of the Summer Fae living amongst the “lesser” mortal races.

Here’s to hoping that Detyre and the Klurikon are more like Dalentarth with their zone quests. I’m looking forward to Klurikon the most with zones like Cursewood and the Drowned Forest.

 

The Slow Road Through Amalur

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I’ve settled into a nice groove with Kingdoms of Amalur. Lately,  it’s been taking up most if not all of my solo gaming time. At 30 hours in, I find myself in Rathir, the city of the Dokkalfar (Dark Elves) which is where I thought I left off playing on PS3. I can’t be sure though, I know I left off in a big city but that might have been Ysa, the city of the Fae,  and that was way earlier in the game. Perhaps I didn’t actually play this as much as I thought… The main story has me boarding a ship to the next continent so I’m guessing I’m halfway through the game.

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I’d like to say it’s the riveting gameplay or the stellar story that’s kept me playing but that’s not the case. In fact, the combat I remember loving so much has turned out to be just so so. Especially now that I have two AoE attacks that will one-shot almost anything that’s not a large creature. The main story isn’t bad but it’s not all that exciting. What it boils down to is: I’m the chosen one who’s going to break the stalemate in a war that’s been going on for 10 years. Probably, by killing the leader of the Tuatha, Gadflow.

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AoE in action

No, what’s kept me going is the world-building going on in this game. In yet another deviation from how I usually play RPGs, I’m taking my time reading and listening to text that isn’t needed to progress. I’ve found this extremely rewarding thus far. Most NPC’s will have a few lines of dialog relating to the quest and then a list of topics that they’ll also talk about. These range from the zone/city your in, themselves, other NPCs, and events going on in the game world. At first glance, it seems like most of the NPCs will talk about the same topics but I’ve found that each NPC adds just a bit more information about any given topic. I’ve also been reading the books I’ve found on my adventures which do a great deal to flesh out little bits of the world and unlike Skyrim, most of them are interesting to read through. It’s actually kind of amazing how much time and effort was put into completely optional dialogue and text. Especially when you consider that everything is voiced too.

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Kobolds are basically very large rats

I mentioned that I was choosing which quests to do based on urgency. Right now the main quest has me meeting with 2 people who I might be able to help and turn the tide of the war. The way I see it, the war’s been on for 10 years they can wait a few more days to turn it around. So I’ve been doing side quests, a lot of side quests. As of right now, I’ve completed 76 quests. Most of these quests have been interesting and added to the world. I have run into a few quests that are of the “kill 10 rats” variety. For the most part, though they’ve been thoughtfully amazing. I just finished up a quest in Rathir where I helped a wealthy merchant’s son fake his own death by starting a duel with a war hero, putting a sedative on the war hero’s dueling sword, and then arranging for a ship to load him on and take him far away from the war. Unfortunately for him, his mother found out and paid me handsomely to ship him instead straight to Klurikon, the front lines of the war.

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Sir, do you know you’re bleeding all over me?

So I’ve been taking my time with the game. I’ve been completing zones even when they’re no longer a challenge, I’ve been going out of my way to find books I haven’t read yet, and I’ve been drilling down into these dialog trees. The fact that it’s all voiced makes it easier for me to choose those optional dialog trees. That being said, I haven’t gotten this much enjoyment out of an RPG in a long time. I’d be open to trying this method with another game in the future even if it’s all text.