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Default First Impressions, part Unh

November 14th, 2006, 22:30
I can offer up some first impressions.

I installed last night. Inserted the first disk, and as soon as I commenced the install, it prompted for disk 2. Then immediately asked for disk 1 again. Then started installing, Then eventually asked for 2 again. Which probably shouldn't be an issue, but my system has long been infected with Starforce thanks to Sacred (Why, Ascaron, why?!?), so the DVD drives take about 30 seconds to wake up after inserting a disk. In the end, half the time to install was spent swapping disks.

Once installed, I tried the usual hopeful test: remove the CDs and try starting the app. And it worked. Yeah, no copy protection! Haven't had that experience since, um… Dungeon Lords. Okay, not a good point of reference.

The only stability problem I've observed is that the app likes to crash when reloading a save -- something you'll be doing frequently.

The graphics look perfectly acceptable. There was no revolting bloom or HDR to disable -- I find HDR looks horrendous everywhere I've seen it, from games to the security cameras I have to deal with every day. I'll take FSAA over bloom/HDR any day. Sadly, this game does not appear to support antialiasing, though I haven't poked around the INI files, nor have I tried forcing it on through the control panel.

The main character looks fine, but that's only to be expected. Female avatars always get more loving attention in the modeling, texturing, animation, etc. Some of the baddies you'll fighting (various flavors of scrawny, bald "renegades", for example), however, could use more polys in the shoulders and elbows.

Rest assured, though, this game delivers on the two main reasons to buy a fantasy cRPG… Elf Boobies! And in a tight, white shirt! Well okay, so that's really three reasons, but still… Oh, and judging from the associated FMV, it looks like this is one elf that likes to sleep half monty when camping out, and I don't mean gratuitous nipplage. You think she'd at least roll up in a blanket.

Oh, and what's with the Wacko Jacko look? Can't someone give the poor girl a second glove?

Visually, this looks like a typical adventure game. Indeed, camera angles are fixed in town and certain other locations, where your character runs back and forth across the screen. Angles also change randomly. For me, this made navigating the first town infuriating. I hate towns. Especially large towns. Most especially hard to navigate, confusing, unmapped towns. Maybe that's because I've been replaying Daggerfall lately, but I'm sick of running back and forth across the same bloody areas. This game has signs around town -- click on them and instantly teleport to one of several key points in town. But to get to all locations, you'll have to learn the proper sequence of camera angles to click through to get to where you want to be. Really, it felt like wandering around in a maze.

The exterior world is top-down, move with the arrow keys. Trees, bushes, and rocks are solid. Can't walk through them. The limited option of only 8 directions of movement makes moving between them cumbersome. Walk under a large tree, and the canopy obscures whatever is blocking your path (probably an invisible wall, but it'd be nice to see what's there).

I expect people will be putting down the combat animations. I don't mind them, but then I have low standards (kinda hard not to be a CRPGer without maintaining low standards). Some of the animations are more than subtly ridiculous, like watching a bandit do a two-handed axe chop into your poor little elf, struggle to yank it free, and back-pedal, leaving the impression, "Oh crap, he killed my elf!" No, she only took a measely one point of damage. Then there's the wolves that charge in and go straight for the crotch. Yeowch.

There are times when you have followers along. Agavaen displays the usual CRPG magical power of being able to stuff 7 tents, 11 swords, 6 suits of armor, a bushel of magic runes, and innumerable potions into her pockets without any unsightly bulges. And your NPC followers as well. Yep, they disappear into your pockets (I hope that's where they hide), and pop back out again for combat.

As for the combat, it is indeed turn-based, although with an odd flavor. You issue a command, then other characters make their moves, then your character finally executes the command you issued. Then the game pauses while you select the next move. I'm finding this annoying, since I frequently say "Go stab that guy!", watch while the current pack of homocidal idiots beat the tar out of my character, then she charges in and does the stabbity thing while I'm now thinking, "No, forget stabbing him! Chug a potion!" So then I issue the chug-a-potion command, only to watch in futility while my poor molested elf suffers death-by-crotch-mauling #104 from evil dude's pet wolf before she can swallow.

Uh-oh, time to reload again. Did I mention you'll be reloading frequently?

Combat works by using arenas. (Ooh, like Gold Box Games!) You line up on one side (along with any helpful NPCs that climb out of your pockets), bad guys on the other, and you take turns smacking each other around. There is no movement strategy -- anyone on one side can smack anyone on the other. No ranged weapons, but plenty of spells (almost always fatal when cast by someone on the other side, especially if cast by a female enemy -- almost always a one shot kill on me so far).

Meleers charge in, do the hacky-slashy thing, then back-pedal. I think. Kinda looks like they're sliding backwards while playing the "run forwards" animation. Wolves actually try to turn around. Werewolves just stand on their hind legs and slide backwards.

At first I thought all attacks automatically hit. They don't. Melee attacks only have a 99% chance to hit. If you're facing three opponents, you're going to get hit three times. Once you know how much damage certain opponent types deal, you'll know right away whether you can survive the fight, or if you'll die before your first attack. Sure, there were four or five instances where opponents missed me over the course of six hours. I don't think I ever did.

The number of arenas is limited. You'll be seeing the same ones over and over. It's not immediately obvious, since they match up well with wherever you're exploring, but after the first few fights -- and after seeing the camera stuck behind the same confounded tree over and over -- it becomes obvious. There is also this cinematic aspect, where the camera switches to different view points after every attack. From some angles, it's difficult to click on the target you want pummelized next. Plus there is this annoying camera pass at the start of combat where the camera swirls dramatically around the arena before combat starts. It only lasts a few seconds, but was really getting on my nerves when I was having to rewatch it every thirty seconds -- yes, I was reloading that often at times.

The difficulty of combat scales to your level. How exactly, I do not know. After the first town, I started running into fireball chucking bimbos who did 50-80 points of damage in one shot. I only had 110 hit points, and usually faced three at a time (or sometimes only two, with some low-level crotch biter along for the humiliation). I was usually dead before my first attack. By the time I quit for the evening, I was dying 9 out of 10 fights, almost always due to having one or more fireball chuckers in the enemy ranks.

Did things get harder because I left the first town? Passed an invisible trigger on the road to the second town? Leveled-up to sixth level? I don't know. I did head back through the starter zone, and the fireball chuckers were spawning there too, so it was not a regional thing.
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Join Date: Oct 2006
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