Electron Dance
18Jun/15Off

Wishful Thinking 3

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Cross-posted from Escape Vectors (follow on Twitter).

In his regular “Wishful Thinking” column, blogger Durandal muses about games that have been lingering on his list of wants. This time: Walkerman, Abyss Odyssey, StarCrawlers, Serena, The Fifth Day and Avernum: Escape from the Pit.

Walkerman

WTWalkerman

When Did I Put This On The List?

?????, 2014.

Why Did I Put This On The List?

A rare non-Steam game! But I put Walkerman on the list first off because of a post on Rock, Paper, Shotgun pointing out that it was an interesting looking little game and that it has a demo which is always a plus! So I recently actually got around to playing the demo, and I was pretty immediately fascinated. It's a sort of puzzle adventure made in a visual novel engine, about walking the world at night and confronting the monsters that stalk there. It seems honestly almost like a Witcher game from an alternate universe. Instead of combat being the majority of your experience, it's the careful gathering of clues about monster behavior and the use of your inventory to confound and overcome them. Seems real neat!

Is This Game Well-Liked By Others?

No idea! It's kind of not had any coverage whatsoever. I guess that means it's just me? I think my complaint about the demo would be that it way overexplains and over-exposits. The setting is immediately gripping, and if it had honestly just been "You're trying to get from A-B in a world where you can't go out at night OH NO YOU FELL ASLEEP" I think it would have been more entertaining. As it was it felt like it was trying to give me a clinic on mechanics and relationships I didn't need to understand yet.

Will I Ever Buy This Game?

Yes! It's such a neat concept. If they can actually follow through on a non-linear monster-hunting game that is mostly about actual observation and experimentation I will be extremely impressed, and at a minimum it's a cool setting for a visual novel.

Should You Buy It?

You can't, yet! But when it comes out? If you love the concept of the Witcher games, but find that they focus too much on chopping people up and not enough on preparing for and confronting evil beasties, I'd say it's a good bet this will prove interesting.

Where Can I Find Out More?

Official site

Abyss Odyssey

WTAbyssOdyssey

When Did I Put This On The List?

October 9, 2014.

Why Did I Put This On The List?

I'm a huge fan of the flawed gem Zeno Clash. It's... not the sort of game I like. I find first-person fighting with punches to be really weird and unsatisfying most of the time I've tried it. It always feels floaty and distant, like you're piloting a little drone that has a mannequin arm attached to it. But that world and that weird confidence with which it was presented really appealed to me. There's so much fun to be had tooling around in a surreal painting. So seeing that Abyss Odyssey is something else from the same developers that looked a bit more up my alley as well as still super beautiful is really neat.

Is This Game Well-Liked By Others?

It's a bit of a toss-up. Everyone agrees it's beautiful and has some interesting concepts, but where people seem to be diverging is the combat. It's a sort of Smash Bros style melee, but with some differences that seem to not appeal to many people. The complaints are mostly about sluggishness and the difficulty managing to win without exploiting AI. I feel like that might be an issue primarily at the higher difficulty levels, but then that's where I like to play!

Will I Ever Buy This Game?

It's almost too pretty not to at least try, but I think I'm a bit burnt out on roguelite stuff. I know that as a sensible person I should just play and enjoy them until I am satisfied that I've had a good time, but I frequently get caught in a loop where I want to squeeze every last achievement out of the game, and that final 1% takes so long and is so frustrating that it can kind of sour things in retrospect.

Should You Buy It?

If you're a huge fan of roguelikelikes it's probably worth a go, particularly if the idea of complaining about the ultimate nightmare super mode seems silly. I feel like if you're the sort of person who can have an interesting time exploring a pretty game for a few hours and then put the thing the hell down I'd go for it.

Where Can I Find Out More?

Steam page

StarCrawlers

WTStarCrawlers

When Did I Put This On The List?

March 19, 2015.

Why Did I Put This On The List?

I was just thinking about how much I like crew, parties, people to take care of in games. StarCrawlers is from that classic Might-and-Magic era of melding four people into one Voltron that tromps about bashing monsters, not unlike the new classics Legend of Grimrock 1 and 2. It's hard to express what it is about the artwork for StarCrawlers that makes me want to take care of a little team of these people. It's like XCOM, you know? There's not a whole ton of characterization exactly, but I immediately want to see these people do cool things on their way to success.

Is This Game Well-Liked By Others?

People complaining are, like always, kind of on it because it's Early Access. Which I get! I get that you're annoyed that you spent money on an incomplete product. I'm just not certain WHY you did that. It's not hidden, it's not secret, it's there on the frigging tin! If you want a completed product, choose from any of the literally tens of thousands of games available to you at the moment! The vast majority of people seem to think that despite the stock Early Access bugs, and a general lack of balance, it's a solid foundation for a really fun game.

Will I Ever Buy This Game?

I have to, there's something about the little bouncy robot art. It just speaks to me. It's the sort of thing I feel like I would have imagined playing in the future when I was eight.

Should You Buy It?

I mean no, don't buy an Early Access game. It'll annoy you. Just... wait a bit. If it looks interesting, buy it at full price a little down the line so you can shoot the developers the maximum number of dollars for their hard work. I think if you're the sort of person who has never played a party-Voltron game before, maybe give one of the cheaper examples a try. Legend of Grimrock is a great example, and there are probably 20 Might and Magic games available for next to nothing at GoG.com.

Where Can I Find Out More?

Official website

Serena

WTSerena

When Did I Put This On The List?

October 9, 2014.

Why Did I Put This On The List?

I like it when people try to tell psychological horror stories with games. I don't think I've ever really hit on one that was wall-to-wall interesting, but they tend to stand out in my mind much longer than the straight-up evil monster games manage. There's something interesting about being forced to take part in something that you can't understand from the get-go, and having it unravel in some sinister manner around you. Serena has a lot of the hallmarks of that sort of game as far as I can tell. Also, the whole "built by committee" thing is odd and intriguing, if slightly worrying.

Is This Game Well-Liked By Others?

Well, there are a few of the stock annoyed people, saying it's not gamey enough while praising the atmosphere. Which, yeah. I guess I can understand that, but it always seems sort of petty with a free thing. "A lot of people worked hard on this free thing to give me and sure it was interesting in some significant ways but it's no Dragon Age so...". Then again, I suppose if the feeling you have at the end of play is that it wasn't worth the time, what else are you to do?

Will I Ever Buy This Game?

Well, it's free and I just downloaded it so yes. Kind of odd that I even put it on a wishlist, there's really no reason to do so!

Should You Buy It?

Of course! Give it a shot. It'll take a few minutes of your time to decide if it's something you're into, and you're not out any money if it's not to your taste. Always take a shot on free games that are legitimately attempting to do something interesting.

Where Can I Find Out More?

Steam page

The Fifth Day

WTTheFifthDay

When Did I Put This On The List?

October 9, 2014.

Why Did I Put This On The List?

Mostly that image. I just... really really like the image of standard-issue city with something unknowable visible in the distance. It piques my interest so incredibly to be like oh okay I have to figure out how to navigate this area first but by gum I will definitely be checking out that incredible impossible object in the distance eventually!

Is This Game Well-Liked By Others?

Nope. I mean there are some defenders, and it's an Early Access game so it's definitely got detractors who are being unfair but overall nope. It seems it's a survival game in the vein of DayZ, a genre that's exploded in popularity over the past few years. It's also deeply in early alpha. It's V0.0.6.06 at the moment. So people are generally feeling let down by the fact that there's not as much apparent progress as they'd like.

Best case scenario is that this all changes in a few years, but I feel like maybe they shot themselves in the foot by releasing this early. In a few years it'll just be "that game no one liked".

Will I Ever Buy This Game?

Probably not, but not because it's unfinished! I mean it is unfinished, but that's no crime. When it is finished, I probably still won't want it. I just bounce off survival games, really. There's no draw to me in them, they all wind up feeling like knock-off STALKER but with fewer interesting ideas and a touch of Minecraft.

Should You Buy It?

I cannot imagine why you'd buy it at Alpha V0.0.6.06. Like, I have a copy of a game I really like called Starsector. It's a brilliant little thing, kind of a modern take on Escape Velocity, the game that defined my childhood. It's got some real neat ideas in it, and I'm glad I've had a chance to play it. I also bought it five years ago, and it's now at version 0.65.2a. There was a full year between the release of version .6.2a and .65.

Developing games, particularly as a small studio or individual, takes an enormous amount of time and money and effort. Buying something in progress is laudable if you want to help the developer out, but good lord do not expect a full experience in less than a decade. Or ever! Because making games is hard as heck! So yeah, maybe focus on completed projects, or things that are definitively fun in Early Access, like Kerbal Space Program was.

Where Can I Find Out More?

Steam page

Avernum: Escape from the Pit

WTAvernumEscapeFromThePit

When Did I Put This On The List?

October 9, 2014.

Why Did I Put This On The List?

Avernum: Escape from the Pit is one of the most recent of the gigantic, sprawling, incredible Spiderweb Software RPGs. To explain just how enormous and incredible these game are, let me point out that the shareware version of the original Avernum was enough to entertain me for literal months when I was a kid. They're just spectacular games. Ugly as all sin, of course. Which on the one hand is kind of annoying, because I like it when things are extremely pretty. But on the other hand the part of RPGs that tends to really grab hold of me is the stat-fiddling and tactical thinking and conversation paths, and none of those are usually enhanced by graphical wonder. I'm really excited to play a modern version of a game that seemed impossibly vast to me as a child, even if it's actually pretty tame in terms of time by modern standards.

Is This Game Well-Liked By Others?

Generally yes. As always, I mostly focus on the bad reviews because I like reading excoriating things about stuff regardless of whether or not I think I'll like it. Most of the bad reviews fall on either side of a pretty wide gulf: the game is too simple and stock an RPG to be interesting, or the game is too hard and enormous and confusing to get on with. That's not a huge surprise. Avernum games have carved out a little niche that consists mostly of building a balanced party (Tank/DPS/Support/Mage) and trekking into dungeons filled with monsters and then killing all the monsters. That's an old as heck formula, but it's also one that can be difficult to pick up if a game gives you a lot of choice and sort of assumes you'll figure it out based on prior experience.

Will I Ever Buy This Game?

Yes! It's actually on sale right now and I'm strongly considering it. The only thing holding me back is the overwhelming knowledge that the last thing I need in my life is another big RPG right after I finish Dragon Age Inquisition. But yeah, I have a real interest in seeing whether this childhood love translates to actually liking the new game.

Should You Buy It?

Do you like dungeon crawls? I'd give it a go. It's a striking alternative to the Bioware/Witcher/etc style of modern RPG. The party is a mute extension of the player, the story is there to push you forward and give you options for action rather than define memorable characters, and the combat is absolutely 100% paramount. If that's up your alley, this is one to get.

Where Can I Find Out More?

Official website

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Comments (3) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Avernum is frustrating with its ugly graphics and its lack of music, but if you get into it a bit it can be a lot of fun. The worldbuilding is interesting, too. I just recommend finding some fitting music to listen to while you play. I usually listen to the music from Oblivion and Morrowind (on YouTube), which kind of works, even though it confuses my brain a little.

  2. I keep meaning to go back and play Abyss Odyssey more. It is very pretty, and the enemy copying idea is really cool, but I can’t help but agree the combat feels a imperfect.

    On the note of Smash-Brothers-Like Roguelikes, I thought I would plug Ascendant. It isn’t as pretty as Abyss Odyssey, but I found the combat much more engaging. Plus, the item drops feel more random to me (which I like).

    And yes, the shear size of Avernum games is always super impressive and difficult for me to wrap my mind around (seriously, how many hours does it take just to write all that dialogue?). But I have yet to finish one. So that’s a thing, too.

  3. Jonas – I think I have some of Jeff Vogel’s games around here somewhere. I always meant to give them a good go but, you know, RPGs are not generally kind on time, and I think Vogel’s are really out there like that? I played a few minutes of one and was sent to kill some rats.

    Sandy – we should both finish a Spiderweb game.


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