Currently playing: Nox Archaist

August 15, 2015

Serpent in the Staglands - Getting started

It only took to the next occasion when I had any time to sit down in front of my computer until I looked for a cheaper way to get hold of the full game of Serpent in the Staglands. I finally found a GOG CD key to buy from g2play and it was a smooth process. In a matter of minutes I was up and running and even transferred my saves from the demo version so I didn´t have to start all over again.

My party of four (two selfcreated avatars and two found companions) could now go south and entered a full new map that was a small town called Lumen Targ. Here I talked to everyone and examined everything I could. A few notes of interest:

  • I helped a villager to get rid of a fox in his backyard by communicating with it through the woodswise aptitude and received a few emeralds for my trouble. This was my first use of an aptitude. The other ways to spend your skillpoints is to put them into the warrior or mage path.
  • I entered a few cellars and plundered them for their contents
Typical cellar in town
  • I looked upon a board for bounty hunters and noticed that some outlaws in the south was sought after and that 30 emeralds would be the reward for showing proof of their deaths.
  • I found at least two places to buy potions (the alchemist and at the temple) and soon even a trader on the streets where I finally could upgrade my armours.
  • I got a rumour that the well in the town was smelling badly so I checked it out but I spent much time figuring out how to enter the well in the middle of the town, until I read on a forum that I had tried at the wrong well all the time. After having found the correct well just east of the town, I descended into what turned out to be two huge maps that took me at least an hour to clean and was full of monsters. In the end I reached a boat which took only one passenger. The one I choose came to a small underground island where a creature met up. Only by using the aptitude Linguistics was I able to communicate with him and learned that he wanted his friend released from captivity in the village. I accepted the offer and was given a transformation wand that I used at the prisoner in the village. He sneaked out and I took him to the creature on the underground sea and was rewarded with much experience points.
Below the village Well
I talked to a rat in town beside the well who told me of
 the strange creatures I would eventually found down there

I then explored the wilderness south of Lumen Targ. I cleared out as much as I could and met wolves and imps. The imps are pretty tough and at this stage I could only take on one at a time. Somewhere around here I reached level 2 and was given two attribute and two skill points. I saved them for later since I have no idea where the best place would be to put them. 

I eventually found three parts of the wilderness where either bandits, outlaws or adventurers where hiding. At least one of them was the group the bounty spoke about. I had no chance to defeat any of these groups at level 2. I wasn´t even close and died several times so I left them and returned to explore other ways.

Inventory of my warrior companion Catalina
At one place I found a cave that I entered. It was in this cave I came across riddle imps for the first time. They give you some sort of riddle with different answers to let you pass. I have to admit I did not succeed in any of them and so had to fight tough battles. It was not always they revealed anything of value though. At this stage I had gathered a few hundred emeralds and wanted to find better armour or weapons so I returned to the starting place, Lumen Fortress to restock. 

While there I returned to a strange book I found earlier but didn´t know what to do with. I could handdraw something in blood. I had no clue what to do here so I just tried out a few random symbols. And to my astonishment I succeeded after ten tries and got hold of some sort of ritual blood that I put in a vial. I have no idea what to use it for.

Ok, so I could not defeat the bandits in the wilderness and I had no other way to go. When you reach the end of a map you get to the overland map. Visited areas are shown as white crosses and you could point to them and your party will go there. But the map is divided into gridsections so I went in there with my group and tried to figure out how to explore those empty squares. Now I realise that not every grid represents an explorable map at all. I have to move to grids and be informed about a place to visit while there. So the first place I got to was called Orfs Bridge.

My explorations is within this red square so far. The map stretches even more up north

Orfs Bridge was a strange place. The good thing is that I found my fifth companion and took him on. He was caravan guard and I desperately needed him in my group to beat the outlaws in the wilderness. I cannot create new avatars which I regret now and I don´t wan´t to bind his soul to me since it affects his alignment towards me. Anyway, there where guards that was looking for smuggled gods at this place and they searched me as well. Other than reequipping my group and spending almost all emeralds I found nothing that would further my progress in any way.

I left the city and with my new companion I tried to confront the outlaws and bandits in the wilderness once again. This time I had reached level 3 but I had still not spent any single attribute or skill point. I would like to wait until I find a favourite weapon to use or until I feel confident in using the spells in the game (which I don´t at the time being). I could not beat the bandits in the wilderness so I had no choice but to explore new areas in the overland map. I reached a place just west of Orfs Bridge where the mayor lived or someone similar. By bribing a guard I could get ahead of all the people trying to talk to the him. I first talked to him without using the aptitude noble and got some sparse information from him but I reloaded and spent a few points in the aptitude noble to better present myself and then I was given a lot of interesting information.

The bounty board

I choosed to continue my exploration to the southwest and reached the small town of Lebez at night. I was not allowed to enter and spent my time clearing the surroundings outside of witches. I had great help to defeat them by the city watch but I never understood how to progress the time to daylight so the city gates would open other than to return to the overland map and go around the place until daytime arrived. After that I had no trouble to enter the village.

I begun to explore every house and soon found two mysterious figures that had just slain a woman. After I said I would call the watch, they attacked me. This fight took me three attempts to survive. I prevailed only after having dragged them out of the house to follow me long enough to alert the watch. The watch helped me kill the rogues and I got some experience points and a few items. At this stage my inventory is so full so I had to drop some items to make room for new ones. The most interesting thing I found was a bounty on one of the thugs that suggested the woman I thought I saved actually was a sought after thief. As proof of her death, her head was needed. I returned to the house to decapitate her head but felt somewhat awkward. I had thought she was innocent. That´s one thing of the game I like. Not everything is pure black and white.

An Inn

In my next post I will return to detail more things about the combat which depends heavily on supporting your front fighters by magic rather than using any tactical placements. The one good thing about the enemy A.I is that is tries to target your weakest character. Almost always when I pull out one of my seriously wounded characters from combat, the enemy follows which makes it tough to save him since everything is played out in realtime. My other party members just chases the opponent that chase me and we could run around in circles before anyone gets lucky to land a strike. Anyway, more of that later. Since there is no revival in the game, a death of any partymembers mean I have to reload the game.

Regarding the skills in the game it feels that each point has very little impact and it will take some time to actually notice any improvement wherever skill you choose to invest in. That goes for attributes as well. Let me return to that later on in my adventure.

I like the game, and would continue to play on. The atmosphere is good, the few texts well written and so far the use of aptitudes is quite good. And you always lacks money which is a good driving factor.

August 8, 2015

Serpent in the Staglands - Demo review

For some months now I have been following a game called Serpent in the Staglands that was released some months ago. It is a kickstarter backed CRPG with all its characteristics like poor VGA like resolution but also with all the things that makes CRPG great like no hand helding, no maps, exploration of blacked out areas and hard fights. I have been wondering if this game could be my next game but with a price tag at $20 I opted to test out the demo first and give you my impressions. 

Before going into the character generation process (and yes this is a party based game), I had to answer a few questions. What effect these have is still held in darkness though because just when the game starts you will have to roll up your first character. The character is an avator of a god that has got stuck in the world. The portal to return seems to malfunction and the suspicions is that someone must be behind this. It is now your task to take on an avatar to enter the earthly world to find out the reasons behind this. As such you will be very fragile and vulnerable. 

Fortunately I have my good friend Erlein who agrees to help me by giving me some starting coins and a disguise. From there on I am left alone to venture forth as I choose. I also have the choice to roll up other characters to help me out up to a total of five. I created one additional character Rennard beside my main person Feidar. There are several companions to be found in the world so I preffered to leave some space for them.

My friend Erlein already gave me names of two companions that I might recruit from him, a spellcaster type person and a more warrior like person. There are no classes in the game so you can develop your characters in any way you like by following three different skill trees (combat, magic and aptitudes).

There are six races to choose from, each with 3 special abilities. You can raise your attributes intelligence, strength, dexterity, occult and perception with two points as well as two points to spend on any skill. The skill are based on both your attributes and the skill level. You could increase the effects of a skill by upgrading it with additional skillpoints. So far so good....

Erlein helps me out in the beginning

Anyway, I was off with my two starting companions and begun by exploring the starting fortress which seems to be set somewhere in the wilderness. It was filled with libraries and acolytes. I found a few items in wardrobes and chests which gave me some food (to increase health), rope and some kitchen daggers to use as weapons. I then recruited the two members that Erlein had suggested. At one point I got to the storekeeper and was able to buy some equipment with the few emeralds Erlain gave to mee. I still lacked all sorts of armours or better weapons.

When I was done exploring the fort, I met Erlein in the courtyard who said he himself would set out to investigate the matter on his own. He said he would contact me if he found out anything. With no overland map and no directions I started to explore the immediate surroundings outside of the fortress.

One of my first fights, notice the log on the left
A bit south, across a bridge I came into my first combat with foxes. I just selected all of my companions (four) and attacked one at a time and managed to kill three of them. I then explored all areas I could access and met wolves and goblins and I died several times in fighting them. But eventually I killed them by using my mage more efficiently and by finding better items. Things got easier when I found out how to heal myself which is only possible by a spell as far as I have found out. Unless you would like to buy healing potions which are too expensive for me right now. It doesn´t seem that there are any mana or spellpoints so I can cast how many spells I want. The only drawback might me the time it takes to cast them and that they all vanish if you move or attack. A new way to handle this nevertheless.

It is impossible to see what the small icons means

Most foes leave some equipment like food behind or weapons and armours. The game mechanics seems rather complex at first but by rightclicking you will see what formula makes up your values. You get experience points for killing and to reach the first level you need 300. I have yet to level up because it seems the demo is very small. I could not cross further past the bridge to the south or west. In the east I found a cabin guarded by bandits which where pretty hard to take out but after luring them away one by one I could finish them off and was rewarded with some good items and also a trapdoor that lead down to a cave. Unfortunately I could not progress far because it felt like the demo stopped me.

The cabin, by using the wheel I could unlock the trapdoor
I found two places of interest in the area neither of which I could find out what to do:

  • A ring of flowers that emitted a strong fauna. I tried to use herbealogy and other skills but without any success. I made a note in the built in logbook.
  • A hole in a tree to small for us to get through. I have no idea what to do here for the time being.
I didn´t get much farther sine the demo restricted me which is a pity. It should have been at least twice as big. I still don´t have had any use for any skill or tried out how to develop my characters. 

I had some fun exploring the game. It has received pretty good reviews but seems to have been buggy at release. The good thing is that the developers seems to work hard on releasing patches and several has arrived since after the release. 

At the current price tag the game feels a little expensive compared to other games like Lords of Xulima. The resolution is terrible but playable. The UI works but is a little quirky. You have to carefully click and point exactly on the right spot in this pixelated world to get anything to happen. It is sometimes hard to see what things symbolise, especially in your inventory. That would be ok for a game released in 1990 but I don´t understand why the developers choose to stuck at the lowest resolution possible. Apart from that I did have fun and since I´ve just got started I might well buy this before I find it on sale. It seems to have potential.

[Update 12 hours later: I have now bought the game so expect more entries to come...]

Serpent in the Staglands features:

  • Party-based, real time with pause combat focused on macro tactical decisions and creative party skill combinations 
  • Classless role-playing system: create builds via any combination of the over 100 magic, combat and aptitude skills available to create or find up to 5 unique characters 
  • Non-linear storyline to explore as your adventure allows 
  • No level scaling or story-blocked map barriers impede your adventure 
  • Dynamic item use, including an incantation book, hand-drawn maps, and a herbology kit for brewing potions 
  • Combat designed for minimal pause spamming and without cooldowns, instead focusing on pre-buffing, positioning and auto-triggering skills 
  • An unmarked map filled with wilderness, cities, towers, temples, dungeons and caverns to explore. 
  • Write your own journal notes for quests, puzzles and leads as you investigate. The game won't hold your hand or tell you what to do. 
  • Huge variety of enemies and challenges, including monsters, rogue mages and mutilated outlaws, which all can have the same spells and skills you do