Currently playing: Nox Archaist

October 7, 2018

The Bards Tale - Remastered version

InXile recently released Bard´s Tale IV a kickstarter backed successor to the famous Bards Tale series. While it so far has received mixed reviews - where mostly original Bard´s Tale gamers feel the lack of soul from previous games and less character customization - it seems to be a game worth considering after the first patches has been released.

Not as well known is the fact that InXile also released a remastered version of the old Bard´s Tale series trilogy where graphics, UI and other improvements has been made. After having read a little about it and needing a secondary game to play on all the other computers here at home I decided to buy it.

Tha game can be played in almost any resolution and has full mouse support as well as the old keyboard support. The ability to save anywhere and not just in the tavern is a god send improvement. I don´t have the time for running back and forth just to save the game and loosing huge amount of gaming time when I die along the way. Those times are long gone with a family and work to take care of. Except for the saving mechanism the best improvement is the inclusion of an automap. At last! 

I loved to map old games before but time has changed so this is a very valuable addition. Some of you might remember my revisit to Bard´s tale 3 several years ago. The main problems I had with it was the extremely slow regeneration of spell points in combination with a ridiculously high random encounter rate. It was extremely frustrating and made me quit the game.

Bard´s Tale opens up with the classic original Bard´s tale tune and with improved graphics that scale very well into high resolutions. There are unfortunately no manual supplied to the game. You have to find it on the web but there are tooltips almost everywhere that describes the most vital parts of the game.

I started out a whole evening with rolling characters. After an hour or so I was finished. In my setup I had one warrior, paladin, rogue, bard, magician and conjurer. You have the typical setup of races like human, elf, orc, gnome, half-orc, dwarf etc but it is not obvious what their exact advantages are.

When my party was finished and I had saved the game we went out to explore Skare Brae. was a fresh breeze that reminded me of my adventures 30 years back with my Commodore-64. It is exactly the same town and I still remembered some things but not all. Fortunately there is now a full featured auto-map included which also describe the things you find, for example labeling what kind of shop or temple you discovered. It writes down all hints and tips you found and so on. Perfect!

Bildresultat för c-64 bards tale
The original Bard´s Tale on Commodore 64

My first goal was to find the equipment shop because we started out with only some gold and no weapons. I had to find the shop through google and it was only around 10 steps northward. After having bought broadswords and scalemail to my warriors I was satisfied. Now begun the first hard part of just surviving. I tried to take on the easy fights to gain experience and get some gold. After half an hour I was eligible to raise to level 2 so we searched for the place where you can level up the characters. I also gradually improved the equipment of my warriors.

What struck me is that the shop only offers standard equipment. Best armour is plate mail and best weapon is the two-handed halberd. There is no magical items or expensive items to long for. I suppose I have to find all of these.

My strategy was to wait until level 3 to enter the sewers. The sewers is entered by ordering some wine "which easily goes down" from a special tavern. It was around this time that I read about how bad the rogue class was. Even if they had improved it by including the improvements made to the class in Bard´s tale III, I was not impressed by its ability to hide in shadows and automatically score a critical hit on next turn for only a few points of damage. At level four I switched out the rogue for another warrior instead. The only drawback I see is that I have to rely to magical means - and spellpoints - to disarm traps. But the successrate of the rogue is not that great in that department either.

I also eventually added a 7th magician instead of using the slot for wandering creatures after having read it was the best way to use that slot.

The much appreciated automap

I have only reached level two in the sewers and explored a little over half the town and already most of my times have been spent on levelling up my characters. At level up every character recieves a random amount of hitpoint, spellpoints and a one point increase in a random attribute as longas you haven´t reach 18 in that. I reload if my numbers are too low. This takes time so at least 10 minutes for one level up I would guess. Anyway everything is so extremely much easier and quicker than on my tapestation on the C-64 so in just a few hours I was already at level 7. Higher levels means extra attacks per round for warriors and paladins and new spell schools for the mages. But spells costs money and I cannot afford everyone to have the latest spells so I have to return to the sewers several times just to get more money.

Good items is hard to get by but I have slowly found some mithril armour parts which is more effective than the best armour the town shop can sell. I have yet to find real good magical weapons or items.

In this first part of the review I want to stress the really good, improved features of this version:

  • Cloud saves - Every time I quit the saves are transferred to the cloud and I can continue playing from any of my three computers at any time. Worth gold if you have a family sharing the computers.
  • Less random encounters and high ability to run away - Extremely useful and makes the game less frustrating
  • Save anywhere - You can save the game anywhere and don´t have to return to the guild
  • Automap - Saves you a lot of time than if you had to do this yourself
  • Improved UI - Both mouse and keyboard support makes the game easier to play
I think this version from a technical standpoint is very successful. I have yet to really come deep into the game because I am still only exploring the sewers at level 8. I almost only play the game sporadically in small portions of time which makes the experience very stuttering but that is only due to my limited playing time.

August 26, 2018

The Larian Studios fabulous games

I don´t know how it has happened but I have missed a whole line of good RPGs over the last decade, starting with Divine Divinity which I completed in the beginning of the summer. I have to say it is one of the best isomentric RPGs I have ever played. The atmosphere and advanced skill system is really good and the game was hard to beat.

After that game I immediately started the sequel Beyond Divinity. It has much in common with Divine Divinity except that the game is not as good. Both the story, atmosphere and the terrible voice acting of your soulmate - the dark knight - all makes it plain in comparison with Divine Divinity. Still it is worth playing and I completed it a few weeks later.

I then started the third one. Divinity II - Directors cut and this time they had shifted from 2-D isometric to a full 3D-world. The game was also good but very hard in the end. 

The fourth game I started on a few weeks ago was Divinity Original Sin - Enhanced edition. A party-based game with fantastic graphics and interesting character development paths. I really like this game but it is quite linear and if you get stuck there are not many options you have to get more experience. Right now I am at level 12 and almost stuck between two boss-fights. We will see how it will evolve but in summary I think Divine Divinity and Divinity Original Sin is the best two games of the four and comes highly recommended.

April 14, 2018

Divine Divinity is a golden gem

The last 10 days I have tested four different RPG like games:
  • Dungeons of Chaos
  • Sacred 2
  • Divine Divinity (2002)
  • Grim Dawn
The first game I have already told you about in my previous post. It wasn´t good enough to spend limited time on. Grim Dawn is a good hack´n slash action RPG and as such is does well. But you are only bashing the mouse all the time. I have never liked that concept wher loot is the only driving factor of the game. 

Sacred 2 was a little better. Not as limited map as Grim Dawn and not as many enemies at once. It had potential and I think that game is the better of the three. That is, until I bought Divine Divinity for 0.49 euro at the Steam sale and got totally hooked. 

Atmospheric music, eerie environments not as many foes as in Sacred 2. Slower progression but also harder and easier to understand the game. I can highly recommend it as the winner of these four items if you find any on sale. 

April 7, 2018

Dungeons of Chaos - First impressions

Starved of CRPGS I stumbled upon Dungeons of Chaos and since it received many good reviews at steam I bought it. It is a classical RPG. Perhaps too classical since the graphics is really simple even for being a CRPG. Not that it is that important but anyhow it is way worse that too expect. 

The game allows you to create a party of 6 adventurers in the classical way by rolling characters WITHOUT any save inbetween. Which means I rolled my group in around 1 hours time to get as good attributes as possible for my group with a warrior, archer, barbarian, mage, rogue and cleric. So far so good. I immediately set out to play the game on the default difficulty setting.

I won´t even go inte the story other than saying that during an attack from the evil forces the kings remaining people in the castle had to escape through a magical portal to another island in the realm. From there you start out with no news of what have happened to the king or if he is even alive. The game spans a huge overland map with dungeons, caves, towns, ruins and tombs littered here and there. You move in a turn based manner one step at a time and as soon as you stumble into an enemy a tactical map opens up not totally unlike the old SSI games.

I played for around 10 hours and raised my group to around level 5. I really wanted to like the game but two things did stop me. First the manual is spread out in a number of different wiki pages with no coherent way of reading it from the beginning to the end. Also, only parts of the game are explained and not always very detailed. I like to have full control over the game mechanics if I am to manage my partys progression. The game mechanics are fairly advanced and are implemented partly in some unorthodox ways which is good and original. But I had trouble understanding if I should invest the few talent points on levelling on attributes or skill proficiency because it was not obvious what effect either had on my combat ability. 

That is the first part that was a little let down.

The second part was the tactical combats.

While looking good initially it doesn´t take long to get to the conclusion that combats are very frequent and if you are to manually handle them it will take a lot of time and it quickly becomes tedious. The game would have benefited from fewer but more interesting or harder combats. The environment are alos not used to its potential. While there might be the occasional trees in the combat which you have to get around - and supporting flanking attacks makes this great - there are also no small doorways like in the SSI games. To summarise. I used autocombat for 99 % of my combats which of course takes away a very important core feature of an RPG but also was the only realistic option if I was to progress into the game.

While the map and dungeons could be huge they are also mostly empty of interesting things, items or texts. You do find interesting treasures here and there and selling and gathering loot is a core business in this game but in the end I felt the game lacked soul and wasn´t as rewarding as I had hoped for.

I give it 3 out of 5. I think the game is too expensive right now. If the price would be halved I could recommend the game because it is not bad. It is just not fun enough to spend a huge amount of your time unless you have absolutely nothing else to play.