Brother None counts down his favourite games

Discussion in 'General Gaming and Hardware Forum' started by Brother None, Oct 22, 2009.

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  1. UncannyGarlic

    UncannyGarlic Sonny, I Watched the Vault Bein' Built!

    Feb 6, 2008
    I wasn't giving you flak, I was just surprised that you didn't mention it for Diablo since it's something that hit me hard when I first played the game and has really stuck with me. It's a list about your top 15 games and why they are on it, if it's not something that grabbed you then it has no place on the list. VG music is also something that I've become increasingly aware of and actively notice and think about.

    My big gripe with dungeon crawls is that most of them are uninteresting design-wise. I want to play a dungeon that makes me feel close to how I felt the first time I watched the beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark.
     
  2. Ausdoerrt

    Ausdoerrt I should set a custom tit

    Oct 28, 2008
    Well, I guess I'll have to wait and see if I need to badmouth you once the rest of the list is up :wink:

    You had better have TOEE somewhere on the list. :twisted:
     
  3. UniversalWolf

    UniversalWolf eaten by a grue.

    Aug 28, 2005
    Oh yeah! Sorry. I forgot you listed Wasteland. I have played that, actually. Although oddly I only played it the first time within the last ten years.

    If you think magic users with Harm are unbalanced in Arcanum, try a rogue with a dagger, Backstab, and the first level spell Stun. You can easily kill almost any opponent in the game at level one if you stun them and then backstab. Or better yet, don't try it. It's such a great game it's a shame to break it intentionally, no matter how easy.
     
  4. Ausdoerrt

    Ausdoerrt I should set a custom tit

    Oct 28, 2008
    Yeah, Stun is a big bad cheat. I don't think I have ever seen the spell fail to stun someone, so it's a fail-safe way to disable an opponent for at least one round. I've been playing a mage with stun, easy as 3.14. I bet a rogue is even easier.

    In short, magic users have it easy in Arcanum. They have loads of ready-made loot lying around, while the techies have to craft everything, and are generally a lot weaker, even if properly built. It's part of the fun, but definitely throws off the balance. Well, on the upside, a high-level techie pretty much has magic immunity.
     
  5. Misteryo

    Misteryo Still Mildly Glowing

    Feb 15, 2007
    I place Arcanum higher on my own personal list, simply because I've logged more time on that game than probably any other. I don't think I've enjoyed the character generation of any game more.

    Also, there are more delightfully perfect moments in Arcanum than any other rpg I can think of: the Stillwater giant, Gar-the world's smartest orc, Virgil's surprising self-determination, etc., etc. The overarching plot didn't hold my interest, but every little npc and quest along the way did.

    Misteryo
     
  6. SuAside

    SuAside Testament to the ghoul lifespan
    Admin

    May 27, 2004
    i don't feel like the game balance is off in favor of magic users. the tech fireaxe, dex rings and so on make it just as easy to win all the fights as an uber mage would (stun, harm or disintegrate). one advantage to mages though, is teleport. and obviously the fact that low level spells grow as your afinity grows (harm is one of the best spells in game and is a low level necr spell). you can win the game by spamming harm on the final boss iirc.

    the only truly sad thing about Arcanum is the combat modes. it was a nice idea, but it was rather badly implemented to have both real time & turn based in this fashion.
    other than that, it has some minor shortcomings, but as BN said, it tries to do so much that it was bound to get a few things wrong.

    still one of my favorite games ever...
     
  7. jero cvmi

    jero cvmi Look, Ma! Two Heads!

    Oct 8, 2008
    I know. You should get fired from any job for not having played Grim Fandago. I mean, not even the free playable demo? son, that's failure to recognize opportunities and take initiative yadda yadda. :P

    Anyway, i guess the same can be said about arcanum, i think i should try it and i hope GOG or Steam gets "inspired" from you to upload it like Psychonauts and Earthworm Jim. And in case they do get inspired from this list, don't forget to write about Torment and System Shock II, too.. :wink:

    Your review really got me into it (thanx), although i'm not sure about this "steampunk" thing as a setting, and i hate dungeon crawls from the bottom of my soul.
    That is, if they are unskippable and can't be sneaked, or talked through. Is that the case for Arcanum?
     
  8. Unkillable Cat

    Unkillable Cat Mildly Dipped

    Jan 5, 2004
    I have to agree with alec here. Dungeon Master's impact upon the gaming world was big back in the day. It was hailed as an instant classic. For roughly 4 years it was the supreme king of "RPG's utilizing a first-person perspective", or until Eye Of The Beholder came along. In fact, Dungeon Master spawned it's own sub-genre within the RPG fold that lasted for a decade. How many games can you name that pull something off like that?

    When the sequel was announced in the early 90s, bricks were shat and people were really excited. The sequel sadly did not live up to expectations, and we can debate our personal opinions on the game design legacy that Dungeon Master brought with it, but it doesn't change the fact: Dungeon Master was a huge release in the RPG circles at its time.
     
  9. UniversalWolf

    UniversalWolf eaten by a grue.

    Aug 28, 2005
    If you question one of the elves in the elf city he starts ranting about how immoral the human practice of marriage is. I laughed quite a bit at that the first time.
     
  10. Ausdoerrt

    Ausdoerrt I should set a custom tit

    Oct 28, 2008
    Feel free to ignore most of it and play as a mage.

    Well, some can and some can't. I can think of a few instances where dungeons or side-quests can be skipped, but I've not played a thief, so I don't know how Prowling works for the dungeons.

    They really aren't that bad as compared to some more h&s-oriented games like NWN; hell, even some of Fallout's dungeons were as long and boring (think Wanamingo mines).
     
  11. Lexx

    Lexx Background Radiant
    Moderator

    Apr 24, 2005
    Yeh, but you could skip the Fallout dungeons. It was not needed to do them. In Arcanum you have to go through at least one or two bigger dungeons, which was very annoying to me. Especially when there are a lot traps inside and I could do nothing else than save&load all the time to go through this without dying.
     
  12. Ausdoerrt

    Ausdoerrt I should set a custom tit

    Oct 28, 2008
    Well, there are a few like that, like the Land Bridge or the Vendigroth ruins, but mostly in end-game. The one you're referring to, the Black Mountain mines, is possibly the most annoying ones. However, from what I gather from your post, you came inadequately prepared - the traps are really easy to get rid of: either grab that trap-revealing device or some batteries, or use the numerous "detect trap" scrolls lying around the dungeon.

    You couldn't skip ALL FO dungeons either. You can't skip Cathedral or Mutant Base, for example, or the Oil Rig in FO2. Then also, FO was a lot less guided by the main story line.
     
  13. Lexx

    Lexx Background Radiant
    Moderator

    Apr 24, 2005
    Yes, but I personally didn't found the Cathedral or Mariposa as annoying or boring. In fact, back then, I nearly got a heart attack while sneaking through this places. In Arcanum I was just running through the caves, trying to be done with that as fast as possible. Also I didn't got enough "detect trap" scrolls or other stuff to detect traps. That means.. I got two scrolls, then I saved, used one and was running through the cave, trying to find as much traps as possible to avoid them later.

    But Vendigroth was cool. I just wish there would have been more old technical stuff to explore.
     
  14. jero cvmi

    jero cvmi Look, Ma! Two Heads!

    Oct 8, 2008
    Thanks for the tip, but what i don't find very interesting about the setting is that it's part tolkienesque fantasy, which bores me, so i think i'll instead try to ignore that part and play as a Victorian age craftsman.
    Like others said, you could play the mines, rat caves etc. at any part of the game you wanted, or not at all, and the Cathedral, Oil rig, and Mutant Base were playable without fighting at all if you wanted.
     
  15. Ausdoerrt

    Ausdoerrt I should set a custom tit

    Oct 28, 2008
    Well, as a technician, you can just craft the thingy that detects traps - makes life much easier. As a mage, I didn't even care, since you get a walking healing kit named Vergil in the bundle.

    If anything, I wish there was more magic stuff to explore. I mean, Tulla was sort of a letdown after all the buildup, an empty town with a single puzzle and one side-quest.

    Well, haven't tried it myself, but there IS a "prowl" skill in Arcanum. I'm not sure if it's efficient enough to skip whole dungeons. My guess would be yes.
     
  16. SuAside

    SuAside Testament to the ghoul lifespan
    Admin

    May 27, 2004
    Virgil, actually.

    and yes, there were a fuckton of ways to detect traps. on your first playthrough you're kinda annoyed by the traps, but it's easy enough. even a totally unprepared brute can get through it easy enough with what he finds (or makes) along the way.
    there were more quests, you just didn't look for them. :)

    but most weren't that good, no.
    some scripted events will trigger anyway, and a good number of creatures will detect you regardless (i believe wolves and some elementals for instance). you can probably powerlevel before going there and then prowl past, but i dunno. no use prowling if you're much higher level anyway.
     
  17. Misteryo

    Misteryo Still Mildly Glowing

    Feb 15, 2007
    The end areas of Arcanum (Tulla, Vendigroth, the Void) were certainly emptier and less interesting than the rest. But, tell the truth, that's a pretty common flaw of rpgs in general and of Troika games in particular.

    I wonder, though, if the letdown at the ending has to do with the character-building dynamic of rpgs itself. A lot of the fun of complex and long rpgs is planning ahead and making clever choices with stats and skilltrees and equipment. Once you reach the end, you have built the character you dreamed of, but using the perfection is less fulfilling than building it was.

    I suppose a well-crafted final area/boss fight could help make use of all those stats and skills and equipment and companions, but I guess I've never played a game that succeeded in making me feel like I really needed every ounce of my character at the end. Except maybe Doom 2. (not an rpg, but you get my point: rpgs suffer at a point where other types of games having a higher success rate).

    Misteryo
     
  18. Ausdoerrt

    Ausdoerrt I should set a custom tit

    Oct 28, 2008
    ^ Well, the level cap/level progression was part of the problem in Arcanum. You can level to max way before the endgame.

    I haven't played Vampire, but TOEE certainly wasn't as bad about endgame. Some of the elemental nodes may have been a bit empty, but boy, were some of the boss fights tough. I'd be surprised if someone said they DIDN"T need every ounce of their characters and then some to beat the Balor and then Zuggy.

    Planescape made an interesting move to make the game lots more challenging by depriving you of party members in the very last level. It was also a puzzle more than a dungeon, as well.

    But, I guess it's sort of a rule of life. While the ending boss needs to be fun and challenging, the game devs also want the game to be possible to clear. That's why some games have "special bosses" that are supposed to challenge you to the max (think the Weapons in the FF series, the demilich in BG2, Orochi in Sengoku Rance etc etc).

    Bleh, I keep confusing him with that guy from DMC3. Too bad his skills aren't quite up to par :lol:
     
  19. Brother None

    Brother None This ghoul has seen it all
    Staff Member Admin Orderite

    Apr 3, 2003
    8. Vampire - the Masquerade: Bloodlines - Troika Studios (Windows, 2004)

    We're sticking with Troika and the Noughties. Heck, why not? This'll be the last time Troika rears its head so enjoy it, though we'll see more of the Noughties before we're through - to my own surprise.

    Word to the wise - this writeup is even more spoiler-laden than the average as I can hardly explain why I like this game so much without spoilerin'. Do not read if you haven't played it, it'll seriously mess with your experience.

    So...

    Bloodlines...

    We're running headfirst into the "Troika Problem" again. I don't think anyone else ever specialized as much in games that are as easy to love as they are to hate. Or games as messy on release. Bloodlines, like Arcanum, is still getting patched today, and boy howdy did it need it.

    Bloodlines is not really "like" Arcanum in any other way, though. It had a lot of us worried before release. A Troika RPG? Great. A Troika RPG on a shooter engine, with FPS combat? Ehhh...Besides, Vampire: the Masquerade's setting certainly isn't for everyone. I like it for its subtlety and behind-the-scene machinations, but the basic "you're a vampire gaaaaah" thing never even remotely appealed to me.

    Mostly though, Bloodlines is different in not trying quite as much as Arcanum (neither did Temple of Elemental Evil) and doing what it tried to do extraordinarily well (just like Temple of Elemental Evil). We all know the complaints about Bloodlines; aside from being an unplayable mess on release, it's also marred by some incredibly boneheaded decisions, most noticeably - and frustrating - the combat-only second half of the game. Personally, I also think its portrayal of women gets pretty stale pretty quickly, and the Boob PhysX was just ridiculous.

    But what it did well is a still-unequaled combination of writing, voice acting and face/body dialogue animations. Especially the last part is shocking; writing and voice acting tend to be up and down in any industry that depends on them, but the fact that the most expressive NPC models of all time can be found in a 5-year old game is not a good thing for a burgeoning game industry.
    Still, Bloodlines has it all when it comes to writing. It's not as in-your-face novelesque as some games (Torment), but it shines because every NPC is noticeably "human" (ironically), with convincing performances backing up well-thought out writing. The Kuei-jin (and Chinatown whole) are really the only point at which this game falls short here. The writing makes up for a lot of things, including a flawed, consequence-less structure for most of the main plot.

    Overall, this is a game that shines and fizzles, a real boom-or-bust game when it comes to how you experience it. It's no wonder this is one of those games people often talk of in "moments". I already mentioned Malkavian dialogue as one of those things, the Ocean House Hotel is another example a lot of people will cite, or Therese and Jeanette (boobs!), but let me just talk about three others...

    The first is a bit predictable along with the above: Heather Poe. Now everyone, even Kieron Gillen, loves Heather Poe, and they're probably right. Heather is Troika's style at its finest. Y'see, too often in RPGs, when you're offered a choice it is a non-choice from a power-gaming perspective. There's no balance in reward for going through door A or door B, one door is simply better. And often enough, because of that the choice becomes a false one, a non-choice of "cripple yourself...or don't".
    Gameplay-wise, Heather is such a choice. Her little gifts are of no real consequence, but she is the source of the best armour in the game. If you're a bastard enough to keep her around. The lure is even doubled up because she doesn't think you're a bastard.
    That's why Heather is Troika's writing at its finest. She's your ghoul, and she's slavishly devoted to you. Every time you speak to her the writers stress your absolute hold over her, showing how she is losing her free will and humanity. The power is absolutely yours and the game is doing nothing to stop you, making this a more real moral issue than most games present: are you capable of stopping yourself from stooping this low? Many are not the first time through, and the game kind of pistolwhips the message home by killing her if that's the path you choose.

    The second is a bit more off center: I love the plot. Not just is it wonderfully understated (no save-the-world plot here) as you're just dragged along by events you have no control over, but it also takes you by the nose and never really lets on what's going on or who you can trust and who you can't.
    As I mentioned before, I do like it when game plots aren't too predictable. And besides its small scope being lovely, no game does this as well as Bloodlines. The hints it drops to reveal the ending are way too small to pick up on your first playthrough, yet you should be able to figure out something is not right.
    Still, the most "obvious" answer to what's in the sarcophagus is that the pharaoh is in there, and the one who holds his corpse has that power to himself. If you pay some attention you'll figure out before time that this is not the case, but regardless the simplicity and logic of what it does contain are incredibly well done, which is why this is probably my favourite overarching game plot of all time.
    The Kuei-jin ending by comparison is weaker, but still good as it does contain a betrayal you should have seen coming. The Camarilla ending is probably the weakest, but it does bring in an element of frustration to the player as you never get to know what's in the sarcophagus.

    But my favourite bit of the game is probably one of the most hated: the Werewolf sequence. I love it because I recognize the underlying pen and paper logic that makes it work; this is an ideal combination of tough gameplay and storytelling. Why? Well, the PC just went fluently through a building full of vamps and goons, slaughtering and maiming left and right. Depending on your build, it may not even have been that challenging. This is the point in a pen and paper game where the player starts getting smug. In most cRPGs, especially more recent ones, the game just lets that be and continues to masturbate the player with its "you're the one"-waffling.
    Not Bloodlines. Bloodlines gets it. It sends you into an encounter with a practically (but not literally) invincible werewolf. It's the perfect punishment for arrogance: first time I got there I actually tried attacking the werewolf in hand-to-hand combat with my gangrel despite clear hints that this is probably not a good idea.
    One quick death and reload later, I run like hell. Only after the whole sequence and having recovered from the blinding panic involved did I recognize the genius of it: there was my high-level, arrogant vampire, literally cowering in the bathroom of some random building. Nice way to bring the player back to earth.
    And yes, I know you can kill it. But there's no way that occurred to me during those intense minutes of sheer terror.

    <center> </center>
    So that's pretty much it. Bloodlines gave me a stack of memorable moments probably unequaled by any other single game to go along with its oft-terrible combat sequences. That, and the fact that I had a beer with the lead writer, cement this game at #8.
     
  20. The Vault Dweller

    The Vault Dweller always looking for water.

    Aug 24, 2004
    It's a shame I never played Bloodlines since now I can't read your review for fear of the spoilers. At least you did remind me of another game to add to the "list".

    Sincerely,
    The Vault Dweller
     
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