Friday, November 21, 2014

Lords of Xulima: Made for Me


Almost two years ago, when I was in the midst of Tangled Tales, an anonymous poster commented and said that, inspired by my blog, he decided to create an RPG called Lords of Xulima. He linked to the blog of the studio developing it, Numantian Games. I was suspicious of the comment, given that the linked site (worth reading) referred to my blog as a "book." As it violated my comment rules anyway, I deleted the post and suggested that "it felt a lot like the author had simply plugged my name into that location and then tried to use my blog for free advertising."

Two years later, I feel kind of bad about that:


It turns out that the "book" thing was just a mistranslation (the developer is Spanish) and the developer really is a big fan. In an e-mail exchange a few days ago, Numantian Games director Jesús Arribas said that if not for my blog, "Lords of Xulima wouldn't exist." He also offered me some free Steam keys, so I absolutely had to check out the game.

It's not Jesús's fault, but the timing is horrible; I have no more time this month to play new games than I do to play old ones. I devoted about four hours to it--not enough time for a full review--and I really like it so far. In his e-mail, Jesús said that the game "is a tribute to those awesome old-school classics like Might & Magic, Wizardry, and Ultima," and you can definitely feel the influences as you play.

In basic design, Xulima feels a lot like an Infinity Engine game, with an oblique angle view as you march across some absolutely gorgeous terrain. Although you really need a mouse for fine-tuning, most of the commands have comfortably redundant buttons and keyboard shortcuts. Any part of the terrain--chests, corpses, plants, tree stumps, wells, and so forth--can have some kind of loot or encounter tied to it, so you have to move your cursor around to find those that you can interact with. Some people find this interface torturous, but I rather like it; it feels like you're truly exploring as you move around.

Finding some treasure under a rock.

Where it separates from the Infinity Engine is in depicting the party, depicting enemies, and combat. Your party is represented by a single character, as are fixed parties of monsters. These fixed parties don't move. A right-click on them depicts their true number and composition as well as the "awareness radius" that you have to enter to guarantee combat. It's possible to encounter random monsters, too, but they don't show up on the screen until you run into them.

Just as my party is represented by the one icon of Gaulen, so these three "Askary" are represented by a single on-screen creature.

Combat whisks you to a separate turn-based interface, more reminiscent of Wizardry or Might and Magic, but with far, far more options. The combat system is, in fact, one of the best I've ever encountered, offering a few features that I've never seen before. Chief among them is a long, continually updated list of icons, on the right side of the screen, depicting the current attack order--influenced by speed, initiative, and luck. Knowing exactly the order in which you and your foes will move introduces an entirely new tactical dimension to the battle, as you try to plot the order in which you attack, cast spells, and heal your party. Each successful attack carries the chance of stunning the enemy, knocking him further down the list, and I'm constantly deciding whether to concentrate attacks on low-hit-point foes or concentrate them on the next enemy slated to move, increasing the chances that I can keep my own party at the top of the line-up.

The icons on the right indicate who will attack in what order. The ones across the top represent the major actions: attack, defend, use an item of equipment, or cast a spell.

Even without this list, the combat system would be excellent. Like the earlier games to which it harkens, positioning is important; unlike the earlier games, you can constantly adjust positions in battle. There are considerations associated with types of weapons (missile weapons and polearms can attack across ranks), spells, item use, and fleeing, among many other things.

It's system of resting and restoration is, at first glance, drawn from Might & Magic. The party can rest for 8 hours at almost any location, and 8 hours of rest fully restores hit points and spell points. That makes it sound a little too easy, just as Might & Magic often was, but you have a supply of food that continually depletes as you move and rest, and you can't rest if it's gone. Might & Magic had that, too, but the difference here is that food is rare and expensive. You can find some in the wilderness and buy it in town, but a few days' supply costs a couple hundred gold pieces, and at the beginning, at least, finances are tight. This means that you can't abuse the rest system, and the game manages to find that nice balance between individual combat difficulty and accumulation-of-combats difficulty that characterize Might & Magic and Wizardry, respectively.

The world map provides a strong Might & Magic feel.

The other thing that I like about the resting system is that resting for 24 hours resurrects dead characters. At first, this seems illogical, but if you brush past that, you can see how it better serves strategic considerations in the game. If resurrection was impossible, or cost thousands of gold pieces in the nearest town, every character death would be an automatic reload. Here, where each character death is simply a depreciation of precious food, you're more likely to live with the consequences of a bad combat. This, in turn, encourages you to take more risks.

From Ultima, the game draws its attention to carefully-crafted world-building and expositional dialogue, and I admit that this is one area that simply hasn't gripped me. Part of it may be that I simply don't have much time this month, so I lack patience for complex histories and lore. The game takes place on a planet with two continents (one image suggests that it's Earth, 800 million years ago though I don't know how literally we're supposed to take that), Rodinia and Xulima; the latter pronounced "SHU-li-ma."

Rodinia is the home of the kingdoms of men, while Xulima has, since time of creation, been the home of the nine gods. In recent years, the wars of men have become so destructive that some of the gods felt that they should intervene. Others disagreed, leading to a civil war among the gods. Rather than risk destroying the Earth in their conflict, the gods departed the planet, but not before one of them, Golot, appointed as his Herald an "explorer" named Gaulen, instructing him to travel to Xulima. Upon arrival, he and his party are surprised to find it populated by men, as well as a variety of monsters; the suggestion here is that the monsters represent failed creations that the gods declined to send to the main continent. The shrines of the 9 gods have been overthrown by human conquerors, and apparently a big part of the game involves liberating these shrines.

Already, I'm a bit confused by aspects of the back story, and I probably have some of it wrong, but there appear to be some conflicts between the story told in the game documentation and some of the information that you receive in-game. In the end, after a few hours of gameplay, I'm still not sure what my primary mission is, but I suppose that's something that might be revealed as I go along.

An awful lot of exposition from one dialogue.

NPC dialogue so far has also been slightly disappointing, consisting primarily of info dumps rather than meaningful role-playing choices. Nonetheless, there are choices--something I find lacking in a lot of contemporary games--and I like the way that the game differentiates significant NPCs, with dialogue trees, from those that simply stand around and occasionally impart a bit of lore.

One of the latter.

In the first town I encountered, I was disappointed by the fact that the buildings were non-interactive. The innkeeper stands outside his inn, for instance, and you have a drink and listen for rumors from a menu; you can't actually walk into the inn. The opening chapter has also felt a little linear. Technically, you can take two major branching paths from the opening city, but most of the pathways are blocked by clearly impossible monsters for low-level characters, forcing you to proceed in a mostly pre-determined sequence. The literature on the game promises an "open world," so I expect this is just to help new players and things will open up soon.

These mushroom creatures, blocking one path, dismantled my party in seconds.

Let's get back to the good stuff. While I don't typically like being forced to role-play a named character, that's only true for the first one (Gaulen). The player gets to create and name five others. Of the nine available classes--soldier, cleric, thief, mage, barbarian, paladin, arcane soldier, divine summoner, bard--we've seen seven before, but the game still has a unique take on each of them. Each has different starting attributes, weapon skills, spells, resistances, and different hit points per level, and each requires a different investment to improve in certain skills. Choosing only five of them is a relatively difficult decision.


One of the things I enjoy are the number of ways to amass skill points and improve in skills and attributes. When you level up, you get to improve two attributes (strength, agility, speed, constitution, and energy) by 1 point each, then spend a pool of 5 skill points on whatever weapon, magic, and thieving skills you want to advance. But in between level-ups, you can find skill books, potions, trainers, blessings, magical well water, and other mechanisms that accomplish the same thing. There's an entire "herbalism" system by which you can use the various plants you find to directly affect skill points, attributes, or resistances. A separate talisman, found by Gaulen at the beginning of the game, collects energy that you can expend on healing or, at high levels, the improvement of abilities. Finally, there are plenty of inventory items that work on attributes, skills, or resistances directly. In general, it's awesome to have so many ways to improve the characters, particularly since combat is quite difficult and even a one-point bump in speed can make the difference between victory and defeat.

(The game offers three levels of difficultly: "Normal," "Old-School Veteran," and "Hardcore." I'm naturally playing the second one.)

Tutorials assist you at the beginning of the game.

The beginning portions of the game have handy tutorials to help you walk through. I've had no problems with the interface, and I like the way that left-clicking executes an action and right-clicking brings up information about an object. The graphics are lovely, and the sound effects offer satisfying clangs, thuds, whooshes, zaps, and so forth in combat, as well as gurgles, chortles, and taunts from some of the enemies. A great automap annotates key locations and allows you to add your own notes. Lockpicking and trap-disarming bring up a couple of mini-games that I haven't yet mastered. Good or bad, at least they're original.

Lockpicking involves tracing the correct path from gear to gear. Every time you choose the wrong square, you lose a lockpick. This is a very difficult lock; easier ones have more squares already blanked out for you.

Overall, I had a lot of fun in the 4 hours I was able to devote to Lords of Xulima. I'll take Sr. Arribas's compliments about my blog in the spirit that they were intended, but the true inspirations of Xulima are the classic RPGs that I've written about, and like Might & Magic X did with its franchise, Xulima does a great job paying homage to the past while offering plenty of 2014 innovations. I recommend it and am happy to offer free Steam keys to the first three commenters who say they want them.

***

This is not, alas, the end of my break, but please be patient for just a little while longer. I've managed to finish my major work projects, but now it's time to take Irene on a much-needed vacation. When I get back, I have a work trip that will probably take up my time for the week, so I suspect the resumption of my blog will take place around December 7.



67 comments:

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    1. Thanks so much! I was so happy to see an update in my feed reader; looking forward to December!

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  2. December 7th? That's soo long! Do you guys have some recommendations on some other interesting blog I could read when Addict is away?

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    1. You could try The Digital Antiquarian. He's been writing for years about influential games, especially interactive fiction, but also RPGs. He's got about the same amount of material as the CRPG addict, but he also covers computer hardware and programming too, so he's only in the year 1986.

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    2. Not a fan of the guy. He's long-winded and assumes you've been reading his blog from the beginning. He also constantly name-drops. I dunno, it sounds like a soap opera sometimes. I really don't care how Roberta Williams dyed her hair once and how that affected the next version of King's Quest, yaknowwhatImean?

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    3. Is it inappropriate if a recommend mine (Amiga Memoirs)?

      It's amiga centric, but there are some rpg's in it. I wished i could write about more (like Ishar or Legend), since they're so much part of my childhood, but i hardly have time to play simpler games...

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    4. I'm writing a blog myself. It's about the act of writing itself, features heavily King Arthur and the Holy Grail and some other things for good measure. I'm just starting out, so I'd appreciate some feedback

      s-writing.blogspot.com

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    5. Have a nice vacation and relax! Don't look at your comments E-Mails. ;-)
      Is this the long promised Italy trip for Irene? Or do you stay in the US?

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    6. He also constantly name-drops. I dunno, it sounds like a soap opera sometimes. I really don't care how Roberta Williams dyed her hair once and how that affected the next version of King's Quest, yaknowwhatImean?

      I don't know what you mean, as this is a really bizarre characterization.

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    7. Some miscellaneous thoughts on the Digital Antiquarian, the only other blog that I read attentively:

      I first ran into filfre.net years ago (while looking up the making of Wizardry I), and then I read through the other articles in a days-long binge. I've been lurking since, but have never commented, because I rarely feel that I have anything good enough to bother adding. Besides, it's kind of intimidating to contemplate arguing about interactive fiction with the likes of Graham Nelson, Andrew Plotkin, Jason Scott, and (fellow CRPGA commenter) Jason Dyer -- because all of them obviously know their stuff better than I do, at least in that field. Likewise, the technical arguments interest me, but are past my capacity to weigh in helpfully. I'm also not about to sift through his historical sources and critique his methodology. That doesn't leave much other than typo correction, and I wouldn't be that guy. Still, I do read all of it, so here's a thumbnail sketch.

      Jimmy Maher does tend to strike an academic tone, which is due to various noble goals of his. One is that he, by default, is the only person out there who's seriously attempting to write a comprehensive history of electronic "ludic narrative" (i.e., storygames); as the man on the scene, he's trying to look as official as possible. A related aim is that he's trying to garner more respect from academia for electronic game studies, and I wish him well in this; it'd be nice if someone would do it for TRPGs too. His degree of pretentiousness is subject to interpretation, but remember that he IS writing for a different audience from Chet's. Also, if you haven't read every article, I dunno, maybe you should; because none of them are stupid or uninteresting.

      Name-dropping in DA comes in two forms, neither of which is inappropriate. The first is when Maher acknowledges historical figures who have graciously consented to answer his random questions; this also credits his sources, which is good scholarly practice. The second is when he's talking about those figures, which goes with the territory of his stated goal -- writing history.

      @Harland, I realize that you were being facetious with your example, but it was still a terrible mischaracterization. Maher justifiably deplores Roberta Williams and respects King's Quest mainly for its technical advances, but more importantly, he doesn't bother mentioning games' non-significant influences and inspirations. When he does include contextual information, it tends to be interesting for its own sake -- at least to some people.

      I for one am glad that DA's articles are long, as long as he's covering worthwhile material. The same goes for Chet. Both can run long in the word count compared to some other crap out there, but if a reader's getting bored by these writers, I'd say that it's his own fault, not theirs. I don't follow these blogs so as to read brief, disorganized, superficial reviews of great old games; I want carefully considered, well-written treatments that analyze their subjects in depth. That's what I get with DA and CRPGA, so I'm happy.

      Keep up the good work, guys.

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    8. While I'm hoping Chet is back by now, but there is also a great blog called The Adventure Gamer that is styled off Chet's, but with adventure games. It used to be run by The Trickster but since has become a community blog. http://advgamer.blogspot.com/

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  3. Seems solid. I'll take a key if you're offering.

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  4. I'd like to give Lords of Xulima a try if you have a spare key available. Looks like a child of Baldur's Gate and Heroes of Might & Magic to me.

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    1. In your case, I'll need you to send me an e-mail. I couldn't find yours on your site.

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    2. One of my masked emails is 81a67a63@opayq.com . That will forward to my main email address and is safe to post on a blog.

      Thanks!

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  5. Alas seems like I missed out on the key, game seems neat! :)

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    1. Sorry. I didn't expect them to go that fast! The game is worth the $20 price tag, I think.

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  6. I'll add this one to my wishlist. It'll probably be an around-Christmas type thing.

    I admit I had seen this when it popped on Steam and was interested but took a pass because of the day 1 DLC. (Soundtrack/Guide? Ok. Actual gameplay content? Not as enthused.)

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  7. The 'attack order list' thing has been pretty commonplace in JRPGs since FFX in 2001, but I've never seen it on a CRPG before. It makes so much sense :O

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    1. Heroes of Might and Magic 5 has that same system. It not only showed order of action but allowed for some combatants to attack twice in the time others did once. It also rearranged as combatants were affected by slow/hold/stun/speed and the like, shifting them forward or backward in the queue. I found it really weird at first, but came to really appreciate it.

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    2. It has been introduced in Grandia (1997), or maybe earlier.

      Actually a Grandia-ish combat system made me want to try it, until I saw there was no linux version. Too bad, they lost one impulse sale.

      OG.

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    3. Yes, I was going to mention HOMM5. Although the 'characters' in that game are actually groups of N monsters of the same kind, the principle is the same.

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    4. The first thing that came to mind from the screenshot was definitely Final Fantasy X, though Grandia and Final Fantasy Tactics had similar systems a few years sooner. It's a gimmick I find quite entertaining, especially if there are a good number of ways to interrupt enemy attacks.

      It's definitely amusing during the postgame of FFX to have one character who's so much faster than others that he gets dozens of turns for each of theirs. :D

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    5. I saw it in a tabletop RPG once. They had a meterstick by the side of the table, and moved the players tokens along it as they took actions; longer actions moved you further along it. I *think* the game was Aces & Eights.

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  8. I found Lords of Xulima to be too old-schoold for my tastes, probably. It has its strong sides: it is exceptionally beautiful and UI is very pleasing, giving nice feedback, the right FEEL. But the game itself? It got boring after about 10 hours of play. You might think that this isn't too bad, but I wasn't even close to half of the storyline.

    I usually avoid games with this type of combat system because of bad memories from 90's, and Lords of Xulima confirmed my fears: it's just doesn't offer enough variety for the amount of combats that are present in the game. If enemies were much more few and far between, it probably wouldn't get so boring, but when you have to fight exactly the same group of enemies for Nth time without benefit of unique terrain or other circumstances, it just not fun. I complained about combat in Wasteland 2 being less than great, but this is far worse.

    This being an old-school game in manner of 80's, there isn't much to do besides combat. Quests are strictly "go kill enemies and bring back treasure". You don't get to make any meaningful choices, and frankly, there is a strong urge to skip all dialogs, because the story seem rather cliche (this might change later in the game, but in the beginning it's just boring).

    On the other hand, there IS some reward for carefully reading texts: sometimes, you meet an imp, who will let you access some treasure if you give a answer about game's lore. Unfortunately, I found that treasures just doesn't worth the hassle of carefully reading and remembering names of various gods and characters.

    In the end, I guess Lords of Xulima just isn't a game for me, because I got into CRPGs with Fallout, not with Wizzardy, so I'm used to slightly different gameplay. Then again, if only one of components (story or combats) were more engaging, maybe I could like this game...

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    1. Having such a long view of RPG history does put my judgment out of synch with the rest of the world sometimes. A few months ago, there was a Reddit thread in which someone asked, "What old RPG would you like to see remade with modern graphics?" I went into the comments thinking, "Yeah! How could would it be to see Might and Magic in Oblivion's graphics engine!" only to find out that the kids were talking about remaking Oblivion.

      When I keep hearing "old school" applied to LoX, I think, "What?! It plays just like an Infinity Engine game! How is that 'old school'?" Then I realize to most of the rest of the world, the Infinity Engine games are the very definition of "old school."

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    2. If any Elder Scrolls game deserves a remake, it's Morrowind. Of course, there is Skywind... :)

      -- Drăculea

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    3. I liked Morrowind, but I would prefer to see an updated Daggerfall (without bugs ��).
      I played it for too many hours... I downloaded the free version, but the original interface is too clunky and I don't have enough time to start again.

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    4. Why remake Morrowind? For graphical or for game-play reasons? I myself find it graphically adequate even today, and more interesting than its successors in terms of game-play. Simply play it, together with its add-on's and total conversions!
      I'm inclined to say Morrowind is the best TES game so far, but then I could imagine Daggerfall could play in the same league if the interface wasn't so clumsy. Here a remake would be more appropriate than for Morrowind (but without changing the mechanics of the game). My opinion.

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    5. While I don't usually care about graphics that much, I'd love to see a modern Morrowind mostly because I absolutely loved the architecture and the landscape of many of its locations. It was one of the few 3D RPGs I've played where I really felt I was exploring an alien world.

      The giant crab-like buildings of Ald'Ruhn or Maar Gan, the towering tree-sized mushrooms, the silt striders, the weird organic Telvanni structures, the perpetual blight storms around Red Mountain, the steampunk-ish dwemer ruins, the floating Ministry of Truth high above Vivec... yes, I'm gushing :)

      It would also be great to have a Morrowind where NPCs feel more realistic, with daily routines and such, instead of the static NPCs it had. It's one of the reasons why, despite it's wonderful locations, it often felt empty and/or lifeless.

      Also a combat system that gives you more feedback, including more visual cues. For example, early on you "swing and miss" constantly. If you're familiar with the system, your brain tells you "well, you've missed because of your low stats and the will of the Random Number God". But for novice players it looks and feels weird. With animation for things like dodging, parrying or missing the target it would feel better.

      Don't get me wrong, I still love Morrowind to this day, it's my favourite TES game, but that doesn't mean I don't think a modern take on it couldn't improve on it.

      As for Daggerfall... a modern remake would probably have to restructure much of the game and greatly reduce the scope of the gameworld (at least in terms of size). It was huge, but much of its content was randomly generated with few unique locations. That's not easy to do with modern 3D engines; you'd have to rework the world. I'm positive it's possible, but a remade Daggerfall would be much harder to pull off than Morrowind. But I agree, it's a game that would greatly benefit from an update and I'd obviously be excited if it ever were to happen. :)

      -- Drăculea

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    6. For me, games with poor UI, lots of bugs or serious balance issues are candidates to be remade.

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    7. I love the "Oblivion as an older game" discussion. If a developer puts 90% of their budget into art (as most do), it will look impressive, but the game play might not be any better. Personally, I see little difference between most games circa 2000 vs. 2013.

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    8. Why remake any of the Elder Scrolls game at all when they might as well spend that time to debug their f*cking games?

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    9. Why debug your games when you have a legion of fans willing to do it for you at no cost? Morrowind and Oblivion have their own unofficial patches but Skyrim's is by far the most comprehensive, with each DLC having their own as well.

      It took me three days just to install all the mods I wanted for Skyrim, more time than I've spent actually playing it.

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    10. This. When fans have to pay to work for the franchise they loved, there is something f*cking wrong with the bloody industry.

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    11. I have suffered a lot of crippling bugs in most of the games I played in the last few years. I made a very incomplete list on another website:

      Skyrim: A character refused to talk to me, so I could not finish a main quest. I cheated to other quests, but they then broke.

      Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands: A door refused to open, so I was unable to progress. I had to download a program that exploited another bug to get through there. It required very specific placement of my character and took hours to find the right method. Then, I died on the other side of the door, ended up back on the broken side, and had to do the whole fucking process again.

      Red Dead Redemption: My character died abruptly while climbing up a hill. What the hell?

      Shadow Warrior remake: I lost the ability to load saved games for the last half of chapter 12, meaning I either had to no-death speedrun that part or cheat. What a frustrating roadblock, though I did get past it.

      Rise of the Triad remake: All kinds of bugs: Stairs disappearing, enemies disappearing, enemies stopping and doing nothing, floors disappearing, doors not opening, crashes, and plenty more. I had to cheat a few times because the game was preventing me from getting where I needed to go. Also, there is a weird persistent bug: If you hit the quickload button more than once before the save is loaded, the game goes into an endless loading screen.

      Two Brothers: Excellent game, very imaginative, except for all the crippling bugs. Characters get stuck outside the playable area, important things disappear, you transition between scenes and end up in the wrong place, place names fail to show up after you visit them, dialogue never appears, graphics become distorted, crashes occur--the game breaks every few minutes, and since it autosaves and you cannot copy the save, playing it mean constant fear of getting into a dead end.

      Bayonetta: I love this game, but I hate all the goddamned quick-time events and button mashing. Q.T.Es and button mashing are always the worst parts of games, but these ones are even worse: The instructions are usually vague, and always wrong. I never passed any of those sequences by doing what the game told me: I just mashed different buttons than the ones shown onscreen and flailed the analog sticks in different directions than indicated until I got lucky. Fuck those sequences, especially in this game.

      Quest for Glory 4: I love the old Sierra games, but some of them are extremely buggy, and this is one of the worst: There are many ways to get stuck due to bad programming, and I managed to avoid most of them. Then, near the end, I thought I was safe but my character got stuck and slowed down during an action scene, preventing me from finishing.

      One of my favorite games, and the best of the series is Zelda 2: The Adventures of Link. It took me years to finish, not only because it was very hard--which it was--but because the N.E.S's save functions were highly problematic, and the saved games often got erased. I love 8 and 16 bit games, but I wish they saved better.

      Half Minute Hero 2 was clearly made on a very low budget with a small team, yet I do not remember any major bugs in it. Congratulations, Bethedsa: Your multimillion dollar corporation has significantly worse playtesting than a small team on a shoestring budget.

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    12. I remember my favorite games in the Elder Scrolls series, Arena, Daggerfall and Redguard. They were a mess of horrible bugs and design flaws, even though they were a lot more fun than Morrowind and Oblivion. All of my saved games became corrupted on many occasions, my characters fell into the void, falling into the void caused my saved games to be corrupted, characters would randomly change their opinion of me, important features failed to work, things randomly disappeared--Bethesda has always been terrible at programming games, yet somehow its products manage to be far better than it deserves. . One website managed to find 15,000,000 bugs in Daggerfall--that is impossible to confirm, but I believe it.

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    13. So... Kill Bethesda before the Gangrene Spreads? XD

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    14. Funny, that's how I've long felt about Paragon's "arr-pee-gee's", as Chet will soon be discovering for himself with MegaTraveller 1. I'm still bitter about it a quarter-century later, because seriously, eff those guys. They took Games Design Workshop's best TRPGs and adapted them into truly deplorable CRPGs. Die in the pits of hell, Paragon.

      And yet those little devs ... whom nobody loved ... grew up to be ... TakeTwo Interactive. And now you know the rest of the story!

      Smothering them in their early-'90s cradles might've been a good move, before the endless darkness fell.

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    15. If we're killing infant studios, I think we can all agree a trip back to the eighties to prevent Electronic Arts is warranted.

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    16. But we'd lose Mirror's Edge then. How about we take out Activison at the point it turns to evil?

      Also: a significant point about the bugs, but at the same time, they GIVE us the modding tools. I've heard game designers talk about how expensive those are to develop and how hard they are to sell to publishers as raising sales. They had to fight to get them into Neverwinter Nights.

      Also: I think that Bethesda does a lot right. Sure, they are buggy games, but at the same time I think a lot of that is the result of ambition. Very few other companies TRY to make games with that scale. That said, I've never hit a game-breaking bug playing the PC versions. Never reuse a save file or use quicksave, follow the mod guides, and keep an eye on how to use console commands.
      Oh, I did once, but that was my fault: A stimpack mod caused infinite health loss over time in Fallout 3.

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  9. What I loved about LoX is the way the game always keeps things fresh - even after 50+ hours it manages to throw some new things, new kinds of challenges at you. There are navigation puzzles, lore-based puzzles, environmental hazards, wide variety of traps and secrets. It also keeps the balance between combat and non-combat stuff fairly well, with some dungeons being purely trap- and puzzle-based.

    The world, unfortunately, isn't that open - there are meat- and plotgates here and there (though you can with luck and buffs bypass some of the former), but it does open up a bit after the first major quest. But it's huge (something I was sorely missing in recent games) and really well designed. Quest structure is also a bit of a mixed bag - I like how it's exploration-driven, without any strict directions on what to do next, but the stiry itself just isn't that exciting and NPC interaction clearly isn't a priority.

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  10. Thank you for that little review, the game's going on my list. Right now I'm loving Grimrock 2 to bits!

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  11. Grimrock 2 is old school rpg done right. I've heard of LoX but admit I haven't played it. Not a fan of the Ultima style modern games and prefer the EoB/DM style remakes.

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  12. I've been reading your previous postings for some time now, and I finally caught up, so I wanted to let you know that I've enjoyed them all. Who am I kidding I enjoyed most of them, and I too will be adding Lords of Xulima to my play list, but I have to get through at least 10 other games first, so I won't be playing it for sometime. Especially since I'm a completioness in the games I play, and I don't just play CRPGs. Old school style CRPGs are my favorite though, so I look forward to reading your next post.

    Well, I've wrote to much already, and I don't want to put you and your readers to sleep with my mediocre writing, so I'll save the rest of what I want to say for my next post.

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  13. If you feel bad about it, Chet, don't worry. Plenty of your readers helped Kickstarted his game (me included).

    IMHO about this game...
    1) Felt rather railroaded like a Heroes Of Might & Magic Campaign (paths blocked by monsters trapped in bottle-necked areas).
    2) It's possible to run out of monsters to fight. And seeing that you NEED to kill monsters to get loot and use that money to buy food for resting, it's possible to play yourself into a dead-end.
    3) Game world seems small but game time is stretched due to being contained in areas due to (1) until you are strong to explore further.

    So, I'm not saying that this game isn't old-school but it's... well... different.

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    1. The gameworld might be not as huge as in TES games, but it's larger than anything else that came out and recent years. I think it's roughly the same size as MM7, actually, only with smaller towns. And while it's easier to follow the suggested path, you can actually defeat most of these guardians with the right combination of blessings and tactics.

      Point 2) is not true - there are fruit trees and some other plants that can provide you food and regrow every few days.

      Delete
    2. Really?! I didn't know that. I kept running out of food, so I just restarted the game each time that happened. I guess I shouldn't be playing "hardcore" mode anymore.

      Delete
    3. Explorer's skills also help: hunting and knowledge of herbs add a chance of randomly finding some food, perception adds a chance of randomly finding gold.

      Delete
  14. The homepage is confusing - in the upper right there's a Tux and the web shop is unclear about the content.

    Dows anyone know if the game runs on Linux and if the web sale is a straight-forward download w/o Steam or other DRM dependencies?

    Thanks!

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  15. One of the best games I played in years. I already put in over 100h and that is saying something. Nowadays most games bore me after 10-20h. Also it's just great value at 20$. The "Talisman" DLC is not needed - it is just the backer reward. It will make things a little bit easier though (some might consider it cheating).
    The game already has 90%+ good ratings on Steam, but I fear it won't get the exposure it needs. This developer really deserves the game to be a success. I have seldom seen a dev this responsive to forum feedback! Also, you know, the story is meant to be a trilogy, so... and I want more quality games! ^_^
    If you like the game tell your friends about it or write a review on Steam. If you are sitting on the fence about getting the game, I give a full recommendation.
    The most common complaint seems to be the game is too hard. I played Veteran difficulty (aka "normal") and the game was not too hard by any means. In fact it gets easier the more you level. I must really be doing something wrong if you play yourself into a "dead end".

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  16. An Actual Owner of this gameDecember 3, 2014 at 1:38 AM

    Feedback from someone who has actually invested over 80+hrs in the game at the Old-school Veteran mode; well-rounded party at 25th level.

    If you like reloading again, and again, and again, and puzzles that "make sense only to the DM!" then you'll love this game. I owned, played, and finished all of the M&M series and this combines the best and worst of them.

    You will find players who say the game is too easy, and they're either playing it on Easy level (there is one) or they are just trolling. The game punishes you with needing to re-load combats, re-load not having that extra 2hrs worth of food (which, you will honestly wander around gathering in real time for 15minutes. And that is After level 15 when you've opened up some portals, before that, prepare for 20minute food gathering sessions).

    The game designers have 1 great thing going for them: it's built off of their own personal gaming world, so it has tons of Lore; and 1 horrible thing going for them: its built off of a gaming world that they insulated themselves into, and many of their references (which you need to unlock various areas) make only sense to them. You will find yourself googling "How do I solve the Hall of Heroes?!" because of this.

    Combat: Punishing at levels 1-10 to the degree of a near constant reloading tilt session. Levels 11-20 = a joke. After level 20 it simply depends on how far do you want to push yourself. IF, and this is not a "maybe" but a warning, at Any point in the game you have not allocated your stat and skill points in the manner in which the game devs think you should, the combats will simply stall you out and you cannot progress any further.
    And Talient help you if you choose a non-exemplar party build.

    As others have mentioned: it's a railroad system with chokepoints intended for you to be able to "see areas you could go into, but instantly die if you decide to try them out."
    Or in other words: playing this game will return you to the days of "Save early, save often."

    Story: 8 . It's well thought out, and very detailed, yet it reads like someone's D&D campaign from High School. (And "X" killed the Ogres by the hundreds, and reveled in their blood, and never forgave them!").

    Art: 7. Decent, old school. Goofy at times.

    Combat system: 4. Stat effects are poorly explained, and at each and every level you MUST spend one of your only 2 stat points on Speed stat. If you don''t, then play easy mode.

    Treasure: 3. Gear is so poorly itemized and yet so costly. Since stat = everything, I'm still using beginning 3rd level gear on my lvl 25 toons simply because the stat bonuses (+2 Str/ Agi) are better than a lvl 25 item with just +3 Str.
    Drops from monsters? Doesn't happen except in set encounters. And most of those I've sold. You find better gear on the Merchant.

    Fun: 4. I want to love this game, I really do, but All of the hype from review sites come from people who tried Easy mode for under 20hrs or Old-School for less than 5hrs. With Ubisoft's M&M chain dying out from too many bugs, folks want a game like this for nostalgia.
    Unfortunately the only feeling of nostalgia is the constant cycling of saved games.

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    1. An Actual Owner of this gameDecember 3, 2014 at 1:42 AM

      Oh and fyi: The game devs have tweaked the game to a worse state at least 3 known times in order to make the game harder after forum trolls on the Steam site were saying how easy it is/was.

      Another tweak was done in reaction to one of the players posting how he had beaten the entire Arena of enemies. The first dev response was "you cheated!" Followed by another dev saying "oh, sorry, that was a mistranslation"
      ? The game devs are Spanish/English speaking bi-linguists; there was never a mistranslation.
      So the PR response to the players has been: if you find the game too hard, don't play.
      And: if you find the game too easy: You cheated!

      Great PR...

      Delete
    2. I never engage in Steam forum discussions to avoid all these trolling crap.

      The furthest I got was at Level 12 (highest difficulty) after playing for about 8 hours before I supposedly "dead-ended" myself with a lack of food to rest.

      I guess I'll play at the easiest level since it's what the devs wanted.

      Delete
    3. I note that despite the criticisms leveled at the game, you still invested 80 hours in it, which seems to be a rate of $0.25/hr for entertainment.

      Delete
    4. No, man. I detect that his/her criticisms are leveled at the devs, not the game.

      Delete
    5. Well, they scored it '4', for fun and played it for 80 hours.

      Delete
    6. So, I guess he/she is paying $5 and 20 hours for each point of fun.

      Delete
  17. You can have infinite free food in the game by level 5 or 6, you never deadend without food.

    12 food plants (8hours each) in first area alone with a 3 day respawn + cereal plants give you 96 hours of food every 72 hours, not counting the 'extra' half day or additional 7% of a set of cereal every harvest.

    It is definitely true the harder the game mode you play on the more tailored your party needs to be. That being said I know 3 people playing hardcore + ironman and all of our parties are very different (with the exception of everyone running a cleric)

    Also have not spent a single goldpiece on food, it is entirely not-needed, every 4-6 days in game teleport back to first area, spend a minute gathering food plants and head out again. You should be checking the vendors every few days anyway for upgrades so you arn't 'stuck with +2str/agi low level gear'

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    1. Yes, and I have to do absolutely nothing but stand around waiting for hours in real life to accumulate enough to rest. No thanks. I'm glad the 3 people you met are really good in this game and enjoying it. I can't say the same for me since I apparently suck at it. Would you mind not being Anonymous? It's okay to have positive opinions about a new game and have a name that is not too homogeneous.

      Delete
  18. For anyone looking to come down easy while the CRPG Addict is away, I'll take this moment to plug my own blog, http://thisbardstales.blogspot.com/

    I'm using a format similar to The Addict, working my way through a list of games. I've also got a community building/reward system like that of The Adventure Gamer.

    The only thing missing is... you!

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  19. I liked this game very much. I am 54, so I belong to the target group (I could do without graphics, though :)). My party is now at level 22 (just passed the temple of Alnaet); I play on (obviously) "Old Veteran" level. The game is not easy. You have to think a lot about distributing your stats (except Speed, that is a no-brainer). And fighting gets now quite difficult but it is still possible to progress.

    What I like best is the tight economy. Some games of earlier times were so that you started to bathe in money after a while. Not here. Any gold is precious. Potions and tools are expensive. Training gets very, very expensive (I am now at 5 k gold per session).

    I was at first very critical about the food feature. But I see now why that is necessary. It is kind of a trade: easy healing via the restriction to have to come back to a village every now and then. There are ways around it (some maps have an abundance of food plants) but basically after 5 days plus those you have in the shape of cereal plants you have to get back and visit your friendly food dealer. For me that gives the game a bit of rhythm. And it leads to new necessary decisions (will I grind here in this temple or have I to kill the boss fast because otherwise I have no food left?).

    I also like very much how the authors handle the effects (poisoning, bleeding, stunning, wounds). Contrary to the comments here they are very well explained and quite straightforward - you have to use the "hover with your mouse over the stat"- feature though. The most likeable thing is for me that there are very few condition effects. And they are doing distinctly different things (ok, in the end they kill you, of course) or better: they do it in a distinctly different way. Other games had effects you basically ignored. Not here.

    All in all a very well done game. Can't wait how this plays out when I progress further.

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  20. Thanks for the posting. This led me to checkout this game and read a lot of reviews. I finally bought the deluxe version yesterday. I am looking forward to create my party now.

    Saintus from crpgrevisited.blogspot.com

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  21. Picked this up during the winter sale, put an hour or two in last night. Seems entertaining enough so far, although I'm not impressed by the combat yet: so far it's just Fight/Fight/Fight/Parry/Parry/Parry all over again (well, it's actually Fight x6 since anyone can use polearms, but you know what I mean). Hopefully it will improve soon...

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