Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Knightmare: Chaos Strikes Back Strikes Back

I have chosen...wisely.
   
Knightmare, or my reaction to it, has fascinated me over the last week. Over the weekend, I started writing a "final rating" post, thinking I couldn't possibly bring myself to play for three more levels. Then I decided to at least check out the second quest, and once I started, I couldn't tear myself away from it. I finally had to force myself to stop and go to bed Monday morning at about 05:00. But later on Monday, and then again on Tuesday, I couldn't force myself to start it up again. There ought to be a term for this: a game that's both extremely hard to start playing, and extremely hard to stop playing.

Then again, this is perhaps my typical reaction to Dungeon Master-style games. I never really love the gameplay, but I find parts of it addictive: the mapping, the satisfaction from solving puzzles, the way enemies dissolve into bursts of blood. You find mixed messages in my reviews of Dungeon Master, Chaos Strikes Back, and Captive, too.

If you had presented me this game without telling me anything about the developer or back story, I would have assumed it was a sequel to Dungeon Master. It adopts most of the conventions of the DM line and hardly none of those specific to Captive. It is particularly reminiscent of Chaos Strikes Back, and if you're a CSB fan, I can't see why you wouldn't like Knightmare, which offers the same style of gameplay but with a more sensible framing story. 
  
"Pits & Pressure Plates" would have been a perfectly accurate alternate title for this series of games.
   
In my final rating for Chaos Strikes Back, I wrote:

There are only so many things that the Dungeon Master engine allows, but Chaos Strikes Back uses all of them to construct its puzzles. Once you know the possibilities of the engine, you have all the information you need to suss out the solution to the puzzles.

The same is true of Knightmare. There is a persistent logic in the way that, say, pressure plates operate. Stepping on them causes some mechanical action to occur somewhere else in the vicinity. Sometimes you have to hold them down for that action to be persistent. If they're already being held down, walking on them produces no result. When you use a teleporter, you always end up facing the same direction as when you entered. Once you figure out rules like this, you can deduce the solution to most of the game's puzzles.

Quest #2, for instance, featured one area in which a pit was surrounded by three pressure plates. I had to throw things on the plates to open up certain walls, but I couldn't access them because of the pit. Meanwhile, a nearby teleporter, accessible from all four directions, warped me to the square with the pit, immediately dropping me in.

The solution was to throw objects into the teleporter from various directions. Since you (and objects) always exit the teleporter facing the same way they went in, I could control which way the objects exited the teleporter, and thus which pressure plates they landed on. The solution didn't come to me immediately, but once it did, it seemed obvious. There have been many times that I thought a Dungeon Master, Chaos Strikes Back, or Knightmare puzzle was hard or long, but there's never been a time that I felt it was unfair.
    
I can toss an item to that plate, but there are plates to the right and left that I can't reach from here. I have to use a teleporter instead.
    
Antony Crowther's previous game, Captive, didn't feature puzzles like this because the levels were all procedurally-generated. There were some doors that required codes and pressure plates that closed walls behind you, requiring you to find a switch to re-open them, and so forth, but the nature of the procedural generation made these all rote and obvious. Here, where the levels are hand-crafted, Crowther had the ability to design much more intricate puzzles, and if he didn't take inspiration directly from Chaos Strikes Back, I'll eat my mouse.
   
The second quest had 5 of these "weeping doors" in a row that had to be unlocked with golden keys.
    
To enter Quest #2, I had to toss the shield from Quest #1 at the tree who said he had lost his "cover." The shield disappeared when I did that, making me wonder if a party couldn't just immediately go to the final quest if they could kill the tree blocking it. Anyway, once I entered Quest #2, I immediately noticed there was no exit portal. I was locked in the dungeon until I found the regular exit, which means it was a good thing I brought plenty of rabbit pies. I nearly ran out anyway.

Near the entrance was a field of 9 pressure plates arranged in a 3 x 3 grid, each of which launched one or more fireballs at the party when they stepped on the plates. There might have been a way for a dexterous player to maneuver across the field without getting hit, but I couldn't find it. I eventually solved the puzzle by tossing items onto the pressure plates from afar and weighing them down. Then, I could cross without setting off the fireballs.
    
This is going to hurt.
    
The map had a succession of five doors that required golden keys, and I had to run around collecting those keys. The puzzles the game threw at me in the meantime included:

  • A wall on wheels. This is one thing from Captive that other Dungeon Master-style games don't offer. In this case, I had to push the wall down a long corridor, releasing various monsters and opening up passages as I did so. It took me forever to remember that the way you move a wall-on-wheels is to right-click on the forward arrow.
    
It's easy to miss this.
    
  • An area full of pits and pressure plates that opened and closed various pits. It was time-consuming but not hard to figure out a path through the area.
  • Several teleporter/pressure plate puzzles that required throwing items onto plates, often through teleporters, to open up the right succession of gates or walls.
  • Numerous illusory walls. You have to test for these by walking into them. The game's maps are of the "worm tunnel" variety, where no two passages or rooms share the same wall, but it otherwise tends to use up every possible square. So when you close a block of squares in which one or more squares could conceivably fit, it pays to test those walls for secret doors.
   
This is the kind of thing that bothers me. The game usually doesn't waste that much space. The only way into this area, if secret doors exist, is through the yellow-colored squares. Most of the other squares can't have illusory walls because they would violate the game's principle that walls are never shared. Positionally, the blue squares ought to allow access to the area as well, but both are in the middle of doorways, which never have illusory walls.
    
  • An area full of invisible walls. I had to navigate through by trial-and-error, bumping into them and taking minor damage, although I could have tried throwing objects, too.
  • A mini-maze with lots of teleporters. In addition to figuring out where the teleporters were depositing me (no easy task with no coordinates or compasses), I also had to find a path through them that avoided hitting any of them. This involved going through a series of illusory walls.
    
Just the sort of message that you want to see after you've already spent 8 hours on a level.
   
  • An area with a couple of spinners. They were devilishly placed. You encounter them right after you finish the whole teleportation maze, so when you step on a square and the view ahead of you suddenly changes, you assume you've been teleported. I spent a long time trying to figure out where I was ending up before I realized the game had just turned me clockwise instead of teleporting me.

Of course, there were plenty of monsters, too. The level started off with groups of what I called "mini-minotaurs" that weren't too hard. There were some dwarf and walking tree holdovers from the first quest. About mid-level, I started encountering snakes, and boy do they move fast. Doing the waltz with them really tested the endurance of my fingers, but if they hit you, they cause poison, which is a pain to cure. There were also a few wizard types able to blast the party from afar.  
      
The cutest minotaurs.
A giant snake poisons me.
A shirtless spellcaster. Note the pile of missile weapons at his feet.
   
Late in the level, a talking head announced that I was entering "Golem's Land," and sure enough the area beyond was full of brutish creatures. They were very easy to kill, which made me wonder what I was missing. It was clear soon enough: they respawned at a rate of about 1 every 15 seconds and never stopped. I wondered why the dungeon wasn't completely full of them, but it became clear that the golems also attack and kill each other, which was a fun twist. Unfortunately, they kept getting in the way of my waltzes with tougher creatures.

Golem's Land was a great place for grinding, but eventually had to move on, and I shut a door behind me to keep them from following.

There were some equipment upgrades, naturally. I've settled into my mage using a blowgun (which shoots darts) when he's not casting spells. My cleric uses a bow and arrows. The two front characters, I keep dual-armed with whatever seems like the best set of melee weapons (the game gives you no statistics, another Dungeon Master staple), which by the end of this session was a short sword, something called a "sheath" that's actually a weapon, and two kitchen knives.

For armor, we've advanced to jean jackets, slacks, boots, a couple of baseball caps, and a trilby. I'm not sure why the game is so eager to keep the clothing 20th-century while the weapons are decidedly medieval.

The problem with weapons is that the game assigns them to a particular class, but the assignment doesn't make any particular logical sense and there's no way to tell until you see the character gaining levels in a new class. My lead character had been gaining "adventurer" levels with his knives, but I guess his short sword is a "gladiator" weapon because he suddenly started developing there. Ulla became a proficient samurai for some reason. Tharat, my elf, managed to develop a couple of adventuer and gladiator levels, but I'm not sure which his blowgun is assigned to. The bow is clearly a samurai weapon because Armea is "adept" there.
   
My characters and their inventory at the end of this session.
    
I don't know if it's possible to develop magical skill levels if you don't start with them. Both Chestr and Ulla have magic points, and I've been occasionally having them use the magic wands and staves I've found hoping to develop levels there, but they never seem to gain any. This makes it hard to heal Armea, since clerics can't cast spells on themselves except in the rare case of a reflecting wall or door.

I was remembering that in Dungeon Master, it was a good idea to diversify your characters and develop skills in all four of the game's classes, but I honestly don't remember why. Here, it seems to make more sense to specialize and get really good at a few things instead of just mediocre at lots of them.
     
Giant bats appeared for the endgame.
     
Quest #2 ended in a small area of lever and button puzzles. Each one opened a new door or section of wall and released enemies, including the aforementioned wizards and snakes, but also a bunch of giant bats. Once I'd slain all of them, I was able to grab the Cup of Life. After a final battle with a small dragon, I was out of the level and back into the forest. I assume the cup opens the way to Quest #3.
     
The final battle of the level. He looks kind of cute. He looks like Figment.
   
Miscellaneous notes:

  • I think I figured out why my party members sometimes lose stamina--even to the point of death--while they're sleeping. Casting spells depletes both magic and stamina, and if stamina is pretty low when you cast a high-level spell, you end up with a stamina deficit. At that point, if you go to sleep, you lose stamina as quickly as you gain it and take hit point damage when it falls to 0. Eventually, you erase the deficit and start regaining it, but you might die in the meantime if the deficit is particularly large. 
  • Nudity is becoming more common in RPGs. I guess Crowther didn't want to be left out.
    
This painting otherwise has no purpose.
    
  • Picking up all the missiles from missile weapons after a combat is as annoying as ever. I'm so glad Fate has it happen automatically.
  • Each level features one "Spring of Life." If you toss the heart of a slain character into the spring, the character is resurrected. 
  
Resurrecting a dead character.
   
  • Somewhere on the level, I found a single die. I think I died afterwards, reloaded, and forgot to get it again. Either way, I don't have it at the end of this level. Does anyone know what it does? I don't want to have to go back for it unless it's really necessary.

A commenter named Quido sent me his maps for the game, and I was tempted to use them to just get through the next couple of quests so I can wrap this up. But after thinking about it, I realized that without mapping and problem-solving, the game would probably lose any interest for me at all, as its only challenge would be the sort of action-oriented combat that I've never really liked. Thus, I'll press forward the long way after a little break. Or I might test my theory that I can go directly to Quest #4.

Time so far: 19 hours
Reload count: 12

*****

For my upcoming Thanksgiving weekend, however, I plan to spend most of it on the couch playing Dishonored 2 while Irene bakes pies. At the same time, I wanted to ask my readers for a recommendation for a second game. I want a sort of chaotic, open-map warfare game in which you can cycle through a variety of character classes like Star Wars: Battlefront I and II--but with a single-player only mode (i.e., everyone else is bots). I was excited when I heard that Battlefield 1 had a campaign mode, so I bought it, but I was disappointed that the gameplay in campaign mode is very restrictive: you have to accomplish particular steps, in order, using a fairly limited part of the map and limited mechanics. I want something where I can just spawn and run around shooting. Any recommendations?

While we're on Battlefield 1, though, I have to say this. Truffaut famously said that it's impossible to make an anti-war film because any attempt to film war naturally glorifies it. If this is true of film, it's doubly true of games. You play games like Battlefield 1 to revel in shooting people and blowing things up, not to meditate on the horrors of war. And yet the game spends every cut scene telling you how much war sucks, and how much you suck for enjoying it. The change in tone is hilarious at times.

Game (during gameplay): Open the crate of grenades! Blow up the tank! Man the machine gun! Mow down the Germans!

You: Yeah! Ha ha! Take that! Boo-ya!

Game (during cut scene): Those were real mean...with real families...with hopes and dreams suddenly cut short...at age 20.


95 comments:

  1. I haven't been around for the full ride of articles, but have you ever played the Borderlands games? About the only thing that it would be lacking is the ability to change class very often, though I find the leveling up and the rampant loot component changes the way I'm playing the game fairly often. I just grabbed the remastered 'Handsome Collection,' and I've been dragged back into playing BL2 almost as much as games I haven't finished at all. You could easily jump into the second without playing the first.

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    1. No, that sounds like a good possibility. I'll check out some reviews and videos. Thanks!

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    2. I'll second the nomination of Borderlands 2. It's a great shooter with "RPG elements" (aka loot and a skill tree).

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    3. You could try Destiny too. It's online only but there are tons of quests that involve little more than shooting everything in your path. You not only level up your character, you get 3 skill trees to work with and tour weapons can be leveled up and improved too. You play PvE for the most part but there is some great PvP action too, some of it being necessary to complete certain quests. You can also team up with other players. Some quests make this a requirement and sometimes it's just luck of the situation.
      It's pretty short on story though, and Bungie has stopped supporting the website (the only way to get any back story and context, bleah) but the game has proven itself fun for hours. I started out making fun of the game and its shortcomings but I have become somewhat addicted.

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    4. My recommendation, if you want a FPS with a thin layer of RPG on top, would be Shadow Warrior 2. It's partly procedurally generated, like Borderlands, but the gunplay and melee mechanics are far better; you might find the humor a bit cringeworthy, though.

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  2. There ought to be a term for this: a game that's both extremely hard to start playing, and extremely hard to stop playing.

    A "high-inertia" game, perhaps?

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    1. A borderline game.
      An icky sticky game.
      A Pushmepullyou game (btw, did you get that reference in Ultima VI? I seem to remember you didn't).
      A cursed with awesome (or blessed with suck) game.
      A flee-it-till-you-see-it game.

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    2. I think it may have to do with how much you have to keep in your head when you're playing it. How much of how the game rules work, the layout and mapping, the enemies, items and variables coalesce into a state of mind.

      When you're in the state of mind, you want to keep pushing even if you're not necessarily enjoying it, because it's all-encompassing and requires all your attention and you want to make headway towards resolution (=simplicity. Telos.)

      When you have taken it somewhat or fully out of your mind, you're reluctant to start rebuilding the structure of it in your head because it's stressful.

      I think a lot of people who code large, unwieldy codebases feel like this often. Probably analytical philosophers. Book writers where their stuff is hyper-interconnected.

      The extra difference that makes a videogame high-inertia is the real time nature of it, how much you have to react to things constantly happening while you're also trying to re-wrap your head around it.

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    3. So hard to get out of bed. So hard to go to bed.

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    4. Helm, I think you nailed it with the explanation. When you're playing, you have the program loaded, so to speak, and it's a pain to boot it up again. There's a physical analogue as well, as I like to have everything arranged just so across my monitors--game, maps, notepad, blog, manual--and sometimes the thought of getting it all set up is exhausting. (Oh, please no one comment about how there's some software that will do that for me. I won't use it. I don't know why, but I won't.)

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    5. Games that have hit me like this:
      Baldur's Gate (MANY times)
      Nethack
      Golden Sun
      Pokemon
      Enslaved: Odessy to the West
      Heroes of Might And Magic (II & III)
      and a similar feeling has kept me from starting Pillars of Eternity and Wasteland 2.

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    6. Disciples of Steel for me. Took me years to work up enthusiasm to give it a serious try (after a half assed try earlier), but after getting into it I found it hard to stop playing, at least until I got a bit of an overdose half way through it.

      Nahlakh too took me a long time "get in the mood", but when I started it I soon was hooked.

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    7. Mara insists that I point out that it was her urging that got me to finally finish Enslaved, and that I was much closer to the end than I thought I was.

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  3. The game for you is Disgaea PC! It's kind of like a Gold Box game gone insane, a Rubber Room game if you will. The plot us utterly un-serious. The stock characters can either be enjoyed, or ignored. There are static mission levels that you can repeat as much as you want, and there's the procedurally-generated item world to provide endless entertainment. Sick of games where you have to grind for hours to get a reward? In this game, grinding is it's own reward! Given that the series is five games long, not counting spin-offs and predecessors, it's amazing how much of the insanity is in the first outing. If you like tactical combat, endless character promotion options, and the unique ability to improve items from the inside, you owe it to yourself to check this game out.

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    1. I should have specified that I was looking for Xbox 360 or Xbox One games. I already have quite a list of games to play on my PC. I was looking for something to play on my couch in front of the fireplace.

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    2. Got a PS2, PS3, or PS4? That's where these games originated.

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    3. It's also a turn-based strategy RPG, as in nothing like Battlefield at all. How this came up as a recommendation for "just spawn and run around shooting" gameplay is beyond me.

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    4. Heh, in my experience on the internet, every time someone asks for a recommendation of a game filling certain criterias, it takes about 3-5 answers before half of them devolve into people just naming their favorite games, even if they barely fit what is wanted.

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    5. I agree with Zardas. While Disgaea is a great tactics style RPG with lots of interesting takes on that genre's cliche, it definitely doesn't match what he is looking for.

      Besides borderlands, perhaps Perfect Dark? No character classes though.

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    6. Yeah, Yeah, but how often does the CRPG Addict ever ask for advice on a game to play? You need to swing at whatever pitch you get sometimes! Apologies to all.

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    7. Are you serious? I can't think of anything less of a run n gun than this. I love RPG and strategy games but this one bored even me.

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    8. Why not get a Steam Machine and Steam Controller to play PC games on the couch?

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    9. PC games aren't well optimized for viewing from a distance, even on a large-screen TV. I've tried playing The Witcher and a few other PC-only games this way, and it just doesn't work. And if a game supports use of a full keyboard, I hate to dumb it down by playing with a controller.

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    10. Your first point is quite valid, but the second is much less so. Very few games make significant use of more controls than you get with the standard controller's twelve buttons, two sticks, and D-pad.

      The real problem with PC games on a controller is that the sticks are horribly imprecise compared to a mouse, and until recently virtually no PC games incorporated the adjustments console games make to compensate.

      Honestly, the Steam Machine concept is little more than a gimmick I wouldn't reccomend to anybody. The handful of PC games that are worth playing from a couch can be played just by connecting a regular computer (which will likely cost less) to the TV. If you were interested in buying extra couch-time hardware (which I understand that you have indicated no real interest in doing, but you might decide to do so in the future) adding a PS3 or 4 would be a better idea, as those systems have many, many more exclusive RPG-type titles.

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    11. Yeah, I could see RPGs not being good for that. More and more games are designed to work well on both though. My big peeve is games that assume you are on a huge TV. My parents have a fairly small one, so when I'd play games on it I'd have to pull a chair into the middle of the room, or I wouldn't be able to read the text as it was so small. Is it that hard to put in a font size select somewhere?

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    12. I go back to the Infinity Engine games. Just about every potential command was mapped to a key, and almost all keys were used. The mouse was also used extensively, for instance for dragging armor on and off the character's paper doll, transferring equipment between party members, and selecting which party members you want to complete an action. I'm not sure how they would have made a "console version" of that engine, but it was brilliant and completely intuitive.

      Even with all the pads, buttons, and so forth, a console controller has at best 18 inputs, while a keyboard, without even counting the mouse, has almost 40. Imagine trying to play NetHack, which uses almost a full set of upper AND lower-case characters, with a console controller.

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    13. I never really used most of those shortcuts with BG. Was usually faster to just click the spell I want then figure out what I had in each quick action slot. They've made tablet versions now, so you can play on a touchscreen.

      I don't think they've done it, but they could replace keyboard shortcuts with gestures. Draw an S to bring up the spell screen, for example.

      Nethack would be harder, but honestly, a lot of those could be combined with an interface update (Do we really need a separate command for wiping your face, for example? Also I don't think we really need separate commands for removing armour and jewellery.

      Some also, only made sense at the time: Panic key to quite the game. Redraw screen (for people playing on printers or dialup!). Display game history. Switch to Explore Mode. The whole show what X you are wearing: Just show it all at once or look at your inventory.

      Once you'd combined some of those, removed others or made them options at the start of the game, make it into radial menus. You've got two 8 way sticks, 4 triggers and, an 8 way dpad, and four facebuttons. You'll need two of those for accept/decline, so that leaves 30 options you can have onscreen at once, plus you could drill down for less used or picky options, the way you have extended commands now.

      Or you could use a corded input, with each facebutton and trigger bringing up a separate set of options, giving 8*8 (64) combinations.

      Plus you could do repeats easily: Hold a trigger when selecting the option, then use left stick to set the tens column and the right to set the ones column.

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    14. Baldur's Gate II has precisely 15 keyboard commands, plus two modifier keys for a total of 17. Using just face buttons and D-pad, you have an easy 14 commands. Eliminating H Y and U (hide entire, left, and right interface respectively) will get you down to 14. Assign Options and ESC to the left and right stick clicks to cover those rarely used functions without losing a convienent button. A (toggle AI on/off) could be disposed of with no cost, leaving you with one free button.

      Assign one analog stick to the mouse and use the free buttons to act as a left click. You now have total Infinity Engine control on a controller. Is it the best way to play? Not really, as the stick will be more finicky than the mouse. It is, however, entirely workable.

      Games like Nethack would be unplayable, but they're in the minority. The vast majority of games don't come close to using the number of keys on a keyboard.

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    15. I don't think I'd play an infinity engine game with a dpad or joystick, nor would I play a traditional FPS. I'm with Chet. Games are optimised for a particular control scheme and a particular viewing distance.

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  4. I assume you've played mass effect? It's a shoot em up rpg that you might enjoy.

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    1. I haven't played it, but I know enough about it to know it's not quite what I'm looking for. I basically want Battlefront II again. I want Shadow of Mordor with guns.

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    2. Fair enough, though I only played the first one it was really fun....However, battlefront it is not...

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  5. Mordor with guns? I'm out. But before I go, have you tried the new XCOMs? Although they lack the vast scope of the original games, they are really fun. The second one is especially satisfying, as you get to take back the world from the evil alien occupation.

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    1. Full agreement here, pretty fun and challenging turn based strategy that works well with a console controller, I got it recently for my PS4.

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  6. I'm experiencing the same thing with Eye of the Beholder 2 - I won't play it for weeks, then grudgingly convince myself to fire it up so I can get to later games, then spend a merry few hours fighting and mapping. I'm still not sure what causes the mental block.

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  7. Far Cry 2 through 4 (and Primal) and Just Cause 2 and 3 all offer open world shooting mayhem with persisent progress mechanics. There's no "classes" as such but gameplay changes drastically depending on what weapons and tactics you're preferencing and they generally encourage you to switch it up regularly but at your own discretion.

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  8. "the mapping, the satisfaction from solving puzzles, the way enemies dissolve into bursts of blood."

    That's exactly what I like about good dungeon crawlers! And you can solve everything, once you know it, in seconds, sometimes with a single click. Still you can contemplate for minutes and even hours on a riddle and even have to turn of the game and come back later, refreshed, to solve it.

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  9. Doesn't have classes, but Far Cry 3 or 4 would be relatively close to Mordor with guns.

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  10. "a game that's both extremely hard to start playing, and extremely hard to stop playing."

    My experience is that this tends to occur for me with games that have good mechanics but a poor story/characters. You enjoy it when you are playing, but you have nothing invested in the story and don't care how the thing ultimately plays out, so your need to get back into it isn't there. There is also the opposite to this, where a great plot makes you keep coming back to a game but once you are there you are reminded of how tedious the nuts and bolts of the game are (lets call it the "Mass Effect" syndrome).

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    1. For me, it's games that are rewarding and well-made, but that stress me out while playing. Good examples include Dark Souls, Starcraft 2 and The Witcher 2. Well, basically all good games that involve lots of punishing my poor dexterity.

      That's why I mostly play turn-based RPGs and strategy games...

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  11. It sounds like pondering a wall gives your characters a rare opportunity to reflect.

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  12. In the spirit of some of the above recommendations:

    I know you've asked for a Batllefront style game on the Xbox, but the answer to your question is definitely Shin Megami Tensei.

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    1. Where's the Obdurate Hater of Rhythm Games when you need him/her for a recommendation?

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  13. Did you ever play the 360 version of Shadow run?

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  14. You want a really serious game that places you in a war zone, surrounded by enemies, able to do whatever you want and condemned for violent actions, I recommend the Metal Gear Solid series. It has absolute freedom, a complex plot, it never shows violence as anything but cruel and self-destructive and is completely insane.

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  15. I also recommend the Hotline Miami games for the same reasons: They force you to be violent, but make it very clear that your dark impulses are leading to insanity and destruction, and there are no happy endings. I like to think of them as what Undertale should have been, as they explore the same themes with much more depth and have better characters and no Sans.

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    1. I like to think of them as what Undertale should have been, as they explore the same themes with much more depth and have better characters and no Sans.

      For the record, let it be noted that this is an insane opinion.

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    2. Haha, old mate is known for his unusual views.

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  16. I am playing a game that hard to both start and stop: Battle Knights. It has horrible controls, a ridiculously short weapon, jumps that often fail to register and I love it. I may get very frustrated at it many times, but when I get into the groove, I cannot stop until I get past the current stage. All the frustration just makes it more satisfying when I finally get to the end of a stage and the game saves.

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  17. What about Shadow Warrior II. It's an FPS. It doesn't have classes but it has lots of guns (hundreds), customization via slots, frantic shooting on semi-procedural maps. The campaign/story doesn't take itself seriously and I find it great to play in short bursts.

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  18. I did mention it in your first post on this but yes it is possible to kill the trees and skip to the fourth quest, I sometimes did it back in the day, but you may find yourself underpowered for the monsters on level 4.
    I presume you know that red boxes around limbs on the character sheet means that limb is wounded (noticed one on a screenshot.
    For me dwarf fortress is a game I love but I find it difficult to feel like playing unless I have a fort in progress already.

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    1. Yeah, that character with the wounded hand is the healer, so I can't do anything about it until I find another reflecting surface. The only one I know about for sure is those weeping doors that are all already opened.

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    2. I kill 90% of the monsters by waltzing anyway, so unless there's any reason that I can't do that on Level 4...

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    3. Jesus, killing that tree isn't any picnic. It might be less work just to play Level 3. And what's with the enemies behind that locked door in the NW of the forest? They simply won't die.

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  19. Far Cry 3/4 and Just Cause 2/3 are obviously the games you're looking for.

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  20. I think Truffaut missed the point with his comment. People are complicated. It's just about par for the human cause to be utterly fascinated by the very things that frighten us the most - and to be disgusted by our very fascination at the same time.

    It's also a typical reaction to severe stress to fall back on adrenaline-fueled behaviour (making it more likely to survive in the first place) and to brag about your accomplishment afterwards (convincing yourself that you're not just alive due to a fluke). This behaviour then gives rise to cultural touchstones and stereotypes. Also I think that morally, nothing's wrong with celebrating how good somebody is at something while asking whether it's such a good thing that people actually NEED to be good at things such as this.

    Fighting is what kept us alive in the savannah, and evolutionarily, we needed to develop a positive response to fights won or at least survived. And yet we wouldn't want to run into one of those homo erecti of the water hole gang who's angry about us stealing their chicks. Even if we totally pummeled them last time and there was no end to us cavepainting about it for weeks.

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    1. I've always considered Truffaut to be very wrong in a fundamentally different way. He attributed the failure of anti-war films to be that it is impossible to avoid glorification, but I feel that the real problem is the idea of making an anti-war film in the first place.

      Most such media tend to over-exaggerate the wickedness of the people fighting (sometimes on both sides, other times on just one) to the extent that it either turns off the audience completely, or gets so heavy-handed as to be missed completely.

      Meanwhile, films like Saving Private Ryan or We Were Soldiers, neither of which were intended or presented as anti-war works, show the sheer brutality of war with no adornment, saying only "this is how it was, this is what they went through".

      No video game has come close to duplicating that, which makes sense as the medium is still barely out of infancy (in film terms, I'd say we're just past the talkie stage). Some have come close, but it wasn't any that were meant to.

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  21. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours Chester, as well as to the other US based readers!

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  22. Regarding the die: I watched a playthrough video on Youtube where the player used that die to weigh down a pressure plate and never bothered to pick it back up, so I doubt it's important. In case you feel like backtracking, the die was inside a closet near the beginning of the second quest area.

    As for anti-war shooters, there's at least one that people generally agree does a good job with the message: Spec-ops: The Line. It hits the player over the head with a particularly heavy-handed "LOOK AT WHAT YOU'VE DONE" that rubs some people wrongways, but majority appears to praise its story (gameplay, not so much - it's a generic cover shooter).

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    1. Great, thanks. I'll leave it alone, then.

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    2. It has generally quite well respected as an example of storytelling in a game. Often compared to Apocolypse Now. Not what you want this Thanksgiving, but from all I hear a good game.

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  23. For Mordor with guns, check out The Division.

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  24. Somewhat off-topic: Are you aware of the program Grid Cartographer? I recently came across reference to it and wondered what you or your readers think of it; how useful / usable it is, etc. (Although I have been reading long enough to have picked up on your preference for mapping via graph paper or Excel.)

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    1. I played with it some time ago and found that it was too limited in a number of ways to be much use for anything, although it may be because I was using a free version without all the features. (Memory suggests the features didn't tempt me into a purchase though.)

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    2. I don't know what possible limitations you could have found - Grid Cartographer is absolutely superb for the purpose of mapping tile-based games, and I've found nothing better. The only real downside is that it is a bit pricey.

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    3. Yes, other commenters have mentioned it, and I'm sure it's great, but this is one of those things where I have a solution that works just fine, and I understand it, and it does everything I want except easily represent one-way doors. I don't have to worry about not being able to open the files in 5 years, and I don't have to worry about keeping track of a registration code for when I switch computers. I'm not going to be changing my mapping approach.

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  25. Okay, thanks everyone for the recommendations. My suspicion is that exactly what I'm looking for--Battlefield 1's multi-player mode with AI instead of other players--doesn't exist. Otherwise, the answer would have been obvious. But thanks for trying gamely, and I'll investigate many of the responses.

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    1. Probably not anymore. Bots don't have to buy their copy of the game for $60 after all.

      I remember the older Unreal Tournament games having what you seek, but those are probably too much trouble to get running on modern systems.

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    2. I meant to say, obviously the old Unreal Tournament games and the old Batttlefield games (1942 and Vietnam) have these old multiplayer bot modes but I assumed if you had experience with SW Battlefront you were already aware of older entries in the same genre or not interested in them.

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    3. Unfortunately this is indeed the case. The era of bots never made it to consoles. Tribes 2 had pretty good bots as well.

      All the games mentioned (Shadow Warrior, Borderlands, Far Cries, Just Cause 2 & 3) all have 'wacky' sensibilities which I suspect won't appeal to you. I would highlight the last one, Just Cause 2 or 3. They are open world games dealing with toppling a government. You can ignore the plot and just focus on liberating the territories. Attacking the installations might be the closest to what you want. Although the player is rather overpowered.

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    4. I don't know what was in Battlefront and Battlefront II, but they were definitely on consoles, and they took the place of what would have been regular players in multi-player mode. I assumed "bots" was the correct term for them.

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    5. Bots is the correct term. On the PC they've mostly been used to fill the gap between playing alone and playing via LAN or online (particularly for games that are fundamentally arena shooters - the two Battlefront games certainly qualify) because PCs don't have much support for single-machine local play. They fell out of favor on consoles with the PS2 and original Xbox era, as online play was added while the gap-filling function of local split-screen was retained. Most console games with bots after the PS2 launch title Timesplitters were PC-to-console ports.

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  26. If you want to check out a classic war game... I used to have great fun with Borland's Ancient Art of War. It's fairly primitive... I believe I bought it for my Tandy 1000 around 1986-7. I had bought Wizardry, which didn't work on the Tandy and returned it for this. A few months later I found Ultima III and never looked back.

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  27. Rangerous the SecondNovember 24, 2016 at 1:50 PM

    I'm not sure of the right place for structural comments, but I have a few gratuitous observations on blogspot's interface.

    Your index of games is so handy because it enumerates and hotlinks every post. Unfortunately, games in progress aren't yet on your index of games, so it can be challenging to find the different posts associated with each one. I particularly noticed this with Disciples of Steel and, of course, Fate, since both were quite long. Do you think there could be any merit to updating the index of games after each post?

    For those of us who enjoy following the comments, the right column quotes and hotlinks to recent comments is pretty handy. Suppose some readers might want to see all comments since they last reviewed your blog. After a significant gap in time or during intervals of more active commenting, there's no tool that easily allows this. Since anyone can comment on any game across your entire body of work, and since we're not likely to click through every single blog you've ever written, such historical comments mostly land with the thud of a tree that falls in the woods, but nobody hears it. Since I think any attempt to address this depends a great deal on your blogging environment, I really don't have any concrete suggestions on how to improve this particular issue...

    One of your election comments seemed to suggest that you appreciate plenty of comments on your gaming blog. Feedback can influence participation. Spiceworks has a neat feature that allows readers to +/- comments with a mouse click, which provides reader-moderated feedback to commenters. Don't know if your system could support that, or even if it would be desirable, but it's a thought.

    Of course, it's the wonderful content that keeps us coming back, and these observations don't influence the great content on an already terrific site. Thanks so much for your commitment to grind through all the dross, and for your willingness to share with us -- you've created a really great community that we all appreciate!

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    1. Yeah, a different comments set up would increase reader participation and presumably readership. I don't know whether blogspot permits a more useful alternative.

      There needs to be a 'notify me of replies' tool and also an unbounded, timestamped 'most recent comments' page, so if you're a regular visitor you can browse through the comments that have been posted since your last visit.

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    2. I just subscribe to all comments on every post (except the politics one, as I don't need that much flaming in my inbox).

      I also subscribe to the RSS feed for both posts and comments.

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    3. Cana - Do you mean you individually add each post Chet makes to your RSS feed (which would be 700ish subscriptions), or is there another way to subscribe to comments?

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    4. There is a feed for all comments made on the blog. http://crpgaddict.blogspot.com/feeds/comments/default It links to the last 25 comments made on the blog. The upside of it over emails is, for some stupid reason, the emails only link to the post, instead of the specific comment, so if I want to reply to something you have to then search for it instead of just clicking the link.

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    5. I appreciate the suggestions, and I'll look at some possible solutions when I get a chance, but you must realize I'm bound to some degree by the limitation of Blogger's designs and my own inability to code anything.

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    6. You could add links to the RSS feed to the sidebar, that would help at least a little.

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  28. To get the best ending in the survival/crafting game 'This War is Mine' you need to treat it like the anti-war game that it is.

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  29. Now that you've played a bit more, it seems like this might not be one of the great forgotten RPGs, but it has to be one of the better TV/Cinema-to-Game adaptations.

    If you were a kid back then who loved the show, and maybe dreamed of participating, this game would have probably given you a satisfying gaming experience. Especially considering the show attracted nerdy types (who were often hilariously intense on-camera - NO smiles, and often strictly ncecessary conversation only).

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  30. If I remember right you can create healing potions in this game by holding an empty bottle. The caster can also hit himself with the healing spell by being in the front row and stepping forward immediately after casting.

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  31. Warframe might be the closest thing to what you're looking for - it's just about exclusively vs AI and you can choose whether to bring anyone else to the party. Borderlands would be a decent second pick.

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  32. I'm not an expert, and I'm rather late, but Titanfall 2? Basically Battlefeid or Call of Duty with giant robots.

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  33. I absolutely love Just Cause 2 and would very much recommend this as a single-player-open-world game to just have fun producing chaos and destruction. There are some very fund YouTube compilations showing the possibilities to play around with the Grappling hook and the parachute. There is also Just Cause 3, but I have not played it yet (old computer...).

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  34. I'm a bit late in response, but Rainbow Six is a great series--pick up whichever one looks most interesting to you if you are still looking.

    Alternatively, if you are looking for a turn-based strategy in that genre, perhaps something more like X-Com 2? Less about reflexes, more about placement.

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  35. Okay, everyone. Since we've devolved into recommendations for any genre for any platform, let me again say thanks, but please stop.

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  36. I think the point of diversifying levelling in Dungeon Master was basically just for the stat increases. (Also handy to have multi-skilled folks as backups for when you run out of mana and torches, for example)

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  37. As a note: I totally get that don't want to put it down/don't want to pick them up. Part of it is difficulty: I don't want to go back to hard games right away: I have a habit of playing games for hours at a time, getting to a boss fight that my tired brain/fingers can't get past and then putting it down for months (or years), then beating it and losing most of the emotional impact of the ending. Examples: Enslaved: Odyssey To The West, and The Banner Saga.

    I'm also having trouble getting into RPGs these days, due to their emphasis on decisions. I loved Balder's Gate back in the day, but I'm having trouble getting the energy to start Pillars of Eternity or Wasteland 2 as both emphasis decision making so much that I'm worried if I play them tired I'll screw everything up.

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    1. I don't recall Pillars having that quality, but you can easily mess up large side quests in WL2. It doesn't leave you particularly disadvantaged, apart from the irritation you feel at not having found a better solution.

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    2. Does it change the ending? I thought both were big on multiple endings and moral choices and being able to miss stuff?

      I miss games like Baldur's Gate where you could safely lie back and enjoy the plot.

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    3. Ahh, it appears Pillars uses Fallout-style ending vignettes. I got to the last stage of the game and lost interest for some reason. I've found that unless you know all the vignette requirements in advance, it's basically inevitable that you'll mess up somewhere. It's fun reading all the different ones you can get afterwards.

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