Kivi’s Underworld:
First Impressions

  By Shamus   Jun 8, 2009   75 comments

Yes, there are barrels.  Yes, you can smash them.  Yes, they sometimes have stuff in them. This is the natural order of things, after all.
Yes, there are barrels. Yes, you can smash them. Yes, they sometimes have stuff in them. This is the natural order of things, after all.
Kivi’s Underworld is an indie game that belongs to the increasingly nebulous “hack-and-slash” genre of games, which are sometimes referred to as “Diablo clones” by the uncouth. These games sort of came and went in mainstream circles a decade ago, and fans of the genre must rely on retro games and indies to sate their desire for hacky and/or slashy gameplay.

I’m not sure why the genre died when it did. Real-time-strategy games rose up alongside Diablo clones hack-n-slashers. They flourished together, and then RTS matured and HnS languished.

(The previous paragraph is the one that will incite annoyed comments from people who point at some game I’ve overlooked that came out a few years ago and that single-handedly undermines my assertion that HnS games have withered on the vine, and that makes me an ignorant fool! I know this. I wrote it anyway.)

kivi2.jpg
The previous title from Soldak Entertainment was Depths of Peril, which I reviewed almost exactly a year ago. That game took The hack-n-slash gameplay and added a strategy game on top of it. That game was a solid success from both a gameplay and a review standpoint, and so the natural thing would be to take this proven formula and exploit it like an Oklahoma farmgirl who just stepped off the bus in L.A. with nothing more than $20 and dreams of becoming an actress. That’s certainly the mainstream approach to game development, and despite my ravings the strategy seems to be successful enough to support most of the industry. But if you were to plot a trajectory from the games of old to Depths of Peril, and continued that line onward, it would never get anywhere near Kivi’s Underworld, which wouldn’t even appear on the same graph. The two games have as much in common as The Princess Bride and Taco Soup. Both are good, but comparisons are difficult. Designer Steven Peeler seems to be doing remixes and mashups taken from those old hack-n-slash samples, and giving us games that might have appeared years ago if the gameplay style hadn’t fallen out of favor with developers.

My first impressions of the game were unfavorable, and it took me a while to “get” Kivi’s Underworld. These games usually entice binge gaming, with the player staying up until half past crap-it’s-not-even-worth-going-to-bed-at-this-point. These games usually focus on the collecting, sorting, storing, selling, buying, and equipping of magical items. These games usually have complex(ish) leveling systems that encourage you to abandon your character and start over once you figure things out and realize you’ve botched your character.

Contrasting paragraph: Kivi lends itself to lunchtime-sized rounds. The rummage sale inventory system is dumped in favor of keeping the action going. The leveling system is simple and straightforward.

Kivi bills itself as a “Unique 3D casual, action adventure RPG”. I would say that the word “casual” is so loaded it could puke on your shoes, spend a night in the drunk tank, and and still be unfit to drive in the morning. I would say it’s not “casual” in the Peggle sense of the word, but more “casual” in the “wearing jeans to the office on Fridays” sense of the word.

I’ll get into the gameplay and premise in another post. Naturally, being an indie game there is a demo, in case you want to play along at home. Mac users can come too.

2020201575 comments? This post wasn't even all that interesting.


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  1. Debaser says:

    Getting some good similies going there, Shamus.

  2. Neil says:

    Comment: The “Contrasting Paragraph:” made me chuckle, meatbag.

  3. Nick says:

    “These games usually have complex(ish) leveling systems that encourage you to abandon your character and start over once you figure things out and realize you’ve botched your character.”

    But dumping your gimped character is one of the great joys of an HnS (or any RPG-like entity)! From the first time, years ago, when I dumped my Amazon in favor of an Asassin in “Diablo II,” all the way until yesterday, when my badly-gimped Temple Guardian was deleted in favor of a suitably min-maxed Inquisitor in “Sacred 2,” the character rebuild has always been a satisfying and liberating experience, like finally cleaning up your messy desk, or pulling all the ivy out of that one nasty corner of your yard. “Fallout 3″ and “Mass Effect” hurt my feelings by letting me make solid characters based only on gamer’s intuition and the tutorials, and it’s taken me a combined total of five playthroughs for me to find a way to forgive them.

  4. Samopsa says:

    (The previous paragraph is the one that will incite annoyed comments from people who point at some game I’ve overlooked that came out a few years ago and that single-handedly undermines my assertion that HnS games have withered on the vine, and that makes me an ignorant fool! I know this. I wrote it anyway.)

    Titan Quest. From Gamespot:

    Since it seems unlikely that Blizzard itself is going to produce a new Diablo game anytime soon, Titan Quest really is the next-best thing. The gradual approach to character creation taken here is welcome, and the sheer scope of the single-player campaign, coupled with the cooperative play and tools to create your own campaign, means that players willing to commit to the experience will have a wealth of content to keep themselves busy with. There’s no shame in modeling your game after the genre-defining Diablo franchise, which capably streamlined the PC RPG into something faster and more accessible, but some of Titan Quest’s holdovers seem a bit antiquated. It doesn’t take action RPGs to a whole new level or anything, but you’ll probably have fun with it if you’ve enjoyed these kinds of games in the past.

  5. Groboclown says:

    I personally prefer to call these style games “3rd person looters.”

  6. Peter H. Coffin says:

    I agree with Nick heavily. The whole honing of the development process is one of my pleasures as well. It goes hand in hand with learning how to elegantly play the various roles. That’s a style of play that doesn’t translate well to the MMORPG versions of HnS games, as the MM part encourages/forces a team and socialization aspect to most players, which makes abandoning a high-level but mediocre character in favor of “starting over” a socially-unacceptable plan.

  7. I enjoyed Titan Quest, but I would say it supports the “withered on the vine” case. Fair-to-middling sales / reviews, ditto on sequel, and then the developer goes out of business.

    Whatever Titan Quest was, it didn’t exactly herald in a renaissance of the genre in either conception or reception.

    -Scott

  8. Factoid says:

    If you want a modern AAA equivalent to the “Hack and Slash” genre, you could check out Too Human. It’s not a great game, but what little story is presented is fairly interesting. It’s often compared with other third person action games, but in reality it has much more in common with hack and slash games.

    It didn’t fare especially well in reviews or with gamers, but I found it enjoyable, if entirely too short. The story was really just getting going about 6 hours in when all of a sudden the game was over. This was definitely a game where the creation of HD content directly hurt game length, and it’s too bad because this game would have been a prime candidate for procedural content generation.

  9. Pocket Nerd says:

    “These games usually have complex(ish) leveling systems that encourage you to abandon your character and start over once you figure things out and realize you’ve botched your character.”

    Forcing the player to choose between “suck now” and “suck later” is my personal bête noire of game design. Creating a new character because it took 30 hours of play to realize your old one is badly crippled is not fun, and limping through with a character that only becomes effective after 30 hours of grinding is even less fun. These are actually some sort of Bizarro anti-fun, and putting them in your game makes your game less entertaining.

  10. Kevin says:

    Woot! Mac version of a casual game! Thanks Shamus!

    (Oh, and there was some game that made you look foolish for some reason. I wouldn’t have mentioned it except I just hate for us to disappoint you.)

  11. DaveMc says:

    I was sort of expecting the line “which are sometimes referred to as “Diablo clones” by the uncouth” to read “which are sometimes referred to as “Diablo clones” by the uncouth“. :)

    It was in the comments on one of those earlier posts that someone calling themselves Fenix coined (or at least, coined for me, I don’t know if it’s the first-ever use of the term) the phrase “third person looter”, which I agree is wonderfully apt.

  12. JB says:

    I sort of think of them as Gauntlet clones. You run around killing hordes of monsters and pick up stuff that makes you better and stronger. Very repetitive, but still strangely enjoyable and addictive.

  13. Vladius says:

    That had quite a bit of metaphors in it.

    I don’t really like anything called “Hack n’ Slash” or “Casual,” so the combination should be almost as bad as Space Jam.

    Right now, I’m looking for a good FPSRPG.

  14. krellen says:

    Right now, I’m looking for a good FPSRPG.

    No such thing. The two styles are completely antithetical.

  15. OddlucK says:

    I have nothing substantive to add and merely want to join in the frothing over Diablo II and tempered joy in Titan Quest, and to instigate the furvor for Diablo III.

    I also stoke my ego’s infernal pyre by using sesquipedalian archaisms.

    :D
    –OddlucK

  16. Kdansky says:

    Downloading. Great metaphors. If I was that witty while speaking, …

    Well, I’m not. Crap.

  17. JT says:

    Right now, I’m looking for a good FPSRPG.

    No such thing. The two styles are completely antithetical.

    You can certainly hold the opinion that it hasn’t been done well yet, but I don’t see any reason why, from a conceptual standpoint, they can’t EVER be married into a good game. For example, what would be antithetical about taking the story, party-building, skills progression, questing, etc. from something like Knights of the Old Republic and moving the viewpoint from third-person to first-person? As long as it’s still pauseable, as long as your party is still commandable, as long as attacks are resolved via the same calculations rather than the steadiness of the player’s mouse hand, what would be antithetical about that? You can certainly argue that doing it that way would theoretically make it a worse game than the original, but “antithetical” is I think going a bit too far.

  18. Corsair says:

    Untrue, Krellen – Deus Ex, for example.

  19. Vladius says:

    They’re not antithetical, they’re just really rare and relegated to the spot of “Hey one time I played this fun game that was like an FPS but you could level up your character and stuff.”

    The recent success of Fallout 3 (I know some of you hate it), Oblivion (some of you hate that even more), and the original success of Deus Ex makes it doable, but hard to pull off.

  20. krellen says:

    JT: The problem is the “S” part of FPS. You can have an FPRPG. You cannot have an FPSRPG. The “Shooter” aspect, which involves player skill, cannot exist in an RPG, which is fundamentally about character skill.

  21. Vladius says:

    Yes, but in cases of strategy, your character can have a gigantic intelligence or wisdom rating and still be fundamentally retarded because you play him that way. RPGs are flawed in this respect as it is; the player can be better or worse than their character is.

    To me, RPGs are more about number crunching, customization and individuality, which is something I like. All of these things are possible and highly probable in a good FPS.

  22. SolkaTruesilver says:

    To me, RPGs are more about number crunching, customization and individuality, which is something I like. All of these things are possible and highly probable in a good FPS.

    You are not talking about a RPG. You are talking about a combat simulator in 3rd-person where the player don’t control directly the actions of the characters, which happens to be mislabeled RPG.

    Baldur’s Gate was a RPG. Diablo wasn’t. You don’t get to make choices or do to any ROLE-PLAYING, you simply have an ass-kicking avatar to kill monsters in Diablo.

  23. JT says:

    The problem is the “S” part of FPS. You can have an FPRPG. You cannot have an FPSRPG. The “Shooter” aspect, which involves player skill, cannot exist in an RPG, which is fundamentally about character skill.

    Roger that – point taken. I was being more generic in my characterization of “FPS”, really meaning that as an overly-generalized term for anything first-person.

    I could foresee a game being designed that is in a first-person perspective, involving ranged weapons, that’s an RPG at its core, but the only function of the “crosshair” would be to select a target for a skill-based ranged attack (IMO it would have to be pauseable with in-pause target-selection a la KotOR), with the success or failure of the attack being resolved not by the pixel-by-pixel location of the crosshair but by the character’s skill/environment/etc. How successful that game would be is up for debate, but I could see it happening, conceptually.

    Mass Effect & Fallout 3 made reasonable (and, IMO, relatively successful) attempts to bridge that gap, I thought, with character-based attributes that determined in part how accurate or how successful an attack with a certain weapon would be (or if you could attempt such an attack at all), while maintaining the ability for FPS veterans to play in real-time, but with Mass Effect’s aim-while-paused and Fallout 3’s VATS providing moderation of the extent to which player skill is required, so that non-twitch gamers wouldn’t be left behind. Neither game was a pure FPS or a pure RPG of course, but I thought both were interesting hybrids.

  24. Vladius says:

    “You are not talking about a RPG. You are talking about a combat simulator in 3rd-person where the player don’t control directly the actions of the characters, which happens to be mislabeled RPG.”

    No I’m not. I’m talking about a game that focuses on developing your character(s) in an individual way. You can move on the “Thespian – L337 5w0rdz” scale of roleplaying, but it’s still the same genre. You never directly control all of the actions of your character in a game anyway. Would a game be any closer to roleplaying because you had an “idle animation”?

    Also, seeing as the story of Diablo is ass-kicking, it makes sense that you’d be roleplaying an ass-kicker.

  25. SolkaTruesilver says:

    I could foresee a game being designed that is in a first-person perspective, involving ranged weapons, that’s an RPG at its core, but the only function of the “crosshair” would be to select a target for a skill-based ranged attack (IMO it would have to be pauseable with in-pause target-selection a la KotOR), with the success or failure of the attack being resolved not by the pixel-by-pixel location of the crosshair but by the character’s skill/environment/etc. How successful that game would be is up for debate, but I could see it happening, conceptually

    Vampire The Masquerade : Bloodlines. One of the best RPG around, excellent storyline, awesome engine, and while shooting has to be accurate, the damage is linked to your personnal stats in weaponry.

  26. SolkaTruesilver says:

    No I’m not. I’m talking about a game that focuses on developing your character(s) in an individual way

    You are still talking about a game mechanic, not a game genre.

    If you have an RPG, you need a storyline, multiple choices, involving characters, a personality, etc..

    Hell. You could have a proper FPSRPG. Just take Team Fortress II, and now add a big storyline, character conversations, etc… With interesting and intelligent plot points, etc…

  27. Vladius says:

    I don’t see why you couldn’t do that. What you’re suggesting is that it’s completely impossible to put player skill into a character-based world. You can, however, exercise skill in creating the character, customizing the character, playing and interacting with them in a certain way, and in the case of tactics, or, for an FPS, shooting, play them the way you think they should be played.

    Of course, you could choose to intentionally miss shots because you’re roleplaying a character with a bad aim, but why in the hell would you do that when you’re playing a video game for fun?

  28. Nick says:

    Two things:

    First, RPG, while it stands for Role Playing Game, No longer apples to only game that let you “role play” a character. It mostly stands for games that use character progression and, sort of, “levels”. From classic JPRG’s, or US type, Oblivion RPG’s. If you were to say you need to roleplay, and disqualify games such as Diablo, I don’t know why. If you think only games with “story” and “background” can be a form of roleplay, then why isn’t Half Life 2 considered an RPG? It has more roleplaying than a lot of RPG’s out there.

    Secondly… I forgot what was second…

  29. krellen says:

    Solka speaks true. Bloodlines is an excellent FPRPG. But there’s virtually no aspect of “Shooter” in it (other than having to have your mouse pointed in roughly the correct direction, as it is still first person), so it certainly is not an “FPSRPG”.

  30. Sheer_FALACY says:

    “Storyline, multiple choices involving characters, a personality, etc…” does not define an RPG. That’s ridiculous – at that point RPG is no longer a type of game. That’s something you could bolt on to any game (or, y’know, integrate from the start).

    If you’re going to take “role-playing game” literally, then every game is an RPG, just some have more depth than others. You’re always taking on a role. None of those things you mention have anything to do with how the game plays. They don’t form a genre either.

    The meaning of RPG on a computer (and in general – P&P RPGs tend to have the same design) is, in fact, more like “roll-playing game”, typically used as a derogatory term but quite accurate. As Vladius said, it’s about developing your characters – improving them, not fleshing out your back story, because any game can provide back story. Pacman 17: That Yellow Bastard could have a back story. Monopoly could have a backstory.

  31. SolkaTruesilver says:

    Not really. Look at Vampire : Bloodlines.

    You have dozens of characters involved, factions to join, and choices to make. I played that game six times, and got a different gameplay experience every time.

    Look at Diablo II: You have ennemies, and some people who tell you what to do. You shut up and do it. It’s not a “role-playing” game. Maybe it has an interesting storyline, maybe it has great plot point (won’t say for D2), but it’s not a role-playing game, it’s a novel. Most JRPG are like that :(

    In the middle, you have games like Oblivion. There is the gamepath pre-set, which isn’t very likely to deviate. But you have plenty of opportunities to meet irrelevant characters, get special quests, etc… However, the “choice” aspect is somewhat limited, as most will people will treat you always the same way from game to game.

    KOTOR1/2? More complex, choices in both of them, good RPGs. Baldur’s Gate 2? Same thing, albeit more linear progression than games like Vampire (I just start to realise how awesome that game was).

    Titan Quest? no. Starcraft? No. Supreme Commander? No. Medal of Honor? No. Half-Life? I don’t know, haven’t played me (I’m an heretic :( ). But do you get to have a direct influence on the outcome by taking sides, or changing behavior from one game to another?

    If not, you are in a very well written interactive novel, with awesome entertainment factor because of game mechanics.

    That is not a RPG.

  32. Vladius says:

    That’s a very choosey definition. If you’re picking a game where you have sidequests and manipulate factions, then X-Com: Apocalypse is the greatest RPG ever. So is Grand Theft Auto or Saints Row.

  33. SolkaTruesilver says:

    I’d say X-Com Apocalypse could be a RPG if it didn’t involved a complete organisation that you’d have to run :( if it was only 1 character (you) hunting down aliens and having to deal with everybody, then maybe…

    GTA and Saints Row have purely linear storylines, if I remember right. Anyway, I only played GTA3 and Vice City, and there isn’t a lot of choice given to me. I do the missions, story go ahead. That’s it. Again, it’s a nice storyline that I have no real input into. The outcome is always the same.

  34. Vladius says:

    There are only two possible outcomes to both KOTOR I and II, both of which I love and both of which are universally considered RPGs. If I remember correctly, none of the Final Fantasy games have multiple endings, and MMORPGS don’t even have any endings at all. An RPG has nothing to do with how many factions you can appease, how many endings you can get, or how many sidequests you can unlock.

    However, in all of those games, your character is almost fully customizable as far as skills, attributes, force powers, magic or whatever, and even which party members you want in some cases. You can also develop the other characters in your party to a lesser degree.

    If you define an RPG as playing a character with a role and being able to change the story, then any game can be an RPG. Most point-and-click adventure games are RPGs if you have dialogue options of any sort. Heck, even a game where you continually die and get a Game Over screen is an RPG.

    Every game differs in the implementation of the story from player to player, if not the outcome.

    RPGs in particular are supposed to mean numbers, decisions, and optimization. Assuming it’s still a video game.

  35. Patrick says:

    The discussion above about the fusion of RPG and FPS is very interesting. I have often wondered how those genres might meld. However, I was surprised that no one mentioned the upcoming game Borderlands from Gearbox. According to their own description, Borderlands is an upcoming sci-fi FPS game with 4-player co-op. It has RPG elements and boasts half a million weapons.” According to Wikipedia Like traditional RPGs, much of the player’s time will be taken up by quests.

    Now I am not sure what RPG elements means, is there character development? Do you level up? Can you affect the story? On the plus side they certainly seem to have the looting system of Diablo and Titan Quest down with procedurally generated guns (over half a million of them). They are also included a story/quest based plot.

    From my reading this will not conform to some peoples definition of RPG, one with choice and the ability to influence both your own character and the world around you. However, it looks like a potentially addictive mix of the fun of FPS and the looting fever of Diablo and Titan Quest. All in all if done right these seems to me like it could be really fun.

    Sorry for the repeated editing I was trying to get the links right and I am new at this.

  36. SolkaTruesilver says:

    There are only two possible outcomes to both KOTOR I and II, both of which I love and both of which are universally considered RPGs. If I remember correctly, none of the Final Fantasy games have multiple endings, and MMORPGS don’t even have any endings at all. An RPG has nothing to do with how many factions you can appease, how many endings you can get, or how many sidequests you can unlock.

    But there are many different outcomes and consequences in many of your actions in that game. KOTOR2, specifically, regarding what happens to your Nakama. Thus, I accept its qualification as an RPG. I haven’t said you need every single elements cited earlier, I just said these are good RPG elements.

    However, in all of those games, your character is almost fully customizable as far as skills, attributes, force powers, magic or whatever, and even which party members you want in some cases. You can also develop the other characters in your party to a lesser degree.

    I haven’t said that customisation of character elements is not part of an RPG. Hell, with the number of time I talked about Vampire : Bloodlines, maybe you’d pick up the fact that I have nothing against character customisation and a statsheet.

    But character optimisation trough gear and/or stats is not what makes an RPG an RPG. In Bloodlines, I loved both the RPG element in the storyline and the game mechanic involved in the statsheet. I think I loved more the storyline than the mechanics, but it doesn’t mean the mechanics didn’t kicked ass.

    If you define an RPG as playing a character with a role and being able to change the story, then any game can be an RPG. Most point-and-click adventure games are RPGs if you have dialogue options of any sort. Heck, even a game where you continually die and get a Game Over screen is an RPG.

    You really don’t know what the hell you are talking about, don’t you? Are you even reading what I write?

    Point-and-click adventures like Full Throttle weren’t RPGs, they were game-esed Novels. A very entertaining Game/Novel, but not an RPG. There wasn’t much replay value, no alternate ways of dealing with the NPCs you encountered than what was scripted, no actions to make except the game-progressing ones.

    RPGs in particular are supposed to mean numbers, decisions, and optimization. Assuming it’s still a video game

    No they are not. That’s a bastarised version of RPG. With your definition, you’d qualify waves of ennemies coming for no reason against optimised character in D&D 3.5 a “Rpg”.

    It’d be a hack-n-slash game. A funny one, maybe. But it wouldn’t be “Role-playing”. It would be… making up a powerful build and sending it to kill things. Your are playing the build, not the character.

  37. Vladius says:

    I don’t see what’s wrong with that. All games have multiple outcomes or ways of dealing with something.

    For example, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, a point-and-click game, lets you roleplay Indiana Jones and encourages you to take one of three paths – fighting, talking, and something in the middle. This presents multiple ways to solve certain puzzles, particularly with NPCs. There are also multiple endings to it and multiple things you can do with your sidekick…girl…thing.

    “With your definition, you’d qualify waves of ennemies coming for no reason against optimised character in D&D 3.5 a “Rpg”.”

    Umm… isn’t D&D considered the original RPG system?

    That wouldn’t make a very fun RPG, but it would still be one under the rules of the game. An RPG isn’t a standard of quality; it’s a genre that involves some kind of roleplaying, numbers, and “leveling” or increasing in strength or other kind of prowess.

  38. Kdansky says:

    I’ve played through most of the demo. I find it quite boring. The game mechanics are way too simple for me (leftclick stuff, no further thinking necessary) and there are just too many boring barrels to smash. Also, the controls feel very clunky and awkward, something that turned me off DoP too. No harm done, moving along.

    FPR RPG. I don’t see why not. RPGs don’t need to have numbers, stats, skills, itemhunt or talent specs. If there is a story, if I can choose which way to follow and characters have depth, then it is an RPG. You could easily have shooter gameplay like Half Life 2, but instead of a linear story a lot of different branches and plot points. That would be an RPG, would it not? The need for stats is a misunderstanding between tabletop gamers and game programmers. It’s just so much easier to put stats into a game than it is to write up valid, interesting and flexible characters. Dialogue systems have not improved over what we had on NES (text, followed by YES/NO “choice”), except for rare case studies (such as facade, go download it). Instead we get Action games labeled as “RPG”.

    Do I have to mention that my current P&P RPG-game is diceless and nearly statless (health/insanity as measures of well-being, nothing else)?

  39. Vladius says:

    What am I supposed to say?

    “I would like a FPS with a bunch of game mechanics that could label it an RPG in this awful, horrible world of doltheaded ignorance of MY ROLEPLAYING?”

    No. I say, “I want an FPSRPG.” It’s not a blatant contradiction, and you know what I mean when I say it. Stats, leveling, upgrading junk, developing your character.

  40. SolkaTruesilver says:

    And I’d like a FPSRPG.

    Which means, a FPS with interesting conversations, plot-influencing dialogues, characters, etc…

  41. Vladius says:

    They’re not mutually exclusive by any measure.

  42. freykin says:

    Shamus, someone above suggested you try Too Human. I highly recommend you don’t, or at least borrow/rent it first. Biggest let down on the 360 for me. You will absolutely HATE the death mechanics in it, and the auto scaling of all enemies means you never get better until you hit max level and find epic gear (which by then you don’t need for anything). And don’t get me started on it’s healing mechanics, which constantly led to me being on fire and then dead from 50% hp. You shouldn’t have to die 28 times to beat the second area on your first time going through it. But then, there should also be more than FOUR LEVELS when you have over ten years of development time.

    It’s a bit of a sore point with me since that’s my favorite game genre and it looked so good in previews/impressions and such, only to be a complete letdown. The only game that comes close to it in letdown potential was Hellgate: London.

    Save your money, don’t drop the $30-40 that it costs now, and spend it on a better game.

    • Shamus says:

      freykin: I saw Yahtzee’s comments on the death mechanics – I think of it as a time-based death tax – and knew I’d give the game a pass. That’s exactly the sort of game that leads to an Abrupt Catastrophic Interface Destruction Event. (ACIDE.)

    • Shamus says:

      Stipulated: The term “roleplaying game” is so badly mangled and misused so as to be nearly useless for communication between strangers. This is lamentable.

      But this sad state is not the fault of anyone here.

      Carry on.

  43. SolkaTruesilver says:

    They’re not mutually exclusive by any measure

    They certainly aren’t.

    I am simply ranting on the definition of what a Role Playing Game is. There is nothing exclusive between Role Playing and having good game mechanics. It’s just that game mechanics don’t create a RPG.

  44. Ergonomic Cat says:

    Peter Coffin: You just epiphanized me as to why I love MMOs, but often don’t enjoy them. And why I can’t play them with my friends.

  45. Boop says:

    FPSRPG – why did noone mention Bioshock ?

    Oh, wait…

    Oops.

  46. Sheer_FALACY says:

    Because Bioshock doesn’t have the qualities of an RPG, where said qualities are “a story with important choices, for a completely arbitrary definition of important”.

    Also, Deus Ex, Fallout, and other things which are dismissed.

    What’s really odd is that the people who are arguing that FPS and RPG are totally incompatible are the same people who think that RPGness is entirely about the story. While the people who believe in FPSRPGs believe that RPG is about game mechanics. That somehow seems backwards.

  47. smIsle says:

    FP-RPG .. some of the Might and Magic games fall into this category, and some of those are even good … but you’ll have to get something that runs DOS to play them.

    And, how close to an actual RPG can a computer get? Isn’t most of it in your mind?

  48. locusts says:

    I was going to put the original Space Hulk in as a FPSRPG, as it is a FPS where one controls a team and can customize equipment. I do not remember a change of stats and thus I do not believe that it meets the RPG definition. If I am wrong, and there were stats that changed as well…

  49. krellen says:

    Can we agree on a difference between “First Person”, hereafter called “FP”, and “First Person Shooter”, hereafter called “FPS”? This is an important roadblock in our ability to communicate here.

    And RPG does not have to have a story with variable choices and endings – a good RPG will have these, but the term has been co-opted such that the story is no longer a defining characteristic. Instead, an RPG is a system in which the character’s abilities and growth are given primacy, rather than the player’s abilities and skill (at playing the game). “Better Gear” doesn’t really qualify, disqualifying Halo or Half-Life, but even the light character-based skill system of Diablo would. RPGs can be Isometric, Third-Person, or First Person. Mass Effect is a First/Third-Person RPG, while Fallouts 1 and 2 are Isometric RPGs (and Fallout 3 is a First-Person RPG).

    A Shooter, on the other hand, is almost entirely about the player’s ability to handle the controls and the player’s ability at playing the game. Most shooters since Doom have been First Person (Doom wasn’t the first, but it started the trend of people thinking that’s the only thing that exists), but the Shooter has existed almost as long as video games; many of the first video games, back in the days of coin-driven arcades, were “side-scrolling” shooters, or other variations on the shooter theme. A shooter done in the style of Doom is called a “First Person Shooter”, hence FPS.

    A Shooter cannot be an RPG – the underling mechanics of the two genre are simply incompatible. A Shooter does not have to be First-Person. An RPG can be First-Person.

    If we could stop confusing First-Person Shooter for simple First-Person view, this conversation would probably run a lot smoother.

    This is why it’s important to use proper English; when you do not, communication problems result. If you say “FPS” but you mean “First-Person”, you will inevitably cause confusion in some portion of the audience you are trying to communicate with, whereas using clear and proper English will allow your message to be conveyed correctly to all that see it.

  50. Nighty says:

    Played the demo. The game sucked. No planning or skill at all, just left click click click when you actually fight and when you aren’t crawl around the dungeon like a snail trying to find the secrets the game expects you to have for a good score. Bad bad bad.

  51. Jabor says:

    but you’ll have to get something that runs DOS to play them.

    Why, are they DOSBox-incompatible or something?

  52. Jonathan says:

    FYI-it’s 7:30 central time, and the Lawful server is very laggy.

  53. Ravens Cry says:

    Call me old school, but here is the word I think of when I see these kinds of games. I am sure it will bring back memories for players older then I am.
    “Rogue-likes”
    You have levelling ,you have hacking, you have slashing. You might be facing a 3D real time bump mapped vector shaded polygonal work of art, or you may be fighting the letter A.
    They vary in complexity, but the basic idea is the same.

  54. Nighty says:

    Unfortunately, you DON’T have leveling. You have skillpoints earned from beating levels based on arbitrary scores from picking up random items and killing things.

  55. Ravens Cry says:

    Well. . .my definition of levelling is a bit more broad. It basically means your character changes in ways besides getting the newest and shiniest toy. For example, Doom didn’t have levelling in the sense of acquiring skill points or in discrete levels. Your power was based on your toys, I mean, guns.
    Levelling ,whether skill points or actual levels, is internal, though it may cause a cosmetic change, while toy based advancement is external. If there is word for this besides levelling, my apologies.
    They are not mutually exclusive mind. Getting the Magic Sword of Swordiness +5 is toy based, yet even Rogue had it, along with internal advancement.

  56. Cuthalion says:

    Role-Playing Games, at their heart, are strategy games with a story.

    That is my opinion, yes. The more those two aspects are mutually emphasized, the more I consider it an RPG. It can be a fixed story or a flexible story, but it’s got to have some sequence of events, and obviously the player’s character(s) have to be centrally involved in the story. (Some games let you influence the story as well, and I really like that, but it’s by no means necessary.)

    As for strategy, I don’t mean to say it can be any kind of strategy — RPG’s espouse a very specific kind of strategy: tactical combat using a small number of complex combatants as opposed to a medium-to-large number of simpler combatants a la Starcraft or Fire Emblem. Since the combatants are complex, the tactical component is connected with the strategic component involving party/character/inventory management.

    That’s my theory of the RPG.

  57. Cuthalion says:

    I’m gonna be rude and double-post since this second post isn’t well-connected with the first one.

    I don’t think RPG’s and FPS’s can fuse easily due to the stratego-tactical component of RPG’s. Unless you could outsource either the real-time FPS combat, which depends on reflexes, aim, and awareness, or the tactical RPG combat, which uses multiple complex combatants to defeat the enemy by choosing the correct combination and sequence of techniques — unless you can outsource one of these aspects to another area of the game, I don’t see how you could really fuse the two and still call it both an FPS and an RPG.

    EDIT:
    RPG’s depend on an inherently creative process, where the player is presented with a challenge and creates a method of defeating it with the tools at their disposal. FPS’s, on the other hand, depend on honing a set of pre-determined techniques. They are inherently competitive and practice-based. Yes, there is some overlap, as they could be considered to be on a single spectrum, but they are each near opposite ends of that spectrum.

    It’s like the difference between playing an instrument and playing a sport, at least to my eyes.

    EDIT AGAIN:
    And yes, I am aware that none of this really has much to do with role-playing per se. The label really is a bit of a misnomer. But it is what it is. Literal RPG’s tend to be called “adventure games”.

  58. KarmaDoor says:

    Back to the original topic:

    I agree with Shamus that the hack-n-slash genre has essentially stagnated since 2001. Sure, there have been minor tweaks, but mostly the formula is adhered to with no major innovation.

    The worst offense is the “disposable character” mentality that devalues your entertainment time. I always found it the most irksome aspect of these games and what ultimately drove me to give up at times. Why couldn’t I redistribute all that time-earned experience? I found out why in using the PlugY mod for Diablo II; if you can completely rework your character at any time, then you can min max for every occasion.

    Guild Wars, a blend between HnS and MMO, has an interesting solution; earn your reassignment rights as you would experience, with a maximum number before spending them. (Similar to vacation time.) The focus needs to adjust to entertaining and away from the harsh living of its Rogue roots.

    Mythos, designed by former Blizzard staff, showed some promise of seriously advancing the genre by listening to their players. Unfortunately it is limbo, seemingly for good. Blizzard themselves are at work on the next installment of Diablo, bringing many concepts from World of Warcraft into the mix. Why is it seemingly only such a small segment of game developers are capable of adding to this style of gameplay? Beats me.

  59. Morzas says:

    I think the dungeon crawl genre (or as you call it, hack n’ slash genre) died because the people who played those games decided to play MMORPGs, and the ones who couldn’t stuck with Diablo II because their friends were playing it. I still go back to DII every once in a while to rebuild my melee sorceress, and each time I’m amazed at how many people are still playing that game.

  60. Sheer_FALACY says:

    I think everyone talking about how hack and slash / dungeon crawl / third person looters have died is neglecting the fact that Blizzard is, at this very moment, working on Diablo III. Regardless of whether it’s dead now, it won’t be soon, and I’m sure there will be a fresh cascade of clones as well.

    And you can have an FPSRPG, even with the shooter part. Accuracy is a single stat, more or less – it can be given to the player, rather than the character, while still retaining other stats. All sorts of unusual combinations are possible – WCIII fused RTS and RPG. The RPG elements weren’t all that strong in the campaign, and it’s quite possible that they made the RTS part worse, but they were there.

  61. Melf_Himself says:

    I’ve played the demo a couple months back. It does a lot of things right and a couple of things wrong, but all in all I think makes a pretty good lesson in game design even from just playing the demo. Interested to see what you make of it.

  62. Pickly says:

    Stuff like the FPS vs. RPG definition argument is why I often loose faith in a lot of computer gamers. The people who mention the combination of the two games probably have a certain game style in mind, where the possibilities or prolems can be talked about on their own, but instead we get an argument over what the definition of an RPG is.

    (It’s annoying because when a lot of ideas for hybrid games, or games that mostly fit into one category or another are brought up, but often get dismissed because they do not fit into someone’s definition of what a particular type of game is, rather than because they may not be fun to play.)

    And you can have an FPSRPG, even with the shooter part. Accuracy is a single stat, more or less – it can be given to the player, rather than the character, while still retaining other stats. All sorts of unusual combinations are possible – WCIII fused RTS and RPG. The RPG elements weren’t all that strong in the campaign, and it’s quite possible that they made the RTS part worse, but they were there.

    Agree with this paragraph. I do kind of wish more games would explore these types of combinations, (City building+combat, that the Pharaoh/Caesar games did somewhat) is one I’d be kind of interested in ,assuming that AI issues (or multiplayer issues) could be worked out.

  63. Blackbird71 says:

    @krellen (51)
    “A Shooter cannot be an RPG”

    I’ll have to disagree here, as I’ve played a few games that are both. While the combination is rare and difficult to accomplish, it can be quite successful when done right.

    Of course, before I go further, I’ll have to lay down my definitions. If you disagree with these definitions, then of course the rest of the argument is moot.

    FPS – A game which (while primarily in first person view) uses the player’s skill to point and aim various weapons, whether ranged or melee, to fight opponents. Often described as “twitch-based,” in that success at the game depends on the player’s reflexes and skill. Note that by this definition, a “shooter” does not have to use guns, but whaterver weapon is used must be aimed by the player, i.e, no “select target, hit probability is based on stat X.” Every FPS I can think of includes at least one melee weapon, and it is entirely possible for an FPS to be completely melee based, with no actual “shooting.”

    RPG (or more specifically, CRPG, as this definition applies only to computer and not tabletop games) – A game in which one plays a character with a number of customizeable stats which define the character’s abilities. These stats improve during the course of the game, either through acquisition of “experience points,” accomplishing tasks, or some other method. Success at the game depends on mental strategy, both in the design of the character, and in the application of the character’s abilities to overcome the game’s challenges. RPGs are often characterized by detailed stories and freeform plot environments, but these details are not entirely requisite for the CRPG variety. Such games often have multiple outcomes, or multiple paths reaching the same outcome, or a combination, but once again, these points are not requisite for the game to be classified as an RPG.

    So, an FPSRPG, as a hybrid of the two, would have to combine some elements of both. In tis compromise, some level of each would be lost as well. The game would not necessarily have to be played only in first person perspective (I’ve played several games classified as “first person shooters” that can be played entirely in third person, the Jedi Knight series for one). Success at the game would have do depend on both player skill as well as character stats/strategy. Multiple options and choices for the path of the game would add a bit of the RPG flavor, without detracting from the shooter side of the game.

    I’ve seen a handful of games that do this well. For starters, Vampire: Bloodlines has already been mentioned. In the game, you create a character with a set of stats that will improve throughout the game. There are numerous quests, ways of accomplishing those quests, varying dialogue options, a strong underlying story, multiple paths and multiple outcomes. The game can be played in both first and third person, and you will find each perspective better for different situations. Combat in the game is very twitch-based and requires player reflexes and skill. Combat is typically melee, although there are a number of ranged weapons, and I personally have played through with a character designed as a sharpshooter. You have to aim with the mouse in order to score a hit, but the damage dealt depends on your relevant stats.

    Recently, I came across another example. Prompted by some of the posts responding to Shamus’ “Experienced Points” article about game demos, I downloaded the demo for “Mount and Blade.” It turned out to be a very fun and interesting game (too bad it uses an online activation scheme :( ). The game centers around medieval combat. You play a single character, with your chosen stats which you improve as you level. The game can be played in both first and third person perspective. You have the option of building up your own army to command on the battlefield, or of doing things solo. The game world is very freeform, without much backstory but with events taking place constantly, although you have your choice as to where and how to get involved. Combat is very twitch-based, with your mouse not only controlling where you swing your weapon, but how you swing it, and how hard you hit. You can also chose to block, and where to direct your block. There are ranged weapons in the game, in the form of bows and crossbows (some fan mods have implemented guns as well). My favorite character to play so far is a horseback archer. Hitting moving targets while moving on horseback yourself is very difficult, requiring careful aiming and timing. At the same time though, your character stats play a role in combat. As my archery and other supporting skills improved, I found it easier to hit my targets. Damage dealt is also affected by character stats. In short, this game successfully blends elements of an FPS and an RPG, and could be accurately termed an “FPSRPG,” although with a touch of RTS on the side.

  64. rofltehcat says:

    FPSRPG?
    Make the S a ‘strategy’ and it might be very interesting.
    Like… you are the leader of a special forces squad or from the Brotherhood of Steel (I love Fallout, would add to the RPG quite well), a medieval soldier brigade (storming the house of barricaded revolters? Playing not just henchmen but the henchmen of evil, oppressing monarchies!) or whatever.
    You need to lead your men through, however you don’t have a third person view, overhead view or whatever. You’re limited to first person sight.
    This means before storming into a house you need to give your soldiers orders. Battle system could be either shooterish or time/round based.

    Well… sounds a bit like Rainbow Six, right?

    Add to it a great storyline, a nice character system, a world you can explore freely, side quests, dialogues (with lots of options), factions (switching sides?) etc.

    Yeah, I’d like to play Rainbow Six: Fallout :/

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