Dénouement 2015 Part 2: The No Show List

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Dec 15, 2015

Filed under: Industry Events 219 comments

In any given year, the number of hours available for gaming is always exceeded by the the number of games available for playing. Also every year are confused inquiries from people, demanding to know why I was so foolish as to not play X. So I thought I’d do a post of ablative excuses and explanations before I start talking about my winners.

Remember that this isn’t an end-of-year list from the staff of a big gaming site. I’m just one guy, and I play games based on what strikes my fancy, not based on what publishers send me or public demand. This means I’ll include odd stuff, or overlook big stuff, or abandon games without finishing them.

None of these games are bad. They’re just stuff I didn’t get around to playing or finishing.

Also – and I hope you don’t think I’m condescending to you when I say this in bold – but None of these games are bad.

I know how you are, internet. And sometimes you get a little too defensive if I don’t play the game you like, or react the way you expect. Just be cool.


I'm glad you liked it. Really. But this just isn't working for me.
I'm glad you liked it. Really. But this just isn't working for me.

It was really strange juxtaposing the extreme love people expressed for this game with my own mild indifference, but the problem is that Undertale is referencing a genre and a time period that’s mostly alien to me. Undertale draws heavily from the old 2D RPG’s of the mid 90s: Chrono Trigger, Earthbound, Final Fantasy IV, etc. I was very poor and very busy in that time period. I didn’t play a lot of games, and when I did they were all on PC. I didn’t own a console at all in the 90’s and never even heard of those games until they were almost a decade old. I’d never even seen a screenshot of Earthbound until I went to write this article.

So Undertale is riffing on ideas and tropes I’d never run into, from a genre I haven’t really played, and trading in nostalgia I don’t have. It’s like watching Galaxy Quest without ever seeing a single episode of Star Trek. It’s still a decent movie, but most of the jokes and ideas and character beats will miss.

I played until I met Papyrus and Sans. When the magic didn’t happen, I figured the game was broadcasting on a wavelength that I just couldn’t hear. And so I moved on.

Pillars of Eternity

Man, it's like this row of pillars goes on forev- oh. I get it.
Man, it's like this row of pillars goes on forev- oh. I get it.

Poor Obsidian. I’ve always said I’d love to see what they could accomplish without some asshole publisher kicking their game out the door before it was ready. What magnificent gem could this team create if they could just cut loose and make the game they wanted, without worrying about marketing coming in and telling them it needed more graphics and tits and less of that “confusing” and “boring” worldbuilding stuff?

And then after a half dozen of these shambling compromises, Obsidian finally got the chance. They made the game they wanted to make. And people really liked it.

And then I didn’t play it.

Someone even gifted me a copy! I didn’t even have to pay for it! And I installed it! It’s currently still on my hard drive! Right now I could alt-tab away from Google Docs where I’m writing this and launch the game in seconds. There is literally no barrier to entry here!

A major problem is that PoE uses real-time-with-pause for combat, and I hate RTWP. I like turn-based games like Fallout and X-Com, where play takes place on a strict grid with clearly delineated turns. And I love real-time games where you can get kinestheticly pleasing juice. But the compromise between the two is deeply unsatisfying to me.

The real time ruins the strategy by making it imprecise and vague, like playing chess on a board with no grid and no distinct turns, where you’re supposed to just eyeball everything. At the same time, the pausing ruins the action, like some jackass that keeps pausing a movie in the middle of a fight scene. It’s the worst of both worlds. In Fallout 4, I don’t even like using VATS. In Mass Effect, I rarely order my teammates to use powers because that requires too much use of the game-pausing command interface.

So I spent an entire year being torn between wanting to see what Obsidian was up to, and not wanting to slog through dozens of hours of RTWP gameplay.

Life is Strange

Chloe and Max hit the road.
Chloe and Max hit the road.

This game is wonderful. Or so everyone keeps telling me. But episodic games and I do not mix. I own Wolf Among Us. Never played it. I own Life is Strange. Didn’t even complete the first episode. Same goes for Tales from the Borderlands. And the new King’s Quest. And The Walking Dead Season 2. And 400 Days. And the Episodic Monkey Island games that came out a few years back.

I don’t like playing a game for a few hours, then waiting two months, then playing another couple hours, then waiting two more months. It sucks to write about these sorts of games. I never know how much I should spoil, or can spoil. With normal games the readership is divided into two groups: People who have played, and people who haven’t. But in an episodic game we’re divided into N+1 groups, where N is the number of currently released episodes.

Also, I like to analyze stories, and it’s frustrating and pointless trying to analyze a story that’s 3/4 of the way done. Will this plot element make sense later? Is this character really doing X? Why was this conversation so confusing? Is this a setup for a later payoff? Instead of analysis, you end up with a bunch of fan-wank conjecture. We can’t just discuss the game openly with everyone. Basically, I feel like I can’t do my job until all the episodes are out.

It’s the difference between talking about a movie after you’ve seen it, and pausing a movie so you can talk about it before it’s over. I don’t want to talk about it yet. Shut up and un-pause the movie!

So then I try to avoid this by not playing the game until all episodes are out. But by then I’m playing catch-up and it feels like the conversation is over. I’m playing through the second episode and everyone else is talking about the ending.

Episodic games just don’t work with whatever systems I use to govern my gaming habits and run this site. I should probably save my money and stop trying to cover them.

Chime Sharp

I was obsessed with the original Chime. It was satisfying, interesting, hypnotic, and beautiful. So I was pretty excited when the sequel was announced.

But then it was quietly delayed. And then when it did come out it was (and still is, as of this writing) listed as early access, which means it’s not complete. Oh, and it’s also twenty dollars, which is about double the going rate for games in this genre.

I’d still be willing to pay that much if the game was actually done. But paying double to be a beta tester? Pass.

I’ll probably pick it up this summer. Or whatever.


The Executor booms out: SPAWN MORE SUPPLY DEPOTS.
The Executor booms out: SPAWN MORE SUPPLY DEPOTS.

The number of items on my “I need to play this” list got really out of control this year. Looking at my notes and Steam wishlist we have:

  1. Transformers Devastation.
  2. The Long Dark.
  3. Infinifactory.
  4. Magic Circle.
  5. Minecraft Story Mode.
  6. Hotline Miami 2.
  7. Westerado.
  8. Armikrog.
  9. Invisible, Inc.
  10. Rebel Galaxy.
  11. Starcraft 2: Legacy of the Void.
  12. Her Story

If zero games came out in 2016, I think I could fill the year up with the overflow from 2015. I suppose it doesn’t help that I spent the last third of the year trying to ship a videogame, which really ate into my game-playing hours.

Tomorrow: We’re going to start talking about the stuff I loved.


From The Archives:

219 thoughts on “Dénouement 2015 Part 2: The No Show List

  1. Infinitron says:

    You should play one of the turn-based RPG enhanced editions that came out this year – Wasteland 2 or Divinity: Original Sin.

    1. Will says:

      D:OS actually came out in the middle of last year, though I guess by the convoluted rules of year-end lists you could play and review the Enhanced Edition, which was just released in October.

    2. Joshua says:

      Currently playing Wastelands 2 after one of the other readers here let me know they actually got around to making a sequel. It is a pure turn-based strategy game, like Baldur’s Gate if combat paused automatically.

      I definitely recommend it. It hits a nice sweet spot of challenge for me, as it’s reasonably difficult on the default level without being maddening. And it seems like you never have enough skill points!

      Many of the sub-plots have multiple resolution options too, especially those that involve different factions.

      1. Humanoid says:

        I so, so want to get into Wasteland 2, but have struggled to even get past character creation. I dislike the party-based dynamic of most top-down RPGs already, and having to create the entire party just magnifies the problem.

        I know I can just use some preset characters, but it’s still not the same, the game treats them as if they were your own.

        For context, I’m still in Gilded Vale in PoE because I tried to press on without recruiting anyone but got smacked badly, especially as a thief-type character. Finished D:OS, but that was played co-op in Lone Wolf mode, so I only controlled one character. Now that was the experience I was after, but for some reason most developers seem to assume that “isometric” means “party-based”.

        1. Joshua says:

          I can understand that it would be frustrating, especially for your first time not having played the game and knowing what skills/attributes would be valuable. It can be even worse than you thought, because you don’t even know what NPCs you’ll find later that will have ranks in certain skills, or when you’ll get them.

          For example, you get Angela Deth almost immediately and she’s got several ranks in Weaponsmithing, so no need to drop points into it just yet. Early on in the game, you can also get Rose (depending upon an early game choice) who will be *the* Surgeon and Computer Science person, although it doesn’t hurt to have at least two characters with Surgeon and/or Medic. The last two are really the *only* skills you would want to have on more than one character.

        2. Deadpool says:

          You can make just one character and recruit the rest…

          Just in case that helps.

        3. Andy_Panthro says:

          I get stuck in the Vale even when recruiting a couple of others, some of the fights seem unbelievably hard. I’m really wondering if I’m supposed to even tackle some of them, but the game doesn’t make it obvious if I’m just bad at the game or trying to do things too early.

          Also I usually play a magic-using character in such games, but really don’t like any of the options available in PoE. Perhaps I’m just too used to the BG2 Sorcerer, which was way overpowered (also my class of choice in NWN1+2, although it was a terrible choice in NWN2).

      2. Karthik says:

        My problem with Wasteland 2 is neatly encapsulated in TUN’s new video.

        That, and the health/difficulty scaling curve. One human enemy can have twenty times as much health as another one with very similar equipment. It’s a more authored variant of zone/level scaling, but it’s another symptom of valuing the player’s progression above the coherence and consistency of the setting.

    3. Andy_Panthro says:

      To my eternal shame I own both Wasteland 2 and Divinity: OS, and have yet to play them. Too many games, too little time.

      So if it’s turn-based gaming we’re talking about, I’d recommend the recent Shadowrun revival, of which I’ve finished Returns and Dragonfall and found them both excellent.

      Also I hear Age of Decadence is finally finished, which I really want to try (the demo was very good, although the combat was far beyond me).

  2. Ninety-Three says:

    By what metric does The Long Dark make your list for 2015? It was released in Early Access in 2014, and it has gotten updates throughout 2015 but is still in EA (and still lacking major features like story mode, ie, the main campaign). It feels like it belongs in either 2014, or the future, depending on how you count things.

    And as Infinitron pointed out above, there’s Enhanced Editions of previously released games… jeez, year-end lists have gotten complicated.

    1. Shamus says:

      Huh. It was actually added last night, when I finally got around to listening the Diecast. Josh made it sound pretty good. I didn’t realize it was a 2014 game.

  3. Nimas says:

    Shamus, how dare you not play *insert game name here*! It was the *best/worst (delete whichever inappropriate)* game all year.

    I am so *insert synonym of disappointed here* that you wouldn’t cover it. Guess it just means you’re *a bad game’s journalist/obvious hater/racist/racist derogatory term/random vaguely homophobic slur/pick your own derogatory term (choose whichever appropriate)*!

    I’m no longer *following/reading your blog/watching spoiler warning/being your friend (choose any or all as appropriate)*.

  4. Nimas says:

    As an actual comment, the only one I’m slightly sad you haven’t played is Her Story, whether or not you would/will enjoy it. Mainly because it was quite short (think I spent 1-2 hours on it) and I quite liked the experience of playing it.

    Obviously not trying to be angry or anything, it’s just the slightly sad feeling you get when something you really enjoyed has not been experienced/not liked by someone else. That whole human thing where you almost get a vicarious re-enjoyment of that same thing by hearing another person relate their experiences of it :D

  5. Having never played a game with real-time-with-pause combat, I started on Easy difficulty and asked my friends for advice. I’ve actually been enjoying it a lot. I don’t pause for most fights, only the tough ones.

    Still I agree that I’d prefer grid-based, as I can play XCOM and Final Fantasy Tactics for hours and hours just for the combat. But PoE is absolutely worth playing for the story and characters, especially the ridiculously diverse ways you can play your own character (the reputation system alone, where you’re known for how you are leading to things like my character being given a quest to get back a rare and priceless artifact because she was known for being Honest so they knew I wouldn’t steal it, makes the game worth playing just to see all the permutations).

    The patch that came out with the expansion actually added in AI for companions as well, so on a lower difficulty if you set that up you can actually get through the entire game while pausing only every so often during boss fights.

    1. Ninety-Three says:

      Did they ever patch the godawful pathfinding? I routinely had NPCs get confused and run around in circles (literally) after I told them to attack a stationary target where the optimal path was described by a pair of straight lines. If I didn’t carefully micromanage every character’s movements with frequent pauses, I could start a battle of melee-only characters vs melee-only enemies, and after ten seconds some of my guys still wouldn’t have pathfound their way to an engagement.

      1. Zekiel says:

        I don’t remember ever having major pathfinding problems so I guess they must have addressed this in a patch.

    2. Wide And Nerdy says:

      Thats what I’d recommend too. On easy, you really don’t have to pause much.

      However if you wanted something that felt more turn based, the game does also feature autopausing (and there are a ridiculous number of conditions you can set to trigger it). Normally it would be the same kind of disruption but you can choose to have it pause either when each of your characters has performed their action (letting you set a new one) or have it pause once ever X number of seconds (you can set it). You can also have it autopause at the start of combat so the fight has a discrete start point.

      You may have to play with it to get it the way you want it but I’m sure there’s a combination of the right difficulty and other settings for this game that would make it bearable enough for you to be able to enjoy the story. You could disable autopausing to roll over easier encounters and then enable it for the big fights.

      And there are serious grognard feels in there. It feels so classic, untouched by the overblown designs of modern rpgs (something I liked about Baldur’s Gate).

      If you really hate the fighting, use the console to bump your wizard’s Int and Might up to 99 and have them drop fireballs that one shot all your foes at once while leaving your party untouched.

      1. Trix2000 says:

        I’d also point out that it HAS discrete turns, or at least it’s very clear when people will be able to act again – they have bars that indicate time until action. I don’t recall if you can adjust the speed or not, but I never felt the need to.

        The other thing is that I think they DID manage to nail a visceral feel to the combat. Part of that may be that I used guns a lot (they sound and look sooooo satisfying), but I actually really enjoyed getting into fights just to see it all in action.

        While I understand concerns over RTWP (it’s not my favorite combat style either, since I’m a sucker for straight turn-based), I really think Pillars takes it to a much better level.

      2. StashAugustine says:

        Additionally with the (probably) final expansion coming out in a month or so they’re adding a so-easy-you’re-basically-skipping-the-combat mode.

        1. Humanoid says:

          Good to know. Despite visiting the Obsidian forums daily I haven’t read any of the PoE subforums for months.

          Still wish you could bind the “Kill NPC” console command to a key though. :P Cheating stats up to make everything a one-shot kill would presumably break the skill checks involving those stats.

          1. Wide And Nerdy says:

            You can’t escape it Shamus. There’s no amount of qualifying statements or warnings or heading things off at the pass that will stop us from pestering you about playing our favorite games.

            We do it out of love. Its like bile but pH balanced.

        2. Andy_Panthro says:

          Ah! I might wait until then, and take the super-easy mode. I really want to play through it for the story, not the combat.

    3. Ringwraith says:

      Also you can set the game speed to slow.
      That helps a lot for doing things on the fly.

      Can also automate a bunch of AI stuff if you wish, with some rudimentary script options.

  6. Bubble181 says:

    1. Undertale: Ditto
    2. PoE: What but no but ARGHWARGHABL. Ahem. I meant to say: I’m not a huge fan of RTWP play either, but, like KotoR (and II), if you play on the lowest difficulty, you can pretty much just play it in real time and not worry. Yes, you’ll be under-performing, but who cares? It’s single player. Turn the difficulty to “story mode”, and just never pause (unless you want to, of course). It’s what I ended up doing when I simply didn’t have time for all the combat. The story and lore are nice to explore. I do understand you probably never *will* get around to it, because of your job and new games coming out all the time and such, but I just wanted to let you know that the option really is there.
    3. Episodic games: Ditto.
    4. Chi-what now?
    5. Luckily, I have exactly one game on my 2016 list of games I’m looking forward, and I’m fairly sure you’ve already played more of it than you’ll ever want to – Good Robot. So I’ll be able to play catch-up from 2015, because for some reason this year was packed with games that interested me.

    1. ehlijen says:

      The slight problem with PoE on easy mode is that the difficulty level does not change the monster stats (or so the loading screen prompts kept telling me), just the number (apart from the very highest one).

      That means that boss fights against a single foe are the same difficulty regardless of mode (apart from the very highest one).

      I still managed to beat the game on easy without excessive spreadsheet referring or anything like that, including the optional ‘grind and loot’ mega dungeon’s boss on the first try (barely!), but I thought I should add this note for completeness sake.

      1. djw says:

        Your “first try” must have included a successful use of petrify, which is an absolutely overpowered spell. Not sure I have the stamina to beat that guy without it though.

        1. Trix2000 says:

          I actually managed to get him (her? it?) down to almost dead with conventional tactics, since I didn’t think CC was going to work well. Took a lot of maneuvering people around (keeping them spread out for the breath) and managing tank health, but I got right up to the end before keeling over. I’m certain I could have beaten it that way with a bit more luck.

          But then the next attempt petrify actually managed to land and I two-shot it with gunshots. After how many attempts I’d made already, it felt WAY too satisfying.

        2. ehlijen says:

          No, I just had the named chanter and I forgot who else repeatedly summon drakes and the like for it to chew on while shooting/spell blasting it with everything I had from a distance. Spammed healing and summons until it finally keeled over. At that point I was down to single digit HP on two characters left and out of heals/resurrects, so yeah, pretty glad that thing fell over at that moment.

        3. Wide And Nerdy says:

          You can bisect it with a wall of force to really turn things to your advantage.

    2. SlothfulCobra says:

      Of course, if the combat is not enjoyable and it’s more fun to make it a non-factor, one would question why it’s still a major element of the game.

      (this comment also applies to SO MANY other games, it’s not even funny)

    3. Vect says:

      There’s a planned “Story Time Mode” that’s designed around making the combat go by faster so you can get to the story bits.

  7. Sean Hagen says:

    With normal games the readership is divided into two groups: People who have played, and people who haven't.

    That isn’t really true though: most people don’t finish a game. So no matter what you write, there’s probably a good chance you’re spoiling something for someone.

    1. djw says:

      I can’t speak for the rest of the internet, but when I fail to finish a game it is because I don’t care about the ending any more… so spoil away.

      1. MichaelGC says:

        It was the kid from the beginning all along for some reason. Cycles, possibly.

      2. Wide And Nerdy says:

        Ditto. As someone who listens to a lot of gaming podcasts, I’m so very sick of the nerd rage over spoilers.

        What ends of happening is every podcast I listen to is limited to discussing the same boring points about each game’s gameplay and they eat so many minutes of the discussion going “well wait, do we want to spoil that? Should we put up a warning? No, lets skip it. Can we mention the gun? Is that a spoiler?”

        So much of the interesting discussion around a game is hamstrung by having to leave out the spoilers.

        I really like that Gamers With Jobs now posts a separate podcast with fully spoiled discussion about a game. Much better that way. I wish more podcasts did that. Though I understand its not really practical for the Diecast since this is more a thing you do on the side.

        1. Trix2000 says:

          I think it depends a lot on the person, as well as the game. I know I’ve had some that I really wished I hadn’t been spoiled by, and others where it made little difference.

          I do think in certain circumstances a spoiler CAN negatively impact a person’s experience. But certainly not in all cases. Either way, I prefer to give people a benefit of a doubt.

        2. 4th Dimension says:

          I agree completely. But then again I’m someone that doesn’t mind spoilers at all. In fact while I do like people posting simple warning that spoils will follow I also want to know beforehand simple things about the story like in general terms what kind of endings can I expect. I hate to be burned by shocker stories and as such I’m a type of terrible person that, when going gets tough in a game, read every second spoiled line so I can see what to expect.

          What I’m saying is simple spoil warnings (with time given for somebody to pause the podcast) right before the spoilery section should do just fine for most of people, except of course the types allergic to spoilers, but you can never satisfy those.

          1. guy says:

            I’m usually not very sensitive to spoilers and tend to seek them out, but there are exceptions. Mostly, I don’t like spoilers on things that are outside of what I’d expect from the genre. For instance, in Fire Emblem: Awakening, I decided to check on a fact about “Marth” (we knew it wasn’t actually Marth because actual Marth would not use his real name and also wear a mask) and got spoiled on “Marth”‘s real identity as Chrom’s daughter from the future, which I feel would have worked better as a surprise.

            Regardless, I think the correct solution is to just use spoiler tags or appropriate warnings instead of posting them everywhere because you think you know more about how people enjoy media than they do.

        3. SlothfulCobra says:

          Spoilers, at least the fear of them, mainly serve as an excuse to disallow discussion of what is normally the most pivotal part of a game, and it frustrates me to no end when a game is being talked up as this revolutionary piece of work that will blow your mind when it’s really only a crappy twist that you’re not allowed to criticize because of spoilers. I had a real bad case of that with Bioshock Infinite.

          It feels really bad in general to experience media that really makes an emotional impact on you, positive or negative, and then not being able to talk about it with anyone. That’s the whole reason why in most of the gaming media there’s the perception that you can’t go and play older games, because they value “the conversation” so much. And then after nobody ever talks about the spoilers, writers just assume that their bullshit twist was the work of genius they thought it was, and so they do it again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again…

    2. Merlin says:

      That’s part of why I love Steam letting you compare global achievement rates. I always interesting to see how completion falls off, especially since you often only see 60% of a game’s audience has even completed the tutorial.

      1. Ninety-Three says:

        Bear in mind that lots of people play in some version of Offline mode which disables achievements. I never figured out what exactly controls it, but I own a lot of Steam games that have many hours played, and zero achievements earned, so achievements will always under-report.

        1. Humanoid says:

          For a lot of games, use of the cheat console likely disables achievements. Even a single use of, say, a noclip command to get out of a geometry glitch might disable your achievements permanently for that particular save.

          Some games like CK2 it’s extended even more, requiring the use of Ironman mode along with a strict ban on mods to enable achievements. After hundreds of hours in the game I literally have one achievement, the one for getting married (i.e. the very first action you take in a typical game). CK2’s Ironman mode is stupid because it enforces very frequent autosaves to prevent savescumming. Which in itself is, eh, whatever, but its bloated savegame files mean saving takes forever to do even to an SSD, and by the later stages of the game, you may well be spending more time looking at the “Saving game” message than actually playing.

          There are also games that only had achievements added some time after release. I think Mount and Blade and Euro Truck Simulator 2 are games that did this for me.

          1. Ninety-Three says:

            It’s not about cheating, as I barely ever do that, and I have zero achievements on far too many games for it to be an esoteric requirement like CK2 Ironman. There’s some kind of offline mode that Steam can go into that makes it stop reporting achievements.

            1. Humanoid says:

              I think there are even some games that force you to sync your save games to the cloud to “verify” your achievements. Being in offline mode would definitely lock you out in this case, as would disabling the cloud saves.

              It might even be Fallout 4? Can’t recall, but I appear to have a suspiciously low number of achievements since I disabled cloud saves for it a day or two in. (I got massively frustrated when, after being done playing the game and wanting to close down Steam and shut down the computer, I had to wait for a good while for the sync to complete)

              1. Ninety-Three says:

                Completely unrelated, what is your avatar from? I recognize the artstyle, but I can’t quite put my finger on it, and now it’s bothering me.

                1. Humanoid says:

                  Oglaf, specifically the advisor to “The King from a Very Deep Chasm”*, as he appears in the strip “Labyrinth”. (Most Oglaf characters are throwaways who appear in a strip or two and never get a name)

                  No link because NSFW (well this particular strip is SFW, but the site itself generally isn’t, especially with no Adblock), but trivial to find. :)

                  * The King from the strip “A Very Deep Chasm”, not a King who originates from a very deep chasm. :P

                  1. Alex says:

                    King-Shaped is probably my favourite one, and another SFW work.


                    1. Humanoid says:

                      I started to compile a list of the best ones, but realised it’d be a huge list indeed. Besides, there’s little reason to not read (or re-read) all of them anyway. :D

                  2. Felblood says:

                    I just want to chime in that Oglaf, while often truly hilarious, is basically not safe for anyone who has even an ounce of any form of prudishness, or squeamishness, or insecurity in our own sexuality. It will force feed you your sacred cow on a unicorn horn shish kabob.

                    If you do decide to brave it after that warning, please rest assured that the writing gets even better after the author abandons most of the recurring characters and just writes what’s funny.

                2. 4ier says:

                  You might be thinking of Tony Moseley’s ‘Zogonia’ comic, since that has a similar art style.

        2. Merlin says:

          This is true, but I doubt it’s a huge number of people. The more interesting comparisons are how many people start but don’t finish a game, or where there’s a noticeable dropoff between levels, since you presumably have a better reference point. More clearly: some people play in a way that doesn’t get them achievements, but presumably very few start with achievements then turn them off partway through a game.

          1. Humanoid says:

            Bit both for me, I usually don’t finish games, even some games I really like I can end up intentionally not finishing at 90%+ completion. Achievements matter even less so I’ll freely engage in things that’d end up disabling them. I’d go so far to say that I hate achievements. This may be a meaningless statement in the context of a single-player game, where they’re just pointless, but the dislike comes from co-operative multiplayer, in particular WoW, where you end up having to go out of your way to accommodate someone else’s desire for achievements.

            Sure, in many ways this is a selfish position, who am I to say that my way of doing content while disregarding any potential achievements is the right way? But the problem on a larger scale is that it drives a wedge through the playerbase in general, where either way someone will be disappointed. The typical problematic achievement usually involves killing a boss in a specific, usually far more difficult, convoluted and unintuitive way. For example, a boss in which using a turret against him might be a key aspect of the fight, there would be an achievement for not using the turret at all (this is hypothetical). When half of a group really wants to do this and the other half dreads the prospect of all the extra time, effort, and repair bills incurred in doing so, it just creates conflict. In that sense, I think this kind of achievement is bad game design.

            I ….think I’ve gone off on a wild tangent now. I’ll stop.

            1. Ninety-Three says:

              I’ve played a lot of City of Heroes, which had that sort of “Optional extra difficulty, no reward except the achivement” mechanic on a number of its group quests, and the problem you’re describing is largely imaginary. It might have had issues with splitting the playerbase into “only want to do the mission if we get the achievement” and “never want to bother with the achievement”, but the achievement was usually addressed at the formation of the team (“LFG for quest X with achievement”). If it only came up when we got to the boss, it was always as a “Hey, if everyone wants to go for this, we can do it” with no apparent hard feelings when anyone vetoed.

              Edit: And having been the person who wanted to go for the achievement and had someone veto it, as well as talking to a few friends in that position, there have been no bad feelings. There seems to be an implicit understanding that if the achievement isn’t mentioned on group formation, the group will be doing the no-achievement run.

              1. Humanoid says:

                In my situation, it was very much real. In my position as a co-leader of a reasonably progressed raiding guild, back in WoTLK particularly. A typical raiding guild at that point would have upwards of 30 members, of which 25 could be in the raid at any given time. With that number of players, you get a diverse set of opinions, but not so much that it’s viable to take just the people who want to do achievements and let the rest just have the night off, so it was definitely a big problem and I had some lengthy ….”discussions” with my co-leader about it.

                In the end the compromise was that that achievement-focused raids only happened in the smaller, less-meaningful 10-person raids, which sucked for the people who wanted the achievements but couldn’t fit into the ten slots available, especially because group compositions were so strict by design. (A 25-person raid has two tanks, 5-7 healers and the rest damage-dealers. A 10-person raid has two tanks, 2-3 healers and the rest damage-dealers, so the proportions don’t scale all that well)

                Beyond that, it was problematic still in that there was a fair bit of pressure on me personally, as one of the more senior and experienced players/healers to help out in these achievement runs. Sometimes I did, sometimes I didn’t. In a way that’s a lose-lose decision, if I give it a miss, their chance of success is diminished, if I go, I’m potentially denying a spot to someone who may not perform as well but who would really like that achievement. Most people are cool about it and understand I don’t give a rat’s about achievements – in general we were one of the happiest guilds I knew and had no real bust-ups – but there’s probably some resentment that came out of that too. So yeah, I’m not talking about some theoretical conflict in priorities, I’m talking about actual experiences over an extended amount of time and which consumed a lot of my own time to resolve.


                EDIT: Bit of context for non-WoW players. WoTLK was the expansion when achievements were introduced, back in 2008. It was also the last expansion where there was a clear delineation between 25-person raids and 10-person raids, they were balanced separately, had different loot drops, and had different achievements. Later expansions made it so generally you chose one raid size and stuck with it exclusively, but in WoTLK, 10-person raiding was mostly done as a supplement for “real” 25-person raids.

                1. Ninety-Three says:

                  Ahhh, I think it’s the raid size that explains the difference. City of Heroes group quests (at least the ones with optional achievements) capped out at one team of eight people, small enough that everyone can maintain communication between each other.

                  EDIT: I think there’s also a matter of commitment. I understand that if you wipe in a WoW raid, you’re losing a substantial amount of work, CoH was much more forgiving. If you wiped going for the achievement, you could usually respawn and finish the quest no-achievement style, without losing all the work you put in to get up to that point.

                  1. Humanoid says:

                    Nah, wiping in WoW just means you try again. Well, most of the time. And that’s the problem for me, I have no interest in trying over and over all night to get some achievement. I’d rather clear the dungeon once, earnestly trying to get the achievement on each boss is fine, but reattempting it solely to get the achievement is not.

                    Some achievements you only get one shot a week at – for example, you may have to do X, then do Y within 15 minutes. But X is only doable once a week, so once you fail to do it within the timeframe, then you just proceed normally. I much prefer that kind of thing, because it means not spending any more time on an achievement run than you would doing a normal run.

              2. Ninety-Three says:

                And because I’m off on a tangent of my own, I thought I’d explain why I go for those kinds of achievements in an MMO. The “kill a thousand rats” type achievements never did anything for me, as they’re just grind, but the “Beat boss X without using the turret” type achievements are basically the game designers recommending an optional challenge mode, the same way people will impose random challenges (like permadeath, or “no using item X”). I like hard games, so I like optional challenge modes, and I trust the designers to recommend a good challenge for me to attempt.

                1. Humanoid says:

                  Some of the achievements aren’t too bad, but the really bad ones really stick out. And the worst part is that you have to get all of the achievements in a given dungeon to get the special reward – usually some purely cosmetic tat like a glowy dragon mount. Fortunately they’ve cut down on some of the particularly bad achievement designs (such as running raids with fewer players, a nice “screw you” to the people who miss out).

                  Still, the weekly lockout for raids makes achievement runs particularly oppressive. Maybe the achievement is “avoid boss ability X” for the entire fight. Then one person gets hit with 5% to go, and the call goes out for everyone to jump in the lava and start the fight over. For this kind of achievement I have no problem attempting it, but if we fail then we accept it. But for others it means trying it over and over, intentionally dying each time the conditions are not met. I can’t stand that style of achievement. A smarter implementation would simply be awarding the achievement to every individual that succeeded, instead of assigning a blanket success or failure to the entire raid. That does happen, sometimes.

    3. Retsam says:

      I think the assumption here is that people who haven’t finished a game aren’t generally interested in talking about its story. (And will know to tune out if they care about spoilers and someone else is interested in talking about the story)

      But if I’ve played 3 episodes of an episodic story, I feel like I should be able to participate in the conversation about that game… but it’s difficult to do so if other people have played more episodes than I have.

  8. ehlijen says:

    The combat system of PoE was certainly better than Baldur’s Gate, but that’s not saying much. It’s better balanced and actually intended for use in a computer game that isn’t beholden to tabletop restrictions and pacing.

    But I still didn’t find it satisfying to play.

    In a turn based game, each action has immediately visible consequences. That makes it easy to parse cause and effect and experience the feedback.

    In a realtime game, there isn’t time for the human brain to parse as much information, so usually one of two approaches is taken:
    -keep units simple and limited in types (CnC, StarCraft)
    -keep units very low in number (mobas)
    Both allow the player to interpret events and still connect cause and effect easily.

    But PoE tries to have the player control multiple characters with more complexity each than an average moba character, and the only way to not have that go crazy is by adding pausing. That gives time to issue more complex orders, sure, but the effect of said orders is still lost in the particle effect thunderstorm. (PoE’s limited feedback display doesn’t help).

    I click on the wizard and tell him to cast Spell A. The bad guy’s health pips go from 3 to 4. Is that because the spell knocked off a quarter of his health or was he just at the cutoff point from 3 to 4? Or was that because at the same time the sniper’s gun finally fired again? Also, my melee guy’s health went from 5 pips to 4. Was that friendly fire or did I just get hit by the baddie at that time? I couldn’t see because Spell A has a big, colourful splash effect.

    I never felt like my big sword fighter had a punch to him. I never felt like my sniper was a ranged combat terror. About the only single character I learned to appreciate was the healer who was as necessary as in any DnD game.

    1. djw says:

      I generally think that RTWP is inferior to turn based, but the system underlying Pillars of Eternity was interesting enough (for me) to push through it and play on POTD mode in spite of the micro-manage hassles.

    2. krellen says:

      I know they pitched it as a successor to Baldur’s Gate, so RTWP was inevitable, and I backed it as support for the company, not that specific product, but seeing that it would be RTWP was the most disappointing thing about the whole affair for me.

      I also might have been the one that gifted it to Shamus. I honestly don’t remember.

      1. Supahewok says:

        You were. I seem to recall you mentioning it on a Twitch stream.

        1. Humanoid says:

          And caused Shamus to lag out during said stream because the game was downloading in the background. :P

          Fully agreed on the RTWP system – or specifically perhaps the Infinite Engine implementation of RTWP – being an straitjacket for the game. I find myself wishing that the combat system be stripped out entirely so I can play the game with no active combat whatsoever. Fights would be resolved “in-dialogue” in the way speech checks are.

          It’s hard to get a read on whether the Obsidian devs genuinely wanted to recreate the IE experience, or whether that’s just what they thought would likely have the best chance of commercial success.

          1. Supahewok says:

            Josh Sawyer cut his teeth on the Icewind Dale games back at Black Isle, games which had no reason to be played other than enjoyment of dungeon-crawling and combat in the IE system. I think it’s safe to say he enjoys working on and playing RtwP. I enjoy playing them too. You get through combat faster than in turn-based, but are still able to have most of the strategy, and derive enjoyment from it.

            I kind of think that opinions of RtwP are split in a glass half full/empty kind of way. Some people only feel the flaws, some people only feel the benefits, with neither side being exactly wrong. For my part, I dislike any real-time (strategy) system where I’m not able to pause at all, so if I’m gonna play real time, I’m only going to play with either the difficulty turned way down, or with pause. So with pause is the ONLY way to make real time strategy enjoyable for me. Whereas grids and turns can get old. I love turn-based strategy, but I don’t want it to be the only kind of strategy available to me. I appreciate being able to play RtwP as a break from turn-based.

            1. Humanoid says:

              Yeah, I actually joined the BIS forums during the development of IWD2 because I liked BG2 so much (at the time), which was JE’s (I keep wanting to just say Josh, but that’d be confusing here) first real project. I think he was mainly their website guy and forum admin prior to that. Of course, that was their final real project to be released, so it’s not like he necessarily had any options – that game was going to be an IE game no matter what.

              He’d have had no control over the fact it was a DnD 3E game, that it was done with the Infinity Engine, that it featured RTWP combat, and that it was fundamentally a dungeon crawler. With that in mind it’s hard to attribute any of that to his personal preferences, any more than saying New Vegas means he prefers working with First Person shooter-ish RPGs.

              1. Supahewok says:

                Obsidian had other options for project leads for PoE if Sawyer wasn’t enthusiastic over the subject. I think it’s fair to say that he at least accepts the method, and its not much of a stretch to say he enjoys it. Is there any evidence that points to the contrary? A game doesn’t raise several million dollars through crowdfunding because most of its audience hates its primary method of gameplay. Even the new Torment’s audience was effectively split between TB and RtwP, as you bring up below. RtwP isn’t some alien thing that nobody likes, and it isn’t inconceivable that a dev with experience making games that utilizes that method would enjoy playing with that method. I’d even say that, all else being equal, he enjoys it too, unless there are statements to the contrary.

                Wasteland 2 was the Kickstarter project that showed Obsidian that there was a new market for them. W2 was turn-based, and highly successful. Obsidian could have launched a turn-based game if they wanted. They chose RtwP.

                Besides, even if he might enjoy a TB game MORE, it doesn’t follow that he DISLIKES RtwP. Enjoyment of one does not preclude enjoyment of the other.

          2. StashAugustine says:

            “…we didn’t Kickstart a game called Fuck You: Suck My Dick: Josh Sawyer’s Personal Dream RPG Experience where I do whatever I personally think is sound and neat and good. For better or worse, this was pitched as an IE-like game. ”
            -Josh Sawyer

            1. Supahewok says:

              The context for that particular quote was a discussion of PoE’s attribute system, not RtwP. A lot of stat crunchers got their underwear in a twist because Sawyer tried to balance the classic attributes differently.

              I’ll say this much: there were quite a few unpleasant folks in the forums during development. They’d wring their hands over every little detail that Sawyer give out, and were loud about it. One of the downsides of open development that successful Kickstarter devs don’t bring up is that it opens you up to all of the asshats on the internet who think they know how to make your game better than you do. You can really feel Sawyer’s frustration midway through the interview that quote’s from.

  9. I suspect that if you announce that you are powering through an episodic game, you will be joined by people who feel like you do. Try it sometime, I bet lots of people still want to play and talk about them.

    1. MichaelGC says:

      I tend to do this – I’m the same with TV programmes: always binge-watching boxsets and never catching them ‘live’ – and doing so highlights another potential problem with episodic games, quite apart from the conversationey aspect.

      They can often end up seeming rather disjointed if you do swallow them whole – developers can head off in unexpected directions in between episodes based on feedback, or story spoilers leaking, or just deciding a new tack would be better for whatever reason. This won’t always be the case, of course (and it’s not as if non-episodic games are immune from disjointedness!), but it has seemed to be something of an issue in all of the ones I’ve tried, to one degree or another. (And I’d imagine that playing them episodically, such that the previous abandoned tack isn’t so fresh in one’s mind, often tends to paper over this particular crack pretty well.)

      1. Humanoid says:

        Episodic adventure games: the sitcoms/soap operas (delete depending on genre) of video games.

  10. djw says:

    There are a lot of (IMO) really good games that were designed as Real-time with pause. I can tolerate this style, but I think each of these games would actually be better turn based. This includes:

    Pillars of Eternity
    Baldur’s Gate I and II
    Icewind Dale I and II
    Neverwinter Nights 1 and 2

    and probably a bunch I left out.

    I intentionally left Planescape: Torment off of the list because the combat is so absurdly easy in that game that you can just let the Nameless One autoattack to victory while you make a sandwich. Story is the reason to play that one.

    The top two on the list have such good stories that it might be worth playing them with the difficulty turned as low as it will go. Obsidian upgraded the companion AI when they released the expansion, so you can probably just let your murder committee act on its own in PoE while you just read the story bits.

    I can’t think of any reason for you to ever play Icewind Dale, since the story is not worth fighting the RTWP interface.

    Edit: Dragon Age probably belongs on that list as well. The Tactics interface for the first two did a good job of making real time with pause something you can tolerate without much pause even at high difficulty, but they completely screwed that up with Inquisition.

    1. Chris says:

      RTWP is much, much less than the sum of its parts. I’m happy to see that turn-based games are making a come back lately, but they’re still pretty niche. I’d love to see a huge exploration and story driven game like PoE or Planescape with decent turn-based combat. As far as I’m aware, Blackguards is the only thing close to that, though it’s most like the old gold box TSR games.

      Is Numenara RTWP as well?

      1. djw says:

        Blackguards is fun, once you get your head around the Dark Eye RPG its based around.

        Divinity Original Sin is also turn based, and quite good (IMO).

        Good question on Numenara, I’ll probably play it either way, but I’d prefer turn based.

        1. Humanoid says:

          Numenera: Torment had a Kickstarter backer vote for the preferred combat system. It was basically a tie (turn-based won by 1% or somesuch statistically insignificant number). Given that result, and because the devs were leaning towards turn-based already, they used their casting vote to make the game turn-based.

          1. djw says:

            Well, that is good to hear. Barring death or sudden irreversible poverty there was a 100% chance of me playing it anyway, but this improves the odds that I’ll enjoy.

        2. Chris says:

          All this time, I thought Divinity Original Sin was a Diablo-like. It sounds like I need to give it a closer look.

    2. WWWebb says:

      The trick is that all of those games based on the D&D rules really ARE turn based. If you pull up the console, you’ll see every character and monster get a turn each round. Most of them even have an option to auto-pause after every round.

      Of course, if you actually play them as turn-based, the combats take forever and there are lots of combats. RTWP just gives most of your characters a halfway decent AI so you can move things along.

      Speaking of D&D, Sword Coast Legends came out this year (free to play this weekend apparently) and I haven’t heard ANYTHING about it. Evil Spoiler Warning Idea: a 4 + 1 session of Sword Coast Legends with Josh as the DM.

      1. Stormkitten says:

        One of my friends got me Sword Coast Legends, and I’m really enjoying it. While it is real-time-with-pause, the easy difficulty is easy enough that I can just control my person in realtime, and only a very few combats have needed pausing/tactics.

        The voice acting is really good, even if the accents are all over the place. And the characters are keeping me entertained.

        Thanks for the heads-up about the free weekend.

      2. Humanoid says:

        Yeah, even though I’m a proponent of the pure turn-based approach, to be honest I’d likely find controlling a “standard” RPG party of four-to-six members to be just as tedious. I feel like I’ve outgrown party-based games in general: I now have a strong preference for purely single-character RPGs. Strictly independent followers like in New Vegas and Mass Effect are tolerable, but the moment I’m given the option to control them, it becomes a chore.

        Sure, party members in games like PoE and DA:O can be scripted to act independently, but in practice there’s a massive gulf between companions who can optionally behave independently, and those who are designed to do nothing but act independently. Maybe it’s because in the latter case, the companions tend to exist a bit outside of the rules and just end up as a passive damage bonus, making the game effectively single-character regardless of their presence.

        1. djw says:

          Independent party members come with downsides too. Specifically, when they stand stupidly in a doorway while you are desperately running from an imminent explosion.

          1. Humanoid says:

            Yeah, it’s one area where I’d be happy to give up some immersion and just let you clip through your companions. It’s a more expedient solution than the various alternatives, and besides, pushing away your companion with your chest, causing them to slide away slowly is hardly more immersive in the first place.

            Maybe I’ve just played too much WoW over the years. :P

            1. Timothy Coish says:

              Not letting you clip through your companions is like not letting the player pause the game to go to the bathroom. I know developers think it’s immersive, but we’re already yanked out of the experience anyway.

              1. djw says:

                Its not very immersive for your best friend in the wasteland to doom you to explody death by standing in the damn doorway.

          2. Wide And Nerdy says:

            It works pretty well in Mass Effect, I think because you fight mostly in linear environments so you can script the companion AI the same way you script the enemies.*

            I especially like it because I can still easily grab control when I need it. I tend to set my companions to just shoot and not use their abilities so I have them when needed. Control wise its basically like having one guy with three times as many powers to use on the bad guy. I usually don’t control their positioning, just their powers.

            *You can see how inept their AI is once you move them to open environments where you can’t cheat with scripting, as we saw in Dragon Age Inquisition (shiver).

            1. djw says:

              Inquisition would have been better with ME style companion control. If you keep your main character in focus the entire time you don’t notice how horrible the tactics cam is.

              Better yet would be to bring back the tactics programming from DA1 and DA2. Writing the mini-programs was part of the joy of the game.

        2. Timothy Coish says:

          Yes, I feel exactly the same. Until we get a control scheme where I can control my party members with my mind I’ll always prefer single player parties (or true multiplayer). Even independent companions is frustrating because they often do stupid things.

          I’ve been replaying one of my favourite games of all time: Star Ocean 2, and while I appreciate what they were going for the battle system is a mess at the hardest difficulty at the final bosses. It becomes a game of simultaneously managing 4 different party members who are supposedly autonomous.

      3. ehlijen says:

        The IE games may use internal ‘turns’, but that doesn’t make them turn based, at least not in the way most people use the phrase.

        Turn based is more than just ‘everyone takes a tiny break every three seconds’. Turn based means the player resolves actions one at a time and observes the enemies one at a time.
        Without that, with RTWP’s lumping it all into one concurrent stream, the player gains none of the ability to track what’s going on that turn based is supposed to provide and that puts an upper limit of how complex the game gets to be.

        KOTOR used RTWP about as well as it gets, it wasn’t very complex in tactics. Fallout Tactics has a realtime mode, it’s essentially unplayable due the system and controls being too complex (and it’s not that deep a turn based game either).

        The fact is, that the IE games inherited a combat system that was too complex for real time, but too slow in anything else for the amount of combat they wanted to cram into it. I believe the Baldur’s gates would have been even more beloved if they’d ditched their parent system and just embraced either a XCOM style turn based game with some complexity or a MechCommander style RTS system with greatly simplified rules.

        1. Humanoid says:

          It’d be a simultaneous turn system, which appears now and then in various games, but not as far as I know in D&D.

        2. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Turn based with pause DOES allow you to observe both your and your enemys actions one at at time.In fact,if you fight a single enemy 1 on 1 while low level,you can even do it without pausing.The problem comes later,when the number of enemies and skills become so large that every turn is less than a second long.Technically you can still play it turn based then by ticking all of the autopause options,but it will turn a 10 second combat into a 10 minute slog.

          So it IS turn based,but the turns are waaay short in universe(less than a second),while being waaay long outside universe,unless you let them roll out naturally.

          HOWEVER,with good ai scripts,you can easily have this system work well by just preplanning everything and letting the ai handle the combat for you,while pausing and intervening yourself only in case of something unexpected(your guys get critted).This is why dragon age origins was praised so much,because it allowed you to program the ai for everyone to the smallest of details.Pillars….it doesnt have that really.But you can crank the difficulty down and achieve (almost) the same effect.

          1. ehlijen says:

            RTwP does not let me observe one party members actions and their outcomes at a time, it forces me to watch them all at once. That makes it significantly more effort requiring to analyse whether a given action is a good one for a given character.

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              Not true.Even though it seems they go simultaneously,they still go one after the other depending on their initiative.So you technically can observe everyone one at a time,it just requires you to either distinguish stuff that are less than a second apart,or have the game pause after every action.

              1. ehlijen says:

                You mean if I pause after every frame and try to peek through the many spell effect graphics?

                I don’t find that nearly as fun as just playing XCOM or ToEE instead. In those games I would seek out combat, in the infinity games, I’d try to avoid it if it sneaking wasn’t such a terrible option.

    3. Merlin says:

      Oh god, the Tactics interface in Dragon Age. That actually felt worse than normal RTWP to me; it was like the devs saying “If you think our AI sucks, let’s see you do any better!” And… you win guys. You win. All the unhelpfulness of normal AI settings, with none of the ease of use. I never did figure out if the Tactics worked a sequence (1 -> 2 -> 3 -> 4) or a hierarchy (1 ELSE 2 ELSE 3 ELSE 4).

      1. guy says:

        Pretty sure it’s a hierarchy. I got frustrated with it because it didn’t let me stack conditionals and I couldn’t get Morrigan/Merril to stop trying to explode the blood of monsters who didn’t have any blood.

        1. Humanoid says:

          DA:O also inexplicably tied companion AI scripts to skill points. That’s like, to quote Rutskarn in my favourite episode of Spoiler Warning, “making a perk that allows you to save the game”.

          1. Wide And Nerdy says:

            New Vegas right? Wasn’t that in reference to the perk that lets you fast travel when encumbered? Maybe the Courier was just learning how to zone out for longer stretches of time.

            Skyrim handled that better by letting you fast travel encumbered when you were on a horse.

            1. guy says:

              It was during A Night On The Town, when Josh stole The Silver Rush and sold it to the Gun Runners.

            2. Humanoid says:

              Specifically Episode 14: A Night on the Town – easily my most-watched Spoiler Warning episode.

              (I should have put the last part of the quote, “the game” in square brackets because he didn’t actually say them)

              1. Wide And Nerdy â„¢ says:

                Rewatching now. I can see why it might be your favorite. Shamus normally needs at least three or four articles to reveal this many nested layers of stupidity in a game.

          2. djw says:

            They (correctly) ditched that in DA2, but even when it was tied to skill points it wasn’t really that bad. Skill points were only barely useful in DA:O (unlike talent points) so spending a few on tactics wasn’t that big a deal. Also, you only really needed it on your healer to be sure that you had a decent heal rotation set up.

      2. djw says:

        It starts at the top of the list and then runs until it executes an action, and then it goes back to the top and starts again.

        As a programming language its barely functional, but you could at least get the dummies to heal themselves and others at “mostly” appropriate times, and leave the really important cooldowns to you.

    4. Galad says:

      Heh. I’m currently playing Planescape Torment of all things possible, and my Nameless One just switched to mage. I hope the combat is indeed as easy as you describe. Somewhat funny I end up progressing more in Torment than in PoE.

      No definite word yet on Numenara’s release?

      As for Shamus’ list, Tales of the Borderlands is a pretty easy meal to get through, to the point that Claptrap exclaims near the end of the game something to the effect that this is a cheerful, jovial story and it would not do for it to end up on a sad note.

      1. Zekiel says:

        If you’re a mage, the combat becomes VERY easy indeed. (As long as you don’t fight some stupidly-hard optional monsters in an area you have no reason to go to.)

        Also the story becomes about 50% more interesting (and its very interesting by default) if you have a character with a high Intelligence (which is likely if you’re a mage) and Wisdom.

      2. djw says:

        I may have exaggerated a bit, but the combat really is very basic in that game. Tactically, it is the most primitive of the IE engine games.

        The story more than makes up for that. Its one of the few games I’ve played where I thought that trivial combat actually made it better.

        1. Chris says:

          I hated the combat in Planescape Torment. It was spastic, spammy, and braindead. If there was any element of tactics to it, I never picked up on it. The combat in that game was tedious, and I avoided it whenever possible. Everything else about the game was amazing.

  11. Merlin says:

    Undertale draws heavily from the old 2D RPG's of the mid 90s: Chrono Trigger, Earthbound, Final Fantasy IV, etc.

    Having been a console kid up until around the time of Half Life 2… yeah those are all pretty strikingly different from each other, Fight/Item/Magic/Run routine aside. Not trying to nag, just kind of amused since it feels like me trying to offhandedly compare something to Thief, System Shock, and Wolfenstein 3D.

    Nitpicking aside, if you’re not feeling it, you’re not feeling it. I’m not terribly good at keeping up with the audio content, but as one last stab towards its relevance: it has a tremendous amount of Spec Ops in its DNA to go along with the Earthbound. And even as someone who really enjoyed Spec Ops, I found Undertale’s meta elements way more effective and better at bolstering the in-game story. (Admittedly it benefits significantly from the charm factor that you mention not feeling.)

    So yes, if you didn’t enjoy it, that’s disappointing. But just as a heads up, if you do ever feel like trundling through it, you’ll at least net a couple thinkpieces out of the deal. :D

  12. Spammy says:

    It’s okay Shamus, you don’t have to play Undertale. Thanks to the magic of the Internet, you’re going to know everything about it by virtue of everyone else yammering on about it.

  13. Humanoid says:

    It’s pretty close to my positions on a lot of those titles. And this is from someone who indeed has not watched Galaxy Quest, Star Wars, all but maybe a couple episodes of Star Trek, and none of those JRPGs.

    Pillars of Eternity is an interesting case because I knew from the outset of the Kickstarter that they were fundamentally doing something I’ve outgrown. I used to love Baldur’s Gate 2 for example but would never play it today – I still consider it a good game, but that’s in spite of its engine, not because of it. So when PoE was quite explicitly marketed as a “spiritual successor” (I’m growing weary of that term nowadays), that aspect did not appeal at all. Which perhaps might make it strange that I backed it to the tune of about $300, but whatever. I don’t hate RTWP to the extent that I’ll never play it, I’m just, erm, indefinitely delaying. My current excuse is that I’m waiting for the second part of the expansion to be released. I’ve been an active member of the Black Isle/Obsidian community since 2002 so I’m happy to support them even through projects with lesser personal appeal.

    I also haven’t gotten through any episodic release game, the closest perhaps being Tales of Monkey Island, of which I played two or three episodes. I think a large part of it is my active distaste for the episodic business model. I think it’s a cynical excuse: a cheap way to create more linear, less coherent, less interactive, less good games. Maybe for the early days of Telltale as a game studio this was acceptable, but I can’t shake the feeling that these days it’s done out of laziness. There’s even less excuse for the bigger development houses that are following suit, it’s nonsense.

    On Undertale: As soon as I heard that there was a peaceful approach, I knew that playing any other route would be punished with a bad, or at least, less good ending. Then I looked up the Wikipedia article and confirmed it. That kind of soured me on the game, because once you establish that kind of narrative, then any protest that “hey you can play this game any way you want” rings rather hollow. There is a “right way” to play the game, and that’s disappointing.

    1. Roland Jones says:

      That’s not really how Undertale pitches itself, though, but how a lot of its players try to pitch it because it’s hard to put what makes it good into words. The closest the actual advertisements for the game come to that is calling it a game “where you don’t have to destroy anyone”, which is accurate; one of the many neat things about it is that it, unlike almost every other game nowadays, takes killing things for granted. You’re getting disappointed over it not being a thing it never claimed to be.

      1. Humanoid says:

        I’m not aware of how the devs actually pitched or marketed the game because I only became aware of the game itself fairly recently (likely through here). I didn’t mean to say it was sold as such, just that it the mere presence of the “options” and their outcomes felt completely predictable and inevitable.

        Most players want to have their game end in the “good” outcome, so there in that sense there is definitely a “right way” to play.

        1. Roland Jones says:

          Well, perhaps. It’s hard to go into details without spoiling things, though. But, the “worst” route, i.e. “kill literally everyone”, is just as valid as the other routes and even has some content not available elsewhere (and some of the best writing and characterization in the game), among other things. Saving everyone and whatnot brings the ending where everyone is happiest, true, but it’s kind of hard for that to not be the case; no one’s life is going to be better off because you killed them.

          And it’s not just not killing anyone that’s part of the best ending, just a prerequisite, as the events that set up said ending require everyone to be alive. There’s a bit more to it than that, and it’s actually pretty neat and clever how it works out, though getting into that is pretty spoilery.

          1. Humanoid says:

            Like Spec Ops (a game I admittedly never played either), it just ends up feeling that the game is moralising at me. “Violence is bad mmmkay?” Well okay, got it – what’s the next point?

            I get the feeling the game would just irritate me no end so I’m purposely avoiding it. Hell, DXHR irritated me for making the pacifist options give so much more XP, which translated directly into more augmented shenanigans, and that’s a minor impact for taking the “good” route, comparatively. Dishonored did it even more nakedly, but that game was too boring to finish anyway.

            I don’t mind games giving smart, discrete, and realistic outcomes for their endings. Fallout’s ending slides are a great example, your actions may have led to some crappy outcomes for certain groups. But maybe that was a group you hated, so you delight in that outcome which you engineered, be in intentionally or otherwise. In contrast to that approach are the games with the binary outcomes of “yay, good route, everyone is happy” versus “you stuffed up, now the world sucks for everyone including yourself”. Subtle as a sledgehammer. It’s far more interesting for your actions to result in some winners and some losers rather than an extreme everyone-wins versus everyone-loses scenario.

            1. Roland Jones says:

              Well, among other things, Undertale does not give EXP for pacifism; if you want to spare everyone, you need to make it through the whole game at LV 1. It’s the second-hardest way to play the game (there are some harder bosses in another route, but that’s it); if you want to take the high road, there’s some effort involved.

              Also, the various “neutral” endings, i.e. killing some people but not others (the various bosses and random enemies all factor in here, plus there’s one for doing things a certain way up until a certain point) are actually pretty varied. It’s not completely binary; the “true” ending comes about by a specific chain of events that only happens if you, among other things, don’t kill anyone, it’s not just “you were a nice person so you got the best ending”. It’s a plot branch unto itself, in fact, for reasons that are, again, rather spoilery.

              1. Humanoid says:

                Yeah, the Wikipedia article is a reasonably comprehensive spoiler, so I do know what you’re talking about. There are a lot of things I appreciate about what it tries to do, but it also cements my opinion that it’s a game that’d do nothing but irritate me, and if I ever played it I’d likely intentionally mess up out of spite for the game.

                Hell, if the “kill everyone” path resulted in a shitty outcome for everyone *except* me that might be fine. Maybe I do want to play a Cuftbertian sociopath. But the way it is right now just reminds me of the worst excesses of indie self-affirming navel-gazing in the least subtle way possible.

                1. Merlin says:

                  The kill-everyone path isn’t a shitty outcome for you if you set the game aside afterwards. (And even the “kill all named NPCs” and “kill all NPCs actively trying to murder children” paths net pretty good endings for everyone.) Undertale’s commentary on games is more about the ethics of non-engagement than of violence.

            2. Wray92 says:

              It’s not like Undertale was created to point out that killing people is wrong. That lesson’s been around for quite a while.

              Like Spec Ops, Undertale is interested in how we take killing for granted in video games. If that’s not a theme you’re interested in, that’s fine.

              But take the slide-show endings from Fallout 3 and New Vegas. There’s nothing in there that mentions the hundreds of nameless, faceless raiders your character mowed down just because they were there. There’s no system that lets you get them to surrender, to turn them in to New Vegas or the NCR, whatever. If you’re serious about “role playing,” then you should imagine those raiders as characters, with hard lives that brought them to that point, etc. But you can kill as many of them as you want and still be a paragon of justice.

              Then there’s grinding in traditional RPGs, where your hero basically just goes out to find people or animals they can kill for money and power.

              The difference between Undertale and Spec Ops is that Spec Ops says the only way to win is to turn off the game. Undertale is designed so that you can complete it without killing. The thematic question is basically: “If you’re roleplaying as a traditional hero, don’t you have a moral imperative to avoid killing except as a last resort?” If you look at other games with that question in mind, you can see some really interesting RPG tropes that we usually just take for granted. If you’re like me, you normally choose to be nice in Bethesda games. You also kill every bandit in sight and steal everything that’s not nailed down.

              There’s a lot going on there under the surface. But if you’re not interested in the game, nothing wrong with that. It is what it is.

              1. Humanoid says:

                Perhaps it’d be indicative if I say upfront that my archetypal character in basically any RPG is the thief. Not the watered down “rogue” – screw that meaningless word – I play an unapologetic Thief with a capital ‘T’. Incidentally this is probably why Fallout 4 isn’t doing it for me at all, there’s no real way to reconcile the character I want to play within the background you’re saddled with. Anyway, the point is that I do not go out to play a hero, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to ensure a good outcome for my character.

                In that context I think you’ll be able to see why I resent games that set it up such that roleplaying this character guarantees a bad outcome for them. What is the message here? That I’m playing a bad person means I deserve a bad fate because karma, regardless of what would be the realistic outcome? Frankly I find this kind of idealistic nonsense to be just as stupid as the opposite approach criticised by these games. Neither extreme makes for a believable or compelling narrative.

                1. Roland Jones says:

                  Okay, you’re going into this with a lot of preconceived notions and projecting onto the game hard. It’s not like what you’re saying at all.

                  1. Humanoid says:

                    I think Spec Ops set me off a bit there. Unlike Undertale it doesn’t even have even semi-passable gameplay to fall back on. But yeah, I have not and will not play Undertale so it’s probably pointless to pursue this line of enquiry any further.

      2. Ninety-Three says:

        If “where you don't have to destroy anyone” is the pitch, I think I understand why I was completely underwhelmed by Undertale. I didn’t want to avoid destroying anyone. Murder was easier, faster, more mechanically rewarding, and narratively the game convinced me that all the monsters should be murdered.

        Most of the monsters attempt to kill you on sight and won’t relent once you make it clear that you’re not interested in fighting. The bosses get even more messed up, like Toriel who wants to lock you in her house (plus tiny ruins area) for the rest of your life like this is Stephen King’s Misery.

        I still treated it as a game where you take violence for granted, because yes there is an option to not be violent, but it’s an option I had no reason to exercise.

        1. Humanoid says:

          I’m wondering now if it’d be better narratively if the “best” outcome was a mix between killing some monsters and sparing others. It’d introduce some actual decision-making to the game where you actually have to think each engagement through, rather than accepting the dogma that pacifism is always the correct option.

          1. Ninety-Three says:

            Yeah. Most of the monsters are bloodthirsty kill-on-sight aggro machines, and of those that aren’t, most of the rest will still force you into combat when you want something they don’t. The monsters are violent, bad, well monsters and it’s frustrating that the game’s implicit message is that you ought to be going out of your way to keep all of them alive.

            1. Deda says:

              If you try to come to an agreement with the monsters it becomes clear that they never really wanted to hurt you, they attack you because they have been in war against humans for a very long time and they are afraid of what will happen if they show mercy and you don’t.

              The game does not blame you for defending yourself, attacking you is what the monsters are supposed to do and killing them in self-defense is what you are supposed to do, nobody is evil for being caught in a war, but humans and monster have been enemies for centuries and the underworld is a bad place, you cannot expect things to get better if you simply do what you are supposed to do, but if you go out of your way to spare your enemies you can show how kindness can overcome hatred and fear which is the point of the pacifist route.

          2. Roland Jones says:

            It wouldn’t; Ninety-Three’s point is only tenuously linked to anything that actually happens in the game. The spoilered part, for instance, is deliberately twisted; the character in question doesn’t want you to leave because the previous humans who arrived were killed by one of the few characters who does mean you harm, and she doesn’t want him to kill you. The problem is that you can’t leave the Underground without going past/through him, which she believes would be a death sentence for you. Of course, you can actually convince her to let you through without killing her. Which, you know, would be the reasonable response in anything that isn’t a video game. She’s not perfect, no, but trying to make her out to be a horror villain or pretty much anything else in that comment is kind of ridiculous.

            1. Ninety-Three says:

              It would be the reasonable response when dealing with someone who had not just attempted to incinerate you for disagreeing with them. Toriel fires the first shot, escalating things from a verbal disagreement to a lethal fight, and she won’t stop attacking if you talk to her. She went from conversation to firebreathing homicidal rage, there is no reasonable person who would talk instead of either fleeing or fighting in self-defense.

              1. Axebird says:

                It is impossible for Toriel to kill you unless you choose to move into her shots at low health to commit suicide. She intentionally misses you to avoid any real harm, and even explains that she wants you to prove you’re strong enough to survive. Please stop lying about the game.

                1. Ninety-Three says:

                  She escalated a disagreement from words to violence and lethal dragonfire, and she takes the first shot if you open with Mercy. Your character wanting to leave leads directly to her attempting to set you on fire, and showing her mercy doesn’t result in her immediately ceasing her attempts to burn you, as it should with any person not currently attempting to commit murder. Please stop calling me a liar when I’m stating observably true things.

                  1. Wray92 says:

                    She’s basically just trying to scare you off. The attacks will avoid you completely if there’s any danger of them killing you. It’s an easy thing to miss if you end the fight too quickly or don’t get low on HP, though.

                    Anyway, once you’ve played enough to understand where the monsters are coming from, there really *are* no bad guys. I’ve always thought that’s the mark of a good story.

                    If you didn’t like the game for itself, that’s fine. But there’s a lot of backlash just because it’s been so popular, which I think is kinda sad.

                  2. FuzzyWasHe? says:

                    While you might not be lying what you’re saying isn’t true. Toriel is incapable of killing the player because once you get to a tiny amount of HP her attacks start to swerve out of your way so you couldn’t die on them even if you wanted to.

                    1. Ninety-Three says:

                      As Axebird acknowledged, you can die in the fight, therefore it’s a lethal fight as I said. Even granting that she’s pulling her punches, don’t you see how messed up it is for her to try to win the “You should stay here” argument by pretending to try to kill you, and definitely injuring you in the process? That’s obsessive kidnapper levels of crazy.

                    2. Deda says:

                      The chance of her killing you is really just an easter egg, and the reason she wants to stop you from leaving is because she is certain that you’ll die if you do (and can you blame her when she has seen it happen 6 times?).

                      She fights you to show you what will happen when you leave, she never has any intention of actually hurting you, and if you keep insisting that you want to leave she eventually lets you (something I cannot imagine an obsessive kidnapper doing).

                      Seriously, it’s very clear what the game is trying to say that is going on there and everything that happens in the story reinforces it, there is no reason to invent an alternate interpretation that clearly does not work.

                    3. FuzzyWasHe? says:

                      I don’t care what Axebird said, I’ve seen that fight played over and over again and I am telling you that it is not possible to die on that fight. It either ends with the player solving the puzzle, or them killing Toriel because she cannot finish you off when you’re at low HP.

                2. SlothfulCobra says:

                  Incidentally, this whole spoilered conversation? It’s all pertaining to events that happen in the demo. Often, that would qualify as safe territory to talk about, but because there’s elements of complexity and some mildly unexpected aspects, everybody’s paranoid about preserving the virgin experience for fresh players, they feel like they can only dance around the issue outside of spoiler tags.

                  Undertale is the KING of “I can’t tell you why, but this game’s great and will blow your mind if you just hang in there and slog through to the finish” and that’s reason enough to have a grudge against it.

                  1. Wray92 says:

                    Why do you “hold a grudge” for that? Serious question. I’m having a hard time understanding. From my perspective, it’s just courtesy toward other commenters to avoid spoilers for a game that came out a couple months ago.

            2. Humanoid says:

              And that’d be one of the fights in the hypothetically rejiggered game where not killing them and talking it out instead would be justifiably the right choice. The problem arises when it’s always the right choice, every time.

              I suppose the other issue is one of perception. There’s no obvious indicator distinction between a not-really-malicious “attack” made by a misunderstood monster, and an outright aggressive one. This is more down to how the “combat” system is designed though, and creates a case of, wait for it… Ludonarrative Dissonance where something that mightn’t be intended to and might not realistically kill you results in a game over anyway, because you lost a minigame.

              1. Ninety-Three says:

                The issue with that is that she’s trying to kill you over a verbal disagreement. That is one of the many scenarios where it is entirely reasonable to use lethal self-defense. It turns out she’s pulling her punches and won’t deal the killing blow but that is completely unclear to the player and the implications of that are still Misery levels of dark. She’s not going to kill you, she’s just using threats of lethal force and actual physical violence in order to prevent you leaving her home. Which is pretty much exactly Misery.

                1. Shoeboxjeddy says:

                  It’s nothing like Misery because the attacker in Misery wasn’t trying to “protect” the character. It was a bad action done for a bad cause. This is arguably a bad action done for a cause you could defend.

        2. Roland Jones says:

          This is a really obtuse way of looking at it, and also not really accurate. The game even explicitly says most of the monsters don’t realize that you’re human, and that what they’re doing is not meant to hurt you; a book even references monsters sending each other “bullet pattern birthday cards”. The “attacks” of some monsters include things like flexing and telling really bad jokes; they only hurt you because monsters are magic and you’re not. Outside of a few specific things, no one is trying to kill you. It’s like you’re deliberately misinterpreting the game almost.

          1. Humanoid says:

            On the other hand, you use terms such as “some” and “most” in your comment. But the game’s best outcome is to spare “all”. There is no subtlety there at all, just pushing a barrow that they’d have decided on before most of the writing was even done.

            1. Roland Jones says:

              It isn’t though, which you would know if you had played the game. Now you’re stating things you’ve assumed as if they were facts, which makes it feel like you’re not being genuine here.

            2. Phrozenflame500 says:

              Normally I’d agree with you, but I think it’s worth pointing out that most of the game’s “spare everything” philosophy revolves around one very simple and very spoilery fact: saving your game, and loading when you die is an in-universe superpower of your character

              The game actually accepts during the requisite moral “judging” scene that self-defense is a valid excuse for violence for someone in your situation. But since saving and loading makes you functionally immortal it questions whether or not you have that excuse since you’re never in any actual danger.

              1. Roland Jones says:

                Besides this (which is very important to the game), the game doesn’t really judge you, so much as acknowledge what you’ve done. There’s no “you’re a terrible person for playing this game this way” or anything in there; some of the characters don’t like you, understandably, but the game itself doesn’t moralize at you at all. None of the endings are even “bad” for you; they’re actually quite like the Fallout comparison earlier, with your actions having changed the underground for better or for worse in the various “neutral” endings and the different people being alive or dead having various effects.

                The other two endings are their own things, for obvious reasons, but in the case of the “good” ending it’s the result of you not only not killing anyone, but going out of your way to help people and make friends and also get involved in special plot stuff that doesn’t happen on the other routes. Getting mad about it being the “best” ending, when it requires effort above and beyond all the others, besides possibly the one where you hunt down every single person you can, doesn’t make sense. Of course it’s the “best”, you worked for that ending in what was likely an active attempt to make things better/help people out. It’d ring hollow if all that effort meant nothing.

                Humanoid’s arguments are against a constructed image of Undertale rather than what the game actually contains, and while my usual advice to people who haven’t played the game and are assuming things about it that aren’t true is to just try the game or at least the free demo, I think here the preconceived notions are too strong and would color things too much, making for a self-fulfilling prophecy. (Not to say there aren’t things to dislike about the game; I can understand people not really getting into it and all. Just, what’s being said here makes it really blatant that Humanoid read a bit about it and extrapolated wildly from there.)

                1. Ninety-Three says:

                  I played part of the game, and after quitting I went and looked up the endings, including reading through the full ending flowchart thing. How good your ending is directly proportional to how much of a pacifist you are. Kills are likely to lead towards an ending where the underground is either in terrible anarchy, ruled by someone clearly evil, or everyone is depressed and lacking hope (often several of the above). Kills in general make it more likely you’ll get an ending prominently featuring a character hating your guts, and as much as you make the distinction between characters and the game itself, it’s hard not to read some judgement into it when the last minute of the game is a recap that ends with Papyrus obliviously guilt-tripping you for some of your murders, or lines like “never come back here. you are not welcome.” or “all the people you killed. hope that was a good experience for you. just kidding. i don’t really hope that. go to hell.”

                  1. Wray92 says:

                    But I think it’s kinda disingenuous to complain about that. If your choice is either murder or ending conflict peacefully, it should be obvious that the second option is going to lead to a better outcome for everyone involved. In at least 99% of cases.

                    And as for the character reactions when you’ve killed someone, it would be character-breaking for them to do anything otherwise. Sans tells you to go to hell if you’ve killed his brother. Is he supposed to just be cool with that? You’re told that you’re not welcome in the Underground if you’ve killed a number of monsters. Are they supposed to just welcome you back with open arms? The endings aren’t delivering some kind of heavy-handed Aesop. They’re just showing the natural consequences of your decisions.

                  2. Merlin says:

                    How good your ending is directly proportional to how much of a pacifist you are.

                    That is absolutely not true. For one, the protagonist ends up A-OK mission accomplished in every single ending except for a Genocide run in which you change your mind at the very, very last moment. If you maintain your position that these obviously homicidal monsters deserve to die, large amounts of violence may leave the underground in turmoil (which is directly in line with how you played the game) OR it may lead to an ending with the exact line “Strangely, this is the best life for everyone.” On the other hand, modest amounts of violence, depending on when and how you deployed them, may lead to a happily-ever-after, individual feelings of betrayal but no actual hostility, the suicide of a major NPC, or a coup within the underworld.

                    There’s also a fair bit of darkness to ALL of the endings (including the full blown Pacifist one) that you can only learn about by way of a Genocide playthrough. It is emphatically not a less murder=everything better kind of game.

                    On a different note, it is utterly bizarre to me that, in a game whose biggest selling point is a system to resolve conflict peacefully, you entered with a mentality of murdering everything. If anything, the biggest issue I’ve seen with how folks have experienced Undertale is going in explicitly Mercy-ing everything and missing out on some of the interesting elements as a result.

                    1. Ninety-Three says:

                      “Strangely, it seems this is the best life for everyone” is a joke ending in which a dog becomes king and somehow fixes the underground despite doing nothing. It also happens only with exactly four kills, hardly “large amounts of violence” as you describe.

                      While the protagonist always gets out alive, “everyone in the underground is despressed and without hope” or “The underground is redoubling its efforts to break out and destroy all humans” or “The underground is ruled by an insane narcissist” are clearly bad endings compared to those things not happening. There’s only one high-violence ending that doesn’t leave the underground in a clearly bad state (Alphys ending), whereas low violence, don’t kill several particular characters gets you the “Toriel as queen” ending where all the characters talk to you and pure pacifism has the “best” ending.

                      I didn’t enter with any particular mentality. I decided to murder things because the game rewarded murder with more XP than pacifism, because I disliked the combat and would do anything to get through it faster, and because it didn’t make any sense to murder a bunch of monsters who are trying to murder me.

                    2. Merlin says:

                      So your stance is that it’s okay that that ending doesn’t fit the model you’re describing because it’s easier to just not count it. Okay? (Incidentally, that ending corresponds to the fastest way through the game since it’s way faster to run from random battles than to fight them.)

                      I’m really not sure what else you could have wanted out of the endings. When your actions show a complete disinterest (or straight up antipathy) in the fate of NPCs, using their ultimate fates as a metric of “goodness” makes negative sense. I mean, if you consider Toriel a horrible cretin, is her being thrown from power (or dead by your very hand) a bad ending? If you think the monsters are bloodthirsty savages, is them being mired in anarchy or paralyzed with depression a bad ending? You’re moving the goalposts all over the place.

                    3. Wray says:

                      @Ninety Three:

                      Again, for the monsters the best ending is where you don’t kill any of them. For your character specifically, the ending doesn’t change no matter what (except regarding your relationship with the monsters). I don’t understand what you’re proposing to do to change that.

                      If you don’t care about the monsters, it shouldn’t matter to you that they got a bad ending. If you do care what happens to them, that’s what the game was going for. That’s how a lot of people played the game–killing on the first round, then realizing maybe XP and levels shouldn’t have been the ultimate goal.

          2. Ninety-Three says:

            I would have to go back to the game to check specifics, but I got far enough into the game to be past Toriel, and I don’t remember seeing any of the stuff you’re talking about (except perhaps that they don’t realize I’m human, which is only useful in the context of the other information). I was quite thoroughly convinced that all these monsters were going out of their way to murder me.

            1. guy says:

              Haven’t played it myself, but from what I’ve heard from other people who had, if you don’t kill the monsters they may subsequently talk to you and explain this sort of thing.

            2. Merlin says:

              That is okay, and in some ways even encouraged by the game’s design. It’s sneaky, especially in the lead up to Toriel and how the fight plays out. Undertale really is not about “ho ho ho you killed somebody look at this jerkbag.” I think that there is some specific reference to monsters not meaning harm in the ruins (and I mean, there’s a candy bowl and a bake sale going on) but some of the info is definitely in Snowdin and Waterfall.

            3. Roland Jones says:

              Nope. The library in Snowdin is where the book I mentioned is, and just after Snowdin, for one of the biggest non-aggressive monsters, you meet a monster who is actually deliberately avoiding you, Shyren. Her “attacks” are her singing because she’s, well, a siren, and her voice is unsafe to humans. She also doesn’t actually sing unless you encourage her to, because she’s, you know, shy. Encouraging her to sing (and dodging the subsequent “bullets”) cheers her up and stuff, but you can literally just walk away from her during the encounter, and you’ll never see her again. The thing is less that monsters are evil, and more that they’re, like… Imagine there was another sapient species here, like cactus people or people made of fire or something, trying to hug you. No, them hugging you isn’t particularly desirable for you, but at the same time shooting them in the face instead of trying to reach a peaceable agreement with them and letting them know that’s not a good idea would be a rather extreme response. (Tangent, one of the later enemies is in fact a miniature living volcano. You can hug it. It really appreciates it but it’s probably not the best decision on your part.)

              A few of the monsters, such as the royal guard, are trying to get you, but, well, that’s their job; the king wants them to capture any humans, because, well, that whole war where the humans locked the monsters underground and stuff. Also, tangent, but if you made it to Papyrus, he literally cannot kill you. Him defeating you in combat will have him “capture” you, which is pretty easy to escape from, because he doesn’t want to actually hurt you. If you lose to him three times he even just lets you leave; even though his goal requires capturing you, he puts that aside for your sake. Heck, Toriel tries not to kill you as well; if your health gets too low her bullets will outright move away from you, even if you chase them, though she can kill you if you manage to maneuver “correctly”, which results in her having a horrified expression before the Game Over screen.

        3. Vect says:

          The thing is that Toriel is not trying to kill you. She’s trying to goad you into attacking to show her that you are strong enough to survive in the outside world. She hurts you enough for you to take her seriously as a threat but deliberately pulls her punches. The way to win is to show her that under no circumstances do you wish to hurt her, which will eventually get her to realize what she’s doing and let you go.

  14. AileTheAlien says:

    For anyone who wants to play Armikrog, I’d recommend checking the patch list before you get it. It had bad bugs with not playing sound. Sounds/music being such a core to the experience, it made the game feel (when I played it) very lackluster. I’ve got a review of the game up on GoG, BTW. :)

  15. Abnaxis says:

    Also, Guild Wars 2 got an expansion. Pretty sure I’m the only one on d20 who still plays…

    1. Disc says:

      I still play it, though I never got in the guild and I’ve grown somewhat disillusioned with the expansion. The legendary weapon crafting turned out to be yet another crazy fucking expensive grind just to craft the first tier of the precursor weapon and I’m not sure I want to keep going with it at this point. And don’t get me started on Scribe (new crafting profession). It’s like Anet thinks everyone has too much money or something.

      Haven’t been to raids yet, but with most everything else turning out more or less boring and/or depressing it’s been kinda hard to go get excited about them.

      1. Ringwraith says:

        They’re time and money sinks and meant to go on for a looong stretch of time.
        Not designed to be done in a week, but made so you can make smaller amounts of progress here and there rather than having to get lucky or just save up a ton of money to buy one off the trading post. (As you still have to make the things after getting the precursor).

        I play, not been doing oodles lately, and I mostly started because someone I know asked me to, meaning I’m in a casual guild of just people on a NA server.

        Although they don’t design things to be enjoyed by absolutely everyone. I don’t really go near World v World much.
        It’s like how they introduced 10-man ‘raids’ and they’re often DPS races and that’s just a bit rubbish, really, if you like the way other dungeons/fractals tended to work instead, anyway.

        Basically I’m a casual PvE person, and the new areas have some setups for that. Evolutions of the rolling events of the Silverwastes and Dry Top and such.

        1. Disc says:

          “They're time and money sinks and meant to go on for a looong stretch of time.”

          That’s the thing. I’ve already spent a lot of time and materials working my way through their freaking time and resource sinks. The way they described the legendary crafting system before release of the expansion made it sound like it would make it easier to get hold of a precursor, so you can actually start the process of making a legendary. Which is expensive enough on its own. But as it turns out, with just the costs of the first tier, I could have bought the actual precursor for cheaper than what it costs in resources spent. And even if you do have the ridiculous amount of materials you need, it’ll take a minimum of 30 days because Anet thought it’d be hilarious to let you craft the needed items only once per day. When I find myself already bored with the regular PvE content and only really do dailies at this point, I’m in a situation where I would have to soon start grinding like hell for materials or god forbid spend hundreds of gold to buy the crap I need just to get somewhere. For playing only PvE, I find there’s very little meaningful progression left otherwise at this point to pursue other than getting better gear and there’s not much left I can do with the ascended stuff.

          TL;DR The one thing that had any promise turns out be another fucking wash. First world problems, I know, but I’m annoyed, so I rant.

          1. Ringwraith says:

            I’m pretty sure precursors are not cheaper to buy, unless it happens to be one of the few that no-one wants.
            Otherwise people will immediately buy up the cheaper ones and re-list them.

            Thing is, at the end of the day, it’s cosmetic tat. It’s not really an addition to the PvE in so much as it’s fixing a problem the game always had in that normally the only way to get those items was get extraordinarily lucky, as it’d have to be you wanted as well.

            Still gotta put in the work/money into making the things legendary after that. It didn’t get any cheaper after the precursor step.

            The real PvE addition was more places to go skin-hunting with rolling event cycles.

            1. Disc says:

              Last time I checked I could have gotten it for around 40G cheaper than the full investment in mats. The prices do change all the time though so who knows. But that’s really beside the point. It’s stupidly expensive either way and it’s bullshit all the same.

              “Thing is, at the end of the day, it's cosmetic tat.”

              So? Nothing you ever do or have really means anything in most games beyond the fact that it’s something you did or have in the game, if you really wanna get philosophical. Any value you think it has or get out of it is most of the time strictly personal. Getting a legendary was just a goal I set for myself for lack of a better one. I wanted to hunt it since for the first time it seemed like something reasonable. If I had motivation oozing out of every pore, then maybe I could go back to do something I’m not already bored to death of, but like I already said, there is none (of either).

              “Still gotta put in the work/money into making the things legendary after that. It didn't get any cheaper after the precursor step.”

              I already said it’s expensive on its own, what’s your point?

              1. Ringwraith says:

                Legendaries are incredibly long-term goals, unless you’re playing the trading post flipping game on an industrious scale and just buy ’em with your stacks of cash.

                They’re certainly not the ‘end-game’ of PvE stuff. They’re just there for the highly dedicated, and no-one else. It’s not like they keep throwing out various different special skin sets for weapons.
                They’ve basically made legendaries a bit more involved and themed rather than just “ooh, look what random item I found”. Although that system still exists for the old ones.

                Certainly not meant to be the only thing the game’s played for. It’s no point if you aren’t having fun on the way.

                1. Disc says:

                  I still don’t get why the hell you’re trying to lecture me. I thought I’ve made it clear that I’m well aware of how the game works.

                  Sometimes bitching is just bitching and maybe I’m just exaggerating some of it because I wanted to vent a little. I don’t need you to play dad on me, thank you very much.

                  “They're certainly not the “˜end-game' of PvE stuff. They're just there for the highly dedicated, and no-one else.”

                  Like I freaking said in so many ways already, I’ve got not much else to do at this point in time. Whatever you wanna call end-game, at the end of the day it’s mostly just gear upgrading when you’re at level 80 in PvE. With the raids, it’s even more of it, since they introduced legendary armor.

                  “It's not like they keep throwing out various different special skin sets for weapons.”

                  Actually, they kinda do with the Black Lion weapon sets.

                  1. Ringwraith says:

                    Yeah, sorry, it just came across you had some major grudge against the game for not making legendary stuff easy, when it’s nothing more than vanity stuff really (same with the armour).
                    I shall feebly and pointlessly blame it being super-late when I wrote that for the overreaction.

                    Also I may have meant to say they do keep releasing new ones. I have a nasty habit of leaving out important words.

  16. KerningChameleon says:

    I’m kind of in the middle on the whole RTwP debate: I grew up with Baldur’s Gate being one of the first RPGs I ever played, so I’m used to the system’s idiosyncrasies and loved the unique experience I got out of it, but on the other hand I find it does demand a rather high mental investment from me. For example, when I started reading PoE dev logs a couple years ago, I got revved up and felt the itch to play BG I + II all over again and nothing else would satisfy me. So I got it off GoG, played it for a month… and literally just before the final boss of base II, I lost interest in stopped. It’s not that the game bored me or anything, it’s just I was so mentally taxed I couldn’t keep up and had to switch to something far more relaxing.

    The same thing, sadly, happened with PoE: I was excited for the game and played for a month… and stopped just before the final level because I couldn’t go on anymore. I had to read the internet to find out how the game actually ended. Worse, I can’t bring myself to restart either game, because I have the problem Final Fantasy players have with games left just before the final boss: I would need to completely relearn the system AND how I had decided to build my characters AND get proficient with it again enough to handle the last areas. Except it’s worse because I know if I simply restarted a new game I’d end up in the exact same position and have made no real progress in the end.

    Maybe when the last of the DLC comes out… and the bundle is on sale… and I feel the itch again… and I haven’t gotten bored with the genre with Torment…

    1. Humanoid says:

      As pointed out in an earlier comment, Numenara will be turn-based. :)

  17. Henson says:

    Out of all of these titles, I’d say your best bet right now is to play Her Story. Better yet, play it with your wife, if she hasn’t already. It really is a game that begs to be discussed with other people, and I think it probably also benefits from being experienced with others as well.

    EDIT: Plus, it’s short.

    1. guy says:

      You’re asking him to delay watching Artanis give awesome speeches.

      We must fight.

      1. Henson says:

        Or we die?

      2. Wray says:

        I do think the SC2 campaign has a good chance at a Goldun Riter award if he plays it.

  18. Will says:

    I’m curious about what people who don’t like realtime with pause think of Dragon Age: Origins. It was my first real exposure to a tactical RPG (no snickering from the peanut gallery, please), and it has far and away my favorite interface (RTwP-ness included) for that style of gameplay. Fully turn-based introduces latency I find really frustrating (e.g. I tell someone to do something, but then have to wait the entire round to tell them to do something else if I change my mind or circumstances change) while fully realtime has an annoying tendency to make the game all about micromanagement, which I’m not very good at.

    (I don’t mean this as blanket praise of the combat in DA:O, by the way; I really like the game, but there are some serious weaknesses. If someone retroactively removes every case where the game teleports you into the middle of a crowd of enemies, it will still have happened too often.)

    I do also want to mention that, while I enjoyed Divinity: Original Sin’s gameplay interface, the weird disconnect between realtime wandering around and turn-based combat is (a) weird, and (b) caused some really hilarious bugs.

    1. guy says:

      Honestly, not one of my favorite RTwP games, and I generally prefer turn-based anyways. I like to be able to have my companions run autonomously most of the time, and compared to others I’ve played it feels like DA:O stripped out most of the companion AI and let you get back some of it with the tactics system if you were willing to tinker with it, and even if you did it wouldn’t be as good.

      1. Will says:

        Interestingly, I almost always hate having my companions do anything of their own volition (a few too many fireballs to the back of my head, I suspect) so I never invested in any of the AI skills and micromanaged everyone instead.

    2. Humanoid says:

      DA:O is an odd game despite being fairly vanilla – by which I mean it doesn’t really do anything different from what the Infinity Engine games did a full decade prior. I started off thinking “hey, this is really good, I haven’t played anything like this for some time”, but my opinion of it dwindled at such a rate that I completely abandoned it about halfway through. And then in subsequent years, despite not playing it any further, my opinion of it has dwindled even further to the extent that I now unreservedly call it a poor game.

      I suppose it was the game that gave me the epiphany that I just don’t enjoy games like it anymore. I think my teenage self would have loved it in the way I loved BG2, but those years are long past and I have no patience anymore for the kind of micromanagement and hard slog that it demands. That, and I actively resented the manner in which your recruitment into the Wardens was handled that I ended up doing contrary things out of spite.

      Maybe it’s unfair, but these days I perceive DA:O to be more of a combat-heavy dungeon slog than Icewind Dale (2), a game that was designed to be nothing more than a dungeon crawl.

      1. Will says:

        There’s certainly plenty of criticism to be leveled at the game outside of combat, to be sure. I quite like it regardless, but I’m not going to try to argue that here.

        In comparison to other RTwP games I’ve played (a solid chunk of Pillars of Eternity and probably not enough Baldur’s Gate and Planescape: Torment), DA:O’s interface just feels much more polished. There are easily discoverable shortcuts for everything, animations are smooth, micromanaging your party (especially when split) was much easier than in anything else I’ve played (even PoE). It certainly doesn’t do anything new compared to the Infinity Engine, but it seems””at least to me””much more polished.

        1. Humanoid says:

          I guess what the IE games might have over it is more variance in dungeon art. Rarely do you get more than two or three screens of the same environment style. Meanwhile, DA:O has the Dark Roads.

    3. Christopher says:

      Dragon Age Origins was one of my first games with that kind of combat too. I can’t stand the thing, though. It’s not even about the reasons in that article Shamus linked in his post. Well, it’s about that as well. But mostly it’s about how you, at least on consoles, manually and in real-time move your characters around and use their attack. And then dice rolls decide if my attack counts or not. This inbetweeny thing of abstracted turn-based gameplay and good-feeling realtime action really is one of the most frustrating systems I’ve tried. It’s like if somebody made a platformer where after every succesfully landed jump, there was a chance that you would just fall straight through the ground.

      1. Will says:

        Oh, I can’t imagine it would work well at all on consoles. I played it, like all my games, on PC, and the unique capabilities of the mouse are absolutely essential to it.

        Since I haven’t played it and it’s been ages since anyone talked about it, I don’t remember: in the console version, you don’t get access to the tactical overhead view, right? It’s all third-person over-the-shoulder gameplay?

        1. Christopher says:

          You can’t zoom as far out, not by a long shot. So yes, it’s more like Mass Effect and less like the view in these isometric rpgs. Can’t say that part is where it fell apart for me.

    4. djw says:

      I played DA:O through from start to finish at least three times (always on hardest difficulty). With care you could build your team to be mostly self sufficient and avoid micromanaging. It wasn’t until near the end of my second play through that I really got the hang of that though.

    5. Merlin says:

      Like I mentioned above, I hated DA:O’s Tactics system because it didn’t ever feel like it was better than a normal AI system, and it was frequently a lot worse. How the pseudocode actually worked was unclear, and flipping through all of the options felt like a constant reminder of how much nicer it would be to easily control everyone directly. Example: Do I want Leilana to use her Arrow of Death on the strongest enemy, on the weakest enemy, the nearest enemy, or the farthest enemy? The only answer to that is “Yes”, because which is most important will change based on circumstances.

      Limited Tactics slots for some of the game also meant that there were a fair number of times that characters were learning skills that they would never actually use, since there weren’t enough scripts. This is most pronounced for mages, who are overflowing with spells – which ends up being an issue if your Warden is a mage as well due to limited hotbar space.

      And even when I did settle on a decent Tactics setup, it still felt like I was constantly wrestling with my companions because of that level of semi-autonomy. If someone was in a bind, I might pause to send Alistair over to use one of his skills, only to find that all of his skills were on cooldown due to running through his pre-programmed Tactics. Thus, the game is basically encouraging you to not put your valuable abilities under Tactics, and instead turn it into a stop-motion exercise in micromanagement.

      Interstitial rant: I also didn’t care for the abilities themselves. I remember Alistair’s abilities as being Shield Bonk, Shield Bash, Shield Smash, Shield Smack, and Shield Thwack, all of which had only-slightly-different effects and similarly only-slightly-different icons. I really wish that they had just rolled most of the skills into being upgrades of each other, and indeed ended up mostly seeking out passives when anyone leveled up.

      My RTWP experience is limited to Planescape and a bit of Icewind Dale 2 for now (in part because I simply loathe RTWP), but in my experience, even those were a big step up on Dragon Age because so many of your units are so simple. Most of your party didn’t have any abilities beyond “attack guy,” which made them pretty fire-and-forget and allowed you to focus your energy on the 1 or 2 casters in the group. (And at least in Torment’s case, the 2E ruleset kept your actual spell count low for a fair while.) Dragon Age’s implementation made all of your party relatively complicated, which exacerbates the problem of having an unwieldy interface since it leads to having to split your attention all over the place. This was further complicated by the feeling of being outnumbered all the dang time, whereas the others tended towards faceoffs against 1-3 enemies.

      Very much not a fan of DA:O, sorry. :(

      1. djw says:

        To paraphrase Winston Churchill: “the tactics interface in DA:O is the worst form of party AI imaginable, except for the AI in every other game.”

        AI pretty much just sucks. I guess its better than having Skynet kill us all.

  19. evileeyore says:

    Shamus we agree almost 100%.

    The only area in which we aren’t in lockstep toady is where I play episodic games… because I don;t have to write about them so if I wait to the end and then play them, it’s perfectly okay.

    Though if I had to write about them for a living, I’d be in the same boat.

  20. Christopher says:

    I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts on Life is Strange when the Spoiler Warning season of it begins.

  21. Paul Spooner says:

    Okay, speculative, which games show up in the next post? I’m guessing The Witcher III: Wild Hunt… um, Fallout 4… Mass Effect 1? … aaaaand Minecraft.

    1. Christopher says:

      Shamus has secretly been using the new Wii U all the time and presents his top 10 Wii U games of 2015.

      1. Humanoid says:

        Were there even 10 Wii U games released in 2015? :P

        1. Christopher says:

          The top five are separate Mario Maker levels. The bottom five are different arenas from Splatoon.

        2. GiantRaven says:

          Off the top of my head…

          Mario Maker
          Yoshi’s Wooly World
          Fast Racing Neo
          Kirby and the Rainbow Curse
          Mario Party 10
          Animal Crossing Amiibo Festival
          Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash
          Xenoblade Chronicles X
          Devil’s Third

          10 games all WiiU exclusive. Not all of them are great mind you, but there are some real gems there.

  22. MadTinkerer says:

    “I played until I met Papyrus and Sans. When the magic didn't happen, I figured the game was broadcasting on a wavelength that I just couldn't hear. And so I moved on.”

    Hey, remember how SHODAN was a no-show in System Shock 2? I was expecting her to show up, but I played the game for almost an hour and never heard from her. Then I gave up and played something else.

    …is the best non-spoiler explanation I can give.

    Well, okay, let me spoil just a little bit of the magic as non-specifically as possible. There’s something that The Walking Dead, Bioshock, Mass Effect, and Fable all have in common. Undertale does it better than all of them. Much, much better. Plus, a single playthrough is much shorter than a typical playthrough of one of the above, so it’s easier to discover the magic for yourself if you actually play the game.

    Don’t worry about missing a reference. Half Life 2 is full of references and you don’t need to understand them or even notice them to enjoy that game either.

    Incidentally, you named the main character after yourself… right?

    EDIT: It’s not just the fanboy in me saying this, having played some of the other games you didn’t play or gave up on, as a designer… Undertale is the most essential in my opinion. Don’t play Starcraft II if you don’t have time. Don’t even play Infinifactory if you don’t have time. Play Undertale. Then make time for the rest.

    19,617 Steam reviews could be wrong, but the odds are against it.

    1. Cinebeast says:

      As much as I love Undertale, I’m not wholly comfortable throwing pressure on Shamus like this. If the first two hours didn’t click for him, the next four aren’t likely to change his mind. The game has not and does not appeal to some people for one reason or another.

      1. FuzzyWasHe? says:

        Yeah, if it didn’t click on Sans & Papyrus I don’t blame him for calling to there; and I can’t fault him for not downing another 1/3 of the game to get to the fabulous robot game-show.

        1. Christopher says:

          It’s a weird game to expect Shamus to enjoy in the first place. Hey, middle-aged PC gamer that primarily likes games from the west. Would you like to play this heartwarming anime/cartoony indie JRPG written by someone half your age who appears to spend a lot of time on the internet? It’s not impossible. Yahtzee, professional cynic, was surprisingly really into it. And I personally liked it, but I’m not surprised that it didn’t click for Shamus.

          1. Cinebeast says:

            Jim Sterling also liked it, and he’s almost as hard as Yahtzee. I’m sensing a theme here. Maybe Shamus just isn’t cynical enough to feel the charm? :p

          2. Wray92 says:

            This isn’t totally true–Shamus used to blog about anime, even. And he has played Final Fantasy and such. It’s not like he’s the main target audience, but it’s not like he has zero common ground with the game either.

          3. Wolle says:

            I’m a middle-aged PC gamer that primarily likes games from the West. I’ve never played any of the games that Undertale is supposedly based on, and I don’t have any experience with bullet-hell shooters.

            I still loved it.

            Maybe taste is just too complex to put on formula like that.

      2. MadTinkerer says:

        Well I hadn’t thought of the shortcut (mentioned below) when I wrote that before. Taking the shortcut to “the magic” is instant, and finishing the Ruins again shouldn’t take more than half an hour.

        I really should have thought of that before, though.

    2. MadTinkerer says:

      Okay, Shamus, I thought of this after I went to work:

      There’s a shortcut to “the magic” in Undertale. I discovered it by accident on my first playthrough, so you don’t even need to finish the main plot. Any first-time ending finishes with a recommendation to reset to see what happens, but you can do it from the very start of the first playthrough if you want.

      All you have to do is reset your current game and continue playing the game. If you then finish The Ruins and still are not interested in finishing it at least once, then that is fine. You will have seen at least a glimpse of “the magic” and will have at least some idea of what everyone is desperate to avoid spoiling for you. As long as you have some idea of what you’re actually missing, and no one else has spoiled it for you, that’s fine, and I won’t bother you about it anymore.

  23. Duoae says:

    It’s a real shame about you and episodic games, Shamus. I’ve been wishing you guys would one day do a Spoiler Warning Season about season 2 to contrast and compare it to the first one.

    Other than that, I’m right there with you on games not finished and/or played. 2015 was such a good year for games that, even though I had put myself on a “strict no-purchasing during steam sales” rule (and stuck to it!) the only game I played through (at all!) was the aforementioned Walking Dead season 2. My Steam list stayed the same size but, due to PS+ the list of unplayed and unfinished games grew larger for me.

    Even some of the games that I want to play and feel I should enjoy I just got very little out of and never got back to them because a month or two later a really good game came out.

    My list of games I just couldn’t get into or back to but would like to includes:

    Dragon Age Inquisition – just felt that the move to an MMRPG-style world and system (including almost instantly respawning enemies) really turned me off from the game and the overwhelming choices within the first hour when you’ve no idea of really how to play the game or what is worth doing or not frustrated me. I really liked DA2’s characters and the combat was okay… this version has combat and exploration that’s more boring than DA1’s so it feels like a step backward.

    Bloodborne – I wanted to love this but experiencing a bug whereby you can’t target enemies for the first 20-30 minutes of play time each time you boot up the game was just the cap on what was, for me, the first foray into From Software’s style of games.

    Destiny: House of Wolves – I loved the Destiny gameplay feel… everything else, ugh. Thinking back, it was nice to play when I did but the game is just pointless. Even when playing Quake 3 Arena in a clan in the mid-2000s I felt like I was getting better and having new fun experiences despite the number of maps and map size being a fraction of what’s available in Destiny. I don’t think I’ll ever go back to the game as even the alterations they’ve made to make the game better just seem to have messed it up even more from what I can tell by reading about them.

    Murdered: Soul Suspect: Interesting conceit, just didn’t get past the first forty minutes of the game. Need to go back and play this one. Still can’t work out the logic of some walls are passable but others (and floors) are not.

    Pillars of Eternity: I actually really liked the game once I realised that all the soul-stories were just cruft. I burned out at what I think was pretty near the end of the game. I wanted to unravel the mysteries of some of the later-obtained companions but there just wasn’t enough game left to do that. Not sure how you’d manage unless you went to higher level areas before you were ready so you could get them before it was too late. I would like to finish this but I just have no impetus to go back. Like Shamus said, the combat system is a bit of a mess. It’s too fast to manage properly – even with the pausing… and most of the combat is trivially easy but then the problem is that you’re not trained on how to manage the more difficult fights which are punishingly hard. If I hadn’t been rolling around with two clerics (or whatever they’re called) casting the area of effect spells that reduce the damage variant then I don’t know how I could have managed as well as I did. The mechanics or damage management just weren’t that intuitive for me.

    Satellite Reign: Another game I want to get back to and another game where the mechanics were stymieing me. When the game explained some of the more complicated mechanics it was just too vague for me to get it at once. e.g. hiring other people to become DNA banks for your agents. Sometimes when you clicked on a person their details would come up, sometimes they wouldn’t. Similarly, I couldn’t get them to be under my control without setting off alarms and having the whole city come down on me. I also found the game to be visually beautiful but too busy which, for the realtime unpausible gameplay just didn’t work for me. I recently replayed Syndicate and found that the more simplistic and uncluttered artwork really made a difference.

    1. Ninety-Three says:

      Satelite Reign: A person’s details are only supposed to come up if you’ve bought those details*, it could be you bought some details ages ago and are randomly running into people whose details you’ve already bought. I think buying details only comes up if your Scanner character is using their ability and close enough to the NPC. Hijacking someone for their DNA has melee range and is as illegal as assault, so if any cops see you doing it they’ll set off the alarms.

      *Unless you invested in the skill that makes buying details cheaper, if you reduce the cost of buying to zero, they get “bought” automatically when you click a person.

      1. Duoae says:

        Thanks for that. The tutorial really didn’t make all of that clear to me.

    2. Darren says:

      It’s definitely possible to explore the motivations of some of the later companions even in the endgame. As far as I know, the only companions who require any kind of time commitment to fully learn about are Durance and–I think–the Grieving Mother. Maaaybe Aloth. Everyone else’s stories unlock as you complete their side quests or after certain points in the game. Just talk to them!

      1. Duoae says:

        It was Grieving Mother, specifically, I was interested in. :D

        1. Darren says:

          I’m not 100% clear on her triggers, but you can get her pretty early in the game. Just go to the town she’s in as soon as you can; it’s not that hard to get to, and there’s no downside to doing so.

  24. Ninety-Three says:

    Since there are a lot of people trying to convince Shamus to play Undertale, I felt like I should weigh in with a contrary opinion, in case Shamus is tallying votes or something.

    Undertale isn’t for everyone. It wasn’t for me, it wasn’t for several of my friends who played it all the way through and disliked it, and it might not be for you Shamus. If you gave it a shot don’t feel obligated to keep trying.

  25. Daemian Lucifer says:

    About legacy of the void:
    It has great gameplay.The best rts to date.It even allows you to have the most sensible keyboard setup for hotkeys(q through t,a through g,y through b),which is weird that it took so long for that setup to emerge.The missions are great and varied,and have some amazing gimmicks.It also has John de Lancie.

    But the story sucks balls.Even more so than the last two that have sucked balls.

    Though the best thing about starcraft 2 is the mass recall mod that allows you to play through the first game with the new graphics,engine,hotkeyes,etc.And you can even do it for free.So you can get the best of both worlds:Amazing graphics,great real time strategy,excellent story and characters,and all that for 0 moneys.

    1. Zekiel says:

      Mass Recall mod sounds interesting! Though as I remember, the vanilla SC1 campaign was actually pretty poor – almost all missions were “build loads of whatever new unit we’ve given you, steamroller enemy bases”. The story was nice though, and Brood War had much, much better gameplay.

      Nice to know Legacy of the Void is fun. After being burned by how awful Heart of the Swarm was I am not inclined to buy LotV until it is significantly cheaper.

  26. Deda says:

    Undertale is my number 1 game of 2015, not even close, I guess there is some meta stuff you wont get if you have not played certain games, but it’s very good even whitout those.

    You should give it at least one full playtrough, it’s a short game anyway.

  27. Zekiel says:

    Life Is Strange is not just my personal game of the year (which is remarkable since I LOVED Pillars of Eternity) but one of those games that feels like it has significantly changed my understanding of what videogames can be. I found it utterly, utterly amazing – the most emotional time I have ever had playing a videogame and possibly consuming media of any kind. I can’t recommend it enough.

    Having said that though, I can imagine its not for everyone. If you really dislike one of the main characters, you’re going to be annoyed. If you significantly disagree with any of the major decisions that the protagonist makes over which you don’t have control, you’re going to be annoyed. If you aren’t happy with what is kind of an interactive TV series and want more gameplay, you’re going to be annoyed.

    But as someone who doesn’t really play adventure-y, story-first games, I nevertheless found this story-first, gameplay-light adventure game fantastic.

    (I say this to try to convince other readers to try it, and because its been shockingly under-represented in the comment so far – not because I’m trying to convince Shamus to play it since I completely understand why he hasn’t and probably won’t!)

    I totally agree about the episodic thing though. I quite like episodic presentation within a game (like Alan Wake did) but I dislike releasing episodes one at a time. I waited til the whole of LIS was released before I played it, had an amazing emotional reaction to it and basically had no-one to discuss it with because everyone else had finished the game a month earlier. :-(

  28. Darren says:

    FWIW, Obsidian will apparently be updating Pillars of Eternity in early 2016 to have an even easier difficulty mode that will let you focus primarily on the story side of things.

    But honestly, if you can play Dragon Age: Origins, you can play this.

  29. Diego says:

    A top 15 games of the year that people say it’s good but you haven’t played yet. This is all getting too meta.

    Seriously though, I haven’t played these games yet too. I even own some already. So I sympathize with you. But this is my normal state, I’m always playing what people were talking about a year ago (usually because of the price drop but sometimes I have no excuses).

    Right now I starting to prepare myself to buy the “new” Batman. I hope there’s a good deal on it at the christmas sale.

  30. AdamS says:

    Don’t feel bad, Shamus. I’m only employed part-time and unlike in college I”m not even running a weekly rog session, and I *still* didn’t get through everything I planned to this year. Too many games came out, and they were too big. 2016 is gonna be a hell of a year, though.

  31. SlothfulCobra says:

    Undertale’s popularity seems to mainly come from a combination of being super-ripe for meme fodder (which I would expect nothing less from someone involved in Homestuck), and the fact that it is a subversion of the JRPG genre both in gameplay and story, and JRPG fans seem to be particularly fond of subversions of their own genre for whatever reason.

    The internet loves it, and Undertale loves the internet, which makes having played the game and not liking it all the more annoying because the rabid fans will bite your head off about it. It even managed to win the Gamefaqs best game ever contest when gamefaqsers are notoriously prone to nostalgia, that’s how much pull this game has.

  32. Dreadjaws says:

    I rarely play games at release. I usually play them months later. That’s why episodic games don’t bother me that much, I always play them when they’re complete. Also, I always wait until they’re complete to buy them, it wouldn’t be the first time if an episodic game isn’t fully released.

    Now this is more an economic reason than anything else. I don’t have a gaming PC. I used to have one, but it broke in every single possible way, and I really can’t afford one right now. The moment when I could do it was on the release of Arkham Knight, which is one of the games I wanted to play at release. But after the bad PC port launches of Arkham City and Origins, I knew very well I had to stay away from the PC version, so I bought a PS4 instead. Clearly, it was a sound decision (even though Arkham Knight ended up a dissapointment).

    Now, of course, as most people know, deals on PC games are more frequent and much better than the ones on consoles, even for recently-launched games. Since I can’t buy many games at full price and there are not enough good deals for consoles, I have no choice but to wait months to play most games, so I really have grown accustomed to not care about conversations on current games. It really doesn’t turn me off playing Episode 2 of, say, The Walking Dead when people are talking about Episode 5. I simply ignore them.

    I recently finished two indie games that have a couple of years or so: Dust: An Elysian Tale and Super Time Force Ultra. Both fantastic experiences. Surely every conversation about these games has already been done to death, and I have no much to say, but that doesn’t really make me feel left out. I left reviews for both of them on a couple of places and recommended them to others in a couple of forums. There’s always people who take longer than us to play games who’ll appreciate our words on them, we shouldn’t care that much about current releases. It’s not like we’re journalists, anyway, it’s not our job to do it. Well, not in my case, anyway.

  33. Kavonde says:


    Play Tales From the Borderlands.

    I say this as someone who’s (unknowingly) been a fan of yours since ActiveWorlds, and who holds you and your work in great respect. You are doing yourself such a massive disservice.

  34. Jsor says:

    I’d love to see you play Legacy of the Void if for no reason other than it’s possibly 2015’s contender for a Goldun Riter Award.

  35. Phantos says:

    I played until I met Papyrus and Sans. When the magic didn't happen, I figured the game was broadcasting on a wavelength that I just couldn't hear. And so I moved on.

    Aww, Shamus, that’s exactly when the magic STARTS! That is actually, literally when the game stops being a shallow homage to obscure 90’s RPGs and blossoms into something unique and extraordinary.

    This is like hearing someone give up on Star Wars right when Han and Chewy show up. It’s physically painful to know what you missed out on. D:

    (If nothing else, this post did remind me to get off my butt and play Life Is Strange.)

    1. Tever says:

      Actually, the magic didn’t really happen for me until after Asgore, and then the game keeps going and starts to get a little fucked up. That’s when I started thinking about what I was playing and analyzing it, and I realized I needed to do the no mercy run. Before that, the game didn’t really hold any nostalgia for me, and I didn’t get the love for it. I just thought it was a basically competent game, and the bullet hell battles were pretty cool, and if I’d had anything better to play, I would have never beaten this game. Especially when Alphys shows up with calling you fucking CONSTANTLY. I didn’t realize until much later that was deliberately annoying. I honestly thought I was completely wrong about the “basically competent” part and that Toby Fox was really just a hack.

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