How is the new wave of "old school" RPGs doing?

endtherapture

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This past year or so we've seen the release of a lot of the "old school" inspired RPGs which were funded in the Kickstarter boom. Those of you who played the games, how did they play and what did you enjoy about them? What improvements would you like to make to the games?

How does Pillars of Eternity hold up to Baldur's Gate, Divinity: OS to Divine Divinity, and Wasteland 2 to Fallout 1 and 2?

Do the "old school mechanics" feel dated and clunky or are they a welcome change from the more streamlined mechanics of newer RPGs like The Witcher and Dragon Age?

How do the old school aspects of storytelling, (eg. lack of cinematics, text boxes etc.) compared to the more "cinematic" AAA games being released?
 

BloatedGuppy

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Divinity - Good game, justified by an extremely robust and sophisticated tactical combat system. Balancing could have been better. Story was absolutely terrible. I'd like to see someone with a defter hand at narrative and world building try their hand at that engine and system.

Pillars of Eternity - "Okay" game. Some really nice world building moments, one or two decent story telling beats, and some average and acceptable tactical combat buried under a river of meh. Absolutely terrible ending and a lot of really unforgivable bugs.

Wasteland 2 - Pretty astonishingly bad in a lot of respects. Salvages what it can with passable combat and oodles of (pretty lousy) content, but by and large a crashing disappointment.

Shadowrun(s) - Dragonfall was "alright" and pretty much represented the pinnacle of the series. The original was quite terrible, and Hong Kong is just one time out too many for an engine that was lousy from the get go. Easily the chintziest feeling of the lot. Feels cheap. Same is true of all of them really, except Divinity, but ESPECIALLY Shadowrun.

Grimrock(s) - Decent dungeoneering fest, let down by huge over-reliance on fussy puzzles and gimmicky combat. Often falls short of what it could have been.

Might and Magic Legacy - Has the scope and the old-school combat down, gets scuttled by an inexplicably boggy, horribly performing engine.

None of the games are as good as the classics that inspired them (BG2, Planescape, Fallout 1 and 2), and only Divinity has a genuine reason for existing besides nostalgia.
 

leberkaese

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I can only talk about Divinity:OS, because that's the only one of those games I've played so far. But I heard lots of good stuff about PoE, so I'll maybe get that one day. Wasteland 2, on the other hand, seems to get some criticism.

But mostly, those games managed to improve on older titles like BG etc in some areas. They introduced some fresh gameplay mechanics and manage to be enjoyable games. They don't feel dated at all, especially Divinity:OS has an amazing combat system, nice visuals and is now fully voiced thanks to the extended edition. (it's lacking in its story, though. It's not bad, but nothing special either) They're more than a try to get some money out of people that enjoyed BG & co. 15 years ago and view those games with what may seem like pink fanboy glasses. I have never touched those old school RPGs back in the day and even dropped playing BG1+2 when I tried to catch up on them a few years ago. But I still managed to enjoy Divinity:OS greatly. Though, admittingly, I never finished that game either. It just takes so goddamm long.

I'm sure that someone that fits somewhat into the cliché of 'I only play AAA games like AC and CoD!!!' wouldn't enjoy those games. Like you said: they're lacking nice and shiny cinematics and big explosions. Also, they're still heavy on dialogues that have to be read. Divinity:OS doesn't hold your hands and gets very hard at times. But everybody that has a slight interest for RPGs can enjoy those "new old-school" RPGs.
 

The Madman

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To counter BloatedGuppy's bitter cynicism and dislike, I'm loving it.

Pillars of Eternity might not be the BG2 so many were hoping for, but it's certainly got the potential to be a BG1 and work as the foundation for amazing things to come. I love the visuals and game engine, I actually quite enjoy the tactical combat, and although the story in this game wasn't stunning the world itself felt fantastic and will make a great setting for future campaign and stories to be told. I'm really happy with it!

Wasteland 2 is exactly what it promised to be: A return to the gameplay style of the original Wasteland alongside titles like Fallout 1 and 2, good and bad. As someone who really enjoys those older titles I enjoyed Wasteland 2 as well, it felt kinda like a game that popped out from an unopened time capsule from the late 90's era of PC gaming. I haven't played the newest updated version but I am looking forward to giving it a go again in the future.

Shadowrun is fantastic and I say 'bleh' to the haters. The stories being told, the setting, even the gameplay and visuals. I love it all. Dragonfall was one of my favourite rpg experiences in recent years and Hong Kong is close behind it, enough so I'm just waiting for the future dlc planned for Hong Kong to be released for another play through. The gameplay is somewhat simplistic and can't compete with games like XCOM on its own and the visuals while bright and colourful aren't going to blow anyones mind, but seen as a whole the latest two Shadowrun games have been brilliant.

Overall it's been great, a refreshing breath of fresh air in the rpg genre by going back to the roots of what I've always enjoyed about rpg in the past rather than continuing down the super-cinematic simplified action of modern rpg. Not that there's anything wrong with those, Witcher 3 is brilliant and though not nearly as good I feel I did enjoy DA:Inquisition as well. It's just nice to have some diversity and I feel there's some things these 'old school' style rpgs still do better than their modern counterparts. Stuff like actually having to roleplay and having long-winded debates and talks that would be impractical with everything being voice-acted.

I'll likely be picking up Divinity in the nearish future as well, I've just been waiting for the enhanced edition to be released alongside a respectable sale price. Looking forward to it!

Great time to be an rpg fan on the PC!
 

BloatedGuppy

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The Madman said:
To counter BloatedGuppy's bitter cynicism and dislike, I'm loving it.
See I'm going to disagree, Madman. It's not cynicism. It's idealism. Cynicism says "let's kickstart a game that relies on 1998 design paradigms and brings absolutely nothing new or imaginative to the table".

I'm pretty warm towards Divinity despite it's ATROCIOUS story for the simple fact that it feels like they TRIED. That combat system is delightful. I shot an arrow at a toxic boar and it ricocheted off, hit another guy, and poisoned him. I used a rain spell to make a puddle and then electrocuted everyone in it, including (accidentally) my own guy. What other games like that can I play on the market today? I can't think of anything, and frankly outside of the very rickety Temple of Elemental Evil, there's been virtually ZERO notable turn based tactical RPGs made since the frickin' 80's.

Pillars of Eternity. Hyped people by summoning the memories of Planescape Torment and Baldur's Gate 2. How did it take the essence of those games, and what made them special, and bring them into 2015? Well, it was isometric! It kind of LOOKED like them! Despite having a galaxy of options available to them, they decided to create an almost slavishly-similar-to-AD&D class and combat system! Oh boy! Dragon Age Origins was a much better modern incarnation of Baldur's Gate 2, and a myriad of games across genre's have tackled Planescape's more literary aspirations, particularly the Bioshock series. That's what innovation and pushing the medium forward looks like.

Wasteland 2. I'm not even sure WHAT that was a call back to, because Wasteland already HAD a spiritual successor, a little game called Fallout, which has been getting slowly dragged into the new century despite the kicking and screaming of its most grognard fans. Absolutely broken game mechanics from top to bottom. Even the most shoe-string of budgets cannot forgive that, and it makes me worry that the people behind it are functionally INCOMPETENT. It certainly wasn't a STORY with game play elements draped over it, so of all the things to get right, you'd think you might start with the GAME part. So what did it have going for it? Well, it was isometric! And it kind of looked like old Fallout games! And it kind of played like shit, so that took us back!

Shadowrun. Leaving aside the WEALTH of rich and time tested pen and paper systems at their disposal that they threw out for a sickeningly streamlined and soulless ultra-basic framework that feels designed for mobile phones, what's special about it? The combat is lousy, the writing is "meh", the environments are static and even the most forgiving fan would admit the engine is awful. Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Transistor do a better job of capturing the neo-noir cyberpunk of Shadowrun than the fucking Shadowrun games do. And three of them, all using the same shabby engine. We screech at Ubisoft and Treyarch for laziness and repetition, and we're going to call this shit RPG of the year? The three Shadowrun games taken together would cost more than any AAA RPG on launch day, offer a fraction of the game play and a jot of the production values. Why is it better? Well it's ISOMETRIC I GUESS. You have to READ a lot! That's automatically an improvement!

I mean, look. I get nostalgia. I'm vulnerable to it. It's why I kickstarted Wasteland 2, Shadowrun Returns, and Pillars of Eternity, along with the I'm Sure It's Going To Be Shitty Tides of Numenara. Because I too remembered fondly the golden age of RPGs from 1998-2001.

But if all a developer is going to do is borrow the look and feel of games almost TWO DECADES OLD, and bring absolutely NOTHING new or inspired to the table, then they are cynically preying on nostalgia. They're not exactly giving these games away, they're charging a LOT. For games made on shoestring budgets, often by first time developers who CLEARLY are in over their heads in a lot of ways. We mock WoW clone MMOs for copying a decade old game and not innovating. Why are we praising these games? Some wag on Reddit actually had the temerity to ask if Pillars of Eternity would spark "an RPG revolution". I fucking hope not. Why stop there? Why not kickstart a first person shooter that slavishly apes the original Half Life, RIGHT DOWN TO ITS GRAPHICS, and claim it's somehow more "pure", or representative of a "better time". It's nonsense. It's nostalgia goggles. In many ways, these games are embarrassing products to be selling to a 2015 audience. If the best you can do is copy...and BADLY copy...games you played when you were a kid, when you have access to resources and tech those developers could only DREAM of...then you're kind of shit at what you do. And you should feel bad.

INNOVATE, you fuckers. Don't just exhume the corpses of withered old classics and warm them up and pretend you're serving us something of your own design. Divinity did it right. The rest of them are lazy grubbers.

End of rant!
 

Bombiz

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BloatedGuppy said:
The Madman said:
To counter BloatedGuppy's bitter cynicism and dislike, I'm loving it.
INNOVATE, you fuckers. Don't just exhume the corpses of withered old classics and warm them up and pretend you're serving us something of your own design. Pillars did it right. The rest of them are lazy grubbers.

End of rant!
didn't you say that Pillars DIDN'T innovate? feel like you meant to say divinity. unless I have missread. Which might be the case.

EDIT: ohp you fixed it. All is good.

OP: idk. all I know is when people try to 'remaster' a game they tend to ruin what was good about it in the first place. Like Homeworld for example.
 

Blood Brain Barrier

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The closest to Divinity OS I had played before was Temple of Elemental Evil. Divinity was vastly inferior. That's the only one of the new-school-old-school RPGs I have played so far, so if it's the best of the lot I can safely say the "revival" is a spectacular failure.
 

The Madman

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BloatedGuppy said:
INNOVATE, you fuckers. Don't just exhume the corpses of withered old classics and warm them up and pretend you're serving us something of your own design. Divinity did it right. The rest of them are lazy grubbers.
I'm sorry, but I just fundamentally disagree with this sentiment. I don't agree that a lack of innovation is somehow tied to lazy moneygrubbing, nor do I think that trying to make a game with nostalgia in mind is purely an exercise in greed nor something to be derided. An experience doesn't need to be something 'new' or 'innovative' in order to be enjoyable, in fact the case is quite often the opposite with the warm familiarity being what people are seeking. Meanwhile before this little surge in nostalgia driven rpg there hadn't been any notable games in this vein since Dragon Age: Origins, which was rightly praised for it but which unfortunately was also the last rpg to bear that name and be reminiscent of the old pc rpg. It's not cynical preying on customers, it's fulfilling demand for a style of game which had become all but extinct.

Now I haven't actually played Divinity yet so no comments there, but to defend the other 3 games:

Pillars of Eternity I particularly enjoy because in many ways it feels like an idealized version of what I remember from the old isometric rpgs of yore. Visually it's got crisp, beautiful backgrounds vibrant with colour and full of neat lighting tricks and moving parts to help it feel alive, reminiscent of ye olden pc rpg except in bright new HD visuals. Gameplay-wise it's again familiar, not straying too far from the tried and true D&D formula but still adding some neat twists of their own to make it feel suitably unique. Chanters and Cipher are interesting takes on seemingly familiar class ideas while other more standard classes like the paladin have little gimmicks to keep them fresh. Story-wise it's not spectacular but it does have its strengths, I really like how the game allows you to roleplay and build a character that feels compelling. The game offers a plethora of dialogue options to determine your past and present, that help decide how your character feels about things and to which the game will then often react to, making your protagonist feel like an actual character in this setting rather than just another paper-thin proxy for the player ala most other rpg. I also feel that the setting is compelling and that I want more from it, which makes me excited for future entries into this series that will iterate on this established formula and improve on it, even if they probably wont innovate.

Wasteland 2 meanwhile you seem to argue doesn't need to exist because the Fallout franchise still exists, but that's a rubbish argument in that the new Fallout games bear so little resemblance to their older kin it might as well be a new franchise entirely. I don't speak for everyone, probably not even more than a minority of players, but I actually don't much like the new Fallout games. I didn't find Fallout 3 compelling in the least, despite all it's flaunted 'innovation', nor even did New Vegas keep my interest for long and I've no intention of buying 4 anytime soon as a result. By contrast I quite liked Wasteland 2, which seems like a game again attempting to fill that now empty niche which a small minority like myself have been craving to have filled. Are it's mechanics a bit wonky? Certainly, although I do think you're overstating things with your all-caps cries of how incompetent the developers are. But even so it fulfils the desire for a turn based tactical take on the post-apocalyptic setting that new Fallout titles don't satisfy. Same with a lot of the quest and story design, which is open to all sorts of nonsense that the new more cinematic entries into the genre are simply incapable of.

It's endearing. It's like finding an old retro title you never knew existed and I for one appreciate that, warts and all.

And finally Shadowrun I do absolutely adore and can't overstate how much I disagree with your feelings on. It's a rewarding rpg experience in a novel and under-utilized setting with some fantastic cast of characters and great roleplaying opportunity. There's literally nothing else quite like it on the market today either. Transistor and Deus Ex might look more pretty but are also fundamentally different styles of games with entirely different goals. Dragonfall provided a compelling noire-style murder-mystery whodunnit in compelling setting and with a cast of characters I actually gave a damn about. Hong Kong iterated on that by providing a new story in a similar vein with an even greater focus on characters and with an improved ability to give the player opportunity to play the character they wanted to play.

The combat might be simplistic but I nevertheless find it enjoyable, and while the visuals aren't brilliant they're far from terrible either. Combine those with a narrative I care about in a setting I enjoy and it's a rewarding experience I'd argue is far more fulfilling than higher cost AAA games like Inquisition, which has all the trendy buzz words of being more innovative and with shiny visuals but also lacks the heart and soul that makes a small budget title like Shadowrun worthwhile. That I can get all three Shadowrun games for the same cost as Inquisiton isn't a bad thing, it's a selling point!

These aren't games that 'prey on nostalgia', they're games that look into the past and see ideas and concept that modern games sort of forgot, then bring those back in the form of small indie titles intended towards a niche audience of similar feeling individuals. A niche product for a niche audience that has been more or less forgotten by major publishers and developers, satisfying a demand for something unorthodox, wonky, maybe sometimes a bit broken, but nevertheless endearing to a number of people out there. People like myself who then reward the developers with our money and support.

It's no exploitative, it's not lazy, it's just giving people what they want and I for one am thankful for it. I'd rather a few imperfect titles than the vast expanse of predominantly nothing that was available before this little nostalgia-driven surge.

I also realize this wont change your mind, this is the internet after all, but I do want to provide a contrasting opinion nonetheless.

End of Rant.
 

pookie101

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didnt like divinity and wasteland 2 much, which should be right up my alley. loved pillars of eternity even if it did tend to drag in the middle and ends very abruptly

shadowrun series is great, the first is very linear and honestly felt like i was playing one of the old tabletop modules and dragonfall was incredible. hong kong was a good step mechanically. cant wait to see what happens next
 

Ogoid

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The Madman said:
Wasteland 2 meanwhile you seem to argue doesn't need to exist because the Fallout franchise still exists, but that's a rubbish argument in that the new Fallout games bear so little resemblance to their older kin it might as well be a new franchise entirely. I don't speak for everyone, probably not even more than a minority of players, but I actually don't much like the new Fallout games. I didn't find Fallout 3 compelling in the least, despite all it's flaunted 'innovation', nor even did New Vegas keep my interest for long and I've no intention of buying 4 anytime soon as a result. By contrast I quite liked Wasteland 2, which seems like a game again attempting to fill that now empty niche which a small minority like myself have been craving to have filled. Are it's mechanics a bit wonky? Certainly, although I do think you're overstating things with your all-caps cries of how incompetent the developers are. But even so it fulfils the desire for a turn based tactical take on the post-apocalyptic setting that new Fallout titles don't satisfy. Same with a lot of the quest and story design, which is open to all sorts of nonsense that the new more cinematic entries into the genre are simply incapable of.
I haven't played any of the others yet, but I'm going to have to second this sentiment right here.

As I've said elsewhere, Wasteland 2 did a better job of scratching my Fallout itch than any actual title in that series, possibly because its closer to how the original Fallouts actually played, instead of just having people running around in Vault suits and Power Armor in what is essentially a (very) slightly reworked The Elder Scrolls game.

Fallout 3 bored me out of my mind; as I recall I stopped playing one day at some point just after getting to Rivet City... and the will to ever play it again simply never came up. I read all the praise for New Vegas, I tried playing it, and still I found that I couldn't be bothered caring about how good the writing or the quest system were, or that Avellone, Sawyer et al. worked on it, the very instant I found myself pew-pew-pewing, Quake Fallout 3 style, at a bunch of inexcusably poorly animated Powder Gangers.

No, in fairness Wasteland 2 also doesn't come anywhere close to the original Fallouts' level of writing, alternatives as to quest resolutions (particularly non-violent ones) or branching dialogue trees, and there's plenty to criticize when it comes to some of its basic mechanics (attributes, skills, etc.), but I still found it to be incomparably more engrossing than any of Bethesda's FPS-"RPG" offerings.
 

Frankster

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*cries in desperation that Age of Decadence hasn't been bought up even ONCE*
Don't you guys like rpgs? Check out AoD for crying out loud..

Pillars of Eternity: A disappointment that fails in almost every category when compared to Baldurs Gate.
It might be old skol in looks, but its gameplay completely failed to capture even a sparkle of old crpg combat systems whether that be in that stat systems, combat mechanics, level design. Story was surprisingly incompetently executed considering it came from obsidian. It is fail, next.

Wasteland 2: .... Seriously we wasting time talking about Wasteland 2 when there are better old school style crpgs out there? What is wrong with you people! Wasteland 2 fails even harder then PoE when it comes to its mechanics, stat system is broken and the rpg side of the game is in overall in dire need of a complete revision. Moving on.

Divinity OS: Finally a game worth talking about. It's got its flaws but I'd say it successfully captures some of the magic of old school games whilst actually injecting some modern freshness in regards to how elements interact with each other, something I dont think would have been possible before. I'm probably very positively biased towards this game simply cos am having a great time playing coop in it. Would have to play it single player to give an honest assessment of how it stands on its own merits, I have trouble to think of it as anything else then an awesome coop rpg.

Age of Decadence (because shame on OP for not bringing it up yet, no friggin wonder it's selling so poorly):
Encapsulates both the best and worst aspects of old school crpgs, the good by offering the opportunity to rp your character in a multitude of ways with actual consequences for your actions and having a robust stat system, the worst by being obtuse as hell and offering 0 hand holding and just being unwelcoming and difficult in general, it's very much a game you'll love to the high heavens as the pinnacle of recent rpgs, or one which you'll immediately be turned off just because of how old school it is.
Discover it for yourselves, at very least it's a game worth talking about more then Wasteland 2 or the stupidly overhyped but ultimately mediocre Pillars of Eternity. I just regret I'm not eloquent enough to make clear just how much AoD is a big deal in rpg games, and how its a tragedy it seems to be completely sinking into the unknown.
 

endtherapture

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Frankster said:
*cries in desperation that Age of Decadence hasn't been bought up even ONCE*
Don't you guys like rpgs? Check out AoD for crying out loud..
I was just checking to see if anybody was going to mention that. Ah well, I suppose I could mention the game made on the same engine (I think), Dead State (not to be confused with State of Decay).

http://www.deadstate.doublebearproductions.com/media/
 

Frankster

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Corey Schaff said:
http://www.deadstate.doublebearproductions.com/media/
Thank you Corey for giving me some hope after all that AoD isn't just a figment of my delirious imagination!

I was wondering if to bring up Dead State too, but calling it an old skol rpg is a bit of a stretch I figured.
 

Schadrach

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So long as we're talking about things that might be added to the conversation, there was a remake of Shadowgate that's actually pretty good, so long as you like Shadowgate.
 

endtherapture

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Wasteland 2
It's an okay game, decent AI, decent story and decent combat and decent inventory. But that's all I ever asked for.
In this age of pseudo-action games with downgraded AI, increasingly shitty UI, outright idiot plots, and ever-increasing focus on playing a bad ripoff of The Sims. And if you think these modern day pseudo-action games are in any way "original" or "innovative" you are dumber than a fucking rock, because "Gears of War (Mass Effect) and World of Warcraft (Dragon Age) with shitty AI and outright useless UI" isn't innovative or new.

No it doesn't come anywhere close to the original Fallout's in terms of writing, and has a lot of problems with the interface (still better than anything Bethesda and Bioware have designed), mechanics (still far better than Bethesda, where armour rating is presented as a number that is not a percentage, nor it is a damage-reduction value. Instead, it's a number between 0 and 567, where 567 equates to 80% damage resistance) and customization (you can't even pick your hair colour, that's entirely dependant on hair style) but at the very least it actually improves on many flaws of old RPGs rather than a giant leap backward.

It's not great, but it's at least a step in the right direction. As opposed to Fallouts 3 and 4 which instead have gone straight downward through the ground looking for a darker and edgier version of The Sims with tedious fetch quests.

Shadowrun
Pretty much the same as Wasteland 2, my complaints about Wasteland 2 are even more so for Shadowrun because of the horrible character models and animations, and it doesn't quite make as many improvements. But again it's at least a step in the right direction, if maybe a drunken one. I also like the setting.

Most importantly, in both of the above mentioned games there is MUCH less time going through menus than Mass Effect, Dragon Age: Inquistion and Skyrim/Fallout 3/4 because the UI was designed by people with more than a single fucking brain cell between them.
 

BloatedGuppy

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The Madman said:
An experience doesn't need to be something 'new' or 'innovative' in order to be enjoyable, in fact the case is quite often the opposite with the warm familiarity being what people are seeking.
No, it doesn't, but neither do I credit games with capturing "warm familiarity" because they aped the graphics style of a bygone era.

I'm going to preface this by saying that there is NOTHING WRONG with liking these games. I'm not saying anyone is stupid for liking them, or that they can't be favorites. I am saying that it's very hard to issue any kind of praise for them that isn't followed by a forest of asterisks, and I find it to be some combination of depressing and hilarious that we pillory more modern offerings for certain shortcomings that we're willing to hand wave in these games. Presumably because of "warm familiarity". Hell even the term "warm familiarity" is such a cop out. Call of Duty 18, Call of Dutiest isn't a RETREAD guys. Assassins Creed 11, the Assassinest Creed isn't FORMULAIC. They're simply capitalizing on warm familiarity. But I digress. Let's talk specifics again.

Pillars of Eternity

Visually it's got crisp, beautiful backgrounds vibrant with colour and full of neat lighting tricks and moving parts to help it feel alive, reminiscent of ye olden pc rpg except in bright new HD visuals.
See, I just find this to be risible. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, naturally, but we should be applying labels like that rather sparingly to games or we have nowhere else to go. I recall some reviews talking about indie games and their "gorgeous pixel graphics", and all I can think is really? Pixel graphics are "gorgeous" now, are they? And there was nothing remarkable about these games and their art aside from the fact it was pixels. Pixels = gorgeous.

But hey, it's not all about bump mapping and polygon count, right? What about art direction?






Why is Pillars of Eternity "beautiful"? Can you tell me anything about it's visual style or design that stands out as unique, or compelling, or riveting? Something that speaks of a powerful artistic vision, or a commitment to mise-en-scene, or really anything other than "They rendered a bunch of trees and buildings, statically"?

Pillars of Eternity has FUNCTIONAL graphics. They are most comparable to games that are now older than some of the people posting on this site. This is not any kind of particular accomplishment. Certainly you can applaud them for evoking a particular time in the industry, but is that a high watermark of achievement? I consider Ultima to be the most important series of CRPGs ever made, by a country mile, but if someone rebooted it today and captured the look and feel of Ultima IV, I would consider it a RESOUNDING FAILURE.

Chanters and Cipher are interesting takes on seemingly familiar class ideas while other more standard classes like the paladin have little gimmicks to keep them fresh.
There is absolutely nothing fresh about it. Chanters are bards by any other name, and Ciphers are Mages. They don't even merit interesting or unique mechanics, they just...do DPS. Oh boy! Obsidian, anointed due to their time as Black Isle as some of the best writers in the industry, who name-checked the wild and wonderful Planescape Torment when kickstarting this game, give us a game of wizards and warriors that is deeply rooted in...what did you call it?..."tried and true D&D tradition". Zero imagination. Virtually a copy-paste of Baldur's Gate with some textures swapped around and names shifted. Again, if "warm familiarity" is your only goal, have at it, but why are we commending this? When Far Cry 4 launched and was essentially a palette swap for Far Cry 3 right down to the outlandish villain, did we cheer and say "Huzzah for Ubisoft, warm familiarity wins again"? When the 18,000th WoW clone launches, should MMO fans rejoice, and pronounce another victory for warm familiarity?

The game offers a plethora of dialogue options to determine your past and present, that help decide how your character feels about things and to which the game will then often react to, making your protagonist feel like an actual character in this setting rather than just another paper-thin proxy for the player ala most other rpg
I'm sorry but this is nonsense. There is nothing particularly robust about the character creation or the rooting of said character in the setting. I barely remember my character outside their class, and I certainly wasn't captured by the writing. Even the fact that you're yet another goddam chosen one would have been greeted with high ridicule coming from a more established developer. Yet I could talk to you for hours about my characters in Baldur's Gate or Planescape, or even modern offerings like Mass Effect or even fackin' Skyrim, where 90% of it was authorial insert. I'm glad the game stimulated your imagination, but it wasn't anything the GAME was doing.

Wasteland 2 meanwhile you seem to argue doesn't need to exist because the Fallout franchise still exists, but that's a rubbish argument in that the new Fallout games bear so little resemblance to their older kin it might as well be a new franchise entirely.
Yes, correct, the series evolved, which is why Wasteland 2 copies an EVOLUTION and not the original game, or it would have looked like this:


I actually played the original Wasteland when it was new, and the 'sequel' bears very little resemblance to it (aside from lifting the killer bunnies and ag center business lock stock and barrel), choosing instead to ape many of the game play conventions of a spiritual successor that was released over a decade later. Funny how that works, it's almost like the medium matures and game play evolves. "In every way that matters", Wasteland 2 is ALSO a new franchise entirely.

Are it's mechanics a bit wonky? Certainly, although I do think you're overstating things with your all-caps cries of how incompetent the developers are.
A bit? Please. PLEASE.

You've got stats that do not affect skills at all, so your 10 STR brute will be worse at breaking a board than your 1 STR weakling if the 1 STR weakling put a point into bashing. The only stats that matter affect AP, CI, or skill points, making half of them utterly worthless dump stats, leading to universally recommended stat allotments featuring half the stats set to 1. Skills are utterly binary...you either have the skill you need or don't...and there's more than ample skill points to cover every essential skill. If you need to use a skill, you click the thing, and the character with the highest skill automatically does it. GAME PLAY! I'd love to hear the lobby that declares games with minimal interactivity "not even games" weigh in on that horseshit. One of the game's principal modders BLASTED the developers post DC release for once AGAIN allowing rifle skills to retain utter primacy, rendering all other weapon skills virtually moot by comparison. Cover is also binary, you're either in it or you're not, and by mid game to-hit bonuses are so high on all your guys that an enemy being in cover or not being in cover is virtually irrelevant. I could go on and on. It's not a good GAME. You and I could sit here and in 15 minutes come up with a better stat/skill and game mechanics system on paper, and that's if one of us was blind drunk. Why is this acceptable from a company selling their game for $60 at launch? What if Bethesda did this? What if Bioware did this? We have Dr. McD yowling in this thread about armor values in Fallout, so we know EXACTLY how people would respond. They'd call foul. But no, I'm "overstating" the issue. Presumably because of "warm familiarity".

Same with a lot of the quest and story design, which is open to all sorts of nonsense that the new more cinematic entries into the genre are simply incapable of.
Oh, DO tell. Because I JUST got finished a run through of the (still broken, hilariously) Director's Cut, and I'd love to hear about all the wonders I experienced that modern games are "incapable of". Because it felt like a game I could and should have gotten off GOG for $5, only I wouldn't, because there's about 100 better offerings on there. Was it the part where I could choose between Highpool and Ag Center? As though Witcher 2 didn't have an entirely different second chapter that was some 20 hours long depending on player choice? Was it the fact that I could say yes or not to some quests, or that totally irrelevant NPCs could live or die depending on my actions? Good Christ, it's like magic! What technical wizardry!

It's a rewarding rpg experience in a novel and under-utilized setting with some fantastic cast of characters and great roleplaying opportunity.
What was "fantastic" about the characters, specifically? They seemed pretty dull to me, none particularly memorable. I guess I liked the Rat Shaman, what little personality she was able to exude through the utterly pedestrian writing. Why is an "under utilized" setting important here, given you said up above that innovating or being unique "isn't important"? Or is it selectively important? Why is it rewarding? What was rewarding about it, that isn't rewarding in other games?

Dragonfall provided a compelling noire-style murder-mystery whodunnit in compelling setting and with a cast of characters I actually gave a damn about.
Why was it compelling? Why do you "give a damn" about the characters here, yet presumably not elsewhere? I'll be honest, I played it completion and I couldn't even tell you the NAME of a single character from it. I remember a bald Dragon totem Shaman. And...that's all I got. Oh there was an angry girl too. I can't remember what her deal was. I can name check almost the entire cast of Planescape or Baldur's Gate 2 though. Now THOSE were compelling characters.

Hong Kong iterated on that by providing a new story in a similar vein with an even greater focus on characters and with an improved ability to give the player opportunity to play the character they wanted to play.
You mean, if I put a point into "Security" I could use a Security option during dialogue and get a unique line of (pedestrian) dialogue. Exciting stuff. I brought the Drone guy instead of the hacker, so instead of hacking the door open I'll send my drone through this conveniently placed duct to throw a switch! Game play! Modern games could never equal this!

The combat might be simplistic but I nevertheless find it enjoyable, and while the visuals aren't brilliant they're far from terrible either.
I'm glad you enjoy it, it's still utterly simplistic. That's not good. Also not good is the fact they threw out a pen and paper system of surpassing complexity in favor of a bare bones system and stripped down classes. Why is this commendable? Again, imagine if Bioware did this, or Bethesda, or (shudder) EA. Would we be cheering? No we would not.

And the visuals...don't make me do the PoE thing again. They're terrible. The engine is awful. It's static and 2D, the game spaces are tiny and almost entirely non-interactive, there's loading screens everywhere, the character graphics are comparable to Gold Box games from the mid 90's. This is not good. We can be objective about this. I LOVE Mount and Blade, but I can be objective and admit it's as homely as a gargoyle's tit. This is one of the ugliest, least functional engines in gaming.

That I can get all three Shadowrun games for the same cost as Inquisiton isn't a bad thing, it's a selling point!
Getting three bad games for the price of one bad game with higher production values isn't a selling point, it means you need to make better purchasing decisions. =P


Okay so...addendum.

I am not trying to be mean. I realize I am shitting on games you enjoyed a lot, and shitting on them pretty hard. It's not because I think they're the worst games ever made, it's because I think ALL of these developers were capable of doing a LOT BETTER, and they all took some pretty appalling shortcuts, and have been getting unreserved praise almost solely on the merits of "nostalgia gud". It pisses me off. Pillars of Eternity could have been a triumph of imagination. Wasteland 2 could have given us the "combat inspired by Jagged Alliance 2" that they promised. Shadowrun could have USED THE FUCKING GAME as a jumping off point instead of creating that super-streamlined nightmare. All of it could've been done on their tiny budgets. I don't expect Witcher 3 from these guys, I don't even expect a New Vegas or Alpha Protocol. But I expected more TRY. Don't just yank my nostalgia chain, and don't just ape the Infinity Engine...which was considered a laughably terrible engine even in its heyday that was persistently holding otherwise amazing games back and call it a day. Do better work. That's what I want to see from these guys. Obsidian especially, they can and have done better. These other guys might just stink.

Before you go all anger fingers in response, DO remember you waded into this by saying I was "bitter and cynical". Them's fightin' words! I simply provided the fight I imagined you were looking for. There are no hard feelings and I'm glad you liked the games. =)
 

The Madman

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BloatedGuppy said:
Before you go all anger fingers in response, DO remember you waded into this by saying I was "bitter and cynical". Them's fightin' words! I simply provided the fight I imagined you were looking for. There are no hard feelings and I'm glad you liked the games. =)
I stand by what I said earlier: I think you're being overly cynical and critical, refusing to acknowledge any strong suits of the games while simultaneously blowing any flaws up completely out of proportion. But no, no hard feelings. I agree with you most of the time when I see you post in gaming, just not this time. Incidentally I'm not looking for a fight, I'm never looking for a fight online, that's why if you look through my post history you'll see I steer well clear of any 'controversial' sorts of topics. I do however really like some of the games you're lambasting so I want to defend them.

Speaking of which...

BloatedGuppy said:
Why is Pillars of Eternity "beautiful"? Can you tell me anything about it's visual style or design that stands out as unique, or compelling, or riveting? Something that speaks of a powerful artistic vision, or a commitment to mise-en-scene, or really anything other than "They rendered a bunch of trees and buildings, statically"?
Sure I can. I mean here's a screenshot I took while playing Pillars of Eternity a while back:


In motion it's beautiful. The luminescent light sources flicker dimly while the water splashes and ripples nearby. The characters blend nicely with the background, moving impatiently and shifting their weight from one foot to the other, and the visuals are crisp and clear. It's like an idealized vision of what isometric landscapes could have become had that perspective not largely gone the way of the dodo with the expansion of 3D visuals in rpg. I really like that.

Meanwhile here's Bioshock Infinite:


Good god, it's like some hideous disney-esq puppet monstrosity with its strings cut. What's with his feet? His hands? The landscape is clipping through the blanket, there are muddy textures everywhere, it just looks awful. What's with his polygonal pants? Aug!

See, I can do the thing where I selectively pick and compare screenshots as well.

BloatedGuppy said:
There is absolutely nothing fresh about it. Chanters are bards by any other name, and Ciphers are Mages.
I have played a lot of rpg and I've never seen a bard play the same as Chanters in PoE do, nor mages like Ciphers. The classes might bear stylistic similarities to other classes in D&D and fantasy in general, but in terms of gameplay I'm not sure I see the comparison. Besides, if you were to compare classes Ciphers are far more similar to 5th edition Warlocks than mages, sheesh.

BloatedGuppy said:
Again, if "warm familiarity" is your only goal, have at it, but why are we commending this? When Far Cry 4 launched and was essentially a palette swap for Far Cry 3 right down to the outlandish villain, did we cheer and say "Huzzah for Ubisoft, warm familiarity wins again"? When the 18,000th WoW clone launches, should MMO fans rejoice, and pronounce another victory for warm familiarity?
You've already answered your own question with comments like this: 'when the 18,00th WoW clone'. The difference is that prior to this little surge in retro rpg there weren't 18,000 competitors to compare it to. There was one, DA:Origins, which itself is now around 6 years old and came out following a similar drought. This isn't like Far Cry and Assassin's Creed, Halo or Call of Duty where we've got a new game in the series plus a dozen of so 'me too' style copycats every year, we're talking about a style of game that had fallen off the face of the earth.

It's not a valid comparison.

BloatedGuppy said:
Yes, correct, the series evolved, which is why Wasteland 2 copies an EVOLUTION and not the original game, or it would have looked like this:
You know perfectly well what I meant, now you're just being pedantic. I'm talking about games like...


Neither of which were ever release, as opposed to action-driven first person titles like the new Fallout titles.

BloatedGuppy said:
A bit? Please. PLEASE.
There are people on this website far better at arguing the nuances of gameplay mechanics than I am, and I'm not going to pretend you don't have some points, but the only other thing I can say is that it never bothered me overmuch. Maybe because I never deliberately set out to test or break any of the game systems, I didn't try to 'max out' my group, I just played what seemed interesting and had fun doing it. Maybe my casual approach is what saved me from the sort of bitterness you're boasting, in which case I'm glad I didn't pay too much attention to the details because again none of that stuff ever really bothered me. Similarly for story once you got to Los Angeles I really liked some of the options that opened up to the player in terms of choice, consequences, and factions to align with. Small decisions sometimes having a glut of repercussions, multiple solutions to a number of problems, it's the sort of stuff you don't see in Mass Effect or Fallout 4 simply because they follow a far more linear gameplay design where there's going to be an area with waist-high walls and you're going to either A: Fight those baddies or B: Not fight those baddies with few options in between. That's what I meant.

Now, onto defending my personal favourite of the lot, Shadowrun.

BloatedGuppy said:
Why was it compelling? Why do you "give a damn" about the characters here, yet presumably not elsewhere? I'll be honest, I played it completion and I couldn't even tell you the NAME of a single character from it. I remember a bald Dragon totem Shaman. And...that's all I got. Oh there was an angry girl too. I can't remember what her deal was. I can name check almost the entire cast of Planescape or Baldur's Gate 2 though. Now THOSE were compelling characters.
Off the top of my head Dragonfall had Glory, Eiger, Demitri (Or was it Demitry? Something like that.) and the optional boring hacker guy. Eiger being the hard-headed no-nonsense ex military Troll while Glory was the self-mutilating haunted waif and Demitri the somewhat suicidal ex-rocker shaman. Then in Hong Kong there was Is0bel, Gobbet, Racter, Gaichu, and good ol' Duncan. Is0bel and Gobbet being the two shadowrunners you meet up with at the start, one a smallish haunted dwarf and the other a cheerful messy orc. Racter was the psychopathic transhumanist and Gaichu was the honor-bound ghoul. Then you've got Duncan who serves to compliment the player character as your childhood companion and fellow newbie to the shadowrunning scene, thus allowing him to ask the questions like "What does that mean?" and so on minimizing any potential confusion over the shadowrun slang and setting.

Each of the above that I mentioned had their own well defined personality and quirks that made them compelling and often sympathetic.



etc etc

They each had their own side-stories and quests. They had clear believable motivations behind what they do, why they're there, and who they are. Well written dialogue that often incorporated a quirky manner of speaking (Glory's cold robotic mannerism, Gobbets upbeat slang-ridden street-talk, etc), and a number of similarly well described physical quirks as well such as how Gobbet always has her rats around her or Duncan's restless barely restrained aggressive nature.

Whether you like them personally or not, the characters are well done and vividly detailed. I love them and judging by reviews and the games reception, often praised for its characters, I'm not alone either. But then story and characters are one of the most subjective things out there so it's impossible to argue someone is truly right or wrong in not liking them, all I can say is that they made an impression on me. Far moreso than any companion in most other recent releases.

Dragon Age: Inqusition for example, again off the top of my head (I also played Dragonfall before Inquisition, so it should be even fresher) had angry Cassandra, the beardless sarcastic Dwarf, umm... Raging Bull? The amiable Quarian. There was the weird talking elf (Do they ever actually give a reason why she talks like that? No one else in that setting does so it's not like it's street slang or something.), Sara I think was her name? That fake Grey Warden guy and... can't remember if there was anyone else. They were alright, I actually quite liked Inquisitons cast, but by contrast to Dragonfall they really haven't stuck with me. They looked better with lush detailed character models and full professional voice-acting, and yet I still struggle to remember their names compared to a game with no real 3D character models to speak of and little to no voice acting, because I just felt Dragonfall and Hong Kongs cast had the more memorable personality.

BloatedGuppy said:
You mean, if I put a point into "Security" I could use a Security option during dialogue and get a unique line of (pedestrian) dialogue. Exciting stuff. I brought the Drone guy instead of the hacker, so instead of hacking the door open I'll send my drone through this conveniently placed duct to throw a switch! Game play! Modern games could never equal this!
No, I mean in the sense that through adding dialogue with Duncan you're allowed to establish a past and personality for your character. There are a handful of scenes where you reminisce about your childhood with him and through dialogue options you can choose how your character grew up and reacted to the world around them. What shaped them. Similarly you have a number of dialogue options in the present that portray emotion. You might have two options for example that both say 'yes I'll do it' but both have different reasoning behind doing it.

There's no real gameplay consequences other than an altered line of dialogue every here or there based on your choices, but what this sort of detail does do is help create a sense of immersion and character-building that something like Fallout 4's dialogue wheel simply doesn't provide. It's a small detail but I like it, it helps me further establish in my head exactly who I'm playing as and that the game encourages this is a great touch. It's also something modern AA rpg just can't really do because of the costs of voice-acting so many lines and can be seen as one of the little advantages of being a purely text-driven rpg.

In terms of visuals and gameplay like with Wasteland 2 above I'm not going to get into the nitty gritty of it beyond simply saying I enjoyed it. Guess I'm just easily pleased, being the simplistic cod that I am, but nevertheless while not ideal I still had fun with Shadowruns gameplay and the occasional challenging combat scenario thrown at you. Visually I agree it's far from perfect and that for a game with 2D visuals there are entirely too many loading screens that take far longer than they should to load, but it never hindered my enjoyment of the game. Would I prefer something better looking? Of course. But Harebrained just don't have the budget for that and I can live with this.

I'll just have to wait for CDProjekts Cyberpunk 2077 to see a colourful cyberpunk setting in full modern-day graphical glory.
 

BloatedGuppy

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The Madman said:
I stand by what I said earlier: I think you're being overly cynical and critical, refusing to acknowledge any strong suits of the games while simultaneously blowing any flaws up completely out of proportion. But no, no hard feelings. I agree with you most of the time when I see you post in gaming, just not this time. Incidentally I'm not looking for a fight, I'm never looking for a fight online, that's why if you look through my post history you'll see I steer well clear of any 'controversial' sorts of topics. I do however really like some of the games you're lambasting so I want to defend them.
Fair enough, and I think we've hashed it out well enough. I don't HATE the games so I feel no particular need to keep piling on them, I just think they get a lot of praise for riding on the coat-tails of better games that came before them, and aside from Divinity no one really made an effort to "modernize" or advance their offering in a meaningful way.

PS - I wasn't trying to cherry pick screenshots, all of those were the first Google Image Result whose thumbnail was reasonably small that I moused over. I genuinely do not think PoE merits praise for its art direction. But then, I don't think that of many games. Games I would call "beautiful" are few and far between.

PPS - I too am excited about Cyberpunk. CDPR set the bar high for themselves. Gonna be a long wait though.
 

The Madman

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BloatedGuppy said:
Fair enough, and I think we've hashed it out well enough. I don't HATE the games so I feel no particular need to keep piling on them, I just think they get a lot of praise for riding on the coat-tails of better games that came before them, and aside from Divinity no one really made an effort to "modernize" or advance their offering in a meaningful way.

PS - I wasn't trying to cherry pick screenshots, all of those were the first Google Image Result whose thumbnail was reasonably small that I moused over. I genuinely do not think PoE merits praise for its art direction. But then, I don't think that of many games. Games I would call "beautiful" are few and far between.

PPS - I too am excited about Cyberpunk. CDPR set the bar high for themselves. Gonna be a long wait though.
What, are you saying you don't want to have 3 pages worth of essay length back and forth debate? For shame. And here I was settling down with a nice warm drink at my computer and don't have to be at work for another few hours, what am I supposed to do now? Actually play videogames? Bah!

Guess we'll just have to agree to disagree on this one. Were you just hating on Wasteland 2 I might not have bothered, since while I did enjoy it I also agree it's all sorts of strange and janky, but then you done gone and dissed my beloved recent Shadowrun games (Dragonfall and Hong Kong anyway, don't particularly care about Returns) and I couldn't let that stand without a fight.

In any case hopefully Cyberpunk 2077 will be something we'll all enjoy equally, which after Witcher 3's success doesn't seem as unlikely as it once might have. Fingers crossed.
 

BloatedGuppy

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The Madman said:
What, are you saying you don't want to have 3 pages worth of essay length back and forth debate? For shame. And here I was settling down with a nice warm drink at my computer and don't have to be at work for another few hours, what am I supposed to do now? Actually play videogames? Bah!
If nothing else we gave the OP a page worth of high quality point/counterpoint on his subject. We deserve a fucking award.