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[CRPGs] A year ago...

Strange Visitor

Grumpy Grognard
Validated User
I bought the first on a friend's recommendation, and just found I couldn't engage with it. I suspect part of it is my general issue with CRPGs, and part is the particular style of game it is doesn't work for me.
 

Choo Choo

Likes Rocks
Validated User
I enjoyed the original. Yeah, the sequel is much better, but the original is still fun and worth playing. I say do both. There are also a few callbacks, reappearing NPCs, and some world building that you're better off playing the first game for.
 

Argent

Anywhere... just not here
Validated User
I found the writing in the first game kind of atrocious, with plenty of spots that pretty obviously wanted to mimic the whimsy of stuff like Bg2:s chest-guarding beholder and other classic scenes but only wound up grinding uncomfortably against the feel of the main story. The tactical gameplay was quite good, but I dropped out because I couldn´t actually relate to anything happening.

The second game is a vast, vast improvement on pretty much every level, and I heartily recommend it.
 

Houlio

Gauche
Validated User
I've only played the first game, and I really liked it. However, I think a large part of it was playing coop with a friend. It seemed to me that a lot of the fun of the game was designed around having two different players, especially things like the dialogue between the PCs. The style of the first game also struck me in a similar way as the Borderlands series does, where it's much more palatable when playing with a friend rather than sitting through it alone.
 

Naxuul

Emo hair power!
Validated User
In general I would call the Divinity games good character creators/tactical combat games that also happen to have a story attached. The first one's story is a complete throw away, the second one's main story is mostly a throw away but the main character/companion stories are actually pretty interesting. Story wise there are notable differences, the first one is more humor forward and is mainline heroics, the second one is much less heroic in tone with your cast of main characters being a prince exiled for cavorting with demons, a possessed con artist, a war criminal assassin, a attempted regicide turned pirate, a cannibalistic ex-slave assassin going Kill Bill on her old owners and a skeleton completely contemptuous of the living world. They're fun characters though.

-Naxuul
 

Phantom Grunweasel

Situation Normal Oll Korrect
Validated User
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic



I wasn’t impressed by Knights of the Old Republic the first time I played it. Combat was dull and repetitive. Options for character creation were severely limited, with just three class options, none of which had any kind of interesting and distinctive shtick. Gameplay seemed basically a D&D RPG, with dungeons and loot and gear, awkwardly transposed to a Star Wars setting. The characters were bland and dull and dialogue seemed to lack any flavour or humour – particularly upsetting given that this is Star Wars, a setting that should overflow with weird, pulpy sci-fi ideas, larger-than-life characters, and smart-ass one-liners. I was aware of the big twist, having already played The Sith Lords – Obsidian’s darker, weirder sequel – but it seemed to me that it was the only surprise the game held. This was the game that many considered Bioware’s crown jewel? I got as far as Dantooine and decided I’d had enough.

But Mass Effect convinced me to give Knights another try. I felt like I’d had the same initial resistance to the first Mass Effect game and a lot of the same objections, but once I cleared the game’s starting areas and got into the free-roaming section, it all kind of clicked for me.

I did feel the same skepticism once again. Credit where it’s due: the upper levels of Taris, the planet on which you start, are graphically quite breathtaking even now. With cunning use of skyboxes, Bioware leverage their comparatively meager graphical resources into convincing you that you’re perched on the heights of an endless, vertiginous futuristic city. But on the whole, I found Taris a drag – particularly when you descend into the lower levels.

It’s partly the fact that it feels a little like a massively extended tutorial level – which, given that the battle on the Endar Spire is the game’s actual tutorial, and that it’s both trim and tense, is especially irritating. But it’s also just boring to me. Your only companion at the start is the extremely dull Carth, who follows you around and engages you in very one-sided monologues. Your character’s dialogue prompts are brief and bland – it’s hard to project any kind of personality on to them. Perhaps this is all in service to the game’s big revelation, but for me, I found it left a hole at the centre of the game. You go through a series of very one-note conflicts, which all boil down to ‘goodies vs baddies’ – there isn’t much in the way of interesting choices or dilemmas.

This time around, pushing further through the Dantooine sections, I saw more to like. Your initiation into the Jedi Order is given the appropriate amount of emotional heft, as is your construction of your own lightsaber. Dantooine is, by design, kind of a boring planet but it has its moments. There’s a satisfying murder mystery side-quest – at this point in their history, Bioware always seemed to include at least one of these things in their games, regardless of genre. My guess is that one of the writers just enjoyed creating them. I also found the Rakatan ruins at the end of the Dantooine section to be a good sign. Unlike, say, the interminable sewer section on Taris, it’s not a generic space dungeon. Its short and to the point, and its traps and puzzles make sense and help us put together a picture of its creators. They’re arrogant and ruthless, designing cruel deathtraps which they assumed only members of their own species would be intelligent enough to disarm. The ruins are an immersive challenge because there are logical in-game reasons for them to be the way they are, because their design itself is part of the story.

Still, it wasn’t until I blasted off-planet and made for Tatooine, of all places, that I was really sold on the game. I actually kind of resented the fact that the story was taking us to Tatooine. The whole point of Tatooine is meant to be that it’s not a very interesting place, which is why it’s frustrating that the franchise keeps returning there. It’s a sandy backwater, a place where journeys start rather than end.

But Bioware took that premise and did something fascinating with it. Their vision of Tatooine is a lonely, mysterious place – a place that’s seen countless empires rise and fall, a place where the desert eats each new coloniser’s pitiful attempts to make their mark, to establish something lasting. The Jawas are more than just chittering scavengers – they’re eerie, patient enigmas, a species that has come to terms with the desert planet in ways that humanity never can. The game captures something of the spirit of ‘Ozymandias’ on Tatooine.

Taking its cue as it does from adventure serials and pulpy space opera, Star Wars has always presented a world where the action is ceaseless and unending. I mean, clue’s in the title, right? There’s no break in the adventure, there’s no moment when the galaxy is not being threatened by some apocalyptic danger. As exciting and exhilarating as this in the moment, it could also be seen as kind of a bummer for the characters who actually have to live in this exhausting cosmos. Knights of the Old Republic makes it even more depressing by making it explicitly clear that this cycle has been going on for thousands of years. And melancholy, pitiless Tatooine has been witness to it all.

That same thoughtfulness regarding mood and theme, that attention to the texture and imagery of different planets and the ways that they contribute to the bigger story, is evident elsewhere. There’s the floating station on the water world of Manaan, where the crisp, sterile white corridors and impersonal, detached courtesy of the automated announcements suggest the way that its native inhabitants see themselves: as above the war raging between the Republic and the Sith, as affording the luxury of remaining neutral and playing host to both sides. That same attention to atmosphere is there in the claustrophobic darkness under the forest canopy on Kashykk and in the monstrous, totalitarian gigantism of the monument on the Sith world of Korriban.

The work done here is so strong that it overcomes Bioware’s somewhat puzzling addiction to formula, to symmetrical arrangements. The original campaign for Neverwinter Nights, written just before Knights, was such a shipwreck partly because it was so very eager to remind us that it was a game, by dividing its quests and sub-quests and even character development and dialogue with NPCs into neat, predictable little sections, completely dispensing with the fluid, organic, and lifelike way in which the story and characters developed in the Baldur’s Gate series. I’m not sure why the formula approach was so dear to Bioware, although I’d guess that it probably represented a way to keep some kind of over-all control over writing and design during the inevitable chaos of development.

In any case, the strength of the writing here overcomes the rather mechanical way that revelations and installments on subplots are doled out. This is never more the case than on Korriban, one of the high points of the game. Your character is undercover as a Sith cadet, and must continually assess the cost of displaying even the slightest kindness or mercy. We get a sense of why the Sith inevitably develop into such hammy supervillains – because they’re forced to act that way in order to survive during their brutal training period. Korriban offers an immense range of things to do and explore, but the basic premise of the section ensures that the tension never flags as a result – you’re always wondering if your actions are going to get you exposed.

That tension is also there after the main story has you and your friends captured by the Sith, and you face some tough choices during a torture sequence. This was, in retrospection, the zenith of the game for me. The conclusion wasn’t bad – it still held my attention, in ways that other games I’ve mentioned on this thread have not – but it lingered too long on the Rakatan homeworld, and the Star Forge felt like one long trudge through interchangeable baddies, but I still ended the game feeling charmed and thrilled by it.
 

Capellan

Member
RPGnet Member
Validated User
The only things I truly disliked about "Mass Effect 0" are (1) them not being allowed to do a same-sex romance with Juhani; and (2) the Bastila-fall-and-possible-redemption storyline. It's just so hamfisted and obvious and underwhelmingly done. "Oh Bastila got railroad captured and now after a ten second cut scene she's a bad guy." Blah
 

Phantom Grunweasel

Situation Normal Oll Korrect
Validated User
The only things I truly disliked about "Mass Effect 0" are (1) them not being allowed to do a same-sex romance with Juhani; and (2) the Bastila-fall-and-possible-redemption storyline. It's just so hamfisted and obvious and underwhelmingly done. "Oh Bastila got railroad captured and now after a ten second cut scene she's a bad guy." Blah
Yes, agreed on that. Bastila's fall to the Dark Side made zero sense.
 

Paladina

Registered User
Validated User
Yes, agreed on that. Bastila's fall to the Dark Side made zero sense.
I feel like they tried to foreshadow it, but obviously you have to assume a lot from the one cutscene. I still like the plot for the dramatic effect. But yes, more Juhani for everyone.

I'm still the only one who likes Carth, apparently. (Actually, I like Taris, too. Maybe it's how well the NPCs are introduced or...yeah, I'm an easy sell for segmented-society layer giant cities.)
 

Naxuul

Emo hair power!
Validated User
Yes, agreed on that. Bastila's fall to the Dark Side made zero sense.
At least it makes sense as a capstone for the lightside male romance path. The reverse female characters got, where if you're darkside you can choose to redeem yourself and die for Carth was.. not exactly great.

-Naxuul
 
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