Okay, after sorting out some issues with my drivers and following Grimnir‘s suggestion, the demo worked. It’s not your traditional demo in the sense that you get a small portion of the game to play… well you do, but you also have a 45 minute time limit to it. I thought that was interesting.
I’ll prefix this with what I played; I played a female Elf (last option for races) that went Rogue. (For me regulars, yes you can remove her clothes but she has undergarments – pervs.)
They seemed okay. They weren’t ground breaking or a push towards realism like you’d see in Skyrim, but they were good. Very vibrant, colorful though lacking extreme detail. I’m hoping that might be due to lower detailed textures with the higher detailed ones being available in the release version but since it’s shipping on console as well, I suspect that won’t be the case.
Overall there didn’t seem to be anything overly jarring. The game looked nice if you don’t mind games that focus less on trying to appear ‘real’.
I didn’t get too far into spell effects as I only had an lightning type ability. This looked pretty cool – nice little wind up and release (though I found targeting it was a little wonky).
I admit I was impressed by the animations, they’re pretty fluid and neat to watch. There is no dreaded jump animation short of jumping off specific points so that’s not a worry.
The animations change as depending on the weapon type you have so if you’re using two daggers the strikes look to be more about puncturing, tearing or precision. Firing the bow looks decent and when you charge up there is a bit of a glow but you also see the bowstring draw back a little further. The impact seems to stagger foes as well. With swords the attacks are more slashing and sweeping. The only other weapon I experienced was a fire staff which was interesting. Like the other weapons the attacks had follow ups and chained together in a manner that produced some pretty impressive effects.
That seems to be the way of the combat animations for your character, they chain together with one swing flowing into another. It’s really quite nice and reminds me a lot of the Batman Arkham Asylum/City games only with weapons.
There are sneak attack instant kill animations which are neat and another form of finishing move which is tied to another mechanic which involves separating yourself from reality… sort of… these finishers are interesting and have a ‘mash X really fast’ mechanic tied to them with the result being variant and looking pretty fantastic.
Creature animations are well suited to the creatures I saw. Other humanoids will attack you sort of like the way you do, with weapons where as some of less civilized creatures will use whatever weapons they have at hand or paw. Some examples?
I tangled with some bears and they were very bear-like; standing tall and swiping with their big paws. When I switched to bow and moved away they dropped to all fours and lumbered at me like you’d expect a bear to.
Wolves actually fought more like you’d expect a wolf to fight; they do a lot of hit and run attacking as a team. They were sweeping in from various directions to bite at me as they went by. Pretty impressive.
When I fought a troll its attacks were focused on its size so it would charge, smash and hurl stones. I quickly switched to using a bow on that thing and it worked well enough.
The sound was good, it reminded me of a Street Fighter type game where the sounds are tied very much to impacts or multiple impacts for combat.
The creatures make suitable noises and in some cases they’re a little humorous or cute too. Yes, I said cute. I’m looking at you brownies and boggarts.
I did find the initial sound of my toon grunting and groaning when she awoke in the pile of bodies sort of overdone. By the time she was done climbing down from the pile of corpses, I sorta wanted to put her out of her misery…
The quest givers have voice acting though much like Skyrim, your character doesn’t actually respond. I find this a little jarring now having played SWTOR for so long. I almost expect to hear my character respond in some fashion.
The cinematic sequences I saw were all in-game (short of the introduction one) and not bad. The first one where one of the gnomes is pushing a cart seemed a little off with his hand not quite holding the handle, not a big deal.
I did find the bit in the first town where a Fae was stabbed to be somewhat bad. Someone’s leg was blocking the view of the crime scene. I’d see the guard, this leg blocking view of the injured Fae then me until the camera panned to the guard talking.
I also noticed sometimes the mouths would not be moving while they were talking, but when the mouths were moving they’d be synchronized with the words. I think this is an area that needs some work in most games; I’ve noticed the same with SWTOR.
These sequences are used lightly throughout what I experienced, often as leading up to a quest or NPC interaction and don’t seem to be jarring.
I didn’t notice the music. I either had it off, there was none or it wasn’t obnoxious enough to notice. That could be good or bad depending on whether the music is important to you or not. It is usually the first thing to get turned off when I play a game.
I commented on this briefly before mentioning I didn’t like the extra buttons being present when it wasn’t necessary. It seems like the game couldn’t settle on whether they wanted people to have a button to push or just highlight an option and click it which works too and looks much nicer.
The character screen is what you would expect, but I found the menus a little weird. Let me give you an example of equipping a sword.
- ESC to bring up the character/game menu
- Click Inventory
- Click Weapons
- Click Primary Weapon
- Click the weapon you want
Seems a bit much no? They definitely could have organized this more. It works, sort of. I found sometimes the mouse clicks were getting lost and I suspect there is a bit of an overlap of Inventory hotspot and some text that is just to the right of it so clicks near the end of the Inventory text are getting missed.
Another bit of confusion is that there were multiple ways to interact with the same thing in the inventory. You could click on them or right click and get a context menu. Seemed a little odd but I guess that would map to another button with consoles? Anyway, I’m just not sure why they did that instead of just having other buttons: select the item from the list and J would mark it as junk, E would equip it, C would compare it and X would examine it. Seems a little easier to for people to do and could easily map to console controllers.
I did like that when you equip things the character rag-doll (which isn’t really a rag-doll, it’s actually a preview of your character) reacts to it. For example when I finally put some clothes on the Elf, she looked at them as they appeared on her and she seemed delighted to have boots and gloves. I thought that was a neat little touch.
The rest of the GUI shows your level, portrait, health and mana bars, two bubbles for your primary and secondary weapons (which you can switch between with the mouse wheel) and ten bubbles for an action bar.
The action bar was a little odd, I couldn’t easily drag and drop items to it like potions. It seems to be limited to only actions which I didn’t have any (short of the lightning spell that I started with) so I couldn’t see if there was an easy way of doing that.
Back to the mention of potions, you have a radial menu that you can pop items onto for things like consumables and what not (I’m not sure what the other things are, but the tip text implied you could put more than consumables on there). You can access this by pressing TAB which them seems to pause what is going on and overlay a dark filter on top of what is there already and eight bubbles (I think it was eight) in the middle of the screen. You then click the one you want to use.
Functional, but not really pretty.
They also seem to lack a Favorites list sort of like what Skyrim had but I didn’t play far enough into it to determine whether that would be of use or not.
One new addition they had was the Junk concept. As you pick up items you can put them in the junk pile which gets them out of sight making the list of weapons or armor easier to deal with. Another added benefit to this junk pile is that when you get to a merchant you can just sell everything that is in the junk pile with one click. Win!
There is a mini-map which functions as most games do and a main map. There is also a quest journal though I didn’t really look into it much. It does provide you with map markers for locations to do your quests. It also can show hostile creatures or even secret areas.
I did have issue with how they handle ‘zoning’. One of the quests I had involved running down and around a ramp which didn’t seem to be easy to do with how the camera was panned out. When I did finish loading my character was stuck in run mode and I couldn’t seem to stop it. I’ve seen this happen in other games so it is possible I hit something on my keyboard that did it but it seemed to happen when I zoned into that area and when I left the Well of Souls area into the world too.
The camera is another oddity about the game. It isn’t the usual camera you might be used to in MMOs or games like Skyrim. I can’t remember if the Batman games had a camera like this. It seems your character’s actions can start heading off camera then the camera will change to focus on you again. It was rather odd – cool in some cases, not so cool in others.
There were four races to choose from; two Human and two Elven with male and female options available. Options were focused almost entirely on the head (exception being skin tone); hair, hair color, face, tattoos, color for most things. All on a slider though I didn’t find it awkward to use. No changes to body size such as height or weight.
You’re not going to be able to fine tune the settings to make your character look like someone specific.
It works but isn’t anything exceptional or new.
It’s hard to describe the gameplay of this game because it seems to be a mash up of a lot of different games. As I mentioned it has combat that flows from one strike to another as you keep pressing the button (much like the Batman games), but there is also some special moves you can do with pauses or double tabs and you can perform multi-hit combos so it almost feels like a Street Fighter-type game in places.
I’d definitely suggest using a controller with it instead of the mouse and keyboard as you gain no extra precision from using the mouse – using the bow auto-targets so you don’t have to actually aim. Oddly enough, that isn’t the case with spell casting which seems to fire off whichever way you are facing at the time you begin to cast the spell.
The game isn’t a far stretch from other games but it is difficult to label it as any other one game. It is like they took many cool aspects from other games and added it in. I suppose if I had to note one game it was similar to I’d have to go with Divinity II.
There is crate/barrel smashing, highly fluid and combat that varies depending on what weapon you use, magic, simplified ranged combat, stealth, lockpicking, secret treasure to find, exploring, quests and crafting. I must admit, it does seem to be quite complete in it’s offerings – there should be something for most types of players.
At first you feel like you’re on rails, unable to go exploring but that is just for the first part which introduces you to the game and sets up the story. Once you exit that area you appear to have more freedom to roam around.
There seems to be a number of quests as you explore, mostly gained from people with some sort of indicator. I didn’t have a lot of time so I couldn’t determine if there were any conversations that hinted towards quests like you had in Skyrim/Oblivion. I’m not sure if the NPCs were inactive quest dispensers or not – I was mostly focused on running around killing stuff and exploring a little.
Health and mana are the two main resources. There are potions tied to filling these bars back up again.
There is another resource, I think it is called “fate”, which fills up as you defeat enemies. Once this is full you can press and hold X for a short time which seems to separate you from reality in that (aside from everything taking on a purple hue) you start moving faster, everyone else slows down and you get to whip around clobbering people with impunity. You don’t kill them while in this mode unless you hit F once they’re down to a sliver of health (they’ll slump over and you can’t do any further damage to them). Pressing F will start a mini-cinematic of you manifesting some weapon from light and clobbering the enemy with it. At this point you’ll be prompted to frantically mash a key or mouse button (again, ideal for consoles or controllers on a PC – be nice to your keyboard/mouse!) to gain bonus XP from it. Once you do that, you shift back into reality, the remaining enemies that you defeated collapse and you’re rewarded XP from defeating them. It’s a neat gimmick.
Gear seems to be tied to classes. Heavy armor means more protection, leather types increase critical chances and critical damage amounts while cloth/robe type armor increases mana regeneration rates. Shields can be used but do not appear in hand unless you hold SHIFT where it will suddenly appear and be held up in front of you. Gear does appear to have durability so there is a bit of a tax on item use.
There are experience points and leveling based off of that. When you level you are presented with three screens with the first being a skill selection screen. This has a range of abilities which you can drop a point into for some benefit. The skills are things like lockpicking (points here make it easier), perception (I don’t think it was called this, but it lets you see enemies on the mini-map with more points revealing secret treasures on the map, etc.), persuasion (increases your chance to have successful extra interactions with people) and some others which looked to be related to crafting or other abilities. I’m guessing the manual that comes with it will be large.
The second involving your ‘fate’. You get to pick which fate you wish to use and there seem to be some advanced ones that unlock through the levels. An example would be a Rogue fate which gives you a passive bonus to critical hit chance and damage. This appears to impact the second screen which is a talent tree based on what you are (I’m not sure how this works if you pick multiple fates or even if you could pick multiple fates).
There are skill trees that appear to be tied to the ‘fate’ you chose. It seems that as you level you could pick other fates but I’m not sure how it all works – I only leveled twice and didn’t try switching my fate. I picked mostly passive boosts; increased number of arrows when using a bow+damage, increased dagger damage and unlocking a Charge-up effect for daggers (which was pretty cool because it gives you a bit of a speed burst too). There were a few active abilities available as well but I didn’t pick them.
I mentioned above that there was some crafting but I didn’t delve into it because I didn’t delve into it with the demo at all either. There appeared to be Alchemy (as well as gathering materials in the game), Blacksmithing (I assume this is for weapons and armor) and Sagecraft (I have no idea what this is for – enchanting? Magic items?). There may have been more but I can’t remember them.
One other mechanic that was in game was lockpicking. This involved a view of the lock and a pick, somewhat like Skyrim. The interaction was adjusting the placement of the pick and holding D down to push something along the tumblers. If the pick rattled it was in danger of breaking and was indication that you didn’t have the pick angled correctly. Adjust slightly and try again – not all that different from Skyrim.
It does seem like a neat game with some depth to the character development though not a whole lot of depth to the combat short of it looking really cool and being pretty fluid.
It might be something I pick up but I’m definitely leaning towards it being something I play on the console. I realize I said that with Skyrim and regretted it, but in this case, I think the interactions with the game are far better suited to a controller built to take the button mashing.