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I love Pillars of Eternity for what it gets right

Pillars of Eternity 01

And a great job of it you’re doing there.

It’s been a while since I wrote anything for you, my lovely Arcadians; almost a month in fact! In truth, I’ve been busy ordering parts for a new PC, preparing to go on holiday, going on holiday, getting back, building a new PC, and then catching up on all the stuff I ignored whilst I was on holiday / building a new PC. As it turns out, two things is sufficient to take the wind from your sails.

Happily I’ve been able to find a few hours to spare in the time since all that. Approximately twenty hours, in fact, the majority of which I have gleefully invested in Obsidian’s new school take on old school CRPGs, Pillars of Eternity.

It’s easy to get a little burned out on games when you’ve constantly played them, written about them and even earned part of your income off the back of them for years. Fortunately, every so often something really special comes along that pours quick-dry cement into the ruts ahead of you, then kicks your metaphorical cart downhill, leaving you hanging on for dear life but somehow loving every second of it despite how terrible I am just now realising this metaphor is.

For some people right now that game is Bloodborne. I’ve played about half an hour of it and I can see why: from that fleeting taste of its brooding atmosphere, claustrophobic environments and quick yet thoughtful combat it seems like a wonderful thing indeed. I don’t own a PS4, though, so fortunately nothing is distracting me from Pillars of Eternity.

This self-indulgent blogvomit intro has already dragged on quite long enough so I shan’t fanny about introducing Pillars of Eternity – just click those links if you’re unfamiliar with it. Also, this isn’t a review. Whilst I probably could offer up an overarching assessment of the entire game at about a third in, I don’t want to. Instead I just want to acknowledge where Pillars has genuinely impressed me.


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Cast 24: We Are ImpRezzed

EGX Rezzed 2015

Image may not be representative of actual EGX Rezzed 2015 sponsor.

Despite swearing to never do another podcast again the Arcadian Rhythms crew ended up doing one anyway. The main reason was simply because AJ, Shaun and Potter had managed to meet up at EGX Rezzed 2015.

Happily, rather than ending up thinking that all video games were just ‘all right’, the show left us feeling like games were pretty awesome instead. The system works!

Joining us as a guest was Joel (aka. Harbour Master) of Electron Dance. The four of us discussed the highs and lows of the show, with a focus on the highs.

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Tap Titans & incremental games: is it enough to simply exist?

Tap Titans featured image

When I initially decided to write about Tap Titans I did so with the expectation that I would excoriate the game. In many ways I still want to. But after conducting a little research around the game, I have reservations concerning that impulse. Not because my opinions concerning the game have changed, but because I’m now more curious about where it sits in the wider context of gaming in 2015.

Let’s introduce our subject first. Tap Titans is a fantasy RPG of sorts, which I’m playing on an Android phone. The objective is to defeat enemies by tapping the screen, with each victory rewarding gold to be spent on upgrading your hero’s attack power and special abilities, or on recruiting NPCs for your army. 95% of the game is concerned with your DPS (damage per second, non-MMO folks). Your army provides a largely static DPS rate whereas the hero’s rate can be increased by tapping faster.

The remaining 5% of the game? Um… let’s go with activating special abilities, stats that affect how much gold you earn, occasionally resurrecting defeated NPCs, the premium currency / monetisation elements, and your internal monologue questioning why you’re bothering with all this.

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Brighton Undead! A few thoughts on ZomBN1

ZomBN1 photo

Over the past few years I’ve been watching, largely from the sidelines, the growth in popularity of board games. There’s clearly been a significant renaissance and from what I can see it’s a boom in sophistication of design and scope of imagination as well as pure audience numbers. Boardgames now appear in greater numbers at conventions and trade shows. I’ve heard of new boardgame shops opening and even new magazines – traditional print! – have been discussed. In January Quintin Smith (a games journalist whose focus has shifted increasingly toward board games) noted that he was being solicited for so much writing on board games that he has been turning down a lot of work each month. All told it’s clear that many people think this resurgence is more than a passing trend.

As usually happens when a bandwagon rattles by with things and people I like onboard, I’m intrigued enough to follow a little distance behind, picking up and examining the things that fall off the back. I’m not familiar enough with contemporary board games to offer informed opinions on them – unless you’re an expert blagger it’s difficult to fake expertise in specialist areas because the readership will rapidly suss you out – and if you’re not some sort of authority why would anyone be interested in reading you?

(For the record my answers to that are ‘I enjoy experimenting with writing about things I like’, ‘hell, I only started writing about video games in 2011, so let’s have a go’, and of course ‘what the hell, why not, and if the stats for this post are awful I’ll probably never do it again’.)

Boring crap about my freelance prospects aside, I, my girlfriend and many of our friends do enjoy playing board games and although the bulk of these are traditional word or party games (or modern spins such as Cranium) we’re slowly playing more of what, for lack of a better term and a lack of imagination on an overcast morning, I’ll just call modern board games. These have included games like Zombies!!!, Gloom, Saboteur, Pandemic but also my ancient copy of Doom of the Eldar. I’d love to introduce my girlfriend to Space Hulk one day, and reading reviews of games like Space Truckers leaves me positively excited at the prospect of playing them. Anticipation aside, though, we’re beginners in the world of modern board games.

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Applicant Wanted (tolerance of crunch & job insecurity required)

Monty Python - mud peasants

The subject of game development crunch time has popped up again thanks to a lengthy piece in the Guardian exploring the changes – if any – in industry practice following the 2004 EA Spouse revelations. It does not come as a huge surprise to hear that there there haven’t actually been many changes at all. Excessive workloads and tremendous insecurity still seem to be the order of the day at a lot of developers and publishers. On the matter of insecurity, incidentally, some of the stories recounted in this Kotaku article are heartbreaking.

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GTA V, stop talking so loud I can hear what you’re saying


Grand Theft Auto V arrived in much the same way as the preceding three GTAs: to a fanfare of adulation and articles heralding it as another milestone on the road of gaming evolution.

Its pedigree is definitely one of innovation. The first GTA back in 1996 felt like an awesome step in the right direction. The game was a sprawling 2D world, a day-glow city, starring you as a nameless, faceless psychopath. Later came Grand Theft Auto III which would help cement the sandbox genre as the trend that everyone then attempted to ape. It wasn’t difficult to see why with it offering this beguiling simulated city, and a feeling that you could go anywhere and do anything.

In both these cases, for me, this illusion was broken fairly quickly. The original GTA 2D’s progression was dependent on accumulating money and this was only meaningfully accomplished by completing missions. If you failed a mission then it became almost impossible to beat the game. At that point play degenerated into driving aimlessly around a city with very little else to do except for a tediously long grind through menial tasks – or restarting the entire game to repeat the already dull missions.

I remember, vividly, one mission that embodied the chore that was the mission structure. It involved following a car – not too close, not too far away – for ages. I never finished that mission and I never finished the game because of it.

Almost 20 years later I played the same mission in GTA V. The only difference was the level of fidelity – oh yeah, and the fact that it was in full 3D.

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