It’s a Wrap: Many Games Finished Over Holiday
Over break I had a glut of free time which I used very “productively” by finishing a lot of the games I’d been playing and starting and finishing new ones. Thanks to the Steam Sale, of course, it didn’t make an actual dent in my play queue, but it was nice to rotate out some titles nonetheless.
The first major achievement was finishing a “normal” game of Dungeon of the Endless, a pretty merciless rogue-like about a group of spaceship-crash survivors trying to make it to the surface of the planet into which they crashed. The actual winning game took a while, as I was playing with one of my buddies and we had to coordinate our schedules. Even better, it was both of our first normal wins, which goes to show that two minds are better than one. He had almost won previously but had an extremely unlucky streak of non-resource-generating rooms, whereas I was quite lucky opening doors and found lots of such rooms. I guess it is better to be lucky than good, at least in DotE.
Grim Dawn was another vanquished conquest. To be fair, my other buddy and I had finished all of the released content on hardcore prior to the break, but over the break the developers released the final act and the final boss as well as a new customization system that I like quite a lot. So over the break my buddy and I dusted off our old characters, caught up with the new system (we had to go back and farm some old content to get the “points” to invest), and then pushed forward.
Honestly, my buddy and I were vastly over-prepared for the fourth, final act. Due to our previous online hardcore experiences, we over-leveled and focused heavily on survivability, giving ourselves more than twice the hit points of some of the “cookie cutter” builds we’d looked at. We found the final act so unthreateningly safe that we started revamping our characters a little bit to have more dps, like my wielding of an insanely powerful two-handed weapon instead of my previous sword-and-board.
Well, it’s a damn good thing we didn’t revamp too much, because the final boss was so much harder than the final act that it felt like a full difficulty higher. That’s not to say the final boss is imbalanced, just that our strategies and preparation paid off quite well in his chamber, where the final boss fight turned into a much longer, more tactical battle than a lot of the rest of the game. I can imagine people getting there and being frustrated, though, as I can’t see how someone with half as many hit points could have survived (well, yes I do, through more active abilities compare to my more passive defense), but we were really juggling a lot of mechanics there at the end.
We came out victorious, though, unlike our first run at the final boss of Path of Exile. I hold with my earlier impression that Grim Dawn is a superior experience to Path of Exile in all rights, but my buddy disagrees, so take it worth a grain of salt.
During break, I also both started and finished Shadowrun: Hong Kong. As with the previous two installments, Shadowrun Returns and Shadowrun: Dragonfall, I really enjoyed the narrative storytelling of the game. The characters were well-developed, the missions were unique and engaging, and the overarching story developed with the expectedly-unexpected twists and turns. That said, it felt like a shorter game than the other two. It may not have been – it’s hard to judge sometimes due to leaving a game on overnight by accident or starting a new playthrough, but I have 43 hours logged on the original, about 25 on the second game, and only 17 on the newest game, where I – as I always try to do – did every mission with every optional side objective.
I also played this game on the hardest difficulty, falling back on the somewhat OP character design I’d used in the first game: rigger / hacker with two very powerful drones. With full development, you essentially get 4 characters worth of actions in combat as the drones level up and get faster on top of the ability to use two of them instead of one of yourself. Most battles weren’t a problem at all with this strategy and a good team, so perhaps the longer hours in the other game were simply feeling out the mechanics. I’m not sure. Regardless, it was well worth its cost, and I enjoyed it fully.
Lastly, and perhaps the biggest final payoff was finishing Divinity: Original Sin. My buddy and I had been playing that for months by this point, but that being said, I was still really enjoying the game and was sorry to see it finish when it did.
I think D:OS is probably the best multiplayer RPG out there. It has its bugs, no doubt, as many indie games do nowadays. But for actual gameplay, character mechanics, combat design, and story, I can’t think of a better product. (Yes, Neverwinter Nights has more replayability through user-generated content etc. etc. I know. I’m talking about core products.) My buddy and I again played on hard mode, and let me tell you, while it made the game quite tough at times, really the toughest part was the early stages, before your characters have a full bag of tricks that allow you to manipulate the core combat mechanics: energy.
Using the proper energy attacks for a particular situation really make a huge difference in the game. Whereas at the end of the game I could (bear with me here) summon an ice patch under my enemies so they’d fall down while my buddy simultaneously rained poison on them that, in the next round, he’d detonate with his fireball, creating a huge explosion and melting my ice into water, which I’d then electrify to stun then survivors (phew), at the beginning, all we could really do with big trash pulls was try to box them at a bottle neck and spam weak-ish single-target attacks at them.
The lesson here is that if you’re struggling at the start of the game, stick with it; it gets easier as you learn more tricks. Also, teleport, which you can get at level 1, is probably the most powerful spell in the game (especially around lava patches). Keep that in mind.
So I had a very (game) eventful break and was quite happy with checking those four games off my list. For now, I’m playing Endless Legend with one buddy, 7 Days to Die with my other buddy and my wife, continuing into the next difficulty of Grim Dawn with that same buddy, and playing both Pillars of Eternity and Renowned Explorers: International Society alone. More on those another time.
Stubborn (and game fulfilled)