The Outer Worlds was one of the games I was most excited about in 2019 – so why did it take me this long to finish it? It’s got a lot going for it – the great dialogue, the memorable characters who don’t get nearly enough screen-time, and the…okay…gameplay? No, that doesn’t sound right – Obsidian wouldn’t do something like offer the minimal amount of customization in terms of weapons and equipment, right? They wouldn’t offer us a really boring Perk system in the place of Fallout’s V.A.T.s, would they?
Oh, they would? Ah, then.
That is unfortunate.
It’s not that I disliked The Outer Worlds – but I’m nowhere near as taken with it as I hoped I would be. In this twenty-two minute long video, I’ve gone at great length to explain what my problems with Obsidian’s latest consist of.
The Outer Worlds: Edgewater Is An Excellent Intro for every fan of RPG gaming – it taps into that old RPG magic, introducing compelling characters and giving the player agency and freedom of choice! Well worth the price of a dollar/euro/pound…if you have an access to Xbox’s Pass for PC service, that is.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey’s first DLC, Legacy of the First Blade, is broken down into three episodes and I decided I’d talk about the first of them, Hunted. Hunted is…not bad. A memorable antagonist makes his debut at the same time as the wielder of the first blade is introduced – Darius, an elderly Persian who has been doing this whole assassination thing for awhile. Darius is a nice enough guy if we forget the whole stabbing Persian monarchs business. The weird thing is, the animation and cutscenes sure took a dive in quality. As for the writing? Well, we haven’t hit the bottom yet, Reader. But before all is said and done…we will. Oh, we most certainly will.
Kieron Gillen has written some of the finest comic books over the past decade. When I heard that he would be penning a new project that sees D&D and Jumanji come together, I was excited–thrilled, in fact! And when the first few pieces of art were revealed, I was ecstatic. Now, nine months after I first found out about DIE, I finally got Vol. 01: Fantasy Heartbreaker. The wait has been more than worth it.
The key concept behind DIE is the kind of idea that’s bound to win most RPG nerds over, and I stick to anything that has to do with ttRPGs like a bee to an unpollinated flower, so it was a match made in heaven from the get-go. But as a self-proclaimed expert on Kieron Gillen’s work, I’m also going to draw a comparison to some of his other work here, since DIE is thematically different and contrasts quite a bit with his other major recent work, WicDiv.
First off, who are our characters? A bunch of flawed, damaged individuals in their mid forties, all of them bound together by past tragedy and trauma but disconnected in every other way that counts. Dominic/Ash is our lead in this group of five, the tall blond bloke in the middle of the last panel from the page above, his character in the RPG gameworld a tall platinum blonde with the powers of a Dictator — “a diplomat with teeth. A cross between Cleopatra and Machiavelli” — definitely erring on the side of Machiavelli by the end of vol. 01.
The Dictator class has the power to control emotions with their voice; this power works kind of like Marvel’s Purple Man’s does but with a much greater degree of subtlety; it requires more ingenuity on Ash’s part, too. The other members of the party are Ash’s kid sister Angela, who plays a “cyberpunk” or Neo, which is basically a drug addict but instead of a human on crack, the Neo is addicted to Fae gold and as soon as she gets her hands on some, becomes a high-tech jet-pack wielding heavy-hitter (useless without any Fae gold, naturally); Chuck who plays the Fool and acts like one for the most part but is at the same time a pretty conniving guy; Matthew, who plays the Grief Knight, a warrior/paladin whose power comes from negative emotions; and Isabelle, the Godbinder, who used to be all edge and so wanted to be “some kind of atheist with gods for pets”. They each got a single many-sided die, each of them different from the others. The last one, the d20, went to Solomon — our sixth, the guy who came up with the game and who plays the Master.
Sccccarrrrrrrry, as Chuck would say.
Only, it’s not a game, and after rolling their dice, our party of teens disappears from the face of the world for two years, without a sign left behind. That was then, as the first panel makes clear. Now, twenty seven years later, drinking in a bar with his sister, Dominic gets a little something for his birthday — a certain familiar d20 in a package without a return address, only a criptic ‘happy birthday’ message on it. In spite of his first impulse being to smash the damned thing with a rock, Dominic decides it’s not his decision to make and instead brings the band back together to discuss options. Soon as the die is in the open, however, it doesn’t seem interested in anything the members of our party might have to say. One minute, they’re all in Chuck’s parlour and the next…
Shit gets real.
Now that our characters are back in the fantasy world they lost two years of their lives in, things are markedly different. The world is a hodge-podge of familiar fantasy and sci-fi tropes with their own unique spin; it has some horrifying, bleak parts but beautiful ones, as well. Unfortunately, most of those latter ones are poisoned by the past and the memories that come with it. Seems like in their past stay, our heroes made choices that were less than wise, the kind of choices that have a steep price for everyone involved.
A stark reminder of one such choice comes early on, and I won’t spoil it but let’s just say it shows a lot of Ash’s personality as well as the scope and depth of their powers. It’s a damn good scene and probably the one during which I fell in love with this story. It’s the sort of sequence that
Following the first issue, we’ve got some heavy world building in the second, then some fluffy world–building in the third, as Gillen himself describes it in one of the essays at the back of the volume (Guys! There are essays in the back of this volume! How cool is that?! I hope as all hell that’s something the next volumes of Die will also have!).
More about the world is showcased, and our characters shine in action. What’s there to say about it but…what brilliant, fantastic art! Dynamic, beautiful, downright stunning. Hans explains that she “cut the book into sequences, to which I assigned a colour gradient. Each has a meaning but almost all of issue one is a preparation of the double-page spread with the big reveal of the DIE world with intoxicating reds and vivid pure colours…ho, and space. All the sequences before that are bleak, almost claustrophobic; air is heavy, dark…” See, I was going to try and explain the difference as we build up to that reveal in the first issue myself, but Stephanie does it so, so much better. This is an excerpt from her essay, “The Space Between Words” on p. 181 of DIE Vol. 01. There is a lot there, in just over a page about her artistic choices, as well as the inspirations she drew from in designing this exciting cast.
This book would not be what it is without Stephanie Hans, that’s for sure. My recommendation? Get your hands on it, and do it quick! There’s so much to unpack on your own. What I’m giving this one is a full 5/5 on Goodreads, and a 10/10 in my heart.
Before I go though, I do want to take a minute to talk about the tonal difference between this and Wic/Div. While Wic/Div has always had a feeling of hopelessness underneath its loud, colourful surface (“Every ninety years, twelve gods incarnate as humans. They are loved. They are hated. In two years, they are dead.“), it’s still vivid, filled with neon-coloured characters imbued with a sort of joyful ‘fuck you’ manner towards a world that’s out to get them.
DIE is bleak and brooding, a darker place at its very surface. It twists familiar tropes to a degree that’s barely recognizable, and it asks some fascinating questions about our relationship with RPGs not only in terms of our agency inside these fantasy worlds but also what the effects of that agency are on us. It’s the sort of delightful, “when you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes back” logic I have a deep appreciation for. The answers…well, I’m looking forward to delving into those, myself.
Hullo, everyone, and welcome back to the recurring topic of this blog nowadays, which is indeed nothing less than the much-loved aphorism, #EverythingIsContent.
This one is in video form! But if you’ve got preference for reading, after the embedded link, I’ll also drop my script — which is most of the vid but not all of it. I tend to go off-script whenever genius strikes!
Hello and welcome to Darkest Dungeon In-Depth
I’ve spent dozens of hours over the last
several weeks playing Darkest Dungeon; spending so long with one game over such
a short period has lit in me the desire to take a deep dive into the many
facets of this excellent game of tactics, survival and Lovecraftian horror.
This I will do in a series of videos released twice weekly, over the next few
weeks. Ever since before it was officially released, I’ve thought that Darkest
Dungeon is truly an exceptional game, and once I heard about the announcement
of the sequel, I realised I’d never actually properly finished it. The thing is
– it’s a massive game, especially if, like me, you don’t want to just go
through the easier, “Radiant” option; no, a game like this deserves an in-depth
dive, in more ways than one. I’ve spent over a hundred hours playing it.
Disclaimer: I’m not going to pretend I’m a
good player – I’ve made more mistakes than I’d like, but I am learning, and I
have put a of research in each of the different sections of what will, a few
weeks from now, turn out to be a fairly long mega-video. Without further ado,
let’s get into part 1—the overview.
01: Introduction and Overview
Darkest Dungeon is, at its core, a game of
resource management. These resources come in many forms: first and foremost,
they come in the form of the dozens of adventurers you go through over the
extent of your journey into the Ancestor’s Estate. In the Hamlet, the resources
you manage are gold, and the four types of relics with which buildings are
upgraded: portraits, crests, deeds and busts. And in each expedition you send
your weekly group of adventurers, the resources you manage range from
consumables, like bandages and medicinal herbs, to the very limited inventory
space which will force you, time and time again, to decide between riches,
baubles, trinkets and the other type of currency mentioned earlier.
Resource management goes very deep indeed,
where characters are concerned. Every class of characters has their strengths
and weaknesses – the leper delivers devastating blows but his accuracy is a
problem, especially on higher level expeditions; the hellion has the ability to
buff herself and a reach unlike most other melee characters, as well as take on
three enemies at once in a massive assault with her glaive but at the cost of
lowered damage and speed; and the vestal…well, okay, she’s the perfect virtuous
healing machine. But this isn’t meant to go into the strengths and weaknesses
of the different classes, but rather to reinforce my statement – everything is
resource management. The weaknesses I discussed can be neutralised with the use
of trinkets, as well as the locking in of positive quirks.
Trinkets, I think, are self-explanatory. What’s interesting about them
is that the majority have not only a beneficiary effect, but also introduce
some new weakness, taking away from characters’ speed, or just about anything
else that can negatively impact an adventurer. Perks of the positive variety are somewhat more interesting, and they can allow
for a good deal of hair-thin customization.
Using one of the
buildings in town, the medical ward, you can strap on the characters to fancy
leather chairs and prod them with needless until the positive quirk is ‘locked
in’ i.e. it won’t ever be exchanged by something useless at the end of an
expedition. The process is obscenely expensive – which is why I only began
locking in positive quirks of characters once they hit resolve level 5, i.e.
became champions of their class. Definitely because I hadn’t yet realized that
was a possibility by that time, nope.
To conclude on the
topic of the original Negative quirks range from mildly annoying to seriously
debilitating, depending entirely on randomness. You can remove the
So much for quirks,
negative or positive.
Resource management in
town is…kind of a pain, sometimes. Fully upgrading any one building in the
Hamlet costs hundreds of crests and one additional of the collectible ancestral
resources. Paintings are the most rare of these, and are a nightmare to carry,
as they stack in threes. For reference, crests stack in twelves, while busts
and deeds stack in sixes in your inventory during an expedition. Not that there
aren’t plenty of each, and as you’ll be going on dozens of expeditions –even
hundreds – the Hamlet will expand before your eyes. In my view, the best
buildings to work on are the blacksmith, the guild hall and the recruitment
coach, on account of the fact that upgrading the first two allows for unlocking
higher level skills, armor and weapon upgrades, as well as cheaper prices in
terms of these upgrades. With these upgraded, the coach can in turn be upgraded
in order to offer a chance of recruitment of more experienced adventurers, who
come in with better gear and access to all combat skills at the level they’re
recruited at. While you’ll never recruit a character above resolve level 3,
these still save a bunch of money in terms of investing into gear and skill
So much for resource
management in town. Coming next, Apprentice and Veteran expeditions.
It’s a deadly dance that Primrose plays for vengeance.
The lone daughter of a noble house that fell under assassins’ blades, Primrose has suffered no end of indignities working as an exotic dancer under the vile Master Helganesh. All to find the three marked assassins who murdered her father. The dream of that horrible night has tormented her for years, ever since she was a small girl; the things she would do to free herself of these spectres of the past.
Unspeakable things…and she has had to do the unspeakable to come this far, following up on the barest hint of a man with the mark of the crow. That’s what has led her to Sunshade, and that is where the party of five came across her. By that time, Primrose had begun making enemies, but also a friend. Here is the tale she told her new companions:
Helganesh, that leery old fool. The things I’ve had to do to keep in his good graces, I shudder to think about the memory of them. You can’t imagine being in the power of a man such as he. All my accomplishments over these past few years have been his, all my failings – my own. My reward for those accomplishments was nothing, and the punishments I suffered for failing… I will not speak of them. You will meet men like him in every city, town and village – petty and vile, and all too willing to abuse whatever little influence they’ve managed to work out for themselves. That his influence in Sunshade is more than negligible is beside the point.
Over the past few weeks and months, I began worrying that the lead for which I sacrificed so very much of my dignity had led me astray, and I would be doomed to this nightmare forever. This very night was nearly catastrophic for me — my mind astray, I gave a performance for Helganesh’s patrons that the ‘Master’ found wanting. His threats forced me to go to the streets and perform my charms on passers-by until I had enough clientele to make up for my failure. The last of these clients escorted to Helganesh’s hall, I was resigned to give the leering masses another show when I caught sight of a man with the crow on his hand!
Finally, all my suffering had paid off! Just as I was about to follow, however, the old wretch cornered and threatened me. I nearly gave in to the threat, when Yusufa, the only other dancer who has shown any kindness to me, stepped in and offered me her help.
I could hardly refuse, could I?
I tracked Helganesh down — and you can imagine my surprise when I saw him colluding with who else but the hooded man? I listened in, and what I heard made the hairs on my neck stand at an end.
I wasn’t surprised to find that Helganesh is a flesh peddler…but I wasn’t going to stand by and allow him to keep it up, least of all when it’s that monster’s pockets that he fills. I made my decision then and there …
So telling her story, Primrose needed do nothing else to recruit the adventurers to her quest. They quickly made their way to the dark underway below, following Helganesh and his mysterious partner. The road led them to the desert outside Sunshade, where they were all forced to witness a horrible crime…
Her friend dying at her feet, Primrose was overcome by rage. The time for standing against Helganesh was nigh, but before it, she would make sure to show him how she’d played him.
How good it must’ve felt to remove the mask she’d worn for so long! Though, admittedly, not as good as what came next!
Even as death stared him in the face, Helganesh didn’t change his ways — a traitorous bastard till the end. But an end it was, and soon, the crows… will follow.
Cobbleston, home to beautiful women, sturdy young men, and quite possibly the realm’s mightiest retired knight. Cobbleston, Cyrus and Tressa soon enough find out, is home to Olberic, the warrior.
Okay, covering fire might not quite xdescribe it. How about, Blazing Inferno! (Trademark Pending)
Aye, the brigand leader was taken care of, after a fashion. Defeated, he expected death for himself and his men. Olberic surprised him, and perhaps himself, when he offered another option. Overcome by Olberic’s mercy, the brigand leader gives the warrior what he is most desperate about – – the chance to find information out about Erhardt. Uh-huh! By the end of that little tête-à-tête, this Gaston fellow figures out just who the hedge knight’s true identity is! Queue the gasps! The brigands defeated, Philip safe and sound, our knight errant decides to move on with his new-found companions, to clean up the rust of his blade with some sweet, sweet monster blood, and-oh, yes- deliver the villainous Eirnhardt to justice. After, that is, he finds out why his friend betrayed their monarch.
It’s a full plate Olberic has, but with good friends along the way, he’s sure to have a hell of a journey! Olberic’s introduction was easily the most blend of epic-tragic storytelling Octopath has delivered thus far, to my great joy. Good voice acting all around, excellent writing, and Olberic himself is an excellent party member to have in a pinch! Together with Cyrus and Tressa, these three will take the wilds by storm, as they explore the next few cities over. Who will they come across next? The answer might surpri–it’s the thief. It’s Therion, that smooth, white-haired anime protagonist.
I played six hours of God of War with two of my closest friends, and I can’t stop thinking about it.
It’s rare that I’ll find a game lingering on my mind after I’ve put it down. Such games more often are those “just one more turn/game” strategy experiences, which can suck your life away while you’re grinning happily at your perceived intellectual genius, caused by thrashing a bunch of AI opponents. There’s a reason I no longer play StarCraft 2 on ladder!
But I digress. God of War, what an epic experience! First of all, this game’s encounters are Hard! We three amigos played on the third difficulty, i.e. what would be called in yon olden days “Hard mode,” and it frustrated me a few times if I am honest. If I were alone, I would’ve played the game on Normal. I’m not ashamed to admit it, I often pick Normal on most games, because,
A) I’m not that good, and;
B) I have a library of games I want to finish, and no matter how many I finish, it seems to always expand. I haven’t finished the Witcher 3 DLCs for Tolkien’s sake!
A few fights were an outright nightmare, I tell you. I reckon a few battles forced our collective blood pressure to go way, way up due to the sheer amount of time spent trying to beat them. The first battle with the heavy shield draugr(might’ve misspelt that, I’ll freely admit) was…not fun.
That said, passing through those moments eventually, after all that effort, it’s a high. I am definitely beginning to see the appeal of games like Dark Souls (my friend, whose place we invaded to rob him of his time with God of War made loads of Dark Souls meets Kratos jokes, some of which were quite good).
Enemies can take a lot of punishment on Hard. I don’t want to think what it’s like to play on God of War difficulty. It’s doubtlessly insane. But then again, the rush I felt at beating a few of those encounters which so flummoxed us — that’s almost enough to make me consider.
Might I not be able to spare the time? It might just be worth it if it’ll make me feel like a… God of War.
Cringe. I know, that last line was abhorrent. What about the story and the four boss fights I witnessed and/or participated in?
I liked BOY.
Boy is the boy of Kratos, who is patiently taking care of him, bonding with him over hunting magical deer and boars, and also over his mum’s death. They’re taking a road-trip to the peak of the nearby mountain and I can’t help feel that it’s a lot more difficult than it should be, what with the army of undead giants and non-dead giants, and angry gods without any clothes on.
The story is one-fourth road trip, one forth greek tragedy, and many more forths of cheese axe-throwing, all to defeat incomparable odds and yell some more at this little godling. Or demi-godling. Probably all-part godling though, if you ask me.
It’s great. Angry dad Kratos 2018 is even more entertaining than I hoped, and those few times during which you see Kratos fighting to keep as calm as possible or having a tender moment with Atreus Boy are nothing short of emotional.
Oh, and fighting the naked Stranger (who may or may not be a very weird interpretation of Baldr, though I’m beginning to see it) was epic beyond all rhyme and reason!
In short, I’m excited to experience more of this god-son road-trippy goodness.
P.S. I love how the side-quests are done! Because of Kratos and BOY’s continuous conversations, none of the ones we played through felt like they were moving away from the actual main plot; it was all an extended lesson for the Boy. The levelling up-upgrade system is also something I have a lot of appreciation for, though I need to further familiarize myself with it before I can really discuss it.
Let’s get straight to it! The problem with note-keeping is…sometimes you lose the notes. Others, you’re too lazy to write them down in the first place. So it is that I’m forced to recreate this particular session from memory alone, which might bring about a continuity issue or five.
P. as the Witcher-y Warlock Logen Thum.
S. as the cowardly fighter Kalis Dargon.
I. as the young half-elven cleric Ignus.
N. as the half-orc-like homebrew Kimir barbarian Gell.
NPCs of note:
Tess Einhorn, princess of the Einhorn Duchy. Thief.
Shank, Sergeant of the Einhorn army.
Crazy old herbalist guy.
Crazy old herbalist guy’s drunkard nephew.
When last we left off our valiant heroes, Logen Thum went after a suspected thief, whose dextrous fingers the witcher felt on his backpack. Without checking to see if his hunch was right, Logen rushed after the thief, closing on and eventually catching the young woman. Without so much as a question, he forced her into one of many back-alleys of the capital city of Moranth, and punched her twice in the stomach in quick succession.
Just then, the rest of the party caught up with the witcher. Kalis, horrified, realized the girl clutching her stomach in pain was none other than Tess Einhorn, the sole daughter to the Duke, the man they were to investigate.
What the players didn’t know was, the thief was no thief. Tess, a spirited young woman, had gotten away from her chambers in the palace and gone exploring, looking for news from her brother. It was a happy coincidence–the kind ever-so-helpful to DMs everywhere–that she heard the party discussing their plan to find the prince and gain his father’s favour.
So it was that Tess decided to stealthily put a map of the prince’s last known movements in one of the party’s backpack–the lucky recipient none other than our exceptionally violent witcher. She, a natural at sneaking, was more than surprised when Logen immediately shot after her, surprise turning to shock as his knuckles sank into her belly, forcing the stomach out of her lungs. Ouch.
Not a great first impression to leave on a woman in her position but after a short conversation, she assured the party that she would forget all about the warm welcome if they found and brought back her brother. This didn’t sit right with some of the party, and they went for an Insight check. Surprise, surprise — Tess can swallow a lot for family’s sake.
This misunderstanding cleared up with surprisingly little backlash, our heroes got to studying the map. Where the first attack of the undead had started was a fishing village two hours from Moranth by the name of Sarhas.
When they reached the village, they found nearly half of it burned to shambles. Soldiers toiled away, building barriers and digging mass graves. The attack has been recent if the smell is anything to judge by. What happened next?
Did they ask the soldiers what happened, do you think?
Nope, they got into a brawl with the town drunks, beat them half to death, and Logen took to carrying the drunken ring-leader’s body in the stead of a cape. This strange exhibit caught the attention of several soldiers, and the party was very close to getting into some very deep, very serious trouble with the law — if not for one sergeant Shank, who was familiar with the drunk’s antics and laughed it off. Kalis, an imperial soldier himself, found a common language with Shank, and so the two escaped any further trouble.
As for the drunkard? Turns out, he was the nephew of the crazy village herbalist! Wot!
They traded a man for a bunch of healing potions, is wot I’m saying. Note, the herbalist was off his rocker in a major way, and he was a standoff-ish old goober, so I don’t necessarily blame the party for kicking his nephew around a bit. It later turned out, most of those potions the herbalist offered were way past their ‘best before’ date, which made for some pretty strange and often horrifying effects!
So it was that Ignus drank a potion and fell in love with a scullery maid! There was a lot more to the potion, I reckon — but unfortunately, that’s one more thing I did not record. Yes, I know, I really need to write these hilarious events down! It’s so annoying, remembering how hysterically all of us shook in laughter, but being unable to recall why exactly. Was Ignus giggling uncontrollably? Was he belching, perhaps? Maybe he hallucinated slightly. I’m not sure, and the world is all the darker for it.
What comes next?
Find out next time, in the Dungeon Master’s Diary!
Thanks for reading! Hope you enjoyed this one! As I cover more of the game, more details will emerge, what with my consistently better notes. Besides, this session didn’t really hold much in the way of using the game’s system to enrich the narrative, besides the occasional initiative check and simple combat rules. It’s all going to get progressively more interesting as we move forward!