Developers and Fans Working Together to Build Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition [PC Gamer]

Read the full article at PC Gamer

“Neverwinter Nights changed my life,” Tony ‘Andarian’ Donadio tells me. Donadio adapted his college Dungeons & Dragons campaign to create a module for BioWare’s 2002 D&D game, Neverwinter Nights, thanks to its dev kit being made available to players. The Aurora Toolset let players make their own modules, campaigns, and even miniature MMOs called ‘Persistent Worlds’. It’s mainly thanks to these fan-made works that Neverwinter Nights is still fondly remembered.

When Beamdog’s Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition was announced I contacted several prominent community members who all shared a passion for the 15-year-old RPG. I also spoke to Trent Oster, Beamdog CEO and the original game’s designer and producer, who is well aware of Neverwinter Nights’ unique position as a game carried by its fans.

Read the full article at PC Gamer

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My Top Ten Games of 2017: #2

My top ten favorite games of the year, presented in ascending order each day leading into the holidays. Look for my full Top Ten list with categories and awards on December 24!

#10 Fire Emblem Heroes
#9 Metroid: Samus Returns
#8 Injustice 2
#7 Hand of Fate 2
#6 Battle Chasers: Nightwar
#5 Thimbleweed Park
#4 Cosmic Star Heroine
#3 Horizon Zero Dawn

#2 Divinity: Original Sin 2

Larian Studios have quietly been crafting RPG classics for years (and I’ve dabbled in a few), yet none really hit the big time until Divinity: Original Sin in 2014. It was my #1 Game of the Year that year. The sequel is better in every way, and it’s only a testament to how amazing #1 is this year that I’m slotting it here. But make no mistake, Divinity: Original Sin 2 is destined to be remembered as one of the best RPGs of its time. Continue reading “My Top Ten Games of 2017: #2”

My Top Ten Games of 2017: #4

My top ten favorite games of the year, presented in ascending order each day leading into the holidays. Look for my full Top Ten list with categories and awards on December 24!

#10 Fire Emblem Heroes
#9 Metroid: Samus Returns
#8 Injustice 2
#7 Hand of Fate 2
#6 Battle Chasers: Nightwar
#5 Thimbleweed Park

#4 Cosmic Star Heroine

There are lofty goals and then there is aiming your sights at the greatest RPGs of all time. When Zeboyd Games went to Kickstarter in 2013 they conceived of an old school, 16-bit RPG that would feature the compelling story and combat of Chrono Trigger, the base-building, party gathering of Suikoden, and the sci-fi awesomeness of Phantasy Star. Who could say no to that (I certainly didn’t).

While Cosmic Star Heroine is somewhat hampered by its indie budget, it is a damn fine retro JRPG that successfully draws many of the best elements from all those inspirational classics.

The story stars Agent Alyssa L’Salle, a pseudo-space cop who discovers that someone within her own organization is up to no good. With the help of some memorable friends and fun newcomers she eventually joins up with the local freedom fighters, exploring multiple planets and uncovering more sinister details.

Other than a nifty twist toward the end the storytelling is the softest ingredient, leaning heavily on style and humor, which thankfully the game does very well.

Ten party members is a crazy huge number for a 15-20 hour RPG. Some are a bit more underdeveloped than others, but they all have distinct styles and themes, from the break-dancing, schmoozy robot to the bestial alien bounty hunter.

Combat resembles the Grandia games (as well as Zeboyd’s previous retro RPGs) more than any of the actual 16-bit RPGs. There’s a D&D-like initiative tracker, and everyone has more than half a dozen abilities you can equip and customize, as well as Shields that offer even more abilities. There’s also an interesting system involving building up Style and entering Hyper mode. It’s challenging but fun to work out the most efficient timing and unleash your most powerful attacks at the right moment.

In a perfect world developers like Zeboyd would be given twice the budget to create a larger, deeper RPG using their exact same design philosophy. What this two-person team (three if you include the stellar soundtrack) accomplished is nothing short of astonishing. Cosmic Star Heroine wonderfully (and appropriately) embodies the classic quote: “Aim for the moon, even if you miss you’ll land among the stars.”*

Read my review for Pixelkin!

 

*Yes I’m aware that the stars are much farther away than the moon. It’s still a nice quote damn it.

My Top Ten Games of 2017: #6

My top ten favorite games of the year, presented in ascending order each day leading into the holidays. Look for my full Top Ten list with categories and awards on December 24!

#10 Fire Emblem Heroes
#9 Metroid: Samus Returns
#8 Injustice 2
#7 Hand of Fate 2

#6 Battle Chasers: Nightwar

Battle Chasers: Nightwar

Most RPGs need to sell me on story, or combat, or setting, or preferably all of the above. Battle Chasers: Nightwar puts it’s exquisite art front and center, and it’s damn good. From the developers of Darksiders and the artwork from comic artist Joe Madureira come an impressive little indie RPG that offers a compelling turn-based combat system, fun characters, and a lengthy adventure. Continue reading “My Top Ten Games of 2017: #6”

My Top Ten Games of 2017: #7

My top ten favorite games of the year, presented in ascending order each day leading into the holidays. Look for my full Top Ten list with categories and awards on December 24!

#10 Fire Emblem Heroes
#9 Metroid: Samus Returns
#8 Injustice 2

#7 Hand of Fate 2

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The first Hand of Fate was an interesting take on a rogue-like RPG using cards, but also had some really rough edges (and a straight up horrible final boss fight). The sequel is not only a vast improvement but a great game overall, providing a meaty campaign with wildly different missions and expanding the games of chance beyond cards (read my full review at PC Gamer).

The deliciously acerbic Dealer returns, but his antics take a backseat to the much improved story telling. Each story chapter presents a self-contained story with challenging objectives, from escorting a helpless farmer, to gathering resources while avoiding enemy patrols.

The chapters are still laid out as a series of cards that you flip over, with each card presenting choices, games of chance, or a battle (and often, all three). The new games are a lot more fun than the frustrating card shuffle of the first game, including rolling dice, stopping a card wheel, and stopping a pendulum-swinging laser.

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Combat is the least improved factor, and still mostly a Batman-lite affair as you shuffle from enemy to enemy mashing attacks while blocking and countering their strikes. Often I was facing a dozen or more enemies at a time, which can be exhilarating, but also incredibly frustrating. Controls and camera are still a bit clunky, though weapon abilities and combos work much better, and the different weapon types all feel very different from each other.

The new companions were probably my favorite element, adding a much needed boost to combat as well as some really nice story moments. Their tales were unlocked through a progressive series of cards and challenges, and the ending sequence goes as far as to borrow from the companion-driven climax of Mass Effect 2.

Hand of Fate 2 is an excellent sequel that successfully builds upon the neat ideas and concepts of the first game.

Read my review for PC Gamer!

Hand of Fate 2 Review [PC Gamer]

Read the full review at PC Gamer

My Fame score was too high. When I drew the Infamous card again, I was faced with a choice: fight my way out of an angry mob of peasants, or submit to a trial by fire. I opted for the latter and was presented with a rotating beam of light along a pendulum of moving blocks. When I failed to stop the marker on the right block, the Dealer cackled with glee. My heart sank as he drew Pain card after Pain card and my health dwindled into nothing. I should have murdered the damn peasants.

Hand of Fate 2 is, like the original, a world literally made of cards. The campaign is presented as a world map divided into 22 challenges, or levels. These challenges provide specific objectives, and rules, and dying fails the entire challenge. Each challenge places a series of cards facedown on the table, like a digital board game. You move your token from card to card with each one revealing a new encounter that could mean potential gold, food, loot, or combat.

Read the full review at PC Gamer

Battle Chasers: Nightwar Review [PC Gamer]

Read My full review at PC Gamer

Battle Chasers: Nightwar tackles the tedium of traditional JRPG turn-based combat by turning every fight into a tense interplay of meaningful tactics. Despite some frustrating elements and balancing issues, Nightwar provides some of the most satisfying RPG battles I’ve experienced all year—and looks nice doing it.

Read My full review at PC Gamer