Making a Fantasy Map

When you’re making an RPG or building a fantasy world the map is a very important part. It helps you visualize what you’ve created, and if it is for a game, then it helps players feel immersed in your world. So when Lilly told me she was making her own world along with and RPG system, I was very interested in having a crack at making a map for it.

Now I’m not very experienced in making maps, but I have given it a go on smaller scales before, so here I’m going to go through how i went from a basic sketch on paper to the (mostly) finished map for the land of Dardenia, with plenty of trial and error along the way.

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So how did I get from Lilly’s first sketch, to this?

Continue reading “Making a Fantasy Map”

Verdun: A WW1 Game Done Right

If you’ve read my previous review of Battlefield 1 then you’ll know what I thought of its attempt of a World War 1 setting. At best it was just a lazy reskin of existing Battlefield mechanics and gameplay, and at worst it was an insult to the reality of the war. Well now allow me to introduce you to a game that is also a multiplayer first person shooter, and yet manages to combine historical authenticity and solid gameplay into something unique and enjoyable.

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Verdun was developed and self-published by two very small development teams based in The Netherlands. It was released as a beta on Steam early access in 2013 and fully released in 2015. The game consists entirely of online multiplayer matches based around one core gametype called ‘Frontlines’, alongside very simple deathmatch, team deathmatch, and wave defense modes. The game boasts a large amount of authentically modelled and functioning WW1 weapons, accurate uniforms and squads for various countries, and maps based on real WW1 battles, mostly consisting of areas around Verdun itself, but also some others based in other areas and later parts of the war.

Now obviously this game is going to be compared to Battlefield 1. There are only a handful of games set in WW1 out there, and as far as I know, these are the only two that are FPS games. So why do I say this game is so much better than Battlefield? Well let’s take it through a few different criteria. Continue reading “Verdun: A WW1 Game Done Right”

Men of War: a brilliant RTS despite its problems

I’ve been a huge fan of real-time strategy (RTS) games since Age of Empires. Unfortunately the RTS genre has been lacking anything decent or interesting for quite a while now, if you exclude Total War. There is however this fairly unknown series of games called Men of War, which I highly suggest you check out if you want an interesting and unique RTS to try… with some issues.

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Continue reading “Men of War: a brilliant RTS despite its problems”

Why So Much Grind?! – Progression Systems Instead of Good Game Design

In the last few years we’ve seen pretty much every game, especially the big budget multiplayer ones, released with some sort of progression system being a large part of it. In fact I’d probably say that many of them go even further and are more of a grind than a game. When this trend started out a while ago it was seen as a novel thing to insert ‘RPG elements’ into all sorts of other genres, but now the inclusion a basic levelling and XP system, along with continuous unlocks appears to be unavoidable.

In many cases this isn’t necessarily a bad feature to add to a game. With a levelling system that includes unlocking abilities and other new stuff in a single player game it can give you a good sense of accomplishment, and give you something to work towards along with the narrative. Unfortunately a large part of the problem is that there are some games that entirely rely upon a progression system that is nothing more than a crutch to support the game in the absence of any engaging gameplay or story. This sort of practice is usually paired with other elements of the gameplay that turn the whole experience into a grind such as missions or quests that result in nothing more than gaining XP or currency. In a good game the ways to accrue XP and money would involve other things to get you interested in the activity, such as in The Witcher 3 where every single little quest has its own story and details that tell you something new about the world. But in other games you end up doing side quests simply for the sake of the end reward, and you want to get the quest out of the way as quickly as possible, which is the case in literally every MMORPG and even some singleplayer games that use the same formula. My problem with this is that if the progression system is used as the sole incentive or reason for playing, then what are you grinding through meaningless quests for? You can keep levelling up and getting new gear as much as you like, but you still end up in the exact same position if there is a scaling difficulty of gameplay. Continue reading “Why So Much Grind?! – Progression Systems Instead of Good Game Design”

Skum Of The Stars: an RPG Review

For our next post in our RPG month I bring you a review of an interesting little Sci-Fi RPG called Skum of the Stars recently published by Owlman Press.

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The rulebook starts off with a page of background on the universe you’ll be playing in, and as with most things about this game things are kept quite simple yet effective. A huge and ancient inter-stellar empire, awesomely named The Blood Empire, has gone the way of Rome and collapsed, allowing barbarians and criminals to run rampant across the galaxy. This has led to new opportunities of adventure, not for your usual RPG heroes, but instead for pirates, warlords, thieves and other outlaws. The writing in this section really conjures up images of something like Star Wars, except each space-port is as much of a wretched hive of scum and villainy as Mos Eisley. Other than this there is mention of new kingdoms and empires popping up and vanishing regularly, an increasing scarcity of warp-gate technology causing chaos, and the existence of many different humanoid species. As I said, things are kept quite simple in terms of story here, which can be a nice change for a DM hoping to run a wacky Sci-Fi game without having to read a ton of fluff to just get started coming up with their own campaign. There’s just enough here to kick you off and give you the tone of the game. Continue reading “Skum Of The Stars: an RPG Review”

Shadow of Mordor – Surprisingly Good Lore

I recently got around to playing Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor, a game that came out in 2014. What I found there pleasantly surprised me, as the story touches on some of the lore in an interesting way while also doing its own completely non-canon thing.

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As far as the game itself goes, it is a pretty decent one. It is very similar to the Assassin’s Creed games in terms of combat and movement, except thankfully the enemies don’t just wait their turn to be countered, but can end up swarming you instead. You also end up with some very powerful abilities to deal with the huge amount of orcs you may have to kill. The most interesting thing about the gameplay is the interaction with the enemies themselves. A large part of the game is focused on ‘Sauron’s Army’, and in the menu you can see the composition of the enemy captains and warchiefs. The first thing you’ll notice about the enemies is that they will be directly influenced by you in a few ways. One such way is that if one kills you they may gain a promotion, and then if they see you again they’ll react, usually with annoyance, at having to kill you again. You can also manipulate the enemies into fighting among themselves, or even dominate a lesser captain, and help him rise through the ranks. This element of the game becomes the main point of the story half way through, but I’ll leave it there for now.

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The combat in this game is slightly brutal…

The main thing I wanted to mention was the way in which the game uses Middle Earth history in its story, as well as where and when it is set. The story starts off with the main character, a Gondorian ranger named Talion, at the Black Gate of Mordor. Straight away this made me question the game a little because I’m pretty sure Gondor wasn’t able to have rangers stationed there at this point. Also the place is immediately overrun by orcs, or uruks as Talion points out. This is apparently meant to be the moment that Sauron has returned to Mordor to build his army. This also doesn’t exactly fit, as I’m pretty sure there wouldn’t be such a sudden event, but rather a slow establishing of power until  Sauron reveals unveils his presence in Third Age 2951. I’ll allow the game a couple of small liberties like these however, and at least we now know roughly when the game is set; before the War of the Ring.  Continue reading “Shadow of Mordor – Surprisingly Good Lore”

Total War: WARHAMMER – First Impressions of the Wood Elves

This month the latest and greatest piece of DLC has been added to Total War: Warhammer; The Realm of the Wood Elves. So far I haven’t had the time to play a full campaign with them or any multiplayer battles, and the amount of new things this faction brings to the table is fairly large, so for now I’ll give a brief overview and my first impressions.

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Glade Guard about to let loose a volley

So to begin with, the campaign. Like I said I haven’t played a full grand campaign so far, but having briefly started one I can see some interesting unique things already. The position on the map you start in is the forest right next to Bretonnia, and so along with the Beastmen and new Crooked Moon orc faction that came a few months ago, that bottom left corner of the map has become much more lively than ever before, which is great. In terms of how the Elves play in campaign, the first big difference is that you can win without necessarily having to defeat your enemies, but instead can fully upgrade ‘The Oak of Ages’, a gigantic tree at the center of your territory. This is something that TW Warhammer hasn’t had until now, so the variety is appreciated. However, the new resource that the Elves use, Amber, is required to achieve this, and it can mostly be acquired by taking settlements, or slightly less so through alliances. Amber is also used to do other things such as research certain tech, and recruit certain units. In terms of the units it is needed for, that depends on which faction you play as, as this DLC gives you two Wood Elf factions to play with. One is the standard Wood Elf faction, led by The King in the Woods; Orion. The other is one that is more focused on spirits of the forest, led by Durthu the ancient treeman. So when playing as either faction, you need to spend amber to recruit the units from the other, meaning if you play as the Wood Elves led by Orion, if you want some treemen in your army, fork over the amber that you would otherwise need to use on the Oak of Ages. The only other major thing about the grand campaign is that you are able to conquer every territory on the map, but can then only build one building there. This allows you to potentially get as much amber as possible, while also keeping to the theme of the Elves not really spreading or settling outside of the forest much, and just building small outposts.

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The Oak of Ages at the heart of Athel Loren

There is also the special mini-campaign that comes with the Wood Elves. Much like the Beastmen special campaign it focuses on a small area of the map scaled up, this time their home forest of Athel Loren and a small part of Bretonnia. This campain seems to mostly be about defending the forest from chaos corruption spread by the Beastmen and their new Legendary Lord; Morghur the Shadowgave. Other than that, I seem to mostly be having conflicts with the many other elf factions within the forest. So having played mostly this instead of the grand campaign so far, I haven’t had a huge amount of variety with the battles and the enemies I’m coming up against.

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Durthu wrecking some Beastmen!

Speaking of the battles, let’s get into what’s new here. Now there’s a fairly large roster for the Wood elves so where do I start? Probably with the basics. For the most part your armies will probably consist of your basic spearmen and archers, those being the Eternal Guard and Glade Guard respectively. The Glade Guard also have two extra variants you can unlock that do special damage, basically one of them does is armour piercing and the other is poison. With the more special units you get some really interesting archers, such as the Deepwood Scouts and the Waywatchers, who are based around ambushing the enemy, and can also be effective skirmishers with their ability to shoot in any direction, and while moving. Other infantry you can get is fairly lacking in terms of raw power of defensive capability, but the ones you do get, such as Wardancers, can be extremely effective damage dealers if you are careful with them. In terms of cavalry, you get the Glade Riders which are horse archers, and the Wild Riders, who are mounted on stags, which is pretty awesome. There are also flying archers in the form of Hawk Riders, and magical cavalry in the form of the Sisters of The Thorn, who can cast spells. Then there are the Treemen and Treekin, who are your damage dealers and big hitters for the most part, if you can use them. And finally there are the monsters, the Great Eagle, who seems slightly less great when compared to the Forest Dragon, the first proper dragon we have in the game.

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Great Eagle attack, shortly to be followed by a Dragon attack!

So that’s the units, but how do they work together? Well for the most part it seems that what you want to do with the basic units is try to do as much ranged damage as possible. Most of your infantry has little armour and won’t last long against enemies such as Dwarves, Chaos, or even Empire on their own. Once you’ve got enough archers, and are using the different types to do things such as slow advancing enemies down with poison, and target the heavy infantry with your armour piercing arrows, then you need to set some ambushes. Due to most of the roster being very good at hiding, especially in forest, you’ll want to avoid setting up in standard battle lines, and mix things up a bit more, hide some wild riders in the trees to use their superior speed to spring a trap on the enemy’s flank or rear when they lest expect it. Maybe keep half your archers hidden and create a killzone in between their arcs of fire, and then you can throw in some treemen or treekin to start wreaking havoc amidst that chaos. Whatever you do, this army will take a lot of micro-managing, and require your full attention. So they may seem difficult and underpowered at first, as I have seen a lot of people saying, don’t be too disappointed in that, and instead start being more sneaky 😉