Sunday, March 27, 2011

Death and the Maiden

A picture-heavy review. 

Bored, uninspired, still unhappy about Dragon Age 2? What a good time to play some other game again! Speaking of DA2: More action, more responsive combat with less tactics, no isometric camera, a dialogue wheel, a set character, a city adventure, dumbed down roleplay, more console style: here's my bridge, because today's excursion will feature all that. Is it good too? Let's see. Well, Ben suggested not long ago I should review more games, and actually it might be fun to do that. But who needs the 520th review of DA2 right now? Why not take a look at one of the overlooked "B-Movies" before moving to the next blockbuster? 

Let me introduce you to Scarlett.

Actually, they could've named her Ceira Nighty or Sheera Squirely too, for obvious reasons, but away with that. Scarlett is the heroine in Deck 13's 2009 RPG debut Venetica, and we'll guide her through the game (which is nowadays available for a bargain). The plot line is quickly told:

Scarlett is an orphan who grew up with her aunt and half-brother Leon in a picturesque little mountain village near Venice. She has a goodie-two-shoes boyfriend called Benedict. We start the game in a little tête-à-tête with Benny in a corner of said village, but good gracious! Assassins attack the village and kill poor Benny! Drama time, revenge time! 
Scarlett then finds out her real daddy is Death himself and that she has the power to travel the realms of the death, sort of a spiritual parallel dimension. Daddy Death tells Scarlett that she's the only person who can stop the corrupt and, good gracious, undead(!) council of Venice from taking over the world. Of course Scarlett accepts the task, whether for her dad or for revenge or for Benedict or for her own power, that's one of the first choices we as a player can make for the lass. 

Death and the maiden - meeting daddy

But game mechanics first. Obviously, Venetica is a much more cartoonish game than the other RPGs we usually talk about. It's fortunately not cartoonish in a J-RPG style, otherwise I wouldn't have touched it in the first place. No, actually the style is not uncommon in many adventure games, I'd almost call it quite typical for German point&click adventures. Generally, this doesn't hurt, in Scarlett's case it's actually pretty well done, and the area design is in most cases very well done too. 

Scarlett is a very likable designed character. She's cute, but not your usual RPG amazon with huge curves pressed into a chainmail bikini. Even though the armors she'll get during the game are usually quite "light", there's no point where she deserves a sexist stamp or the like. No, actually she's a character a teenage girl would probably like to play, not the dream of a male gamer. 

NPCs though, here the cartoonish style is sometimes a little too much. Some look good, some look a little too weird really. Doesn't hurt too much, but it's a style I'm usually not too fond of. You'll see more in later screenies. 

But let's stay with the mechanics first. Venetica is labeled as a RPG, so we should find some RPG elements, right? Lessee. 

Here we see the main character screen. As you can see, this is very simple. We have just 4 main stats to put points into, and actually I never got deeper into this than keeping them mostly on the same level. Let's not be rude, but... let's call it an alibi system. 
On top of that character sheet you can see some tabs, half of them are currently hidden: On the left we have a few inventory tabs - one for serious stuff (weapons, armor), one for various junk we find and usually either consume or sell, one for quest items.  On the right side we have our skills tabs. Oh, and as you can see there's a little icon on the right which shows the time of the day. 

Above you see the skill trees, on the left physical skills (weapon stuff), on the right mental skills (majicks etc.). Each of these trees must be unlocked first by visiting a teacher. Or, in case of the mental skills, visiting the realms of the death by using certain portals we find during the game and meeting the spirit of our beloved Benny who teaches us stuffs. 
On every level up you get 3 points to spend on character stats (strenght, wisdom etc.) plus the game auto-assigns a few. And you get 20 skill points to spend each level, where 1 skill increase costs 10 points each. Why they didn't simply make them cost 1 point and give the player two points to spend each level is beyond me. 

One of the main problems with the game and the interface is actually visible right in this screen already: The quickbar. You have 10 quickslots there and nothing more. Well, actually you have 10 quickslots for each of the 4 different weapons you'll use in the game, but still, in most cases you'll want most of the skills to be available regardless what weapon you use (i.e. all the magic stuff). There's not enough space! You'll have to choose your favorites and forget the others, because outside the quickbar, there's no way to activate them. Sheesh. 

Okay, I mentioned 4 weapons, so let's go to fighting stuffs. Throughout the game we'll ony use melee weapons and some majicks. Nothing ranged but spells. The 4 weapon types are: 

  1. The Moonblade: A special blade to cut through things that would not die to an earthly blade, mainly undead and demons. Very quick and effective, but does't shed out as much damage as the other weapons. 
  2. Sword. The Earthly blade. Quick and probably the most used weapon because it works in most situations. 
  3. Spear and shield: Good to block aggressors and counter-attack, but I rarely used it. The giant shield looks funny on lil' Scarlett too. 
  4. The hammer/axe. Now that's actually a fun weapon, or let's say Venetica has introduced a new über-weapon. First, of course, this is the weapon you'd least expect on a tiny little lass like Scarlett, but let's put realism aside - This weapon is much slower than the rest, and when Scarlett swings it, you sometimes think "hope she doesn't fall back over", you can really feel the weight. Enemies also have good opportunities to rip you to shred while you try to lift that darn thing. But once it falls down on them, it's like an earthquake, deals massive damage, knocks them back and on the ground, a final swing does the rest. Oh, and you can also bash some wooden doors with it you can't enter otherwise. 
Right, that's the theory, now how does fighting work? Well, Consoleros, your turn! Fast and furious of course! Hitting stuff is done by clicking the mouse like crazy... actually, there's a system behind it, the good old chain of attacks we know from other games. Click at the right moment, get a 2nd, more powerful swing in, and so on. You can also block attacks, just as your enemy can, and then, you have to move constantly, by rolling out of their way.

Now, the rolling can actually be a little tedious. You certainly have to get used to it during the first hours. It's done by hitting the movement key (wasd) and the space bar simultanously. In some cases, especially when Scarlett is in big trouble, that darn combination refuses to work. Also, tight spaces and the camera can get you into big trouble here. There's always a last way to escape though - later. 

Anyway, the rest of the fight is just a chain of attacks with fancy weapon trails and stuffs.
In the pic you see the glow around Scarlett's sword hand - that indicates it's time for another click to finish the chain of attacks. No worries though, just crazy blind clicking  will get you there too, this part is not rocket science. 

Boss fights are a bit trickier than normal ones. Most of the times, they come as a riddle. The big guy is usually out of your reach until you find a way to hurt him or her with trickery, like... having something collapse or bring down stuff they use against you. Direct attacks mostly do nothing. 
Once the big guy is down, there's the problem that the big guy is usually an undead, a necro, who refuses to die just like that. So we get sucked into daddy's realm of the dead and face the spirit of that boss, usually a pretty ugly monster:

These guys usually need a certain tactic to bring them down, mostly it's about dodging their attacks, then find the right spot and the right timing, which is again sort of a small, but simple riddle. In some cases though it turned out to be a little messy, and especially the very first boss fight took me a while to figure out. 

What should be mentioned here is that the fights are absolutely bloodless. Yes, dear Americans, this is a German game and you know how the silly Krauts deal with violence in games. No blood, nuh-uh, not a drop. But this game is rated 12+ in it's own country, and in Germany teenagers may be allowed see a nipple, but surely no guts and severed limbs.
Now, this doesn't hurt the action much, although there were several cutscenes where it was surely wrong. Sorry, but when I see a sword being poked through a man's chest, I expect blood. Not a fountain of blood like in Dragon Age, that's just as silly as none at all. But some blood. However, let's just go with "this is a teen game" and live with it. 

Matter of taste or cultural differences - what's sillier, huge blood fountains or no blood in an obviously bloody situation? Get real.... 

Now, the little extra element they threw in here to spice things up is "The Passage". As I said, Scarlett can hop into the realm of the dead, sort of a parallel dimension. During fights, where this is often her emergency exit when things get nasty, this has a similar effect as the "Hide in Plain Sight" feat in D&D. You pop out of existence, the enemy stashes his weapons and ignores you while you move to a save position, reposition for a surprise attack or heal yourself up. You can only stay in the passage for some limited time though, then you're kicked back into reality. 
But that's not all about the Passage. The Passage also reveals hidden things to you, like some secret portals, or dead people. So let's hit the quickslot icon... 

Zoom. Reminds a little of Mask of the Betrayer's shadow plane, maybe. In front of us a hidden portal is revealed, the bar below tells us how long we can remain hidden. 
Throughout the game, you can sometimes hear a certain buzzing sound in corners, at walls, etc, that' the sign a portal might be nearby and you can hit the shortcut. And yes, deaf and hard hearing people might have a problem here. Now, where this skill shows a little more potential is around dead people.... 

In the upper screenie I combined a before/after situation. You find a skelleton and can't help but notice it's shadow is moving! Gasp! Let's enter The Passage and see what's going on. Oh, aha! Deader walking around, let's talk to him and see what he's doing here. Sometimes they tell us their story of their fate, give us an item or whatever. Neat idea, huh? 

Ah, yes.... behind the skellie we see a chest. Of course we'll also have to loot a lot in this game. And oh my, some chests are locked! Now, sadly we have a very basic roleplay system here and never take any skills in that direction. But fret not! Help is on the way. In the beginning of the game we meet two brothers who will... soon after... cease to exist. Poor souls. But wait! Their ghosts stay with Scarlett to assist her, phew. So, when we come to a locked door or chest, this will pop up: 

As you can see, there are four lockpicks in different colours. The two now hit them in a certain combination, we have to watch and then just repeat the pattern. Easy? Well, sometimes. A combination of 4 is kids stuff, but a combination of 8 sometimes requires a good sip of coffee. It's a good indicator to tell you when to stop playing - if you fail 3 times in a row it's time to go to bed. Now, to get the basics done, a final look at the interface: 

This is Scarlett about to attack someone. In the upper left you see the status stuffs. Red is her hitpoints, blue her mental energy (let's call it "Mana"). The circle of 5 violet elements is her... well, what's it called... death energy? This could be called her "lifes". When an enemy brings her down, it's not completely game over, no, she enters the passage and can flee or reposition etc. She has 5 chances to do so until that energy is gone and we hit "game over". This energy can be refilled by killing stuffs with the Moonblade, which happens rather quick. This makes the fights rather easy in most cases. 
In the center you see her current level and how close she's to the next one. 

On the upper right you see the minimap. This is quite useless, and especially the option to mark a quest from the journal on the minimap is utterly useless, you never see it until you open the big map anyway. And then there's the small day/night icon. Then we have the quickbar, oh right, and the enemy status bar. The quickbar, by the way, is not clickable - you never see your mouse cursor in the game. Instead, you have to hit the appropriate number key on the keyboard. 

What this screenshot also reveals is another flaw of the game: Tricking the rather stupid enemy AI. As you can see, there are 4 guys there but only one status bar is shown. That's because the other three are out of perception range. "What, but they're right in front of you!" you might say. well, they're wearing shades or something. In this case only the one with the status bar will come over and attack Scarlett. Easy way to decide a fight for us. The worst: In a large, open area like this, you can often simply backroll a lot and they will stop chasing you after a while. Then you can single one out again. 
Call it cheating, or the only tactical element in this game.

Enough about fighting. The last crucial element in the game mechanics are of course the dialogues. So let's take a quick look at them: 

Lolwut? Innit a dialogue wheel? Aye, 'tis. You get a short summary of the flavor and Scarlett does the rest for you! The options are pretty much the same as you know them from Mass Effect, Dragon Age 2 etc, and in most cases it's obvious, sometimes even marked "oocly" in which direction this will go. 

Sooo.... let's actually go into game and look around a bit! The world we're about to explore is basically just Venice, our mountain village and a short trip to Africa. Most of the game takes us through the quarters of Venice. 

Our journey takes us from our home in the mountains over the shoreline to the Outer City, where we can get warm with the city, learn the basic rules and do our first quests that bring us into the inner quarters eventually. Each of these parts is filled with quite a few sidequests and always a mass of people who want to kill us, obviously. And at this point it's hard to find a way to keep this review organized, because the ups and downs come so damn fast. Maybe I should just sum up the ups first by describing how we travel and what we see. 
Let's first note that the game (this is game version 1.02) appears to run very smooth and bug-free (a few remain, that'll come).

Even though the style is cartoonish and the game certainly not made to impress with next-generation graphics, the (somewhat low-poly, mind you!) areas are mostly very atmospheric and nicely done. The simpler areas, let's say, caves, interiors, mountain paths etc. all have a very nice feel to it that makes it easy to get immersed even though they're all but realistic. The small forest area for example would show Dragon Age how a forest is done properly while keeping things simple. There's not much detail, not much effect, but most areas are spot on, mainly due to good lighting. 

Here's a very simplistic, and yet effective enough forest area.

Same goes for interiors. A tavern in an old windmill at the shore. What I like is that the mechanics on the wall and the millstone "table" slowly rotate. Simple, but hey, why doesn't NWN2 feature stuff like that? Details that help immersion. And how does this tavern look outside? 

Not the only time the area design is going for extremes, and it's indeed quite impressive. When we turn around we catch the first view on the city: 

Well, after a while we get there, and in Venice more picturesque areas wait to be explored. 

Canals, lots of them. Actually, after exploring this city I get so many ideas I want to rebuild Rungholt again. And look how we move around, not only by running through the streets, but also swimming the canals searching for entrances to the sewers, or climbing up on the rooftops... 

Swimming, climbing... boy, do I miss these two in NWN2. Scarlett by the way always cuts a good figure, in contrary to some much larger scale productions (I mean you, Obsidian!) She always has cute and appropriate animations. 

And as if this wasn't enough, the Arsenal district rewards us with extremes again. 

This is high on top of the Arsenal district, yes, Scarlett climbed all the way up on her own, even fighting lots of bad guys on the way. 

And the reward on top of the district is a neat little sailor's pub that has yet again one of those simple but spot-on interiors. 

The docks district again is one of those you want to print out and put into a frame. 

Now, what I didn't show you up there is the excursion to Africa. Actually, I did... in that screenshot presenting the main interface and an encounter. Not much to see there, you say? Well, actually, the whole Africa level looks like it was quickly dropped into the game. The exteriors are boring, simple and look more like Tomb Raider 3 or the like. Really nothing impressive, no need to show a screen (we already have enough, don't we?)
Also, not every interior looks as good as the two I've picked out up there, most are quite boring. What needs to be noted though, there's still variation, they're not all copy/paste. What I also liked was the staircases and that the rooms were often more cramped than the over-dimensioned interiors in NWN(2) or the like. 

Speaking of rooms, did I mention resting? Aye, you need to do that too, and you need to find a bed to do so. Thumbs up, I always hated the stupid "sit down for 5 seconds" in other RPGs.
The resting is pretty much like in the Witcher or Fallout 3 etc., you choose the time you want to wake up at on a small day/night cycle thingy. What confuses a bit though is that this thingy never shows you the current time, another (minor) flaw.

Let me sum up the positive impressions I've had quickly:
  • A very likable main character
  • a "different approach" 
  • Many beautiful smaller areas
  • some cinematic exteriors
  • Nice variation in areas with some welcome surprises (suddenly you're part of a pirate crew for a quick sidetrip etc.)
  • Good ideas to spice up gameplay, like the passage and it's secrets
  • Unique, different style (in some parts a negative too, but I'll add that to the plus list)
  • Smooth gameplay with few bugs
  • Small, likable details and ideas or just their execution. A minor thing, but I liked the lamp you have to refill with fishoil, for example. 
  • Climbing, swimming, walking on rooftops
  • Puzzling areas - often you see that chest right over there, but how to get there... where's the ladder, where the door... 
  • The feel of the hammer, heh.

But let's get serious here, somewhere in all that beauty must be something that stinks, huh? Well, let's take a quick look at some reviews. Let's keep in mind here this is not an AAA production but a debut, so magazines were probably not paid big $ for a good rating and all that... 

The biggest German mags said: 

  • Gamestar: 83% ("fascinating story, great quests, charming heroine")
  • PC Games: 79% ("surprisingly good, tight atmosphere, not very challenging for RPG veterans"

I usually put more trust in the Gamestar, its the more "mature" magazine of the two and usually meets my own tastes better. 

But let's see international reviews: 

  • Metacritic: 61 (oops), User score 7.7 
  • IGN: 60 ("If you don't expect much from it, you'll have a pretty good time with Venetica. However, without the patience to figure out quests and gameplay elements on your own, you'll end up incredibly frustrated.")
  • PC Gamer UK: 60 ("The shallow mechanics and technical problems make this one to avoid at full price")

Now what's going on here, Casa asks when first reading that? The usual obviously - cultural differences! What else...

The logic: Look at the huge differences of reviews of whatever European game that hits the US market. Usually, I don't give a shit. America loves D&D and candy, Europe likes dark and gritty, and so on. These differences exist and they show in Reviews. Germany for example just luvs those strategy games like Anno, Settlers and the like, those are selling much better here than over in the US. Did you know that games like Risen come in two versions for both markets, one in dark and greyish colours as intended for the European audience, one more colorful and bright for the US market? Hell, even printer and scanner drivers do that, auto-correction of your Epson/Canon/etc driver delivers different results in America than it gives in Europe. Over here, we loved the Witcher to bits, in the US the reviews were much more lukewarm. Not to mention nipples and guts, hehe. Someone stop me from ranting on and on...
So anyway, that's what I thought when I grabbed Venetica. Trust my game mag, don't mind the silly murcans.

Boy, was I wrong.

"What", you say, "after this giant intro up there and all the shiny pics?" 

Well, the point is that I'm incredibly frustrated about the failure of this game. Because, you can see the potential. It has great ideas, great area design and all that. The combat isn't great, in fact it's tedious, but the system works at least, kind of. 

The actual bugs in the game are tiny, I've found just a handful that stood out, most of them minor glitches like... 

... some items floating in the air where they don't belong (couple of times, maybe 5). A missing floor texture there, just 1. Africa featured more, an example is that relic of something I destroyed long ago, but that wouldn't go away. In Africa I also saw people walking in the air, which again makes me believe that the whole level was rushed in for whatever reason, as a filler. 

So, where are the big failures? Let's make a list. 
  • Controls. It took me long to get used to the key combos. Sometimes I wish all RPG makers could just agree on one standard, like WASD for movement already is. I constantly hit the wrong key because it's mapped to a different one in most other games. The space key dodge often failed for me, and I often was dead before I found the right number key for a quickslot - I'm just used to click my quickslots, dammit! That's something I never got used to in the whole game. 
  • Encounters. The variation is... wait, rephrase, there's no variation. You have like... 10 different things to kill or so throughout the game, plus bosses of course. Most of the levels you only face one and the same type over and over again. Example: All the way from your home to Venice you only run into busloads of always the same assassins. They all look the same, do the same, always come in pairs, and sometimes you run into a boss Assassin. In Venice the same goes on with first Rogues, then Marauders, later some African warriors and Necromancers. Always the same scheme, always a busload, never some variation. The most tedious quest was when I came back to my home and was greeted by "Necros all over the place", then I had 30 necromancers to search and destroy. The only type of Demon you find is called "Lector" and easy prey. 
  • Loot. While I like games that don't spam the player with über-items, some variation or something of interest would certainly be welcome. That keeps people going, you know. Nothing in this game. Only junk you sell for money, mostly ducats and some jewelry. Looting is tedious and uninteresting, even in the most well hidden place with a well-locked chest you only find boring things, nothing that makes you think "oh cool, I want to try this out!"
  • Weapons and armor. Boring too. As for armor, there is no variation. The game features exactly 6 for specific purposes. Scarlett gets exactly 1 casual outfit that does nothing but look nice, exactly 1 leather armor that offers basic protection against everything, exactly 1 plate and exactly 1 dress with magic protection. Those are the basics, then come two more armors I found throughout the game. As for weapons, there is more variation, but basically the only difference is that one does more damage than the other. Again, no brain computing time wasted on what to use, you pick the one that hits hardest and done. All these but junk weapons from enemies are available at stores, nothing that makes looting more interesting. 
  • Character design. I mentioned it before, in some cases the cartoonish style is very fine, it certainly doesn't hurt Scarlett, but some PCs are totally over the top. Actually, some are again good over the top, like the very fat citizens. But the quality ranges from "funny" over "pretty" down to "terribad". Especially the waves of enemies don't look very cool, for sure not scary. Many of the male citizens or merchants feature a certain german casual game cartoon style that makes me cringe. 
  • Sound. I usually don't mind sound in games much. I play with a simple, cheap 2.1 setup and onboard sound on my comp, never use headphones and don't care for cinematic surround stuff at all. But in this case actually some sound effects seriously bothered me, by being too "cheap effective". It's hard to explain. Maybe you know the NWN toolset and the sound effects you can choose for an area, like "Hallway" and the like that adds a big echo. Those are usually way over the top and I rarely ever made use of them. Well, in this game they did, and often it bothered me. Other than that, voice acting (Scarlett) and music was okay.
  • Puzzles. The first time I found one I actually thought "hey, nice, hope there'll come more interesting ones too". There didn't. Hit four items in a specific order. That's it. Everywhere. 
Now, let me catch breath. All that doesn't necessarily make a bad game. At least not for me. There are die-hard mechanics freaks who put a game to the trash as soon as the combat isn't to their liking, but I can forgive. Sheez, speaking of repitive combat, just look at the Witcher's Drowners or Dragon Age's hordes of Darkspawn. Venetica might be a "little" more repitive than that, but I can forgive, as long as the story catches me. 

Really, I don't know where to start. It's not the main plot idea, no no... show me one good RPG that doesn't come with a cheesy main plot (don't come with Mass Effect now, haha...). No, it's the execution that fails right from the beginning. And yet all the opportunities are there, dammit! We have a likable charming girl that is sent on a big mission, and the first impression is "I like her, let's get going". All about this character is perfectly okay. Even the start with the dead lover is believable and something you usually don't see in a game - Bioware would throw 8 potential lovers at you to choose from (including bi, gay, straight and probably a hermaphrodite) instead of taking away the only one right in the beginning, without a replacement. 

But the whole world around Scarlett just fails to add immersion or any kind of dramaturgy completely. There's an ugly aunt and a "who the fuck is this?" half-brother and you're told that Scarlett has a strong bond to them, while you just have no idea what to do with them altogether. Your half-brother is an obvious asshole, but Scarlett (contrary to the player) always seems to care about him, just that you sit there and say "why the hell is she friendly to that douchebag?". All the NPCs right from the beginning are life- and characterless and you feel absolutely nothing for them. 

Your two ghost friends (the lockpickers): You meet them still alive, exchange a few words that are maybe supposed to be funny, but... not really. Soon after they die. Scarlett reacts as if they were old friends, big drama, but you just sit there and shake your head because you, as a player, have known these guys for like two minutes in which they failed to impress.

Throughout the game you never actually meet a character you care for, and honestly, that's a huge element that keeps other games going. Companions, for example... but oh, we have no companions, we always travel alone. Other NPCs like main quest givers? No personality. Often they talk more out than in character anyway. None of them is touching, spikes even a minor interest. Most don't even make sense. 

Which brings me to absolutely horrible quest design. Most are "go there, bring that". Some are so completely unlogical I can only "headdesk". Invade home of necromancer who's supposed to help Scarlett. Necromancer says "Who are you? I don't know you, I don't trust you. BUT, if you go out and join one of the three city guilds, I might trust you. Come back when you joined a guild". I'm sorry, but quests like these (and this is not an exception, it's the rule) deserve the worst possible rating in any review. 

Then we have the exact same quest in multiple locations. Venice, Outer City: "Go to the Outer City catacombs, kill Gribbler queen for a reward". Later we go to the Inner City... "Go to the Inner City catacombs, kill Gribbler Queen for a reward". 

At other points there's obvious Out of Character knowledge on all sides involved in the quests, etc. etc. etc. It's annoying, it's frustrating, because this is the exact thing that brought the whole game down completely. 
The main plot is just the same.... there's no dramaturgy, never does the player get the feeling there's any urgency or pressure. At some points the music raises and for some reason Scarlett cries out "NOooooooo", that's the point where the player wakes up, looks around and figures something must've happened. Then the player wonders for a moment why the lass made such a big deal of it and keeps going, bored as usual. 

As much as I hate to admit it, there's a review on metacritic by "Absolute Games" which gave Venetica a measly score of 44, but is right on spot:

"Despite the picturesque sights of the fictional Venice, Venetica is bleak and mediocre in everything, from two-bit quests and meager weapon selection to tiresome combat. Don't expect proper character development, because there are only four stats, two of which are health and mana. Don't expect colorful characters, because the entire city went through a copier two or three times. Don't expect brain-teasing puzzles, because there is only one variety: "Push four buttons in a correct order"."

All the game-mechanical issues away, I could still enjoy this game if it had proper storytelling. If there were people in it I cared about. If I could at least care about Scarlett who has the potential, but that is taken down completely by the uninspired, dumb world around her. Which means the life in the world. The areas are often wonderful, the world is there, just the people living in it is where the development process of this game obviously stopped. It's a crying shame because you can see the potential everywhere, but nothing of it was fleshed out, and the storytelling fails completely. 

Now If I could just figure out where Gamestar saw a 83 score there... although, if they gave Venetica 83, I can easily see where the 87 for DA2 came from. 
But fascinating story? I'm sorry, if a game magazine found a "fascinating story" in this game, they are completely out of there. 

Sad, sad. Casa would give.... well, that would mean agreeing on a scoring standard. If I go with the big players who shed out high eighties to a Dragon Age 2, I'd go with something like the Metacritic average. On a personal scale from 1 to 10 the 5 is hardly scratched. I cannot recommend it to any serious RPer as more than an inspiration for building. Kids might enjoy it still, and this is one game kids can safely play, rest assured. Maybe they can live with the big flaw of the story and just enjoy some repetitive hack and slay in nice areas. 

But for me.... Next time a blockbuster again, maybe? 


Ben Harrison said...

Great detailed review, Casa.

Seems like a pretty nice game, despite its faults. 'Course, I'm a sucker for female protagonists anyway...

Cipher said...

Sooooooo, when are you going to create those areas in NWN2, hmmmm? THAT'S the question!!