Monday, November 30, 2020

Kingdom of Titania

Kingdom of Titania is a new world made by FlowerRite. I've seen trailers for this world around the web and I liked it from what I've seen so I decided to visit it one day. I wasn't ready for how huge the world actually is and how many nice places there are to visit! You can literally spend hours in it by just exploring. If you haven't been there yet I can highly recommend it. I went there with Aurora and Infinite we spent quite some time exploring the world. We went to a farm nearby since that is the first stop by the train. We looked inside and on our way back we took a picture in a cauldron with Aurora because why not?

Then we proceeded to the city where we got lost enjoying the map wondering how each part of the city is connected. While walking around we discovered that we can use gondolas to travel around, not just the city. We discovered that not all water is solid so we can end up underwater which got a bit frustrating because it was not clear if we could get out of it (without the need to respawn). We found out that we can climb on rooftops and take some neat pictures and that even getting on top of a tower was possible. There's even a hidden theatre which is a cool place to hangout (location is shown in the video below). You can watch videos there with friends or perform.

Eventually we arrived to a lighthouse where we found a spirit. The spirit was happy to find people that can see it and it asked us for help with finding a core for a boat.

If you accept the quest the spirit will take you to a library in the city and there you should look for some books. After you check all the locations you will find a secret door that will reveal a zodiac sign spinning wheel. Since neither you nor the spirit don't know what to do with it you will be sent to the city to look for clues. We tried to look for clues running around like crazy for several hours but couldn't find anything. We were tooo focused on finding the clue somewhere ont he higher floors rather than on the ground floor and near the library. We eventually gave up.

The next day I decided to give it another go and instead of running around randomly I went from room to room until I found the clue. The spirit took the bottle with it to the library. It was sure that it would help me find solution for the zodiac signs. There it told me to drink some of it and I saw a spatial puzzle in front of me for a limited amount of time.

When I looked at it I figured that it would show some zodiac signs if I'd look at it from the correct angle. So I tried running around the library and looked at the signs but it still didn't make sense to me. Until I realized that the symbols I see are different kind of symbols that I didn't expect. I googled the signs and learned what four signs I was supposed to enter. I pressed them and another secret door opened showing a key and a map. It was time to find a place somewhere in the middle of the island depicted. Easy!

To my surprise I really found the place easily. There again I had to figure out what to do next without getting drunk. After staring at a beam of light for a bit I looked around more closely and did what was expected of me. That revealed the core itself. The spirit told me to bring it to its grandfather's farm where the boat should be located. So I took the train there and reached the boat. It was still there. I inserted the core and it turned transparent. The spirit left the boat to me as a reward for the help. I discovered that it's actually a flying gondola! I hopped in and tried to operate it while making myself seriously sick. So I just crashed into nearby trees and called it a day. It was a nice quest and the reward is cool if you don't get easily motion sick.

If you'd like you can watch a recording of me trying to walkthrough the quest. I wasn't really sure how to setup everything and how it would end up looking.

S'Tsung (stsungjp @ Twitter)

Shadowrun Returns

After a very long break I started playing computer games again and I didn't know where to start and what to play. One of the games I was recommended was Shadowrun Returns - Dead Man's Switch. It is an RPG game with turn-based squad tactical combat (see xcom) in a cyberpunk meets fantasy setting.

All I knew was that it is an isometric RPG in the Shadowrun setting which alone was enough for me to want to play the game. I love Shadowrun and I certainly had a lot of fun play the pen and paper RPG. I wondered how good the game would be and reminisced about games like Baldur's Gate and Planescape: Torment. Since I never heard of this game before I wondered how good the game would be.

The game starts with you receiving a message from Sam Watts, your fellow friend. Sam died and before he died he recorded this video so that you could track down his killer and get a reward if you find them and bring them to justice. A detective story unfolds as you are trying to find out who killed him and why. I was bit let down at this point because you don't actually need to solve anything and the game is very linear. You just follow the story. On the other hand the game will just immerse you in the story which is very well written and is also lots of fun (with lot of references to previous games and lore).

After you find the killer and find out why Sam was killed you will also uncover a horrific fact about a cult that wants to bring extraplanar creatures into the realm that would most probably just devastate it. The problem? These creatures are pretty much immortal unless you get your hands on a special prototype weapon that can kill these spirits. The final fight is probably the biggest downside of the game. You need too kill the creature with conventional weapons first (or Magic or spirits). Next round it will turn into a spirit that is immune to all this but the prototype weapon. You've got that one round to hit it 3 times in order to kill it and you've got max. 80% chance of actually hitting if you are standing close enough. You've got two shots before you need to reload and have 2 (max. 3) characters with this weapon. If you don't succeed it will turn into a physical creature again and you gotta try again.

As for the graphics. I like the hand painted graphics but the 3d models felt bit bland. In overall the graphics creates a good and fitting atmosphere for the game.

Music and sound effects is another story. This might be just me but I have to say that both were rather jarring. I wanted to play the game with sound on but I have to say that during the whole game I constantly thought about turning it off. While the sound effects are ok in terms of not sounding totally out of place they still didn't sound quite right for my ears. The music I didn't enjoy at all. There is no voice acting (I'm not sure how common this was around 2013 when the game came out).

There are two parts to gameplay. The game is story driven so mostly you will be reading dialogues and descriptions of scenes or characters. Depending on how your character is build (which skills it has) you might be able to choose different answer or actions. My character turned out to be charismatic Decker specialized in melee combat (totally not me, or my choice of a shadowrunner). The reason was that thanks to high Charisma I got to talk my way through dialogues, being a hacker allowed me to do some necessary running around Matrix safely. Being ok in combat is probably a necessity since you will go on runs that will sooner or later end up being pure tactical turn-based combat. You will have 1-4 characters to your disposal. Each character has action points that you can spend each turn to either move (and attack), move, attack, use magic, summon spirits, use items. You can hide behind object to make it harder for your enemies to shoot you. You also need a good line of sight and distance to actually hit. Flanking is also something to consider. If all your squad will end up in one place you are certainly going to get hit by a grenade.

The game on the default difficulty is very easy so you don't need to worry about spending karma (the points that are spent to level up your skills) in a wrong way. The HUD is very basic but shows well your equipment and skills. You have a limited number of slots for everything, if you have more items they will go to your stash. You can either get items from your stash by physically going there or enter it when buying/selling stuff. At the beginning of each part of the story you will be allowed to change the stuff in your inventory so you don't need to go back in between chapters.

Shadowrun Returns is well polished game for a kickstarted funded game and it did the original p&p Shadowrun justice. It has a nice and well written story that has a twist that some may not enjoy that much. It has certain but limited amount of RPG elements, you can choose your class, learn skills and develop them. You can buy equipment, spells etc. The combat is tactical and turn-based, a pretty much a copy of X-com combat system. One of the things I enjoyed is walking in the Matrix - uses the same combat system.

The not so good things about the game is that the story is very linear and the world is not really open. You can walk around a bit but you can't interact much outside of the main story. You also hire runners for each run and you can't change equipment or develop their skills.

In general, this game is a relatively short adventure game that introduces one to the world of Shadowrun, tactical combat and some RPG elements.

I'm not entirely sure to whom I'd recommend the game. I'd say that players like me who spent hours and hours playing Shadowrun in the past will enjoy this game. I'd also probably recommend this game to players that don't have much experience with gaming or are looking for an easy game to play.

S'Tsung (stsungjp @ Twitter)

Friday, November 6, 2020

The Devouring VR + walkthrough

Few days ago I was invited to play The Devouring. I heard about this horror world thanks to reddit but I didn't know why it was so popular. It was a mistake on my part not to visit because not only the world is breathtaking, it is a full fledged game. And a way better one than many free VR titles on Steam. It was created by LakuzaVR, LegendsVR, jendaviswilson, CyanLaser. These people created a world which allows you to experience a survival horror escape room. Or at least that is how I would describe it. 1 to 4 people can play the game at once. Scarlett told me that it could take 2 hours so I told her that I have all night for it if needed. At that time, I didn't know that it would indeed take me the WHOLE night playing this game.

What follows is my first experience from the world. I was rather lost because I had no idea what I ventured in and still couldn't believe it 5 hours in. I was in awe how well everything was done and at certain places I really wanted to cry because I knew that without help I simply wouldn't get through - at least not that night.

After entering the world I received a message and then I hopped into a car and watched the scenery while being in the back seat, since Scarlett was the one starting the ride. Then suddenly things got dark, got scary and some strange shade made the driver crash the car. A very nice beginning.

I woke up in a very nice guest room. I looked around and tried to go outside. Well, I was eaten by some black smoke with white eyes. I tried again and the same creature ate me again. I guess it was time to slow down and see what this was all about. I collected a journal note and then went to read the entry after Scarlett showed me where I can read them. She also showed me a book warning about the Lurker that killed me already few times. She told me that all I need is to wait for it to go lurking elsewhere and that I should notice it when it comes closer because it's going to be producing weird sounds. With more information about how this place worked I ventured into the mansion looking for clues and key items while Scarlett was giving me more information about the game.

While I was enjoying the mansion, taking some pictures and getting killed again Scarlett finished the first part of the game. I collected some journal entries and was asked if I want to play a piano. I got my hopes up for some tune playing but unfortunately it's not Half-Life: Alyx like piano which means I couldn't play a nice tune on it. Nevertheless I liked the task at hand so I tried to play the three notes. Thanks to my tracking not fully cooperating with me I played F, Cis, A instead of Fis, Cis, A and unsurprisingly I died hearing Scarlett's voice getting more distant while saying 'you died'.

I came back to the room and played the 3 notes again and then I saw Scarlett running right at me with a blue crystal gem in her hand. Later I found out that we'd need few more to open a door probably leading outside the mansion.

We ventured deeper into the mansion and while I was trying to figure out what we have to do Scarlett ran away. So I collected journal entries and tried to find more clues about opening doors upstairs, one that required 5 letter blocks and the second one that required a lighter. I already knew the word for the first door since Scarlett spoiled it but I didn't realized that we'd have to drag the letter blocks to the door at that point. I found some of them but was eaten leaving the blocks behind. For next time I knew I couldn't drop objects without remembering where they were. I had no idea how to get back to where I was so I was roaming the place again, searching for the letter blocks.

When I met Scarlett again she said she was trying to go through the basement. I went there as well and died pretty soon after entering the first water area. I died but I wasn't sure why.

When I saw Scarlett jumping around the wooden stuff in water I wondered how she could move so fast. I hardly could catch up on a normal floor. Nonetheless I followed and it took me a little while to figure out how to actually keep moving correctly. The blue targeting arrow showing up in water was a no go because my avatar would leave the path and it wouldn't want to jump back up. After I figured that I need to point at specific places and a certain pace I was finally able to move around more effectively. Nonetheless, this cost me several deaths and I finally realized what killed me. It wasn't a lurker but rather some creepy monster in the water. When I made it past the first door and closed it behind me I thought I was safe but that wasn't the case. It tore through the door and ate me while I was trying to take a picture of the basement. Note to self don't take photos in a horror game!

I got to move some levers and ran some generators in the basement and then I went back up. I looked for a lighter for the second door that was still locked and couldn't find it anywhere. I was running around the mansion like crazy, even though this time in more organized manner so I'd know where I searched and where not. Obviously I started searching at the wrong end because Scarlett came with the lighter in hand and I was like 'Where was it?'. I didn't learn the location but we could move on.

We grabbed the light and started discovering the area behind the door. Obviously we had to open all doors before moving the light from one place to another. At one point we got stuck and didn't know how to proceed because we obviously missed a green ward lever in the basement.

I knew where it was but was unable to get there again and then Scarlett had to go to sleep since there are also people that work during the day while I had a day off that day.

I went back to the basement and tried not to die that much reaching the green ward generator. At this point I knew I'd need help because I just couldn't get there even though I already knew how to move around. I asked Aurora to help me.

We almost got eaten while we were standing next to the generator clueless of what to do since the generator was already running. We went over the notes again and then later I finally spotted the green ward lever. I pulled it down (or up?) and it was time to commit a suicide because I was too stupid to go to the menu and hit Respawn.

Then it was time to figure out what to do with the light. For a while I was running around there like crazy and couldn't come up what to do. Until I noticed a pink light in one of the black clouds. After few more attempts of placing the light I found the correct stand for it to show the stand that was hidden in the black smoke. I stared at it and was like... 'they want me to grab the light, ran to the other stand and place it there before the darkness devours me?'. I was 100% certain I'd be devoured. I grabbed the light, ran, saw the darkness closing in and wishing for the light to get on the stand. It did and the darkness perished. Unfortunately while trying to do the same with the following stand I died. I respawned in the guest room and wondered if I'd have to do this again. I was like 'no way I'm going to do that again!'. Fortunately for me, I didn't need that and could directly reach the last stand. After few more frustrating runs with the light I reached the next emblem and eye.

I felt relieved for a bit and I felt that I finally managed to progress a bit in the game. Well, it was time for the blue door. My feeling of accomplishment vanished pretty much instantly. I followed some stick figure into a room with wardrobes and other cabinets and few more of these wooden creatures. I tried my best to avoid them but well died a painful death each time. I got desperate and called Aurora for help.

I watched Aurora gracefully pass by all those creatures to get into a room full of still wooden creatures. Aurora ventured one way and died. We tried few more times dying each time. Until we gave up and watched a speedrun walkthrough which didn't make me feel better because this was somewhere around the 40th minute and there was still like 30 minutes to go in the speed run. I might have been on hour number 6 at that point. But I really wanted to finish the game since Scarlett did a lot and I hardly did anything.

After even more frustration Aurora managed to get through and get another eye. It was time for yet another basement venture and I started pondering about what was actually worse - what was behind the blue door or the basement part leading to the pink door?

After many more deaths we got to the end. We opened the grand door with 4 pony heads and learned about what probably happened and what happened to the other guests in the mansion. I won't spoil the ending here but I'll say that I really liked the conclusion of everything. Endings of games can be often disappointing but that's not the case with The Devouring. I enjoyed it a lot.

Seeing the Congratulations screen was very comforting. It was dawn outside and I was glad I could go to sleep. I wondered if I'd dream about the lurker. After this the creators thought of everything and let us take a picture with some of the stats.

I have to thank Scarlett for showing me the world because I'd probably never ventured there on my own. I have to thank Aurora for saving my butt and helping me with the parts I was too clumsy to walk through. And then, I have to give really big thanks to the creators. They created an awesome VR game that I'd pay for if I could. They put tons of work into this world and I'm very glad I got to play it and actually survive. Even though without Scarlett and Aurora I'd probably still be roaming the mansion now.

Thank you for reading, I recommend The Devouring to anyone who doesn't mind little bit of horror and dying over and over again (don't mind my 106 deaths, you probably won't die that many times!). If you like puzzles and good atmospheric games like me, this is a game for you. Note that some parts may be a bit frustrating if you are as clumsy as I am in anything that requires running and jumping over blocks.

S'Tsung (stsungjp @ Twitter)