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Some plot spoilers for Cyseal in Divinity: Original Sin

Butch:

Well, did some. Mostly killed orcs and trucked towards the cave. Didn’t go in the cave.

But here’s a thing: Friday’s post mentioned our observation that levels are hard to come by. That said, levels seem to matter a hell of a lot more. Lots of games, even good ones like Horizon, it’s all “Oh. A level. Ok, in 16 more levels I can come back in do this (maybe cuz quest levels are jacked, but whatever).” This one, the difference between level six and eight is dying all the damn time and cutting through baddies like they aren’t there. I was nervous on this because, man, they were chewing me up just two levels ago, and last night was EASY.

II can’t tell how I feel about that. Lots of games, leveling up is almost background noise. There isn’t a lot of weight to it. That said, that’s ok because it’s more “realistic.” You get Aloy feeling like she’s slowly learning. She goes back later, to a place that was hard, and now it isn’t because she’s been out there learning. There isn’t an “and BOOM you can do it now” moment. However, if you are going to have “LEVEL UP!!!!!” flash across the screen, it may as well mean something. It used to. In D&D, you didn’t level for weeks, and when you did it was a big deal, like you accomplished something. This game certainly channels that feeling, which both gives XP more of a purpose, but makes it all more artificial.

So I’m torn. Again.

But, all the same, it’s taking some getting used to, this old school mentality that outleveling something by only one or two levels is a BIG difference.

Feminina:

I think in, for example, Horizon, it was less a matter of “the difference between one level and the next is very meaningful” and more a matter of skills. Because picking up a new skill COULD make a difference (though it certainly doesn’t always).

Here…you’re right, a couple of levels difference does seem to matter (the Baron of Bones and his crowd, at level 8, destroyed us at level 6 or something, but we took care of them when we were level 8 ourselves). On the other hand, I think picking up new skills also matters a lot, especially the ones you get from skillbooks, which you may need to be a certain level to use, but which aren’t directly associated with leveling.

I think it may also turn out that the difference between, say, level 13 and level 15, is not nearly as significant as the difference between 6 and 8, although we’ll have to wait and see.

But it’s true, it does make a difference here. We went over in the burning area last night, where we were roundly defeated a few levels ago, and this time we were just cleaning up: they were level 8 and we’re now 9, and they barely touched us. Though gear also matters–Wolgraff had a couple of water wands and I had magic missile doing water damage with a water staff, and man…burning monsters do not enjoy that.

Though here’s a thing we ran into…remember how in D&D if we just finished a combat but someone was bleeding, the DM (say, Mr. O’) might say “OK, we’ll stay in combat rounds until this is taken care of”? Basically, combat applies until no one is losing hit points.

Well, this game does not do that, and it’s kind of a pain. Last night, Wolgraff was on fire but alive, I was going to heal him on my turn which was coming around, and then the monster died and we went out of turn-based actions and he burned to death while I was getting my regeneration spell online.

This is not a game that’s set up for rapid-fire button action, so it kind of sucked that he was dying in real time seconds while I was working on the multi-step process of getting a spell ready — which works fine in a turn-based situation, but is not good for quick response.

Ah well. I guess we would also kind of hate it if every time someone walked into poison or something, it went into a combat round, where we all got to stand around saving action points and saying “OK, walk out of the poison, dude!”

Trade-offs.

Butch:

Very rarely did skills make much difference. Gear mattered far more, I thought. Getting to level 30 or whatever isn’t what made Frozen Wilds possible. The armor did.

Here skillbooks matter though — Boy, don’t they. I’m still not entirely sure what buffs you get when you level past the points and skills you assign, but man, there has to be something going up in all those stats I haven’t read.

The skills, I figured out, have levels themselves: novice, adept and…whatever’s after that. You need one level of whatever for novice, two for adept, etc. And you can’t get up to two (or past two) until whenever. So you can get adept skills at, like, level five or so if you put your points into geomancer or whatever and load up on that. So it’s level in the sense of skill points, but not level level. And it seems you hit a wall. Like, you can’t put ALL your points in Man at Arms or whatever. Cuz I’ve tried. I think that’s level related.

I have started paying attention to what element I’m using wandwise. Something I learned last night: You can send stuff to teammates (like healing potions) mid combat without losing action points, and if you equip something that someone else is holding (like you can out of combat), you don’t lose any more action points than you would if your character was holding it himself. Want to switch to water mid fight? Not holding the water wand? It’s cool!

Good to know.

Ah, dude that sucks with the real-time fire damage. That happened to me a couple of times. I live in fear that that will happen when I don’t have a resurrection scroll and I’ll have to do a fight I WON all over again.

Speaking of which, on the whole “leveling feeling like you accomplished something” thing, earlier I said thank GOD that monsters don’t respawn, but I noticed last night that changes the dynamic, too. Here, when you win a fight, there’s a sense of satisfaction because you know that fight is over forever. There will never be orcs here again! It was a set piece, we won, done. Hooray! Which is kind of cool. Buuuuuuuuut also not so realistic. Imagine if you could clear, say, a broadhead site and there would never, ever be broadheads there again ever. That wouldn’t really fit the world. I haven’t met a single random encounter in this game, and I’m starting to doubt that I will. And, from a “I have limited time in real life” way, I don’t miss the randits, but, then again, it does reinforce the whole “we are playing a game” thing that breaks immersion.

Hm.

Feminina:

Man, so true. That armor!

And gear is big here too, with the water wands, etc., so that certainly carries over. And there’s better armor (or robes, in my case…long, flowing robes), and more powerful weapons, and those obviously count for something in a fight.

It’s definitely true about the lack of respawning, too. Although in this case I kind of accept it because we’ve been told that the orcs/cultists/undead are a new phenomenon for Cyseal. It’s not like we’re out wandering in the wilderness where the orcs have lived for generations and yet somehow when we kill one, no other will ever walk that way again. (Or…we haven’t been told that. It’s actually quite possible the orcs did live here for generations before being driven out by humans. But that’s a more complicated backstory than we know at the moment, I think.)

It’s more like we’re rooting out camps of invaders into human lands, and they aren’t being replaced (because, I assume, the person in charge of orchestrating the invasion has run out of money or magical energy or whatever). We’ll see if it works as well in other environments where the backstory may be different.

Butch:

Man, I loved that game. I digress.

Water against fire, or fire against undead!

Though it would be pretty awesome to get a poison wand. I haven’t yet found anything really vulnerable to air or earth.

Though what’s really annoying is when I forget and heal the baddie. Do NOT zap a burning thing with a fire wand. Well, a thing that is supposed to be burning.

In this particular game I like that there aren’t respawning randits. Games like the Witcher or MEA or Fallout, randit fights were quick or you just rode the NOMAD right by them. It’s hard to avoid a fight in this game unless you want to teleport away, which would kill progress, and the fights can drag on and on. Losing four minutes to randits? Ok. Especially if I can run by. Losing 15 minutes to randits? Annoying.

Feminina:

That is definitely a thing about the turn-based combat. Even ‘little’ fights take quite a while. And as you say, this makes it a really good thing that we aren’t constantly running into randits and respawned monsters in places we already killed stuff. We’d NEVER get out of the Hinterlands! This way we can confidently go places we’ve already cleared, and work around places with fights that are too tough for us, until we can get back to them. (Hello, Baron of Bones!)

Yeah, accidentally healing the bad guy is pretty much the worst. “Take that you–DAMN IT.”

I have a poison dart spell! It’s pretty great. I also have a complementary immunity from poison spell. They go very nicely together.

Butch:

Ooo! Is that “avatar of poison?” I love that one.

Gotta be that way. Hell, even when I’m playing, I have to look at the clock and be thinking “Ok, I still have some time left, but if I hit a big fight then I don’t have as much time as I think…do I risk playing and exploring? Or will that make me late?” If I was doing that ALL THE TIME it would suck.

Man, I was snakebit by that kind of enemy-healing stupid yesterday. First, I switched Wolgraff to his dagger so he could do “lacerate,” which was nice, but then forgot I did that and the next turn hit attack, expecting wand hellfire, and he casually strolled up to the HUGE orc and pricked him. And then stood there.

Then, in the next fight, I fired a fire arrow near a bunch of dudes. Then, I picked up what I THOUGHT was a oil barrel, expecting fiery death. But no, it was a water barrel, which put out the fire, and made it so I couldn’t see anyone to use my wands.

That kind of night.

Feminina:

That’s the one! And it works retroactively, too, so if someone (Wolgraff) walks into poison, I can cast it on him and it at least stops the damage.

Ha. I shouldn’t pick on poor Wolgraff so much. Actually the last time that happened it was Delios who walked into poison.

I have done that thing! Where you mean to use a ranged attack, but forget you don’t have a ranged weapon equipped, so instead you just saunter right up to someone and kind of poke them to get their attention.

As if to say, “hey, I’m not great in melee combat and I have limited armor! Also I used all my action points walking over here! Maybe you should attack me right now.”

Some nights are like that.

Butch:

Yeah, gotta love that trick.

I don’t know, man. My Wolgraff is pretty badass. Yesterday, every single kill was either his or Bairdotr’s. Usually, Roderick heals and Scarlett dies.

I don’t know how that happened.

Feminina:

He was pretty badass last night with his water wands against those fire creatures!

My Wolgraff had a rough start, and then there are still those things like him burning to death after the fight was over (not that this was his fault), but it’s true, he doesn’t die nearly so often anymore.

He just had to grow into his skills. And I had to learn to stop walking him into poison and/or burning corpses. It’s a process.

Butch:

Plus his twirling of wands during and after fights is pretty great. And the other day he had two critical hit kills on the same thunderjump. That was pretty awesome.

And Bairdotr is a BEAST. I got her this new bow, and she destroys EVERYTHING.

Feminina:

The wand-twirling IS awesome. He’s definitely got flair. And Bairdotr’s ‘one arrow that hits everyone in the group’ trick is pretty great.

Butch:

That and charm arrows. Dear. God. I. Love. Those.

I charmed the boss orc on that beach. The BOSS! I was like “Man, the bosses are usually immune to charm but what the hell I’ll try it WHOA I CAN DO IT!”

Feminina:

YES.

We realized how amazing they are when they were turned against us. Now it’s just “Bairdotr, charm someone.” We got a boss last night too!

But even an underling is great–gives them another person to spread out the attacks.

Charm is the best. Or worst, when it’s used against you.

Going back to Wolgraff, we first realized how badass he could be when he was charmed and attacking us.

“Wait, why do you never do this much damage against THEM?”

It’s tough with a charmed companion. You don’t want to kill them, but you also don’t want them to kill you.

Butch:

I usually run away from them. But I did the same thing: “Wait…I wanna do that!”

I buy the arrows like you buy resurrection scrolls. “Yeah, yeah, nice stuff, who cares? Where the charm arrows at?”

Oh, another feature I like? Having unlimited regular arrows. I hate games with limited arrows. Hate. Them.

Except Horizon. Loved that game.

Feminina:

Seconded. Horizon can limit whatever it wants. Loved that game.

Speaking of arrows, when we were wandering through the burning area, we found some corpses, and searched them as one does, and they all had water arrows.

Which made us happy because clearly water arrows will be very useful against the burning zombies we are about to face, but also a little nervous, because they clearly didn’t do these corpses here a lot of good.

Speaking of which, did we sort of figure out what makes the difference between dead and undead…why some corpses get up and move around?

The Baron of Bones made it sound as if all the undead in the region were the result of the same power that raised him (and his pals the Ghoul That Guards the Lighthouse and the Twins Joined By Fire), so maybe that person was just passing through raising all the dead who happened to be there at the time, but people who died later weren’t affected?

Still doesn’t totally explain why some of the graves we dug up had undead and some just had piles of bones, but maybe beyond a certain level of decay, they can’t be raised? I’d buy that.

Butch:

Classic. Still don’t know why Mr. O didn’t play Horizon. But don’t encourage him.

Still, nice touch with the water arrows! Cuz people would so have those!

I’m not sure where there are still corpses….maybe they don’t meet the standards of Braccius Rex? Or maybe there wasn’t enough power in the blood stones? Evelyn did imply that these things need to be charged with real lives.

Feminina:

Good point, maybe the stones just ran out of power. I’ll buy that.