The wonderfully unique Hand of Fate made quite the impression with its D&D-esque adventuring combined with a collectable card game and Batman Arkham series combat. The sequel has now arrived bringing with it enhancements to every aspect of the original, resulting in a marvellously compelling, genre-splicing title with enough content and challenge to keep you entertained for hours on end.
The mysterious, card dealing stranger from the first title returns to act as your, for lack of a better term, dungeon master. With his own deck of cards – covering a wide selection of events from monster encounters to narrative driven scenarios – as well as a mixture of cards you’ve selected from your own deck that gradually grows as you play, layers of cards are set on the table that act as a randomly generated map made up of multiple events. Each turn you move your counter through the map and face the challenges that arise from each card you step on. This builds the adventure with enough randomisation to challenge and surprise you as you take part in a grander narrative.
New to the sequel is the addition of companions. These companions offer benefits in both combat – granting buffs or even participating in the fight – and when navigating the challenges of your adventure, aiding in the gambits of dice throws, card wheels and pendulums. They also have their own self-contained stories to experience, adding a lot of depth, some well-written escapades to enjoy, and making the journey less lonely and isolated than in the original title.
The combat has been improved markedly, with a far smoother flow and animations resulting in an easier, fairer system. It still doesn’t capture the excellence of the Batman Arkham combat mechanics but it’s certainly closer to it than before. It’s also more nuanced, with a greater selection of opponents requiring different strategies to fell, and your equipment and the special abilities they grant playing a bigger role. Moreover, there’s more variety this time around, with elements such as primary targets on the battlefield and groups of allies supporting you.
Indeed, with Hand of Fate 2’s smoother combat, new and interesting cards populating yours and the dealer’s decks, as well as a larger, more involved set of stories making up the lengthy campaign, many of the nit-picks of the original have been quelled. Certainly, after a few hours you’ll find the dealer’s quips repeat a little bit, alongside the events on the cards, but each new location adds enough variety of new events to the decks that there’s always something intriguing to discover.
Once again the random nature of Hand of Fate 2 can lead to some unfair deaths, but largely the health, provisions, equipment, companions, and of course the events dictated by the cards, are balanced well enough to provide a challenge but with enough opportunities to stave off death. Its innovative use of mechanics and concepts results in a fantasy adventure that’s fresh yet oddly nostalgic, tapping into the allure of D&D and Fighting Fantasy. It comes highly recommended.
Thanks to Xbox and Defiant Development for supporting TiX
Last week I posted an article stating that Torment: Tides of Numenera would have some deep choices for players to make during their epic adventure in this RPG. Now however InXile, the games developers have released a video explaining just how you’re going to beat the baddies and rise to the top of your game, here’s the combat.
Torment: Tides of Numenera has had an immense backing from RPG fans all over the world. InXile ran their own Kickstarter type event raising over $5 Million and is set for release on February 28th 2017. Head over to Techland Games Youtube channel HERE for more information on the game or check out InXiles website HERE for all the latest information prior to the games release.
Fatshark, the Swedish Independent developer currently working closely with Games Workshop to bring their fantasy property to life, have released a behind the scenes trailer for their upcoming title, Warhammer : End Times- Vermintide.
Associate Producer Liam O’Neill and Game Designer Victor Magnuson talk about the fluidity of the combat and some of the upcoming features in this new series of Vermintide trailers.
Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide is a first-person 4 player co-op game set in the city of Ubersreik during the End Times of the Warhammer fantasy world.
When the players arrive in the town of Ubersreik the city has just been overrun by the Skaven army. So it is up to them to join the resistance and fight back. Selecting from one of five heroes, each with unique abilities, play style, equipment and personalities, players are challenged with working together to survive this invasion of rabid, relentless Skaven.
Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide is due for release late 2015.
We were recently invited to interview Rob Overmeyer, Executive Producer on Neverwinter for Xbox One. If you haven’t rolled your character and got stuck into Neverwinter yet, you can read our huge three-part review here: Part 1, Part 2 and finally Part 3.
This is Xbox (TiX): When you aren’t busy working, and you are enjoying free time playing Neverwinter yourself, what race and class are you? Which is your favourite?
Rob Overmeyer (RO): I play all the time! My main is a Halfling GWF currently 2.7k on PC and a Halfling TR climbing the ranks on Xbox. I really like the GWF in group play and while I may not top the DPS charts I have been able to pull out a win in several dungeons after seeing most of the party go down. As for Xbox, although it’s a bit FotM to run a TR as my go to for PvP. I’m not running perma or anything but I like catching a cleric out of position and giving them a surprise. I also like the stealth-battle gameplay that can play out once in a while at a CP. Backcapping to find yourself in a 1v1 with another TR can be a lot of fun.
TiX: Describe to our readers what your role is day-to-day in terms of Neverwinter for Xbox One, including future Xbox One updates and DLC launches.
RO:I am the Executive Producer of Neverwinter PC and Xbox. Most of all my days are pretty busy and when I am not planning future modules and game direction, analyzing the business and looking at what we need to improve in the live game I am playing Neverwinter. My day usually consists of meeting with the team, leads and publishers to get a sense of where we are at and what is up next. I am a pretty hands on EP and I like to be a useful part of the development process. The reality is that I get to work with some great folks on Neverwinter and there is little better on the dev team than brainstorming cool new features and content to get to our fans.
TiX: Were you and the team pleased with how Neverwinter for Xbox One was received?
RO: Yes, we are very excited with how the game has been received and we are even more excited to keep bringing tons of really cool gameplay to our console fans. We did have some struggles in the beginning but we have been improving Neverwinter with each patch.
TiX: The Elder Scrolls Online is now out for console; are you a fan?
RO: I am a fan of the Elder Scrolls, what RPG fan couldn’t be? I think taking the Elder Scrolls online and offering a persistent multiplayer world was a great and logical next step. I have a ton of respect for the team and the work they did to take such a big universe with a fantastic history and fan following and get it online.
TiX: What is it like working alongside Wizards of the Coast?
RO: It is really fantastic to work with WotC. We meet every week and talk about what we are working on and get the business out of the way. It’s more than the normal approval process we get to talk about cool and new things that would be cool to see in our worlds. One of the most exciting things we get to do is go meet up with the designers and world builders at WotC and get a glimpse into what they are working on for the distant future. As a fan and a developer it is really cool to be able to see where the stories are going. WotC is a fantastic partner and we always have a fun time when we get to talking about D&D.
TiX: Had you, prior to working on this, played any tabletop games? If so which ones were they and did you draw any influences from them?
RO: I played D&D but more casually than most of my friends that played. I also played minis and became way more interested in the artistic aspect of table top games. I really got into painting minis of all kinds. Friends would give me boxes of minis and I would paint them. Most of my paints and bits were covered by my friends for painting their figs. I got into all sorts of board games like Betrayal and Zombies and still play them regularly.
TiX:A few outlets and communities have commented on how the Neverwinter console community is pretty mute and none existent. What’s your overall perception of this?
RO: Early on, shortly after launch we noticed the same things. When I would play I would talk in /Zone to get no response to LFG or even giveaways. It turns out there was a bug in chat that hid chat unless you were a friend with someone. We have since fixed that and the game chat is much livelier. It is a shame that we had the chat bug. It really made the game seem much smaller without the chatter. It’s all fixed now and people should give it a try.
TiX: What was the biggest challenge in porting Neverwinter from PC to Xbox One?
RO: Getting the backend working and integrated to Xbox One was a huge amount of work. Sometimes the task exposed bugs that we could fix but it also covered some up. Additionally, the controls were a tough one. We wanted to get them right and feel like we did.
TiX: It was recently announced that there would be five free pieces of DLC coming to Xbox One, including Tyranny of Dragons and Elemental Evil. What can you tell us about these?
RO: Well, it won’t be traditional console DLC. These updates will be 100% free and will download automatically when you log in and patch. Just log in and get new content, classes, level cap increase, rewards and much, much more. Following the Tyranny of Dragons story the Xbox fans can look forward to 3 huge zones with a ton of content and rewards that feature more campaign content. There is also the Elemental Evil expansion that adds a new class in the Paladin, 4 new zones that take the player from 60 to 70 and some truly epic dungeons and encounters.
TiX:How well has the F2P model for Neverwinter gone down with console owners?
RO: It has gone very well. Gamers are fans of games and even bigger fans of good games. Neverwinter is the best free to play MMO on any console. Our fast paced combat feels fantastic on console and is a lot of fun. You can get in and play from start to finish with your friends and never miss out on any content because you don’t have that pack or DLC your friend has. It would be hard not to like that. Going forward I think that our free updates, events and expansions will continue to be well received.
Thanks to Crypcic Games, Perfect World Entertainment and of course Rob Overmeyer for their support.
You can read more about what is to come in Neverwinter: Rise of Tiamat here and watch the trailer below.
Ziggurat brings Roguelike procedurally generated content along with the twitch reactions of a first-person shooter, all inside a fantasy comic aesthetic. It’s Tower of Guns but with magic, and it’s brilliant.
Of course calling Ziggurat a Roguelike stretches the subgenre’s definition a little bit. Much like the analogous Tower of Guns, it’s more Rouge-inspired, with the takeaway features being permadeath and procedurally generated levels and enemy layouts. Additionally, Ziggurat’s setting is high fantasy, you’re an apprentice sorcerer looking to join a powerful brotherhood, in order to do so you must enter and survive the five levels of a ziggurat. Each level steadily grows in size and is filled with deadlier foes culminating in a boss. You must search the labyrinthine ziggurat levels for a key to open a portal to the next level which also reveals that level’s boss.
The narrative is superficial and brief but does its job in setting up your driving force for entering the Ziggurat initially. Additional, nuggets of story can be found as scrolls within the levels that flesh out the world a little more but mostly talk of the dangers the ziggurat holds. It mostly fades into the background, but ultimately it’s not missed – after your first attempt the compulsion to replay is inescapable.
The primary hook that drags you in is how consistently fair each attempt at the ziggurat is – a remarkable trait for a game with procedurally generated challenges. Enemies are well-balanced to a predictable difficulty curve that’s easy to anticipate and prepare for, and the perks you obtain through exploration or levelling are a choice between different approaches to combat rather than the random empowering or restraining of your character. As such it encourages you to play differently rather than stacking the odds against you or overpowering you.
When you level up you’re provided a choice between two perk cards. Often it’s a choice between increased health and increased mana, but as you level up further those choices expand to sacrificing health or mana for the other. Mixing and matching these perks essentially allows you to create the classic classes from first-person shooters – sacrificing mana for health builds you a tank, meanwhile, the opposite moves you towards damage per second (DPS), etc. and while your choices won’t always allow you to build towards the play style you necessarily prefer, asking you to adapt to a different style rather than relying on grinding or lucky dice rolls is a far less frustrating process.
You adventure through the ziggurat in first-person, starting out with your trusty wand and gaining more weapons as you search and find them. Each weapon is magically powered – sceptres, guns and more can be found and swapped out to fill your four weapon slots, each using a different pool of mana which acts like ammo to be refilled by picking up crystals dropped by defeated foes. It plays like a first-person shooter, with the nostalgic fast paced strafing action of titles such as Hexen or Doom. It’s terrific, intense fun.
Occasional areas are subject to procedurally generated effects, such as increased or decreased weapon’s damage, character speed or fire rate. Additionally, there are traps to look out for and challenge rooms that pit you against a large horde of enemies or a difficult platforming and trap dodging challenge with a reward at the end. Indeed the ziggurat is a treacherous place, tempting you to conquer its challenges for those extra perks and weapons that might help you survive the bosses and their minions. However, if you die it’s back to the beginning.
However, by achieving specific objectives, such as killing a certain amount of enemies, other characters are unlocked for you to take into the ziggurat, each with different starting stats or wands offering a different experience and challenge. Unlocking the large roster and trying to conquer the ziggurat is a compelling experience for the completionist, but more than that it’s remarkably fun and satisfying thanks to it’s fast paced casting/shooting mechanic and fair procedurally challenges.
Additionally, Ziggurat is a very good looking game. A colourful palette makes the dungeons bright rather than dreary and the particle effects for spells more impressive. There’s also a light-hearted philosophy to the enemy design that brings a smile to your face, with their exaggerated features and odd sounds. Furthermore, secret areas have a picture on the wall representing a game from developer Milkstone Studio’s portfolio, with text appearing giving a brief history. Meanwhile, the subtle shaking of the controller as you approach an edge gives you a terrific indicator that makes first-person platforming that much easier and quicker. Indeed, Ziggurat is full of thoughtful design choices and personality.
Ziggurat is a fun and accessible Roguelike with precisely the kind of refinements you’d expect from a modern action shooter, but one that channels the spirit of older, fast paced titles. There are occasions where the action becomes a bit too intense and the framerate chugs, but otherwise this is a spectacular dungeon crawling FPS that’s different every time you play but never falls into the pit of being unfair.
Thanks to Xbox for supplying TiX with a download code