Talk about anything and everything Squad-related here -- what you've been playing, what you're looking forward to, and how big your Pile of Shame has grown after that last Steam sale...
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Re: Where would you start someone off on traditional CRPGs?

by Beige » Fri Jun 19, 2015 1:17 am

Fallout would be my recommendation for an absolute noob as well. You don't need to know THACO or anything about Melf's Acid Arrow, Everything makes sense as well from an "I don't need to explain this" perspective. Spear, pistol, rifle, shotgun. Compare and contrast to Demiliches and +5 holy Avengers.

Trying to remember hardcore PC RPGs but as mentioned onramping is a bitch. What about some sort of hybrid like Heroes of Might and Magic? More systems-based, less narrative... but if you think tactics and numbers instead of dialogue trees when you think RPGs it might be the ticket. There's a fine old tradition of that very specific "accrue lots of units" RPG a la King's Bounty in the PC land.

There's always XCOM....
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Re: Where would you start someone off on traditional CRPGs?

by Beige » Fri Jun 19, 2015 1:22 am

Oh! Or Dungeon Master / Eye of the Beholder / Grimrock if you want the modern take. Walk around a dungeon in grid format. That's a classic formula if you can handle nostalgia.
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Re: Where would you start someone off on traditional CRPGs?

by RedSwirl » Fri Jun 19, 2015 2:58 am

Beige wrote:Oh! Or Dungeon Master / Eye of the Beholder / Grimrock if you want the modern take. Walk around a dungeon in grid format. That's a classic formula if you can handle nostalgia.


Yeah that's what Jedi was talking about. For the last maybe 12 years now Japan has been consistently cranking out Eye of the Beholder-a-likes.
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Re: Where would you start someone off on traditional CRPGs?

by A.I Impaired » Fri Jun 19, 2015 3:05 pm

I respect the desire to start from the beginning, and observe how genre's and series have changed. Its tough though working at the amoeba level (ie. wasteland, ultima 1-5). I don't really know how to prepare you for that. Its more of a historians journey than a gamer's journey at that point. I think the mindset for playing through those games as they were is left back in the 80s. Its a noble task, but I don't think anyone expects you to 'Get it' without extensive research, comparable experience, or mentorship. As deep as the games are, I feel people would rarely choose to play them over their contemporaries due to their alienating lack of direction, which is far far more pronounced than even the most mystery laden modern CRPG. These are the kinds of games that were themselves a puzzle to be solved. It was both 'where do I go next?' and 'How do I do this/that in the game?', where the game itself was often itself the game... un-intuitively. This was a burden to bare because we had to, in order enjoy the deep worlds and compelling stories. Now if that seems like something that excites you, good on you. Its going to suck up your time like it did in my childhood. I won't say don't do it. But yes, Fallout is a helluvalot more intuitive for a first go.
Baldur's gate even... I know it has some of that mystery, but you can beat the game on easy knowing relatively very little of what is behind that veil. Its accessible enough to get you going. I think thats as good a launch pad as any.
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Re: Where would you start someone off on traditional CRPGs?

by Beige » Tue Jun 23, 2015 8:49 pm

Have any of you been watching the progress of Serpent in the Staglands on Steam? I've been watching and geeking out huge over this one since I discovered it but the reason for it is very very specific. To understand my enthusiasm for SitS one has to first be a Darklands geek. As AI is describing, it's difficult to go back to them old classics because they were damn near impenetrable -- but no PC game EVER was as impenetrable as Darklands.

What is Darklands? How many of you have even heard of it?

I'll not go into it here in too much detail because explaining this fucking game is a hell of a business, but suffice it to say that Darklands was to Baldur's Gate what Wasteland was to Fallout. The weirder, more little-known precursor that set the technical and tonal what-was-to-come for something huge.

Darklands was basically Baldur's Gate removed from the TSR license and stuck into fantasy mediaval Germany. And not like D&D fantasy world either - low-tech fantasy world with the Catholic church, saints, alchemy, pfennigs and florins, the Medici family, Hapsburgs and witches and satanists all over the damn place combined with a splashing of fantasy tropes like Gargoyles, Niebelungen and Demons.

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The game had a very strong, very pronounced Christian religious overtone to it because it was the damn middle ages. All your characters were Catholic so praying to saints and collecting knowledge of saints was a huge deal with practical in-game mechanics. Characters walked around accumulating hagiographic lore in the same was as Geralt collects potion recipes. Menaced by guards in an alley? Quick, pray to St. Christopher or St. Adolphus of the Flenses or whoever the patron saint of getting out of jams is. The plot was crazy and involved one of your party beginning to get Joan of Arc style visions from God that warned of the impending incursion of the no-shit capital-D Old Nick Lucifer devil into the quiet lands of medieval Bavaria.

Alchemy, likewise, was very weird all very grounded in the real world more or less. No "wizards" as a specific class but you could source bitumen, sulfur, saltpetre and charcoal and make potions and bombs with them and throw them at bandits to create smokescreens and acid clouds, etc. Visit real world universities like Bremen and Rotenburg, practice alchemy and learn things from professors. Equip zweihanders and plate mail.

Darklands had so many firsts in my book
- First time I remember creating a party from scratch, wiping a charcter when they perma-died(!!) and picking up a replacement at ye olde local inn.
- First time I'd seen a party where you equipped everything via a "Paper Doll" interface
- First time I'd 'clicked to pause' my party in realtime battles - a staple that would go on to define Infinity Engine.
- First time I'd encountered encumbrance choices when speccing characters.
- Only time that extensive knowledge of mediaval Catholic saints made a huge and meaningful impact on my survival.

Anyway, that's what this game is. It is to Darklands what the new XCOM is to X-COM. Fond memories of a very specific thing filtered through 20 years of nostalgic memory.

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Re: Where would you start someone off on traditional CRPGs?

by RedSwirl » Tue Jun 23, 2015 9:17 pm

I've had my eye on Staglands for at least a few months now. Something like Bronze-Age Romanian mythology makes it looks just fresh enough to investigate, and it really seems to capture that "90's RPG made today" look. It might end up on my list if I have enough room.

So might Darklands to be honest. I read a recent and lengthy blog post about that game, I'm not sure if it was Rock Paper Shotgun or PC Gamer, that really made me want to at least attempt it for four or five hours. That's become my standard test period for interesting new games and chopping through my backlog. I put about that much time into Rome Total War maybe a year ago before deciding I just couldn't hack it, and decided I'd given it a fair shake. That's the thing: I'm not even talking about finishing all these classic games I plan to visit. Just the ones that pull me in enough.

But about Darklands, descriptions of it interest me because it sounds less like an RPG and more like a medieval knight simulator with supernatural elements. That feeling of just messing around with those systems in that setting is what's causing me to take a look at older RPGs, including Wasteland. They're not really so much about following a lengthy story as they are about letting you run around. I think that's what has made Bethesda's games popular to so many people, and I'm not sure it completely realizes this.

Skyrim right now is actually beginning to grate on me ever since I had this realization a couple days ago: It's primarily a dungeon crawler. Or at least, Bethesda's games try to simultaneously be simulated open worlds and big-ass dungeon crawlers, and the dungeon crawler can win out for several hours at a time. I am trying my best to stay away from Dwemer ruins. They don't fucking end. The thing is, I'm in the mood for a dungeon crawler a lot of the time. I get that Elder Scrolls was originally an open-world homage to Ultima Underworld. I really like the ENB implementation I've used on Skyrim because it changes the color palette to something that actually resembles early 90's CRPGs but with more modern graphics. That visual style suggesting a fully modern callback is what's so attractive about Demon's Souls to me. Actually, that's the problem: If I want a modern old-style dungeon crawler, I have Demon's Souls.

Back on topic, I decided to reinstall Skyrim because I was in the mood for the open-world simulator. The last big quest I did was the one where you have to investigate the burnt down house in Morthal. I'd like to do more of that -- quests where you interact with a bunch of people and decide for yourself how you're going to solve problems according to your character's skills and imagined personality. Spoilers:
Spoiler: show
When I started hearing about Alva in Morthal, I started my investigation by immediately breaking into her house, sneaking into the basement, and finding her sleeping in that coffin. Apparently that's NOT how the quest was supposed to go, but the game rolls with it.
A guy in Dawnstar nearby gives you a quest where he wants you to retrieve some things, and he doesn't care how you do it. That's what I'm here for, and that's what I'd like to get in Darklands or Betrayal at Krondor or whatever. It just sucks that so few games do this on modern hardware. This is why I intend to start a couple more Fallout 3 characters before 4 drops.

Straight-storyline RPGs are great too though. Witcher 3 does that and does it really well as a rare example of a western RPG with a pre-written character. From what I heard it's an example of the advantages a developer can get from crafting the world and game systems around having a specific person as the player character. What's odd about TW3 though is it seems to be a straight-story affair wrapped in what at least looks like a simulated world.
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Re: Where would you start someone off on traditional CRPGs?

by Alex Connolly » Wed Jun 24, 2015 3:51 am

It might seem like a really unconventional choice, but do consider throwing Jagged Alliance 2 into the mix. It has deep and rich party complexities -- lots of rivalries and reactionary buffs/debuffs -- within its squad, and the mission design, from the strategic insurgency elements to the grit of urban and jungle combat, is absolute gold. It has the same sort of character development and paper doll concepts as a fantasy RPG, just within a pastiche of 80s action film tropes and inferring CIA/Guerrilla operations across the globe from 'Nam to Nicaragua.

Each merc you hire has proficiencies and capacities from the get-go, so it's not really a collection of blank slates.

Big thumbs up.
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Re: Where would you start someone off on traditional CRPGs?

by A.I Impaired » Thu Jun 25, 2015 5:24 pm

Indeed, JA2 is an interesting one. Lotsa great strategy RPG'ness, but the assemblage and coherence of all your missions makes for a harrowing journey for your squad akin to any good epic quest.

Staglands has my ears perked. I never played Darklands, but was always interested in it.

If we are talking history of seminal CRPG's, I will mention Ultima VII. It was where the open world RPG took a more modern identifiable form I think. One open world, villager routines, crafting. It also was the first one to be rid of the text parser, fully mouse based interface. So, far less guessing what to say and do to who and what. That said... plenty still to figure out for yourself. Easy to get lost.

Ultima VIII was a much smaller more focused affair, much more action heavy, got rid of having a party.

Ultima IX, the half baked 3D entry, actually looks and feels like a small scale pre-cursor to morrowind, though with a lot more camp. It was impressive for the time in many respects, but its potential was perhaps better realized in other games since.
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Re: Where would you start someone off on traditional CRPGs?

by RedSwirl » Thu Jun 25, 2015 9:34 pm

For a while I've wanted people to explain to me what's so special about Ultima VII compared to today's open-world RPGs that try to create simulated worlds.

You say it had NPCs with routines and actually physical needs, but to what extent did this go? How deep is that system compared to the one in Skyrim?
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Re: Where would you start someone off on traditional CRPGs?

by A.I Impaired » Sun Jun 28, 2015 4:37 am

I would say the NPC routines were scripted, rather than comparable to Bethesda's 'Radiant A.I'. Regardless though, it worked. It was actually Ultima IV that started the whole thing, except characters then only moved when your character did. They would jump around doing their tasks according to pre-determined patterns.

I guess modern RPG's such as Skyrim have made advancements, but it was quite awhile before 3D Rpg's caught up to the things we saw in 1992. Ultima even made the big splash in the MMO scene, maybe didn't do it best... but had some ideas that are only now catching on like having your own buildings and proffession.
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