Tag Archives: crafting

Fallout (4 ) Never Changes – First Impressions

I’ve put about 10 hours into Fallout 4 over this weekend. That’s a drop in the bucket compared to the time it will take to complete the game, but I think it’s enough to get a handle on the positives and negatives of this new iteration of Fallout. I’m not writing a full review – I haven’t finished yet, and writing a review of an open world game sounds terrible. However, I do have some assorted  thoughts on the game.

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  1. Character creation. For the first time in Fallout my character isn’t an ugly, blurry mess. Borrowing from DAI’s face sculpting tools, you can actually create a decent looking character in this game.
  2. Setup. For the first time, we get to see what things were like before the bombs fell. It’s brief, but we are introduced to our character and their partner and child just minutes before they’re ushered into a Vault and the nukes go off. It’s nice to have a minute to appreciate Fallout’s distinct aesthetic in its prime before the world becomes a Wasteland.
  3. Story. The game tries to give us a more urgent and personal story from the get-go, but it doesn’t succeed. As we wake up in the Vault we see our infant son get kidnapped, so we go out to find him. However once you leave the vault and get a glimpse of the wasteland, all thoughts of the creepy baby are quickly pushed aside, as exploration is much more appealing. Sure, you can tell people in conversation that you’re looking for your baby, but so far I’ve gone 10 hours without following that particular story thread. There’s no emotional attachment there and frankly it’s just not that interesting.
  4. Urgency. There really isn’t any. At least so far. However, this is a problem with pretty much all open world games, so I won’t hold it too much against Fallout 4.
  5. Voices. For the first time, the protagonist is voiced. This is a very welcome change, though the performance of the female protagonist so far is not particularly inspiring. It’s not bad, but she’s certainly no Commander Shepard. Partially this is due to the writing – the dialogue is sparse and to the point. Though there is usually a sarcastic response option.
  6. Storytelling. Where I’ve always thought the modern Fallout games excel is visual and environmental storytelling. It’s not the big arc, it’s the small ones. It’s stumbling upon a sidequest while you’re on another mission, seeing a skeleton in a car and piecing together what happened, hacking into terminals to find the real story behind a location. Fallout 4 continues to excel at this.
  7. Robots. This game is full of sassy robots, who are full of personality. Not just your companion Cogsworth, there are many robots to meet in the Wasteland.
  8. Combat. VATS is still great, the rest of combat is still kinda shit. Though I’ve been reading in other reviews that the FPS combat has improved, I’m not really seeing it. Especially at the beginning of the game when most enemies rush into melee range, I don’t find the shooting mechanics are very good.
  9. Companions. Companions are quite helpful in combat when it comes to killing things. However, they’re also in the way. Like, all the time. Going down a narrow corridor? There they are, blocking you. Trying to shoot something at a distance? They’ll become an obstacle. If anything, I think this problem may be worse here than in previous games.
  10. Explosions. One of my biggest frustrations in previous Fallout games was that I’d often get blown up in combat, and have no idea where the explosion came from. Though they have added a little icon to tell you when a grenade is near, I still get caught in mystery explosions way more than is necessary.
  11. Saving. You can quicksave your game anywhere, though autosaving doesn’t happen as often as I’d like.
  12. Crafting. Fallout 4 has introduced a rather robust crafting system where you can modify your weapons and armor. It’s an enjoyable addition so far, and it’s nice to customize things to suit your playstyle or visual preferences.
  13. Workshop. Your home in the Wasteland can be built up to our specifications through the Workshop. While initially I didn’t think this was something I’d like, I’ve actually spent quite a bit of time with it. You can build beds, new houses, plant crops, build water pumps – everything a growing Wasteland settlement needs. People you help through the game will join your settlements. It is fun to build, though the game’s engine isn’t ideal for it. Placing objects is awkward. Some kind of overhead or simplified view of things would be great. You can build electric systems to power your base, but it isn’t explained very well. The best part of this is that all the junk you find in the Wasteland – the clipboards, the old telephones – can be used to build things rather than just as vendor fodder.
    One thing I’m not liking as I go through the game is that every place where you help people can be turned into a base, with a workshop for you to build up. While making one wasteland sanctuary sounds fun, making a dozen sounds like a huge timesink. I haven’t figured out what, if anything, happens when you ignore these bases. Does it matter if they don’t have enough food or defence?
  14. Exploration. I’ve been pretty burnt out on open world games lately and I have to say, exploration in Fallout 4 is 100x more enticing than it was in games like Witcher 3 or Dragon Age: Inquisition. Part of this is due to the simplicity of the map. You see icons for major landmarks, but not every single place where you can gather a resource or fight a camp of raiders. So there’s mystery. There’s a reason to explore. It’s not just a matter of ticking off every box on the map. I’m sure there will be many little locations and items that I’ll never find. And that’s okay. The locations I do find are interesting, full of great visuals and stories that don’t need to be explicitly spelled out.
  15. Finding things. At the beginning of the game I found it really hard to locate items. So many games I’ve been playing recently help the player by highlighting objects of interest in some way, and Fallout doesn’t do this. Now that I’m a few hours in, I’ve gotten used to it, and it makes things feel less game-y.
  16. Text. Fallout has some of the best in-game text entries. RPGs are generally full of lore and codex entries, books and letters. I hate reading them. In Fallout most text is found on terminals, and I read every word. Text entries are put in the right places. It’s not just general knowledge or lore, these entries tell you about the places you are in  and the people who live (or have lived) there. They often tell a story from multiple points of view, they can contain hints of where to find item stashes, point you to other interesting locations. Log entries tend to be darkly humorous and the fact that you often have to hack into these terminals to find the information just makes it that much more intriguing. Reading information in Fallout feels like reading someone’s journal, not like reading a textbook.
  17. Overall. Fallout 4 feels like Fallout. The good parts of Fallout 3 are there – the exploration, environment, the storytelling within particular locations, the dark humour. And the bad parts are still there – the combat is mediocre, it doesn’t look as good as other current games, the story doesn’t have any urgency. Though some new mechanics have been added, I don’t find that the existing ones have been improved much. I wouldn’t want a ton to change, but it’s been five years since New Vegas, some refinements would be nice.

If you prefer videos, I’ve also done a mini video review. It covers some of the same stuff, and includes some gameplay footage.

The Witcher 3: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (part 2)

Creating a game with a huge open world like The Witcher leaves a lot of room for error. When the world is so big, the systems are numerous and complex, and there is so much to do and see, it’s not easy to capture every issue in QA nor please everyone with the decisions made. Unsurprisingly, there are a lot of issues.

The Bad

Saves

Let’s start with the big one. I’m playing on XBox One and there’s an issue where the game will just stop saving your progress. Autosave won’t trigger, trying to manually save will return a message saying you can’t save at this time. If you die during this time, the game hangs indefinitely on the load screen. I’ve run into this 3 times and each time ended up losing a couple hours of gameplay. The cause seems to be allowing your game to get suspended, either by leaving it running with no activity or using another game/application without quitting the game. A hard reset is required to fix it. Now that I know the cause I can avoid it, and the developers have said they’re working on a patch, but still – this is really bad.

Accessibility

There are a number of easily fixable accessibility issues. For such a big world, a lot of things are really small.  The font size for text is tiny. It’s likely okay on PC, but as someone who plays on console and sitting 8 feet away from the TV, I really have to strain to read things. The subtitles for speech aren’t so bad, but it’s very difficult to read anything in the menus. Thankfully, this is something that will be patched soon. There’s also a bit of an issue with the symbols on the map. Areas you haven’t completed are indicated by a white symbol, while places you’ve finished are indicated by a slightly darker kind of grey, but really still looks white, because it’s so small symbol.

The Witcher 3 - map

I’m also a bit annoyed that the zone maps are so large that there are (many) times when you can’t zoom out far enough to see both your current location and your objective at the same time. The above image shows the zone map fully zoomed out, and it only shows about a quarter of the zone. Plus, if you zoom out any further, you end up on the world map and annoyingly have to reselect the zone to go back.

Combat

Combat is clunky. I know this isn’t necessarily an opinion shared by all, but I find the animations for each sword swing overly long and you need to wait until they’re completed before you can do anything else. This results in me furiously spamming my Sign button as I’m fighting, trying to finish off a sword strike with some fire to the face, and the game just not responding. It gets worse when you fight multiple enemies as they often come up and hit from behind while you’re still finishing your swing on another opponent and there’s nothing you can do about it. When things are going smoothly it’s not so noticeable but when you’re surrounded or against a tougher enemy, it seems like there’s a frustrating delay between each action.

One thing they did in this game is have Geralt automatically draw the correct sword for the opponent he’s fighting, which is great. When it works. About 5% of the time I find Geralt won’t draw any sword (especially if combat starts after a cutscene) and he’ll just start punching things. The clunky combat is really noticeable here, as if you instinctively do an attack when combat starts, you need to wait for the animation to complete before the game will respond to your command to draw a sword.

UI

The Witcher 3 - inventory screen

Most games, but huge open world RPGs in particular, really need better UI design. The Witcher 3 is no exception. Let’s start with the inventory screen. What a mess. First, there are just way too many items. I just counted and I have 183 items in my Alchemy and Crafting tab. There’s no custom sorting. There’s no search. It’s just a page full of stuff I know very little about.The huge amount of items in The Witcher doesn’t benefit the game in any way. I don’t need to pick up broken rakes or empty vials to be immersed in the world, they really just add clutter. Likewise, it would be easy enough to have fewer herbs and magical ingredients and just use the remaining in more recipes. At the moment I have 16 green mutagens in my inventory. Why? And why aren’t they all at least grouped together in my inventory? Do we really need both leather scraps and leather straps? You can craft or disassemble one into the other, so it makes me question why the need for that extra step.

When it comes to vendors one of my biggest complaints, that I’ve have for the whole series, is that the game gives you no indication if you already have a recipe or a book when you see it for sale. Reading books will often add entries to your bestiary or markers to the map, but only the first time you read it. Since there are dozens (maybe hundreds) of books in the game, it’s hard to keep track of what you’ve already read and what is worth buying. I probably waste a lot of money because of this.

A few other things

It’s nice to have an equine companion in game, but Roach sure is fussy. He listens to your commands when he feels like it, but bridges or changes in terrain will often make him come to a standstill. Also, Geralt’s verbal commands (slower, faster) often don’t even remotely correspond to my inputs.

Repairs. What a chore and a gold sink, especially at the start of the game when gold is hard to come by. Give me convenience over realism any day.

The Witcher 3 - lighting candles

And then there are the candles. So many candles and you can light, or extinguish, all of them! Sometimes the candles are right beside an object you’d like to pick up, or a person you’d like to talk to. It’s no fun having to re-position your camera until you can finally interact with the right thing, rather than playing with a stupid candle over and over again. In the above picture, the candle is laying across a book. Why would I want to light that?! Unless there’s a ‘burn the house down’ objective, don’t let me interact with this. This is going to be patched soon – “Geralt will not longer interact with candles near chests and other interactive elements.” Really, I don’t see a need to be able to interact with candles at all. Light a brazier or torch in a dark dungeon – sure. Candles in houses? No thanks.


Most of these issues aren’t huge, but put together they result in a lot of frustration. Hopefully upcoming patches will resolve a few of these but I have to say, when I buy a game on release day I expect a finished product.

All is not lost, next time I’ll talk about all the things I love about The Witcher 3.

Tips for Pillars of Eternity

It’s been great to see so many strong isometric RPGs come out in the last year or two, with more still to come. Pillars of Eternity was released at the end of March by Obsidian and it’s been great so far, and really brings up the nostalgia for games like Baldur’s Gate 2 or Planescape: Torment, while adding some cool new features and story.

Pillars of Eternity

Here are a few tips if you’re just getting started.

Combat

The real-time combat took a bit to get used to for me, here are some of the things I learned:

  • Micromanage the hell out of your party. Even on lower difficultly levels, you can’t usually just let everyone auto-attack and still win.
  • Combat can be over quickly, and your characters can be killed in a matter of seconds if you’re not careful. Be aggressive – use your abilities proactively, don’t save them for a time you think they may be more needed. If you’re up against a group of enemies, reducing their numbers quickly is key.
  • Use the custom formations to put your party members in good initial positions (heartier melee in the front, ranged and casters in the back).
  • Make sure your squishy ranged are actually equipped with ranged weapons (a quarterstaff will still have them running into melee range) so they stay in safe spots.
  • Buffs and crowd control are just as important as damage and healing. I particularly like abilities that knock down enemies, or the big AoE buffs from classes like Priests and Druids.
  • Read all your spells – some offensive spells will only hit enemies, but many have friendly fire as well.
  • Sometimes, you just aren’t strong enough to beat a particular enemy yet. Learned from experience – don’t try to take on Raedric at level 3.

Companions

Here’s the list of all 8 possible companions and where you can find them, so you don’t miss any:

  • Aloth (Wizard) – Gilded Vale
  • Eder (Warrior) – Gilded Vale
  • Durance (Priest) – Magran’s Fork
  • Kana (Chanter) – Caed Nua
  • Pallegina (Paladin) – Oondra’s Gift in Defiance Bay
  • Sagani (Ranger) – Woodend Plains
  • Hiravias (Druid) – Stormwall Gorge
  • Grieving Mother (Cipher) – Dyrfold Village

The pre-created companions will all add something to the story as well as have their own character quests.

  • There are 3 classes not represented by the pre-created characters – Barbarian, Monk, and Rogue – in case that impacts the creation of your own character.
  • You can also make your own companions from an Inn.
  • You’ll level up faster if you don’t have the party of 6, as each character will get more experience.

Items

  • Rope and Grappling Hook, Hammer & Chisel, and Lockpicks are very useful, especially at the start of the game. If you get a chance to buy or pick these up, do it. There are in-game events which will need them if your skill levels aren’t very high yet.
  • Always carry the max amount of Camping Supplies (4).

Crafting

  • You don’t need to worry about recipes in the game, they’ll open up as you reach the appropriate levels.
  • You can cook or do alchemy, to get foods and potions which will provide buffs. You can make scrolls, though I haven’t found those are needed much, or traps.
  • Enchanting has been the most useful type of crafting for me. If you get a good, named piece of equipment, enchant it to make it even better.
  • Don’t worry too much about saving materials for later, most things can be found again or bought easily.

Exploring

  • Make extensive use of the Tab button, which will highlight items you can pick up or interact with, and Scouting mode, which will reveal traps and hidden items.
  • If Scouting mode is too slow for your tastes, pair it with Double Speed.
  • The initial scrolling speed for the game is slow, it can be increased in the menu under Game.
  • Rest often. It doesn’t seem that rest can be interrupted by monsters.
  • Visit Caed Nua early, because it opens up some cool new stuff.
  • You can’t get to Twin Elms until Act 3, don’t drive yourself nuts trying to figure out how to get there.
  • It matters what exit you take from some screens. Exiting from the East won’t open up access to an area South of you.

That’s all for now! Let me know if you need more info, or if you have any tips for me.

Tips for This War of Mine

This War of Mine can be a very challenging game, especially when you first start playing. Here are some things I learned that may help you. When I play, I focus on avoiding combat as much as possible, so keep that in mind.

To Start…

  • Collect all the items from around your house.
  • Build a metal workshop, and use it to craft a crowbar so you can get into all the locked doors in the house.
  • If you find lockpicks, don’t waste them here as they are single use and can be traded or used while scavenging if you need to be quiet.
  • Other items to prioritize crafting are: a stove (which can and should be upgraded when possible) and a bed. If it’s cold (check the temperature in the top left of the screen) a simple heater is also very important.
  • You don’t really need a shovel to clear rubble. It makes it faster, but it’s not like your social calendar is full.

Scavenging

  • The descriptions of each area on the map are quite accurate – they’ll tell you if you can trade, will be in danger, or may need to steal.
  • When visiting a location for the first time, don’t bring anything with you, as it will reduce the number of inventory slots available to bring things back. Look around, figure out what tools you’ll need to collect everything, and bring them next time you go.
  • It’s best to clear out a whole location before moving on to the next, especially at the beginning of the game.
  • Avoid fighting when you can, and leave yourself a clear way to the exit in case you need to run away.
  • You can tell when someone is near you by red radar-like blips in their location. If the movements of the red circles are erratic, frequent, and small it’s likely just a rat.
  • Head home by 3 or 4am, otherwise you risk being shot by snipers.

Characters

  • Many characters have special skills that will help you out. Make sure you’re using the correct people for each task to make the most efficient use of your resources.
    • Boris is strong but slow. He has 17 inventory slots making him a great choice for scavenging. His strength will also help if you get into melee combat.
    • Bruno is a good cook. Use him to cook food, distill moonhine/alcohol, and make medicine.
    • Katia has bargaining skills. Use her for trading.
    • Marin is a handyman. Use him to craft things in the workshop and metal workshop.
    • Marko is a good scavenger. He has 15 inventory slots and scavenges faster.
    • Roman is trained in combat. He’s a good choice if you expect to have to fight on scavenging runs, or for guarding your house. Roman can get into fights with your other characters resulting in injuries, which is a big downside to a playthrough with him in it.
    • Zlata can bolster spirits. Give her a guitar or have her talk to other characters to cheer them up.

Keeping people Healthy and happy

  • If a character displays icons above their head, another character can talk to them to give them the items they need, or comfort them.
  • If the Hospital is a location option an injured or sick character can be healed for free.
  • Keep the temperature up in the house to avoid sickness.
  • The best way to heal an injury or sickness is to give a bandage/medicine then let the character sleep in bed for the night.
  • Having books and armchairs available will make characters happier.
  • Helping neighbours or friendlies you run into while scavenging will increase morale for most characters.
  • A quick and easy way to boost morale is to trade the doctor at the hospital and let him get the best of the deal (this will be considered a donation). He wants medicine or bandages.
  • Cigarettes and coffee will relax the characters who like these things (it will say it in their profile).
  • Stealing from or killing friendlies, or refusing people help will decrease morale.

This War of Mine crafting

 Weapons

  • Even if you don’t plan on fighting while scavenging, you will need weapons to defend your house from raids.
  • A knife is a good thing to make with your first weapon parts.
  • When you can, you’ll also want to build/get some kind of gun.
  • Crowbars, shovels, and hatchets can also be used for house defense, but aren’t as effective as a knife or gun.
  • Once you have a hatchet you will also see that you can chop up furniture in your house for wood/fuel. Be careful that you don’t use the hatchet to destroy furniture you’ve built.

Food

  • Canned food is very valuable for trading.
  • Set an animal trap to for a semi-regular source of meat.
  • Get vegetables whenever you can, as they will make cooking much more efficient.

items

  • Bandages and medicine are very valuable for trading if you have extra.
  • Don’t trade away your electrical parts, unless you’ve built everything, they are limited.
  • Build each type of crafting table when you can, and upgrade them so you can be more self-sufficient.
  • The exception is the two stills which I didn’t find to be worth building, unless you plan to do a lot of trading at the military base.
  • Wood and components are needed to build pretty much everything, but only stack to 2 and 4, making it hard to get enough from scavenging. To get a bulk supply of these, you can trade Franko when he comes to your house.

Other Tips

  • The Hospital will get attacked through the game and you can find medicine in the rubble. This will not be considered stealing.
  • During winter, make sure your heater is upgraded and full of fuel all the time.
  • Build a radio and check it all stations daily. It will tell you if raids are likely and you should put extra guards on, or what the weather will be like. It might give you an idea of when the war will end. It can also be left on a music station to relax the survivors.
  • Board up your house to keep it more secure from raids.
  • If you don’t have any smokers or coffee drinkers you can trade in these items.
  • You only lose if all of your starting character die or leave. You can still make it if some of them do, though morale will be affected.

That’s all for now! Let me know if you need more info, or if you have any tips for me.