swordianmaster: daxter peering from bottom right. is it safe? (Is it safe?)
[personal profile] swordianmaster
After Undertale got big, a whole bunch of games came out where a central conceit was the ability to confront your adversaries in non-violent ways. It became a trend-bubble in gaming for a little while, though it's still up to minor debate as to if it made a lasting impact or if it was just a flash in the pan.

Thing is, very few games went further with it than "do a violence" vs "don't do a violence". They gave you skill checks to avoid conflict (West of Loathing, Bioware games), or made it purely dialogue-based. Or they were things where "oh, the things you're up against aren't actually bad and just want to give you milk and cookies".

This is a lot of words to say that Renowned Explorers is the very first game I've played, maybe ever, where nonviolence is a tactical decision instead of a moral one.

Taking inspiration from the 19th century explorers of the British Empire (and the pulp fiction based off of such), Renowned Explorers is kind of like a mix of a 4X game and a standard turn-based strategy game, where you explore regions one node at a time with limited resources (there's that FTL similarity again, I don't know what to call that genre in particular), but conflicts are played out like a normal TBS.

Thing is, each of the characters you can choose in your team of three has one or more of three kinds of attacks: Aggression (aka actual violent stuff), Deceit (taunting, emotional abuse, etc) and Friendship (encouragement, compliments, ego fluffing). These three types interact constantly, and set a kind of field effect to the battle based on the tone of the fight, and one sort of action will always have the upper hand over another - violence always bowls over peace, but gets worn down and misled by trickery, which is no match for encouragement. The way your team and your opponents are both "feeling" work together to create the Mood. In other words, if both sides are boasting the powers of friendship, they're both vulnerable to sudden backstabs, whereas if one side is violent to a still-peaceful opponent, they'll have a bonus that makes them harder to subdue, that sort of thing. It's surprisingly intricate for a game where you can offer a peace treaty to a monkey.

I mean, I don't really know what to say about it that isn't oddly detached "reviewer-ese" or just me saying "hey this game is good and if you like TBS stuff maybe give it a try", but when I say that, keep in mind to take it with a slight bit of caution - the difficulty curve gets pretty sharp near the end, and the main story mode has permadeath, in a game that takes maybe 4-6 hours to push through if you're working at a brisk pace. It can be frustrating to lose progress like that, and lives (or "Resolve", as it's called in-game) are hard to get more of in the span of the game. You lose one every time one of your characters is KO'd or disheartened, and can lose them for failing particularly harsh random events, too, so it's kind of rough.

Definitely a game you could put the time into to learn how to master, though.

52 IN 52: Orion Trail cleared

Sep. 13th, 2017 03:53 pm
swordianmaster: montblanc would explain it, but (supernerdy)
[personal profile] swordianmaster
What happens when Oregon Trail meets FTL, they have a baby, and that baby becomes fascinated with the subtle charms of a bag of dice?

Yeah, that's this game. Honestly, I have no better ways to describe it. It's about three parts Star Trek tropes, two parts Oregon Trail resource management, and fifteen parts RNG.

How is it like FTL then, you might ask? That's easy, the FTL similarities come in two forms:

1) You choose your next destination from a spiderweb-like set of branching paths, though in Oregon Trail style you can only ever go forward, never double back, and
2) Your ship is constantly on fire and crew members are dying hideously.

Past that it's little more than a series of skill/RNG checks at each destination, with good/bad random encounters between them. You pick a crew of four members generally named as bootleg sci-fi characters (yeah, the game embraces its funy, though I admit I had a bit of a chuckle at the Borg Analog refugee's name, Seven of Eleven) with stats distributed amongst five qualities: Combat, Tactics, Diplomacy, Science, and Bravado (the latter being your ability to Leeroy Jenkins your way into and out of scenarios in one piece). At every junction/skill challenge, you're asked to pick a few responses based on the scenario, each keyed to a different stat (or, rarely, all keyed to the same stat with different penalties for failure). Each point you have in that stat changes another negative result on the RNG wheel to a positive, and once you run out of negatives you can change (you can't remove critical failures, and there's always at least one) you start changing the positives to critical successes. Thus, a lot of the "strategy" of the game is "reduce how much you can get screwed over by luck via jacking your stats up as high as possible and favoring your high stats in choices". It's a pretty simplistic game, but that also means it's a nice little casual romp, albeit one that is far more about rolling a dice and praying the RNG favors you this once.

And speaking of the funy, the jokey references and crap - remember back in Saturday Morning RPG's writeup where I mentioned that one of the ways to do it right was to own it as hard as you can? Yeah, Orion Trail does that. Everything is holograms and synthetic food, there are several scenes which poke at the concept of "space typhoid/dysentery/cholera" and how those are totally different than the earth versions, honest, one of your necessary resources is redshirts, which act as a buffer protecting your actual important crewmembers from getting hurt (and yes, every last one of them dies with a Wilhelm Scream), even the nudge-nudge-wink-wink Geico Gecko joke turns out amusing because it turns out "saving you money on your insurance" means "the space lizard mafia will only break your legs a little if you don't pay your 'protection money'". It takes the references and plays around with them, as opposed to just going "HEY LOOK, A THING".

Also, you can have a bear as your captain. More space games need Captain Space Bear.

My one complaint is that it's going for $8 on Steam, and with only five "maps" to go through, that's maybe a bit too pricy for it. Wait for it on sale, as usual.

November 2009

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