So I talked about Path of Exile as a whole already, but now I want to talk specifically about the new league releasing on March 8th, called Synthesis. First and foremost, every 3ish months Path of Exile releases a new league into the world, with a completely fresh start for players who wish to explore it. Unlike say Diablo 3, these leagues generally offer completely new mechanics added into the game, and Synthesis is one such example. Let’s start by showing you the trailer for the new league (expansion):
Synthesis is going to see our Exile meeting a man? entity? ghost? known as Cavas along our journey to defeat the evils plaguing Wraeclast, and assisting him with recovering his fractured and broken memories. Mechanically, it appears we will enter his memories to defeat enemies and stabilize them before the darkness overtakes us, and the memory is lost. These small events are very similar it seems to Incursion (a previous league), where we would enter the past briefly to defeat a boss and change a room in the Temple. I had a lot of fun with Incursion so this excites me.
Once we have recovered some memories, we will then be heading into the Memory Nexus, and literally building paths using the memory nodes we recovered to lead to bosses, items, and lore. Each node we place will have modifiers to the entire memory structure, and those modifiers stack, creating both difficulty and reward. The longer you make your paths through the memories, the harder things become, the better the loot ya get! Also, the nodes that are always visible apparently houses unique encounters, bosses, and other rewards. I hope there is lore as well hidden in those nodes.
Mechanically it’s like they are combining Incursions customization and personalized Temple with Delves “choose your own path” gameplay, and I am all for this. Plus I am honestly curious who Cavas is! Each league usually brings its own lore and storyline that plays out alongside the main game, and after playing the main game for so long, I am ready for some new stuff. There is a larger untold story in Path of Exile as it is involving the Elder, Shaper, the history of the Delve, the artifacts referenced by Jun in Betrayal, and more! There is a ton of stuff going on and I am really excited to see where the memories of Cavas lead us.
Beyond the actual mechanics of the league itself of course come a slew of new uniques and a system called “Fractured Items”. These items have modifiers that cannot be changed, which is a new thing. Previously, any time you attempt to “reroll” or craft an item you could lose the modifiers you spent a lot of time to gain, but Fractured Items have modifiers that are locked. Plus, there is now a “synthesis” system using a device found in the Memory Nexus, that lets you combine Fractured Items to create new items with “implicit” modifiers. There has been some items shown on the POE Subreddit by Bex (the community manager) that are quite fascinating and I am eager to see what kind of weird items and loot we can find and build alongside the exploration aspects of the league.
There are also going to be a ton of balance changes, tweaks, and new skills being added to the game, which are being teased right now. One thing they have announced is a rework of all SPELL type gems in the game, which is a massive undertaking if you ask me. Right now, spells are kind of bad when self-cast (or Hand Cast as they are calling it now) and most folks (myself included) do things like using Traps or Totems to maximize their usage, but the developers goal is to make all spells viable when “hand casting”. Plus some of the new spells released are looking quite good and are themed towards Holy and Chaos damage which is a new style as well. If you want to keep up with all the new stuff being talked about I would point ya to the POE Reddit Thread that has links to pretty much all the teasers and releases, and will be the MOST up to date place for news and information you can find! It’s a great resource and that subreddit is a decent place to chat with your fellow POE players and get a ton of information. Just make sure to use the daily questions thread.
Personally I am super excited and cannot wait to play Synthesis. I am most likely going to play as a Storm Brand Elementalist as I loved the Brand playstyle in Betrayal, and they are not super dependent on gear to really get going. I might eventually try one of the new skills, like Purifying Flame, which seems like a fun thing to try out. Not sure what I would do with that, maybe try a Inquisitor finally and go ham with Consecrated Ground stuff.
Are you going to try Path of Exile Synthesis? If so, what build are you going to test out? What has you excited in the upcoming league and for the future of the game?
Editors Note (6/10/19): The current league is called Legion and is a very solid league with a massive melee rework.
You might think that more than 300 hours in a single game would make me feel like an expert in that game. And if it was something as simple as, say, Fallout 4 (I am somewhere around 250 hours in that) you would be correct. But Path of Exile is something very very different, and even at 300+ hours I still have a lot to learn about the deeper mysteries of the game. I am far from an expert, hell I don’t even feel comfortable making my own builds yet really, but I have played the game enough to talk about it in more general terms, to explain the basics as it were and the practices behind it, so that you might know what is going on and if the game is for you. For those curious, Path of Exile is a Free to Play Online “MMO” Action RPG, developed by Grinding Gear Games. Think Diablo 2.5 and you have a good starting point, but the game is SO MUCH MORE than that.
I started playing Path of Exile during the “Harbinger League”, which is also when the game launched the Fall of Oriath expansion, adding acts 5 thru 10 and changing how progression worked. Previously you had to repeat the original four acts 3 times in order to get to the game’s Endgame, but now there is a straight forward 10 act progression before the end game systems. I have since played in pretty much every league, barring one or two I skipped (Bestiary was skipped entirely, and I didn’t really get far in Abyss). I have also never killed the end game bosses such as Shaper or Elder, but I have gotten to what players refer to as “Red Maps” a couple times. And I figured, with this newest shakeup of the Betrayal league, and me breaking the 300 hour mark, it was time for me to get my thoughts on this amazing game on paper as it were.
Now, bear in mind, I am calling this an Impressions rather than a Review, because this is a living game much like my previous discussion on Soul Workers. Being an online free to play game that has new leagues (for you Diablo 3 players, these are basically the game’s seasons) that add new mechanics or completely change how the game works, this game is constantly evolving. As such, these are my thoughts at the time of writing this which is during the Betrayal League (Dec 2018 to roughly Feb/Mar 2019) but a lot of what I am going to go over is pretty standard core stuff. So let’s jump right in starting as always with the visual presentation of the game.
First and foremost this is an isometric action RPG in the same vein as games like Grim Dawn, Diablo, and Torchlight. It uses a very dark and gritty style, which fits the themes of the game completely. Colors are for the most part muted, and each area and act has a distinct visual style. Act 1 for example is all coastal while act 3 is in the ruins of a massive city called Sarn, etc. There is a definite sense of progression visually as you move through the world which I appreciate greatly. You got jungles, cities both ruined and new, buildings, cave systems, forests, deserts, and more. Biomes are pretty diverse all things considered.
Enemies are pretty solid, design wise, and again fit the theme of each area. In the first act you will face a lot of zombies, skeletons, crabs, and crazed bandits. Later acts involve creepy mutant abominations and a whole lot of blood and weird shit. It all works well. The armor and weapon models, when you are not covering them up with your MTX (Cosmetic Microtransactions) are pretty decent as well, and each of the 7 available classes will look different depending on what they are wearing.
One standout for me however are the effects of your abilities and skills. Whether it’s the fiery fissures of the skill Tectonic Slam, or the lightning of Arc, or the Meteors falling from the sky in the skill Armageddon Brand, they all look amazing. The screen can quickly fill up with these effects as well, enemies firing off similar attacks and abilities to yours. If your GPU is not up to snuff you can have some issues. Also the water effects are really solid and recently got upgraded. Overall I adore the visual style of this game, and have really no issues with it at all, other than the obsession with the color red at times. Seriously, there is a LOT of red and blood in this game. Like holy shit so much.
I have the soundtrack on my phone and listen to it on my drive to and from work. That should tell you all you need to know about the music of this game. It’s phenomenal. The tracks are moody, atmospheric, and just perfect for each area and act as you play the game. Each new league or expansion that comes out adds even MORE excellent music to the game as well. Seriously, it’s that freaking good.
The sound effects are another treat. There is nothing quite as satisfying as hearing your enemies shatter into a million pieces after you freeze them, or hearing the massive thud of your attacks as you strike the ground causing it to crack and explode.
There is also voice acting, which is for the most part stellar as well. Each of the 7 characters have unique voice lines starting in Act 1 and up to Act 4. Most NPCs in town also have voice lines and voiced lore / dialog you can listen to. However, after Act 4 your character will basically cease speaking, and its a huge shame here. I love the little quips my characters would make upon entering new areas, or killing Act bosses, but all that stops once you get through Act 4. After that, you are basically playing a silent protagonist and this just really sucks. Beyond that however, there are zero issues, for me, in sound design.
STORY AND WORLD
What may surprise you is that there is a ton of lore, story, and world building in this game. Most Action RPGs in fact don’t have anywhere near the amount of detail spent in this one setting up the history of the world, its peoples, and its timelines.
And it’s all hidden in plain sight. If you never read the extra NPC dialog, and the books hidden in the zones, you will never know what the hell is going on or how things got to where they are beyond a very cursory idea.
The game starts with your character being Exiled to the continent of Wraeclast (each character has a unique reason for their exile), washing up on the shores of a dark beach. From there you make your way to the small outpost of Lions Watch, and begin helping the other survivors and exiles try to live in this untamed and dark world. As you move forward in the world, you start to uncover things happening, and gradually everything gets, well worse and worse. Once you finish all 10 acts of the main story, the secondary end game story of the Atlas starts, and I am not even going to begin to get into that. Along the way you will meet a colorful cast of characters, interact with them, and learn their histories.
But only if you want to. You can just as easily ignore EVERYTHING and just rush through the acts as fast as possible, and honestly most of us players do after we did em once. I really only pay attention to the new lore added in the Leagues when it happens, such as what is going on in the Betrayal league right now.
It’s very passive storytelling, and its amazing stuff, but its stuff you can consume or not at your leisure. You can always go back for what you missed, but if all you wanna do is blast hordes of enemies into so many bloody chunks, well, the game is built for that. And let’s talk about HOW you do that.
Strap yourselves in because this is going to be a doozy. You may think this game would be as simple to understand as something like Diablo 2/3 or Torchlight. You would be dead wrong. Where this game excels is in its customization, options, and gameplay. While it is a standard Action RPG where Left and Right Click are your movement and action keys, you also have 6 hot keys you can assign for additional skills (Middle Mouse, then QWERT by default, although you can rebind these. I have the last two, R and T, as Mouse 4 and 5 on my setup). Most people bind Left Click to Move, and setup Right Click as their Primary attack or Skill. Controls are very simple in this game, which appeals to me personally. I can in essence play the game one handed mouse only if I wanted.
Now, when you start the game you will be presented with your choice of 6 Characters: The Witch, the Duelist, the Marauder, the Templar, the Ranger, and the Shadow. A 7th character, the Scion, can be unlocked by rescuing her in Act 3. All characters are Gender Locked. Templar, Shadow, Duelist, and Marauder are Males. Witch, Ranger, and Scion are Females. You cannot change this. You will also choose your “League”. You have Standard League, which is a permanent league and where any characters made in the Temp Leagues go after that temp league is done. Then you have Temp leagues, which usually run about 3 months and frequently have all sorts of mechanics and additions. Some of those additions will be moved to Standard, some wont. As I write this, the current Temp League is called Betrayal, which added a group of enemies called the Immortal Syndicate on TOP Of everything else already in the game. Oh and you can choose Hardcore if you want, which is your standard “One life” mode, but thankfully if you die in Hardcore your character gets sent to the Standard League. The character is still playable at least. You can also do Solo Self Found, which turns the game into a single player experience (you can normally group up with up to 7 other players, and trade, but SSF blocks all that).
Now, as far as your choice of character, it only effects your visual appearance, your voice lines, and where you start on the massive Passive Skill Tree. What is this Passive Skill Tree? Well, the best way to describe it is to show it. Here is a picture of it, although its way zoomed out so you cant really tell what each node is.
If you are looking at that and going “Haven’t I seen this before?” you might have seen the Sphere Grid in Final Fantasy X. It’s very similar. The Scion starts in the center, and everyone else starts around her. That tree is ONLY Passive abilities. You can find simple stuff, like +10 to Strength, Intelligence, or Dexterity (your 3 core stats), to stuff like +10% more HP overall, or specific things like “You can summon +1 Totem but can’t do damage with your own attacks” or “You are immune to Chaos Damage, but your max HP is 1” and so on. Every time you level up, and as a reward from some quests, you will gain a single skill point to put somewhere on that tree. You can also earn respec points from quests and an item called “Orb of Regret” so don’t worry if you goof up a choice.
On top of that, starting in Act 3 you can do what’s called your Ascension, which gives you a choice of 3 “Class Upgrades” unique to your chosen class (although the Scion only has 1 choice, Ascendant). You can ascend 4 times total: Once after Act 3, then again after during Act 7, then again during Act 10, and finally one more time in the end game Atlas system. Each time you get 2 Ascendancy Points to place in your Ascendancy Tree. You must complete a trial called the Labyrinth each time you want to Ascend however, and it’s no walk in the park early on. These sheer level of customization and combinations here is staggering. Oh, and there are also Jewel Sockets on the tree where you can slot in a Jewel Item if you find one and have unlocked that node. 7 Classes, that massive tree, each class having 3 unique Upgrade paths (except the Scion)? You getting overwhelmed yet?
Well it gets crazier. You see, you don’t learn new attacks or abilities, but instead slot them into your gear via Gems. There are 2 kinds of Gems: Actives, and Support Gems. Active gems are your active powers. They could be things like a Ground Slam, a Fireball, summoning a totem that distracts enemies, create an aura that buffs your attacks or debuffs your enemies, and so on. These are how you interact with the world and your enemies. Each Gem has a color (Red, Blue, or Green) and must be slotted into a Gem Slot on a piece of your gear that matches its color. There are white slots on gear that can accept any color gem as well, but these are very VERY rare. The slots on your gear can also be linked, visually shown by a gold icon between the slots. Each item can have a different number of slots on it, and links. For example, chest armor can have 6 slots, and can be linked fully. Additionally, links can be chained, so if you have 3 slots on your gear for example like this: Red Red Red, and between the first and middle Red, and then the Middle Red and Last Red you have a link, then all 3 slots are linked together.
Why are these links important? Well, Support Gems are why. Support Gems are a type of gem that modify active gems. You could, say, turn a Curse that you have to cast on an enemy, like Warlords Mark (this is a curse that will debuff enemies to let you leech life and mana from them) into an Aura that is always on and doesn’t have to be cast by using the Support Gem “Blasphemy” for example. Or you could take a skill like Ground Slam, and use a support gem called “Added Cold Damage” to give Ground Slam additional cold damage. A good example of this in action is my own current characters chest armor setup. I am using an Item called “Tabula Rasa” which has no stats, but has 6 white sockets, and those sockets are all linked. I have 1 active gem in that setup, Armageddon Brand, and then 5 support gems in the remaining spots that all modify how Armageddon Brand acts.
Each piece of gear other than your belt, rings, and necklace, will have sockets / slots and links. You can have 1 2 handed weapon or 2 one handed items equipped. A helmet, gloves, and boots item, then 2 rings, 1 necklace, and a belt. There are unique slots called “Abyssal Sockets” that CAN show up on belts but that’s advanced stuff and Abyssal Sockets don’t take Skill Gems but rather Abyssal Jewels.
Believe me when I say that if all this is confusing you or overwhelming you, then you are in fine company. I was completely confused by a lot of this early on too, and thankfully there are plenty of people out there who specialize in this game and provide Build Guides. Mathil, ZiggyD, and Engineering Eternity are 3 Streamer/Youtubers I suggest you watch if you want to get started with this game as they frequently have “Starter Build” guides that give you Skill Gem setups, passive tree / Ascendancy setups, and even gear setups so you can get into the game without having to get caught up in this giant web of customization. As you get more experienced, you can start to tweak their builds, and hopefully (eventually) do your own. I still use them even after 300 hours of play, but I do tweak things now and again, especially gem stuff to fit my preferred playstyle.
Actual mechanical gameplay is pretty straight forward. You move around procedurally generated zones, completing quests and finding massive piles of loot and currency items, trying to find the exit to the next zone and sometimes trying to locate a waypoint so you can easily travel back. You will fight bosses on your way to finish the 10 act storyline, and then you reach the Endgame system, called the Atlas system, which honestly is something so wild that I will not get into it here. Just watch this video by Engineering Eternity which explains the Atlas system. Let’s just say that the 10 acts of the game is only the START of the game really, and the Atlas is where it really gets amazing. Also the Atlas is where the hardest fights in the game (Shaper, Elder, and Uber Elder) exist. This is my current Atlas, which is no where near filled out. All that empty space? More nodes, which are maps to explore.
Nevermind that there is also the Masters system (revamped in the Betrayal League) where you can do side missions for 3 masters (Niko, Alva, and Einhar) which are another layer of gameplay further still. Niko has the Delve system (A near infinite mineshaft to explore that unique to each character), Alva has the Incursion system (build a temple by going back in time, and then looting the temple in the present), and Einhar has the Bestiary system (capture beasts to sacrifice to create unique items). Each of these masters can be installed in your Hideout, which is account wide player housing that you can decorate to your hearts content. You unlock new hideouts by finding them in the wild. Oh, and you can also craft items in your hideout using a crafting bench to add new effects to your gear like resistance to elemental damage and the like. And let’s talk about the gear and loot!
As far as loot goes, you have your weapons and armor as well as Flasks (which are your health potions and other potions) and other items which people call “Currency Items”. Weapons and armor can be White (Normal), Blue (Magical), Yellow (Rare), and Orange (Unique). Flasks can be White, Blue, or Orange. Also there are jewels which can be the same as weapons rarity wise. Now as far as Currency Items you have to understand that Path of Exile doesn’t have a gold system. Trading is done very much in a barter system with NPCs and other players (player trading usually uses outside websites). You either trade one item for another (a sword for a sword) or more often than not, you trade currency items with other players and NPCs to get new items.
Currency items are things like your Scrolls of Wisdom (Identify Scrolls), various Orbs, and other things. Each Currency item also has a purpose in that they can be used. Chaos Orbs, for example (the standard player traded currency item) allow you to “reroll” a Rare items mods, basically making the item something new (a sword will still be a sword, but if that sword has +5 fire damage and you use a chaos orb on it, it might suddenly have +10 HP and +3 Cold damage for example, but not the fire damage). There are also Portal scrolls which give you a quick way back to town. Can’t be an ARPG without a portal system after all!
One final unique system is the Flask system. You have 5 Flask slots. You place your potions here, but unlike most games where your potions are finite items, Flasks are rechargeable. If you have a health flask in one of the slots, and use it, it will refill as you kill enemies. Further, there are unique flasks that have special effects, and there are flasks that do things OTHER than restore Health or Mana, like Stibnite flasks which give you boosted evasion temporarily, and also blast out a smoke cloud that blinds nearby enemies, or the Quicksilver flask which gives you boosted movement speed for a bit. These flasks can also be upgraded into magical items with Currency Orbs.
As a warning, there is an experience point penalty for death. Once you beat the boss of Act 5, you will suffer -30% to all your resistances forever, and if you die after that, you lose 5% of your XP. You cannot lose a level though. Once you beat the boss of Act 10, that resistance penalty goes up to -60% and the XP Penalty goes up to 10%. I just wanted to make sure everyone who is interested in this game is aware of this, as this may turn some of you off.
Finally, here is some gameplay footage of my Witch character, who ascended to Elementalist, playing around in the Atlas system and doing a Delve. I am using a skill called Armageddon Brand as my main attack, which is what is causing those Boulders to drop from the sky on top of groups of enemies. There is a lot going on here, so it’s mostly just to show you how Links look, how Gems look, and how the Passive Tree looks setup, and how the game looks in action. The Flasks are on the Lower Left, and my Skills are on the lower right.
I know I went over a whole lot of info in this, but thankfully the game eases you into it for the most part. And mind you, this is not every system nor every bit of mechanical depth to the game. My goal with this was a broad strokes overview on how the game in general works, and some of the systems involved in it.
Man this has been a long post, but there is so much going on in this seemingly simple title that I had to just break down as much as I could. And mind you, there are a lot of systems I did not even get into in the gameplay section because they only come up randomly.
For me, this is the best Action RPG on the market right now. Every 3 months you get a fresh league, with a fresh start, that you can dive into to try all sorts of varied character builds and setups. This is a game that rewards both time spent playing in the now (with your loot and character progression) and in the long term with knowledge of its varied systems. It is not for everyone, by far, and if you got overwhelmed or confused by my explanation of how the game plays and how the primary systems work, you may not want to try this. But if you are willing to do some research and experiment, the game is a fun filled and fascinating adventure full of lore, world building, and tons of spectacular action & challenge.
And best of all? It’s completely free and available on both PC and Xbox One with PS4 on the way! The only thing your money will get you are specialized stash tabs for your stash (your account wide bank) and Cosmetic items. You cannot ever buy power in this game at all. Although if you want to get into Player Trading you will want a Premium Stash Tab, which will let you list things on the official Path of Exile Trade site.
If you want to play you can either grab the game On Steam or from their official Website. If nothing else I urge you to at least try it and see if it appeals to you. The only thing you have to lose is some free time (and space on your systems hard drive for a bit).
And again, if you need help my advice is to check out the Streamers & Youtubers in the Path of Exile world. My personal suggestions (but there are plenty more) are again as follows:
These are the people whose videos, builds, and streams have helped me understand and form a deep love of this game. And honestly, I cannot wait to see what is coming next for Path of Exile and its eventual 4.0 upgrade (which, if its anything like 3.0 which is when Acts 5-10 got added, is going to be insane). Hell, watch Mathil live and you might even run into me sometime. I am a twitch subscriber of his after all. Oh and consider grabbing Path of Building, an external piece of software that lets you plan builds and import builds. It’s extremely handy to help understand how things work and how changes can affect your DPS / Health / Ect.
As always thanks for reading everyone and Stay Nerdy! Make sure to follow me on Twitch, Youtube, Twitter, and join my Steam Group and Steam Curator pages! Pledge to my Patreon! Spread the word on social media & help me get out there so I can bring even more content to the masses. You do want more content yes?
Sometimes I pick up games that, while I enjoy them, I don’t find myself connecting with them long enough to really want to finish them completely, and when that occurs from this point forward, I am going to start writing up little “Impressions” posts where I can sorta kinda quickly go over what I like and dislike, and why I might not have finished them or lost interest in them.
Mind you, with my ADHD, it’s very very easy for me to lose interest in a game, and frequently I come back to those games MONTHS later to continue them. Some, however, are just going to languish in my backlog, possibly never to be touched again. With that in mind, let’s get into some impressions! I will start with the games title and the system that I personally played it on.
Etrian Odyssey V (New 2DS XL)
Etrian Odyssey V (EOV) is a solid dungeon crawler on the 2DS / 3DS family of consoles from Nintendo, and published by Atlus. I loved EOIV when I had my first 3DS a few years ago, and figured I would like EOV just as much. Sadly, however, the things I adored from EOIV (multiple dungeons, overland travel, subclassing) were ALL absent in EOv in favor of a “return to roots” styled approach with a single 30 floor dungeon and classes that advanced into more focused versions of themselves via a title system. Also it didn’t help that the classes themselves were not ones I found myself connecting to beyond the Pugilist (who doesn’t like a fist fighter!). I found myself just not wanting to play the game because I couldn’t bring myself to care about it. It’s a great game, and I had a good 20 hours of fun in it, but with the release of Etrian Odyssey Nexus recently which brings back the mechanics that I loved from EOIV and the biggest roster of usable classes, I don’t really see myself coming back to EOV. Oh, and visually / musically the game is fantastic, no doubt about it. If you are gonna play an Etrian Odyssey game though, get Nexus. It’s got everything you could want. And I am going to fully review Nexus (I hope).
Legend of Zelda Hyrule Warriors (New 2DS XL)
I grabbed this on sale on my 2DS XL, and I enjoy it. I don’t really play this for the “story” such as it is, because frankly it’s a beat em up hack and slash game first and foremost for me. Good in short bursts, but long play sessions become repetitive very quickly. You have a huge roster of Legend of Zelda characters to choose from which is awesome, and they all play very differently. I find myself gravitating towards Impa frequently with her water attacks as I enjoy her playstyle. If you have played any of the Dynasty Warriors you have played this game, only this time we are in Hyrule and using Zelda characters! Adventure mode is honestly my favorite, exploring a huge map and trying to unlock bonuses, objectives, and new characters. It’s fairly shallow to me, honestly, with the character upgrade and equipment system being kinda dull to be honest. Also, because I have a New 2DS XL, it runs perfectly fine on my system even at its most hectic and frenetic times. Music is solid, and the game looks good on my tiny little console. Just be aware that this is a good game for short bursts and not long sessions whatsoever.
Tokyo Xanadu EX+ (PC / Steam)
The closest thing to a Persona game currently available on PC. This is a decent JRPG Dungeon Crawler / High School sim, but its missing the full charm of a Persona game. While you do spend your time in High School doing high school things, you don’t really interact with class. In fact, most of your time is spent “After School” exploring various locations around the city, talking to NPCs to get side quests, and then going into a dungeon to explore it with a partner. The dungeons are interesting and combat is 3rd person action based, and you can switch between your partners freely. You can take up to 3 party members into a dungeon with you, but only one will be active and under your control. The best you can do is activate certain special skills to bring the other members out under AI control briefly. The music is stellar however, and fits the mood, and its visually solid. But it’s not Persona. It doesn’t give you the social links, or the customization via Demons, or the after school activities. It’s a dungeon crawler in an urban fantasy setting, and while its good and I will get back to it, its just not what I want at the moment from a JRPG.
That’s it for the first issue of Quickie Impressions! These will pop up every so often as I decide to do them. For more, you can follow my Steam Curator page for the PC ones, as I do have one of those now and will post short reviews of things if I don’t want / can’t get around to fully reviewing them here, plus links to all the reviews I do here that can be applied ON steam. I also have a Steam Group that you can request to join, if you are so inclined.
Of course, feel free to support me on Patreon as well if you can, every dollar helps me get closer to my dream of doing this sort of thing (writing, reviewing, streaming, videos) for a living. If you want more content, you gotta help me fund time and things to GET more content from me. Nothing in life is free, and our time is limited after all! If nothing else, maybe share my work with your friends, get my name out there. That helps too. Yes, I am adding call to actions now, because why not!
An interesting thought has been percolating in my head lately regarding the meaning of the term RPG. A lot of it has to do with my own personal focus on Roleplaying Games, and more to the point what I actually consider to be an RPG (which honestly is a very broad term for me now).
What really constitutes an RPG traditionally? A focus on a narrative or story, with deep world building and lore? Character advancement through a combination of gear, skills, and stats? I am sure we can agree that any RPG worth its salt has these two major factors in it. But what else makes an RPG, well, an RPG?
Is it the viewpoint? Plenty of RPGs use Isometric views, but just as many use first person or even 3rd person. Is it gameplay style? We got real time pause, we got action focused, we have turn based? Is it the degree of choice you have in how the story unfolds? JRPGs, for example, have almost no choice in them where WRPGs frequently have tons of choices to make.
Further still, how do you classify games that use elements that are traditionally associated with RPGs but are clearly a greater thing?
Let’s look at Dead Cells. Its commonly referred to as an Action RPG Soulslike Roguelike. That’s a mouthful! Or how about Assassins Creed Odyssey? Many would argue it’s not an RPG, but it has all the hallmarks of them. A focus on a character driven narrative. A full equipment system, upgrade trees that matter, a huge world with lots of main and side stories to explore, colorful characters to interact with, ect. What about the more recent Far Cry games? They all feature story rich worlds with a ton of lore, lots of side activities, upgrade trees, tons of equipment to find and modify, ect.
Now some hardcore RPG purists will simply go “These are not RPGs!” because of a variety of reasons. Personally, I am finding that my idea of what an RPG is has grown as genre conventions have broken down. Games have a ton of crossover now, and calling a game an FPS or an RPG when it might be so much more then that seems a little…worthless now.
You might find that odd, coming from a guy who claims to specialize in RPGs. But for me, what an RPG is might surprise you. Let’s talk about what I look for exactly in a game, or an RPG.
First, for me the game has to have a storyline to follow or an interesting world to explore. It may not be the actual “focus” of the game like in an Action RPG such as Torchlight, or Diablo. But there needs to be a narrative for me to follow through the game, a beginning, middle, and end as it were, for me to really enjoy myself. In fact, if a game does not have a primary story for me to work through or a large world for me to get lost in, I will generally not play it for very long. The next two things are more optional for me.
Second, the game needs to have a deep character advancement and customization system. I need to be able to build my character the way I want to support the sort of gameplay I want to experience. This does not mean I need to make my own custom character, but rather have options as to how the character I am playing grows or functions. Whether that’s through abilities, stats, equipment, or more often than not a mix of them, I need this to be a big part of the game for me.
Thirdly, the game must be playable as a single player experience or at least solo in the case of an online MMO styled game. Games where the real focus and meat of the game is in a multiplayer experience is not something I want in my RPG. MMoRPGs like World of Warcraft and Warframe, for example, straddle the line for me. They are RPGs…technically. But more often than not the focus is in the mulitplayer experience of the game, where you miss out on things or things become way too difficult for you to do things on your own.
As long as the game I am looking at has at least the first thing I listed and one of the other two, I would consider playing it. Now you might look at that and instantly go “but thats not an RPG!” and you would be right! By most standard definitions, if a game for example was only story driven and single player, many would not consider that an RPG. But in a game like that, I am still playing a particular role am I not? That’s what RPG means. ROLE PLAYING GAME. Its core meaning is in the fact that you are playing a specific role telling a specific story. In reality, what I SHOULD say is that I focus on NARRATRIVE DRIVEN GAMES but really, that’s a lot more annoying to say then I play RPGs.
Many would not consider a Choose Your Own Adventure or Visual Novel to be an RPG, but I would. In fact they are some of the purest forms of them. It’s a story, you make choices and decisions playing it, and you have to play a particular role. Are you playing as a good kid, a bad kid, ect. Based on the story you are playing you must roleplay your way through it, even if you are roleplaying as YOURSELF in that situation.
Truth be told, most “RPGs” now a days belong to a subgenre. A specific style or type of RPG. Here are a examples of various subgenres, what they mean, and some of the more common games that embody the subgenre:
ARPG: Action RPG. Games with a weak story, and a strong focus on tons of loot and killing hordes of enemies. Diablo, Torchlight, Path of Exile, Grim Dawn, ect
FPSRPG: First Person Shooter RPG. Also called a loot shooter. Similar to an ARPG but with an FPS system for combat. Destiny, Borderlands, ect
CRPG: Computer RPG. Sometimes called WRPG for Western RPG. Usually large open worlds and a focus on player choice. The Elder Scrolls, Baldurs Gate, Fallout, Divnity Origina Sin ect are examples of these. When most people say RPG these are the sort of games they are referring to
DRPG: Dungeon RPG. Generally first person turn based gameplay, where most of your time is exploring dungeons for loot and monsters to kill, and puzzles to solve. Bards Tale 4, Might and Magic, Wizardry, Etrian Odyssey ect are examples of these.
JRPG: Japanese RPG. Usually heavily focused on a narrative, little choice. Very linear games with a ton of grinding involved. The final fantasy series is a hallmark of this style.
SRPG: Strategy RPG. Usually focused on turn based battles on a grid or battlefield. Good examples are Final Fantasy Tactics, Tactics Ogre, Fire Emblem
Roguelike: Generally focused on permadeath, deep character customization and choice, and procedural generation of levels and loot. Nethack, Rogue, Dead Cells ect
Soulslike: Generally a game with high skill combat and passive enviromental lore, where the story is found on objects and must be hunted down rather then spelled out. Frequently extremely difficult. Dark Souls is where this genre started.
MMORPG: The name says it all. Massively Multiplayer Online RPG. Online only, focus on group activities, large world to explore with lots of other humans running around. World of Warcraft, Ultima Online, Everquest are hallmarks of the genre.
There are very few games that can be described soley as an RPG anymore. Most belong to a subgenre of some sort, which are all part of the greater “RPG” whole. And most games now a days use RPG elements, such as progression systems and character customization.
For me, as long as the game has a good story with a beginning, middle, and end, I am generally willing to at least give it a try. That’s what an RPG means to me. Playing a Role. The mechanical bits at the end of the day really don’t matter too much as long as there is a heavy focus on story and narrative. I mean, that’s what I do in a tabletop RPGs when you think about it. And that’s how I like my video games!
The upcoming Action RPG Warhammer Chaos Bane, in development by Maximum Games is now available for Preorder on the Xbox One store and on 2/8/19 will be up and available on the PSN Store. Its release date is set for June 4th 2019 as well. Additionally its Steam Page has been around for a while with some trailers and screenshots if you are curious. Price seems to be $59.99 at the moment.
From what I know, Warhammer Chaos Bane is an upcoming Action RPG set in the Warhammer Fantasy universe, featuring a full campaign mode and Coop support. This is going to be the first hack and slash game really set in the WHFB universe, which alone has me interested. I have always wanted to play a more story driven game in the Warhammer fantasy universe, but sadly most of the Warhammer games in that genre are all set in the 40k universe (and while I like Sci Fi as much as the next guy, 40k does not have Skaven, and we all know the ratties are the best enemies to murderize). My only real option has been Warhammer Vermintide, but that game with its FPS controls gives me motion sickness no matter what I do.
At release it appears there will be 4 character classes you can use, made up of an Empire Soldier (Tank), Dwarf (Slayer maybe? Melee DPS), High Elf (Mage), and Wood Elf (Bow / ranged) so we got the standard 4 styles of play represented here. As far as I can tell from the information available to me as well, the game will have both Solo and up to 4 player coop through the campaign, plus 10 difficulty levels and a boss rush mode so it appears there will be plenty to do in this game. They also appear to be using “combo” moves, where class abilities can interact in unique and interesting ways.
The visuals I have seen in trialers and screenshots are also pretty stellar, so I am excited to see where this goes.
There are plans for 2 Beta’s in the upcoming months prior to the launch as well, so if you were to preorder (available at select retailers, more info at their site here: www.warhammer-chaosbane.com)
View the Trailer below and Follow Warhammer Chaos Bane on Twitter (@WHChaosbane) for more information!
Hello everyone! Today, thanks to a twitter question a few days ago, I decided to write up some thoughts about oath breaking in dungeons and dragons. Currently, in 5th Edition, there are 3 classes that derive their power from an external source or oath they make: Warlocks, Paladins, and Clerics.
In older editions, these classes were much more restrictive in how your character had to be in order to play them. A good example is that Paladins originally could only be Lawful Good, or Clerics had to be within 1 “step” of their Gods alignment. However, in 5th Edition these restrictions no longer exist, and in fact your Cleric and Paladin, despite channeling divine energy, don’t even have to belong to a church or religion! If you wanted, your Paladin could just believe in the power of Justice and channel that raw energy into their powers, or your Cleric could believe in the sheer raw power of Life and use that to channel their power. And Warlocks? Well they make a deal, a direct deal with some entity who gives them power in exchange for “something”.
But beliefs can change. Oath’s broken. Deal’s broken. And what should happen when a Cleric no longer truly believes in the power of Life? What happens when a Paladin and their belief in Justice is challenged to the point where they lose faith? What happens when the Warlock decides to break the terms of their deal?
Currently, in 5th Edition, not a damn thing mechanically. And sometimes these issues do in fact crop up. The question I was asked, for example, was how to handle a Cleric whose god had abandoned them. But all sorts of similar issues and challenges could crop up in a game, and handling them appropriately is not always the easiest thing to do. So I wanted to bring up a few ideas I had on how to handle these, without completely making a character unfun to play but also making their decisions, and choices, matter.
These folks are honestly the easiest and hardest to work with. Easy in the sense that each Warlock has made some sort of deal with an entity in exchange for gifts. These gifts are their Pacts, their Boons, and their Magic. But what happens when that Warlock wants out? Perhaps the Patron has demanded something the Warlock refuses to do? How do you penalize the Warlock in a way that both makes sense and doesn’t make the player feel punished?
It could be as simple as the Patron locking out some of the powers the Warlock has, until the Warlock does what the Patron wants. For example, perhaps they lose access to their Pact feature, or their Spells. I would never take all the Warlock’s power away for doing this, as it makes more sense that some of the power is the Warlocks own awakened abilities, and some of it is granted by their Patron. This is assuming the Warlock didn’t steal their power form the entity, which is always possible. I would discuss with the player out of game the ramifications of their choice, and what their Patron COULD and WOULD do to them. Make sure you are not going to ruin the fun of the player.
You could also offer the choice of the player finding a NEW Patron! No one says that you can’t break one deal to forge another. Perhaps the Warlock has forged a back with one Devil, and that Devil’s rival finds out about the broken deal. It comes along, offering to reinstate the Warlock’s power in exchange for perhaps working against the first Devil. Things like that are always options and could provide entire storylines for the party to follow.
A paladin in fifth edition is not powered by any god, but rather an ideal. A belief in a single thing (the power of Justice, of Vengeance, of Conquest, of the Natural Order, ect) that is so strong it causes them to become a Champion of that ideal. But, at times, a belief can change. If a paladin has lost their faith, and no longer truly believes in the ideal fueling them, I feel there are a couple of ways to deal with this.
First, the paladin should lose access to all but their most basic abilities. All class features unique to their Oath should be removed until they either deal with their internal crisis of faith, or perhaps find a new idea to believe in and thus CHANGE to a new Oath. I would leave them with first level spell slots, and smite, as even having worked with the divine should cause them to be able to access the most basic of powers. Their basic paladin class features that they have earned should also remain intact as well, as I feel those are changes they have gained from BEING infused with Divine Power. Obviously they would not lose their martial training either.
From there, it’s all up to the paladin player. Perhaps after some roleplaying, and some questing, they decide that Justice is no longer their path, but Vengeance is. Perhaps they were betrayed by a friend and it hurt them so much that only getting pure revenge on that person will satiate them. Again, discuss with your player the ramifications of their choice, and work with them to come up with a way for them to either gain a new Oath, or regain what they lost. As this is a vital story change for a character. The power of belief that fuels a Paladin is immense, and losing that faith is a big deal. Further, I would most likely ask them to not take class levels in Paladin until they solve their crisis of Faith.
Now we get to the most interesting case for me. A Cleric is, in effect, a priest of a faith. A herald of a god or ideal. They worship this thing, and if they lose faith in what they worship, what should happen to them? They could also run into the issue where their faith is challenged, either by their god demanding something of them, or a clash of morals in some fashion.
While a Warlock has a one on one deal with an Entity, a Cleric’s power is all one way: From their God or Faith. And because of that, it’s entirely possible to lose all access to their powers. Now, this primarily becomes an issue if the Cleric is part of a Gods Faith. For the Clerics who believe in an ideal, they should be treated similar to Paladins. If a Cleric who believes in the power of Life itself becomes jaded, and no longer has the same belief, they should lose access to all but their First level spells, domain spells, and any unique Domain Features until they either regain the faith, or find a new believe (perhaps the life cleric no longer believes life is sacred, and turns to the dark powers of the Grave in an attempt to decide who lives and dies, for example).
If a Cleric worships a Deity, however, things can get more interesting. If it’s simply a matter of the Cleric no longer believing in their god, you could treat them as above until their faith is restored or until they find a new god to worship. However, it could be that the Cleric has angered their god, or the god simply abandons the Cleric because of the Clerics actions. At this point, the cleric should lose access to all but their first level spells, their domain, and its features. Now, depending on WHY the God has done this, you can have a couple of options. Perhaps the God demands a quest of the Cleric, a mission to prove their worthiness and faith in order to regain what was lost. Perhaps the god demands tribute, or a sacrifice of some kind. Whatever the reason, the Cleric should have to accomplish something in order to regain their Gods trust in order to wield the divine powers the God grants.
Again, work with your Cleric player for the details, as such events should be rare. No God is going to want a Cleric who jumps around from Faith to Faith for instance.
Now obviously these are just some basic ideas on how to handle these classes breaking their sacred oaths and what you could do to represent the loss in game. Always talk to your players before you do such things, as no one should have their fun ruined because they suddenly lose things they didn’t know they COULD lose. And hey, you could always ignore these ideas! They are, after all, just some extra options based on how things used to be done in the older editions.
As always thanks for reading everyone and Stay Nerdy! Make sure to follow me on Twitch, Youtube, Twitter, and join my Steam Group and Steam Curator pages! Pledge to my Patreon! Spread the word on social media & help me get out there so I can bring even more content to the masses. You do want more content yes?
At the time of me writing this, there are 180 days left till Gen Con 2019. And I am terrified. I am going to be getting my Plane ticket this weekend, my taxes are done, I got a Press Badge approval (yay!) so I am covered there, and my Hotel with Saevrick has been booked for over a month now. All in all, I am as ready as I will ever be for this trip…and I got 6 months to get over my pure fear of making a complete ass of myself in public! I will most likely title every State of the Nerd post going forward as sort of a “Countdown to GenCon” thing. Cause why the hell not am I right?
As I am trying to do, it’s time for my monthly update to everyone to talk about how things are going in my life, and with my “Brand”. I have no idea how to refer to this Terminally Nerdy thing to be honest. It’s a blog, sure, but it’s also videos, and twitch streams, and tweeting, and so on. So many different creative avenues it’s hard for me to really say what I am in that regard. Perhaps I should just call it the Terminally Nerdy Project? That might work.
Anyway! First up, I have a personal goal this year to break $300 a month on patreon and KEEP IT. Currently, I am at around $223 give or take. However, I have actually had a net loss of overall patrons by 4. I actually gained 6 new patrons, but lost 10 all in the month of January alone. That is disheartening, but understandable. The time period right after the holidays is hard for everyone with lots of credit card bills coming due, temp work drying up, and so on. Oh and let’s not forget taxes. That’s always a good time.
In addition, I need to really think about how to phrase what I do on Patreon. I am branching out a bit, and changing myself from “RPG” focused stuff to “Narrative” focused stuff. With games like call of Cthulhu being more an adventure title then an RPG but still having a strong focus on Story, I realize that it’s a bit disingenuous to call myself an RPG guy when in reality I am a STORY guy. I love stories, in all media. I am not a person who enjoys things like Call of Duty or PUBG or anything like that. Its why I find open world games tiring frequently because it’s easy for my obsession with doing ALL THE THINGS to get in the way of the story. Hell, I have even started writing Book Reviews again!
Now, that doesn’t mean I am not going to be doing tabletop RPG content. In fact I already have a few things written and queued up for the blog that are tabletop focused. However, it does mean that my overall content generation is going to be a bit…random I suppose? Granted, everything I am going to be doing is focused either on Narrative gaming or Narrative driven media (it’s my jam) but it could be all sorts of things.
You might not be aware of this, but Terminally Nerdy as an idea was NEVER meant to be Tabletop RPG focused. Originally, when I shut down my first YouTube channel over 2 years ago out of frustration, I decided I was gonna do VLogs talking about ALL my nerdy hobbies. These included ALL forms of gaming, reading, music, and movies. However, by chance I created my original Tabletop RPG 101 series which “blew up” at the time on twitter, and then I started getting into the DND twitter scene, and things just sort of got away from me and I became an Tabletop RPG personality.
But that really honestly is only one facet of my nerdy loves. And it’s not even the top one. If I were to rank things (And I told my own Patrons this) my hobbies, in order are Video games, then Reading, and then Tabletop Roleplaying. Then music after that.
So I am going back to where my love originally was and because of this realization earlier in January, I have actually created a ton of stuff! All of it already on patreon, but as far as the blog goes, I got posts spaced out AT LEAST every 2 weeks all the way till the end of JUNE! Yea, thats a lot of stuff. Its a few book reviews, couple tabletop posts, game reviews, some editorial stuff, ect. Just a ton of stuff, all of it focused on my nerdy loves.
Now as far as Streaming goes, I got my first ever Stream Sponsor who has me playing Gothic 3 on stream and I also have started my first Terminally Nerdy Games Club stream, where Saevrick’s nomination of Dark Sun Shattered Lands (old DOS CRPG) won the vote. I have also streamed weekly now since the start of January and have no intention of missing a week! I am going to be alternating between the two games starting February, with Gothic 3 being the first and then going back and forth between them. I am also planning, after Gen Con happens, to save up some Patreon funds and get a PS4 Slim and Streaming Setup for that so I can play games like God of War, Persona 5, and others that are narrative driven but console exclusive (I dislike the idea of exclusives in general).
On the video front, I am still in the planning stages of a video series on the Tiny D6 games (Tiny Dungeon, Tiny Frontiers, ect). I have pretty much all their books right now (cept Tiny Supers which I do not believe is out at this time) and I am trying to decide if I want to do one big video on everything, or smaller videos where I start with an introduction to the system, and then one video on each book. The videos would be something like 5-10 minutes each vs a big 30 minute monster, so that might work better for the Youtube algorithm but take a lot more work in editing.
In my day to day life I am still trapped with my 3 hours of total commute a day (1.5 each way) and limited free time (I know someone out there hates me talking about this, so I am doing it just to irritate them bwhahaha) so I am doing the best I can with what I got. I am currently re-reading the Dresden Files series as well and I might review them as I go, so keep an eye out for that. I read em a while back, but I wanted a long series I could sink my teeth into, and my goal this year on Goodreads is to read 26+ books totaly in the year. I have hit something like 8-9 already in a month so I should be fine, especially reading the Dresden files again. What can I say, I love to read. I vastly prefer it over TV and Movies. It makes my brain work, and I like making my brain work in that manner.
Finally, I wanted to let folks know that there are 2 games coming out this year that I am super excited for, and I fully intend to either Stream, make a Lets Play, or make a video review on BOTH. These are the PC rerelease of Grandia (a PS1 RPG) that I fucking ADORE, and the second is The Outer Worlds by Obsidian. I am trying to puzzle out how to get in contact with the Social Media folks at Obsidian about the Outer Worlds so I can see about getting a review copy.
Oh, and I MIGHT review / talk about the upcoming anime game Jump Force which releases in February and I intend to preorder this week. What can I say, I love anime, and its actually got a full on story mode in it where all these different Shonen Jump anime characters come together to save the Multiverse so why the hell would I NOT want to play that? I mean we are talking Naruto, Bleach, One Piece, Saint Saiya, City Hunter, Fist of the North Star, and more showing up in a single game! Who doesn’t want to create a team of Goku of Dragonball Z fame, Deku from My Hero Acadamia, and Jotaro Jostar of JoJo’s Bizarre adventure to fight evil? I mean come on, that is so over the top and insane I can’t help but NOT want to do that. I mean, I am going to buy the game for sure, but beyond that? I have no idea if anyone would even care beyond me. Granted, most of what I am doing now is because I want to do it vs trying to please my audience, so there ya go. My Stream Supporter patrons and Twitch Subs are the ones who get to have some control over content. So I mean, if you want to have a voice, that’s how you do it *points to the Patreon link in the side bar*
As always I want to thank each of you who come and read these long rambling posts of mine and support me in all the different creative things I do. It’s not easy being a creator anymore in this world, and any support whether it’s a retweet, a like, a comment, a KoFi, a kind word, or a Patreon Pledge helps show me that what I am doing has value to SOMEONE out there. Hopefully I can continue to grow, and correct my previous mistakes of overshadowing my own work by promoting others and instead have my work stand as an equal to all the other excellent creators out there.
As a new thing on each of these State of the Nerd posts, I am going to talk about a creator that I personally enjoy, why I enjoy them, and where you can find them. This is a way for me to promote others in a meaningful way but also in a sneaky way (I mean, you gotta read all the way down to here to even SEE this shout out so there ya go). I might also sprinkle these in older posts as the mood strikes me. Ya never know!
Today I want to bring up someone I have been championing for a long time: Wally DM. This is a guy who started Youtube roughly the same time I did with Terminally Nerdy. Wally however is a true Tabletop Focused guy. Every video he does is either a review of some tabletop product, or more often than not, he talks about Puzzles. Wally has some of the BEST Puzzle videos I have ever seen, and in each video he does he not only breaks down a full explanation of the puzzle, he shows how it would work in play using minis and a gridded map. Every one of his puzzle videos shows precisely how you could use the puzzle in your own game, and he even provides ideas of where to use it and why you would use it. His production value has gone up steadily as well, and I love watching his stuff when I need new ideas.
If you need Puzzles for your DND / Pathfinder game (or just want to talk Magic the Gathering Commander as he is HUGE into that as well and quite knowledgable) then you can find Wally D at the following locations!