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Recent reviews by ilitarist

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Showing 1-10 of 34 entries
5 people found this review helpful
126.0 hrs on record
This is probably the greatest empire building game at the moment.

In a more tame game like Civilization every successful empire looks the same. There's variation based on wether you go warmongering or not but in any case you need a good economy and it's all the same. Endless Legend is not like that. It has a set of interconnected systems that affect each other yet feel separate. You can specialize using the hand you've been dealt: special resources, available land, neighbours, minor factions all decide what bonuses you get. Most importantly, each faction subverts game rules and gets a great boost to a specific side of a game. It's not like some factions are better fighters and others are better at peace or defense; they all have special bonuses and a potential to have the greatest military power or the greatest economic power. It's more of a special abilities. Say, Roving Clans get great bonuses to trade but can never declare war themselves - though they can still use mercenaries to harass people, they can also ban any other faction from market thus limiting their resources. Any faction can concentrate on producing Influence in their cities and use it to get empire-wide temporary bonuses; Drakken can double-down on it and use Influence to force peace or even alliance on anybody. Everyone can pacify minor faction dwellings by doing quests, beating them or with bribe but Cultist faction can use Influence to convert any minor faction and force them to generate armies.

The list goes on. It actually feels like a game where every faction has its own character, you have to treat them all differently. Cultists only have one city so they try to snatch every world-unique Wonder and do not care about expansion. Necrophages are unable to sign peace with anybody so they always remain a threat and should be dealt with sooner or later.

It wouldn't matter if AI couldn't handle those systems. But it can. It still has bugs and it not the smartest one you'd seen but nowadays when Civilization 5/6 AI is incompetent fool and higher difficulties only make it incompetent fool with a grenade it's nice to see a proactive AI that is capable both of working with an ally or preemptively strike a threat; control the seas and attack on land. Endless Space 2 might be a better game overall but at least till recently its AI just lied down and surrendered once you're pass the early game. EL AI makes for a good opponent.

About DLC. They're good as they're all worthy yet it never feels like they're cut from the game. There's smaller DLC Lost Tales - it only adds some quests and flavor. Echoes of Auriga adds music, and the music in this game is great. Guardians is the only thing that feels like it's necessary: it adds a new type of units - Titans, and several Civilization-style wonders as well as competitive quests. Really adds depth to the game, makes it feel more complete. The rest of expansions are based on the same template: they add new mechanic to the game available to everyone and also add a faction that specializes in that mechanic. Shadows add espionage; Shifters adds pearls, special resource you gather on map to build special buildings; Tempest adds sea combat and sea fortresses with their own set of quests and bonuses; Inferno adds Eclipse, a special recurring event that enhances everyone and gives new opportunities for exploration as well as Lava land and the guys who teraform everything into lava. Every expansion is worthy but the game is still great as it is. You'll probably want to get them all eventually.
Posted August 5. Last edited August 5.
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44 people found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
45.1 hrs on record
Dishonored 2 is a very good game. This game respects you. This game does what it wants to do perfectly.

This game is a world simulator. In a perfect game RPGs would try do this more than what they're doing now. You get into a huge level with a lot of connections, activities, treasure and opportunities. There is not a single boring place in the game, everything has its context and it's quirks. You play as a very able person and can use variety of approaches to achieve your goals. This is a steampunk world so you have gadgets like stun mines, silent crossbows or high tech pistols. This is also a story about magic so you can use a variety of spells if you so desire. It is also a story about people and morality so your approach may vary: it's possible to complete the game without ever killing anybody; it's even possible to be never seen by anyone. You can also murder everybody you meet apart from some characters important for the story.

This sounds like Deus Ex or other similar games. But it's more than that. Your approach really makes a difference. And levels are among the best in gaming, I can't stress this enough. It blows my mind that with this complexity the game allows you to skip whole levels if you so desire. This game may be completed fairly quickly but it also can be feasted upon. There are two playable characters with different spells available to them and playing the game at least twice is highly recommended. I'd recommend going for high chaos first, murdering everybody, and then returning to be a stealthy ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥ second time.

Grab the first game too, it might not be as good but it's still worth every penny and every hour you spend on it. Don't forget about DLCs: Dishonored 1 DLCs story lead to the second game and standalone Death of the Outsider DLC is... great too.
Posted July 23.
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7 people found this review helpful
547.4 hrs on record
It's my most played game ever. It's great. Has a lot of problems. Like that feature creep with lots of DLCs, or problems with balance.

It's still one of the best games ever made. It has a lot of countries, each with their own agenda. AI and many mechanics are exposed so you see why does someone wants an allience with you or plotting against you. Thus the feeling of grand chessboard play is greater than in any similar game. Also there's no zero-sum game behind it, there's no winner so the game is open-ended. You might have a good time making North American tribe into a small regional power or conquering Europe with France. The game doesn't become trivial (unless you really know what you're doing) due to internal problems caused by conquests; you can't just snowball through the world.

It also has a nice historical flavor. Almost every country has its history described through unique national ideas and special bonuses. Bigger countries have special historical events firing when the conditions are met.

About DLCs: almost all of gameplay ones modify gameplay for everyone (except Third Rome, this one has only features for Russia and I wish every DLC would be as polite). Every DLC also came with a patch that added some new mechanics to the game. Base game assumes you have all DLCs and some features do not work well without them. The game would still be enjoyable but you'd better get expansions for parts of the world you want to play. You'd better get Art of War and Common Sense as they're integrated into base mechanics. You'd want to get further expansions on sale when you get into the game.
Posted July 13.
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2 people found this review helpful
54.0 hrs on record
Geneforge 5 is a good RPG. If the looks do not turn you off you should try it.

This game is relatively close to classic Fallout games. It may also give you Gothic or Risen vibe, or even Ultima if you remember those. You control a single character with a lot of stats and skills. Some of them are used for interacting with the world in a peaceful way, like Mechanics or Leadership. Most are about combat. Combat is spiced by shaping creatures. The story revolves around the world where you can use magic to create and control living beings and you can do it to beat your enemies. You can create new ones for each specific encounter, you can have a single old experienced creature, you can mix those approaches or do not use creatures at all.

The world is atypical, there are no elves and what looks like dragons are human-shaped sapient creations. The story revolves around your character interacting with various factions in a middle of a war of sapient creations against their masters. Various factions see different ways for resolving conflict - like banning all shaping or gently controlling it or what have you.

Spiderweb games look dated and you might think they'd have typical problems of those indie games. Overly complex mechanics, verbosity, bad pacing and obscure quest solutions. But no, this game feels like a big budget RPG, just without a big budget. Text descriptions are spot on, just enough for you to imagine the scene, never outstaying its welcome. UI is not so good, but bearable. I recommend only playing this game out of series because this one is the first supporting widescreen and custom resolution which might be very important for your experience. You might still want play on lower resolution like 768p on 1080p screen. You don't need to know anything about previous games: there are numerous connections to them but the story is self-contained.
Posted June 18.
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73 people found this review helpful
3 people found this review funny
77.8 hrs on record
Endless Space 2 is a very good empire building game. Perhaps the best one out there.

Available factions are diverse. All decisions feel important, there's little micromanage or mechanics you might want to automate. Combat is quick and automatic - you select combat tactics and everything is decided by your fleet composition, assigned commander, sometimes by a special field of battle. The pacing is superb: like in most similar games in the beginning you see too much options and feel too vulnerable and weak, but later your power growth exponentially. Games are not as long as Civilization or other such games, they usually end before turn 200 and each turn is important.

There are many mechanics at play telling you why you should expand and explaining why expansion brings new problems. Some deep mechanics are quite subtle, like politics and populace abilities systems - you can ignore them and go with a flow till you're playing on a high level. The game is also a treat on a visual and audio level: it's full of special little movies, everything is animated, it looks great and sounds great.

At the moment (June 2018) the biggest problem is AI. I think anyone with some experience in strategy games would be able to win maximum difficulty game before he even plays as each faction. Most games like that overwhelm AI but here it can't produce any challenge: if you didn't start the game near hyper-agressive Cravers you're safe. Multiplayer is better than in other games like that - there are simultaneous moves - but it still takes a lot of time.

Still even if it becomes too easy after several games it's worth every penny you pay for it. It's the least boring game of its kind.
Posted June 5.
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60 people found this review helpful
4 people found this review funny
142.7 hrs on record
This game is big and varied and full of stuff. It's great. It's infuriating. I don't want to play it anymore. But you should. For a while.

CK2 is a game about being a medieval lord in a very detailed world. Even if you're playing as some lowly count you'll probably have several barons under you. And above you there's a duke (maybe king). There's probably someone else who is sovereign of your sovereign but you don't care about him. You also have a family, courtiers, council. Every character has relation value to every other character as well as set of traits, faith, culture, land titles, honorary titles and claims. Thus The Drama and The Intrigue are generated. You play as a duke with a couple of counties under you direct rule. You die and now play as the son of a previous ruler. But Gavelkind system of inheritance made it so that your brother got one of your counties. That brother has claim on your duke title. He also hates you because he's brave and you're craven, and maybe his tutor was someone of alien religion and he also thinks you're infidel. He will always plot against you and will start a rebellion if you're weak.

In theory that is interesting. But it requires some imagination and attention to details. You may not even notice any special behavior on behalf of said brother. You'll have to struggle through UI to see those relationships. Your brother may plot to kill you but he won't have enough accomplices to do that, and your spymaster will automatically tell him to stop. He will use generic phrases when sending you messages. He won't pay you as much taxes but it won't be that noticeable. You won't get any special events about him and you may still get generic events about him. If you send him to work as councilor he'll do his job as well as any other character. And by the way, this council jobs are the only place where character stats matter - and their influence is not that noticeable.

All the character stuff is very subtle and inconsistent. They affect AI but only slightly and it's hard to notice. If a character has many religious traits he'll be more inclined to start holy wars or purge his infidel vassals. If a character is craven then he will only try to start one sided wars. If a character is insane he'll get special events and do things that do not make sense. But more often than not you only notice it afterwards, you can't predict AI behavior, you don't play people game. And there are so many characters around they become a cast of snowflakes with very rare characters being important, those are often generated by events. You quickly stop caring about specific traits. When your son needs a wife you just see to it so that she's not imbecile or leper and that would do. When you put a council into position you care about his single stat, it's very rare that his other stats will ever affect anything.

Another problem with complexity: the game is so granular it's hard for it to be historical. More abstracted games like Europa Universalis or even Civilization don't show you specific details so they don't show you something that is definitely wrong. Like in CK2 Kievan Rota system is not shown at all even though you have very clearly defined succession laws. Many things that happened in history are impossible in CK2 like alliances between crusaders and local Muslim rulers, settlement of Iceland, Lithuanian dukes switching religion at will, Catholic and Orthodox church officially parting ways, violent coups without civil war and so on.

Still an interesting experience, mostly as roleplaying. Be ready to fight the interface. You'll probably be better off using Bigger Interface mod if you have 1080p screen. Also Century Gothic Font mod works well. Ah, also no UI scaling so 4K doesn't work even with mods.

About DLC. In the basic game you can play as any feudal character of Christian faith (includes heresies). DLCs add support for playing as Muslim, Republic Doge, Jewish, Indian, Nomad, Pagan characters. Don't rush getting those, see if you like the base game. Many expansions work on base game mechanics, of those I recommend Conclave (makes council much more influential and interesting to deal with) and Way of Life (adds personal focuses for characters allowing for deeper roleplaying). Old Gods and Charlemagne expansions add new dates but don't rush to play those - those earlier dates don't work as well and feel odd trying to fit Dark Ages into feudal model. Some of the content is also very poorly supported, Republics have a lot of bugs associated with them, earliest start date has special events that don't work well with later mechanics.

One type of DLCs you'll probably need is portrait one. Even with those DLCs you're surrounded by clones and it's hard to immerse yourself into the game. But without those there are like 2 sets of portraits for thousands of characters.
Posted April 2. Last edited April 3.
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4 people found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
37.1 hrs on record
Nier Automata is a story-focused game. It insist on some very strange design decisions for the sake of the story. At the same time it's not like story and gameplay are integrated: game mechanics will be familiar to anyone who played any JRPG or Japanese action games with RPG elements (e.g. Deadly Premonition) and they're not connected to the theme outside of some joke elements. You share the same level and inventory between characters you control, enemies get levels not because the story requires it but because you need some sort of challenge.

And the story is not great. There are twists. Some are deliberately made obvious, some aren't. All of them didn't have any impact on me because the story is hard to take seriously. It's full of obvious fanservice for fanservice sake, there are lot of silly things. There's no consistent tone. There is no overarching plot. It feels like a TV show that went far longer than initial creator expected and now they throwing stuff at the viewer. The only thing resembling a villain is dispatched shortly after its introduction around 1/3 into the game; things happen because of drama and there's no other reason to what's happening. You switch between fishing, watching people die dramatically, racing, playing sokoban, reading walls of text about deep emotional suffering, fighting robots who dress like knights riding robots pretending to be horses. It's too long, it's tasteless.

Then there's gameplay. It's somewhat similar to Platinum's masterpiece Metal Gear Rising Revengeance... But without a challenge. You can levelup and it changes everything. If you do some sidequests you'll be on the same level as enemies and you can easily beat groups of enemies 10 levels higher than you. Jumping and shooting and attacking from above allows you to grind any enemy down. You're showered wiht money so you'll have hundreds of healing items and those will be applied automatically, so the only thing you will fear are one-shot kills - bosses don't have those but some normal enemies do for some reason. It's a mindless button mashing with obvious choices in character development.

The port is not that good too. Use Special K helpful mod to improve performance. https://steamcommunity.com/groups/SpecialK_Mods/discussions/3/1334600128973500691/

I'll give one thing to this game: it kept me playing it to the end.
Posted March 12.
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4 people found this review helpful
9.2 hrs on record
This is a nice little game.

It's a real-time roguelike game - clearly inspired by Brogue. This means that it features permadeath (no saves: when you die you die. Though you can start the game in the same dungeon with some foreknowledge) and a lot of random generated content. Unlike many similar games the dungeon is not big and mechanics are not complex. You can finish a game in 2-3 hours usually. There's no traditional leveling up system, you use potions to raise Strength/Max HP and that's about it.

Other than that simplification it feels like classic roguelikes. There are lot of objects in the game and they interact in various ways - any source of flame burns poison gases, throwing poisonous potion instead of drinking it can be used as a weapon and so on. You have to manage your equipment in a clever way to fight or sneak through enemies. There are lot of environmental hazards, light puzzles and so on. Good stuff.

The most interesting thing about this game is level random generator. Those levels look hand-crafted and thematic. Levels are interconnected: the game generates notes telling you about what you can expect ahead and if you'd better look for, say, fire resistance or underwater breathing items. Those are placed in special places, sometimes guarded by special bosses or behind secret doors.

The game is good. There is a lot of stuff to discover in this game but it doesn't overwhelm you like many roguelikes, on Casual difficulty you can win after a couple tries. Both approachable and varied. Get it.
Posted February 19.
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32 people found this review helpful
3 people found this review funny
5.6 hrs on record
Age of Decadence is a role-playing game similar to Fallout 1 or 2.

One of the selling points is that you can play as non-combat character, progressing just by using social skills. And indeed you can. I even like that there are lot of social skills - not just the usual "diplomacy", you can use impersonation, streetwise talk, lore... Also stealth and stealing, and those are only used in dialogue or in special places.

What I don't like is that writing is bad on many levels. First texts are amateur on their own: there are lot of typos; most characters are very verbose while some say next to nothing; the style is all over the place - NPCs switch between Dumas' historical fiction style and edgy cynical "modern" speech with all the ♥♥♥♥♥ and ♥♥♥♥s cool boys use. Second there's an issue of dialogues not actually being dialogues. They feel extremely railroaded and mostly defined by your stats - the game even hides normal answers when your stats allow you to say something special. You can very rarely ask NPC specific questions, most of the time you just ask a general question and click continue several times while NPC tells you everything they have to say. Dialogue often teleports you around town with no choice of your own; you rarely can refuse something proposed to NPC or say good bye before you've heard everything NPC has to say.

One of the most preposterous examples: refuges try to enter the city and guards ask for money. I haggle with guards to lower the price and I can either pay or talk to refuges. I talk to them and they promise to repay me later. Then the only option I have is to pay the sum guards had asked for initially, not the one I haggled for. I can't say no.

Third problem with dialogue is that story feels very gamey and railroaded, it's full of inconsistencies - you can't understand if it's realistic dark fantasy or the usual cartoon world. Whoever you start as local loremaster asks you to murder his competitor the minute he meets you. Raider you're sent to kill will spill his life story right after aggressively asking for a ransom. The game describes a huge adventure with you blowing up a mine and killing a bunch of foreign soldiers inside in fewer number of words than is used by local preacher to tell the usual preachy thing; and to get this achievement you have to select obvious options from couple of choices in dialogues; you won't see locations you've blown or people you've disposed of.

It's not a lack of budget, the game is just rough and not very well thought out. You get more agency in pseudo-RPGs like Fallout 4, at least there you can say "Yes" to next quest in a sarcastic way. Here the game pretends you're dealing with some clever schemes while all you do is choosing between "Use my already defined skills" or "Fail the quest", in rare occasions you can use any of the 2 available skills, often you're not given opportunity to fail if you have skills.

I like the idea of non-combat RPG but this one leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
Posted February 2.
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15 people found this review helpful
10.2 hrs on record
You've heard about that game. "It's not Heroes 3". Well here's basic review: it looks and sounds nice and basic gameplay is OK. It's not offensive in any way. Devs did a good job streamlining gameplay giving it a more strategic feel: maps are clear, objectives are well defined. It has less of a sandbox feel and more of a turn-based strategy game not unlike short Total War scenarios. All the online stuff can be ignored.

And know a less brief version.

Two things stopped me playing. One is regrettable because it could be fixed. Campaigns are bad. Story is fine but the presentation of sad story is quite bad. World itself is fine, the premise is good even: siblings are divided and deal with three-way ancient war as leaders of several factions. However the way the story is told is subpar to say the least. Dialogue is pretentious and dumb. They switch from dumb puns ("Your bloodline has short life expectancy" - Lich girl: "I am THE UNLIVING proof of that") to pseudophilosophical reflections on a nature of human soul. Heroes campaigns never were masterpieces of literature but they were usually better than this and it all was in text, not in dialogue form, it works even worse than Heroes 5 static cutscenes. Campaigns also have bad map design. Many of them are just linear. If the enemy is too strong you wait in your castle fighting him. When you have more creatures you go get some stat increase structure and go fight the enemy. It also doesn't really scale with difficulty. On Hard difficulty even tutorial campaign takes a long time - but it's not like you can lose it, you just wait for new soldiers to be born. Then there are missions where you don't have a castle and thus can't play waiting game; those are practically unbeatable on Hard difficulty because of how limited your army is. Second Necropolis mission is like that. That's not a good gameplay.

Second problem is systemic and it's in the core of the game. Previous Heroes games had a great balance between sandbox and strategy. You could get powerful skill, spell and artifact combination, on random maps you could find a castle of different type and maintain two very different armies, maybe even get some special creatures from map dwellings. Still it was a strategy game and faction armies were the core of the game. Here faction armies are all you get (plus maybe rare creatures you get through diplomacy), all the skills are the one you get, artifacts are boring. Any castle that doesn't suit your army you convert and it's cheap. Every castle shares a pool of creatures, so there's even no sense in splitting armies: the game even highlights it by making your main hero face physically bigger. Maps have few structures, stat enhancing buildings don't have noticeable impact; levelup is where you get power. Armies themselves are well defined and play differently; yet there are still just 5 real armies in the game. When you play you'll probably get the same spells for your hero, your enemy will probably do the same. There's no wonder in battle. Does my enemy have Haste? Doesn't matter, your enemy has a specific tactic he consciously chose, there's no artful dealing with the hand random numbers generator has dealt you.

I dropped campaign. Then I played a single scenario game and it was about employing an obvious strategy, every battle felt like it doesn't matter - armies are balanced, so numbers of armies decide everything.

It would be fine if I didn't know that game was already done better.
Posted January 29.
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Showing 1-10 of 34 entries