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Archive for December, 2011

Random Ideas to Improve Action RPG Gameplay

December 22nd, 2011 16 comments

I spent a fair bit of time playing Torchlight recently, which prompted a retroactive review of the experience. In expressing my assessment, i couldn’t help but notice that the majority of my reservations were symptomatic of a larger issue – the alarmingly inhospitable expectations woven throughout the action role-playing genre’s identity.
Torchlight Alchemist vs Dragonkin and Dark Zealot

Fancy words aside, the main problem for me is the amount of braindead grinding needed to access the coolest toys in the game. Naturally we’re all going to find some snazzy piece of armor and want to complete the rest – or hear about a rare pet/hireling that we can’t resist. Should it cost fifty hours of repetitive chores to unlock these scraps?

Action RPGs tend to be engaging at the beginning because we’re constantly seeing new things and making meaningful decisions at a fast pace. Ultimately that rhythm grinds to a halt, and the amount of dead time between exciting new discoveries stretches into hours. Daring to want that last component of Griswold’s Legacy means killing a thousand recycled monsters beyond the last unfamiliar pixel you’ll ever see.

After i finished all of the story quests in Torchlight and reached lvl35 with my first character, i discovered that the fastest way to obtain unique items was by scamming the gambler NPC in town. I promptly maxed out my Barter skill, equipped as much Decrease in Vendor Prices gear as i could round up, and filled my inventory with stacks of Dogfish/Catfish. Then i sold, bought, and resold the entire stash hundreds of times, twenty clicks at a time, and used the profits to buy irregularly priced socketed unidentified items from Duros the Blade at a steep discount. Over 1/3 of them were uniques, yet it still took forever and a half to assemble Magnus’ Trove.

It was probably the least fun i’ve ever had playing a video game. And then there’s the fishing. Don’t get me started about the fishing. How can any of this fluff be considered gameplay? Don’t these arbitrarily time-consuming activites seem like they were contrived purely for the sake of boasting X number of replay hours? Personally i find it disingenuous, and i think it tarnishes an otherwise excellent game. There has to be a better way, right? I certainly don’t have all the answers, but i can offer a few suggestions.

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Categories: Game Design, Non-Fighters Tags:

Retrospective Review: Torchlight

December 5th, 2011 4 comments

As much as i tried to resist its charismatic visual charm and overt Diablo nostalgia, Torchlight finally baited me into downloading the XBLA demo. Before i knew it, i’d purchased both the full XBLA version and the discounted PC version, and sunk quite a few hours into the game.

combovid-screenshot-torchlight-destroyer-02Now that i’ve seen almost everything there is to see in Torchlight, i have to say that i’m extremely disappointed with how unnecessarily long it took to reach this point. Don’t get me wrong, the game is expertly crafted in many ways, but my lasting impression of the experience is frustration.

As much as i want to show off screenshots of Torchlight’s compelling atmosphere, i can’t bring myself to recommend the game to anyone – for the simple reason that it quickly turns into addictive torture by design.

Believe it or not, the whole reason i played the demo was because the XBLA description promised that i could transform my pet into various creatures, including elementals. I’ve had a soft spot for elementals since the original Warcraft.

What that marketing blurb didn’t explain is that you have to “play” their braindead fishing “mini-game” for 5-10 hours straight in order to catch one extremely rare fish to permanently transform a single character’s pet into a (random!) elemental. I mean, why??

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Categories: Impressions, Non-Fighters Tags: