ARPG

[Review] Victor Vran (PC)

The latter half of 2016 is where I hit quite a dry spell in the gaming department. No time! With a busy time at work and kitchen renos, it just seemed like I couldn’t get there. It wasn’t until Christmas 2016 when I finally got back at it thanks to a stint in the Borderlands again (the DLC’s great) that got the craving flowing, so to speak, for more heavy gaming.

Action RPGs are fast becoming an immersive favourite of mine, and I never thought I would get there. I have played several, from Mass Effect, to BioShock, to the Torchlight series and of course, Borderlands, but playing them has always come as a suggestion from the hubs, and never from me. RPGs can have a bit of learning curve – for one thing, you often have to manage your character and weapons quite a bit, and know what you are doing so you don’t die repeatedly. Some of these games give you strict parameters, such as only being allowed to carry a certain number of weapons on your adventures, or penalize you for dying, either by reducing your money or energy. My most recent RPG, Victor Vran, actually got all the elements right and was a fun game to play.

Victor Vran was a game that was sitting in my wish list on Steam for at least a year. Once the hubs and I had finished Borderlands 2, we were searching for another game like it to play together, and came upon this one. It wasn’t cheap – $27.99 to be exact…sorry, too rich for my blood! I put it on a wish list and hoped for a sale. It wasn’t until a Winter sale on GOG saw the price reduce to $12.99 that I took the plunge. It was definitely money well spent.

The fantasy city of Zagoravia has had an evil curse befall it. Vampires, insects, skeletons and zombies are overrunning the city, and the Queen seeks help. In comes Victor Vran; just some demon hunter dude who was passing through and who gets recruited to help find out who is responsible for the curse and why.

Victor Vran, unlike other RPGs, provides a simplicity in practically every aspect that anyone new to the genre could get behind. It has an easily accessible hub / menu system where you can access and swap out weapons with ease. You don’t have to choose a character class to Victor; instead you are given a choice of wardrobe, which in itself will give you more armor, critical hits in combat, or health regeneration, depending on which you choose. My Victor was dressed in the finest Zealot’s outfit, one that provides a high armor rate. Along the way, Victor collects weapons and demon powers in dungeon-crawling and loot drops. Each level offers something interesting and challenging in their venues and boss fights. Most levels offered secret passageways that were difficult to locate, but where you were rewarded with a treasure chest containing bonus gold or other prizes. Each level has a star rating to indicate difficulty. The game challenges the player to ramp up the difficulty within each level by turning on provided hexes that give constraints (such as bosses become more powerful, armor takes longer to regenerate, your health takes a huge hit when under attack…). It’s an additional challenge that can become addicting; seeing a four-star rating at each level across a map gives you a sense of accomplishment!

This game offers what seems like a limitless amount of inventory slots, the likes of which I doubt I have ever seen ever in playing an ARPG. You then have to go through and figure out which ones to equip in your weapons and power slots which can seem like a daunting task. The weapons provided give you varied choice – rifles, bow and arrows, scythes, hammers, and swords – all with their own powers and deficits. My weapon of choice happened to be a Coldsnap Scythe, one with a sharp blade and frosting powers that become more powerful the more I used it.

There is also the ability to add powers to weapons and outfits to make them more powerful by transmutting them, a method by which you would pair the item of choice with a demon power from your inventory. If there was anything that I found confusing, it would have been how to transmute something. I managed to add powers to a few weapons, but the game offered a recipe guide that sort of confused me and I never got that aspect working satisfactorily. But, it didn’t seem to matter in the long run. As long as I had a decent weapon, I got through; everything evened out.

There is some cheesy humour in Victor Vran, from the snide remarks coming from a disembodied voiceover, to some of the enchanted dancers and skeletons that can enrapt Victor, and even get him dancing. One could easily draw comparisons to Diablo 3 and even the Torchlight series in terms of the type of demons you fight and the dungeon-crawling; the similarities abound, which, for those in love with the Diablo canon, may hate on Victor Vran for some of its simplistic characteristics. For others, they might find comfort in finding a game that can tide them over until the next Diablo is released (whenever that happens); your mileage may vary. I, for one, enjoyed this experience, and recommend the game!

P.S. I just learned a few weeks ago that a Motorhead expansion for Victor Vran was in development, and is supposed to be released later in 2017. Apparently, members of the band were consulted. I have no idea what this will look like, but I am definitely interested!

3.5/5

Victor Vran
Dev: Haemimont Games
Released: July 2015

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[Review] Torchlight (PC)

Here I go, playing the original Torchlight game after having just finished playing its sequel. Some may say some game sequels are better than their predecessors. I can say that although Torchlight II was a fresher experience than the first game, Torchlight still held a lot of appeal for me.

In this game, Torchlight is a boomtown where underground there is a large repository of Ember, an ore with magical powers. A mine was built under the town, and sooner or later the Ember’s powers began to corrupt anyone or thing it came in contact with. The townspeople learn much too late that the corruption of Ember was caused by an evil alchemist. You are charged with stopping this guy by going down into the mine, descending further through underground dungeons and caverns until you face the alchemist in one large boss fight.

Torchlight and Torchlight II, of course, share similar elements, with a few minor changes. To start, Torchlight is a seemingly shorter game than the sequel, and provides a simpler experience. There is only one world you explore, and only one town your character can teleport to, where you purchase weapon upgrades, armor and health potions. Also, unlike the sequel, there are few quests you could go on in the main campaign. Torchlight II, however is a larger game with more worlds, and quests. Both games share the same creatures that you are made to fight off, including man-sized tarantulas, dragons and evil sorcerers.

To be consistent, I decided to reprise my character from Torchlight II, a female I called Olbag. Likewise, she had her pet wolf dog, Danger, by her side. A similar menu system to Torchlight II was present in this game, where you manage your character’s armor, weapons and clothing. One area of minor complaint, was my character’s equipment inventory section. Having only a limited amount of slots available to carry items, and there being a ton of treasure laying about that my character could pick up in gameplay, I found myself constantly having to empty my character’s equipment inventory, as I continuously ran out of room. My character complained, “I am overburdened,” and “my pack is full” a lot! Olbag’s pet also has an equipment inventory, with the ability to carry stuff too, which I gladly utilized. But, even so, I still found myself running out of room quickly. I am not sure what I was doing wrong there…and likely has more to do with my own game management experience and less to do with Torchlight.

With that minor complaint aside, I really enjoyed Torchlight. Its keyboard and mouse gameplay was as seamless as its sequel and was adaptable. The music, too, was familiar and enjoyable. Although the graphics in the second game were sharper, I still enjoyed Torchlight’s look and feel. With all things considered, although a simpler experience, Torchlight is game worth checking out.

8/10

Torchlight (PC)
Runic Games
2009

Check out my review of Torchlight II!

 

 

[Review] Carrying a Torch for Torchlight II (PC)

Right now, I have somewhere between 15 to 25 games installed on my computer. I realize that might not be the brightest idea as games can generally take up massive hard drive space. But sometimes I am reluctant to uninstall a finished game from my PC, for fear of losing all my saves, or simply because I am not ready to let the game go yet.  What if I feel like mucking around and searching for long lost missions I never got to? What if some kickass downloadable content for the game is released? Instead of reinstalling the game and replaying everything again, I can just continue on where I left off.  I have also run into times where I’ve started a game and because of certain unforeseen circumstances, I’ve had to abandon it mid-play, with the hope of picking it up at a later date. Games like this also reside lovingly on my PC. One such game is Torchlight II.

In the Spring of 2013, between playing Earth Defense Force:Insect Armageddon and Borderlands 1, the hubs and I installed Torchlight II on our respective computers via Steam. Torchlight II is an Action Role Playing Game (ARPG); its genre wasn’t completely foreign to me at the time. Having completed Insect Armageddon with the hubs, I was just starting to gain an understand of what it meant to manage my character’s weapons and skills within a game; the crux of what an ARPG entails. I can’t say at the time I fully understood the interworkings…but I definitely had enough knowledge to finish the game. Torchlight II is a more complex ARPG from Insect Armaggeddon – now having to manage my character with more care; swapping out better clothing, assigning skill points to certain abilities and make sure my weapons were up to snuff when I leveled up. All of this was more involved, exciting even…and daunting. But, with help from the hubs, I stuck with it, clocking in over four hours of gameplay.

Then, it had to happen. Technology had to fail us! We ran into all kinds of issues with Torchlight II that prevented us from enjoying this game together. Our LAN and internet connection was causing lag, or we’d lose the internet altogether (it was our router)…that issue made us quit playing Torchlight II together. We decided to play the game on our own.

After that day, however, I didn’t bother to pick up Torchlight II again, but left it installed on my computer. There was something about this game that I wasn’t ready to give up on. It would call to me, and I’d think, “yes, I’ll get back to this.”

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago, and the hubs asked if I wanted to try playing Torchlight II together again. I said I was interested, and to my surprise when I booted up the game, my last save point from 2013 said I was already at a level 12! Trouble was it had been a while, and I was a bit lost on the mechanics of the game. But, with the hubs’s brief menu tutorial and orientation, I was up and running again. To get me to my husband’s level 38, I had to level up further, which forced me to play the game by myself for about a week. It was a worthwhile pursuit. I had a blast, let me tell you!

Ask me what the plot to Torchlight II is, and I couldn’t tell you really other than to say I don’t feel one needs to play the first Torchlight game in order to play its sequel (I didn’t). The game’s setting is in a medieval futuristic steampunk middle-east Neverland, where people are able to port to the future, but live in cold stone castles (how’s that for contradiction?). The strength of the game is immersing yourself in missions to collect objects or to fight against bosses and their cronies. Your character teleports to distant worlds and caves to fight ugly bugs, bats, skeletons and monsters. The worlds you explore are mysterious, and sometimes gorgeous, and vary from humid forests and arid deserts, to damp and cramped caverns. Each place you explore is randomly generated by the game, and depending on where you wind up, you could be dealing with weather (rain and snow has been known to fall!). Each locale is connected to a “home base” or main town that you can teleport to where you can find merchants to buy and sell items from, a blacksmith to sharpen and fashion weapons, among other characters. If you care to sidetrack yourself from the main campaign, you may want to take part in some side missions as well, where you experience more interesting worlds. You pick up weapons, gold coins and health potions as you go, which you can use in your battles, or resell for currency.

This time ’round, I chose a kickass woman as my character I ubiquitously called Olbag*. Classified as an Outlander, Olbag is a nomadic, no nonsense chick ready to attack. She also had an awesome pet, a wolf-dog I named Danger who helped her in attacks.

You micro-manage your character in this game, right down to how they dress. Every inch of clothing, weapon and skill has a level assigned, which you must oversee in order to succeed in the game. It sounds like work, and no doubt it is. That alone might turn a lot of gamers new to ARPGs away. But, Torchlight II‘s menu system made it easy for me to understand what I was doing and how to proceed. And truthfully, I think my past gaming experience with tougher games  like Mass Effect, Borderlands and BioShock made this character-management stuff in Torchlight II actually fun.

And you all have heard me complain about mapping systems in games, and how shitty they can be. Let me tell you, Torchlight II got the map right. Easy to follow, and right there in the upper right hand corner of the game, visible at all times while you are playing the game; no having to go back into the menu to access the map (this game is tugging at my disoriented heartstrings!).

My second go-around with Torchlight II was the first time I felt like I could hit the ground running and just simply play this ARPG without stressing out whether I was doing the right things…I even saw a difference in how the hubs and I interact and play within Torchlight II together in co-op. For one thing, we weren’t yelling at each other for being in each other’s way. I even felt comfortable taking the lead in some of the missions. The tide has definitely turned for me and ARPGs. For once, I feel like I am home in the game, and for that, I will remember Torchlight II as being that defining game for me.

4.9/5

Torchlight II
Runic Games
2012

*Olbag (or “Old Bag”) is commonly what I name my female gaming characters. I’m poking fun at myself here…