SkyForge Impressions

Recreating Belghast

SkyForge_BelvsBel Skyforge is one of those games that I have consistently been unable to decide if I am interested in.  There are certain aspects of the game that I really like, but then again there are certain aspects that I am really uncertain of.  [Edit] Having to rewrite a chunk of this real quick because I was under the false impression that this game was from a Korean publisher.  I guess this is primarily a Russian game with the assistance of Obsidian an American company.  I guess this explains why I could easily create a character I liked when I have so much trouble doing this in most Korean MMOs. [UnEdit] So I was pleasantly surprised that I could create “Belghast” or at least a reasonable facsimile.  In the above comparison you can see the traditional old school “WoW Bel” against what I was able to create using Skyforge, and I am pretty happy honestly with the look and feel.

SkyForge_WeirdManTouchingMe Last night I spent some time streaming my first few adventures into the game, and as such did not take a lot of screenshots.  The result is you are going to end up with a lot of screen captures from my stream that include my little chat blocker box thingy.  As the weird little man that is touching my face asked me what I think…  that is ultimately going to be my mission this morning.  I can’t really call it a review, since I have not spent more than a couple of hours playing it.  I can however talk about my thoughts.  There have been so many times I have missed out on a games open beta period only to kick myself later when I start to get interested in the game.  Similarly there have been many games that I bought my way into… only to find out later that I didn’t really care for the game at all.  Even though I am still very much engrossed in Final Fantasy XIV and spent about four hours playing that last night AFTER my foray into Skyforge, I felt I owed it to myself to give the game a test drive.  Similarly if you are on the fence and looking to my article to give you some guidance… I highly suggest you just try the game yourself while it is free.

The Setting

SkyForge_MoreQuestText For those who have been around MMOs for awhile, you will remember a game that was discarded somewhere along the way called Imperator.  Mythic games had originally planned on building its “Rome in Outer Space” title but quickly dropped the title when they got the license for Warhammer Online.  After playing a little Skyforge I seriously wonder if someone from that original Imperator team rebooting this idea over at either Obsidian or Allods.  Imperator_CollesiumThere are only a few screenshots from the original Imperator team around, but to the right is one of the more interesting ones.  From what I have seen of the world of Skyforge, it very much shares the same look and feel of a “Rome in Space” concept.  To carry this even further the enemies and their leaders have a very “ancient egyptian” feel to them, which makes me wonder if we are going to see a lot more of these “high tech ancient  civilizations” concept as we get deeper into the game.

Skyforge 2015-07-17 06-07-54-37 The game does a decent job of setting up the story of how you came to have the powers you do and setting up a reason for why you can die multiple times and keep respawning.  Your character is an Immortal, and just like in Highlander your powers do not manifest until you have died the first time.  The introduction to the game is the story of how you died during what turned out to be a suicide mission.  One of the interesting things about the game is that you play a fully armored character during the introduction and then choose your appearance later as you are telling your tale.  While I may have missed it, it did not seem like I had a way to change my gender during this introduction.  So I am wondering if that means that quite literally everyone is “male by default” until you get back to base and choose your gender and appearance.  This did not bother me on a personal level, but I could absolutely see how this would really be a sticking point for some folks and rightly so.  As you can see from the screenshots… the world is absolutely gorgeous and every little aspect of it feels highly detailed.

The Paladin

SkyForge_PaladinShield Since I tend to always play tanks in MMOs… I opted to roll the paladin.  I am not sure if EVERYONE starts as one of three classes, or if this is just limited to the Open Beta, but I was limited to a choice of Paladin, Cryomancer and Lightbinder.  These represent the tank, dps and healer essentially, and this is a game much like Final Fantasy XIV where you can swap your class at any given time.  Unfortunately the Paladin is the only one of the starter classes that I have any interest in…  there are really three classes in this game that interest me and that is the Paladin, Knight and Berserker.  Now we are going to start delving into some of the negatives.  Combat is similar to Neverwinter Nights which in itself is not bad.  Essentially it is a combination of mouse clicks augmented by abilities you cast off keys around your WASD and numeric keys that tend to have long recast times.  It uses a system similar to TERA in that your secondary mouse button is a variable combo ability.

SkyForge_PaladinSpinAttack As a Paladin my combos offered an impressive 360 degree whirl attack that you can see above, a single target lightning bolt, and a frontal cone slash attack.  The problem being is that the combo system seemed to have a mind of its own.  In Tera it related to a certain number of clicks… in Skyforge it seems to be tied somehow to your character animation.  As a result I found it really hard to predict when I could hit a specific attack and always seemed to have the wrong ability available as my combo attack at the wrong time.  Now this combo tree is something you can fiddle with freely and maybe given some time I could sort out how best to use it.  However it gives the combat interaction a bit of a “sloppy” feel to its design.  I find myself greatly preferring the ability to press a unique button for each attack rather than allow the game to sort all of that out for me.  I know at least if I press the button, an ability will fire…  instead here it felt more like the game was playing for me sometimes and I was simply mashing the attack buttons blindly.

SkyForge_PaladinFinisher I feel like all of the attacks were designed to look and feel impressive.  For example the above screenshot is of me executing my finisher, that shows up when the mob is low on heath and there is a pop up window telling me to hit E to use it.  It involves me throwing the mob up into the air and then a bolt of lightning or holy power or whatever it is that Paladins care about striking them back down to the ground.  Again this felt like something I had to freaking mash E for whenever the mob was getting close to being low enough to use it… because my main attack seemed to run away with itself and I would get locked in a combat animation that seemed to be of variable length.  The thing I keep coming back to is that maybe this game feels significantly better when played with a controller than with a mouse and keyboard.  I need to sort through the settings and see if it supports my Xbox 360 controller because this might be an awesome offering to the console market more so than it is to the PC one.

My Impressions

SkyForge_PaladinCharge Like I said at the start of this I have really not spent much time playing the game at this point.  I got in yesterday morning and last night, and between those two play sessions I have completed two of the small instanced missions.  After the second mission I went back to the main hub and got yet another one… and then decided that I was not really having enough fun to keep playing that night.  That is a bad sign, for me personally.  I love combat and combat missions, and if a game wants to throw me at kill X things… I generally eat them up like warm cobbler covered in ice cream.  The problem is… I just found the combat boring and repetitive.  I feel like maybe I am not grasping the “master plan” to its design but it really felt like I had to wail away at random with abilities and mash my shield whenever it was up to keep from taking damage.  It really did not feel like there was much structure to the flailing about, and I found this frustrating especially compared to say the Cryomancer that I watched Jabberant play that seemed to have lots of strategy to it.  It could just be a side effect of my being used to Final Fantasy XIV where every single key press feels like it has some importance behind it.

I’ve embedded my play session from last night so that you can see how the game looks and feels while moving through combat.  I am not giving up on this game quite yet, but I will say my first day of play was “strike one”.  Maybe it feels better as I go along, but I have a feeling that pretty much all of this game is going to be a Lobby/Instance approach with no real “open world” to go exploring.  I might be wrong, and maybe I just have not seen “leveling zones” yet but the whole thing feels a lot like the way DDO did content, mixed with the combat styling of Neverwinter Nights.  All of this said, since you can get in now for free and give it a spin… then I suggest you try it out for yourself.  Maybe you will find it a refreshing experience, and not the boring and repetitive one that I found.  Maybe I was simply in the wrong mindset, because yesterday was a really long day.  In any case I am going to give it a few more shots this weekend to see if it does anything for me.  Sometimes games take a bit for me to enjoy, and this might be one of those.  In any case I am happy I gave it a shot before “buying in”.  So far the verdict is pretty mixed, but I wanted to at least put my thoughts to paper for anyone who might be interested in them.

How Diablo Ought Be

Hibernation Weekend

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This is one of those mornings when I really wish I did not have to write a blog post.  I guess in the grand scheme of things… there is nothing forcing me to do so, but I would hate to break my streak of daily posts.  This is one of those hibernation weekends when neither my wife or I really want to leave the house.  In fact I went out and got breakfast in my fuzzy slippers that look like shoes this morning and a hoodie.  Not like the folks at the convenience store really pay too much attention to what people are wearing, but it was a reasonable facsimile of “dressed”.

Yesterday I was completely all over the place game wise.  I started off the day by playing quite a bit of Hearthstone, this was a side effect of me wanting the gold from my daily quest and a new friend just getting into the game.  Once he got through the tutorial and unlocked a few decks we played a few games.  The first game he trounced me liberally, and the second two I managed to pull ahead significantly mostly due to him not getting the cards he needed when he needed them.  Playing against actual players has made me extremely aggressive when it comes to Hearthstone, and I am not really sure how to tone that back a notch.

Mixed Bag of Gaming

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After hearthstone I poked my head into Rift for a bit, but really didn’t find much enjoyment there.  I am not sure what it is but right now Rift is just not that fun of a game for me.  I am sure before long I will cycle back around to it and it will once again be the next best thing to sliced bread.  I have the same sort of thing going on with EQ2 as well.  I have a desire to play some, but when I actually log in I have no desire to do anything.  So in both cases I poke my head in and then log back out almost as quickly.

Right now I am still enjoying Allods quite a bit, but I have a feeling that very soon the bottom will drop out.  I have heard that after a certain point there are very few non-group quests.  Currently at level 8 I am still having no problem at all, and this is sufficiently scratching that World of Warcraft itch.  However I get the sense that I am nearing the end of the starter city of <Insert Russian Sounding Name Here>.  I am really enjoying the game, and it is extremely well crafted, but as a whole the storyline and missions are forgettable.  There is really little “special” about the game other than the awesome soviet era steampunk feel.


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After a bunch of mucking around yesterday, I settled into playing a brand new game with some friends.  Forced had been a title that popped up on our radar during the Kickstarter, and was subsequently picked up as a Steam Greenlight title.  Well it has officially released this week, and one of my friends decided to buy a four pack and distribute copies.  They describe the game as Diablo meets Left4Dead… and to some extent that makes sense.  However I do not think that description really explains just how much cooperation is needed to make it through the levels.  In many ways it reminds me of Gauntlet Legends… if Gauntlets Legends required you to use the NES Rob the Robot to make it through the levels.

Each of the gladiators chooses a weapon that will dictate their active and passive talent trees as well as set the overall flavor of the arena combat.  Above you can see an image of three weapons in the preparation room leading into any of the arenas.  I am currently holding the magma hammer and all of the attacks both passive and active are somehow fire based.  To the left of that pool is the green daggers, most of the attacks being about speed, stealth and health regeneration.  In a way they are the support class in that they can generate combo points on the target than the heavier hitters can then consume.  On the bottom left you have the Ice Shield, and this is the tank of the group focusing on being able to negate large amounts of damage.  Finally you have the D&D Animated series style lightning bow, with chain lightning and energy based attacks.

How Diablo Ought Be

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The controls are also extremely unique… or at least unique to me.  In many ways it reminds me of Ikari Warriors in that you have one set of controls to move your body and another to control your facing.  If you choose mouse and keyboard this means that WASD will move you physically around the arena and your mouse will choose your facing with Left and Right mouse buttons being your primary and secondary attacks to start out.  Later on you will pick up additional attacks Q being the first of these.   I assume with a controller one stick is likely your movement and the other your facing with your triggers being your primary attacks, but quite honestly I have not tried this out.

The pace of the action was so intense most of the time, that I quite honestly forgot to hit the screenshot last night.  However the gameplay revolves around using the glowing sphere of light Balfus your “spirit mentor” to move around the arena and active switches and traps for you.  As a team this gets super tricky since you have ONE balfus and each of you can call it at any given moment… so this involves a lot of communication to figure out who can use it next.  Additionally if your timing is right you can position the next person to call it as soon as one objective is done.  It is hard to fully understand how the gameplay works cooperatively without seeing it in action.  So as a result I am going to embed the trailer that shows quite a bit of play.

Challenging Co-Op


So essentially there are so many ways to fuck over your friends while playing this game.  There are maps for example where Balfus provides a protective bubble, and if you stray outside of that bubble you take large amounts of damage per tick.  So these force your team to be placed JUST right as you pay your way through the map.  It becomes progressively easier to abandon a player on the edges of the map and trap them.  So for us… access to voice chat was SUPER handy.  We kept communicating and I was generally the dullard that tried his best not to ever call the ball.  My job was to call down orbital strikes in the form of meteors upon the heads of the big baddies and consume combo points with my heavy hitting attacks.

You get a crystal for each objective that you complete.  On each map there is a completion shard, a time based shard, and one for getting a specific objective.  They have made these in such a way as it is super difficult to get all three within one run.  So as a result you can do each arena over and over to try and gain as many crystals as you can.  Last night in our little 2.5 hour play session we managed to rack up 15 shards.  The first world was honestly rather straightforward but as we entered world two… the frequency of cursing increased massively.

Downright Brutal

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Face it… you are going to be seeing a lot of this screen.  The game excels as forcing various no-win scenarios if you are not fast enough or clever enough to figure out the trick on the first attempt.  We would have probably continued on for another hour and a half had one of our players internet not taken a massive dump.  At that point we figured… it was a good place to take a break.  The gameplay is extremely frenetic, but also amazingly rewarding when you and your friends manage to complete a scenario.  If you too have a group of friends to game with… I highly suggest buying a four pack and distributing copies because forced provides an extremely unique gameplay experience for multiple people.  As a whole I give the game a big thumbs up.

Yarn Chasing

Hearth Dailies

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Last night I played quite a bit of Hearthstone, as I had allowed my quests to stack up on me.  For those not familiar, there are daily quests you can do in hearthstone that earn you gold.  The gold can then be spent on packs of cards.  The quests tend to be things like “Destroy 40 Minions” or “Win 2 Games as Priest or Druid”.  The first kind are easy to do and simply involve plugging at it until you have filled the requested amount of carnage, the later are more challenging since you actually have to beat players. 

While I can fairly readily do this if I am playing the Warrior or Hunter decks, this is not so much the case with the other decks.  Through the process of leveling each “class” to 10, you unlock various basic cards along the way that you can’t get any other way.  The problem is, that while my Hunter is 15 and my Warrior 10… the rest of the classes are in the 1-5 range… which means they are missing significant weapons from their arsenal.  Despite these constraints however I still managed to clear my quest log by winning 2 games as Priest, 2 as Rogue and 2 as a Shaman.  The reward for what took an hour and a half to do… 2 new packs of cards and in the process a few more rares.

A New Whim

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While playing Hearthstone I am still regularly suffering bouts of nostalgia, and while I am still resisting the urge to re-up World of Warcraft, I find myself craving that style of play.  In a sequence of events that will not really make sense to anyone… I decided as I played Hearthstone that I would start the Allods client downloading.  Allods has always felt like some weird soviet block steampunky WoW.  I alpha and beta tested the game eons ago when it was rolling out, and remembered it fondly… to be truthful I likely would have played it were it not for at the time the extremely predatory cash shop.

It was an extremely fun place to run around, right up to the point that they introduced the cash shop in beta.  It was then that I lost interested and moved on.  However in the passing years I had heard that the cash shop was greatly relaxed, so I had filed it away as one of those games I wanted to revisit.  Apparently last night was that night as I went through the process of retrieving my password on the account and rolled a brand new character on the free to play server.

Soviet Steampunk

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A few weeks back I talked about the fact that I essentially make the same character in every single game I play.  Since it was always the steampunk nature that appealed to me, I decided to go with the Empire faction instead of the generic fantasy “The League”.  While gibberlings are seriously the coolest idea for a short race, I remember really liking the feel of the Empire better as a whole.  So I attempted to create Belghast, which is always a human equivalent, always dark hair, and always a moustache and goatee.  There was no racial option for black hair so I had to go dark reddish brown, and there was no option for a ponytail so I had to go with another option.

Without really meaning to I seem to have created “Lenin” with hair.  While I felt the character creation options were limited, they were about as varied as WoW, so mostly viable.  I ended up going with a Vanquisher, which based on the fact that it was sword and board… made me assume it was the tank.  Upon playing it for a few minutes I noticed it had the standard protection warrior kit, along with an extremely long cool down charge and eventually a shield bash.  The gameplay was fun but nothing really revolutionary, but then again I was not really expecting innovation.

Shocked and Amused

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I have to say I was extremely pleasantly surprised by the experience.  I found myself really enjoying the questing and gameplay as a whole.  The world is far more intricate and beautiful than I had remembered, and filled with really great ambient music that instead of appearing out of nowhere… seems to come from in game speaker systems adding to the experience.  I killed around two hours playing the game without really realizing it, and ultimately had to pull myself away from it to go to bed.

There is a lot to like in this game, and they seem to have reformed at least a bit their predatory cash shop ways.  While you are leveling you get several freebie items from the cash shop in the form of chests that you can open every 5 minutes.  Through these I got a number of cosmetic items and a 24 slot bag upgrade in additional to several vouchers for free cash shop items.  I feel like this is a way to get you wanting the items from the cash shop, but overall I have gotten quite a bit of nifty stuff without paying a dime, and I am completely fine with that notion.  If it ends up being a game I play quite often I have no problem at all supporting it, and likely will.

Yarn Chasing

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The most bizarre thing of the night however was their guided waypoint system.  For major quests they draw a series of massive glowing arrows along the map pointing out the path you should travel to get to your objective.  However this system goes several steps past that and has put in an automated pathing system in order to get you to your destination.  Out beside every quest in your quest log is a red ball icon, that invokes this giant bouncing ball of yarn.  Your character begins to move of its own accord following the bouncing ball of yarn until you reach the destination.  The whole experience is rather comical as your character willfully chases down this bouncing ball.

I get the impression that large blocks of the player base are playing this game as click to move… since that functionality is defaulted to on.  It was rather shocking the first time I clicked a quest NPC and my character started running towards it.  I turned that feature off since I have never been able to stack click to move control schemes, but it appears that the yarn ball movement system is still in place.  While I don’t use it that often, I am finding it extremely helpful since the quest objective direction are usually unclear as is the mapping system as to where you are actually supposed to go to find things.  Usually I can click the ball of yarn, to get it to show me the vague direction I should travel and them I am good to go.  As a whole I was really surprised by just how much I enjoyed the game, and I look forward to playing again.