Featured Article: Ray's E3 Report 2012 - Part 3 of 3
Ray wraps up his coverage
Divine RPG Goodness
Divinity: Original Sin
2002ís Divine Divinity, despite its gimmicky name, was a high point in role playing games of its era. It combined the visceral, hack and slash gameplay of Diablo 2 with the extreme environmental interactivity of Ultima with the deep storytelling and rich lore of Baldurís Gate. It was an irresistible combination. Alas, I was very let down by the first follow up, Beyond Divinity so much so that I stayed away from the third game II: Ego Draconis.
However, the lusciousness of the upcoming game in the series, Divinity: Original Sin, will very likely bring me back into the fold.
The demo drew me in immediately with its gorgeous graphics. The designers have put together lush environments using a very warm palette of colors. Itís a very inviting game world.
The magic in the game is very elemental and environment based. Are you or your team members on fire? Call for rain! However, be careful: If youíre wet, youíre more vulnerable to electricity damage!
You can also use environmental objects with your elemental strategies. See a barrel full of flammable oil? Use one of your attack turns to toss the barrel towards your foes, then light it aflame! Or, see a mushroom: Pick it up, apply it to your sword, and voila: Youíve added poison damage to your weapon. Add an apple to a health potion: Youíve got an antidote potion!
This is a party-based RPG. You can play all of your party members yourself, or you can have friends drop in (and out) of your game to play other party members.
The Larian designers wanted character interaction to feel very much like table top role-playing. Everyone in your party gets to participate in decision-making. The dialog mechanics are very reminiscent of what Bioware did with Star Wars: The Old Republic. If there are multiple people playing in your party, and itís time to say something to an NPC, you much reach a consensus if you disagree on what to say. You can use abilities like Intimidate to bring disagreeing party members to your way of thinking. If consensus cannot be reached, the dialog choice is determined by a random roll.
Also, all characters in the game, from NPCs to your party members, react to your actions based on an ďattitudeĒ system thatís affected by all of your actions and decisions in the game.
You can use skills like Persuasion to completely avoid some fights. Curiously, at this point in the gameís development, if you resolve a conflict in this way, you do not get any XP. I questioned this choice to the Larian presenter, David Walgrave. He agreed with me that you probably should get XP for avoiding a fight. If this feature finds its way into the final version of the game, I am TOTALLY going to take credit for it.
The game is a prequel to the original Divine Divinity and is heavily influenced by it. I am truly looking forward to getting my mitts on the final version of this game!
I Like: The look, the turn-based combat, the connection with the original game, the interactivity between elemental-based magic and environmental objects, the dialog systemÖ shall I go on?
Iím Concerned: That the game might not live up to my very high expectations. But this is a quality problem!
More Divinity Lore
Larian was showing another game that will fit into the Divinity mythos: A real-time strategy game called Dragon Commander.
Despite its distressingly generic title, this game (which is a prequel to all of the Divinity RPGs) looks very fun indeed.
Itís an RTS game with lots of adventure, role-playing, and even card-based battle games.
The story, which involves some complicated religious conflicts, sounded quite interesting. All of the dialog is voiced.
The flow of the gameplay takes you through several different modes. Thereís character interaction, planning screens, Risklike maps, and then 3D battle sequences. While the entire affair is technically turn-based, the battles feel fluid and dynamic.
Oh, and did I mention that during combat youíre, uh, commanding from the back of, you guessed it, a really badass dragon.
The game will feature a single player and multiplayer campaigns.
I Like: Despite my historical inability to play RTS games, this one really draws me in.
Iím Concerned: That this curious RTS may have trouble finding its audience. (Hope Iím wrong.)
Puzzle Goodness from Square Enix
Square Enix/Airtight Games
PC, XBLA, PSN
In 2009, Kim Swift, the lead designer on the now-legendary puzzle action/adventure Portal, left Valve to join Airtight Games. The project she left to create was the now nearly-finished Quantum Conundrum.
I like: A new environmental puzzle game from the lead designer of Portal? Whatís not to like? Also, that great bargain price tag!
Iím concerned: Canít really think of a downside to this one.
Hell Freezes Over
I didnít think this would happen in this lifetime, but I actually saw a Facebook game that I thought Iíd like to play.
Jigsaw Puzzle Adventure
NOW IN BETA
High production values gives this new game real glamour. Itís also got a fun jigsaw puzzle mechanic thatís quite addictive. Thereís even an actual story, a globetrotting affair that involves a troubled romance and disappearing world monuments. It was described to me as a ďRomantic Comedy Jigsaw Puzzle Game.Ē
Even if youíve played jigsaw puzzle games before, like Pandoraís Box or the excellent Puzz3D games), you havenít seen jigsaw puzzling done like this. Itís fun, itís flashy, and best of all:
YOU WONíT HAVE TO BUG YOUR FACEBOOK FRIENDS OR MAKE REAL-MONEY PURCHASES TO FINISH THE STORY MODE OF THE GAME.
Sure, if you do have other friends who are playing, you can get bonuses by interacting with them. And sure, you can make extra purchases for power-ups. But the developers promise that these elements will be strictly optional.
Each player will also (inevitably, I suppose) have a Farmville-type mansion that their various victories in the game will allow them to decorate. And of course you can visit your friendsí mansions for added bonuses.
One thing I really like about the puzzles is that they are all based on photographs of real-world locations. Iím already playing the beta, and Iím really enjoying it.
I like: The high-class visuals, the innovative jigsaw game mechanics, the fact that itís at least TRYING to be less obnoxious than the standard Facebook game
Iím concerned: That I wonít be able to get away with playing it at work.
The Booth Babe Situation
Every year I show up at E3 ready to be annoyed with the almost universal lack of Booth Hunks. Booth Babes are, or course, a tradition at the show, and theyíre always fun, colorful, and good sports about posing for pictures. But honestly, youíd think the showís producers didnít understand that there are many women and gay male gamers out there who deserve a little tacky model objectification, also!
Iím convinced that it is the event producers, not the actual game publishers themselves, who make this mistake. Still, it needs to be corrected, because itís so extreme that as to be actually insulting.
Example: Whenever thereís a big publisher showing off some military shooter, you can count on their being a bevy of buxom female beauties toting AK-47s while wearing skimpy fatigue-patterned halter tops and short shorts. Next to them will be three utterly normal guys in boring fatigues. [I actually saw this exact thing this year.] Come on, folks, this isnít rocket surgery!! This is Los Angeles. Finding available hunky guys to hire for the day isnít exactly difficult.
Last year, there were exactly two Booth Hunks at the entire show: Derek Opperman (demonstrating a UFC Ėtype fighting game) and Eric Carpenter (playing Unchartedís Nathan Drake).
This year, there was one.
At least they went for quality: Handsome fitness model Dominic Pentis was demonstrating an exercise game that featured the Nintendo Wiiís (ridiculous) new controller. Dominic is extremely impressive in person, which accomplished exactly the same thing as if heíd been a Booth Babe. I watched, and no one was paying nearly as much attention to the other stations featuring this game, as they all had ďnormalĒ folks doing the demonstrating.
So the lesson here is, wake up and check the calendar, O Stodgy Event Producers hired by E3. Itís 2012, and we want our Booth Hunks!