Category Archives: Computers

You leave my ring out of this…

Forging my own ring

Really, Turbine! Don’t you tell me what to do with my ring!

How rude!

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Elemental: Fallen Enchantress

Poor Stardock had a hell of a time after releasing Elemental. The game was rushed out the door before it was ready, and the premature infant died wailing merely hours after plopping onto customers’ hard drives. Rather than kicking the rotting carcass under a rug and pretending nothing had happened, they did the far braver thing: They rebuilt it. Made it stronger, better, faster.

Fallen Enchantress is iteration 2.0, and is a mixture of turn-based strategy and RPG. While you are struggling to build a civilisation from grass and twigs, your heroes are rampaging around the landscape looting wagons and completing quests.

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The trick which I have yet to master (or even apprentice) is balancing building with research. You see, certain types of cities are good at particular things, and attempting to have a war-focussed city pop out some research buildings is arduous at best, impossible at worst. You set the nature of your fledgeling cities very early on in their lives, so an early mis-step can leave you with your Fortress city in the butt-end of nowhere, and your University towns on the border with very militant neighbours.

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After my third attempt (two failed civilisations, dead so fast it was breathtaking) I managed to build a small empire. And I mean small.

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Look at that. I haven’t even explored the entire world, and I occupy that blue bit on the right. I don’t even know where the guy who’s winning is located!

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My only saving grace is that while they all hate me, they all hate each other too, and I’m too small to squash. Still, this is hardly what I’d call winning.

A tutorial teaches the basics of building, training units, and casting spells. It shows you how the turn-based combat works if you want to control battles blow-by-blow instead of allowing them to auto-resolve. It doesn’t spend a great deal of time on the research trees, how to generate resources and income, or how to grow your cities. In short, Fallen Enchantress waves training wheels at you, then tosses them into a deep, dark chasm while cackling.

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Once you start losing, the puppy-kicking begins as your more powerful neighbours’ protection rackets kick in. But here’s the thing: I know what I did wrong. And I can avoid it in future.

Fallen Enchantress doesn’t forgive mistakes, but at least your mistakes are clear once you make them. Here, for example, I got excited at the idea of expending my Influence to take over a neighbouring city. The mistake? It cost so much Influence that I struggled to regain it. Whereas I’d been a political powerhouse with a small nation beforehand, I suddenly became overextended and with negligible political power. And to cap it all off I lost the city a few turns later anyway. The rest of the game was a scrabble to bribe nations into war with one-another and leave me in peace.

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There are plenty of pages of information in-game to show you what’s going on in your Kingdom. Mine largely says “Well, we’re buggered, sire” in a variety of ways.

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There are three research trees: Civilization, Warfare and Magic. I get the feeling that the NPC players have insider knowledge here while I’m researching anything and everything. Even on “easy” those other Kingdoms are throwing up one-of-a-kind buildings and monuments while I’m struggling to grow enough grain to feed my cities.

And yet with the repeated beatings, it’s a phenomenally addictive game. The determination to figure it out and improve is strong, and I don’t often bother with games which have a steep learning curve. I think the turn-based nature means that you have time to learn. You are never rushed into a decision or a mis-step; every one you make is entirely your own.

Overall: 8/10. I absolutely recommend this, if strategy is your thing.

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The Secret World

I’ve been known to MMO. Once or twice. *cough*. Mostly Lord of the Rings Online, with a small side-order of World of Warcraft when I got tired of grinding level 50 pigs. Yep, you guessed right: WoW didn’t last long at all, because I got tired of grinding level 20 pigs.

So when Mr. Troo found The Secret World on special offer in December we did consider whether we’d just tire of it when we had to grind pigs of any level whatsoever. But we bit the bullet and gave it a try. It had, after all, just gone Free to Play.

You may know this already, but The Secret World is a very Call of Cthulhu-esque game. There was a great deal of promise in the online buzz about how little grind there is.

Set in the modern world in which secret societies have existed for centuries but are now scrabbling to save life as we know it, TSW borrows heavily from Lovecraftian Mythos and tabletop roleplaying games.

Your character has whichever abilities you want to learn.

That’s right. No classes, no predetermined cookie-cutter list of the skills and abilities you can buy from. You can buy whatever you have the XP for in the Ability Wheel.

You earn Ability Points through XP. The only limitation on spending them is that you cannot bypass cheaper skills to reach the more expensive ones in the same tree, and you must have maxed both inner trees of an Ability Type before you can progress onto the outer ring for that Ability. Don’t worry, though: you earn AP’s like they’re going out of fashion.

You also earn Skill Points, which you can place as and where you choose. Skills boost your abilities, and determine what level of talismans or weapons you are able to wear / wield. Devoting all your skill points to your weaponry will leave you stranded when it comes to finding awesome talismans (which can boost your health, traits, and abilities, so are vital to keeping you alive – especially if you solo).

Helping you decide what Abilities you want to purchase is a massive in-game table which allows you to search, filter, and explore every ability the game has to offer.

Also you can stand around looking cool with your shoulders on fire, which clearly everyone wants.

I like it a lot so far. There was, alas, serious – yes – grind in December, because TSW ran an event to coincide with the Mayan End of the World. What this meant was that Mayan zombies would spawn under your feet, under the feet of mobs you were killing, under the feet of shopkeepers you were selling rubbish to, and under the feet of the other Mayan zombies you’d just survived. This turned any combat anywhere into a hard slog for, while the Mayans were usually passive, if they spawned while you were in combat they’d pile right in.

But now, thankfully, they Mayans are gone. The world didn’t end (at least, not the way they thought), and my Illuminati friend and I may continue on with our possibly-doomed attempts to save life as we know it.

Overall: 8/10. Would certainly recommend (except to small children, because when I say Cthulhu-esque I really mean it).

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