Friday, 29 June 2007

RPGs gone wrong

It all started so well... and then it all ended so badly.

Lionheart: Legacy of the Crusader

You may not have heard of this game, because it sank mostly without a trace after release. I couldn't understand it. It seemed so promising! An unusual setting, a divergent medieval Earth full of its own weird history, an unusual magic system, famous figures from history to interact with, multiple factions to align yourself with, associations with people who'd worked on really good RPGs in the past...

I saw terrible reviews for the game, so I picked it up from the bargain bin. And for the first several hours of play I had a great time and couldn't understand why the reviews were so harsh. Sure, the combat was trying to be Diablo and failing (when your combat is hack-and-slash you need to make sure the player can TARGET effectively) but the story was quirky and fun.

And then there comes a point where the writers apparently got sick of it, and there are suddenly no more characters, no more dialog, no more sidequests, just screen after screen of monsters all standing patiently waiting for you to come up and try to beat your way through them.

I tried. I attempted to hack the game to bypass this stuff. I even wrote some people I knew who worked for a company involved in the game to see if they could help. I obtained a high-level character file to blast through some of the combat. I STILL never finished the game. And I don't think I ever will.

I think it would have been better if they'd just cut the game off when they ran out of plot, called it Episode One, and sold it cheap. People wouldn't have hated it so much and might have been willing to buy another one. Now, I don't think anyone will ever want to admit having been involved in that project.

Seal of Evil

I wouldn't be surprised if you've never heard of this one either. Basically, it's an action-RPG in the Diablo vein (there's that word again!) only with more crafting and stuff. And it's Chinese. This is important. It's not just that the game is set in a sort of magical-ancient-China, but the game was also originally made in that language.

When I first found a demo of the English version of the game, the text had been translated, but the voice acting had been left in Chinese. Obviously I couldn't understand a word of it, but it made the whole thing seem exotic and interesting. The combat was simple and fun, the plot presented in the demo was just enough to make you curious... I was really looking forward to it and ordered a copy when it came out.

Unfortunately, they had by then managed to obtain english voice actors. REALLY REALLY BAD English voice actors. Dreadful hams that make you clutch your ears and whimper. Also, for some reason, the game story didn't appear to run like the demo had - introducing extra boring hiccups to the plot instead of getting ON with it like the demo version.

I gave up in frustration.

I have since heard that complaints about the voice acting were so severe that a later release of the game included an option to use the original Chinese voices instead of the English. But, as no free exchange was offered to us poor fools who bought the game early...

Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords

Now this one you've probably heard of. Great game. Good story. Lots of fun.

Until the ending, where they ran out of money and just plain didn't complete it.

Depending on what path you took to get there, the ending may not make ANY sense.

I'm not saying too much about this because there are whole web communities devoted to trying to untangle the clusterfuck of the KotOR 2 Ending and puzzle out the voice and movie fragments that are found floating around on the final disc unused and guess what the ending was supposed to be.

It's still a good game, because it doesn't go terribly wrong until really, really far into the story. But after a certain point, you're better off stopping and just making up the rest of it yourself.

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