Hard to be a God, part 2

And it's even harder to get a good game. Little nuances can easily kill gameplay, challenge or story. Unfortunately, there are plenty of those annoying bugs left in the final game that plagued the demo, in fact, I didn't find one that was fixed. After watching the end credits, it got clear, why: only one tester was listed. Way too few.
On a related topic, first english post.

I played it to the end, (all endings) and had only 2 sidequests that I didn't finish (statues + a who-gave-up-my-friend quest).

Let's see... get a world created by a pair of great scifi writers, check. Get some good melodies, (for me) check. Get a nice looking game engine... lets say check again. Then don't test for bugs, balance and forget optimalization.

I hope I don't have to argue on the first two points. As for the graphics engine: it has nice bells and whistles, and the drawing of the characters has an antque/dated (read: somewhat cartoonish) appearance, which I find appealing and fitting for the medieval setting. Unfortunately, it can get quite sluggish sometimes, (apparently after running for quite many hours) on my desktop setup (max settings, ini induced 1440x900, X1900GT / 4600+ X2 / 3GB DDR1).

I'd like to mention some other positive facts before butchering this game, just for measure. First, I liked the idea that you can dress up as several different people, (mercenary/don/thief/guard/monk/etc,) it gave me some freedom that was not really available before, or only as a sidequest. Then, I also liked the inclusion of mounted combat, even if it was way overpowered compared to anything else. The simple combat system was fun, and the simple skill system can be considered positive (you are much less likely to hit a wall of overly mighty enemies forcing you to restart with an other build). The on-foot combat can be challenging in the beginning, or even at the end. Having a skill for increasing potion/food hp-gain efficency is quite a good idea.

As for the last part.... First, bugs: the detection of camera obscuring models is only working about 5% of the time, and not more. You like fighting blind? Then you'll definitely like this game. I can't even begin to count how many times trees and buildings obscured my character while fighting, or even trying to find a map-displayed road that can be traversed under the foliage. Very-very-very annoying.

Especially so considering that you can't jump across real or arbitrary barriers (remember invisible walls?) even if you do jump with a horse. You'll get stuck in about anything and everything. Strangely, there are some objects that you can pass through, while most are like a sky-high unmovable barrier. Fallen, rotting tree hunks, small formations of seemingly loose rocks, stairs leading to a closed door or one level higher than an internal accessible level.... All those present an invisible barrier. Lets not forget the fact that you can't change the direction of your horse while you get your weapon out or put it away either. Combine these all, and you have a serious control issue.

Then there are the further signs of neglected testing: (First: please consider adding 1440x900 to displayed display options, thats in the name of all idescreen 19" or 20" TFT owners!) In mounted combat, you are a god, and noone can touch you, except ranged combat enemies. No, not even other mounted soldiers. They are slow, swing slow, turn slow, and then dead. Oh, I forgot, cavemen can also hit you, because they have mindboggingly fast attack. Thats it, cavemen and ranged enemies. While it does need some time getting used to, with the two-hander earth sword you find about half of the gametime, you dish out at least about 300 damage each swing, up to 800 from your horse (with maxed skill, no super attack). Ranged enemies don't do more than 24 damage apiece, except for a boss. Cavemen do about 40-50 damage (with almost maxed armor, dressed as a don). I had almost 900 HP when the game ended, and wasn't specced to max hp. Guess what, I didn't pay attention to my HP-meter while mounted, as it never got low enough for that! Considering that you get 1-9k for a quest, and maximum of 60 experience points for an enemy, I didn't even stop for them after a while.

Items: well, imagine this: after you find some beefy earth-made replica weapons at about 1/3 or 1/2 of the game, you'll only find one two-handed sworld and a light rapier that is better in terms of sheer damage. (But the earth items five bonuses to skills, so...) In terms of armor, its better, there is a good selection up till about 60-80% of the game, where you find the best of them, from then on, its only about levelling to be able to use them. Of course, because of the dressing mechanic, you'll probably carry at least 2 or 3 different sets of clothes.

I leveled Diplomacy skill to 11, which is for getting better deals for stuff and important in about... 2(!) main quests. Mind you, adding only 1 per level, I failed the roll for one of those. Due to this, and the mounted combat, I finished the game with about 100k gold, and couldn't spend it. There were no better armor, only a load of potions to buy. I even had multiple wardrobes in my inventory and half a dozen of the best horses scattered around the world, (due to bugs + accidental irreversible mis-click,) each at about 10k apiece. I bought up all armor and weapon damage modding items, and still had this much to spare. Again, after a while I stopped fighting random mobs for their treasure, because I had more money than the kingdom and the best stuff available.

There are quite many quests that would need a second look. The designers never though beyond the first solution. Add some more inventory checks, so the main character does not ask for things already in his possession, etc. Not a bug or balance question, but while at that, add more anternative paths as well. Right now there are maybe half a dozen, (not counting the do-or-die, or do-or-not paths,) two of which are for selecting the ending. Oh, and the ending only depends on the last two in a 10 minute span.

Also, there is zero alternative, the story and questline is the standard zero-choice one. No alternative as thief-boss, reverend monk, only one questline.

As for design problems... I know some friends, who mistook the 'mackintosh' order for a iMac order, so wording, especially in this universe.

As for the story, I'm really interested whether the still alive original creator of the world had any say in it, as it has some relevations that would answer some fundamental questions of the Noon Universe still unanswered. My take is that he didn't. It's just too plain, blatant and outspoken relevation for that.

To sum up, Hard to be a God was good at first, but didn't manage to live up to the name. The first half of story is quite good but it comes with an atrocious end, no chices, zero balancing or testing. But nice.

No comments: