From The Ashes: Ara Fell

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Well, this was a surprise. I first played an early prototype version of Ara Fell years ago, long before I started this blog, when I had more time to scour the internet for free games. I delved into the vast catalog of games made with RPG Maker, and found a few gems (including Master of the Wind, which I’ve written about here). Ara Fell was one of the most memorable, with a beautiful world of floating islands, some nice twists on traditional Japanese-style role-playing game mechanics, and the beginning of an interesting tale. But, as with so many such projects, it was abandoned when its author realized it was too ambitious.

Then, out of the blue, I saw the news that Ara Fell was completed and on sale a couple of months ago (there’s also a demo available). I had to double-check to confirm that yes, this is indeed the same game that I tried all those years ago. Apparently the developers, Stegosoft Games (a four-person team containing the author of the original Ara Fell prototype) had been developing a different game and its engine, but this proved a little too much for them, so they were searching for a new project. Co-founder Stephen Anthony then opened up his old Ara Fell prototype for the first time in years, and decided that with his team at Stegosoft they could polish it up, rewrite the script, tweak everything, and actually finish it. Naturally, I decided to give this overhauled version a spin.

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Full Circle: System Shock Remake On Kickstarter (With Demo)

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Longtime readers may remember that one of the first posts I ever wrote for this blog was a History Lesson post about System Shock (back before I even had screenshots in my posts!). I played the 1994 game for the first time in 2010 or thereabouts, and it was a revelation. I was amazed that such an old game with such a clunky control scheme could be so immersive, eclipsing most games released before or since, and was shocked (har har) that it was not better known.

Well, it turns out I’m not the only one with such a high opinion of the game. Night Dive Studios recently acquired the rights to the franchise and made the original game available for purchase again — along with some (optional) modern improvements like the now-standard mouselook controls — in the form of System Shock Enhanced Edition. Now, they’ve decided to try their hands at a full-blown remake, with modernized graphics and all sorts of other tweaks and changes. They’ve taken to Kickstarter and are already funded with fifteen days to go at the time of writing, largely due to the strength of the pre-alpha demo.

Excited, I took said demo for a spin.

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All Your Vase Are Belong To Us: Apotheon

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I’m happy to report that Apotheon is not the first game I’ve played to feature art inspired by Ancient Greek vase painting. That honor belongs to ACE Team’s Rock of Ages (for which a sequel was recently announced). But Rock of Ages uses this style as only one of several periods in art history that players smash up with giant rolling boulders. Apotheon, by contrast, goes all in on the Ancient Greek theme, casting players as Nikandreos, a warrior fighting to save his village after it is forsaken by the Gods. Before long he meets Hera, who explains that Zeus is a dirtbag and enlists Nikandreos to raid Mount Olypmus itself to bring Zeus to his knees.

It’s also made by Alientrap Games, the developer responsible for Capsized, which I liked a lot. As such, Apotheon has been on my radar for a while, and I finally got around to playing it.

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On Learning

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I haven’t played Paradox Interactive’s grand spacefaring strategy game Stellaris, but I have enjoyed reading about it. It’s great at generating stories, like the one recently chronicled over at Rock, Paper, Shotgun. They’ve written a lot about the game, in fact. Writer John Walker, intrigued by comrade Adam Smith’s enthusiastic assessment of the game, decided to try it, despite his general dislike of and inexperience with strategy games. He wrote about his frustrations with its user interface and general obfuscation, concluding that “Stellaris, it turns out, doesn’t want new people. It wants people that already understand how to play Stellaris.”

After reading his account, however, I had a different conclusion: “Ah, so it’s like Dwarf Fortress, then?”

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Roguelike Updates: This Time It’s Personal

Readers unfamiliar with roguelikes may wish to read my introduction to the genre, and possibly peruse some of my Roguelike Highlights posts. And maybe read about why we might want to start calling them deathcrawls instead. Also, as always, you can click on images to view larger versions.

My favorite roguelike, Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup, has updated to v0.18.1. For many players, the most exciting part of this update may be the new god, Pakellas, who specializes in evokable devices like wands (and the associated changes to wands in the game). Or it might be the new monsters and items, or the revamped Charms spell school, or the changes to the Orcish Mines, Elven Halls and Abyss branches. It might even be the the improved interface graphics and tiles. But I will remember v0.18.1 for another reason: it was the version in which I had my first successful foray into the “extended game”, going beyond simply winning in favor of tackling the toughest challenges the game has to offer.

There will be spoilers in this post, like last time. And you’ll want to read that post too, if this post is to make much sense.

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Burn, Baby, Burn: Little Inferno

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I’m way behind on this one. Little Inferno, released in 2012, is the second game by the creators of the acclaimed World of Goo. Well, sort of. World of Goo was made by 2D Boy, consisting of Kyle Gabler and Ron Carmel, but only Kyle Gabler was involved in Little Inferno (along with Allan Blomquist and Kyle Gray). He was the designer, artist and composer for World of Goo, however, so most World of Goo fans were excited to try Little Inferno.

And most were disappointed, judging by the reviews I saw at the time. By all accounts, Little Inferno was a smaller and less interesting endeavor, which is probably why I skipped it at the time (looking now, however, it looks like it got a lot of praise; is my memory faulty?). Having acquired it since in some bundle or another, I gave it a go, and liked it more than I expected. I think it was simply ahead of its time.

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History Lessons: Final Fantasy

Other History Lessons posts (including my Introduction) can be found here. As always, you may click on images to view larger versions.

I’ve written about a lot of Japanese-style role-playing games on this blog, but most have been smaller, free offerings created with a tool like RPGMaker. I haven’t really dug into the big names, in part because they’ve traditionally been tied to console systems that I do not own. And when trying to take a historical look at games like Final Fantasy, the first entry into the phenomenally successful and long-running Japanese role-playing game series, this leads to another problem: while console games are often re-released so they won’t disappear along with the older consoles they ran on, they are often modified significantly in the process.

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