January 02, 2017

Rings of Power - End Game

Wow, what an adventure.  And I mean that in an almost completely literal way.  RoP plays more like an adventure game with RPG elements.  Hrmm, elements might be too gracious a word — let's go with leavings.  The adventure portion, however, is chock full of all the trappings one would expect: fantastic nonlinear questing, tons of NPCs that repeat the same information over and over, and careful trip planning when trying to reach some remote key location.  I'm not sure what it says about a game when logistics is one of the most enjoyable parts of it, but there it is.  As Buc and crew gained wealth, they were slowly able to start affording more boat trips to journey to the far reaches of the world,  Eventually, they'd have enough coin to purchase food and water for the voracious dragon, whose power of flight made navigation so much easier, albeit much more expensive.

Won't be needin' this hunk o' junk anymore.

The nonlinear questing, while great, runs into a few problems maintaining its own narrative, usually due to key NPCs also saying the stock phrases from the common pool of whatever city they're from.  For example, the queen of Richii promises to help Buc find one of the rings, but first he must do a quest for her and find a lens for the city's observatory.  Since Richii is a scientifically based city, most people scoff at the notion of the rings of power even existing — including the queen if you continue to talk to her.

Pssst, hey queen, don't disparage
your one and only bargaining chip.

While the majority of the quests are fine in their execution, there are a few that can only be described as obnoxious.  One involves navigating a forest maze, looking to step on triggers which open up new pathways by removing a tree stump.  Okay, first off, having a maze when the game utilizes an isometric view is just a dick move, but wait, it gets worse.  About half the triggers are visible on screen but the rest aren't, which means bumbling around in hopes of hitting one.  Other than the first trigger, switching one removes or adds a stump out of view off-screen.  Yes, adds.  Hitting a trigger a second time will replace the stump.  And it will happen since the controls are so incredibly clunky.  The trigger sound effect is the same whether removing or adding, so if you're a clumsy oaf like I am and lose track of how many times a switch has been hit, you're fucked.  Exiting the maze and entering again does not reset the triggers either (I actually had to load a previous savestate).  I realize that the extra difficulty I had was because I didn't pay enough attention on my first attempt, but I'm talking about the how obnoxious each component is, not how difficult it is (really though, I just want to blame the game in order to cover my own inadequacies).  Another quest had me searching the bookcases of the Great Cathedral for scraps of parchment.  I had been told that one such scrap was near a corner, but I also knew that there was more than one piece to be gathered, so I ended up searching every single bookcase.  It wasn't that bad, there probably wasn't more than a hundred shelves to look through, but I was happy when I completed entire circuit.  No, my complaint is when a different quest had me searching the library at Oxbridge, which has considerable more knowledge than the Great Cathedral.

Woo hoo!  Time to get our research on, bitches!

Note how the library is also arranged like a maze, which no real library would ever do.  Nope, just done to be obnoxious.  Now, you can see from the pic that there's a guy in overalls, one of a couple of overall guys expanding their horizons.  One single figure looks different from the rest, wearing the white robes of the conjurer class, and who is addressed by name by the attendant at the entrance kiosk.  Obviously, this guy knows where to find what I'm looking for, right?  Nope, he sounds just like everyone else.  Well, I tried searching all the dead-end spots and the areas farthest from the entrance but came up with zilch.  I wasn't about to search every last bookcase (my nerdity only goes so far), so I abandoned this quest for a long time, but eventually came back to it and discovered that
one of the overall guys was my contact and the parchment I needed was near him.  Obnoxious, yes, but this example shows what I liked most about the whole questing structure — coming back to deal with almost forgotten quest lines or, even better, stumbling upon a lead which cracks an old quest wide open.  There's eleven rings of power to be had and each one has a multi-layered quest structure.  In addition, each character (other than Buc) has their own set of requirements.  It took me 12 hours to get the full party together and another 10 to find my first ring.  I had so many pages of notes that I thought for sure I'd be able to get all the rings no prob, Bob, but I only managed to get six before I starting running out of leads.  I bumbled around and managed to get two more due to luck more than anything else.  The last three I had to look up; I was very close for two of them and almost nowhere for the last one.  I don't feel bad for breaking a rule (*update: rules are for suckers anyway) since I never would have found one of the rings due to a bug.  During one of the quest paths, I freed some crazy guy from his insanity and he gave me info about meeting another dude.  Now, what was suppose to happen was a black priest showing up and attacking me before leaving the area, leaving behind a whip which is used later as the "symbol of despair" required by one of the guardians for the ring of thought.  For whatever reason, it didn't happen the first time, so I had to redo the quest, but I certainly would not have done that of my own accord.

Fine, I'll move on, but it only gets worse from here on in.

As good as the adventure portion is, RoP fails terribly at all other aspects one comes to expect from a RPG.  The combat — oh my lord — the combat.  Quite possibly the worst, the absolute worst, combat I've ever experienced since starting Inconsolable.  As I predicted, the AI didn't improve with more party members and continued to keep stinking up the combat arena/dance floor.  Moonwalking is prevalent amongst all combatants, sometimes "retreating" backwards right into a bundle of enemies.  Tactical decisions are likewise bereft of any logical consideration, doing things like beating down an enemy until he's almost dead, then focusing on someone else, even if it means pushing the near-dead enemy out of the way and walking halfway across the arena.

Here, the geniuses are ganging up on a confused 
bear, who is absolutely no threat, while leaving
the archer completely undefended.  Bravo, guys.

Input from the player is limited to individual spell selection and the general mood (level of aggressiveness) of the party.  Each class boasts a large choice of spells, which seems impressive at first until one realizes that most of the spells just do damage.  There are spells that do direct damage, "bullet" spells that attack from all directions, and spells that violently alter the terrain to injure the enemy.  While they look different, they all just do damage, and, worst of all, spell level has little do with damage amount.  A lot of the higher end spells end up doing as much damage as the first level spells.  However, there are a few overpowered spells which so completely outshine the rest of the character's repertoire that one would never bother to cast anything else.  The two most egregious examples are the enchanter's Frenzy spell and the conjurer's Blaze spell.  Both these spells affect all enemies and can do hundreds of points of damage while most spells struggle to crack twenty.  This huge gap was no doubt due to my propensity to set the mood to Berzrk, which increases damage while sacrificing defense.  The manual states that whilst berzrking, the characters will "stay on top of the enemy", which they interpret as forming a conga line with the enemy at the head.

Buc begins to doubt his choice in companions.

Hrmm, I just noticed that Buc's Confse spell (the rare non-damage spell that's actually useful) has no reason to be shortened since Predict managed to have its full seven characters.  So Berzrk could have had its missing vowel included as well?  And it's not like those are the only examples; the game is full of apparently unnecessarily hacked up words.  Even if Predict is special for whatever reason and gets a bonus letter, there's other examples of raping the English language within a six character limit.

Just drop the S and call it Weapon!
Arrghh! Why does this bother me so much!?!

Since there is no equipment and all combat revolves around spells, it's a shame that it wasn't done better.  The non-damaging spells fare no better, with spells that can shove enemies around the field, after which they'll just walk and engage a party member or just use a ranged spell (which the majority of spells are).  The necromancer's healing spells are also baffling in their level arrangement.  The level 4 Solace spell heals 12 damage per successful casting and he would often get multiple successes.  After level 4, the spells turn into "bullet" spells, with the level 5 Cure spell doing 1 point per bullet, which amounts to maybe 5 or 6 points total.  At the level 6 Health spell, it's still only 2 points per bullet but affects everyone in the party, therefore making it at least somewhat useful.  I wish I would have realized how damn useless most of the spells are before wasting a fuckton of coinage purchasing them.

Mr. Bear and I share the same mood regarding spells.

Leveling up raises HP and MP as well as enabling a character to cast higher level spells.  Very basic, but even a system this simple managed to crash and burn due to bugs.  At some point around midgame, I noticed that Buc's red HP bar had gone from being the largest to just a tiny sliver when combat started.  A single hit from almost any source would kill him and I stared at the screen in baffled bemusement.  It's not like there are items or anything that augment HP, it only increases from leveling — how do you fuck this up?  I ended up putting in a code to max Buc's HP, resisting the temptation to give him infinite.  A little while later, the same thing happened to the knight, the second character of the party.  I can only assume that if I continued to gain levels, the rest of party would also suffer the same fate.  One of the knight's spells (Dice) also seemed bugged, as it drained MP multiple times during a casting instead of just once.

At least the developers realized
they were crapping out a huge turd.

Needless to say, by the time I got all eleven rings together, I was quite ready to put RoP behind me, so I started making preparations for the final journey to the grand temple of Nexus, where I'd relinquish all the rings to him.  That left just enough time for the game to do one last obnoxious dick move.

Shit, even old school D&D
gives a saving throw vs. poison.

The final confrontation is against a group of dudes who look exactly like Buc's party, except they can cast higher level spells.  Still, I had Buc cast Mesmer (the group version of Confse), which took out half of them, and then Blazed and Frenzied the rest into death.  With Void's champions defeated, Buc then flies up into space, has a chat with Nexus, who decides to follow his brother Void and leave behind the earthly realm.  In his infinite wisdom, Nexus leaves the Rod of Creation with Buc, because it totally hasn't caused any problems in the past.  The first thing Buc does is destroy the temple of Nexus and replace it with a castle for himself to rule the world from.  Good choice, Nexus.

"Hmm, I think slavery and harems are
about to make a comeback — big time."