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After what seems like an eternity dreams come true! Hopes and Fears about Obsidian’s Project Eternity

September 16, 2012

 

Thanks to   lovely Milady over at Hypercriticism, I stumbled over Obsidian Entertainment’s newest project dubbed “Project Eternity”. Currently the project is funded through Kickstarter and has already reached $1,282, 377 (as I am writing this), meaning the base goal for the game (“Base game includes three races, five classes, and five companions”) has been achieved, and it still has 30 days of the Kickstarter fundraiser to go.

 

So for those of you who did not follow the links above (you should really do that!), I’ll give a quick recap of what Project Eternity is other than it being developed by the awesome company named Obsidian Entertainment. Project Eternity is trying to give us back some old magic from great RPG titles like Baldur’s Gate and Planescape: Torment (also by Obsidian and the developers working on this game). It promises and this is me quoting from Kickstarter:

 

Project Eternity will take the central hero, memorable companions and the epic exploration of Baldur’s Gate, add in the fun, intense combat and dungeon diving of Icewind Dale, and tie it all together with the emotional writing and mature thematic exploration of Planescape: Torment.

Combat uses a tactical real-time with pause system – positioning your party and coordinating attacks and abilities is one of the keys to success. The world map is dotted with unique locations and wilderness ripe for exploration and questing. You’ll create your own character and collect companions along the way – taking him or her not just through this story, but, with your continued support, through future adventures. You will engage in dialogues that are deep, and offer many choices to determine the fate of you and your party. …and you’ll experience a story that explores mature themes and presents you with complex, difficult choices to shape how your story plays out.”

 

So why am I so excited about this (other than being a huge fan of Obsidian and their games)? First of all a Kickstarter fundraiser is really a great opportunity for us gamers to show what kind of games we like and it gives Obsidian free reins in their development as their funders are not money hungry suits, but gamers like you and me! So finally we get a great game made for gamers and not the money hungry suits! It also very much ties into my desire of wanting a more “old school” RPG to play that is not only about action (DA2 and ME2 & 3) and with a complex character advancement path like in the NWN-series (just please add a good tutorial and help panel for it!), probably why I find myself (re)playing NWN2 and Civilization 5 Gods & Kings, while everyone is drooling over Diablo 3 and what have you (not that any of the choices is better than the other mind you).

 

So needless to say I have some great hopes, but also some fears about Project Eternity. The switch back to some more “old school” RPGs is something that I hope will revive the interest of other developers to make these kinds of games (so that I shall not always be stuck babysitting Bishop and Khelgar in NWN2 as they insist that if they try walking long enough through that wall, a shortcut will open up to them) and thus giving us a wider variety of games in the form that we have heavily story-focused games and more action-focused games in the RPG genre. The more different games we have to choose from the better in my opinion as it enriches the genre as a whole. My fears of course are that Obsidian might overestimate the success of their Kickstarter fundraiser and their previous titles and end up with a game that was supposed to be more of a niche game, due to it by its design choices at least at the moment seeming far more tactical than action oriented and being “old school”, but everyone wanted it to be something more, thus damaging future efforts of bringing “old school” RPGs back, because a great company like Obsidian failed at it. Kind of like most seem to refer in WoW to Cata’s so called “failure” in the first months, trying to introduce a more TBC like dungeon environment, which ended up back-firing as many people seemed to leave the game, when explaining how a TBC styled WoW will never come back (something I don’t agree with).

 

I also really hope for the combat to be as tactical as the developers sound it to be, as I am a huge fan of strategy in my games and always like to experiment with the pause option in mid- combat. Though I fear that we either get a very action oriented combat, where the “pause” is rarely used (ME2 & 3 as well as DA2) or where you by using it can trivialize the game. In Dragon Age: Origins where the latter was the case I could easily do all of the harder thrash packs and bosses by letting my characters “run the treadmill”. Whoever had aggro on the boss would be running and kiting the boss and or adds while the others dealt the hurt. This ended up making most of the fights monotonous and rather boring. So my hope is that the combat finds a nice middle spectrum between both of these extremes, yet I can’t say I am not worried about it not happening. A good and fun combat is after all very important to the game as even in story-focussed games there will be a lot of it. An example of why this is important was during my beta sessions of TSW where the investigation missions (basically really, really hard riddles in multiple steps that you have to solve by using bible references or off hand comments). It was really fun to sit and try to solve this riddle for 3 hours but once you solved it the reward of solving the riddle was just not tangible, as instead of playing the game actively you sat there passively trying to solve the riddle. Whereas if you have a really tough boss fight or trash pull you are actively playing the game while trying to overcome your adversary, which in the end makes it more fun, by virtue of being active and not passive.

 

For the story my hope is that it really features choice and consequence on a never before seen scale (something I admit is very unlikely). In a perfect world the story would not consist of one story but of several stories within the main story. Modern and older RPGs usually have tried giving us this promise that our choices in the game matter and change the story, but usually it ends up being quite the opposite. For example it has no real consequence in the game which choices you made in DA: O while recruiting the nations to your cause. You either kill one of the dwarven throne proponents or your elected King does, either you kill the mages by annulling the Circle or you save them etc. all it changes is which units you have at your disposal in the last battle and the epilogue at the end. Now I shall not bash at the epilogue, I had a very beautiful funeral (I cried, thank you Allister for you wonderful speech I forgive you for being such a big whiny fool) and all that but making all the consequences of your choices appear in the epilogue is a bit cheap. Even my beloved NWN2 does this by making you for example always fight Lorne after your trial whether you win the trial or not. I would like to see an option where your choices in game make you take different paths through the game’s story not available to others, who made different key choices. Of course this would mean the game’s budget would shoot through the roof and thus it is unlikely to happen, but something I really yearn for as it might be one of the first RPGs I really enjoy to replay after my first time of completing the story. Of course my fear and probably the reality is that these choices we are promised in the story are in fact no real choices with real consequences but merely something I like to call choices with a “cosmetic consequence”, like do I have elven archers or werewolves fighting at my side in the last battle. A choice, which at the end of the day does not really influence the storyline at all.

 

Thinking about the future I also hope this games sequels will not do the idiocy other sequels namely Bioware’s have done by completely ignoring and eradicating player choices from the prequels (Rachni queen in ME3) for the sake of symbolism, as was done in ME3, where we walked in the footsteps of Mass Effect (1) on Feros and Eden Prime for instance. Or that they try to change the gameplay into something the previous title was not. I’m here thinking about the far more tactical gameplay of  DA: O and ME that got changed into a fast paced slaughter of enemies in the sequels and in my opinion cheapened the story and is to blame a lot for the absence of really hard decisions in the story line. Dragon Age 2 particularly was like a movie in that regard, in that I do the combat and then enjoy cinematic conversations with no choice in how the story pans out. And the same can be said of ME2, where the only really interesting choice like in DA2 came at the end, do I destroy/conserve the Reaper prototype in ME2 and do I side with the Mages or Templars in DA2.

 

But right now it’s a bit too soon to worry about those things! I can merely recommend that if you are a fan of the “old school type” RPGs you head over to the kickstarter site and help with the funding of Project Eternity, the more money they raise the more things we get included into game (like a player house and new races)! Here’s for hoping our resurrection of “old school” RPGs is here and that they avoid some of the past mistakes in the RPG genre! And hopefully Obsidian Entertainment makes the best out of this opportunity!

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 16, 2012 10:19 pm

    Sounds like it might be interesting overall. Doesn’t say if it’ll have a toolset or multiplayer, which was the main draw of NWN for me. Also…

    “I’m here thinking about the far more tactical gameplay of DA: O and ME that got changed into a fast paced slaughter of enemies in the sequels and in my opinion cheapened the story and is to blame a lot for the absence of really hard decisions in the story line.”

    I don’t really get this.

    In ME, Soliders/Infiltrators popped Immunity and stood two feet from an enemy emptying round after round for a minute until the enemy died on Insanity.

    People with lots of powers often just spammed them as fast as they could to start.

    Major decisions…

    1. Rachni Queen
    2. Ashley v Kaiden
    3. Council

    In ME2, with the GCD on powers, you had to pick which one was most effective rather than spam them. You also had a rock/paper/scissors game of weapon types and power usage (like Heavy Pistols/Sniper Rifles and Incinerate were great against armor, Assault Rifles/Submachine Guns and Overload worked well on Shields/Barriers, etc).

    Major decisions…

    1. Whether to rescue your crew or wait
    2. Destroy or keep base

    So that’s one less “big” decision, I guess. But given the, what, 12 loyalty missions and the possibility of only picking up like 5 out of the 12 squadmates if you wanted, didn’t ME2 have a lot more smaller choices? And said choices would lead to the death or simply non-existence of the character in the third game.

    • September 17, 2012 6:15 pm

      Well all I can say is that I struggled far more on my Infiltrator in ME than in ME2 (I never play insanity or nightmare mode I usually just do the campaign on hard so I cant comment there) largely do to the fact that aiming in ME2 was reworked so Infiltrators had a slowmotion and what not, allowing the game to be far more action oriented. As far as the weapons go yes the system was there but once again completely ruined by the introduction of different ammo-types usually I could just sit in a orner on my Infiltrator never changing weapon and only occassionally ammo. ME3 managed to turn tht problem away nicely but it still felt like a action over story type of game, which in my opnion is a shame. And about the choices in ME2 only Nr. 2 seemed really a choice Nr 1 was already heavily enforced into saving the crew as it was the main motivator for the attack on the Collecter base. Not rescuing them always felt very artificial to me story wise. And even if the choices in ME where not Gods gift from above, you may even argue that they neither were real choices as they lacked consequence (Council will always be there, and the Rachni queen is not really dead), they at least felt in their own way to not enforce you storywise to chose one over the other. BUt those were just my impressions and I think DA: O to DA2 more clearly shows this tendency of action over story anyway than ME to ME2, but the trend is in them both

  2. September 18, 2012 5:45 am

    “Well all I can say is that I struggled far more on my Infiltrator in ME than in ME2 (I never play insanity or nightmare mode I usually just do the campaign on hard so I cant comment there)”

    Did you have trouble past level 10ish? One of the huge problems of ME was that Shepard, a highly trainer soldier, can’t shoot a sniper rifle as well as I can. And I’ve never even held one, let alone fired one, but I bet I could at least hit the broad side of a barn.

    But yeah, if you ever play ME again, you can easily do an Infiltrator focused on Pistols/Immunities and pulverize everything easily. If you’re curious, I can even record some gameplay of that.

    “As far as the weapons go yes the system was there but once again completely ruined by the introduction of different ammo-types usually I could just sit in a orner on my Infiltrator never changing weapon and only occassionally ammo.”

    Huh? Different ammo types provided further bonuses to different defenses – doesn’t that make the system even deeper? Also, how did you sit in a corner in ME2 without running out of thermal clips? In ME I tended to snipe a ton of stuff since I had no ammo worries, in ME2 I had to swap weapons a lot more.

    “And about the choices in ME2 only Nr. 2 seemed really a choice Nr 1 was already heavily enforced into saving the crew as it was the main motivator for the attack on the Collecter base.”

    But you had to balance that against the risk of squadmates dying if you weren’t ready (unless you knew about the IFF trap and put it off until you were completely ready). Which was one of ME2’s largest problems, I think.

    “BUt those were just my impressions and I think DA: O to DA2 more clearly shows this tendency of action over story anyway than ME to ME2, but the trend is in them both”

    I never played either Dragon Age, so I can’t say anything about that. I do like the ME series and ME2 is probably my favorite, followed by ME3 (except the ending), followed by ME.

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