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xzar_monty

Challenge level in the game (NOT difficulty settings)

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Yesterday, I had another example of the kind of writing in Deadfire that leaves me baffled as to who this game is designed for. I mean, is the intention to hold the player's hand to such an extent that he absolutely cannot fail?

 

My previous example was this:

 

In a cave, on an island, there is a symbol that causes problems. However, in that very same cave, before ever reaching the symbol, you can quite conveniently pick up a wardstone that makes you immune to that symbol. Ho hum, I thought, wasn't that nice. Obviously the folks who set up the trap also gave you a way of avoiding said trap, clearly that's what you do when setting up traps...

 

The latest example was this:

 

Upon some battlements, on an island, there is a mechanical device that is stuck. The game suggests that the situation could possibly be helped by some grease or oil. At this point I thought: "Hey! I'll head straight to the kitchen whose door I have already seen, I'm sure there's some oil there." And then, after pressing "End" to leave the interaction scene, Aloth quite conveniently piped up: "Hey, maybe we'll find some oil in a kitchen."

 

To an extent, this last example is reasonable: Aloth is smart, and he would think of that.

 

But still. Why is this game written like this? Obsidian have left NO joy of discovery for the player, and no sense of satisfaction for solving a problem, even a very small one. Everything is handed on a plate. Why?

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But still. Why is this game written like this? Obsidian have left NO joy of discovery for the player, and no sense of satisfaction for solving a problem, even a very small one. Everything is handed on a plate. Why?

I'm not sure what the problem is. There's always a balance to strike between telling people what to do and letting them discover. Lean too far in one direction and you're hand-holding. Lean too far in the other and you're obfuscating for the sake of obfuscation, which is not challenge, but just artificially inflating difficulty.

 

I never felt Deadfire held my hand. It did guide me, which I like, because spending two hours looking for the specific NPC I need to converse with to advance the quest is just bad design. Aloth piping up about oil is just your party members interacting with you. I don't know about you, but I prefer my companions to offer opinions and solutions, rather than being mindless automata who add nothing to the game beyond useless quips.

 

In the first instance, if we're referring to the sandswept ruins, there is the execution room there, but there's also the awesome scripted interaction with the tomb and sand burial. That was neat and wasn't handholding - and neither was the long, long corridor of traps with varied skill requirements.

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But still. Why is this game written like this? Obsidian have left NO joy of discovery for the player, and no sense of satisfaction for solving a problem, even a very small one. Everything is handed on a plate. Why?

In the first instance, if we're referring to the sandswept ruins, there is the execution room there, but there's also the awesome scripted interaction with the tomb and sand burial. That was neat and wasn't handholding - and neither was the long, long corridor of traps with varied skill requirements.

 

 

Nope, haven't been to a place like that. It's a cave with critters inside. They have a symbol of some kind for protection, but that same symbol is rendered meaningless by the fact that before reaching the symbol, you can pick up a wardstone for it, thus making the whole thing powerless.

 

I agree that stuff like this is subjective. But can you give me an example of a situation where the game actually requires that you come up with a solution for a problem? Instead of the game handing it for you. (I can think of just one. But then I haven't finished the game yet.)

Edited by xzar_monty

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Interesting I felt the same thing about the 1st Pillars - they abandoned puzzles, riddles and hunting for more in-depth narrative, which at first was strange but in the end I super enjoyed the game more than any other RPG out recently (i haven't played all of them by a long shot).

 

I can't say 100 percent for sure and it could be just because of my commitment to POE2, but I am enjoying it more than the first and it goes even another step towards making the game simple.  My best guess it that it is most likely for younger people playing for the first time which is awesome :)  Not sure how the game rating and nudity plays into that ...

Edited by aaronghowell

“How do you 'accidentally' kill a nobleman in his own mansion?"

"With a knife in the chest. Or, rather, a pair of knives in the chest...”

The Final Empire, Mistborn Trilogy

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Nope, haven't been to a place like that. It's a cave with critters inside. They have a symbol of some kind for protection, but that same symbol is rendered meaningless by the fact that before reaching the symbol, you can pick up a wardstone for it, thus making the whole thing powerless.

I don't recall that location.

 

I agree that stuff like this is subjective. But can you give me an example of a situation where the game actually requires that you come up with a solution for a problem? Instead of the game handing it for you. (I can think of just one. But then I haven't finished the game yet.)

Pallegina's companion quest, for instance, Beast of Winter and deciding what to do with the people you encounter, generally every decision point. I'm not exactly sure we're talking about the same thing, though. I've never been big on "find item X" or "complete a basic puzzle" elements, which feel like gimmicks (if you played KOTOR, remember the idiotic tower puzzle?), what I love are problems in the story and the themes, so I have a different perspective. Coming up with a solution that doesn't wreck Deadfire and is optimal - in the context of my characters - now that is a challenge, truly.


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It's a bit on the rails compared to say Divinity 2, but I find it more playable than most RPGs. My biggest gripe with exploration quests is the lack of puzzles and intellectually challenging quests...but Beast of Winter shows Obs can do it.

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It's a bit on the rails compared to say Divinity 2, but I find it more playable than most RPGs. My biggest gripe with exploration quests is the lack of puzzles and intellectually challenging quests...but Beast of Winter shows Obs can do it.

 

I have seen one puzzle, and there are no intellectually challenging quests, simply because answers and solutions are handed to you in a way which makes it almost impossible to fail. For example: in one room, there is a piece of clothing. How convenient, then, that next to this piece of clothing is a diary entry saying "If I wear this piece of clothing, certain critters will mistake me for someone else". Sheesh, I thought. Also: who writes down stuff like this? That bit is flawed in two ways: 1) you are given the answer before you even knew there was a question, and 2) the answer is handed to you in a way that makes a character in the game look completely fake and artificial. (Of course that person IS artificial, but it shouldn't be stressed like this.)

 

@Tagaziel: We're talking about different things, yes.

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I don't have a problem with Arkemyr's robe, primarily because we are not given any idea as to the fact that we can use the robe to fool the imps until we actually run into them and are either kicked out of the mansion or aggro everything, which prompts a reload. In this case, it'd be less a challenge and more trial and error.


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Unfortunately there will always be some restrictions to our freedom in isometric RPGs, since the mechanics themselves prohibit some actions (you can’t say, bar the doors to Deadlight and set it ablaze, or jump overboard and swim to the hidden dock right away) and the devs need to think in advance of every move the player can make. However you’re right that they could be a little bit less obvious with the choices they give, since there is great enjoyment in finishing a quest in a way that’s your own. For example look how excited people get over their strategies in Xcom (I know, completely different game but I’m talking about psychological effect it has on players) and even something as simple as blowing the cover with one character to snipe the targets behind it with another feels very rewarding; and it feels rewarding because it feels like something of your own, something outside the box. That’s why it’d be nice to see at least two „hidden” ways of dealing with the quests, apart from the obvious ones. Especially that Obsidian already did this: one instance that comes to mind is when in New Vegas you must deal with some gun traders. They take your guns at the entrance at the door but you can just buy new ones inside and immediately use them to cause carnage. Or better yet, steal grenades from the shelves and start throwing them all over the place. Simple, but because nobody told you to do it, you feel much better, like you broke the system somehow.

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Exactly. I fully understand that it's a balancing act, and not a particularly easy at that, because the game mechanics restrict the developers quite a lot. Also, the fact that all dialogue choices are made from a number of possible options (and not by typing in text) is another restriction: the developers can't really write stuff that requires you to type in the real solution, they have to give the right answer as one of the options you can choose. (So, any logical verbal puzzles can by definition be solved by trial and error even if you have no clue about the answer. I am not sure if there is a way around this problem, other than modifying the engine.)

 

However, I still think this could be done a lot better. It feels a bit cheesy to be given the right answer so obviously and so generously, in a way that I realistically cannot fail to understand what the solution is.

Edited by xzar_monty

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It's a bit on the rails compared to say Divinity 2, but I find it more playable than most RPGs. My biggest gripe with exploration quests is the lack of puzzles and intellectually challenging quests...but Beast of Winter shows Obs can do it.

I have seen one puzzle, and there are no intellectually challenging quests, simply because answers and solutions are handed to you in a way which makes it almost impossible to fail. For example: in one room, there is a piece of clothing. How convenient, then, that next to this piece of clothing is a diary entry saying "If I wear this piece of clothing, certain critters will mistake me for someone else". Sheesh, I thought. Also: who writes down stuff like this? That bit is flawed in two ways: 1) you are given the answer before you even knew there was a question, and 2) the answer is handed to you in a way that makes a character in the game look completely fake and artificial. (Of course that person IS artificial, but it shouldn't be stressed like this.)

 

@Tagaziel: We're talking about different things, yes.

Agreed xzar they dumbed the quests down in the main game. Edited by Verde

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Agreed xzar they dumbed the quests down in the main game.

Dumbed down compared to what? I agree, that sometimes the multitude of possible ways of approaching a quest can be delivered in a hamfisted way. Is there any point in BG2 or PoE where one had to think on how to resolve a quest?

 

Deadfire delivers a much more complex and flexible quests than both of those games. I do agree that they way some of the soluti9ns are presented could be better handled. But it is hardly handholding or “dumbing down”.

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Agreed xzar they dumbed the quests down in the main game.

Dumbed down compared to what? I agree, that sometimes the multitude of possible ways of approaching a quest can be delivered in a hamfisted way. Is there any point in BG2 or PoE where one had to think on how to resolve a quest?

 

Deadfire delivers a much more complex and flexible quests than both of those games. I do agree that they way some of the soluti9ns are presented could be better handled. But it is hardly handholding or “dumbing down”.

How are the quests flexible? I find them rigid and nonsensical. Poko Horo for example. You can't give the notes to the Chief if you disable the adra?! What?! That's the one person I DO want to give it to!

 

Another example is finding the mosaic in the underground. Why is the only option to tell you know who where it is?! I only went down there to loot and Tekehu doesn't want me to tell!

 

There are some good pts later on I will say, depending on which side you choose. But most quests have randomly rigid circumstances.

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I'd be interested to see whether or not OP's assessment changes after completing the game - as another user said, BoW is really well done in this regard. I also remember reading that the final Splintered Reef encounter can be completed peacefully if the player has a certain uncommon potion on hand, for which there is no in-game indication or setup/the solution has to be arrived at intuitively. 

 

As for the criticisms of the encounters you've seen so far, I agree that there's some handholding (Arkemyr's mansion would've been better off without the robe gimmick, tbh... even imps aren't that dumb). I just don't think Deadfire is uniquely egregious about it – BG2 was littered with helpful journals and often made sure to place handy crates full of blunt/nonmagical weapons when clay/magic golems were nearby, fire/acid arrows for trolls, potions of free action, etc. The ward stones can at least be justified narratively: if there are often wardstones found near their corresponding sigils, perhaps they're a component or byproduct of their creation. They also only work on one character and are consumed on use (IIRC; I usually just circumvent or destroy sigils from range and don't use wardstones that often), so they're not that crucial to moving forward. I'm not sure how much you've played, but there should be plenty of instances later on where you have to actively search for a wardstone to protect against a certain sigil or where there won't be one on the map at all.

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Well PoE1 had better choices imho. I think about the Lord Herron quest.

 

BoW is top notch story telling tho. Haven't played SSS yet. And there are some late game missions that are "oh wow!" in the way you can subvert morality *evil grin*

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I'd be interested to see whether or not OP's assessment changes after completing the game - as another user said, BoW is really well done in this regard. I also remember reading that the final Splintered Reef encounter can be completed peacefully if the player has a certain uncommon potion on hand, for which there is no in-game indication or setup/the solution has to be arrived at intuitively.

Well, if you know/remember that fampyrs can feed on adra to sustain themselves (PoE1/Ydwin IIRC), you can link that to the luminous adra potion you can make.

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I'd be interested to see whether or not OP's assessment changes after completing the game - as another user said, BoW is really well done in this regard. I also remember reading that the final Splintered Reef encounter can be completed peacefully if the player has a certain uncommon potion on hand, for which there is no in-game indication or setup/the solution has to be arrived at intuitively.

Well, if you know/remember that fampyrs can feed on adra to sustain themselves (PoE1/Ydwin IIRC), you can link that to the luminous adra potion you can make.

 

 

That's true; the game informs you by providing you with the lore. I meant no in-game indication/setup for that specific quest, e.g. leaving a journal lying around or having a character chime in with the clue (haven't taken Ydwin there). Either way, it's a good example of a smart quest resolution that doesn't rely on handholding :)

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BoW is very well in this regard? Where? : D

It’s hand-holding from start to finish, no agency, no branching, just short linear story. Good story and well written, but it’s always easy to write when you don’t have to account for players’ decisions. There is no smart thing to do with all 3 spirits, no puzzle to solve: just bum around their area collecting bits of lore and off you go. Not to mention that dialogues with Rymrgrand seem very odd, like his lines were written by different people on different days. One of my characters was huge fan of him and always did the most Rymrgrand thing to do and there is no option to express that; simple „whoo, Big R, awesome to see you man! What needs destruction today?” would suffice.

Characters that side with life also don’t have much to say: beside stupid taunting of a literal god you can’t say nothing. Why can’t a pro-animancy Watcher investige (or at least express the will to investigate) the device that allowed to defy the god of death and reach a state of nigh immortality? Or say as a goodbye something along the lines „You know, kith will end you one day. By the power of our minds, our science and our magic even death will die” instead if childish „Why are you such a jerk?” You know why he is a jerk: he’s been a **** for centuries!

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I always thought the base game of POE was way better than both White March expansions - I was always slightly disappointed they introduced all the soulbound weapons and extra level abilities, not that it wasn't a great addition - but I really thought the base game was where ti was at in terms of story, gameplay and itemization.

 

As for POE2 - I think the handholding is a misconception - sure it can give you the answer in seconds, but there is always another way and the fun isn't that you have to find the other way, but that if you spend time exploring and searching it becomes evident - they just added simplicity for those who just want to roll on through.

 

I would trade puzzles for the type of in-depth quest narrative and decisions making that the franchise offers, I haven't played Beasts of Winter - but I will add that POE2 reminds me of the White March more than it reminds me of the base game ... in terms of the way the areas are structured and the more fantasy/god orientated characters / quests / magic weapons - its just that POE2 is better :)


“How do you 'accidentally' kill a nobleman in his own mansion?"

"With a knife in the chest. Or, rather, a pair of knives in the chest...”

The Final Empire, Mistborn Trilogy

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Nobody here does this i know. Its cool. But yeah. People have been googling puzzle spoilers since ff7 gold chocobo breeding. Dont tell me devs need to add riddles, puzzles and clever stuff when players save scum or google for the best possible solution.

 

As a gamer i can still blame day one micro transactions or meaningless achievements. However i can not blame devs for removing puzzles, secrets and overall cleverness in exchange for 200 consecutive lightning dodges or collect 5000 whale dongers. We responsible for that one.

 

Again i know nobody does it. Yeah. Gotcha.

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„We are”

And not really: video game puzzles always have been insultingly easy so the only people searching for answers were children. And just because some of your audience spoil the fun for themselves doesn’t mean you need to get rid of the fun altogether. Should writers don’t include any mystery in their books because some idiots just jump to the last page before actually reading all of the story?

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„We are”

And not really: video game puzzles always have been insultingly easy so the only people searching for answers were children. And just because some of your audience spoil the fun for themselves doesn’t mean you need to get rid of the fun altogether. Should writers don’t include any mystery in their books because some idiots just jump to the last page before actually reading all of the story?

 

No, they have not always been insultingly easy.

 

To give you a couple of examples: in Ultima IV, way back, the solution to the final mystery in the game was not to be found within the game at all, i.e. nobody ultimately told you what it was, you had to figure it out yourself. This is superb. Also, you had to type it in, not choose from among a number of options. The solution was not difficult, but it also wasn't insultingly easy.

 

In Baldur's Gate II, the mathematical puzzle given in the circus tent was not insultingly easy. It required a decent understanding of logic, and some capacity for calculation. Granted, you had the opportunity to not actually solve it by save-scumming and choosing one of the available options per save, and if that's how you wanted to go about it, fine. I absolutely didn't, and I remember spending about five minutes figuring it out. I loved it. Getting it right gave you a real sense of accomplishment. That puzzle could be considered "insultingly easy" only if you have a PhD in math or physics.

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BoW is very well in this regard? Where? : D

It’s hand-holding from start to finish, no agency, no branching, just short linear story. Good story and well written, but it’s always easy to write when you don’t have to account for players’ decisions. There is no smart thing to do with all 3 spirits, no puzzle to solve: just bum around their area collecting bits of lore and off you go. Not to mention that dialogues with Rymrgrand seem very odd, like his lines were written by different people on different days. One of my characters was huge fan of him and always did the most Rymrgrand thing to do and there is no option to express that; simple „whoo, Big R, awesome to see you man! What needs destruction today?” would suffice.

Characters that side with life also don’t have much to say: beside stupid taunting of a literal god you can’t say nothing. Why can’t a pro-animancy Watcher investige (or at least express the will to investigate) the device that allowed to defy the god of death and reach a state of nigh immortality? Or say as a goodbye something along the lines „You know, kith will end you one day. By the power of our minds, our science and our magic even death will die” instead if childish „Why are you such a jerk?” You know why he is a jerk: he’s been a **** for centuries!

You have a major choice on how to handle the DLC's antagonist. And there is def no hand holding in the various puzzles. Did you play the DLC?! There are several threads asking for help re: draining the water and the bridges ablaze. There is nothing remotely this stimulating in the vanilla game. Nor is there anywhere near the quality storytelling, which is quite subpar in the maingame. Edited by Verde

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xzar_monty I didn’t play Ultima, I barely know that name by some mentions in Zero Punctuation. That puzzle in BG2 is truly great, but that’s still more exemption rather than rule. And it’s not like people were massively looking for answers via Internet/magazines, like this guy above said, but rather either did this on their own or accepted that they’ll not solve it. It wasn’t a problem that devs adressed by dumbing the games down, but rather a great feature that was stripped down. And also puzzles are only one aspect of our issue, right? We’re talking also about general approach to giving clues, quest marks and other aides.

 

Verde, kill or not kill is not a major choice: it’s a joke. Especially that it doesn’t change a thing: you get the same ending and items either way. You just miss out on a good fight that way. And the ”puzzles” in this DLC are (as I said) just buming around each area until you find all pieces of lore. The only reason people need help with it is because many people are idiots. You’d need to be seriously inebriated to have any sort of problem with it. Getting lost in Bridge Ablaze because of poor area design does not count as „puzzle”. Simple fire puzzle in Engwithan Digsite is more „stimulating” than that because you actually need to read the plate above and connect it to the shields in the other room.

And yeah: BoW has nice storytelling. But it would be insulting if a 2-3h story with no branching had anything less. Try giving this quality to a plot with at least two viable routes, than we can talk about really good story.

Edited by Zaris
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The story missions in Deadfire are 2-3 hrs w no branching paths

Edited by Verde
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