A review by: stillman
When judging, I always consider an art project's main goal. Though I will focus on negatives in this review, the PoE team has excelled in their goal of making a remarkable d2 clone. Thus, I grant them high marks.
However, some backfiring effects crop up during play. First, I find myself all Diablo'd out, so perhaps a game too much like d2 provides little in terms of new experiences. Secondly, a lesson comes to mind: just because d2 had a feature doesn't mean it's purely good and ought to be immortalized. For example, do players still enjoy collecting obligatory objects declared special (by the devs, not us) and combining them to progress to the next MacGuffin? If a game is about interaction between your build and the mobs, why not leave the useless collection pieces out? Is navigating a maze, reaching countless dead ends, and backtracking the type of "skill" we want to employ?
And while the flask system is a huge improvement over d2's potion belt tedium, I find both games revolve entirely around liquid management. This feels pitiful from a supposedly heroic viewpoint and downright nagging. I want to fight, not sip away to maximize advantage. Picking up the next bigger-numbered flask is quite the no-brainer, another "skill" players find boring. These aRPGs involve countless eye saccades to the corner of your screen. You live there. Optimal progress is achieved by blundering your way into trouble like an idiot and hitting the flask buttons endlessly. The obsession should lie elsewhere, like with swords, armor, monsters' weaknesses, character position, or the like--not juggling glass containers.
Regarding story, PoE struggles to find its own theme. Even the acts lack their own identity. While I enjoy the dreary beaches and watery caves that cleverly introduce the continent idea, Acts 1 and 2 are typical outdoor areas with plenty of plant life, rocks and fauna. Act 3 is...also plant life, rocks and stuff. It gets repetitive.
Meanwhile, PoE's monsters are a motley collection of tropes conjured from a thousand video games before it, only there because they look scary. D2, at least, had a constant demonic theme; even the undead and beasts were explained as part of the infernal scourge plaguing the land with the passage of a unifying boss. PoE's cast of monsters are just random baddies. Some fresh ideas have seeped into the game, though, like the animated statues in Act 3. If only the other monsters had a sensible reason for attacking you exclusively.
While the monster density is perfect, they could have gone with a central theme like, I don't know, undead island, where most foes have a zombie, spectral, or reanimated aspect. Or, how about abomination atrocity, where levels of secret breeding chambers are unearthed, and mutated, overgrown monstrosities rampage for centuries after escaping their master breeders? But no, they went with a random, causeless mishmash.
Relatedly, another lesson comes to mind: scary things aren't scary anymore. I realize the PoE creators were boxed into making a strong horror theme reminiscent of d2. However, this ill-fated goal has been rendered impossible with their target audience's overexposure to horror over the past few decades. Today, artists are hard pressed to find horror that is actually horrifying. One must look to psychological assaults rather than creepy caves and graves.
Let me explain. Revelation that you are doomed to go senile is scary. A giant spider is not scary. Never hearing from a loved one when they promised to call three days ago is scary. An electric skeleton is not scary. Getting an anonymous, detailed angry death threat when you've done nothing wrong to anyone is scary. Darkness is not scary. Your disabled kid getting conscripted into an army is scary. A skull isn't scary. Seeing small tumors grow bigger each week is scary. Blood isn't scary.
Thus, filling a game with tentacles, bodies, and bones for scariness sake when there is no chance to scare anyone seems fruitless. You can see their desperation in the last stage, where mountains of emaciated bodies provide little else but oneupmanship against Diablo and reverence to Nazi death camp photos. It's great they had the guts to go the distance with atmosphere, but adding more bodies won't scare anyone. I must admit, though, I said "bravo!" whenever encountering something inserted for adults.
Regarding gameplay, I find there are too many champion packs, often two groups of them together. They just take longer to kill, adding nothing more to the mix. I am only in the second difficulty, and a boss or champ pack pokes around every corner. Sometimes, you just want to vent on a mob or test how a new skill point or item changes the pace. You can't really find an opportunity.
You can't get a true feel of certain skills. I have no idea if my Duelists' investment in stun effects is helping out, or if it's the improved gear that gets me by. I deleted him and built a bow Shadow, but the faster projectiles and attack speed gains feel imperceptible.
Everyone in Wraeclast--doesn't that sound too much like...Warcraft?--is a poet. Or, more likely, one poet wanted every NPC to be like him because it's easier than writing a diverse cast. Oh well, fantasy games are a realm where poetic discourse makes sense. While I find the heroes' quips fun and better written, they are inconsistent and sporadic leading to long stretches of silence.
I realize the game is incomplete, but the end boss basically says, "No one killed you yet? Huh. Well...ughh. I may as well do it myself then, I guess. While you're here and everything." Not much build up or intensity there. I don't even know who she is. Maybe if the townsfolk didn't read their lines painfully slow in a fast paced game, I would keep listening.
Despite all this, PoE has a great feel to its gameplay. Towns are tighter, because time is tighter for all of us these days. The foes I complain about are crisp and real, always a treat to engage. The new currency system shows how this truly is a game for grownups who must problem solve and plan. And, oh, what a relief to just kill some mobs without having to run too far. I think my biggest problem is simply being worn out by years of d2.
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Thread: PoE General Review Thread
07-02-2013, 02:17 #1
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PoE General Review Thread
07-02-2013, 03:03 #2
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Re: PoE General Review Thread
I agree with a bunch. Just to comment on your comments...
I don't actually mind the flasks here, I've found them working out well for me (although, admittedly, I'm only on the first difficulty still. Maybe it gets worse. Or maybe it's much worse with a mellee job, which I'm not).
The "horror" scenes don't scare me, but I think they did a good job of getting some really atmospheric places in (although I agree that the plants and wildlife picture goes on a bit much). The beach and first act succeed, for me, in almost every way D3 failed. I definitely agree that all of the things you're fighting, for the most part, seem like a really random assortment though...
The story does seem lacking a lot. I think it's really amusing that that doesn't bother me solely because the only game I'm comparing this to, really, is D3. The story here isn't shoved down my throat so... it's somehow 1000% more tolerable to me. I really wish they'd done a bit better with it though... going the extra mile with a coherent story and coherent theme/set of enemies would have really turned the game into something great.
I don't know how I feel about the super small "towns". It is nice to not have to run around, but still. I find myself kind of wishing they were at least a /touch/ bigger.
As for Wraeclast sounding like Warcraft, I noticed that. My initial reaction was that it was done intentionally. You know, world of wraeclast and all that.
It's a shameless D2 clone, upped in several respect. It does a fantastic job of that imo. I feel a bit embarrassed for playing such an obvious clone at times... but then, for now at least, I find myself having enough fun that I forget about that.
I'm not sure how much they plan on genuinely changing between open beta and the actual "launch". With it's flaws as is though, I still feel they probably deserve ten or fifteen of my dollars. More, probably, but I'm stingy.
07-02-2013, 10:41 #3
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Re: PoE General Review Thread
Now, the world needs heroes to set things right! This game can keep me occupied all day.
Last edited by stillman; 07-02-2013 at 10:53.
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