Friday, 12 February 2016

Star Trail: Home of Ingramosh

[Part of the Darklands of Arkania Story.]

The healer at Tjolmar cured Dalian's disease easily, and as per tradition, the team celebrated at a local tavern (with brothel services) and learned that Ingramosh, the dwarf they were supposed to deliver the Salamander Stone to was actually a resident of the town! It takes a bit of sleuthing to discover the correct house but upon finding it Korima is overcome by a sense of dread and leaves the team there and then.

That was sudden.

Behind the door they find the competing adventure party who had been pursuing them! It's a bloody combat in close quarters but since the party is properly armed this time they manage to slay all the opponents, avenging those who had fallen before them. This is also the only house with an interior map, and Allison soon finds out why: a secret door leads into vaults beneath the town!

Apart from poisonous plants, cave spiders and a cave troll that Dalian provokes just for fun there are also strange cultists living down here. It doesn't take long before the team's progress is blocked by solid doors that cannot be unlocked magically or busted down but more importantly it doesn't look like the team can rest in this vile place. They decide to head back topside to rethink their strategy.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Star Trail: Drug Addicts

[Part of the Darklands of Arkania Story.]

"High" priests? Either we're getting somewhere or these guys are stoned.

After many annoying hours of exploration and slaughter the team finally reaches what seems to be the main chamber where they run into three stooges: Hensger (far right), the robber who told them about Star Trail in the first place, and some dude with a red beard.

Definitely stoned.

Turns out the whole "find Star Trail" quest was a trick - an initiation for the robber guy to raise his rank in the order of Phex. Since there's an option to just leave at this point amicably, Shintar decides to take it, resulting in a non-combat conclusion to the whole affair and emerging outside the Temple of Phex in Tiefhusen. Gotta say that's a pretty stupid initiation though: the team literally just finished killing EVERY OTHER PRIEST in that place, just so one guy can get promoted. Phex is turning out to be the moron god of this land, and his followers are definitely drug addicts.

Worth noting that the team also left with a good deal of loot from there, most of it magical and one piece that was just strange...

What do you expect from this place? :P

After buying new weapons and selling the extras the party returned to the Tiefhusen healer who again proved his uselessness by being unable to cure Dalian of his disease. This time though, Wolfy also had no luck no matter what she tried. Not willing to lose yet another team mate Shintar decided to lead the team North to the next closest town, catching the river ferry to speed up travel time. Within a day they had reached Tjolmar.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Insurgency

One part counterstrike, one part frustration.

In this first person shooter you generally have to take and hold points, with little variation and a lot of shooting. It comes with good music, decent graphics and decent enough AI to enable full coop missions of 6-8 players, complete with in built voice chat which is pretty handy. I also quite like the notion of finding and destroying enemy caches to reduce their respawn numbers or make them weaker. You can also customize your load out a fair bit but what you can't do is ride any of the decorative vehicles in game - which is slightly annoying but forgivable.

It's important to note that this is a multiplayer game though, as only the training mission can be done solo. Furthermore, hosting requires a dedicated server so unless you have one lying around and know how to set it up, you and your buddies will have to share your gaming space with others. That's not really too bad though - this is one of those the more the merrier sort of deals.

 I wish we brought more dudes!

Where the game falls down a bit is in its respawn time. There is no life meter or HP in the game. Basically the more fire you take , even on the "forgiving" enemy AI level, the more likely you are to die. This is great if you are in cover but out in the open it usually means one shot insta-deaths. Because: Realism! (see here for a good argument as to why realism sucks :P)

I'm actually ok with that though. What's not OK is: "Your team will rapidly deploy once an objective is taken". Yep. Any dead players become spectators until the remaining team members can complete a task. The end result is a lot of waiting, for either that to happen or for everyone to die and have the map restart (which by default happens if you are trying to solo).

I suppose in the PvP mode (which I have no interest to try) this might work ala Counterstrike, but in coop you end up being idle for around half your game time. Why they didn't take the Battlefield series approach and just give a hard x seconds respawn timer, I don't know. Because of this severe flaw I can only give it two insurgents out of five and don't recommend it unless you are a die hard, realism FPS fan.

Monday, 8 February 2016

Star Trail: Phex Dungeon

[Part of the Darklands of Arkania Story.]

After resting up at the inns at Tiefhusen, the full team finds Hensger again and after paying him 20 ducats the shady man leads them into a dungeon in town and locks the entrance behind them! What a douche! With forward being the only valid option the team begins exploring the winding maze littered with secret doors that is the "Phex Dungeon" (according to the automap).

It also has the cover art from the first game on the walls.

The place is also inhabited by mummies, skeletons, skeleton warriors (tougher version) and priests that enjoy using blinding magic. It doesn't matter though as with the overly armed team steamrolls through everything the place throws at them, making use of the spare weapons they brought in as their primaries begin breaking. During one combat, Dalian contracts Battlefield fever though (I assume it means he thinks he's Rambo) - which makes all the back and forth mapping and puzzle solving a little time sensitive.

Memory mini game! :)

Good time to note that the combats are set and fixed, meaning after awhile the place really is emptied out yet still manages to be a frustrating exercise of navigating empty halls. An overwhelming despair finally hits some of the party.

You'd think this would happen more often!

Star Trail: On the Star Trail

[Part of the Darklands of Arkania Story.]

Just noticed that all those times the orcs took the party's stuff, they never touched their gold/ducat pile which has been growing nicely. Of course that doesn't mean others are leaving it alone...

Wolfy, kicking butt again.

Since the healer at Tiefhusen is useless when it comes to curing Cooper's frostbite, the team buys herbs from the local store themselves and Wolfy manages to cure her companion after some trial and error. While celebrating his recovery at a local tavern they meet a man named Hensger who offers to lead the team to the dungeon where Star Trail is - for a price.

Not willing to go into a new dungeon with half a team they instead decide to once again return to Kvirasim for reinforcements. The journey is surprisingly smooth, with no sign of the pursuing adventuring party anywhere. Perhaps the orcs got them?

They do meet a warrioress with a two handed sword on the road who offers to join the team for one silver per day. Without hesitation the team agrees and Korima is added to the roster.

She's been around.

Back at Kvirasim they also gain the warriors Dalian Tanker and Braxwolf Storm, as well as the magic wielding elf, Allison Nexus. Instead of departing immediately they spend a number of days in town while waiting for the market to return (it's only there one day per week) and are rewarded for their patience because all the best gear is apparently ONLY available in this town. Once they are armed and armored to the teeth they make the trek back to Tiefhusen - just in time too because apparently Kvirasimians are also racist and dislike elves.

Or Allison likes messing with people's balls.

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Star Trail: The Pursuers

[Part of the Darklands of Arkania Story.]

With a low number of rations and mostly beer for drinking the prospects of the party making it back to civilization from the cave they crawled out of was not good. The first few orc patrols that chased them were manageable, but soon another adventuring party was again tailing them - no doubt after the stone. I can only imagine the bastard vampire tipped them off.

Without proper equipment, winning a combat against them was out of the question so the team had no choice but to flee - hightailing it deep into the woods in hopes of losing them. This bought some time but also led the team right into a pack of hungry wolves. 

Very hungry wolves!

Again the lack of equipment was telling and ultimately Zubon became an unwilling sacrifice, trapped by the pack to be devoured while the rest of the team fled further into the forest. During the trek Thalen catches the numb skull disease and Cooper begins showing effects from frostbite which forces the team to move slower, which leads to another encounter with the same adventuring party from before. Again the team flees but this time Paeroka doesn't make it far enough before one of their mages turns her into a statue to forever decorate the side of that forgotten path.

She started a trend?

Opting to use the main road now for speed the party rushes North to the nearest settlement but again are caught by the adventuring party. Thalen takes an arrow to the back during the escape and while he does get away, his illness ultimately kills him in his weakened state during the next rest stop. Finally Cooper, Wolfy and Shintar make it to the small town of Tiefhusen, which seems to have been conquered by orcs.

These orcs are in the assimilation phase of their conquest here though, and are not hostile to the residents or the party - as long as they stay in line. Their presence also seems to deter the pursuers which is great, and gives time for the three survivors to breathe.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Star Trail: Freedom

[Part of the Darklands of Arkania Story.]

It turns out the cell block isn't very well guarded so the party is free to open all the other cells freeing the other captives: a human guard captain named Praiodan Von Tann and an orc of a different tribe named Thurazz who both join the team. Alas it's not long before Praiodan reveals his true form while shaking Paeroka's hand, draining her nearly to death before transforming into a bat and flying away. If he could do that why the heck was he a prisoner? Just to mess with people?

Or was he a scout from elsewhere!? :P

On a brighter note the bodies of the mages who stole the Salamander Stone are also piled in a nearby cell. It seems they didn't fare any better against the orc forces. Shintar wastes no time in searching their corpses for loot.

It also smells of plot device!

While the cell block was pretty easy to traverse, the rest of the place is pretty annoying with all the high level locked doors. Fortunately Thalen's magical knowledge extends to magically unlocking ones Wolfy (currently the strongest of the team) is unable to bash down. Finding the kitchen with a fresh well, food, beer and knives a plenty helps a lot as the orc guards they do run into somehow don't have any items.

It takes many hours of slow progress, avoiding the larger orc groups, and defeating an ogre who nearly beat Zubon to death before the team finally found a ramp leading back out into sunlight and freedom. At this point Thurazz leaves the party to do his own thing - possibly to start up his own orc army and conquer a different region. Alas, for the rest of the team, this turned out to be the easy part of the escape.