Monday 29 February 2016

Riva: Level 0 Gumshoes

[Part of the Darklands of Arkania Story.]

The next day the party is back on the streets where they learn there have been more murders in town. What better way to start an investigation by getting the lead investigator back? Yep, they find the dwarf Thorgrim (and his axe) back at his home - waiting like an excited puppy to be let back out and go adventuring so he rejoins the team.

Let's solve some crimes!

They don't get far before they get their first guild assignment though: one delivered by the local informant Tarik. They are to conduct a stake out on a suspected pirate in town. Yep, the guild doesn't like pirates and vice versa being business competitors and all.

Talking directly with the mark gets nowhere so the team takes turns over the next few hours doing nothing but hiding behind a single tree to watch his home. Eventually in the early hours of the morning the guy makes his move, with the seven man party tailing him. LOL.

It's not seven for very long though as the less dexterous party members begin lagging behind in the darkness. Dalian falls off a pier, Darth and Thorgrim walk into a lamp post (possibly same one), Allison trips over into some garbage, Cooper walks into a wall and Braxwolf uses his boots of speed right into thorny bushes.

Fortunately Wolfy Eyes manages to keep up, finds the house the mark went into and then after reassembling the team - bust in to find a pirate meeting in progress. Needless to say all the pirates are killed and a list naming other pirate conspirators is hand delivered to Tarik's house right after.

Sunday 28 February 2016

Riva: Railroaded

[Part of the Darklands of Arkania Story.]


After slaying a large wolf pack in the woods, the team found themselves back at the Riva marketplace to sell all the loot they had gathered from the mines, and to cure Allison's numb skull illness. While doing so, an agent of "the Guild" - saying their leader wanted a meeting in an abandoned warehouse at midnight. She also promised they wouldn't be killed.

"Well, surely with that guarantee we will be fine," announced Braxwolf Storm, so the party went to the meeting and promptly got hit by sleeping gas. Only when they awoke as bound captives did "the Trademaster", the leader of the guild, show up... and then he basically forces them to join, because there's no option given for doing anything else. Railroaded much?

Upon accepting they are each given a super secret wristband that lets guild members recognize each other. These are even color coded so you know what role/rank each member holds. Seriously? The guards in Riva must be stupid.

Armbands? You expect us to see that through our helmets!?

They do learn something useful though: that there are old sewers far beneath the city which are accessible from each temple (yep, all the priests have wristbands)! Unlike the regular sewers, the old sewers skewer with space/time and serve as a method of fast travel. Thank god they aren't annoying as the Old Sewers in Wizardry Online though.

Saturday 27 February 2016

Riva: Is this Moria (Level 2)?

[Part of the Darklands of Arkania Story.]

The only way to get to the stairs down was through a booby trapped tunnel set to collapse but Allison's keen eye spots it right away and lets the team traverse it with no issues. A smaller number of orcs waits below, along with some undead dwarves and what appears to be Darth's worst nightmare.

High Arachnophobia. It's a thing.

Despite his panic all the combat here is pretty straight forward and soon the team has run of the entire level, taking time out to even play an axe throwing game which somehow, Allison wins. Meanwhile Dalian proves he should never use thrown weapons.

I dunno, throwing an axe into stone seems pretty cool...

Now there's a real problem they encounter here: the only path further into the mine is blocked... supposedly by deadly traps as suggested by a nearly dead orc in the junction nearby but in reality it is made impassable by a corrupted file! With not much else they can do, the party returns to the surface - satisfied they killed all the orcs present. Just for good measure they also intentionally trigger that cave in near the stairs to trap any survivors that made it deeper in.

Hopefully there's nothing too important they missed in there that will stop the game later on...

What the corrupted file looked like? :P

Friday 26 February 2016

Riva: Is this Moria (Level 1)?

[Part of the Darklands of Arkania Story.]

A large orc contingent has taken up residence in the mine, and one that meets the party almost immediately. Fortunately after the pretty tough entry encounter the rest of the place it pretty manageable to explore as the orcs must have sent most of their number to that initial battle. Interesting to note that unlike the previous two games, enemies don't seem to flee any more - which is great for loot and xp.

As for the previous dwarven inhabitants? Well...

They died.

One of the rooms happens to be a nursery, and while Dalian tries to play with a wooden horse, Darth searches each cot thoroughly to uncover all the secrets of the mine holds. Neither action turns out to be very wise.

Dalian killed the horse.

-5 Charisma. Ouch.

Thursday 25 February 2016

Riva: Stipen

[Part of the Darklands of Arkania Story.]

After stripping the corpses of the drunkards and leaving the bodies to feed the vermin, the party comes across a wizarding academy in the woods along with one flustered student named Stipen who is seeking help to pass his final exams... which is technically cheating, but the party votes in favor anyway.

Assisting the hapless, level 1 wizard who quickly catches a cold from simply being outdoors turns out to be a simple treasure hunt type affair that helps explore the region which is bordered by the city to the West, a flooded river to the South, a forest to the North, and a mountain range to the East - which actually conceals the path to the nearby mine.

Stipen the coward refuses to go there though.

Near the end of the test, Stipen leads the team to some ridiculous boots with wings sticking out of a rockslide. Braxwolf tries to retrieve them but instead gets pulled into a small cave where he must duel the previous owner because... he's undead?

It's a tough fight too!

Ultimately, Braxwolf wins, collects the shoes (of speed) and returns Stipen to the university where he graduates. He does get a lot of magical gear for passing that test but the team decides the kid will need it more. Instead Stipen leaves them some potions and lets Braxwolf keep the dead man's shoes. With the coward gone the party decides to return to the mine that seems to have been broken into by force, if the smashed stone door at the entryway is any indication.

Wednesday 24 February 2016

Riva: Not Responsible

[Part of the Darklands of Arkania Story.]

Mandara doesn't stay with the team long, because the first thing she does is open a secret passage which leads them right into "the Guild", that nefarious crew that resides down here. In a most perplexing chain of events, the party is taken hostage briefly and then is immediately set free by a swarm of rats.

Someone's playing Dishonored down here.

Lost in the maze of tunnels (auto moving), Allison leads the party to a dead end where the Guild finally catches up to them, only to then have Mandara fully vampire out and begin feeding on the pursuers. With that entire mess going on the team flees to the surface, and by chance come up beside one of the giant town gates. Deciding it's probably best to let things settle down they exit to the nearby and generally pleasant country side of green rolling hills.

By chance they come across a group of eight Thorwallians who ask them for ale. Since the party isn't carrying any, they apologize and state the truth. The drunkards don't believe it though and choose to attack anyway. The last choice any of them will ever make.

Drink responsibly... OR DIE.

Tuesday 23 February 2016

Riva: Suspiciously Familiar

[Part of the Darklands of Arkania Story.]

Now is a good time to mention that while finally, every NPC has a unique face in Riva, there are quite a few, "familiar" ones lurking about.

Anyway, after selling all that laboratory junk to Meg Ryan, the party is accosted by a woman in distress claiming her husband was murdered! She takes the team into her home and detective Thorgrim discovers that the elf victim had all his blood drained from his body, with two puncture marks on his neck. At the same time, Allison locates a secret passage behind a bookshelf leading into the sewers but before they can explore it the local guards come shortly after and kick the team out of their investigation.

That's ok though as there are many sewer entrances readily available from the street. The thought of going into an enclosed space frightens Thorgrim though, and he leaves the party. REALLY? A claustrophobic dwarf!? Anyway... In the very dark and smelly tunnels the team bumps into the local "rat catcher" who is herds a swarm of rats past them and further in they find an ugly looking critter that no doubt is a vampire, probably the same one that murdered the poor elf.

Wolfy doesn't agree with this line of thinking and instead befriends the creature, a woman named Mandara - inviting her to join the party.


Monday 22 February 2016

Riva: Customer Service

[Part of the Darklands of Arkania Story.]

At one of the local pubs the team learns that there's a fair bit going on in Riva: tales of a haunted watch tower, orcs occupying a nearby mine, a crazy wizard conducting experiments across the river and a shady organization called "the Guild" (thieves guild) that conducts business in the sewers where the local guards fear to tread. Ultimately the lead they first decide to tackle is much simpler: undead rising at the local graveyard.

It's all about customer service! :P

Upon entering the cemetery, detective Thorgrim immediately identifies a false grave - the very first one inspected, and with a little digging find a ladder down into the "tombs", which actually turns out to be a cozy underground house / laboratory. The undead are organized by type in pens and and are guarded by a golem each. Dutifully, the party destroys all of these vile creations easily though some do manage to get jump scares in.

What is it with Cooper and ghouls?

Whoever is running the show isn't home though, so Darth Targetter suggests they do the next best thing. They loot the place dry of any and all items, and set fire to the rest as a big F.U. to whoever was behind this mess. They speak to the grave-digger afterwards and he's not very helpful (bad at customer service remember?)  and Thorgrim begins suspecting him to be the mastermind. Unfortunately any proof they might have used against him has already gone up in smoke. 

Sunday 21 February 2016

Riva: Effing Elves

[Part of the Darklands of Arkania Story.]

Turns out that stay at the elf village wasn't as relaxing as previously hoped, since the party awakens from their drunken stupor at the port city of Riva in much the same state they were in after slaying surviving the dragon Arkandor. Thanks for kicking us out without patching us up elf king! At least they still carry the small fortune in ducats they had earned. Also gone is the square by square movement, having been replaced with a more Daggerfall type feel.

So future. Wow.

The first order of business is to refit the team into adventuring shape, and that involves visiting the central market to buy new gear, resting up one entire week at an inn, and recruiting new members to fill the empty party slots including an adventure hungry dwarf NPC named Thorgrim (and his axe), as well as replacing Shintar's bones with Darth Targetter. His arrival prompts a most interesting message.

Start at level 6? Sure!

While this doesn't bother Wolfy Eyes who is currently level 8, nor the level 12 NPC Thorgrim, it doesn't bode well for the rest of the party: Cooper Mantly (level 5), Dalian Tanker, Braxwolf Storm and Allison Nexus (all level 4). This disparity is what happens when veterans get killed! :P

Saturday 20 February 2016


Tower Defense meets Diablo.

Deathtrap is an odd nugget. You start out by picking a hero class (fighter, hunter, wizard) and then get a quick spiel of these magical islands which serve as the titular "Deathtrap(s)" that stopped monstrous hordes from invading the world. Those isles have long been abandoned though and now its up to you to stop the new invasion cycle by constructing your own death traps: like poison gas, fireball towers and gun turrets. It's also way more "mature" than say Dungeon Defenders.

While trap locations are set in that you cannot put whatever, where ever you feel like - there is a pretty good variety available to you which are strong against some monster types and weak against others. Also, before each wave is a "planning phase". There's no timer (that I've come across yet) so you have all the time to prepare the map how you see fit. You are also shown the paths each wave will take, and given a list of all the enemies + their strength and weaknesses + where they are coming from. With all that info it should be easy right? Not quite. :P

So many things to kill!

Each map has a variety of difficulties to choose from, and some have extra quests like kill this monster who isn't part of any wave. He's just standing over there - far from anything else. Oh, he's also invulnerable during the planning phase so you'll have to decide if you are going to hunt him or defend the portal. Monsters that get to the portal reduce it's HP, same as a player dying (insta respawn though, not like *cough*Insurgency*cough*). If the portal reaches 0 life then you lose. If you kill all the enemies, a chest appears and you get your Diablo style "shower of loot" and hefty XP and research points.

There's a ton of upgrades you can do between missions, to your skills, to each trap, to your equipment - you can even forge new gear though it's through a BS RNG method of having the materials then crossing your fingers you get the stats you want. Despite all of this, I found it really boring when playing solo. It's just tedious. It is way more fun played cooperatively, though you'll probably want to use Mumble or some 3rd party voice chat since it doesn't come built in with one. Though it does come with an editor if you run out of maps. :P

If you have a buddy or group that enjoy(s) tower defense to play with, then I give this two and a half monster waves out of five. If you plan on playing solo then give it a skip.

Friday 19 February 2016

Warhammer: Vermintide

Hexen mixed with Left 4 Dead.

The end of the world comes at the hands of ... the Skaven? Hmm. I guess if they carry the bubonic plague or something. Anyway, in this first person Warhammer game you can pick out of five playable characters: a soldier, elf, dwarf, mage and witch hunter; though only four will be present on any one mission (three played by bots if need be). The banter between them is pretty cool, letting the player learn about them as they too learn about each other. I believe this changes per mission, per difficulty level of which there are five.

Gameplay wise, it is very much L4D with swarms of enemies who have a few special units that show up from time to time - one that pounces, one that strangles, a really beefy one and so on. While thematically you might be sounding the alarm or finding food it also follows the same get from point A to point B on a big map that the zombie game uses. Still, that doesn't make it any less fun.

Just a few of the tools to kill the vermin with...

While ammo is pretty limited, all the characters are pretty competent in melee wherein you can use light or heavy attacks, parry and push which gains aggro. Obviously the weapons you decide to bring will dictate how you play too. Guns make more noise than bows and a rapier cuts faster but lighter than a two handed sword for example.

There is also a crafting component available at the inn hub, wherein you sacrifice five items to gain one better, similar item while crossing your fingers that the RNG gods give you something nice.  All up I quite like the game, give it three and a half emperors out of five,and recommend it to people who would be interested in a semi-dark ages L4D type game with no zombies. :P

Feb-Report: Aldnoah Master

Hey all! How is your February going? For those of you who enjoyed the Darklands of Arkania, I have good news: the story will continue soon - after I put up a couple more reviews. Thank you to those who helped out Louie too. I always wanted to try setup a Gofundme page, but that was definitely not one of the reasons I had in mind.

Just finished watching a series called Aldnoah Zero and I've gotta say it's a very nice mecha anime, complete with good music and well thought out bad guys because the bad guys have all the awesome mechs and the good guys are basically using crap. The first season is especially well done, not sure what happened to the plot in the second. While it still is entertaining I can't help but feel it would have been better had they gone a different way. Still recommended with three out of five Versian counts, and one I'd watch again.

Thanks to that I've also been finding some cool youtube artists that do English versions of anime songs. This parody one in particular for the opening of Aldnoah Zero is one you should listen to. :)

Gaming wise, Neverwinter continues plodding along though the devs are doing a good job of getting players from both XBOX and PC riled up into rebellion, particularly about the game turning into pay-to-win and edging closer to share the same fate as its predecessor. I've personally felt it's always been pay to win, and imagine I'm one of the few who have never spent any money on it in the first place to be that upset.

Still, the grind is monotonous so I break it up with Helldiving among other things. Last night, I soloed the Cyborg Master (the easiest boss) and much like the Versian Kataphrakts (Mechs) in Aldnoah, it was all about finding his weakness and exploiting it.

It was cool. :)

Wednesday 17 February 2016

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

Because Logic loses to Entertainment!

Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is back with to fight "the Syndicate", an evil version of the IMF (Impossible Mission Force) just as the CIA manages to disbands the good IMF due to their unsanctioned methods. Why? Because a fully powered IMF would make this story redundant. It's also the reason why Ethan is usually cut off from their support at the start of each movie (this is the fifth installment).

While the action is great and manages to show off Rebecca Ferguson's legs at every opportunity, the plot is only "ok" for me. The first problem is the bad guy. While I do quite like how he gets his comeuppance at the end (because its a Mission Impossible movie), his entire end game and the whole reason he picks a fight with Ethan is... stupid. I thought this guy was resourceful?

It's to stabilize the rifle. *cough*

Second, the security system of the place Ethan has to break into (because its a Mission Impossible movie) is ridiculous. Can you imagine trying to maintain it? Idiotic design in that one, but definitely entertaining movie wise. Why there was a time limit on Simon Pegg's part was also dumb: he could have easily waited for Ethan to finish first but hey... its a Mission Impossible movie!

The most glaring problem for me though is Ethan's ridiculous level of plot armor. After all the previous movies where normal men would have already perished this one just ups it to eleven and goes over the line of unbelievable to totally BS. Still an OK movie to watch for action buffs I guess. All up I give it three stunts out of five, and yes I would watch it again.

Tuesday 16 February 2016


Spreading our way of life throughout the universe!

While this plays like a futuristic Gauntlet, it is hilarious and very fun. Up to four players cooperatively perform missions on planets against three very different types of aliens. Which planet and what mission you can decide yourself by flying your spaceship there, which also doubles as the lobby where you can spend research points to upgrade skills and gear.

The missions themselves are very fast and usually straightforward. You can complete runs in 5 - 6 minutes (depending on the difficulty) so those who are time-constrained can still get a jump or two in. For those with more time to spare, hanging around the planet surface for research materials is standard procedure. Dying is a common occurrence too, and usually comes not from the enemy (on lower levels) but from player stupidity or accidents which again is funny. There is no switching the "friendly fire" mode here! :P

For the EMPEROR! Oh wait... that's Warhammer 40k... :P

Missions only fail if all players are dead, otherwise surviving players can easily call for reinforcements to respawn their dead allies. If running solo, this happens automatically a set number of times. While the ground game play is pretty fun, its the universal map that really gives that sense of purpose to this game. As more quadrants are taken (by everyone playing Helldivers globally), the forces of Earth advance and eventually reach enemy home planets where the really crazy missions await. And yes, the enemy also pushes back!

There are ridable vehicles, pilotable mecha, air strikes, ahhhh so many shinies! If you like crazy, fast paced co-op that gives you quick satisfaction then this game is for you. I give it four stratagems out of five!

Monday 15 February 2016

Star Trail: A Reward of Good Will

[Part of the Darklands of Arkania Story.]

With the "stoned" dwarf in tow the team runs out the back exit of the dungeon and right to Elsurion Starlight, who whisks the team and the (stoned) dwarf Prince Ingramosh (since when was he a prince?) away on his boat! After tending to everyone's wounds and "thawing" the dwarven prince, the elf ambassador spends weeks in closed negotiations with the little fellow while the rest of the team relaxes at the elf village.

Victory... In a year or two, I guess?

For their heroic deeds the surviving party members: Braxwolf Storm, Allison Nexus, Dalian Tanker, Cooper Mantly (possibly still frothing at the mouth) and Wolfy Eyes (the only original member to survive the quest) get an audience with the legendary elf king.

It's a very "subtle" smile. Also, the words are really cut there. :P

Their reward is the King's protection and free travel across elven lands. Which pretty much is the same as "nothing" in the grand scheme of things. It's amazing that finding Grimring was actually a more profitable experience! Oh well. At least there is a celebration party for the alliance union - and so our heroes end this chapter the same way they began the quest. Getting absolutely drunk!

Sunday 14 February 2016

Star Trail: The Dragon

[Part of the Darklands of Arkania Story.]

BBQ Breath!

Arkandor is not just a tough bastard, but a real bastard. Not only does he have a huge well of HP but he has a wide array of attacks, breath types and magic spells that plays havoc with the team. It also eats Allison's strongest spell - literally catching the blast with his mouth and chewing, receiving minimal damage (fully animated)! Still, each party member manages to reach the dragon and begin hacking away at the beast. Not surprisingly Cooper (who is still frothing at the mouth) is the first to go down after inhaling a large dose of poison breath.

Dalian gets knocked out a few rounds later from a tail swipe before Arkandor casts a spell that breaks Wolfy and Shintar's secondary weapons (the primary weapons having broken already on their own). It follows this up by charming both Braxwolf AND Allison to fight on his side, so not only do Wolfy and Shintar now have to punch the dragon - they have to do it while avoiding attacks from their own allies.

Fortunately with some clever maneuvering Braxwolf and Allison end up fighting each other in a stale mate: Braxwolf can't hit the nimble elf and Allison can't hurt the heavily armored knight with her staff. This leaves the two veterans to freely continue pummeling the dragon with their fists, until Arkandor decides to pick up Shintar and devour her. Good animation with this one too - complete with spitting bones out afterwards.

Finally, having used up all the tricks in the book, Wolfy lands a final uppercut that makes the dragon concede the fight.

Except for the one I ate! She was tasty!

Star Trail: Arkandor

[Part of the Darklands of Arkania Story.]

That's a lot of cultists!

With no way to go but forward, Allison acts as the fake wall detector for the team as they fight even more ghouls and skeletons. There is also a large cultist presence at the end of the second level that the team smashes through before heading down to the deepest floor, which is strangely better lit than the one they just came from. There is also a strangely high tech, four digit combination lock on one wall that takes a little time to crack. Most annoyingly though, a wizard pops out of nowhere and AGAIN steals the Salamander Stone!

This floor is host to numerous undead and a strange pillar puzzle where Braxwolf discovers the name "Arkandor", who must be the big shot of this dungeon. The team also runs into a Heshthot demon (long time no see!) which Wolfy and Allison put down with some effort. The terrible sense of dread becomes too much for Wolfy Eyes though and she considers leaving the party just like Korima did.

Fortunately Shintar talks her out of it.

After destroying more undead and slaying even more cultists the party reaches the final chamber where they find a dwarf who had been turned into stone as well as Lord Arkandor himself... who just happens to be a dragon!

Saturday 13 February 2016

Star Trail: The Devil You Know

[Part of the Darklands of Arkania Story.]

With no weapons shop in town the party spends a few days getting their weapons repaired and purchasing some supplies from the local healer: a small batch of strength potions and a large amount of whirlweed (a HP restoring leaf). When they are finally all set they return to the vault where Wolfy, strengthened by a potion, is finally able to bust down those resilient doors. The statue they find behind one of the doors sends a shiver down Shintar's spine as she recognizes what cult they are dealing with here.

Apart from cultists and their trained war dogs there are also ghouls lurking the halls, which terrify Cooper Mantly.

I think Cooper needs to level a bit. :P

He should have been more worried about the tusk tigers in the much darker second "supply storage" level though. The tiger's chamber was right after a five section crossbow trap that badly injured the team and pretty much guaranteed no going back and forth from that point on. While the big cats were put down they did some damage of their own, and infected Cooper with a pretty bad malady.

Uh, I'm sure he'll be fine...

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


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.