So, while I was uncharacteristically sick earlier this week I played a relatively unknown game called Gods: Lands of Infinity Special Edition by Cypron Studios. It is a strange mix between Western themes and Japanese style turn-based combat with a dose of space flight-sim style trading thrown in. Maybe a love child from the marriage of Betrayal at Krondor or Final Fantasy and Elite. But then cover it up with the always slightly odd aesthetics of Eastern European developers.
Ok, if that sounds rather esoteric, well… yeah. I’m guessing no one who actually reads my blog will have any idea what I just said. 😛 Kudos if you do. For the rest of you (all 2 of you), I’ll try to tease that out a bit.
Gods: LoI came out a few years ago but was more recently dressed up, updated with background animation, more detailed building textures, etc. and features a likeness of Kyla Cole (former Penthouse Pet and, as far as I can tell, current Internet porn star from Slovakia where the developers are from–guessing she has quite a fan-base there…). It’s actually a rather clunky pasting of her face onto the main character’s 3D model. I mean, by itself it works, but it’s clunky in that most of the other human characters in the game are clearly polygon heads with hand drawn textures. It’s odd they wouldn’t do a total conversion.
The game starts out nicely; you (AKA Kyla AKA Vivien) are plopped into a town with various vendors who buy and sell different goods. There’s a baker, for example, who wants to buy flour, eggs, and honey and who also sells bread and cake (or somesuch). To make money you can go about traveling from different traders (in different towns) and selling them the stuff they want. This is very similar to the mechanic used in almost any space flight-sim game. It’s simple enough in this game that it is relatively enjoyable, but eventually it becomes tedious to make enough money for the weapons and armor you want to eventually purchase. I ended up downloading a trainer which gave me 999,999 gold pieces after I was about half-way through the game and figured out that making enough money would add hours to the game. If I’m going to engage in a time-sink, let it be WoW.
Trading is really only meant to be a side thing, of course. You’re after three pieces of some artifact that’ll do something or other. Whatever. The story isn’t complex and of course is completely farcical. What was engaging was the combat… at least initially. Gods features Final Fantasy style combat (Betrayal at Krondor style, Dragon Quest style, etc.). In other words, it’s abstract turn-based that doesn’t represent the combat on a tactical map but rather just shows the two sides facing each other with the various participants acting in order, determined (as far as I could tell) by Dexterity. This was fun at first since I imagined the options open to me would become more and more complex as the game progressed, but that never happened. The spells never became more interesting and the combat moves never featured reliable forms of CC (crowd-control AKA stunning like D&D’s “sleep” spell, for example) nor any way to do AoE damage (hitting more than one enemy at a time) despite names like Fireball and Grand Melee (only in this game it was misspelled as “meelee”).
The map for the various towns starts off having only a handful of nodes; you have to unlock paths through story progression. I thought this worked well, except that after unlocking I discovered that the new nodes didn’t actually add much and only gave way to one-way paths rather than new networked locations in which to do more lucrative trading and side-quests. It’s like halfway through the game, the initial facade is penetrated to reveal only the skeletal remnants of the rest of the game. Rather than add the admittedly pretty Kyla Cole and touch up the graphics, they should’ve added substantive content.
Dialog in the game was non-existent, too. The Cypron folks put in a nice foundation with what seemed like a robust dialog engine but then didn’t fill in the actual dialog trees, opting instead of throw in linear lecture-based dialog where the player only has the option of hitting “1-Continue.” Why bother programming in the ability to hit number keys for the choice you want to make if there’s always only one choice?
Anyway, at the end of the game, I immediately thought, “wow, that was an abrupt, rushed ending.” Now that I’ve had a chance to think about the game a bit, my only thoughts are, “wow, that could’ve been a much, much better game,” made worse because it wasn’t a horrible game.
- trading – kinda like a space flight-sim
- turn based combat – a la early Final Fantasy
- foundations for dialog trees and deep role-playing
- foundations for good customization through a job system similar to classes in Final Fantasty
- item customization through crystals (essentially like socketed items in Diablo 2 and now WoW)
- different types of damage and resistances
- no follow through with dialog – no real choices
- ultimately shallow job options and single-track progression – no customization at all!
- not enough crystals – barely enough to outfit half the armor of one character and no way to make your own crystals
- not enough variation with spells – lack of CC, a heal spell costing 4 action points when taking a potion takes 1 ap is pretty unbalancing
- no follow through with monsters that are vulnerable to different damage types and enemies that deal certain kinds of damage – I just bought a bunch of ice arrows for nothing??
- no follow through with game world it seemed
- no proper ending (spoiler alert! it ends with a nice “to be continued…”)
- no warning about NPCs just up and leaving after investing resources on their skills and items – and if you look at the screenshots, it’s weird to create a UI that features 6 slots for NPCs and then never going over 4… why did the art director decide that was a good idea?