My 2018 GOTY Awards

I did write a list of my 2018 GOTYs, but I wish to expand it a bit more:

Best Surprise: Sword Art Online Fatal Bullet

I did write a review for this game on this site, but to try to expand a bit more. This was a very good surprise for me, when I saw the first articles and previews about it, it got my attention, but I was not expecting much. However, once I played I loved the game a lot, so much that while I didn´t enjoy SOA much, it made me change the light of how I see the series.

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Best Visual Novel: Umineko: When They Cry (Both the Question and Answer Arcs)

One of the best mystery VNs out there, not only because it core mystery, but the whole discussion it does about the genre of mystery and detective novels and how this combined with the plot.

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Best Comeback: Total War: Rome II - Rise of the Republic

Rome II had one of this really curious comebacks, first the launch was... not great, but with lot of dedication and support the game managed to turn it around, by time it reach the Emperors edition (the current version you find on Steam) it was way better game despite some flaws, at that point you might think that CA had done enough and move on, but no, kept supporting the game even more, with additions such as the Desert Kingdoms and the Empire Divided and now the latest DLC, Rise of the Republic just came in. It is very fun campaign and the patch that came with it (for free) is even better, specially the graphic improvements, such as remove the yellow filter and other additions, made the game a lot better.

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Best Fighting Game: Soul Calibur VI

As a PC player, this was my first Soul Calibur game and while I had previously played Tekken 7 (for pc) I enjoyed this game a lot - specially the character creation mode and the Chronicle of Soul mode, I do hope the keep expanding those two.

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Best RPG: Dragon Quest XI

When Ni no Kuni II came out, I though this might be my favorite jrpg, however Dragon Quest quickly stole that place, as I felt that everything appeared to work better, not tha Ni no Kuni was bad, but DQ simple managed to keep a better pace, gameplay and mix between plot and humor at a perfect mix.

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Best Game Where You Break Someone Else Bike On Some Else Head: Yakuza 0

I read a lot about this franchise and how amazing it is, and now I finally had the chance to see it by myself and it was so great as everybody said it was. The gameplay, the humor, how they play with the elements of the Yakuza movies cliches and tropes is just perfect.

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Best Expansions: Total War: Warhammer II - Tomb Kings and Curse of the Vampire Coast.

CA have been doing really great expansions and add ons for it games, Tomb Kings was a amazing - not only because it is a classic Warhammer faction, but how unique and different the gameplay feels, since you don´t need to pay for troops you rise them, but what troops you have available depend on who developed is your empire. Also the unit rooster is amazing and the voice act is on point.

The Curse of the Vampire Coast is also great, specially of how out of a obscure faction/lore of the Warhammer universe they managed to make a really fun faction to play, with is army of undead based in ranged attacks and unique monsters. The design for units and the Legendary Lords is again, amazing.

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Best Getting Back on the Track Game: Crusader Kings II - Holy Fury

This might look similar to my previous award, however unlike Rome II, CK 2 never was bad, just some of it expansions felt the game a bit direction less. What Holy Fury does it put the "Crusader" back in Crusader Kings, ok... it does a lot more than that, and that is the important part. Not only improve things like the way crusades work, but a lot of things to the game.

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Best Game from ....2016, 2017, 2018... - Europa Universalis IV.

I must have around 800 hours in EU IV and if you wonder how, mostly due the very good expansions, to be fair maybe not all of them where amazing but they do keep the game getting better and better.

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Best Game with Mechs and Tactics- Battletech

Tactic game are often about manipulate the game, while XCOM much was about moving cover to cover, Battletech is a game of moving around, never stop, always keep moving, which capture very well the idea of giant robots battling. The game was already great, but Flashpoint manages to make it even better, specially the Career mode.

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Best Mobile Game: Granblue Fantasy and Idolmaster Cinderella Girls.

To be clear, I do play both of them not much on phones but their desktop version. I am a big fan of Idolmaster, in fact I often do some Idolmaster fanart, check them here: https://www.pixiv.net/member.php?id=10736454 , so no surprise there, but Granblue continues to improve a lot over time.

Honorable Mentions

  • 428 - Shibuya Scramble
  • Stellaris
  • Hearts of Iron IV
  • Nioh
  • Alternative Girls (Mobile Game, also played on desktop)
  • Idolmaster Shiny Colors (Mobile game, also played on desktop).

Games that I am Looking Forward:

  • God Eater 3 (Bandai Namco)
  • Total War: Three Kingdoms (Creative Assembly)
  • Code Vein (Bandai Namco)
  • Sekiro (FromSoftware)
  • Imperator (Paradox)
  • Caligula Effect: Overdose (NISA)
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Some useful hints for Stranger of Sword City.

Well, since I finished writing a review for Stranger of Sword City (https://www.giantbomb.com/stranger-of-sword-city/3030-42558/user-reviews/2200-30816/) I might well write some hints, while the game still fresh in my mind. Keep in mind, this as just stuff I either figured about, maybe read here and there, but mostly stuff which worked for me, might no be the most awesome or effective hints.

So, first words - this is for the Steam version of the game, which is the so called - White Palace version (白の王宮), the major different between this and the Vita (Black Palace, 黒の宮殿) is some Lineage boss and if you have either the White or Black palace as one of the dungeons.

That said, let´s begin:

Life Points:

Remember, your Main Character does not lose Life Points upon dying, which make the MC the ideal candidate for classes which use skills that make the user a target, such as Iron Defense or make your character and a enemy lock in battle, like the Carnage skills, because if the MC dies you don´t have to spend resource recovering those life points. Specially because, there isn´t much items of this kind around, and don´t bother using poeny powder, it give a life point but reduced the total you have.

One common tip you might hear around is that during character creation, older characters get more ability points but less life points, while younger character have less ability points, but more life points. That mean, that having your MC as older character isn´t a bad idea, since the less life points don´t mean much, unlikely for other party members.

Divinity:

Make absolute sure to at least get Sword Bound level 2, while the first level of Sword Bound will work for 99% of the game, there is one history boss, that will use Charm attack twice in a row and you need Sword Bound 2 to survive them. There is a level 3 Sword Bound, but I did not found any boss which used charm three times.

Veil is a very useful ability which protect the back row of your party, in my run I did not buy, and it made thing hard, since there is only a handful of item in the game which do the same effect.

Multiclass -

Ok, here is a quick rundown, how this works:

- When you chance class you level became half of the current you have (if you are a Level 16 Wizard and change to Cleric, you will be at level 8 Cleric)

- During each run, there is a limit of how much times you can change, during the first play through, I think you can change around 6 or 5 times.

- Until your reach the level you was, you won´t gain ability points during level up.

- Each class gain Token points during certain levels, each Token can be used to have a skill from the previous class can use, this is cumulative, most class gain 1 at level 13.

Recommended class changes are:

Dancer - To have at least Weapon Trick and Trick Item.

Ranger - for Hunter´s Eye but Confine might be useful.

Ninja - for evasion bonus and related skills, Hide and Assassination can very good. You might wish all your front line member to be Ninjas for awhile. While other classes you might get enough at level 13, for Ninjas you might stick until 15 before you change, so you can pick up like Cicade Shell.

Wizard - Higher/Master cast.

Knight - Ability to wear armor and use heavy weapons, along with some passive skills which protect user from different effects.

Samurai - Slash skills can speed combat a lot.

Cleric - Holy Shield.

My party, during my play-through my party was follow, keep in mind, this might not be the most efficient or strongest setup:

Samurai 13 - Knight 13 - Dancer 13 - Ninja 15 - Samurai 40

Knight 13 - Samurai 13 - Ninja 15 - Knight 40

Fighter 13 - Ranger 13 - Ninja 15 - Fighter 40

Ninja 13 - Dancer 13 - Fighter 13 - Knight 13 - Ninja 40

Cleric 13 - Dancer 13 - Wizard 41

Wizard 13 - Dancer 13 - Cleric 41

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Very quick observations on a few skills of each class, this is only a light observation, based on what I remember during my play through that was useful.

Knight:

Chivalry (Normal, Light, Dark) - offer a full Line attack, at expanse of defense.

Iron Defense - Very useful skill, which make enemies target the character instead of the party, however, it can result in the said character itself get killed during some boss fights and other tougher encounters, so make sure to have a high enough defense end evasion.

Samurai:

Slash - One of the best skills, offer a row Line attack, and higher levels mean that the character can not only hit the full line ahead, but even one or to lines back. This speed up combat a lot.

Carnage Front/Carnage Back- I confess that I never used this ability, against normal enemies there is not much point, maybe lock down the treasure carrying monster from a ambush but against bosses is very risk to use it. But people say that if you make sure your samurai have a very high evasion and defense, this can be useful ability.

Wizard:

High/Master Cast: This allow the wizard to cast the same spell two or three times in the same round, very useful to get hid or pesky enemies, but more importantly, it is very useful to quickly buff your party, with spell use as Multi-Hit and Multi-Avoid, getting Evasion and Hit to very high levels if often key to survive in certain Lineage battles.

Cleric:

Holy Shield: Once you get this skill, get ready for sudden have your cleric reduced to just spam it at every turn and combat, it ridiculous good, as protect the party from one attack/spell, including thing like Requiem (which might kill a character or more) and other stuff, during Lineage battles, this can be a life saver, specially to protect against party-wide attacks.

Dancer:

Trick Use: It allow you to use the same item twice or three times at once, I can´t say how ridiculous useful is this, at first glance, you might think, that isn´t so good, but late game, begin able to quickly use stuff as Mind Eye Scrolls (Multi Avoid) and Battle Scrolls (Multi Hit) is crucial, since you need to quickly rise Avoid and Hit fast as you can and only having your spellcasters, might be not enough. Also, during some maps, which you can´t use spells, this skill again became crucial.

Weapon Trick: Allow a character to attack a enemy in any row, despite the weapon actual range (meaning you can hit someone at the back row, even with a weapon whose reach is just S and only could hit enemies in the front), this helps a lot to kill lineages which shift from front to back row during a fight.

Ranger:

Hunters Eye: This ability allow you to see the enemies health bars and mostly like be the main reason for at least on character make a class chance to Ranger.

Confine: A low damage attack which reduces enemy hit and evasion.

Ninja:

Most of Ninja skills are really useful, your front line fight benefit a lot form begin Ninjas for a while, while you might need only one character with Hide (used for trigger the Assassination Skill), all other skills they have, even the one which say would give larger bonus if the character isn´t using much armor are useful.

Fighter

Rush/Berserker/Genocide - Ofter a full random row attack, kind like Slash, but the attacks are random.

Heavy Attack - When you first get it, might not be very useful, as it is a attack skill which causes lots of damage, but have a lower hit rate, however, a full buffed fighter can make use of this.

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Other Hints:

- The shop NEVER restock! use stuff wisely, specially Mind Eye Scrolls, Battle Scrolls and items related to recover Life Points and MP.

- Some Lineage Type battles are more harder then other, so don´t be surprised if one or two might be done way later.

- There is a couple of Lineage Type battles, which start upon certain conditions, keep an way out, some might show up after a couple of round in any combat on certain maps, you might need to flee in this cases.

Spoiler - New Game Plus

When you finish the main story an npc will give you an Hourglass, this is what you need to start the new game plus, but before that, you might wish to hunt down some new Lineage Type which will show up, however, they are much more harder and what you gain in the very end might no be worth the effort.

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Memories of the Reckoning

This days while looking at some old files in one drive, I did found out that back up of thread I created in a old forum (which was closed down long time ago, but allowed users to back up stuff) about the Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning MMO. The thing most people more likely remember of this mmo was the Public Quests, which other mmos have adopted.

In the Empire Capital.
In the Empire Capital.

It was fun readying this old posts and see how much I was hyped for this game, specially knowing how the things went down in the end (and bits of self denial at stuff happening). I could not share the whole thing here, since it is a long thread anyway and maybe lot of things there aren´t interesting, however I had the idea of sharing some thoughts about about I think happened in the end along with a few screenshots which I did kept for some reason.

I try to keep things in small topics, please this are just my thoughts about WAR mmo while I compare part of what a did write and what I did see. Also note that I played around a year, since the launch in 2008, so there might be events or things which I would be unaware.

Character Creation
Character Creation

Progressive Campaign

The original system and the game main feature, was a RvR of of two factions divided in the three fronts, linked together. The concept was a progressive campaign, with each side making a push toward the enemy main capital, the more the push goes, the more the winning side capital gets better and the losing side gets worst, until a final showdown with a siege followed by a "sack" phase in case the city feels, where some quest and rewards would happen. Once this as all done, the cycle restarts.

It was a impressive concept, I remember that I was quite amazed by the concept. But looking now isn't hard to see that it also a bit convoluted. To explain with bit more detail, you had to factions - Order and Chaos, each faction was split in three fronts, for Order it was Empire, High Elves, Dwarves, for Chaos it was Orcs, Chaos and Dark Elves). Each group was paired with another, so you got Empire vs Chaos, Dwarves vs Orcs, High Elves vs Dark Elves. Begin that Empire and Chaos where the main fronts and the other acted as support (but they also had their capitals too).

I won´t enter now on the subject of why Orcs won´t work with Chaos in the Warhammer lore, we all know that.

Problem of this system is that not only would require player to spread out (and would require a rather large number of players) and perform a very exact set of things, which by itself isn´t impossible, but they have keep doing every single moment. Sure there was some nice ideas they used, having warning messages send when one place was under attack and the ability to teleport to the front line as necessary.

But you see, in the end Mythic had to scrap the secondary capitals, along with other stuff before the game release (again, we talk about this later). The system, if I remember right, didn´t change much, but simple would not work very well. They had to perform several patches and revamps which in the end changed the whole thing to just a push toward either the Empire or Chaos, the other fronts still there and maybe had some role, but it was way less. The also had to revamp rewards with the renown system to make the player go forward, because there was very little reason to go to the RvR, which in the first days of the launch where often quite empty.

From 1 to 40

Maybe on thing that WAR did that was quite interesting for the period, but I don´t think it gained much appraise, was the concept that players would be active in progressive campaign from the very first level. Before that (and maybe even after that), joining in pvp/rvr or whatever was something often locked (some times not intentional) behind having higher level and gear, this often lead to strange job/experience thing, where to have them you need by in a large clan which performed raids/rvr/pvp/what ever but to be on it you often need have higher level and gear that you would only have if you where in a large clan....

Not in WAR, where there was this concept and the actual need of everyone working together, your UI would warn you when somewhere was under attack and with a simple click you could teleport to the area to join the fight.

Screenshot of Public Quest
Screenshot of Public Quest

Career perspectives.

WAR with it´s front system, feature a equal number of classes for each side, over all, each race got four careers (WAR´s classes). Many of them had very cleaver concepts, based on the concept that all player should be active in the fight. The most iconic example (and the one they most use) was the Warrior Priest of Sigmar, which had to attack enemies in melee in other to power up his spells, which for the period (and maybe from the game you where coming from, in my case Ragnarok Online) was rather new (in my case, I really liked this idea, previous mmo I had played often had you play in a fixed way).

Other cleaver ones include the Witch-Hunter, that dual wield a pistol and a sword and use both of them at the same time; the Marauder, whose arm could mutate in several different ways; the Archmage, which had to balance the winds of magic, where when he cast attack spell his energy for healings grows while his attack spells lose power and when he heals his energy to attack grows, but the healing diminish.

My Marauder character with one of the potential mutations
My Marauder character with one of the potential mutations
And here is he with another one
And here is he with another one

The rest of the careers however had mostly bar which fill when something happens while other where just mirrors of some other carrier. As I said early and it is well know, some classes where cut off from the game and later added again. Fun thing is, the Knight of the Blazing Sun, was my favorite class back there, but now I just can´t remember their gimmick...I guess they had auras our something like that....

...Of Beattles and Monkeys and Led Zepellin...

Sometimes even the most well laid plans can be lead astray if something unexpected happens very far away, in WAR case, they clearly didn´t had well laid plans and to add to that, something did happen elsewhere – Age of Conan had a not very good release, which meant lots of player complaining in forums (at least I remember seeing this a lot in MMO site forums) and lots of doubt and pessimism in the horizon toward War. And to make this worst, WoW announced the Rise of the Lich King for release a couple months after War launch. That meant that WAR was caught between Age of Conan not going well and the Rise of the Lich King release, while they had to announce the cuts of the Capitals and Classes.

They had a curious relationship with they way the promoted the game, at first there was this very strong hype-esque approach, with Paul Barnett and Mack Jacobs, doing very hyped video on youtube (funny note, this kind stuff wasn´t that usual as it was today, so seeing that had quite impact with me back there), where maybe unintentionally they reenacted every PA style comic, withe Paul begin the more enthusiastic and shouting figure and Jacobs begin the more calm figure.

Later they changed approach, suddenly there was all this talks of if you try to beat the Beatles, you might became the Monkeys, but how they where aiming to be Led Zepellin. Which was a clear analogy toward WoW (maybe around this time, the WoW killer idea was becoming clearly it was bad or impossible idea), this was followed by announcements of several cuts they made in the game such as the Capital and Classes. Now to be fair, there was a genuine attempt to communication and to clarify stuff (I had quoted large part of the original text they did in the old thread).

Strange decisions start to happen a bit before this, out of nowhere they simple give up having a official forum making the Warhammer Alliance forum the official one (reading my old post I remember for vague reasons I tried to rationalize this somehow back there, but I could not remember how).

Eventually they released the game in 2008, while, overall the the game launch was OK for it´s period, the same could not be said on Europe, where things are going very bad and was handle by GOA (which I have no idea who they are). The clearly expect a unreal number of players, I can´t remember how many severs, but there was simple too many – and they only got, close to the launch around 750.000 players at the best expectations (strange thing, in my thread I found I write 500.000 players which was based in stuff post during that time, but in a gamespot article, written close to the servers begin shut down, mention 750.000 players, maybe in my thread I got only players in the US servers...).

Still it was no small number, however I think, and lets be clear, this my humble opinion, WoW pretty much messed up our perception of MMO success beyond recognition. What should maybe look as exception became the rule, and this rule is simple unreal – but for some players and maybe even critics, anything which didn´t made the WoW numbers was looked down and decided it was fated to die. Problem is: MMOs don´t need gazillion players to work out, it need enough player coming in to keep its systems working (such pvp, matchmaking, party search), if as long they got this and this is enough to keep things running, you might say it is success. But it is kind hard to convince people about this when WoW reach unheard numbers.

But back to WAR, this so said 750.000 player where divided in lots of severs, and later in factions and races, which meant the whole thing at first days looked strangely empty, RvR din´t work very well (it was a bit empty in some servers) and the strangest thing which I had only a vague memory about, I don´t think global chat was implemented or something like that.

This number however wasn´t meant to last, in early 2009, the number was around 300.000, while Mythic suffered lay offs and later server closings. Things got worst as even worst for Mythic later, after a certain point Marc Jacobs left, and later EA merged Mythic with Bioware and later dismerged them from what I could remember.

Despite this odds, WAR last for longtime - around five years without any major expansions and very little support, something myself only realized how impressive is until a bit before finishing this text while seeing a video on youtube comment this, only then it dawn of me how impressive it is.

Sure, MMOs, despite most doom prophets in forums, are though beasts to kill, unless you screw things up to a unbelievable level or you pull the plug, the can keep going for long time and how knows, some of them, even after troubled launched might managed to grow good numbers along the way.

Keep in mind, WAR for the most curious reasons, was kept in subscription mode all time – sure, back there, the knowledge of how free to play could "save" some mmos wasn´t so well spread or know. Not that just turning in free to play would save something, because what really matter is how well handled the process is.

As I said earlier, during all of this issues, WAR find it self in this strange situation, it had no way to really expand or having a expansion like other mmos, because there was already too many classes and fronts. The only expansion the ever got, was one that featured the Tomb Kings, in the least interesting way – it was just this huge dungeon, where Order and Chaos fight to reach something and there was a mechanic that both side need to control the outside if they wish to enter or leave.

But long before this I already left the game...

So if you wonder why, well – I kind wonder that too, because at one point, I just stopped playing it, not because I suddenly dislike it or something like that... my one thread don´t offer much answers, because the forum which I was posting was dying so there was less and less people and after a while I stop posting but I continue playing.

Maybe one reason was the convoluted way to buy more credits they got for Brazil, which require you to buy those time cards sold on shops, but there wasn´t many of them selling this cards, which make buy every single one kind annoying process, so I had to order from a shop and wait they send one. To make things even more weird, they sold those card (which was just a small piece of paper) inside those cd/dvd boxes...so you got a rather large box for much no reason...

The game around the time I left, was improved a lot, but I guess, even I did found the thing was going without much direction and for me in my last days, there was much lag. Another possibility was the fact that I was playing mmos for a rather long time, since I started with Ragnarok Online and later did play a bit of Guild Wars, Lineage 2 and City of Heroes, so was mostly like a bit tired of mmos and also I was more interested in playing other games. Not that I now hate mmos or anything, I was just bit tired, specially, since in Ragnarok I was a officer at a guild, which made things a bit more tiresome.

Random Thoughts:

I save here for some small thoughts about the game. Sorry if I got way too vague here.

Inside of some place in the High Elf front.
Inside of some place in the High Elf front.

World Design: while not bad, it wasn´t memorable, at least what I could remember. Now while the the capitals where the main attraction and main reason to fight, for some strange reasons, you kind wouldn´t see until very late on, unless you go out of the way to go early there. Like I did when I send a character to Altdorf for reaching the auction house.

Inside the Empire Capital
Inside the Empire Capital
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Gear: I remember mostly of begin ok or good overall, the game did feature a craft system, which I have no memory of using it or how it worked. One cleaver thing they did was that during pvp/rvr character would drop items like monsters (I mean not their gear, but random stuff).

At the end of public quest you could get those loot bags depending of how well you did do.
At the end of public quest you could get those loot bags depending of how well you did do.

Tome of Knowledge: Another nice idea was that the tome would register all stuff you did, so you could complete a quest, even before you actually start it, as it would register that you, per example, already killed x number of boars. Now I have to be fair, I can´t remember if this worked as I register in my thread...

Open Party System: The idea was that the game would show to you all parties around you and with a simple click you could join them. I remember liking this a lot, having not nice memories of begin unable to find parties in WoW and begin forced to skip some dungeons.

Scenarios: They where WAR´s battlegrounds, with a difference that you could easily teleport in to one and they begin much shorter in time, around 15 minutes. Compared to by bad experience in WoW (note: despite this I did liked a lot the time I played WoW), where many matchs (this was after Burning Crusade but before Lich King) which lasted 30 minutes and often turn suffering where my team can´t win nor lose and the whole thing just keep going and going on or begin plagued by twinked characters (like gnomes rougues with two daggers), I liked WAR a lot more on this aspect.

WAR´s scenarios where rather small and with much smaller time limit which made matchs more fast and fun.
WAR´s scenarios where rather small and with much smaller time limit which made matchs more fast and fun.
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Ishar II — Messengers of Doom (1993)

Ishar II - Messengers of Doom (1993)

Note: I decided to bring the second part here too, sorry if the way the images looks isn't very good.

The second game does take the whole thing to a new level, its a much improved version with superior graphics that tries a lot of new things and that also misstep a lot more, but still, it's a huge leap.

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You now take the role of Zubaran, which recieve a vision from Jon the Alchemist, urging him to take action and face the new threat of the sorcerer Shandar, much like in the first game if you remember how Aramir (the first game main character) meet Azalghorm..

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From there, with this single character, you quest starts. But also you are thrown in the middle of nowhere and all you can see is some npcs in the distance (this is somewhat also like Ishar I, where the first thing you could see is some npcs), but that is a fight that right now, you can't win. What you need to do (but not know), is avoid it and instead find a settlement to recruit some character and bought a few things, so then you go face them.

One of the first things you see in the game, but right now you need a party to face those bandits.
One of the first things you see in the game, but right now you need a party to face those bandits.
More close shot of them.
More close shot of them.

On Jon's Island, the game apply this trick to give you illusion that you are climbing or descending the mountains, despite still in a flat 3D first person perspective.

Now, let's be clear, the manual of the game gives you a general idea in form of rhymes (in fact many old crpgs did that, while in the surface they looked "complex" or "harder" as more modern crpgs, most of this complexibility came from period limitations, and many of this games came with manuals that kind almost spell everything to you), but even with this you can still get very lost.

One of the major difference is that the world you will explore is divided in islands (each one named after one of Jarel's companions), there was a even greater effort to make each island unique and some very cleaver tricks applied. Specially in Jon's Island, which is most made of ice and mountains, there they used very smart effect to give you sensation that you are climbing the mountains despite the fact that you still moving in a flat simple 3d first person perspective.

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On Jon's Island, the game apply this trick to give you illusion that you are climbing or descending the mountains, despite still in a flat 3D first person perspective.
On Jon's Island, the game apply this trick to give you illusion that you are climbing or descending the mountains, despite still in a flat 3D first person perspective.

Meanwhile Thorm's island is all about forest with bridges and buildings on top of trees (saddly this is also the most confusing area to navigate), Zach's island is the one with the game major city that even features a night club which is operated by Shandar's followers (that avoid all troopes that you might expect, in fact the only night club related stuff show is a poster for the "the gates" show),also the cicle of day and night does affect the town as shops and other places close up at night.

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Thorm's Island, notice the day night cicle effect.
Thorm's Island, notice the day night cicle effect.
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Zach's Island feature the game largest city.
Zach's Island feature the game largest city.
The Blue Velvet Club
The Blue Velvet Club
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Irvan's Island is the first one you start the game and it's mostly plains an swamps, while Akker's and Obtar's Island are dungeons.

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(Above) Irvan's Island is mostly plains and resemble a lot with the first game areas.
(Above) Irvan's Island is mostly plains and resemble a lot with the first game areas.
That guy look like a lot a Chaos Champion from Warhammer Fantasy
That guy look like a lot a Chaos Champion from Warhammer Fantasy
Olbar's and Akeer's Island are dungeons. Also I don't know why but this guy helmet remember me from some guy from Dragonlance.
Olbar's and Akeer's Island are dungeons. Also I don't know why but this guy helmet remember me from some guy from Dragonlance.

The game even manages to avoid te confusion that might have arise from having all this island to visit but no idea where to start, since you need to find maps first, but still there is a lot of back and forth between them at key points. This means that you feel a lot less a sense of going from point A to B like in the first game, but kind fell like running in circles.

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The overall quest is much larger with many more step and some nice new ideas, however, in many times you might don't know when, why or where you need something, and at certain points you need do perform very specific task that can be very vague. To make things complicated, it is very easy at certain points to break the quest by missing quest items and just got locked with no way to progress.

Below I will highlight a few moments in the main quest:

  • In Zach's Island you can buy (and to be more exact you need) several pets, that will use during the game, problem is you don't might exactly know when or where you need them, nor their use is very clear. At one point you got locked in a prision and will use a raven to pick the keys (without you are stuck there), later you use a monkey to find a secret door, also at other point you a use a eagle after talking to a wizard. At the very end you need a parrot. Problem is, that you might totaly miss the pet shop if you don't know before and unless I am mistaken you can use this pets before the right time.
  • Early on you can find a lot of gold, but you might have no idea that you could do it, because the trick is that behind the bank in Zach's Island there is a couple of monsters and behind a vault with a lot of gold that can make the game a lot easier and reduce the grind.
  • Talking about gold: at least two moments you need to have certain quanty of gold in hand that you simple have no idea that you need it. One time you need give to a wizard 10,000 pieces and other time you need to go a specific part o Zach island in a specific time to meet a npc that after you hand him a lot of gold will give you one of pieces of the druid's body.
  • During game at least twice moment I needed to reload because I might have broken the main quest, one by my own accident, one puzzle require you to put a certain mount of gold coins in some pedestals, they hint you the actual amount since you find some pedestal which already have the need gold, but my instincts lead me to pick all the gold only to find later that I had no idea on what to do. The second time was a puzzle where I need several skulls, somehow one of them vanish from my inventory or I lost it, since inventory space is scarce.
  • On Jon's island which is most mountains and ice, you need buy furs (to avoid damage from cold) and a rope to tie your character to each other(to avoid them falling over the edges). This is quite cleaver, but you still might don't know you actually need any of this, specially the rope (well, the fur is quite obvious)
  • In Zach's island you need to visit the Blue Veltet club twice, but one time without the night outfit so you get arrested and have to escape (but you might no idea you need to do this) and later with the night outfit and some pendants this time to actually visit the place and learn where Shandar hideout is.
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One of the moments you will use one of the pets you can buy.
One of the moments you will use one of the pets you can buy.
This gold will help a lot if you can win the fight
This gold will help a lot if you can win the fight
Begin captured on the Blue Velvet is necessary to advance the quest.
Begin captured on the Blue Velvet is necessary to advance the quest.

The Ishar party system issues which I mentioned in the previous article (I mean the fact that the party votes if they want someone in or out) kind play hard here, twice you need main npc in your party: First the the daughter of one the two druids which tried to face Shandar (this is told in the rhyme in the manual) and later her father himself, which was killed by Shandar but you can join all his body parts (scattered around in form os relics). But might be unable to peacefully remove any of your party members, which mean the only way will be left people die in combat or try the dangerous act of order one character to attack another.

The overall game is much better and the athosmpere is much richer thanks to the improved graphics and even the day-night cycle, however you still don't know even how exactly Shandar is or what he is doing, the best hint you got is from some npcs.

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This text explain a bit what happened after Ishar I and how Shandar came to power. But you only find this very late.
This text explain a bit what happened after Ishar I and how Shandar came to power. But you only find this very late.

While the main quest itself is very good, there still very vague moments that you might have you no idea what to do and while you can list to rumors in taverns, many times they are the same ones and can be very strange due weird translation.

However, despite this, Ishar II is much better game and much like the first have it's own atmosphere and feeling, maybe even more that the first game.I would recommend, as its improvements made easier to get on despite the confusing and vagueness that happen in some part of the game.

In case you wonder - why this game is called Messagers of Doom? I have absolute no idea why. It kind sound like a heavy metal album.

Once finished you can import the save to Ishar III, which will be our next stop - Ishar III: Seven Gates of Infinity (1994)

Note: This might take a while, Ishar III appear to crash from time to time and while I could import my save, character faces appear bugged. So I still need to figure if I will use a new party and find the right mood to play it.

More Screenshots:

Rumors in taverns might help a bit but they can be slight strange: that was a rumor, a letter or both of them? still it's a valuable hint. Later you find Zeldy, but in another island.
Rumors in taverns might help a bit but they can be slight strange: that was a rumor, a letter or both of them? still it's a valuable hint. Later you find Zeldy, but in another island.
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I remember once reading on Hardcore Gamer 101 on Tracing the Influence (http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/tracing/tracing.htm) about how some game images resemble another images, I can't say if this case for Ishar II, since above image look original, but the lower one does look kind traced or maybe it is direct reference, but I could be wrong and it simple because the style does not match much the rest of the game npcs.
I remember once reading on Hardcore Gamer 101 on Tracing the Influence (http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/tracing/tracing.htm) about how some game images resemble another images, I can't say if this case for Ishar II, since above image look original, but the lower one does look kind traced or maybe it is direct reference, but I could be wrong and it simple because the style does not match much the rest of the game npcs.
What does
What does "guv" mean or stand for? governor??
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The npc from the Bank and a really strange dialogue (remember the original game was in French).
The npc from the Bank and a really strange dialogue (remember the original game was in French).
The is secret of the Blue Velvet Club. Shander is often mentioned both as sorceror and a priest.
The is secret of the Blue Velvet Club. Shander is often mentioned both as sorceror and a priest.
The game maps are more helpful
The game maps are more helpful
Some spell effect are very different, this one is for a spell which produces a dimension where your character can rest in the middle of the combat. Once you got this battle became a lot easier.
Some spell effect are very different, this one is for a spell which produces a dimension where your character can rest in the middle of the combat. Once you got this battle became a lot easier.
On Zach's Island you can find ingame the recipe of all potions
On Zach's Island you can find ingame the recipe of all potions
You must have furs and ropes to survive in Jon's Island. Without furs you die from cold and without rope your character might fall from cliffs.
You must have furs and ropes to survive in Jon's Island. Without furs you die from cold and without rope your character might fall from cliffs.
Talking about strange spells, on the left you see the result of the
Talking about strange spells, on the left you see the result of the "metamorphosys spell" which turn you characters in…that thing…what ever is… and what the spell really does is unknown to me, since despite that there is no noticiable changes.

About the game:

Release date: 1993

Developer: Silmarils

Platforms: PC, Amiga, Macintosh, Atari

Version I played: Ishar Compilation from Good Old Games (http://www.gog.com/game/ishar_compilation)

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Ishar I - The Legend of the Fortress

This text was originally published in my medium (https://medium.com/@Armoderic) but since I decided to maybe trying to be more active here too, why not bring this too?

Note: I am still getting used to blog and post here, sorry for any mistakes.

Ishar I: The Legend of the Fortress (1992)

A couple of few weeks ago I created a profile on Medium, my plan was just to write about a few games, something I desired to maybe share with someone, but unsure where I could do it (and didn´t felt that I wish to have a actual blog). That is when, while hearing podcast that I learned about Medium. I was still stuck, unsure to how to begin or even what game it would be, there is a couple ones which I am playing now, but I couldn´t make my mind. Eventually, I figured that maybe how about something wish I had already played? then I choose Ishar Compilation, why? well for sometime I have been thinking around about this game for some time, but never put it on anything on paper.

That begin said, I hope what say below does not sound harsh, because, Ishar I: The Legend of the Fortress (1992), is a good game with some what unique flavor, despite some issues. I will start most describe how thing work, given this a rather old and maybe less known game to a lot of people.

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Azalghorm kind reminds me of Corak, both of them show up at the start to give you basic advice for your quest.
Azalghorm kind reminds me of Corak, both of them show up at the start to give you basic advice for your quest.

Ishar is in fact, a sequel to Crystals of Arborea (1991), where Jarel and his companions defeated Morgoth (yeah, Arborea did draw a lot from Silmarillion), now after Jarel death, the land fall o chaos and a new enemy — Krogh — emerges, he build the temple of “Ishar” and threat the land Keldoria, and up you (Aramir) to stop him.

One the very first you are going to notice is that the game does use a curious saving system, where you must “pay” to save, which while might appear a way to avoid save-scumming, it does annoy you more early on, where you have almost no money and even resting and get food can cost a lot (weapons, armor and training cost even more), so its easy to get stuck. The only way around is farming enemies over and over again. Later on, you have enough gold that this does not matter anymore.

You do start with a single character (Aramir) and you can meet people that might join your party which can be up to five characters. But that this first character isn´t essential, he can die (or leave) and you can continue playing. Some classes can have unique abilities, like locks pick, first aid and orientation (but in my experience I don´t remember ever using or need lock picks).

Most of characters you are either in taverns or around the world, at one point you can even (and in fact you need to) recruit Krogh´s mother! (she is essential to finish the game, because of her “anti-Krogh spell” but when you first find her she was transformed in to a pig by Krogh)

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One of unique features in Ishar (and in later games of the franchise)the way the game work the relationship between the party members and how affect them. Alignment, race and class might affect how each character react when you try to recruit or dismiss someone, because you can´t just order that, the party does vote if they want that or not, they even can start to attack each other because alingment differences,

The manual say that some characters might refuse to fight some monsters (I didn´t see that when I played) and even claims that characters might develop friendships, but this isn´t very clear in this works ingame, because the manual does not describe the system in detail and while ingame you can visit a npc which is a “psyco-analyst” he just gives a short description of how things are going in the party.

Saddly, this system can cause a few problems, because at some points in the game you do need to change characters in order to recruit vital ones, but you might be unable to do it, since your party refuse to let anyone go and this can be made worst because you might don´t realize that you need this or that npc. The only way around is let someone die or maybe order one character to attack other, often leading the party to civil war. Also, once someone leave the party they will vanish forever (hope you don´t leave any quest items with this character).

This all mean, that while there is a lot of character that can join your party, most time you won´t or can´t change the party much. Maybe the game expect you to play with mixed alignment party, but since the first different alingment character that you meet in the very first steps will leave the party in the first night of rest taking some gold with him you might not try that again, given how little gold there is in the start.

The game also features a alchemy crafting system and in many parts of the game you do must have the right potions and ingredients to continue on, the formulas came in the manual but not the description of what each one does. Now I am not really sure, at least I can´t remember by memory, but I think that either in this game (or in the next) there was a translation mistake (I think the game was first in French) ingame and one potion have the wrong name.

There was a couple of settlements in the world and some more “standard” towns in the game (I mean with separated map), where you could find some hints, buy ingredients, weapons and armor and visit a trainer, where you can improve attributes, skills and even learn spells (each region had different spells you can learn, meaning a lot of back and forth to find the right spells).

One of Ishar issues, that was maybe common in a lot of other early and ambitious crpgs, is that while it sometimes it was what today we would call a open world or even a sandbox (if we stretch the term to the limit), it fact it required you to do a very specific set of things that no one really tell you and the connections can be very vague, the lack of explanation often make things very confusing (you can hear rumors in taverns, but I confess never did that or remember learned anything useful). Most time this happen due technical limitations of the period, and to be fair and clear, Ishar I doesn´t suffer from that so much as the next game, save a few points which I describe next, the game pace and progression is fine (and a lot of times you meet npc which will hint what to do).

  • At one point you need to collect several tablets, but one of them is cursed, unless you have a potion (maybe a spell), your party might die, the problem is that you might have no idea at all of this curse or what potion you do need. So you might pick the tablet without knowing any of this and see your character dying without knowing why.
  • One of the most most vague moments, which isn´t essential, but useful: In certain place in the map you do find a magic sword (which is in fact Jarel´s sword) stuck in a stone. The problem is, that while you do choose a character to do it so, what the game does take in account the total strength of the whole party which most be above a certain minimum (62 if memory didn´t fail me), but the game does not explain that, instead, a failed attempt to remove the sword just wield a “you are a bit wet behind your ears”.
  • The maybe most annoying (or eye rolling) quest involves going in a city, which was take over by orcs, to rescue a elven woman, daughter of one of the Jarel´s companions. First problem, hope you have a free slot in your party, because you need. Second once she is in, one of you male party member will refuse to let here go because he falls in love with her (and vice versa, game dialog kind suggest that she fell in love with him too), making impossible to complete the quest, unless either you get rid of him (by letting him die or order the party to kill him) or by making a potion to dispel (again you might not even realize that this option exist). Another option is having a all woman party, which avoid the issue. Off course you still can try to kick that character of the party or having one member to attack another that most likely kill everybody…

Combat is you average third person perspective in early crpg, you can equip you character with weapon and choose the over position of each party member (the game does have a system of ranks, and what weapon can be used in each rank) and click on each weapons(which have different cooldowns) to attack or use spells. Late in the game magic does became really powerful (Repulse, Lightning, Fireball will be the most used) and you need certain spells at key moments.

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The difference however, is the game does have physical and mental energy, which is depleted as you fight or cast spells, to replenish you need either food or spells, which might mean make trips forth and back from dungeons.

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One problem on its interface it that spell effects can´t be very vague and there is very little feedback, so you can be hit by a spell and not even notice not even know what is going on. Per example, at one point while playing, I was hit by the spell “Inversion” which change the character alignment, which made my character to attack each other, but it did take a while for me to realize what is going on. I only noticed the attacks and the small icon in form o “ying-yang”, I had to check on GoG forum to realize that was the effect of the Inversion spell and I had to cast it again (thankfully one of my characters know it) to reverse this (note: the manual does not explain the spell effect or its icons, for that you must look in Ishar II manual).

The artwork and overall visual design have much of the late 80 and 90 fantasy art, but had quite unique flavor, specially in the character portrait design (each one try to have a distinct look), the rest of the characters: like enemies and npc are your average.

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The world itself is vast and majority of the time is spend outdoors in rather large open spaces (save a few dungeons and cities), you move around it similar way to many old crpgs, like Wizardry and Might and Magic (and in more modern example, think of Legend of Grimrock), in a third person perspective which you move by squares. The interesting thing is that the game art try to make this squares appear more seamless and more natural (instead of of using the same texture over and over), which mean that each region is try to be quite unique (each having a name), most of them are linked by land but there is a lot portals to get around more easily.

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Still, there is a couple of place, mostly towns and a few open places where navigation can be really trick, because is very easy to get lost.

Ok, so far all I have just described the game and some of it´s system and the issues…So how the game does feel? (I know it is very strange to make this kind of division, but still…)

For one thing, Ishar, while in surface look like many other crpg of the period (Might and Magic, Eye of the Beholder, Wizardry) does have it´s own flavor to, that is rather hard do explain, because isn´t not anything deep or complex, maybe the best way to say, is that Ishar, is a simple fantasy with a clear story, and I don´t mean this in a negative way, because there is a charm in simplicity. In Ishar you are tasked with defeat Krogh, how exactly he is very vague and what Krogh did or is doing is even more vague, all the manual (and I will quote some parts of it) say that he was “shady and powerful figure” once an adventurer and mercenary which managed to rise to power after Jarel death and chaos that followed and he “seek the return of darkness”. But still, it kind works, because again in comparsion with other titles of the period (compare it to Wizardry and Might and Magic with their themes that mixed sci-fi and fantasy or Eye of the Beholder that had a more AD&D themes), it´s quite different if you join it with the party system and some of its other elements (isn´t much until Baldur´s Gate, at least in the west, that you got such ideas for npcs reacting due their alignment).

Small curiosity: let´s go back a bit, remember how in Crystals of Arborea, the main enemy was Morgoth? there is in Ishar the kind same idea that was Lord of Rings, where a greater evil is replaced another one, which isn´t so powerful, but still dangerous (the Morgoth to Sauron), except that Korgh is nowhere near Sauron in power (at least from what the game hint and from what I remember), as he is more some kind of warlord (and maybe a cult leader too) that manages to rise to power, but that might have some ties with Morgoth (I can´t remember if the game says that or suggest).

That is it for now, hope you all like it. Next stay tuned for Ishar II — The Messengers of Doom!

About the game:

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