My first experiences with the game were not exactly what I would call positive, but little of that had to do with the game itself (it’s hardly the game’s fault that one of my credit cards did not want to properly activate, for example, and while that made purchasing the title more annoying that’s really just my own problem). Once I actually got in and started playing with the character creator, though, it… well, it still had problems. But it’s an open question whether those problems are the fault of the game itself or just the problem of who is playing. And I also wonder how many of those will change over time as I do get accustomed to the game.
But, hey, at least it can’t be accused of being generic.
The actual character creator is, I’m sorry to say, the sort of character creator that provokes very mixed feelings from me. On the one hand, I can’t ignore the fact that this creator is intensely powerful. It offers me a whole lot of control to really fine-tune my character as I want… arguably too much power. There are a lot of things to adjust, frequently in ways that seem kind of counterintuitive, and very little guidance on how to use the various parts of it.
Faces, for example, give you the opposite to gently massage every little detail of the facial structure. You can subtly tweak and twirl character hair and the length of specific parts of the hairstyle. There are several dozen parts of the body you individually nudge and move, full-body tattoos that you can carefully customize, and so forth. It’s very elaborate.
It’s definitely built for fine control, but it’s fine control that has two major limitations. The first is that there are some hard-coded limitations in the creator which are not immediately apparent as you run up against them, which are frustrating. The second is that you have no actual basis to start from, no pre-defined lineups that you can use as a basis of comparison for “all right, my character is taller than average” or “this is more of a runner’s body type compared to a body builder or model.”
So I’m conflicted. I like, for example, that I could make a lady with a bulkier body type… but I don’t like that I’m doing so in a vacuum with no basis of comparison to other body types, and I also don’t like that there’s really no way to stop her from wearing high heels or adjusting her muscles to not look as if she’s rolling around in oil on an hourly basis. I have enough control to lose hours in the creator, but not control over the things I actually want. And it’s made all the worse by certain sliders or adjustments that seem to do little to nothing.
Mind you, I am certain – beyond certain, in fact – that there are probably some good tutorials out there which could help me navigate this creator and provide a better baseline. That doesn’t really change the fundamental problem, though.
Once you start the game, you’re treated to an introduction that’s supposedly setting up events of mythic importance but really winds up feeling oddly weightless. “A thing happened, but it was soon forgotten.” That’s great, why are you telling me about it? What bearing does it have on right now? What does that tell me about the world? Then you wake up in the middle of a field with a fuzzy black puffball coaching you through your next actions.
This aspect I honestly like a fair bit, at least so far. I don’t know if this changes, but the Black Spirit is oddly compelling as a narrator and guide who seems to have its own agenda without really filling you in on what’s going on. It keeps insisting that you’re friends, which is the surest sign that you aren’t, but it doesn’t actually seem to have any ill intent baked into its actions. It’s just… there, inscrutable and guiding, and paired with an odd sort of non-voice that has more character than the actual voice acting.
After a couple of “go here and talk to this person” quests, you get introduced to combat. This brought to mind thoughts of a number of games which I rather dislike simply because they have the tendency to shove a bunch of attacks in your face without giving you a clear picture of why each of those attacks might be useful or relevant. I’ve got a small arsenal in my hands, but I don’t yet really understand how all of those abilities work with one another… and the tutorial just lists some of the abilities, followed by the Black Spirit informing me that I must be getting the hang of this now.
No, Black Spirit, I’m not, because you told me what they are instead of what they do. (Think of a Mario game telling you just “press A to jump” without mentioning that landing on enemies is your main method of defeating them.) And everything seems to be dying in seconds of just basic attacking, which rather prevents me from learning how these things work.
Is this bad? Sort of. It does mean that the flow of learning what your abilities do as you get them winds up kind of blunted, but I know there are players out there who would prefer to get a handful of skills and figure them out on their own. That’s valid. Beyond that, combat is fast and responsive, and I definitely get the sense of having some impact; the mechanics of Dark Knight are as fun in play as they looked in previews, even if I barely understand how the class is meant to work beyond “hold the left mouse button to attack.”
Please, do let me know if this all feels more natural on a gamepad. That would be helpful.
As it stands, the game definitely throws you into the deep end and expects you to learn how to swim. Which is certainly an approach one can use (for example, it’s how I actually learned how to swim in the real world), and I’d probably appreciate the hell out of it if I had been playing for a while and were starting yet another alt. Alas, I have not been. It’s all rather overwhelming, albeit more from the standpoint of “what am I doing” rather than “there’s too much stuff happening at once.”
I’m relatively certain that I’ll get the hang of it with a bit more time, though. For the moment, the overwhelming vote was to focus on the tutorial and keep in on PvE questing, along with some really great and detailed advice from a whole lot of fans, all of which I very much appreciate. You people are awesome. (A couple of you even sent me in detailed guides by email, so thanks to both Master Nuke and Shenryll for a whole lot of useful advice that’s at least guiding my somewhat disjointed thoughts!)
That having been said, I would like a poll here… and my first week’s adventures actually prompts a concurrent question, so that works well.
CMA: Do you prefer being thrown into the deep end with a new character?
- Yes, I'd rather figure things out as I go. (35%, 71 Votes)
- No, I prefer a more gradual introduction. (54%, 110 Votes)
- The real introduction should come from being ganked by the side of the road and then teabagged. Why does no one want to play games with me? (11%, 23 Votes)
Total Voters: 204
Also, I cannot seem to find the keybind for hiding the UI for screenshots, so I have had to have fewer shots than I normally use in these columns. I apologize! Next week will hopefully be better in that regard; until then, please be sure to tell me how obvious things are in the comments or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.