I want to start this column by saying the absolute meanest thing I have to say about Project Gorgon, and that one is probably pretty obvious. This is not a pretty game. I’m reluctant to say that it’s outright ugly because a lot of effort has obviously been put into making the game look as pretty as it possibly can, but there is a hard limit to how much you can do under the circumstances. The result? Even with graphics cranked up as high as they will go, this game is not a looker.
That’s the meanest thing I’ve got. In every other respect, it delivered on what I expected or actually provided me with a little bit more.
Character customization, at this point, is also pretty anemic and terrible, but I managed to make a character who looked at least halfway decent. Then my character got immediately fireballed in the face with several NPCs standing (or hovering) over her body, announcing sadly that her will wasn’t going to break, and so one of them would need to take her on specifically as a pet project. And then I woke up on an island.
So now I’m on the island, I have no idea why I’m here, no idea how to get off of it, and nothing more than the barest of tutorials to direct me. And by the time I found the first NPC on the island who could actually provide some guidance, I was already pretty invested in the story going on here.
Yes, I criticize a lot of the stories being told in the MMOs I play here, but that’s because most of them have little to no personality or hooks for why I should care. Here? I immediately have a reason to care (I’m stuck on an island) and a series of reactions that make reasonable sense for someone who’s stuck on the island. It helps that the first NPC you meet is an elf who is a bit further gone than he would like to admit, trying to be helpful but also having forgotten a lot of the things that he should really know at this point.
No world-shattering importance, no enormous and unassailable tasks where there’s no reason why I’d be taking them on, but also no sense of complete irrelevance. I’m on an island and have to get off of the island, and the game would provide me with pointers but otherwise let me sort of feel my way around.
Is it world-shattering storytelling? No, but it’s the sort that seems so frequently left to one side. I was invested, and the game chose a story that would let me feel invested instead of putting me on rails for an extended period. And it felt, right off of the bat, like I was taking part in something that was a microcosm of the whole game. Wander around, explore, see what’s on display, try things out, get a feel for the game around me.
The fact of the matter is that the game is also shot through with a wicked sense of humor, and it’s the sort that I can appreciate. At no point does the game spend time talking about how dumb or ridiculous it is, but it never starts taking itself too seriously. It winds up feeling like… well, a world where people live. Where sometimes people are petty or annoyed or angry or cold or hungry or petulant or whatever. It felt lived in more or less immediately.
By the time I finally got off of the island, I’d gotten to define a bit of Ceilarene’s character, gotten the broadest sense of the world, and also wound up having a conversation with one of the NPCs who killed me… when she gave me information that immediately sounded wrong. It felt like a nice way of foreshadowing. We, the player, know something isn’t right here even if the characters don’t, but we also don’t entirely know which parts are the lies.
I also fought (and autopsied) a lot of different enemies. A lot of skills, like the anatomy skills, seem primarily built to give you passive stat boosts and encourage you to fight certain sorts of enemies for those boosts; Archers, for instance, look to get a benefit from fighting lots of Undead. That’s a clever angle to make up for the lack of a straightforward leveling system, and it does create an environment where you want to find out a lot about a variety of little things.
Of course, the actual combat mechanics are… well, not great. Reasonably basic, from what I saw. It’s pretty typical click-and-go combat, with a number of different weapon types and some loose mechanics within a given weapon tree. Serviceable without being magnificent.
There are still aspects I like, though. For one thing, armor isn’t a flat subtraction from damage; instead, you have a certain number of armor points, and they absorb half of the damage from attacks until they’re gone. Like health, they seem to slowly recover out of combat, but losing all of your armor doesn’t hurt you… except that it means that now you’re taking all of the damage with your health, not half of it. So you want more armor, but it has a different means of working.
For another, the game lets you use unarmed combat and swords pretty much right away, thus ensuring that you can take on enemies in a variety of different ways and tailor your attacks to your personal preference. You’re still kind of scrabbling with your first few finds, throwing on whatever gear is available, but there’s something satisfying about the idea that you don’t just have to use a specific build right away.
After I got off of the island, I spent some time lighting street lamps to level my Civic Pride skill, because of course that’s a skill. Everything is a skill. The downside is, of course, that it’s a rather grindy system. You’re going to be clicking a whole lot of street lamps to get that skill up there. Fortunately, it also feels like it’s there for a reason and does something worthwhile, so that at least helps take the edge off.
Honestly, I went into this with some reluctance, but after my starting playtime I was pretty quickly enamored. It’s exactly what I expected it to be insofar as it leans in on being rather odd and quirky, but it manages to find a nice midpoint where that odd quirkiness thus far enhances the game appreciably.
But let’s talk about destinations, as the game does not actually care what I do next. I’ve got two main quest directions to explore, but there’s the very real option that I could just wander off and find new shinies to click on. So what shall I do, readers?
CMA: What should my first goal be in Project Gorgon?
- Go find out about the brain bugs. (44%, 98 Votes)
- Hunt down the red crystal stuff. (23%, 51 Votes)
- Ignore the actual quests and just grind and do weird stuff. (33%, 75 Votes)
Total Voters: 224
As usual, the poll runs until 6:00 p.m. EST on Friday, so you’ve got plenty of time to vote. Until then, let me know what you think in the comments down below or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll be back next week with more explorations in this world full of Civic Pride and deceivingly helpful autopsies.