First of all, I’d like to thank everyone who offered me some good Project Gorgon advice in the last installment of this column. Advice helped me put together an idea of some stuff that I had managed to miss with my natural explorations, including where I could get a freaking handsaw. It wasn’t even hard; I just misread a certain gateway as an exit instead of a path to another sub-section of the town. So that helped get me back on track.
Second, I’d like to apologize for having to take a mulligan last week and leaving you all without a column; it was totally down to limits of my own time rather than any dislike for the game. If you’ve not gotten the message from the first couple of installments, I quite like the game as a whole.
Third, I’d further like to apologize for the fact that this week my lifelong tendency to be terrible about screenshots struck badly. On the plus side, it’s not like most of my gear has changed, and there’s not much more to be said about the game’s graphics. On that note, in fact, we should probably start talking about the actual game.
In terms of actual storyline progress, I found the NPC to teach me Mentalism and started doing favors for him whilst also grinding away at Foraging and the usual stuff. The Brain Bugs remain difficult opponents, and as a result my Death skill got quite the workout. I also spent some time chipping away at the weird red crystals as per my quest directive, which wound up having me set aflame more or less by accident.
Mercifully, one of the very nice things about Project Gorgon is that everything works more or less the way real-world experience would say that it does. Are you on fire? Is there a lake right next to you? Then the problem suggests its own solution, doesn’t it?
Unfortunately, some things feel… less intuitive than I’d expect. It’s weird to have so many foraging nodes that are actually skill-gated when you’re trying to raise your skill; usually most skills thus far have let me do something and just fail (for less experience) if I’m not good enough. So I’m not sure if I totally like that side of foraging.
I did, however, find the brain bug cave, which suffers from… well, kind of a similar issue when it comes to information displayed. The short version? The game’s rejection of a level-based system is baked into its very core, but that comes at the price of not giving players much in the way of pointers about how that same death could be avoided again.
Let’s take a wildly different game as an example, because I can. If I’m exploring an area in WildStar and find that the enemies are exceedingly hard for me to kill, I know exactly what I need to work on right away. My level needs to be higher, which is pretty straightforward to seek out. By contrast, if I’m finding an enemy hard to kill for whatever reason in Project Gorgon, the game shrugs and lets me look around to see what I’m doing wrong without much in the way of helpful guidance. I can’t say “well, I’m too low-level for this,” but there’s also not a clear portrait of what else I’m supposed to do. Level up Endurance? Try a completely different means of attack?
In short, the lack of levels means that the usual plan of “this is too hard right now, I should come back later” might lead to you coming back facing the exact same problem.
Fortunately, there’s a very obvious solution to this particular problem, lest you think I’m complaining about nothing. The Dying skill could easily be used to offer you information about what killed you and how to avoid that, at least to improve your defenses if nothing else. I realize that you already suffer little in the ways of penalties from death, but it would help serve as a better indicator of what you ought to be doing when you’re otherwise new to the game, and that’s always a good thing.
Of course, some of my frustration is probably just my own nature showing through; the fact is that the game is designed for a pretty solid chunk of grinding from an early point. Yes, there’s lots of fun weirdness and unusual skills and strange stuff that you can pick up, and yes, it’s entirely possible to just find stuff on the ground. I picked up a bottle of Un-deer Juice at one point, and you know what? It does exactly what you think it does. It makes you no longer a deer. That means you can pick up a thing to make you a deer.
But between the point of “I just got turned into a deer” and “I have ceased to be a deer,” there’s a lot of grinding inherent in the whole exercise. And like the era the game is replicating, consciously or not, those grinds are wholly independent of one another. Grinding up favor with one guy is not actually going to improve your other stats except by accident. Getting more levels in Swords is not going to make you all that much more durable. And punching someone to death won’t make you any better at using fire magic.
Again, this is all very logical and it works the way you would expect it to. But the lack of synchronization is felt as you play. For all the marvelous weirdness the game has on display, there’s a chunk of grinding that winds up being a little bit grating. It’s just that you are, hopefully, having fun despite that.
And, for the record, I am having fun. Perhaps not as much fun as I did when I first saw the game and perhaps even less fun as I try to accomplish specific goals rather than just seeing what there is to see, but fun all the same.
Now, on to this week’s polls. After finishing the crystal chipping bit I was given the task to go level up fire magic, but I still need to explore the brain bug cave that kept killing me. Whether or not I can actually explore it successfully remains to be seen. However, it occurs to me that instead of just doing this on my own pattern I should turn to you fine folks and ask you. What should I be doing for my last week of this particular column?
CMA: What objective should I pursue?
- Go learn some fire magic and proceed with that. (26%, 30 Votes)
- Work on building yourself up for those brain bugs. (16%, 18 Votes)
- Pursue your own goals for the heck of it or just wander. (58%, 67 Votes)
Total Voters: 115
Obviously, there’s going to be a fair amount of overlap no matter what I do, but that’s the nature of the game and how many options are open to me at any given time. Polls remain open until noon on Friday, so you’ve got plenty of time to get your answers in along the way.
As always, feedback is welcome in the comments or via mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. I do appreciate that the brain bugs are at least something of a stumbling block for a lot of new players, so I am getting the authentic experience.