Choose My Adventure: Farewell to Project Gorgon

    
13
Making my way no matter how bad it looks.

Out of all the titles that I’ve played for Choose My Adventure, Project Gorgon is probably the earliest in its development cycle. It’s also, by a sizable margin, the best in show. If you’re looking for a quick ringtone-style clip to take away from this column, that would be the one.

That doesn’t mean I don’t have a lot of criticisms of the game, nor does it mean that this is a game which will delight and amaze everyone who plays it. I have a somewhat biased starting point anyway because I talk about this subgenre for a living, and thus I have certain tastes that not everyone is going to share. That isn’t meant as a brag; that’s meant as a self-admonishment because these are things no one should really care about all that much.

Still, here I am, here this game is, and I am happy to pronounce it the best of all the Choose My Adventure games that I’ve played for this feature so far – albeit with the slight caveat that it won’t be able to hold onto that title forever if it doesn’t actually address some of the issues that I noticed while playing.

still aliveSee, that’s the thing about evaluating a title this early in its development cycle; there’s still a lot of stuff that’s subject to change in either direction. Once a game is live, it’s at least relatively locked into place; when playing Project Gorgon, there’s the little asterisk in my mind reminding me that any critiques I might have are potential points of discussion, barring perhaps the graphics.

And yeah, the graphics are an issue. This game is, I’m sorry to say, pretty darn ugly. It does the best it can with what it has in terms of resources, that’s not really a mark against the game in itself, but it’s important to be aware of when you try to sell someone on the game. Small indie title on small indie budget.

Beyond that, the two biggest issues that the game has are guidance and grind, which require a careful hand to tweak in either direction. Too much guidance discourages the exploration that lies at the heart of the game; too little guidance leaves you unsure of what you’re supposed to be doing in the first place. Some of this is exacerbated by aspects like the hidden nature of many skills; if you don’t know that the skills are there in the first place, you’re discouraged from trying to unlock them, and even if you know they exist it can be difficult to puzzle out where you’re supposed to go.

It can also be hard to puzzle out exactly what you’re supposed to do next if you’re having a hard time with something, as I’ve mentioned in the past. It’s very easy to be dying to a specific enemy and not have a clear picture of what will cause you to not die, which gets frustrating. There’s a lot of fun to be had with exploring, but there comes a point where you’re just knocking your head against the game and begging for, like, a pointer.

Yet these are things that can be fixed, and since the game is just moving into early access, one can only assume with time that these things will probably be addressed. The team isn’t afraid to lean out far for something weird, and the early test cycle seems to have mostly been about finding the limits of that weirdness.

Said weirdness makes the game a lot more endearing, though, and that’s a big part of what I like about the title. It’s not just that the game is willing to find something strange, it’s that the game is willing to find something strange and then make it work within the larger context of the game as a whole. It’s got a bizarre melange of stuff, but it works overtime to make that melange comprehensible and fun, not just obnoxious.

That’s without getting into how much I like the game’s sense of world and narrative. No, it’s not a story-based game, but it definitely has the feel of the game worlds I’ve always enjoyed. There might be lots of weird things going on, but people remain basically and fundamentally people and operate as such. The NPCs narrate their goals and wishes with colorful verve, and I could have spent a whole column just talking about those little touches, like the orcish “traitor” who insists that his prices aren’t meant to be good, they’re fair! Or the gardener clearly regretting a variety of her life choices, or the guard captain who just oozes “waiting for retirement since his first year on the job,” or…

It would be very easy for Project Gorgon to fundamentally just have an excuse setting and plot, but the work put in to making it feel alive really endears it to me. It never leans on wackiness or instability as a point of pride; it plays with what it has to show off and focuses on making its NPCs feel distinct, not just like functional dispensaries for skills or whatever.

Whoooo likes teleporting?

Combat, in general, isn’t great but is very far-reaching. The skill system is unique and different, even if it can feel pretty grindy a lot of the time (and a lot of that grinding feels like it’s not serving much of anything, which doesn’t help; lots of empty levels can be discouraging). It feels like an old-school game simply in that you find out what’s doable and what’s not partly by probing the edges and seeing what bites back.

But it also does all of that without ever falling into the sometimes punishing mechanics of the past out of habit. The game always feels lively and novel, even as it clearly leans on familiar old tropes. There are problems, but those problems always feel like they really could just be artifacts of the game’s early development stage rather than symptoms of a core sickness.

I can’t tell you if you’re going to like the game, honestly. If you really want a guided experience, you won’t. If graphics or combat are a huge deal to you, neither one will amaze. And if polish and refinement are what you look for above all else, you’re going to want to give this one a hard miss.

Me, though? I’m picking this up for money on Steam as soon as that option becomes available. This isn’t the first time that I’ve covered a game where spending a dime was not strictly necessary, but this is the first time where I’ve decided that I don’t need to pay money but I really, really want to. I am fond of this game and want it to succeed. And for all my criticisms, it’s a grand experience.

The funny thing is that it’ll be sitting in my library alongside Shroud of the Avatar, another title that wants to draw from older inspirations but manages to bring all of the worst from the old and little of the good. The comparison tickles me.

The next wave

How're yez?

We’re moving on to the next voting tier, and as I did last time, I’m putting Final Fantasy XI on the list. This is, again, an old-school game, but rather than being a throwback to earlier days it was actually there in the earlier days. It was also my earliest days, so I’d be taking a different tactic with this than normal, but one that should still be interesting. Especially if, say, you like guides as well as evaluation.

Look at you, hacker.

Of course, I could dive into territory I’ve never touched before. Warframe might not be a fully featured MMORPG yet, but even that’s debatable, and over time it’s only moved into that camp instead of away from it. I’ve never so much as touched it, but I’ve heard good things, so perhaps it’s something I would groove on.

Would you like... I don't know, pants?

And last but certainly not least, there’s Blade & Soul. I have played it a bit and was impressed by the game when I first saw it sitting in a hotel in California; since then it’s done rather well for itself, but my own experiences with it were rather perfunctory. Would a more in-depth examination lead to greater appreciation or not? There’s only one way to find out!

Specifically, the only way to find out is to cast your vote below.

CMA: What's our next destination?

  • Warframe (39%, 87 Votes)
  • Final Fantasy XI (29%, 65 Votes)
  • Blade & Soul (32%, 73 Votes)

Total Voters: 225

Loading ... Loading ...

Voting will remain open through the weekend until 6:00 p.m. EST on Sunday, so you have plenty of time to cast your vote and check in. As always, feedback is welcome by mail to eliot@massivelyop.com or just from the comments down below.

Welcome to Choose My Adventure, the column in which you join Eliot each week as he journeys through mystical lands on fantastic adventures — and you get to decide his fate. Let’s see if anyone shows up in the comments wondering why someone would play this game, just for giggles.
newest oldest most liked
Subscribe to:
Reader
Namtubb

Ohhhhh snap Warframe’s dun gone and won. Was originally posting up a bunch of words ’cause this game’s near and dear to my heart BUT I’ll just say I hope you enjoy the game Eliot.
Oh wait one important thing: you can set yourself to Private before going into a level. Vet players tend to just stampede through levels so it sucks for newbies, but being Private also means you can Pause the game (if alone) while in a mission

CapnLan
Reader
CapnLan

If Warframe wins and you dive into it, just remember that the tutorial is trash and doesn’t actually teach you anything you need to know about how to play the game. I highly recommend reading some guides and watching some youtube vids on what to do because the game won’t tell you any of it. The game is great once/if you can get past the start, but the newbie wall is crushing.

Reader
Maggie May

PG is on my radar, good review, I will continue to watch this one. Not sure when to jump in (and will it play on my elder puter?). I picked Warframe (I would likely not play any of them). People seem to rave about it and I know nothing about the game.
(Wasn’t Boob physics a thing in B&S? )

Reader
Patreon Donor
Kickstarter Donor
Loyal Patron
agemyth 😩

I don’t usually get the sense that CMAers can usually get into a game enough to justify it being the thing they want to play when they have free time. My assumption on what kind of time gets put into an average CMA is a few hours a week. I only mention time played because FF11 seems like a good pick, but then Eliot has already played it and its probably still SUPER slow and time consuming.

I played FF11 for more than a quick peek for my first time in the past year or so, and it seemed extremely EverQuest 1-inspired (in mostly good ways). If I recall MJ’s EverQuest 1 CMA on the Massively-that-was correctly she got to, maybe, the middle section of the early game experience. That was probably about as much as she wanted to experience, being mainly an EQ2 lover, but my point is just that it was not a game that played well with the how CMAs usually go. I don’t see much of a point of Eliot playing a little FF11 and writing about it every week unless, as he hinted at in the article, he is going to use the opportunity to give himself more work by making more site #content with a guide or something. I would like to see that, but I don’t know what that does to make it interesting for this column.

Why am I still talking about FF11 when Warframe is going to win anyway? Good luck, Tenno. May the RNG and crafting timers treat you well.

On Blade and Soul: I think the opening hours of that game are absolutely rotten for all the reasons the MMO bubble busted after chasing WoW for so long.

Nothing but love for the CMAers
Just want to be clear that I’m not judging or complaining about MJ, Eliot, or other CMAers play styles with these games. It is up to the games to grab their interest if the CMAer is going to want to put in some overtime work on exploring these games.

I should probably just call you guys proper noun Adventurers in the context of these articles because I said CMAer enough times in this post that I never want to type or see it again.

Reader
Loyal Patron
Patreon Donor
Armsbend

I voted BnS because it’s been getting more buzz – and I know so little about it.

Reader
Loyal Patron
Nic Hickman

I voted BnS and then instantly wished I had chosen FFXI. I played a TINY bit of FFXI just after the launch of Chains ( i think) and was so intimidated by how user-unfriendly the starter experience was, I didn’t get any higher than level 10 before quitting. I’d be intrigued to hear a modern review of what starting from scratch is like.

Reader
Nick Smith

Woah, look at the votes! At the time of this writing…

Warframe 45
Final Fantasy 40
Blade and Soul 46

Reader
rafael12104

Ah well, you asked so… of course, Blade and Soul!

The game has changed much since you first looked at it and most of the improvements have been for the better, like no more rng for gear upgrades. Remember those wheels you had to spin? You don’t have too now. You can choose too, for outfits and the like. But everything you need you get by questing including your first legendary.

But, to get the a real feel for the game, you have to cap. But it is fast and painless.

And although I don’t want to taint your articles, you already have a home in BnS. You can join the few of us there are in the Epic MOPs clan. And not too worry, there isn’t any clan nonsense, it is just a place to hang your hat, ask questions and look for other peeps to run dungeons or group content.

drivendawn
Reader
drivendawn

Glad to hear you enjoyed PG enough to want to buy it on steam and over all I think your incites on the game were fair. For the next I voted for XI as I have been wondering the state it’s in these day’s.

Reader
Leiloni

FFXI because it’s this mythical game people talk about and apparently love, but I’ve never seen it. Warframe I couldn’t care less about and BnS I’ve played, and you guys have posted about enough, and I think that’s all we need of it. It’s a bad game.

Reader
Loyal Patron
Patreon Donor
Kickstarter Donor
Liandreth

FFXI as it is now is not a lot like it used to be. I’m not so much of a fan of it anymore, but still root for it.