Dec 5, 2012

Now Playing - Inquisitor Part 2

 It's hard to express how I feel about dungeons in RPGs, simply because they exist for one reason: to test your skills. Any seasoned adventurer worth his or her salt knows that when a game designer builds a dungeon, they don't want you to feel welcome. Traps, groups of monsters, a lack of shops to grab supplies and a lack of temples to get healing mean that if you want to enter a dungeon, you'd better come prepared.

It also, however, is a chance to test all the skills you've been learning. Fighting on the open plains is fun, but it's the claustrophobic corridors deep underground where you can really strategize - identifying choke points, hiding spots and more and building your battle plans around them. Good dungeons make me use stealth to scout, make me plan the placement of area of effect spells for maximum effect and teach me to be creative with my battle strategy, which is definitely a plus. You're also bound to find interesting loot, hidden areas, and even sometimes interesting story elements.

Darkness is everywhere in these dungeons, meaning that enemies often catch you unawares and make your life very tough.
 I've finally been pushing my way into the first big dungeon of Inquisitor - the major dungeon of Act 1, I believe, and it's a beast. It's enormous, positively brimming with enemies and traps and the pitch blackness all around means you need to look very carefully to see what's up ahead. It takes place in a giant mine - reminiscent of Nashkel Mines in Baldur's Gate, and it's making me work every step of the way.

Not having direct control over my allies means that I have to control them via commands, something that has taken a lot of getting used to. However, now that I'm familiar with the hotkeys I'm finding the system quite intuitive. Rather than rely on AI scripts as some games do, I can change how my comrades behave with the press of a key. This makes it quite possible to order them to attack while you stay back and provide support, to wait while you run ahead and scout, or to run past attackers without stopping to fight in order to beat a hasty retreat. It's a system that takes getting used to, but it works surprisingly well - although you can't give individual party members orders, merely the group as a whole.
Combat in the open plains has its own strengths, but doesn't allow for anywhere near as much strategy as a corridor filled dungeon.
One thing that I find quite pleasing is the fact that you're only limited by your class choice a little bit in Inquisitor. I'm playing a thief with very little focus on the typical thief skills of sneaking, lockpicking and disarming traps. Instead, my focus is on speed, ranged combat and charisma - but the ability to learn magic means I can also buff my comrades as they run into the fray. Being able to be a multi-skilled character like this reminds me of Arcanum or playing a bard in Baldurs Gate (my favourite). It makes for a reasonably tricky character to play - my character can take hardly any damage at all, but it also opens up a range of interesting tactics. I've long been a fan of luring individuals away from groups in RPGs, something I use to great effect here. Shooting an arrow at a foe on the outskirts of the group leads him to pursue me alone, meaning I can lead him back to where my friends are waiting to take him out. Large, overpowering groups can quickly be diminished with a much greater success rate this way.

A variation on this is to make enemies fight one another. Inquisitor seems to have enemies split up into factions, and it was with great joy that I discovered that I could lead a group of Orcs into a spider den, then quickly make my escape while the orcs and spiders fought it out. Sadly, environmental hazards do not seem to work the same way, and I have lured enemies into pits of lava or acid that kill my character in a matter of mere seconds only to watch them pass through unharmed. A missed opportunity to create more tactical options for the player, and a game element that feels unfair and broken.

The lava pools in this game are a real threat if you don't have the levitate spell. I do not have the levitate spell.
Another element that can get frustrating is having to make multiple trips back to town in a single dungeon. I am constantly surprised by how many healing potions I need in this game. I started this dungeon with about 40 of them, returned to town for another 30, returned again for another 30, and still had to go back for more (this time I bought many more). One wrong move by teammates can result in 5 potions disappearing in the space of a few seconds. Every trip back means I have to trek all the way back through the parts I've cleared so far, fighting whatever monsters that have respawned or running past them frantically when I'm right out of potions. Usually I am very sparing with potions, and consider them as a last resort. In this game, I get worried about being able to make it back out of the dungeon when I get down to 10.

It's been a long time since I've had such a long, hard slog through a dungeon as this. I feel this part of the game is bigger than it really needed to be - there are very few characters to talk to down here, and even though my speech ability allows me to talk my way through some of the combat scenarios, there's still a ton of enemies to fight. Still, I'm pretty confident that my next trip back to the mines from the town will be my last - and the way the story is progressing as I head through these corridors, it seems likely that whatever - or whoever - I find at the bottom of these mines will be the key to finishing Act 1. I finally feel like I've gotten a pretty good grip on how the game works, and I'm actually starting to feel comfortable playing it, rather than hopelessly underpowered, underfunded and outnumbered as I did for the first few hours of play.

Time to head back in.

No comments:

Post a Comment