Behind the Curve: SPHECE MARINE (my waaaaaaaaaaay behind the curve video game review)

So a game I’ve had my eye on for a while popped up on Steam on quite a good sale, so I picked it up! SPHECE MARINEZ! (Specifically Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine from Relic Entertainment). I had seen some early test/demo footage a while back and it seemed somewhat exciting (I’m aware that this is roughly 4 years behind the curve). Blood, guts, gore, you get to be a SPHECE MARINE, what’s not to like?

Well, a number of surprising things actually…

-I’m 8 or so missions into this game and it’s still feels like I’m in a tutorial level. I’ve gotten a new melee weapon (but I had to trade away my combat knife), 3 new guns (sniper, machine gun, grenade launcher). I haven’t seen any other choices, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but I like having a wide arsenal to pick from.

-I’m very locked onto the rails (I call this a rail shooter because you have 1 direction of progress and it’s fairly obvious, not the traditional definition of things like Star Fox). I fight in box cayones, not even having the choice between the high ground or the low ground. Not surprised here, I wasn’t expecting anything but a rails shooter (honestly, I think rail shooters should generally go die in a hole, but that’s a separate rant for a separate day).

-This game really suffers from trying to be a shooter x hack n slash. The only method of regaining hp is through executing enemies, there’s no cover system for ranged battles. So ranged enemies deal no damage, none. I can stand in a full firestorm for a good 45, 50 seconds before even needing to duck behind a rock to recharge my shields. Again, ranged opponents are absolutely meaningless (occasionally there’s a rocket launcher mob that actually poses a threat but SPHECE MARINEZ LAUGH AT PUNY ORC BULLET).

-Melee is trivially simple. Mash melee X three times, then mash Y to AoE stun everything (including “Elite Enemies”). Rinse, Wash, Repeat. To make things difficult, occasionally you have to shoot a suicidal dog-thing that deals overwhelming amounts of damage when it blows.

-This game really needed to have a lot more time spent on developing both its melee and shooting system. Honestly I would’ve scrapped the “Execute for HP” and rolled it into a “Combo Executes for massive damage” type thing. Having to stop and stun a guy to top up on hp is annoying most of the time and actually impossible the rest (because there just aren’t enough little orcs to run over).

-Execution animations are sloppy and extremely repetitive. There’s generally 3 execution animations and none of them are action sensitive. For example, I just knocked a poor orc flat on his face, I need HP, so I execute him. Instead of just taking a large step and curbstomping his head with my trashcan foot, I magic him face up and stand, then knock him to the ground and then curb stomp him. I’m because of the “HP gain through execution” design, someone decided that all execution animations had to be exactly X seconds long for “balance” reasons…which is shoddy design. An execution recovers roughly 2/3rds of your HP every time, sometimes I don’t need 2/3rds of my hp bar, I just need 1/4 of it filled back up. There’s not an option for a “quick execute”, instead I have to lock into this X second long, clumsy animation sequence. I would’ve liked to see a much more smooth and natural execution system where you got a ratio of hp back based on enemy health remaining or a /X ratio.

-I’m playing with a USB Xbox 360 controller. I’m assuming that the aim assist is turned off for keyboard/mouse but DEAR LORD THE AIM ASSIST. I’ve played games with aim assist, that helpful little nudge to center your reticule over the thing you’re trying to shoot is super helpful when you’re using a controller. In this game I think that “aim assist” is rather much a misnomer. “Aim Hijacking” is more to the case. If you mash the aim button, at all, you lock onto an enemy. I discovered this while playing a little cover crab with some ranged enemies right after acquiring the sniper. I scoped and watched as my reticule tracked the orc perfectly without my right thumb on the camera stick…

-Plot critical NPCs and your two space marine buddies can’t die but don’t deal damage either. Wouldn’t want to steal the show from the player now would we? (I still remember playing Halo and outfitting every single marine I could with snipers! It’s fine that the AI is better then I am at aiming! More power to them!)

That covers most of the generic gameplay issues I’ve got with this game (so far), but that’s roughly what I was expecting from this game; a limited rails shooter (don’t worry, there are more issues in a little bit). Now onto the generic good things!

-This game is fun! Outside of some of the ugh-worthy execution issues, its tons of fun to tackle THROUGH an orc, gibbing him to pieces. Blasting orcs into pieces, stomping on their skulls, tossing grenades into the masses; this game has the giant piles of gore and bodies that are fun in a game like this.

-It doesn’t really require thinking to play. This is a strange statement, I’ll admit that, but I spent 9 hours studying for a test (then an hour taking said test)…my brain just hurts. Thinking hurts, adding hurts, making decisions hurts. Being able to stare at a screen and giggle as I tackle through another nob (little orc) is just pure bliss right now.

Yeah…that’s about it. Now onto some more issues (because they’re easier to rant about).

I’ve had issues with Warhammer 40,000’s universe for a while. It’s a purely stagnant universe for commercial reasons (the Ultramarines who are starring in this game have been completely wiped out, 110% D-E-D dead then retconned back into existence at least once, I’ll find the citation later). I have more issues with the quality of author’s that Games Workshop has piloting their universe (a universe “Retcon”!) simply because it tends to turn into one massive orgy of SPHECE MARINE fanservice. For example, you’ve got a planet that’s been invaded by hostile aliens. The local Imperial Guard are holding their own just fine (in fact, starting to turn the tide) when the Space Marines have a spare moment to show up and help out. Suddenly all the IG units (save a few to have dramatic last message/dying scenes) just fall over dead. Then a small force of SPHECE MARINEZ show up and dunk a planetary invasion force of aliens, no problem guys (seriously, a Space Marine chapter is 1000 space marines + support…I mean the are mankind’s elite forces but still, a 1000 man army is not a planetary defense force). This game suffers greatly from this trope (meme, whatever). 3, THREE, space marines (you + two guys who can’t die and don’t deal damage >.>) comes crashing into this Orc invasion force and from all apparent signs, begins YOLOSWAG-ing their way through everything. Round 1, 1 Space Marine vs Orc Space Ship. Space Marine wins (admittedly it was funny and very exciting). My point being that 3 people can’t stop an entire invasion (even if you take out the leader, if I recall my 40k lore correctly, even assassinating the Orc Boss at this point would be moot as the orcs would then begin to shoot each other with their giant guns/looted titans/other toys completely ruining the planet, including any SPHECE MARINEZ still hanging around).

More related to the game itself, my character has an amazing tendency to dispose of gear without a second thought. Opening scene I have a jump pack in lieu of a parachute (again, badass, I approve). Within 2 seconds of landing on the flying orc ship, I had taken it off and thrown it away (who needs a parachute while on a mission to destroy a space ship, flying through the upper atmosphere? Not me!). Fast forward a few missions. Hey look, a new jump-pack (in the game it was completely OP, I just began goomba stomping around on everything with total impunity). Ran through the slightly bigger box canyon (having a lot of fun jetting around, goomba stomping people). Hit the end of that section to have one of my buddies inform me that “That Jump-pack is too big for these tunnels, you have to take it off.” Let’s forget for the moment I’m a giant, 8ft tall, walking dumpster on top of two trash cans (the in game sounds are glorious CRUNCH CLANG CRUNCH CRUNCH CLANG) that manages to sideways strafe because my legs seemingly have no physical interaction with one another (the animation just clips through and to be fair, I do wear a pair of garbage cans for shoes). The cave that is clearly spacious enough for me and my two buddies that are identical to my size to walk abreast is just TOO SMALL for a jump pack. Here’s a hint for game designers, arbitrarily taking away fun/awesome toys because “that section is over” ruins the game. When I remember this game, I’m not going to remember how awesome that jump-pack was, I’m going to remember the fact that I couldn’t take it with me.

To sum up (because this ended up being a lot of text instead of the short little rant I had planned), Relic’s Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine gets a 4/10.

tl;dr

-Pros-

You are every Space Marine fanboy’s wet dream. A nigh invincible warrior god that regularly defies physics, laughs off puny orc bullets and regains hp through gloriously gory executions.

-Cons-

Pretty much everything else. Realism, limited execution animations, gunplay, melee-play, aim hijacking, suspension of disbelief, useless companions.

I haven’t cracked the multiplayer yet, but I’m not expecting anything much (if there is even any playerbase online anymore). If it’s anything amazing I’ll do a part 2 or update this. Anyways, cheers!

If you want something specific reviewed or have questions/comments/concerns, leave a comment and we can have a spirited interwebz debate about it!

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Eberron, yes! (part 1, day 1)

So in my everlasting quest to be more involved in my hobbies (coding, building things, cooking, etcetc), I’m going to attempt to maintain a running log of my adventures (and more importantly the misadventures) of this group in Eberron! Our first session was tonight! Counting myself, there are 4 other people at this table. Going around the table (character-wise), there was a:

-A dirtydirtydirtydirtydirty dwarf ranger (as in the Peanuts character Pigpen) who’s name had two vowels and far too many consonants, something along the lines of “Hdgedgrin” which everyone pronounced with a guttural “HNGRHnngr”.

-A shifter gunslinger (who’s name has not withstood the couple hours in between gaming and this post) who was also dirty, gruff and a little…odd.

-A human summoner (names + me = forgotten names, I’ll get better, I promise!) who hasn’t defined himself in game/role-play quite yet (its coming like a wrecking ball, I can sense it!)

-Myself, a Warforged Necromancer still lacking a personality or backstory but named Martin “Bonus” McDevlin (and I actually spent the entire session not remember what I was named >.>)

We start near Merylsward (separately for “reasons”) and are plopped aboard the plot train North West towards the Icehorn Mountains to a GM created city. The backstory (in short):

  • Commoners in Merylsward find gold in stream.
  • Commoners follow stream to source to find an empty lost city with a giant waterfall.
  • Commoners report back to Merylsward’s king/lord person and clue him in.
  • Commoners (4 families) become lords of this new empty city, Merylsward’s lord/king discovers massive veins of gold/copper/silver up in the waterfall cave, gogo new city/plot points!

We arrive with staggered timing (I had an obligation that tore me away from the table for an hour, another of our group suddenly had to go close a store he manages) so the Dwarf and Summoner arrive first and get to meet Dane the Bulwarkowner of the local tavern (the Rusty Nail or some such) and resident bounty master. He sends the duo off to find and slay this “deathwyrm”. I arrive back at the table (and after getting the run down from the GM as to the background story), get to meet Dane the Bulwark, and also get sent toddling off after this “deathwyrm”. (at this point Martin is still sans personality).

(So Martin is a 7ft tall, 150lbs warforged. He’s tall and quite thin. His face is covered in a white skull mask while his composite plating resembles an exposed skeleton (rib cage, etc). Eyes glow red, most exposed surfaces are a quasi-shiny black.)

Martin catches up to the Dwarf and Summoner, to find that the Dwarf was very noisily sneaking next to the road, leaving the Summoner + Eidolon in the road as “bait”. The Dwarf is so busy sneaking around that he fails to noticed the approach of this strange Warforged. The summoner greets the newcomer and on impulse Martin gains his personality. (I would say that Martin is about 15% ROBOTPERSON DOES NOT UNDERSTAND SOCIETY + 10% scheming genius + 75% Excalibur (from Soul Eater, I apologize for the audio desync, but it’s a great introduction to Excalibur).)

Taking a long look at Martin, the Summoner calls out to the Dwarf, “Is this the Deathwyrm?”
The Dwarf sits and stares at the summoner for a long moment before answering flatly, “no.”
“FOOL!” Martin greets the Summoner. “Do you drink your milk?”
The summoner stammers, at somewhat of a loss, “I…I don’t think that milk really…”
“FOOL!” Martin interrupts the Summoner, “Calcium is critical for healthy bonus!”
The Summoner player is just staring at me at this point, a little shocked. “I…er…yes…I drink my…milk?”
“Good! Without milk your bones are sure to fail you one day!”
The dwarf and summoner players share a long look.
“You in the bushes! What are you doing in there!”
A brief explanation was cut short short by the Eidolon tapping the shoulder of the summoner and pointing behind the Dwarf. “Acid hurts!”
Roll Initiative!

Since the deathwyrm spent its turn rearing up and being all scary like, the GM forwent its surprise round but tacked a -4 penalty to our initiative rolls since no-one (but the Eidolon) made the perception rolls to see it rearing up. Initiative was established as Deathwyrm, Martin, Dwarf, Summoner (who rolled a -2 :P).

Round 1
Deathwyrm: Sprayed a cone of acid into the party catching the Dwarf and the Summoner for a chunk of damage each, the Dwarf saved for half.

Martin: Points at the Deathwyrm. “FOOL! The ground you stand on no longer exists!” Casts Create Pit under the Deathwyrm who obligingly takes a tumble down.

Dwarf: P:I throw an axe at the wyrm. Me: You move to the edge of the pit for LOS, right? P: Yup.
Dwarf moves to the edge of the pit and throws an axe at it, misses and ends turn. I remind the GM of the “creatures who end their turn at the edge of the pit have to save or fall in.”-clause of Create Pit, Gm asks for a save, Dwarf falls in pit.

Summoner: Fumbles for healing potions, begins chugging CLW pots.
Eidolon: Moves a bit closer to pit.

Round 2
Deathwyrm: Delights in having a stinky dwarf to nom, proceeds to nom. Dwarf takes bite + acid damage.

Martin: “FOOL! You don’t stand near pits!” moves away from pit.

Dwarf: “AARRRGG” Attempts to TWF Deathwyrm with axes, misses.

Summoner: Moves to Eidolon, casts Mage Armor on Eidolon. Reminds Martin he can dismiss pit.
Martin:“FOOL! Then the creature would be up here with us!”
Eidolon: Edges closer to the pit, but not close enough.

Round 3
Deathwyrm: DELICIOUS DWARF DESERVES A CRIT! CONFIRMED! NOMNOMNOM.

Martin: “FOOL! Be ready to attack!” Dismisses pit, moves 30ft for LoS, casts Snowball for a lovely chunk of damage, Deathwyrm passes fort save.

Dwarf: “AAARRRRGGG 2 HP!” Flails with axes, fails with axes.

Summoner: Pulls out potion, moves behind dwarf.
Eidolon: Flanks and nibbles on the deathwyrm.

We have a lovely break from combat making jokes about delivering potions to allies, including:
Technically swallowing the potion inside the vial is still ingesting the potion…
This potion is a suppository.
The words “potion” and “enema” were combined.

Round 4
Deathwyrm: EIDOLON IS DELICIOUS BUT THE SUN WAS IN MY EYES (missed the Eidolon).

Martin: Tosses another snowball, it connects for more delicious Cold Damage, Deathwyrm continues making its fort save.

Dwarf: AAARRRRGGGGG, flails, fails.

Eidolon: Oh hey, I can full attack. Blenders remaining Deathwyrm hp.
Summoner: Puts away potion

Combat End

So here we were, three characters, 1 dead quest objective. Martin promptly ties a lasso around the Deathwyrm’s head and proceeds to drag it back to town. On the way back each and every traveler passed insisted on hugging and praising the Summoner (as the least offensive party member compared to dwarven Pigpen and giant voodoo robot). Once at the city gates, the guards refused to let Martin drag the Deathwyrm (who was leaking copeus amounts corrosive blood still…) through the streets to the tavern. After a brief debate with the guard, Martin leaves the corpse to his party members and marches straight to the tavern to secure payment.

Now Martin isn’t intentionally rude, he’s just a never sleeping, business focused, creature so when encountering a rowdy tavern full of boozy, gambling, townfolks he made a beeline for Dane the Bulwark‘s office to secure payment. Encountering a door that was barely open, Martin pushed it completely open and walked in to find Dave holding a flaggon of ale and entertaining a lovely young maiden in his lap.

“I am here for the bounty!” Declared Martin.
“You have one sentence to explain yourself.” Growled Dane, irked by the Warforged’s intrusion.
“The guards will not allow the Deathwyrm corpse into the city, thus I came to bring you to the corpse to verify the bounty was complete.”
“You were supposed to bring me the HEAD!”
“The head is still attached to the body.”
“Well take it off and bring it to me! And get out!”

With that said, Dane turned back to his entertaining and Martin left, set on the new task of obtaining the Deathwyrm’s head. Stopping on his way back to procure a large wedge of wood, he worked with the Dwarf and Summoner to decapitate the wyrm, an endeavor that quickly proved successful. Chided by the guards for leaving the body in the road, Martin drug it into the bushes next to the road and then proceeded back to the tavern with the deathwyrm head. Entering the tavern once more with the Dwarf and Summoner in two, again the Warforged encountered the almost closed door, and again he pushed it entirely open. Going to toss the head on Dane‘s desk, Martin was interrupted by a swift grab of his arm by the Summoner. Unfortunately the Summoner was unable to secure his grasp of Martin’s arm and the head was neatly tossed onto the desk with a flat thud. The maiden leapt up from Dane‘s lap, screaming. Dane, also leap up, producing a short sword in a flash and stabbing the head to the desk.

“WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING!?” he roared at the party.
“You required the head for payment of the bounty, this is the head.” Martin replied.
“Fine!” growled Dane, swinging a small chest next to the head. Opening it and carefully counting out platinum pieces, he glowered at the part. “In addition to the percentage I normally take, I’m taking enough to cover the damages to my desk. You two,” Dane growled, gesturing towards the Dwarf and Summoner, “make sure that THING never comes in here again!” Slamming the chest shut, he crossed his arms and glared at the party, “now get out of my bar!”

That ends the first day of adventuring in Eberron (<3)!
Day 1 Summery:

  • 1440 Gold (480 per person, Martin gets 40 less for damage to desk).
  • 500xp per character (the gunslinger was still out and about at this point but arrives shortly for Day 2)
  • Lifetime ban from the tavern for Martin.

This ends part 1, part 2 with the first piece of Day 2 will be following soon!

Did you say Eberron!?

I love Dungeons and Dragons, it is probably my favorite way to spend time with people. Sitting around a table with friends, telling a story that you get to star in…it is just an indescribable feeling. There is one regret that I have with DnD and that is that not every campaign is set in Eberron. I understand that not everyone adores Eberron, but I miss running around in Eberron, riding the lightning rail and defending against airship pirates. It is a land that can hold every story…from high fantasy, white horses and princesses in towers to the gritty, down on his luck, unkempt private detective in the bustling city. Within Eberron there is room for every single possible adventure, I could spend a lifetime in each city and still not run out of content. But as time and editions pass, campaign settings get discarded and replaced. Wonderful worlds full of life and wonder fade in contrast to new places, new wonders, new adventures. I’ve journied across Golarion by ship and horse in a hundred different guises. I’ve crusaded through the Forgotten Realms, chasing dragons and villains. Yet in my heart I’ve always longed to return to Eberron.

So when people ask me if I want to play DnD, I say “Yes!”, silently thinking to myself, I wish it was Eberron. Well lo and behold when a group I played all of one session with (its tough getting 6 people in the same room, at the same time, during the same day of the week every week, that one session was a blast and tipped me onto a delightful build, more on that later) invited me to sit at their table again, to join them for a campaign of Eberron! What a fantastic offer! I jumped at it and then promptly forgot about the offer (school being what it is during this time of year, finals upcoming and whatnot). I normally spend a week or so on one character, tuning the build, making sure the back story is airtight, plotting escape paths, all the normal veteran player things…I plum forgot. Thursday, the day of the first meeting, I get a group email asking what people are playing and I did a double take, SNAP! I FORGOT! Cue frenzy of browser tabs and book flipping. We’re playing in Eberron using the Pathfinder ruleset and via one of my favorite lines in the Eberron Player’s Handbook, “1. If it exists in D&D, then it has a place in Eberron.” This is one of the elements of Eberron that just speaks to who I am as a DnD player (more on that in another post however).

I’m a longtime Warforged fan, I just love the concept of a young, new race without eons of history and traditions binding them down. The fact that they are munchkin-y its just a boon (its similar to how I play unadjusted kobolds despite the awful pathfinder stats). So I knew I was bringing a Warforged to the table, no ifs, ands or buts allowed. The problem I then faced was what kind of Warforged. I jumped from concept to concept:

Ninja-forged! Yes!

Mmmm…Artificer x Fighter into Juggernaut!

Barbarian would be better than fighter…but maybe pull in one level for mutagen…

Ooooo…there’s ranger x fighter into Living Monolith that would be a fitting build!

OH! I could go shield ranger x fighter x barbarian into Juggernaut!

But what about artificer…make that what about mounted warforged summoner riding the Eidolon into battle!

 

Round and round and round it went, I finally had to leave the house and head to the table with no real idea as to what I was going to play. As I drove, a concept quasi-crystallized…A Warforged is a living construct that could be disassembled while awake and conscious. What if a Warforged went through such a process so many times in attempts to replicate it that it twisted the Warforged’s mind, chaining it with an incessant need to dissect and  reconstruct other creatures? What if this Warforged was set loose onto the world and gained class levels in Wizard. What if this was a Warforged Necromancer? Yeeesssss! So that was my character concept as I parked and walked in the door.

At this point I had a race, a class and a concept and nothing else. We started rolling stats and build proper characters and I got a fantastic set (rolled 4d6 keeping the highest 3, 7 times, keeping the best 6), 10|9|14|17|17|11|15. We were starting at level 3, 3k starting gold, pretty typical stuff. I didn’t expect this post to get to this length, so I’ll just post the details on Martin “Bones” McDelvin and save the proper first session for the next post.

 

Martin “Bones” McDelvin

True Neutral Warforged Wizard 3 – 500xp (4500xp to 5)

 

Strength Dexterity Constitution Intelligence Wisdom Charisma
11 15 19 17 8 12

 

Feats:

1: Spell Focus: Conjuration

Bonus Feat: Improved Channel

Bonus Feat: Scribe Scroll

3: Varisian Tattoo (Conjuration)

 

Class Features:
Arcane Bond:Item (Docent): +1 Docent

Undead School:

Bloster

Channel Negative, 6/day

Command Undead (DC14)

Banned Schools:
Divination

Evocation

 

Gear

Rope, Grappling Hook, 15ft Collapsible Pole, ioun Torch, +1 Docent (worn), +1 Cloak of Resistance (worn), 5x Spell Comp Pouches, Backpack, Masterwork Repair Tools, Fancy Cane, Skull Mask, 3 Acid Flasks, House Deneith Travel Papers. 890 gold

 

Skills

Craft Construct +9, Knowledge Religion +9, Knowledge Arcana +9, Spellcraft +9, Use Magic Device +6

Prepared/Known Spells Spells

 

0th 1st 2nd
Detect Magic (2 slots)

Prestidigitation

Mending

-Known-

All

Snowball

Grease

Obscuring Mist

-Known-

Obscuring Mist

Snowball (4d6, DC15)

Stumble Gap (DC15,5R)

Repair Light Damage

Repair Undead

Grease(DC15)

Create Pit

Command Undead

-Known-

Create Pit (DC16, 5R, 2d6)

Command Undead (DC15)

 

Racial Features

+2 Con, -2 Wis/Cha

Medium, 30ft Move

Composite Plating, +2 AC, -5% ASF

Immune to:

Poison

Paralysis

Disease

Fatigue

Exhaustion

Sickened

Energy Drain

25% Fortification

Positive Energy Effects halved.

Can be repaired via Repair Damage type spells

 

Languages

Common, Goblin, Draconic, Elven