Time Sunk

As I mentioned last week, many an epic game has been soaking up my time like multiple sentient chronological sponges.
I think I made a world record for reaching maximum Freeplay Factorio scenario potential here.
Factorio took the bigger bite this week.  As always, it's a glorious sandbox of factory construction, where you can start from humble beginnings of trying to wedge coal out of ground with a stick, but end up with a huge, beautiful, pollution-spewing factory complex that produces and consumes hundreds of thousands of minerals an hour!  I had been watching the Yogscast play it on their Monday stream, deeply enriched with mods, and this got me interested to give the game a spin and see what has changed.

Well, under the hood, I'm sure many little things have changed.  On the outside, though, the main difference I am noticing is that boilers have been re-implemented.  Where they were once just single-unit sized blocks, they're now considerably larger (3x2 unit size?) with fixed points for water and steam, so this requires additional planning.  

I am tempted to give the game a run with Angel and Bob's mods, which enrich the depth of an already deep game immensely.  But first, I think I'll go for the Lazy Bastard achievement with the vanilla experience, as it trains players to play smart by requiring they hand craft as few things as possible by hand.
Most of the rest of the weekend went to Divinity Original Sin 2.
Though I mentioned its interesting battlefield effects were a primary feature, I currently find myself heavily fixating on the character generation, which is somewhat unfathomable. 

Here's basically what I'm trying to wrap my head around:
  • Your character gets various points to invest every level up, with a soft level cap of about 24.  These points will be in five categories you do not neccessarily get points for every level: attributes (2 per level) combat skills (1 or 2 per level) social skills (1 per 3 levels) and talent perks (1 per 4 levels).  My numbers are probably off here, as the game does not tell you the exact point schedule, and it's probably not at a consistent rate.
  • Investing points in your six core attributes works a bit differently than you may expect:
    • Strength is required to equip good warrior-like weapons and armor, each point gives you 5% more damage when using those weapons or spells.  Only damage, not overall effectiveness.  It also increases your carrying weight cap.
    • Finesse is required to equip good rogue-like weapons and armor, each point gives you 5% more damage when using those weapons or spells.  Only damage, not overall effectiveness.
    • Intelligence is required to equip good wizard-like weapons and armor, each point gives you 5% more damage when using those weapons or spells.  Only damage, not overall effectiveness.
    • Constitution is required to equip good shields.  Each point gives you 7% more vitality (hitpoints).  It has nothing to do with resistances, and it should be noted that characters now have "magical armor" and "physical armor" that are additional forms of hitpoints that constitution does not influence but are your first line of defense against magical and physical attacks.
    • Wits boosts initiative (how soon you move in the combat turn), the chance you find secrets in the world, and how well you deal critical damage.  There's nothing quite like it in other RPGs.
    • Memory grants 1 skill memorization slot per point, but the default 10 points don't work on the same scale, just giving you your first 5 slots.  Unlike old school Dungeons and Dragons, memorized spells can be used unlimited times without resting (and, unlike many other RPGs, there are no mana points) but each spell has a turn cooldown.  So, in addition to the flexibility of having many spells on hand, having more spells memorized means you'll have less need to rely on basic weapon attacks while waiting for something to cool down.
  • Combat skill points can go towards weapon skills, defensive skills, or any of the ten spell schools.
    • The four weapon skills also boost your damage by 5% per point invested, and this stacks with any other benefit you are getting.  Categories are one handed weapons, two handed weapons, ranged weapons, and dual wielding.  Each carries a unique benefit, for example dual wielding also boosts your chance to dodge.  Investing here is essentially a choice in weapon specialization, since you can get similar benefits from the right attributes and spell schools.
    • There are three defensive skills. Retaliation reflects a percentage of damage done to you back to the attacker, even if they're attacking you all the way across the map.  Determination grants you some magical or physical armor whenever you receive a status that might cause you to miss a turn due to being affected by a magical or physical effect.  Leadership grants dodge and resistance buffs to nearby party members.
    • The spell schools are where it gets really weird.  These schools are for any active skill for any character, not just mages.  A point invested unlocks how advanced of skill you can memorize, but also has strange buffs that may be useful to a character regardless of your intended skill focus.  For example:
      • Huntsman increases the damage you do from higher ground, which can be used by anyone, not just physical ranged attackers.  
      • Necromancy investment causes all of your attacks to heal you for a percentage of damage done.  This makes them tempting to anyone who wants to heal with their own attacks.
      • Each point spent in the big four elemental casting skills grant 5% more damage when casting those spells, or using equipment with those elements.  For example, if you have a poison dagger, and want to lots of poison damage with it, you would need a good level of Geomancer skill, because poison is the Earth effect.
      • Investing in hydrosophist (water) has secondary advantages with restoring more vitality and magical armor.  Geomancer has secondary advantage in that you can restore more physical armor.  Neither Pyromancer nor Aerotheurge have secondary advantages to invest in, it's just 5% more damage with fire or air respectively.
      • Putting points in Polymorph also gives you a point to invest in your attributes.
      • Warfare boosts any physical type damage you do by 5%.  This is not necessarily weapon damage.  But note that many Warfare spells will change their attribute depending on if the item you use is enchanted.  Throwing a shield that has been enchanted with poison will actually base the throwing shield spell damage on Geomancy!
      Not to go through 11 spell schools, but suffice it to say it's not quite what you expect. 

      For example, I compared the Hydrosophist "Restoration" spell on a strength-pumping fighter and a intelligence-pumping mage, and there was barely any difference (50 vitality restored to 54 vitality) because all that mattered was the "Hydrosophist" skill, which I had invested one more point in on the mage.  This is because those core attributes only influence damage, not healing!

      It's not always obvious what skill is boosted by some attributes or skill level, and some don't have any relationship at all!  For example, "Tactical Retreat" from the Huntsman tree will work identically regardless of who is using it.
  • Social skill points are invested in highly situational skills, generally non-combat frills.  Everything from lockpicking to persuasion to telekinesis.   It is an improvement from the predecessor to move these to their own section, away from combat effectiveness abilities.
  • Talent perks are wildcard boosts of various kinds.  They can make or break a character: what good is a fighter without the "opportunist" perk that gives them free attacks of opportunity on any foes that try to slip out of melee range?  Most of them just provide a stat change somewhere.  But some of them are just fun, such as, "Pet Pal," which grants that character the power of Dr. Dolittle.
From a min/maxer perspective, the Summoning skill is a tempting choice, as each point is a direct power increase of your summons by 5% in four major ways, while that same point invested in your character only goes about 5% in one of those ways.
My current theory is to have two intelligence-pumping summoners, one specialized to heal physical armor (Geomancy) and the other Magical armor (Hydrosophist) while the other two try to exploit pumping strength and finesse (so that I have somewhere to put skills and equipment that is boosted by those stats).  

However, since intelligence points only influence spell damage, I am not sure why I am pumping that attribute on casters who will spend a lot of time healing and summoning.  If my goal is to go for a maximum effectiveness party, my theory seems flawed.  But as pertains to the way it works, maximum effectiveness may not be found in having the bigger numbers, but rather having access to the right spells at the right time.

It is a difficult system to judge.  Taken individually, the attributes, skills, and perks look so simple it seems stupid.  As a whole, trying to create an effective character is anything but simple.  But as to whether this character progression system is truly stupid or genius, I cannot say.  All I can say for sure is that it's different, and perhaps something to be thankful for on the sea of clones we call gaming.

Both these games have distracted me effectively from The Witcher 3 and my personal game development endeavors, which are probably both better uses of my time.  I notice every game I mention here has no cognitive "out;" no trigger in the game where I can decide if I want to keep playing.  These big open-ended worlds, where one moment transitions to the next seamlessly, are a bit of a time liability!


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