Black Geyser: Couriers of Darkness Beta Preview

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Eschalon: Book II

Developer:GrapeOcean Technologies
Release Date:TBA
  • Role-Playing
Platforms: Theme: Perspective:
  • Isometric,Third-Person
Buy this Game: Amazon ebay

The same can be applied to the game’s classes, where instead of a Rogue you have a Swindler, and instead of a Barbarian, you get a Highlander.

And those unnecessary changes, combined with the absence of a tutorial or even tooltips that explain how the game works, make it very difficult to accurately assess the pros and cons of Black Geyser's roleplaying system. Plus, I'm fairly sure that at least some of it is still work in progress, so take everything below with a grain of salt.

In the most basic of terms, Black Geyser’s ruleset is to the second edition of Dungeons and Dragons what Pillars of Eternity is to the third. You can clearly trace a lot of similarities between the systems, but instead of a simple and elegant D20 system, you have to deal with a bunch of percentile-based skill checks.

Each class seems to have access to several Class Skills, General Skills, and Weapon Skills. These skills tend to be fairly limited in number, and closer to something like Baldur’s Gate’s thieving abilities. Upon leveling up you get a few skill points for each of these categories. Each skill point increases the skill by a few percent, which, when combined with a number of other modifiers, turns into your character’s total skill value.

There don’t seem to be any feats or perks, but at least the game’s spellcasters are still beholden to the good old Vancian system where they have to memorize spells between rests. My mage didn’t level up during the beta, so I can’t tell you how you learn new spells. However, some of the existing ones were quite interesting. One spell in particular varied in damage depending on the type of armor the target was wearing.

Spell descriptions could still use some work, though, because some of them are too vague, while others mention duration in turns. And I’m not really sure Black Geyser even has Baldur’s Gate-style rounds and turns, and if it does, you don’t see them and have no idea how long they take.

That lack of clarity extends to weapon attacks too, because I don’t think the game mentions attack speed or attacks per round at any point. And if you consider that at least some spells deal damage multiple times per turn, the whole thing becomes too convoluted to even try to unravel.

Despite that, the game's real time with pause combat system is perhaps a bit too simplistic. Without flanking, sneak attacks, attacks of opportunity, or combat maneuvers, enemies mostly attack whoever is closest and tend to never switch targets. This turns most encounters into a DPS race.

And seeing how most of the beta fights are ridiculously easy, the one challenging boss fight near the end doesn’t really break the mold, it merely takes longer.

In a way, I blame the game's systems for my lack of enthusiasm towards its combat. In D&D or Pathfinder, where you can at a glance know how armor class and attack bonuses interact, there's always this desire to optimize your character through better gear, skills, and buffs.

With a percentile system, you merely know that a bigger number is better. And this isn't helped by the lack of clarity in the character sheet.

Nothing really has a description. So even though you have an impressive list of resistances, you have no way of knowing how they work. Do they subtract the damage you receive? Do they make it harder for an effect to land? How?

And if that wasn't enough, the game even lists Depressive and Arousal effects among the things your characters can resist. It’s never explained what those effects are, so you’re left to ponder what exactly an Arousal effect is, and how resisting it can help you in a dungeon.

On top of resistances, characters also have evasion and armor stats. Evasion combines block, dodge and parry, and is pretty self-explanatory.

Armor, on the other hand, is a total mystery. It’s not unreasonable to assume that evasion handles damage avoidance while resistances deal with damage mitigation. What does armor do then? I honestly have no idea, especially considering that none of the items list any armor values, but then your character sheet has an armor stat.

Your offensive stats are in a similar boat. There's accuracy, damage, and crit chance. Fairly standard, right? But then, weapons also have some mysterious “status” bonuses. I’ve no clue what those do.