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Thankfully, this is still just beta and the developers still have some time to rework the UI and add detailed tooltips to everything. And while they’re at it, they should make inventory management less annoying and add combat formations, because right now there aren’t any.
I should also mention here that just as advertised during the Kickstarter campaign, the game does have a greed meter. However, I don’t think it does anything in the beta.
There’s also brewing and drying, Black Geyser’s take on a crafting system. I have no idea why it was such a selling point during the Kickstarter campaign or why it had to be separated into two tabs on the inventory screen.
Here’s how they work. You find a recipe, you use the right ingredients and a crafting tool, you rest for 8 in-game hours, then you forget that you need to manually move the potions from the brewing screen into your inventory, and go about your business, potionless.
Finally, judging by the game’s UI, at some point you will get your own stronghold, but it wasn’t present in the beta, so I can’t clarify anything there.
In the end, I want to stress that based purely on the beta, my understanding of Black Geyser’s systems may be somewhat flawed. And while the game itself is at least partially to blame for that, I don’t want you to think that all those assorted issues and mysterious systems make the game unplayable. It may not be quite there in terms of quality, but I can see a great deal of potential underneath all the confusing elements.
On the technical side of things, Black Geyser is nowhere near ready for a full release either. Even though the game was fairly stable and didn’t have any major game-breaking bugs for me, its performance is far from acceptable right now.
Fortunately, the developers seem to be aware of the fact that after a few area transitions, the game starts to stutter and take a while to load. However, I’m still not entirely convinced that they’ll be able to completely fix those issues. In my experience, CRPGs and the Unity engine don’t mix too well, especially when there are multiple sub-areas involved. Even on an SSD, the initial load took close to a minute for me, and that’s not exactly great.
The game’s visuals can range from pretty decent to terrible depending on the preset you chose, and that is a problem. You can’t manually enable or disable things, only choose a preset. So, if you want to play the game with great textures and effects but without any bloom or shadows, you can’t do that right now.
The game's voice acting deserves a special mention since it was great. Not AAA great, but charming and cheesy to the max great. Black Geyser's limited voice acting is mostly used for character introductions and some important story lines, and while a lot of it is surprisingly competent for a crowdfunded game with a limited budget, some of the lines are so over the top ridiculous, they can rival Baldur’s Gate’s famous, “My hotel’s as clean as an elven arse.”
Some areas that are still in dire need of improvements include animations and NPC pathfinding. A proper stealth system would be nice too, as at the moment, you mostly can steal stuff without any objections from the NPCs. The ability to resize the game’s UI and text would also be welcome. Right now, they’re too small for my taste.
Another thing I always like to mention here is the game’s save system. Already, Black Geyser’s save system does pretty much everything that a good save system should. The game takes mere moments to save and offers multiple quick and autosave slots on top of manual saves.
Black Geyser: Couriers of Darkness, or at the very least its Backer Beta, is a strange game. It’s clear that a lot of care and effort was put into it, but then at times it almost feels like it simply tries to ape some other RPGs that came before it.
In the end, Black Geyser walks a very fine line between that and being its own thing full of interesting or at the very least unique ideas. And I can’t deny that despite whatever shortcomings the game’s backer beta may have, it also oozes a certain charm that makes you want to keep playing it.
And if you ask me, the number of technical issues and minor annoyances present in the beta the developers manage to fix by the time Black Geyser launches will determine if that charm is going to last. And I really hope that it does.
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