The Ballad of Chaviano Gateway

The Ballad of Chaviano Gateway
(10th October 3401. Chaviano Gateway. A young trader asks an old man about the Battle of Mapor)

At Chaviano Gateway Hall
There is a plaque upon the wall.
What is it for, this marble mount?
Listen to me, and I’ll recount.

The stories that I heard that night
Here long ago, I cowered in fright
Whilst underneath the stars my fate
Was played out twixt the mad and great:

One dark night the Valiant Few,
The Hutton Truckers and their crew
Set off for Mapor, Mugs in store,
To cure the sick and heal the poor.

This tiny band from Eden’s sun
The pirates counted twenty one
But their translator’s out of tune
For that’s our leader’s nom de plume.

Vingtetun and Psykokow
No Scars yet? Assemble now!
At Ross One Fifty Four, Formate!
All ships report! We can’t be late!

The Wings were made, Les Jeux sont faits
At toll of eight, we sail away.
Firework of wakes across the sky.
Folk bow their heads and wave goodbye.

Alien, cloaked in shadow flew
With Mobius’ help, her way was true
Jump by jump, the fleet grew tense
Irrational Exuberance!

There we stopped for fuel and tea
We gave the waverers choice to flee
And though we felt the rising gloom
We all flew on to meet our doom

As we passed on through Forculus
We heard reports of battles fierce
Between our friends and their dark foe
A Shadow on our hearts did grow.

We passed into uncharted space,
A cold and lonely dangerous place.
Desperate radio calls from friends
As some of them met noble ends.

We passed on through like ships at night
But ‘lo we see Mapor in sight.
Turn our ships and race for shade
Run like the wind through their blockade.

We Hove in Sight, our ships appeared
The mothers waved, the children cheered
The mugs are safe, now journey ends
We drank a toast……to absent friends

But something’s coming, something new
A shadow passed across pad two.
A murderous warship of renown,
As Allerose came barrelling down

I wheeled around and dove away
While screaming, “Freheit save the day!”
My brothers chased him. Out of reach.
Alarm bells ring, “Canopy Breach”.

Dark echoes reverberate,
The heavens blink, Higg’s bosons shake,
A dying ship, a helping hand,
Is there a chance for one last stand?

Run for cover, Remlok on
Two minutes till my air is gone
But now vile treachery descends
Another lurks among my friends.

I might have made it, yes I might
But for Nonya’s Cobra Strike
A searing blast, our mugs were fried,
The mothers wept, the children cried.

Dust and ashes, tears and pain
So near and yet so far again.
When all hope’s lost, what can we do?
Our mission’s failed, can it be true?

Fire and debris marks this place,
Terrible beauty hangs in space,
But smoke rolls back like shimmering water
Through it swims our last pink Orca

Trumpets sound and church bells ring,
The mothers laugh, the children sing,
For this was the day the kids were freed
By Hutton Truckers’ daring deed.

Mission complete, they leave the station
Locked in missing man formation
We’re off for now, to our next meeting
Flossy’s lost and overheating.

So now you know, my stranger friend
How Truckers met their bitter end
And when you pass this way again,
Look at this plaque, and think of them.

The Truckers saved us from disease
When I was a child and on my knees,
But here am I, I still remain
Their sacrifice was not in vain.

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Thought for the week

Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.

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Elite Dangerous: I need a break

It is with a heavy heart I have to announce that CMDR Galen Shepard will be remaining in dock for the foreseeable future.

For some time now I have been feeling disengaged with the game as a whole. I have joined various community groups on Facebook and tried to participate in community activities, even going so far as to send some RP into Frontier to be included in their stories. The Facebook communities were, on the whole, nice places to be and I enjoyed interacting with some interesting and fun people. But I never felt as though I was part of them for some reason: the things I posted or did never seemed to garner much interest, despite similar things from others receiving a great deal of attention. The stories I sent to Zac at Frontier were never included in anything, despite him saying they could be. I’m not saying I’m entitled to have my stuff included in Frontier’s community stuff, but if they had no intention of using it, a simple email saying that it didn’t fit what they had planned was all that was required.

The game itself I am finding an endless grind. I own most of the ships in the game, I have a balance of several hundred million, and all my ranks are nearly at Elite level. I am not interested in PVP, trading is simple when you find a route that offers good mark-ups, and exploration is little more than firing your scanner, looking at the system map for anything interesting while your ship refuels from the star and then jumping away again.

Missions simply require you to move a bunch of stuff from one place to another, kill a certain number of things – or one big thing… The whole structure of missions simply isn’t very engaging at the moment. Engineers add an extra level of depth, but ultimately they boil down to little more than adding some RNG boosts to your ship modules.

I find it a tragedy and a shame that I am sat writing this. I backed the game on Kickstarter at a level that gave me Alpha access, and the excitement I had to see a game from my childhood (I played the original Elite on my BBC Model B, which I still have…) remade on a modern platform with modern graphics has not been fully matched by what has so far been delivered.

I hope this malaise wears off in time and that I will see you out among the stars again in the future.

Fly safe, Commanders.

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Gaming: Things I’d like to see

Greetings everyone. It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, but with a lot new game content on titles I play extensively coming out now, I thought I’d take the opportunity to waffle on for several paragraphs about things I like, things I don’t like and things I’d like to see more or less of in the games that I play.

Firstly, Elite:Dangerous. I’ve covered this game a lot in previous posts to the extent that I may go back and give those posts their own category… But with the latest expansion (2.1 – Engineers) hitting a live roll-out, I thought I’d start here. There’s a lot of good stuff in Engineers. I like it a lot. But listening to the Lave Radio podcast has given me some thoughts on how extra depth could be added to the universe.

I like their suggestions of starports (the big ones, not the orbital platforms) having multiple docking ports. One dock facing the host planet for trade to the surface, the other facing space for interplanetary/interstellar traffic. While this might only be a consideration for starports orbiting inhabited planets, or planets that have multiple docks in orbit around them, it would introduce a new dynamic to the docking system. Clearance could be requested from either port, but getting clearance from one wouldn’t mean you could dock through the other. It would allow pilots to land quickly after dropping from supercruise near the station, would help to reduce queues around busy ports but would also allow pirates and ne’er-do-wells to target traffic in a more intelligent manner. Of course things like this could only be implemented on Coriolis starports: the other station types are designed around one entry port, and would have to remain as they were.

Of course, another possibility that presents itself to starports with two docks is a one-way system… One entry port, one exit port… That’s assuming you follow traffic rules…

Sticking with Elite, and another idea mooted by Lave Radio, is the idea that on frontier systems, news and GalNet traffic is a few days old… It takes a while to get out there, of course. I appreciate that in a real-world scenario, this is something that might happen, however in game its difficult to cater for, and pilots can simply read the real-world newsletters, forums and other web pages on the internet. That said, to make things a bit more believable, each system could have a time delay property assigned to it based on its distance from the core worlds. The greater this time delay is, the longer it takes in-game GalNet articles to appear when one is out on the frontier. This mechanic might even give rise to new mission types whereby pilots are entrusted to courier news to frontier worlds or stations, bypassing the time delay.

Exploration is something I would like to see more love given to. Or rather, the things that you can find if you travel a bit off the beaten track. I like the idea of finding dead ships just spinning through space. Are they actually dead, or just in silent running? Are they a decoy or a lure from pirates to draw in unwary travellers? Perhaps the ships themselves are old models that you can’t buy any more, and they’ve been spinning through space for centuries… A quick scan could lead to some interesting navigation findings or intelligence that must be reported to the authorities. Now I appreciate that space is massive, and that there will be things that we don’t see straight away, and that is how we might expect real-life space exploration to work, but we have to remember that this is a game, so some signposting of this content might be in order. Maybe a news report of strange sensor contacts, or an old-style radio transmission is detected, kind of like when the USS Copernicus drifted near Babylon 5… Some of these finds might just be junk or space decoration, but others could serve as signposts themselves, pointing to larger goings on within the background simulation and the plot that Frontier has for the game’s story.

On to more Warhammer related things now with Vermintide.

Again, this is a title that I love. A new expansion of three missions has just been released. Set within the foreboding ruin of Castle Drachenfels, these missions introduce some wonderful new dynamics. The actual levels themselves are very maze-like with several routes available to get you to your final destination, and with no map provided and enemies around every turn you really do feel as though you’re adventuring through an ancient, evil fortress. The darkness mechanic that has been introduced for some of these levels is also awesome. In the dungeons you can’t see where you’re going unless you’re carrying a torch or in an area with lit torches, which adds a huge amount of depth. As you wander around, you have to be careful for traps and pits, and of course the ever-present Skaven, spying on your with their beady-red eyes from deep in the blackness… While carrying a torch helps your squad see where they’re going, you can’t use your weapons when you’re providing light, meaning you have to be on your guard at all times. You may find yourself having to retreat to the safety of your companions, or having to drop your torch to ready your swords and then hoping for the best! Having no light is a simple thing, but it makes all the difference here.

The darkness is further enhanced by magic in some areas, making even torches useless. You can tell the difference between normal and magical darkness because magical darkness has a red-tinge to it. When you’re at the mercy of magical darkness, you have no choice but to proceed slowly and hope for the best.

Fat Shark have done a great job implementing these new levels. The castle is wonderfully atmospheric and features shout-outs to several key points of Warhammer lore, as discussed by your characters when they find them. The darkness is a wonderful thing to experience, and its not over-used which makes it a nice twist when it happens. It would have been easy for it to lose its touch through excessive use, but the developers have neatly avoided that trap and made a set of levels to be proud of.

I would like to see more levels set within and around the castle, as well as other areas of the Old World. Fat Shark have shown they have what it takes to care for the world they’re developing in as they go, and I can’t wait to see what they offer up next.

Moving on, but staying with the Warhammer theme, we have Total War: Warhammer. This game is great. The Total War mechanics really suit how Warhammer works, and although there are parts of the game I would change (army upkeep and auto-resolve to name a couple) I’ve been playing for ages now, and I’m still enjoying it, even though the forces of Chaos are rampaging through my armies with apparent ease… Maybe I’m just a crap leader?

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Elite Dangerous: Hyperspace Route Planning

The route planner in Elite Dangerous is one of the best features that has been added to the game. It allows you plot a route from your current location out to a range of 1000 Ly. It works well enough out in the galactic rim where stellar density is low, however in the core regions it can struggle. The distance your ship can travel in a single jump, coupled with the increased star density and the distance you’re plotting over all means that the number of possible routes your ship can take to get from start to finish can be orders of magnitude higher than when you’re in the rim. This means that plotting a long route can sometimes cause the route planner to freeze, and take 30 minutes or more to complete a calculation cycle. The way around this is to plot an optimum length jump: this is the range at which the number of routes is small enough that you will get a response from the planner within 30 seconds. This forum article describes it quite nicely.

To help with this, I’ve written this little C# application. It requires .NET 4.0 but otherwise runs as a stand-alone application. I hope its useful to any aspiring explorers out there!

ed-calculator

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Elite: Dangerous – Engineers Beta, First Impressions

Well, participating in beta testing can always be a bit of a rocky road, and so it started with the new beta of the next update to Elite: Dangerous. The update, called Engineers, had some issues being delivered to those members of the community that should have had access to it, myself included. People reported options missing from the game’s launcher, “Play” buttons that did nothing and options appearing, only to vanish again later. Thankfully Frontier support are an amazing bunch, and these issues were resolved quite quickly: I only really mention it, as usually the problems begin after you’ve installed the game, not before!

Engineers is the largest update to the game for some time and introduces a lot of small additions as well as whole new segments of gameplay. Small things include UI new weapon types and the ability to bookmark favourite or useful systems in the galaxy map, while larger things include a whole new outfitting UI and, of course, the Engineers themselves!

The Engineers you know of and have access to are visible from the right-hand panel in your ship, and messages offering introduction will be sent your inbox:

Screenshot_0081

Screenshot_0082

Each Engineer has a set of requirements that must be met before you can commission them to do work. These vary depending on the Engineer: some require donations of cash or trade goods, others that you deal extensively with the criminal underworld. Like their requirements, the modifications that Engineers can perform also vary: some can boost the capabilities of your weapons, shield or FSD while others have yet other specialised roles… Their locations are shown on the galaxy map with a new icon that highlights where their workshops are:

Screenshot_0084

After docking at an Engineer’s base, you’ll have an extra option on the station menu. Here you can commission the engineer to work for you, or complete work for them in order to get them to unlock their services.Screenshot_0081

Screenshot_0082

Screenshot_0083

Screenshot_0085

Once you have completed any pre-requisite tasks the Engineer demands of you, you will have access to the modifications they can make. You’ll need to bring your own materials, and sometimes the Engineer’s work will have unintended side-effects, for good and sometimes for ill… Tinker with your gear at your own risk, Commanders!

Also getting an overhaul is the mission system. Instead of a list of available missions, contacts are now listed on the left, and the missions they offer appear in the centre pane:

Screenshot_0013

The amount of missions available will change depending on your relationship with the faction offering them, along with that faction’s standing within the system. The contacts will also react differently to you depending on your Pilot’s Federation ranking and your standing with the faction as a whole. When you’re a newbie you’ll be dealing with lower level intermediaries; as your ranking increases, you’ll be dealing with higher level representatives of the faction.

Also, gone are the requirements to be a certain rank to take on a mission: all that matters now is your reputation. You can take on an Elite-rated mission if you like, but you might find yourself floating home. That said, if you manage to complete a mission higher than your rank, the rewards are much nicer! The UI for choosing your missions also helps show you the impact that completing it will have, both in terms of your reputation increase, and the influence of the sponsoring faction. There is also a handy link to any running community goals, making it easier than ever to get involved in the galaxy’s affairs.

The galaxy map now offers you the very nice functionality to bookmark useful stations and systems (third icon in on the screenshot below). You can then select these locations from a new Bookmarks option and select them as destinations or plot routes using the standard route planner:

Screenshot_0014

Getting a further overhaul is the Outfitting screen. The UI is now a lot more modular, and new options to sort available purchases are available, meaning that outfitting your ship is even easier:

Screenshot_0016

Screenshot_0076

Screenshot_0018

When selecting a purchase to install aboard your ship, a new summary screen will display the results of installing the module, giving you an instant appreciation of whether you’re making a good selection or not:

Screenshot_0083

To go with the new Outfitting screen, new weapons are also available, notably (and to much rejoicing!) huge beam lasers for ships with Class 4 weapon hard-points. Moar dakka is always a welcome thing, and those new beam lasers do look like they mean the most serious of business!

Before:

Screenshot_0020

After:

Screenshot_0087
Moar dakka!Screenshot_0057

Signal sources and contacts have also seen changes. Your information panel will tell you when you encounter a new signal source, as opposed to you having to keep an eye on the destination panel to see whether there’s anything to investigate. New signal sources are also making an appearance: travel near Lave and you’ll probably be subjected to some Lave Radio… When you’re contacted by an NPC about a mission you might be undertaking, instead of some text on your communication panel, you’ll get to see what the NPC looks like, in a manner similar to the new missions screen.

New crafting materials and loot sources have been introduced: you no longer have to trawl planet’s surfaces to find materials to use, they can now be obtained from resource extraction sites and mining locations, along with the more traditional metals and minerals. New trade goods have also been added to the commodity market, some may be purchasable in the right locations, others will have to be mined or crafted:

Screenshot_0022

To help manage all these new goods, the Inventory panel on the right-hand cockpit screen has also been updated to separate cargo, data, crafting and synthesis materials into their own sub-sections:

Screenshot_0078

The audio has been given a new dimension too. When you approach a star port you’ll now be contacted by the station’s orbital traffic control (OTC), given your own callsign and various instructions depending on how you’re flying. If your hardpoints are deployed, you’ll be warned about violating the no-fire zone; exceed the speed limits and you’ll be warned about dangerous flying. If there are a lot of ships in the vicinity of the station, you’ll be told about high volumes of traffic and that you should fly with care. When requesting docking clearance OTC will confirm with you whether your request is approved or not, and if so, what platform to alight on. If you have a docking computer, and use it, OTC will confirm that automatic docking is in progress… All these are nice little touches which help to add a whole new level of immersion to the game, and I love it.

So far, I’ve played Beta for a few hours. The only issue I can say I’ve experienced (other than the deployment issues I mentioned at the start of the article) is that when navigating starport menus I now have to use the mouse. I play using either an Xbox controller or an X52 Pro, depending on which of my computers I’m using. When in the main game, I navigate the menus using either one of those, and have no issues. On the beta, the game seems to track the mouse – which I don’t use – and I sometimes find that I get stuck in one area of the menu and have to use the mouse to select options or back out of screens. This is only a minor issue, but it does break my immersion in the game because I have to put one controller down and pick up another. Additionally, and I know there are ways around this, the beta install wiped my custom control settings. I’m sorry to sound like a whiney little bitch, but if other games can patch their content and preserve custom control mappings, I see no reason why Elite can’t do this either.

That said, these are my only gripes and issues so far, and they’re both minor and inconsequential: this is another fine addition to the game, and more sterling and wonderful work from Frontier.

You should be proud, Commanders: you have brought the galaxy into our homes and let us stride the stars as giants, and for this my thanks seems somehow insufficient. Awesome work.

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You broke my heart…

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PRTG

PRTG is a comprehensive monitoring system used by a large number of network and system admins around the globe. It features a nice API with which you can extract data, and to help get uptime data out of the system, I’ve written a handy little application which you can download here. It runs on Windows 7/8.1, Server 2008R2 and 2012R2 and requires .Net 4.0.

To set the application up, simply extract the ZIP to a folder and start the executable. The ZIP contains two example INI files that you can use to quickly configure certain UI elements:

server.ini – enter the FQDN of your PRTG server in this file, e.g. https://prtg.mydomain.net/. This URL will be pre-loaded into the PRTG Server URL on the application form.

tags.ini – enter your commonly queried-for tags here, along with a display name separated by a semi-colon, e.g. Education – Network;SLAEduNetwork. Entries in this file will be populated into the Common Searches dropdown field.

You will also need to tag any sensors you want to get information for. Tags can be manually downloaded by entering the search tag into the form, or by configuring a common search entry in the tags.ini file.

01 02 03 04

I hope the application will be useful to you, and if you have any comments or suggestions, please feel free to leave a comment here or post a response on the PRTG Knowledge Base article covering this application.

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DPM and disk volumes

If you make use of Microsoft DPM for disk-based backups, you may find yourself wanting to identify which data sources are protected on the logical volumes on the disks in your storage pool.

If you open the Disk Management snap-in, you’ll see something like this:

volume-list

You can open the properties for the volume from the list, to view some details about it:

volume-properties

To find out which replicas are on which volumes, log on to the SQL instance for your DPM server and open SQL Server Management Studio. Once its open, start a new query in your DPM application database and run the following query:

select ag.NetbiosName, ds.DataSourceName, vol.MountPointPath, ds.DataSourceId, vol.GuidName
from tbl_IM_DataSource as ds
join tbl_PRM_LogicalReplica as lr
on ds.DataSourceId=lr.DataSourceId
join tbl_AM_Server as ag
on ds.ServerId=ag.ServerId
join tbl_SPM_Volume as vol
on lr.PhysicalReplicaId=vol.VolumeSetID
and vol.Usage=1
order by NetbiosName

If you want to limit this to a specific volume, execute the following statement, replacing the [GUID] tag with the GUID of the volume from its properties:

select ag.NetbiosName, ds.DataSourceName, vol.MountPointPath, ds.DataSourceId, vol.GuidName
from tbl_IM_DataSource as ds
join tbl_PRM_LogicalReplica as lr
on ds.DataSourceId=lr.DataSourceId
join tbl_AM_Server as ag
on ds.ServerId=ag.ServerId
join tbl_SPM_Volume as vol
on lr.PhysicalReplicaId=vol.VolumeSetID
and vol.Usage=1 and vol.MountPointPath like '%[GUID]%'
order by NetbiosName

For example:

select ag.NetbiosName, ds.DataSourceName, vol.MountPointPath, ds.DataSourceId, vol.GuidName
from tbl_IM_DataSource as ds
join tbl_PRM_LogicalReplica as lr
on ds.DataSourceId=lr.DataSourceId
join tbl_AM_Server as ag
on ds.ServerId=ag.ServerId
join tbl_SPM_Volume as vol
on lr.PhysicalReplicaId=vol.VolumeSetID
and vol.Usage=1 and vol.MountPointPath like '%0e411c99-f6b0-4423%'
order by NetbiosName

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Darkest Dungeon

header

You remember our venerable house? Opulent and imperial…

Darkest Dungeon is an example of how early access works when done correctly. I feel like I’ve been playing the game for a lot longer than its actually been out: I purchased it as a recommendation ages ago when it was an early access title. I loved it then, and I love how the final title has developed in response to the early access feedback.

The game itself takes place in a dystopian dark fantasy village at the foot of a house you inherit from one of your ancestors. As the opening sequence explains, your ancestor tired of “conventional extravagance” and took to spending the family fortune chasing legends of things buried beneath the house. In true Lovecraftian style, however, he delved too deep and was not prepared for what he found…

As the new master of the house, your charge is to repair and upgrade the village by completing expeditions into the surrounding corrupted countryside to recover treasure and heirlooms of your house. As you do, the roster of adventurers you have will expand and increase in experience, allowing you to take on more challenging expeditions, with the ultimate aim being to rid your house of the evil which has claimed it.

The village itself comprises several locations, such as the blacksmith, church, inn and sanatorium. Each of these allows you to provide respite to your heroes, recruit new adventurers and upgrade their equipment.

Rest and respite are key in this game: your heroes will suffer psychological damage as they wander the corrupted ruins and countryside. This will increase their stress levels and high levels of stress will cause all manner of unusual reactions. For example, a character under extreme stress that takes a particularly heavy hit from an enemy may develop masochistic tendencies, resulting in them stepping in to take hits meant for other characters. They may also refuse healing from support characters, and have verbal outbursts that increase the stress of other characters.

Not all stress conditions are negative, however: sometimes a character may rally when their resolve is tested by stress, causing them to become heroic. Heroic characters will have a variety of stat boosts and have a positive effect on other characters in the party.

Party selection in this game is key, too. Before each expedition you choose which characters you want to take on the mission. Each character will have a preferred position in the party rank depending on their abilities. Healers and support characters will prefer to be at the back of the ranks, while crusaders and fighters will prefer to be at the front. This preference isn’t just arbitrary either: some abilities can’t be used if the character is at the front or back, which makes ordering your party just as much of a key strategy as working out which combination of character classes work well together.

Exploration takes the form of side-scrolling corridors which link various rooms.

map

Corridors can be empty, or can contain battles, curious items, traps, obstacles and other secrets. Rooms have similar properties, and proper provision is required to get past them. True, you can move all those rotten corpses out of the way with your bare hands, but the chances of disease and psychological damage increase if you do this.

Key to exploration is your light. Your party carries torches which help keep the darkness at bay: the higher the light level, the less powerful the monsters you’ll encounter are, but the darker things get, the better the loot you’ll find. Lower light levels also reduce your chances of spotting traps, and increases the stress on your characters, so finding a good balance is key.

Battles against monsters are turn-based, with faster characters getting to act first. Sufficiently fast characters may get multiple actions per turn.

darkest-dungeon-the-death-of-caesar

As monsters fall, the order of their ranks will change, altering abilities they can use, meaning that you’ll have shift your own tactics as the battle develops. Some monsters have abilities which can affect the order of your squad, too, meaning you’ll have to spend valuable turns repositioning your characters – assuming your characters will let you! Additionally, some monsters are so horrific, or have special abilities that directly attack the mind, increasing the stress on your party.

Things like this are why I hold this game up as early access done right. In early builds of the game, dead monsters simply vanished. Then they left behind corpses, which could restrict your front-rank’s access to attack monsters in the back ranks. Some felt that this made the game more challenging, others said it made the game too hard, particularly on higher level quests. So what did Red Hook do? They configured an option: corpses can be turned on or off if you like – this way both sets of people can play the game the way they like.

They also re-worked the way stress worked. In early builds, high stress just meant your characters were more likely to develop personality quirks and do strange things, but otherwise had little effect. Now the stress meter will fill twice: once with a hollow bar, as in the screenshot above, and again with a solid bar. When the solid bar fills, your character will have a stress-related heart seizure and will likely die. This means that managing the stress levels of your squad is key to getting anywhere in this game.

Stress can be reduced in town by drinking, gambling, praying, visiting brothels or flagellating… Some characters will develop personality quirks that mean they will only relieve stress in one way, and may become addicted to that stress relief, further pushing them into the realms of madness.

Personality quirks and diseases can be removed by visits to the sanatorium, but this itself can increase stress. More “exotic” conditions and diseases can cost a lot more and take a lot longer to cure, meaning that managing your cash flow and your hero roster is also key. Sometimes you’ll find you’ll just have to leave some heroes back in town and cure them later.

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There will inevitably be times when quests fail: you’ll have to taste the bitterness of defeat and retreat. This will also affect the mental state of your heroes: retreat too many times and you’ll find that adventurers will develop cowardly traits, making it still harder to accomplish goals.

The way the game makes you feel invested in the party you send into the unknown is very skilfully accomplished. By means of giving the characters some power, you feel as though you want them to survive, and the atmosphere of their journey through the dungeons is further enhanced by one of the best narrator voices I have ever heard. Strike a critical hit and you’ll be told something along the lines of: “Morale surges as the enemy crumbles!” but similarly, defeat carries commentary too…

This is one of the game’s best accomplishments, even when you realise what’s going on. You are sat in your house, sending gangs of adventurers and swarthy workmen to do your dirty work for you… You have no avatar in the dungeon yourself, and you don’t lose even if all the party dies. True, its a setback to your plans, but there are always more adventure seekers ready to pit their mettle against the horrors and corruption of the pit… This makes having another go an easy thing to do, and as each dungeon is generated randomly in a Rogue-like manner, no play through will ever be exactly the same. Further adding to the differences in play-throughs that are possible is the different character classes: experimenting with how they work together can give some powerful results, but on the flip-side, not all squads will work effectively together.

You are also prevented from power-levelling your favourite heroes by sending them through lower-level quests repeatedly. Try to drag a level 3 hero into a squad on a level 1 mission and they’ll refuse to go: how can they get better if they’re not tested? Similarly, try sending a level 1 hero on level 6 quest, and they’ll chicken out, stating flat-out that such an attempt would be suicide… They’re not wrong!

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Fortunately, defeating all the monsters isn’t necessarily a condition of completing a quest. Some will have you defeat a certain enemy, others explore a certain amount of rooms, while others require you to clear all rooms of enemies. Longer quests will require you to manage your squad’s supplies of firewood for camping and food for staving away hunger. If you don’t bring enough, stress and hunger will hamper and cripple your efforts…

The sound effects are excellent, from the insane gibbering of mad cultists to the sounds of eldritch horrors, a lot of effort has been put into making them as absorbing and as atmospheric as possible, and the same goes for the music. The sounds also subtly change as conditions alter: if your heroes are near-death, you’ll be able to hear their hearts beating; low light amplifies the sounds of monsters, and that narrator!

The graphics are slick and crisp, and the art style is reminiscent of a graphic novel. Attack and defend animations are simple two-frame snap animations, but it all fits in with the graphic novel aesthetic I mentioned earlier, and gives the game’s combat sequences a rapid-fire feel that can be missing from some squad-based, turn-based games.

The Bottom Line: All of the game’s components combine to make a game that is easy to play yet difficult and challenging in extremes in places. The depth that you’re required to think to in managing your hero roster and your town’s upgrades make this a refreshing change from a lot of Rogue-likes out there, and adds an extra layer of challenge that just makes you keep coming back for more. The simplicity of obtaining and performing quests, and of dusting yourself off in the event of a wipe and getting back into the thick of things makes this a very addictive title indeed.

You remember our venerable house? Opulent and imperial…

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