Serpent in the Staglands

Last updated

Serpent in the Staglands
Developer(s) Whalenought Studios
Engine Unity
Platform(s) Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux
Release28 May 2015
Genre(s) Role-playing
Mode(s) Single-player

Serpent in the Staglands is an old-school isometric computer role-playing game developed by independent game developer Whalenought Studios for Microsoft Windows, OS X and Linux. Using the tagline “a 90s CRPG in every way but the release date”, [1] The game resembles several classic games such as Fallout , Baldur's Gate , and Darklands . The game is notable for being "brutally old-school", [2] lacking several features seen in modern RPGs such as introductory or tutorial levels, automatically updated journals and quest-markers. [3] It also has a distinct pixelated graphics style. The game uses the Unity Technologies' Unity engine.

Microsoft Windows is a group of several graphical operating system families, all of which are developed, marketed and sold by Microsoft. Each family caters to a certain sector of the computing industry. Active Microsoft Windows families include Windows NT and Windows IoT; these may encompass subfamilies, e.g. Windows Server or Windows Embedded Compact. Defunct Microsoft Windows families include Windows 9x, Windows Mobile and Windows Phone.

Linux Family of free and open-source software operating systems based on the Linux kernel

Linux is a family of open source Unix-like operating systems based on the Linux kernel, an operating system kernel first released on September 17, 1991 by Linus Torvalds. Linux is typically packaged in a Linux distribution.

<i>Fallout</i> (video game) 1997 video game

Fallout: A Post Nuclear Role Playing Game is an open-world turn-based role-playing video game developed and published by Interplay Productions in 1997. The game has a post-apocalyptic and retro-futuristic setting, in the aftermath of a global nuclear war in an alternate history timeline mid-22nd century. The protagonist of Fallout is an inhabitant of a Vault, long-term shelters, who is tasked to find a replacement Water Chip and save their Vault.

Contents

In Serpent of the Staglands, you assume the role of Necholai, a lesser God who has descended to earth to take part in a festival in his honor. However, once the festivities are over, some unseen force prevents you from leaving your mortal form and returning to your home. Therefore, you disguise yourself as a spice merchant, [4] trying to move unnoticed throughout the land in an endeavor to find out who is blocking your passage to the astral planes to finally reclaim your immortality.

Astral plane plane of existence

The astral plane, also called the astral world, is a plane of existence postulated by classical, medieval, oriental, and esoteric philosophies and mystery religions. It is the world of the celestial spheres, crossed by the soul in its astral body on the way to being born and after death, and is generally believed to be populated by angels, spirits or other immaterial beings. In the late 19th and early 20th century the term was popularised by Theosophy and neo-Rosicrucianism.

The game was the subject of a successful Kickstarter campaign [5] raising $28,058 from 1,092 backers. It was released via the Whalenought website as well as GOG.com, Steam and Humble Store on 28 May 2015. Josh Sawyer and Feargus Urquhart from Obsidian Entertainment were among the backers. An expansion pack is currently under development.

Kickstarter crowdfunding platform

Kickstarter is an American public-benefit corporation based in Brooklyn, New York, that maintains a global crowdfunding platform focused on creativity and merchandising. The company's stated mission is to "help bring creative projects to life". As of May 2019, Kickstarter has received more than $4 billion in pledges from 16.3 million backers to fund 445,000 projects, such as films, music, stage shows, comics, journalism, video games, technology, publishing, and food-related projects.

GOG.com video game platform

GOG.com is a digital distribution platform for video games and films. It is operated by GOG Sp. z o.o., a wholly owned subsidiary of CD Projekt based in Warsaw, Poland. GOG.com delivers DRM-free video games through its digital platform for Microsoft Windows, OS X and Linux. In March 2012, it began selling more recent titles such as Alan Wake, Assassin's Creed and the Metro Redux series, among many others.

Steam (software) Video game platform

Steam is a video game digital distribution platform developed by Valve Corporation. It was launched in September 2003 as a way for Valve to provide automatic updates to their games, but eventually expanded to include non-Valve games from third-party publishers. Steam offers digital rights management (DRM), matchmaking servers, video streaming, and social networking services. It also provides the user with installation and automatic updating of games, and community features such as friends lists and groups, cloud saving, and in-game voice and chat functionality.

Despite initially being "almost completely ignored by the specialized press", [6] favorable reviews and impressions are starting to appear.

Gameplay

The game features a classless role-playing system reminiscent of the SPECIAL system used in Fallout . The player is free to create builds using any combination of the magic, combat and aptitude skills available. You create your character at the start of the game, and might optionally create up the five more. Alternatively, you recruit companions you meet in the game world. A noteworthy feature is the ability to bind the souls of these companions to the will of the player character, making sure that they will not leave your party later on. [3] Similarly reminiscent of Fallout, the game allows open world sandbox exploration, meaning that the player is free to move about the map as he chooses and solve quests in any order desired. The game also features a non-linear storyline, with multiple endings according to the choices made by the player. Combat has been noted by reviewers to be "especially brutal". [2] It uses real-time with pause, as popularized by Infinity Engine games such as Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale , as well as the more recent Pillars of Eternity . The player is encouraged to pause often to take tactical decisions, using the abilities of the different party members. While one reviewer noted that he died "repeatedly despite learning how to manage combat", he nevertheless described combat as "strategic" and "fun". [4]

<i>Baldurs Gate</i> fantasy role-playing video game

Baldur's Gate is a fantasy role-playing video game developed by BioWare and published in 1998 by Interplay Entertainment. It is the first game in the Baldur's Gate series and takes place in the Forgotten Realms, a high fantasy campaign setting, using a modified version of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D) 2nd edition rules. It was the first game to use the Infinity Engine for its graphics, with Interplay using the engine for other Forgotten Realms-licensed games, including the Icewind Dale series, as well as other licensed D&D campaign worlds such as Planescape: Torment. The game's story focuses on players controlling a protagonist of their own creation who finds themselves travelling across the Sword Coast alongside a party of companions, to unravel the mystery surrounding a sudden iron crisis affecting the region and attempting to discover the culprits behind it, while uncovering dark secrets about their origins and dealing with attempts on their life.

<i>Icewind Dale</i> video game

Icewind Dale is a role-playing video game developed by Black Isle Studios and originally published by Interplay Entertainment for Windows in 2000 and by MacPlay for OS X in 2002. The game takes place in the Dungeons & Dragons Forgotten Realms campaign setting and the region of Icewind Dale, and utilises the 2nd edition ruleset. The story follows a different set of events than those of R. A. Salvatore's The Icewind Dale Trilogy novels: in the game, an adventuring party becomes enlisted as a caravan guard while in Icewind Dale, in the wake of strange events, and eventually discover a plot that threatens the Ten Towns of Icewind Dale and beyond.

<i>Pillars of Eternity</i> American role-playing video game

Pillars of Eternity is a role-playing video game developed by Obsidian Entertainment and published by Paradox Interactive. It was released for Microsoft Windows, OS X, and Linux on March 26, 2015. The game is a spiritual successor to the Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale series, along with Planescape: Torment. Obsidian started a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter for it in September 2012. The campaign raised over US$4 million, which was the highest funded video game at the time. The game uses the Unity engine.

Setting

Serpent in the Staglands takes place in the world of Vol. Despite being a fantasy world, it is inspired by the actual Bronze Age and heavily influenced by medieval Transylvania.[ citation needed ] Despite the presence of classic fantasy elements such as magic, the game is known for its gritty, realistic and dark tone. This makes many gamers draw parallels to Darklands .

<i>Darklands</i> (video game) video game

Darklands is a role-playing video game developed and published by MicroProse in 1992 for the PC DOS platform, and re-released on Gog.com with support for Windows, macOS, and Linux. Darklands is set in the Holy Roman Empire during the 15th century. While the geographic setting of the game is historically accurate, the game features many supernatural elements.

"Featuring a chosen party of five, you take the role of Necholai, a minor god of a celestial body, who descends to the Staglands for a moonlit festival only to find his way home blocked and immortality slipping out of his grasp. Seeking answers and aid, he takes on a mortal body and the guise of a traveling Spicer". [1]

Development

Serpent in the Staglands was developed by Whalenought Studios, which is a husband-and-wife team consisting of Joe and Hannah. Joe takes care of art and animation duties, while Hannah is responsible for programming and writing. [5] While based in Chicago during development, the company moved to Seattle after its release. The initial game design for Serpent in the Staglands started in winter 2013. The Kickstarter campaign ran over a 30-day period from 27 March 2014 until 26 April 2014. It exceeded the initial $10,000 funding goal, allowing for several streach goals to be reached including the expansion pack. Serpent in the Staglands was created using Unity 3D. Parts of the Kickstarter funds went towards buying Unity 3D Pro, which featured more efficient path finding technology and optimized lighting solutions. [5]

Joe and Hannah appeared on Matt Chat episodes 284-286 to discuss the making the game. [7]

Release

The initial planned release date was winter 2014. The game was postponed until 28 May 2015, however, to allow for additional bug testing and polish.

Expansion pack

As announced during the Kickstarter campaign, [5] an expansion to the game is currently in development. It will be made available for free to those who purchased the game, either prior or subsequent to the Kickstarter campaign. [5]

Reception

Reception
Aggregate score
AggregatorScore
Metacritic 74/100 [8]

While Serpent in the Staglands was initially "almost completely ignored by the specialized press" [6] at the time of release, reviews and impressions from (mainly smaller) gaming sites have since appeared.

Niche Gamer awarded the game 8/10. He finds that "deep below all of that frustration is an amazing RPG that deserves to be played". [2] He highlights the main positive points as the story and the freedom when forming a party. He mentions the general difficulty of the game, saying "like any good European CRPG, Staglands isn’t looking to hold your hand or babysit you". [2] Combat is "especially brutal" [2] with "no scaling or helpful placement of adequately leveled enemies". [2] He notes that the game requires some time to get into, speaking of a "“five hour wall” that surrounds the game, since the early going is so rough that you need to have almost superhuman patience to overcome it". [2] Noting the weaker points of the game, he states that there are "some incredibly ancient gameplay conventions that even I found intolerable at times", [2] notably criticizing the lack of features on the journal function and "not being able to resurrect fallen allies, not getting any clues as to whether killing an NPC will ruin your quest, and not being told if an enemy requires a certain level of weapon to do damage against it". [2]

True PC Gaming lauds the variety of character creation options, emphasizing that "there’s a nice selection of races and subcultures to pick from, with unique bonuses attached to each. These choices are supplied with a staggering amount of back history for both alike". [4] He also notes that "Serpent in the Staglands is one gorgeous game", [4] and that "the music composition is fantastic and perfectly suits both the feel and art style of the game". [4] He is critical about the user interface, however, stating that the "old fashioned HUD tries to fit a large number of buttons so close together that it often confused me what each one did, even after many times using them" and misses the option to compare items. He concludes; "I’ve played some difficult games in my time, but I can’t remember any that left my lead character crumpled in a bloody heap on the cold ground so frequently as Serpent in the Staglands. It’s quite a task to nail down a solid conclusion about this game, as I feel like the overall enjoyment experienced will vary drastically based on the type of player. That being said, there’s much to be appreciated by all audiences, and I wholeheartedly recommend traditional RPG fans to buy this game now". [4]

Richard Cobbett describes the game in an article for Rock, Paper, Shotgun . He finds that "the needlessly frustrating opening" [3] is to the game's detriment because stat descriptions "largely assumes you’re coming to the game from things like Dungeons and Dragons". [3] He goes on to say that "this game painfully, desperately needs a Getting Started type guide. There’s a manual, which is not optional, but even that is a weak introduction". [3] To the game's credit, he goes on to say that "the frustrating/good thing is that behind all of this waits a surprisingly good RPG. It’s bursting with carefully designed areas and clever ideas, as well some really fun gimmicks. You can start with just yourself, or use your god powers to create a few extra empty shells to back you up until you find suitable NPCs to fill slots. When they’re recruited, you can either take them warts and all or use your power to just straight up steal their souls, removing their tiresome free will". [3] In conclusion, he finds that "there’s a lot of really good stuff here, and the game is mostly excellent, but the path to actually getting into the damn thing is far more frustrating than it is rewarding. Once past it, the amount of freedom it offers in everything from character builds to your path around an open world designed to reward exploration is all great, and knowing the carrot is there does help. Even so, do be sure you have the dedication to keep chasing it while being brutally beaten with the stick". [3]

Finally, the game was also reviewed by two Greek gaming sites, Greek Gamer [9] and Ragequit.gr. [10] The latter awarded the game 90/100.

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References

  1. 1 2 Whalenought Studios. "Serpent in the Staglands". Archived from the original on 9 July 2015. Retrieved 15 July 2015.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Batchelor, Carl (1 July 2015). "Serpent In The Staglands Review – This Snake Doesn't Scale To Your Level". Niche Gamer . Retrieved 15 July 2015.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Cobbett, Richard (13 July 2015). "The RPG Scrollbars: Serpent in the Staglands". Rock, Paper, Shotgun . Retrieved 15 July 2015.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Riddle, Jarret (3 July 2015). "Serpent In The Staglands Review". True PC Gaming . Retrieved 15 July 2015.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 Whalenought Studios. "Kickstarter Pitch" . Retrieved 14 July 2015.
  6. 1 2 WorstUsernameEver (13 July 2015). "Serpent In The Staglands Reviews and Impressions". Game Banshee . Retrieved 15 July 2015.
  7. Barton, Matt (13 July 2015). "Matt Chat's Interview with Joe and Hannah Williams of Whalenought Studios". Matt Chat . Retrieved 15 July 2015.
  8. "Serpent in the Staglands (pc) reviews at Metacritic.com". Metacritic . Retrieved 15 July 2015.
  9. Χατζηιωάννου, Αλέξανδρος (1 July 2015). "Serpent In The Staglands". Greek Gamer . Retrieved 15 July 2015.
  10. Καλαγκιάς, Νίκος (21 June 2015). "Serpent In The Staglands". Ragequit.gr . Retrieved 15 July 2015.