Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Playing 1.2

Editor's Note: This post is chock-full of spoilers. Steer clear if you want an unspoiled 1.2 gameplay experience.

After any release, I like to do a proper playthrough with no debug features enabled. The release of Dead Man Walking 1.2 has proven to not be an exception to that trend.

The first major piece of loot I find is a bloody saber on the first floor. Other notable goodies from the first floor: a bloody memento and a tower shield. Having a bloody weapon and a bloody memento is always interesting because the effects stack without issue. I'm effectively gaining 10 HP per kill - pretty great during a slaughter.

...or at least it would be, if I hadn't found an electric saber on the second floor. I enjoy using electric weapons - they're slightly better than mastercrafted ones, but much more random. I kept my bloody memento and swapped my tower shield for a buckler. The tower shield provides a lot of blocking power, but it substantially impairs dodging ability. Plus, the buckler offers a point of block and a point of accuracy.

Garjon went down without a hitch. I enjoy the version of Garjon introduced in 1.1 and decided not to change him at all moving forward into 1.2. He's a decent new player boss fight because there's a lot of stuff going on, but none of it is crazy dangerous on a turn-by-turn basis.

I ran into my first turret on the third floor. They're a new enemy type that essentially replaced laughing skulls. They only shoot in the four standard directions, but hit quite harder. It's often possible to just avoid them entirely, but if they spawn near a corridor or around a corner they can be problematic. After destroying the turret, I found Decay prancing about and took his jar of cookies. I actually forgot about the jar until I was well into the fourth floor.

Turns out that checking out the entrance to the fourth floor before opening the jar was a good idea. The artifact rapier, Vampire's Fang, is quite strong. It gives the player access to life drain on hit, which is otherwise inaccessible (for now). After equipping the Fang, I remember that I need to use the jar and crack it open.

Heigan is pretty simple once you get the hang of him. You only need to move when he summons a pool under you. He's fairly unique because roughly 50% of his damage is totally unavoidable (the aura). He drops the filthy robes, which give chainmail cuirass levels of dodge [+2] and grant poison resistance.

Zombo is straightforward, but rather long-winded. The fight is essentially an endurance test - kind of a rarity by Dead Man Walking standards, but perhaps interesting when used sparingly. He takes Heigan's aura gimmick and makes it his entire source of damage. He also uses a new source of damage avoidance: boss block - a special mechanic that shaves damage if it surpasses a certain value.

Immediately upon killing the second boss (Zombo or Heigan - it doesn't matter), the Underlord rises up and starts wrecking your face. The game uses a bit of narrative magic to reset your HP back to full, but that's all the relief you can count on here. The Underlord follows the trend of Sewer bosses - he's fairly simple on the surface, but can be dangerous if you don't pay attention. He gains a large, stacking damage bonus every time he attacks you. That damage bonus dwindles away if you move far enough away from him. Like Zombo, he uses the new boss block and is essentially another endurance test, albeit a much more punishing one. It only takes a handful of turns for the Underlord to gain enough damage to absolutely dominate even the best equipped player. 

As you can see in the above image, I end up making a few bad decisions and quickly find myself without any HP and a rapidly diminishing willpower. The most critical mistake I made was moving into the corridor that only leads into unexplored territory. Being low on resources, health, and heading into unexplored territory is one of the easiest ways to die in any Roguelike. 

While the previous image showcased a dire situation, this one is far worse. I continued to move into unexplored territory after chugging back the rest of my flasks and found myself in a room surrounded by gelatinous cubes and the Underlord. I scrambled through my inventory and used the one magical mystery card I had left hoping for either a lucky blink or full heal, but I unfortunately got poisoned. Perhaps unsurprisingly at this point, I died here. I tried to kill the cubes to fuel my bloody memento, but it wasn't enough - the Underlord's ramping damage and the gelatinous cubes high base damage were too much for me.

I found this death pretty interesting because it really showcases the importance of exploration and navigational skills within the game. I should have known trying to move left after just coming from it would be a foolish decision, but I wasn't aware of it at the time - I was panicked and not giving the turns the time they deserved. I also went against my own grain with this run: I typically try to clear out as much of the floor as possible before killing the second boss, partially just to avoid a situation like this. I didn't stick to my usual guns and I paid dearly for it.

Beyond the reasons behind my death, I also found it interesting that I may have been able to survive if I had gotten luckier with the magical mystery card. I made that item to put a bit of RNG into the game and it's cool to see it in action. While maybe a little unlikely, I could have very well made it out of that room alive if the card had worked in my favor.


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