Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Clockwork Empires

I have steadfastly refused to play pre-release versions of Clockwork Empires for the last two years.

Dungeons of Dredmor is a brilliant, incredibly fun game, and I was willing to wait, because CE is full of all kinds of interesting ideas.

It was released last week, and I've played for 133 minutes. Or 113. I can't remember.

And you know what? It's not very good. Man, I hate typing that.

Every minute with this game has been a struggle. Battling the interface is a big reason, but the problems are so deep that even getting through the tutorial is a struggle.

Plus, the fit and finish is disappointingly poor.

An example: when you click on information bars and whatnot, windows pop up to give you the information you requested. These windows appear all over the screen, and most appear to have absolutely no rhyme or reason for their placement. Click on something in the upper-left of the screen? The resulting window could pop up anywhere. It's like whack-a-mole.

This is a basic, basic thing. I thought about it for about 30 seconds and came up with this: when you click on something to get more information, the resulting window should be slightly toward the center of the screen in relation to where you pressed. So the center of the screen has gravity, and it pulls those information screens toward the center.

So when one of those screens open up, your eyes would instinctively know where to look.

With CE, though, you have no damn idea where anything is going to show up. It's an information circus, and not in a good way.

That sounds like a little thing, I know, but there are so many examples of little things being poorly designed that it seriously affects my perception of the game.

Another example: the tutorial.

This is a complex game, so the tutorial is very, very important. But when you pick your starting location, it's possible to pick a very hilly area (I did). The tutorial tries to lead you through basic tasks, but to do some of them, you have to level ground. A lot of ground. It's incredibly tedious, and why on earth wouldn't they just start you in a largely flat area with one small set of hills for you to level?

I don't think I'm anywhere near even finishing the tutorial, because I made some stuff in the kitchen (a specific quantity was needed) and I'm not getting credit for what I made.


I want to believe that there's a good game in there, somewhere, but it's clearly nowhere near finished.

Like I said, I hate typing all this, because I was 100% on board. This was one of my most anticipated games of the fall (as soon as they announced the release date). But it's sloppy and not even half-baked at this point.

I will say, though, that the post-launch support for Dredmor was absolutely terrific, and there are certainly good ideas in the design. I'm willing to be patient, but I can't recommend that it be purchased at this point.

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