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Author Topic: Re: The Journey Down 2 released  (Read 1627 times)

Armageddon

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Re: The Journey Down 2 released
« on: 27 Aug 2014, 22:59 »
The second chapter has just been released on Steam and I can't believe it wasn't announced here!

WOAH!

Looks very pretty and I can't wait to dive into the world once again.

Edit by Andail: made this a new topic instead of adding to the first game's thread
« Last Edit: 01 Sep 2014, 09:32 by Andail »

Fitz

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Re: Re: The Journey Down 2 released
« Reply #1 on: 30 Aug 2014, 09:06 »
Yeah, definitely picking it up - especially with the discounts over at Steam Store: Part Two -10% and Part One at -90%

Snarky

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Re: Re: The Journey Down 2 released
« Reply #2 on: 31 Aug 2014, 12:32 »
I had a playthrough of TJD2 this weekend. It's a pretty cool game, and if you enjoyed Chapter 1 it's definitely recommended. It really pays off on the promise of the first episode, continuing and deepening the story in a quite satisfying way. And it's bigger and more substantial as well (maybe 50% longer than Chapter 1, if not twice as long?). And just when I thought the game was over, there's another little bit. I look forward to seeing the trilogy complete, since I think it will play even better as one whole experience.

The music is great, of course, and the voice acting is very good throughout, with a lot more consistency in the smaller parts than the first episode had. (The sound mix wasn't always that well balanced in the FMV scenes, though, with the music often drowning out dialogue. Good thing there are subtitles!)

Puzzles OK, not particularly difficult but not too trivial either. The difficulty level is limited by a pretty modest number of inventory items and hotspots on the screens (the game is divided into definite chunks, with access often limited to only a few locations) and by the one-click interface, which means there are never too many possibilities to try. The most challenging bits are definitely a few code/combination puzzles, but with a bit of thinking and tinkering they're quite doable.

On the minus side, the backgrounds look a lot less polished than in Chapter 1, probably because there are many more of them (and a number of other locations were dropped from the final game), and because Theo didn't have the same chance to do multiple passes on them as in the first part (through its initial release as an AGS game and the later high-res version). While they all look really nice if you don't look too closely (they'd work great in low-res!), I have to say that many of them are pretty rushed and sloppy for a commercial title. I really wish they'd taken a couple of additional hours on each screen just to clean it up a bit, even if it pushed back the release by a couple of weeks. This episode also uses a lot more 3D-rendered environments, and they don't always mesh so well with the 2D art; the thick brush strokes and general lack of detail in the paintings makes the contrast greater than it was in part 1. There's also some shimmering and popping in the 3D animations that look less than professional. But OK, it's a low-budget, indie title, and the fact that it manages to present so many nice-looking FMV cutscenes with lots of different settings and characters is impressive in its own right.

Another problem I had with the game was that I didn't really feel like I understood the setting. It's been a while since I played Chapter 1; the only thing I really remember is that it's about going "Over the Edge" and down to the Underworld. Here the fantasy cosmology/geography gets even weirder, with ships floating on mist, and a city that maybe is held up by pillars? The mist ships are a nice, Miyazaki-like idea, but I was never really clear on the rules of this world. Is Port Artue located "over the edge" from St Armando? They talk about it as "up", but there's also a railroad running there, while the map shows it as an island in the mist. If it's built on pillars (which is unclear, and makes little sense if there was mining going on there), what do they stand on? Is the mist like an ocean or like air to the mist ships? Where is the Underworld relative to this place? Below "ground", over an edge, just further away? For a game about an expedition, I'd really like to understand what it's an expedition to.

Armageddon

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Re: Re: The Journey Down 2 released
« Reply #3 on: 01 Sep 2014, 03:12 »
I finished it today. I'm sorry to say I agree with Snarky.

I was so very disappointed in the backgrounds, I was sad to see a ton of the very polished good looking backgrounds were just cut, Port Artue looked much cooler in the old version with the angled roofs and rustic architecture. Now it just looks like a brown and yellow version of St. Armando. I was expecting it to be totally different and alien. There were some very bad brush strokes sticking out of almost every other background, one of the worst cases was in the lighthouse, the net in the top left is quite big and it's just straight brown lines, no rim light from the fire or rope detail. And there are even gaps!

I'm so disappointed in how plain Port Artue is now. It has very little character anymore. Why wasn't the pathway to the lighthouse this detailed? Why isn't the background and lighting of Arnie's this moody? There's light in the train station here that guides the player's eye to the back, but in the retail version I wandered around for twenty minutes and had to find a walkthrough to know I could exit through the back of the train station background when I really wanted to go up the steps.

Why did the town change from this and this and this? It's gothic and cool looking, very different from the first game, very mysterious.

Whatever was over the edge in the first game was built up so much, it seemed like no one in St. Armando knew what was over the edge or if there's anything there at all. And then Chapter 2 just starts as your plane is in a net. We don't even see what the net is attached to besides the ship to know how the plane is staying in place. When Bwana gets to the deck no one is surprised, it's just, "Oh hey, airplane fell into our net, cool. We're stuck." And the whole game is like that, it should have felt really mysterious and fun to explore a strange land, but instead it's like Bwana knew about Port Artue forever, and apparently people used to travel from St. Armando to Port Artue all the time.

You had the perfect chance for exposition to make sense, for it not to be out of place because all three of the main characters were supposed to have no idea what this world is. My biggest gripe with the game is the writing, Bwana is fine, if a little flat. I never felt like he had much of an impact, because after puzzle sections the story would just sort of happen to him and the puzzles were just to get to the location where story was happening. I don't understand how any of the ships float on the mist, the Sisulu airship has propellers so I get that but then how does the ship you start out on float? There's got to be some rules!

Kito and Lina were extremely annoying throughout. Lina just told you what to do and spouted so much exposition about the mining company in the file room, so many words about mining and other things that didn't seem to matter. I get it, the power company is ruining the environment and they're bad because they're rich and if anyone has money they come corrupt. It's so heavy handed, I just wanted a fun adventure of an underdog. Kito did pretty much nothing, he only got stuck and I had to help him out every time. The plane and the prison. Just sort of a waste.

The scene after Bwana goes up the food lift is one of the worst though, you show the player a cut scene of Lina not siding with Barlow, Lina is against him, but then Bwana comes up for a second and he gets thee wrong idea, he's kicked out, and then he doesn't care about Lina. Which one, makes me dislike Lina, and two, doesn't work because you showed the audience that Lina is in fact, still on Bwana's side. So later on when you meet her in the file room there is no tension, why does she have a gun. Why doesn't she use the gun while escaping? WHERE DID SHE GET A GUN!?!



I know I'm being quite harsh, but I really just want the best game I know you guys are capable of. On the plus side though, the puzzles were very fun and well balanced and made sense. They were far better designed than the first game. Sadly one or two were stunted by a button being drawn on the background that didn't look clear, specifically the prison exterior, I had no idea the side button was usable and quit the game pretty early because of it until I came back and used a walk through.
The world still looks nice, it's just not as big as I was expecting, there's few side characters compared to the first game. I actually really liked the 3D integration, it was less jarring than the first chapter, Bwana looks great now, some of the upscaling like on the thugs in the back alley was very poor, would it have really killed the file size to render them just a little bigger? Loved the use of FMV, I thought I wouldn't but it turned out great, gave me some mad Grim Fandango vibes. The author R. U. Fukt was a nice joke, wasn't expecting that in an otherwise tame game. I thought some of the dialogue would have been better if there was stronger language, sometimes it was very silly and seemed like characters talked around it.

Overall I'm still looking forward to the next chapter, I just hope the characters are better written and go back to being friends of Bwana instead of bossing him around and using him. I'd totally recommend it to everyone that enjoyed the first one.

Andail

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Re: Re: The Journey Down 2 released
« Reply #4 on: 01 Sep 2014, 20:14 »
That's a bit disappointing, hearing your comments, because I had looked forward to this game. Will still play it and see for myself.

Snarky

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Re: Re: The Journey Down 2 released
« Reply #5 on: 01 Sep 2014, 23:11 »
While Armageddon makes valid points (and if some of you look at screenshots from the game and don't think the solid brush strokes are that bad, it's way more noticeable in-game, when it's fullscreen at native resolution), I'm a bit more positive overall than he is.

Yes, those concept backgrounds are great, but I don't think the ones in the game are always worse, or that Port Artue ends up looking just like St Armando in the final design. St Armando was a much more modern city, while they've clearly gone for a more 20s, jazz age, film noir look for Port Artue. I wonder if they decided that those other screens looked too gothic, too "European", too 19th-century (all pedestrian alleys and gas light), while they wanted a somewhat more modern, American vibe to fit with the hard-boiled pretensions of the plot.

Also remember that they redesigned the game significantly mid-development, in order to get the gameplay and story to flow better. Perhaps the price of better playability was having to lose some nice-looking but inessential locations.

While I agree that the whole mist thing wasn't well communicated, I'm willing to accept ships that float on mist without any clear means of lift (beyond the unusually deep hulls): it's fantasy, and fog so thick that eels can swim in it and ships can float on it is a cool idea. But the rules need to be clear, and unfortunately they weren't. (The Cloud Colony in Broken Age is equally preposterous, but the dream logic is clearer, which I think is why I've not seen anyone complain about it.)

As well as missing interaction with Kito in particular throughout the game, I didn't think Barlow was a particularly successful character. There are like three different aspects to him, and they never fully come together. I think his backstory and character arc are just too complicated for the minimal amount of screentime he gets:

Spoiler: ShowHide
As an adventurer coming back from the Underland with some amazing discovery, he sold out for power. OK. And his ambition was to become the corrupt police chief of this small town on the edge of the world (without even any real power, since the Armando Power Co. are the ones in charge)? He's just been doing that for twenty years, putting aside whatever it was he and Kaonandodo discovered in the first place? ... That doesn't feel like proper motivation, or like a story that makes sense. Of course, we don't have all the details yet, but in order to sell his face turn and sacrifice at the end I think we do need to have some understanding of what's driving him. As it was, it just felt to me like a thing that happened because it's a staple of the genre.


Maybe if e.g. one of the NPCs you interact with was a former friend of his who could tell you about how he'd changed, the different dimensions of his portrayal might feel more organic and coherent. Or maybe you as a player should be allowed to read (parts of) the Journal of the Journey down for yourself, rather than always have Lina summarize it for you. (I think that's part of what makes the storytelling less satisfying in this chapter: in the first part Bwana had very strong personal motivations (money trouble, find missing dad, love interest, worry over conspiracy), and generally drove the progress of the plot; here he is - as Armageddon says - much more passive, just reacting to circumstances or following instructions.)

I just remembered another plot point that stuck out:

Spoiler: ShowHide
When the Sisulus capture you, only to immediately set you free again, apparently so you can walk around while they're about to steal the Journal, at which point they'll take you back on board. WTF? Why the hell wouldn't they just keep you locked up until it was time to leave? It is ludicrously convenient, and really feels like some important chunk is missing (like an escape, or some reason for the pirates to set you free).


Well, this is sounding awfully negative again, so let me bring up some of the strengths: the character animations blend in much better with the environments in this chapter, and the sound design, texting and overall presentation are also stronger. Bwana is irresistibly charming, and any time he and Kito are together it's impossible not to love their antics. There are some pretty good jokes throughout the game (the one when you pick up the plunger is a standout). For all of the criticism, the world still feels imaginative and pretty original, and the visual design is lovely throughout. And it's just a well-made adventure game in general! I'll certainly buy Chapter 3, I'm looking forward to exploring Underland and seeing how you wrap up the story.
« Last Edit: 01 Sep 2014, 23:14 by Snarky »