Alright, it took me a while to finish but here is the second part of the Frayed Knights Pilot critique.
In the first 30 seconds of this pilot you will find out that this game has metric tons of personality. From descriptions to dialogs to the overall narrative, it all feels perfectly woven together, with occasional bursts of comedic brilliance.
Dialogs are the primary source of this awesome creamy filling called humor. Every once in a while the player get’s to see the party members chat about something that just happened. Those moments will get a chuckle out of you at the very least, especially if you are a veteran RPG gamer. The character portraits are put to good use here, although it can get a little messy when there are something like 5 or more speech bubbles on the screen. The only problem I see with the dialogs is that a specific part of every single speech bubble has some kind of blur filter. I don’t know if it was intentional, or a necessity due to ugly pixeling, but either way this blur filter doesn’t look pretty.
But the dialogs are not the only interesting parts. In every single other game that I’ve ever played, traps work in binary states. It’s either armed or disarmed. With the disarm mechanics working pretty much like this: player clicks on the disarm button, fails, clicks again, fails, clicks again, the trap is disarmed, hooray for the exciting world of mindless random chance. Frayed Knights takes this concept but fleshes it out to the point of actually making traps interesting. It’s certainly something I’ve never seen before, but I can’t fairly judge it yet. They seem very deep and easy to understand, but in the pilot you only get to toy around with them two or three times. I got a taste of it, I liked it, but I can’t say much more than that. It’s far more strategic than any other sad excuse for a trap system I’ve ever seen before, that’s a certain.
I’m sad to say that once again the layout is the weak point. The trap disarming screen is functional although a little disorienting at first since there’s tons of empty space while the important buttons are too small for their own good and shoved into a corner. It looks more like a prototype, a proof of concept, something that was thrown together without much (graphical) thought and with the only goal of being functional.
Moving on, let’s get to one of the mayor problems I had with the game. By far the most overcomplicated part of the Frayed Knights Pilot is the camera control and movement. I don’t understand why in certain PC games there’s this need for offering a control scheme that only uses the mouse or one that only uses the keyboard. There’s a reason why FPS games offer movement with the keyboard and camera control with the mouse: they complement each other perfectly and in this day and age it’s the standard control scheme. If we are talking about first person 3D games, there are not that many control schemes that can work as well, and Frayed Knights proves my point.
The mouse by itself offers movement and camera control while you are pressing the right button. Although it feels weird to walk around like this at first, I can see how you can get used to it. Even then it’s the most cumbersome and slow way I could find to walk and look around.
On the other hand, the keyboard by itself offers movement with the WASD keys and camera movement with the Q and E keys. As you might expect, the movement feels at home with the keyboard but the camera control suffers from a lack of precision. For me it rotates way too fast, for other people it may be too slow. So an added option to calibrate the speed of rotation of the camera with the Q & E keys would be a welcome addition. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
The keyboard by itself is a competent control scheme, but just like the mouse-only scheme, there’s a little problem: Lack of ability to look up and down. If Frayed Knights had completely flat level design, from dungeons to towns, then this would not be such a great problem. Sure, I may miss the beautiful arquitecture of the dungeons, but nothing of too much importance right? Well, Frayed Knights doesn’t have a completely flat level design, so it can get awkward sometimes. For instance, when going up the stairs you’ll furiously look at the steps right in front of you, without knowing when this stream of steps will end. On the other hand, going downstairs means that you’ll be looking at the ceiling the whole time. It’s silly and annoying, but it’s nothing more than an inconvenience.
The third control scheme allows for full camera control, and as you’d expect from any 3D videogame, the movement is handled with the keyboard and the camera with the mouse. However offering too many control schemes that are not mutually exclusive can cause problems.
I have to wonder, why would I want to control everything with the mouse or control the camera with the keyboard? There’s this perfectly acceptable third control scheme that solves the problems of the other two. Alright, so it’s giving me a choice, the more the better right? Well, normally, yes, but the first two control schemes that I described cannibalize on the third one. I have to hold the Z key if I want to look around, but if I stop pressing it, then the screen defaults to a horizontal angle. At first I didn’t get why this happens but then it dawned on me: it wouldn’t be possible to use the other control schemes if the camera angle is not horizontal to the ground. Great. So this other inferior control schemes are interfering with the best one, making it feel more restrictive.
So, how do we solve this? It’s pretty easy actually. Ditch the camera control with the keyboard, and the movement control with the mouse. Then instead of having to hold the Z key to look around make it so that a single press switches between modes. Now that the right click does nothing, you can use it instead of the Z key, that way you end up with a control scheme like this:
- WASD keys: Move around.
- Left Click: Does the same exact thing as before. That is, interact with the enviroment and GUI.
- Right Click: Switch between View Mode and Interact Mode.
- In View Mode the mouse controls the camera.
- In Interact Mode the mouse controls the cursor.
That’s it. I’m not saying that it would be the best control scheme ever to be imagined, but it would certainly be an improvement over the current ones. Easier to learn and simpler to explain.
There are still a lot of things to talk about, and at around 1170 words, this entry is getting a tiny little bit too long, so I’m going to have to write yet another part. Luckily, I’ve already got half of part 3 written down, with topics ranging from the enviroment, the nature of the random battles and the stars system, so it won’t take me more than a two or three days to complete.