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Off (and insane) Topic discussions / Re: Random Babbling: 2018
« Last post by Starfox on Yesterday at 06:10:09 PM »
So what's new... I successfully managed to screw up my knee a week ago. Roughly my tibia went one way and my femur another and not the way they are supposed to go. That happening while my mother is at the clinic recovering from her broken femur, I suppose I should call that a win too because there's no way I could take care of her in my current state. Sad thing is I can't even go see her at the clinic and since I'm her only son to actually care enough to visit her...

Blown up computer, mom's broken femur, knee screwed up... all checked... great Summer.

And my knee incident makes me realize that I'm definitely not 20 years old any longer. I had a similar incident when I was 22 and I got over it pretty fast. This time it doesn't seem to want to go away that easy.
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bobdog's Mini-Reviews Corner / Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
« Last post by bobdog on August 20, 2018, 03:19:19 PM »
Other than some sub-par CGI, you wouldn’t know that Runaway: A Road Adventure is 15 years old. One of Pendulo Studios’ first adventure games, Runaway stands up really well.

The game starts with our protagonist Brian talking direct to the camera about a big adventure he had, after preparing his whole life to go to work at University of Berkeley in California. By circumstance, he comes across a woman running into the street … and that’s where the story begins. The woman in question – Gina – says that she’s escaping from some mobsters and that they will probably try to kill her for an object that her father gave her. She asks for your help, and after the first 15 minutes of cut-scenes, we finally get to play!

Runaway is a typical adventure game where you find objects (sometimes a little hard to discern against the background) to combine or use in some fashion. Most of the time, the objects and their uses make sense, but I did have to fall back on a walkthrough a couple of times when I’d hit a dead end. Additionally, you may have to re-speak to people or re-search areas after certain key situations have been achieved. I generally dislike this, as I’d prefer to have all my answers at once, but I can see why developers use this method.

From New York City, you make your way to the Chicago Museum of Natural History and then to the Southwest – all the while trying to figure out the object in question, and why the mobsters want it. Eventually, there is a twist to the story that ties many of these threads together, and I can say it was unexpected. Along the way, Brian meets a host of characters, and I feel like most were not treated as caricatures. Notably, you meet a group of drag queens, but the game never pokes fun or uses them as the butt of a joke, which I thought was admirably restrained. Unfortunately, the same can’t quite be said about an Asian man you meet whose physical representation harkens back to the worst concepts of racist yellowface, including buckteeth.

Regardless, Runaway is a pretty solid game overall. In-game graphics hold up well, although some CGI in cut-scenes is definitely first-generation kind of computer animation. Voice work is well done, and some of the theme music is actually pretty catchy. A solid start to the Runaway franchise. 7.5 out of 10
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Other than some sub-par CGI, you wouldn’t know that Runaway: A Road Adventure is 15 years old. One of Pendulo Studios’ first adventure games, Runaway stands up really well.

The game starts with our protagonist Brian talking direct to the camera about a big adventure he had, after preparing his whole life to go to work at University of Berkeley in California. By circumstance, he comes across a woman running into the street … and that’s where the story begins. The woman in question – Gina – says that she’s escaping from some mobsters and that they will probably try to kill her for an object that her father gave her. She asks for your help, and after the first 15 minutes of cut-scenes, we finally get to play!

Runaway is a typical adventure game where you find objects (sometimes a little hard to discern against the background) to combine or use in some fashion. Most of the time, the objects and their uses make sense, but I did have to fall back on a walkthrough a couple of times when I’d hit a dead end. Additionally, you may have to re-speak to people or re-search areas after certain key situations have been achieved. I generally dislike this, as I’d prefer to have all my answers at once, but I can see why developers use this method.

From New York City, you make your way to the Chicago Museum of Natural History and then to the Southwest – all the while trying to figure out the object in question, and why the mobsters want it. Eventually, there is a twist to the story that ties many of these threads together, and I can say it was unexpected. Along the way, Brian meets a host of characters, and I feel like most were not treated as caricatures. Notably, you meet a group of drag queens, but the game never pokes fun or uses them as the butt of a joke, which I thought was admirably restrained. Unfortunately, the same can’t quite be said about an Asian man you meet whose physical representation harkens back to the worst concepts of racist yellowface, including buckteeth.

Regardless, Runaway is a pretty solid game overall. In-game graphics hold up well, although some CGI in cut-scenes is definitely first-generation kind of computer animation. Voice work is well done, and some of the theme music is actually pretty catchy. A solid start to the Runaway franchise. 7.5 out of 10
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The Foxhole QuickViews / Shadow Warrior [2013]
« Last post by Silver Sorrow on August 14, 2018, 04:43:04 PM »
Shadow Warrior [2013]
Developed by Flying Wild Hog
Published by Devolver Digital
Available on Steam and GOG


[DISCLAIMER: Know that my myriad failings as both a gamer and a human being are not factored into this review; this game may highlight them, to my eternal shame, but it's not the game's fault that I suck. Most of the time, anyway.]

The original Shadow Warrior [1997] was yet another Build engine FPS that many multi-celled organisms find offensive, now that being offended is trendy; the protagonist, Lo Wang, was a cheesy parody of kung fu movie heroes with the stereotypical "ah-so!" voice work that makes many a guilty white liberal's butthole contract to the size of a subatomic particle.

Me? I didn't care. What was more important was whether or not the game was fun. And it was...well, the first episode was, at least. The full game that was hinted at in the shareware version wasn't as great as it could've been...but never mind that. In essence, it was a chop-suey version of Duke3D.

If you look at the original, which you can get from GOG or Steam for a reasonable price, it hasn't aged well. Then again, neither has Doom...or Doom 3, for that matter. But you really cannot honestly judge a 15+ year old game based on what it looks like on a modern system; you needed to be there. I was there, and it was...okay. It wasn't all that special, since a few of the shareware episode's gimmicks (i.e., naked anime girls) used to lure in the priapic masses were curiously absent from the full game.

Two expansions were created but not released until no one cared anymore, and then for free. So the years rolled by and no one gave Lo Wang another thought. And then someone (Devolver Digital) decided to resurrect the whole thing and update it for modern sensibilities, or something like that. This time, instead of an older guy with an inexhaustible supply of cheesy (and horny) one-liners, 2013's Lo Wang is a younger guy who has a bit of trouble with his one-liners. And it actually has a plot now.

Really, the new Shadow Warrior has surprising depth...story-wise, I mean. The gameplay is essentially Painkiller Lite, but not as blatantly stupid. I hope that's accurate; I didn't really have a horrible time of it, but I found it somewhat exasperating at times.

I'll get to that later. For now, the plot: The main character, Lo Wang, is...I don't know...a hired gun? A ninja-merc? Something? Anyway, as the game begins, he's on his way to the home/compound/fortress-with-koi-ponds of a collector named Mizayaki in order to purchase a sword, the Nobitsura Kage, on behalf of his employer Orochi Zilla. He has two million (dollars? pounds? euros? yen?) in a briefcase, and he's rockin' out to Stan Bush's "The Touch" in his...again, I don't know. It's some sort of black sports car. I'm not really a car guy.

However, Mizayaki refuses to sell the sword. Lo Wang tries to take it by force and kills a crapload of henchmen in the attempt, but is thwarted by Mizayaki wielding some sort of magic. Lo Wang is captured and tied to a chair for a bit of (happily) non-violent interrogation, then drugged, then stuck in a cage. In between fainting spells, Lo Wang is witness to scenes of horror as demons invade the compound and kill everyone. Lo Wang grabs a katana from a puddle of blood that was once a guard and escapes from the cage. He makes his way through the compound, killing demons and picking up a revolver and loose bits of money and ammo and health packs along the way. He finally makes it to a burning building where he find Miyazaki dead, with some snarky man-thingy standing over him.

This turns out to be Hoji, a demon with whom Mizayaki had allied himself. Hoji has been banished from his home, known as the Shadow Realm, to this plane of existence for reasons to be explained later in a plot-oriented manner. In this sprightly confab amidst the flames, it's revealed that the Nobitsura Kage is a powerful weapon that is anathema to demons and can even kill immortals (the "Ancients"). Lo Wang and Hoji agree to join forces to get the sword, which is in the possession of a "Whisperer." A Whisperer is a soulless construct (a "courier" of sorts) created by...you'll find out eventually...in order to handle the sword. The Ancients cannot touch the sword without consequences, so the Whisperer was necessary.

After joining forces with Hoji, Lo Wang learns a useful demonic spell that allows him to channel his Chi to heal his wounds. Chi is some sort of inherent inner magic, I suppose...I'm not Asiental, so I don't know this stuff automatically. But know that you will be using this a LOT in the later stages of this little stroll down Murder Lane.

Speaking of which, have you seen the Murder Man, strolling down Murder Lane?

Don't answer that. The game is broken down into chapters, and the first few chapters is Lo Wang's journey to acquire the sword. Until then, he's stuck with a regular katana (but augmented by his ability to channel some sort of magic called "Ki" through it) and a couple of weapons exhibiting varying degrees of unfriendliness towards others.

Lo Wang finds the Whisperer and the sword; he takes it and kills her with it. (Honestly, I didn't know that was going to happen; I got the sword and clicked her with the "use" key, and all of a sudden Lo Wang impales her with the sword. I mean, what the shit?!?) She is also a memory receptacle for an Ancient, and killing her lets Lo Wang watch a cutscene with backstory. This is mostly how the plot is revealed from here on, and we begin to see the who, what, why, and how of the game. But at this point it's still a long way to understanding the entire thing, though.

So anyway, after the ordeal of finding the sword, Hoji tells Lo Wang that the Nobitsura Kage has actually been split into three swords, and to realize its full potential all three parts must be joined. (OF COURSE IT'S SPLIT INTO THREE PARTS AND ALL THE PARTS MUST BE JOINED. JESUS.) Thus begins the rest of the game, tracking down the other two pieces and figuring out why Zilla wants the damned thing. Along the way Wang will pick up more weapons, more powers, more skills, and more pieces of the story.

That's all you get from me. I have some misgivings about certain aspects of the plot at this point, but after all that typing I'm too friggity-fraggin' tired to care anymore.

Other stuff? Why, sure. It has other stuff. The assorted weapons range from a katana to a rocket launcher, each one placed in the game world at a specific point, so you don't blast through the entire game armed to the teeth. (From what I understand, this is something developers like to call "balance.") The weapons (besides the katana) can be upgraded in a menu with all that money you pick up along the way. The machine gun, for example, can be upgraded with an alt+fire mode that allows akimbo firing; the shotgun can be upgraded to four barrels, as well as given an alt+fire blast that is pretty damn devastating; and so on.

You can also pick up demon hearts and kill demons with them, but I don't think I ever used that. You can also do the same thing with demon heads, but you have to spend a point to unlock that little useless nugget of a feature. I had other things to spend my points on.

Enemies are varied and probably a tad overpowered...to me, at least. I guess the devs want you to be challenged. I could do without such challenges, but remember that I'm the sort of idiot who gets annoyed when I can't just fire a rocket launcher into a mob of bad guys at point blank range and prance away with all my limbs intact. For the rest of you, you'll probably be fine.

Anyway, the enemies are mostly demons with a few humans sprinkled in there at certain points, but it's mostly icky monsters. You get to slice, dice, shoot, maul, blast, pincushion, immolate, perforate, and just harm demons in general. It isn't all fun and candy, though; the gameplay suffers from repetition eventually, and I found it tiresome after a while.

To summarize the gameplay:

     Player enters an area with ammo, health, and explosives (barrels, etc.).

     Player fights a wave or two or more of enemies.

     Player is graded on performance and awarded what are essentially style points.

     Player moves on to next area.

That's only a thumbnail sketch, though; it's more complex than that, thankfully. Cutscenes, a good bit of dialog with Hoji, a lot of hunting down mystical statues that magically seal doors, other interactions, etc., keep this from being an absolute slog.

Another aspect to making it more interesting is finding Ki crystals, which allow you to augment Lo Wang's (spiritual?) effectiveness ("Powers"); for example, you can beef up the damage you do to demons, or improve your healing spell, and so on. Also, when you kill enemies or perform certain important tasks, you're rewarded with karma...receive enough karma and you'll acquire a karma point, which you can use to boost your Skills. Katana Mastery, for example, where you learn new combo moves. That sort of thing.

Anyway, a less even-handed person might call this game a series of increasingly-difficult arenas strung together under the auspices of "gameplay," but that's not really the whole picture. But not helping its case is that the experience gets harder and harder as you go along, as is typical in FPSes, due to the nastier bosses you fought previously becoming regular encounters as you progress, usually in pairs, and augmented by hordes of annoyance foes.

For example, the crystal demon (or whatever it's really called) in the chapter where you're about to get the second part of the Nobitsura Kage. After figuring out how to kill it, you're pounded by a fresh wave of minor and major demons. Bad, yes. But in the next chapter, you're expected to kill not just TWO of the bastards, but also a horde of lesser demons all the while wearing a gas mask which is somewhat vision-restrictive. I suppose I should've been grateful that there weren't any of those dumbass flying demons thrown at me too. No, that particular insult came later.

And I don't even want to talk about the apocalyptic marathon shitstorm you fight before the relatively tame battle to obtain the third piece of the sword. I mean, I suppose I'll mention it to a therapist or three, but I can't...not just yet. I will say, though: every monster in the game (save the Shadow Realm bosses) is represented.

I would say that the combat could be overwhelming and not a little frustrating at times, but on the "Casual" difficulty I never actually died; believe me, I was surprised at that. I've played games where I've died during the tutorial, for Christ's sake.

Each time you travel to the Shadow Realm via the magic of the plot, you're tasked with fighting a Serious Sam-sized superboss, who...well, I didn't find them all that difficult on "Casual," so obviously I'm not playing the game right.** Still, these sessions were long, drawn-out ordeals that required patience, but they aren't that bad as long as you stay calm and pay attention to the cues you get as to how to kill the bastards.

[** How To Play Games Correctly: boast endlessly that you only play on the hardest difficulty, complain that it isn't hard enough, whine that the devs made the game too easy for a badass like you, and sneer at everyone who plays on anything less, calling them "pussies." In this way you'll be seen as a gaming God. Or a complete asshole. Either way: fame is fame, right?]

I think what bothered me the most -- besides the endless waves of monsters -- are the Keystroke Kombos that I was required to memorize in order to survive. Double-tap your forward movement key and hold your "fire" button to charge a Ki strike, for example. You have to do that for healing powers, katana-based Ki attacks, demonic powers, and the like. As someone who develops a nosebleed when attempting to commit a simple series of numbers to memory (e.g., "1234"), this is something of a problem. Plus, I'm easily confused and ended up executing the wrong combo entirely. Accidentally performing the healing spell when I should have been doing a 360-degree Ki strike is just one of the many stupid doofus things I do on a regular basis. I'm surprised I'm not confined to a nursing home by now.

The developers decided to lock out all of the cheat codes. There are reasons...some of them valid, I would imagine...but it really does make leisure time more irritating than it should be. What I mean is, while the game is playable and not entirely unfair, sometimes you just want to revel in the experience by turning on god mode and just taking your brain off the hook for a while.

I know, I know: boo-hoo. I certainly didn't have this complaint about, say, the Mass Effect games...but those are RPGs (more or less) and rarely drop you in a room full of murderous demons. Shooters, however, are meant to be something of a catharsis for your crappy day; like I was saying, sometimes you just want to blow stuff up.

But all that aside, I didn't hate the game by any means. I didn't exactly love it, either...but I did find the story worth the effort. It was, in many ways, fun. And that's the whole point, isn't it?
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bobdog's Mini-Reviews Corner / Re: Bobdog's Mini-Reviews Thread
« Last post by bobdog on August 13, 2018, 10:52:51 PM »
Attractio is yet another Portal clone but does take strides to differentiate itself through the use of gravity, and the introduction of three separate characters. Unfortunately, it copies the Portal storyline nearly verbatim while also overcompensating with an increasingly complex difficulty factor.

Attractio offers an interesting concept: in a televised “game” a la “The Running Man,” three competitors vie to finish unique gravity-based puzzles in order to win a pardon (for a convicted murderer), new technology (for an earthquake victim’s community), or cold hard cash (for a steel worker). You alternate maps as each of these characters until toward the end, where two of the characters (still played by you) team up to face down the third.

Each map is a distinct Portal-like area, with walls and boxes and buttons to depress until you can exit the map to the next level. You have several unique skills. These include: 1) flipping gravity on the go from up to down (although you can’t walk on side walls), 2) using a “gravity” gun to change the gravity of boxes in any of 6 directions (up, down, forward, back, left, right), and 3) pausing time to grab objects that are moving at a high rate of speed (although this honestly was underused since it also slows you down at the same time). As you can imagine, early levels are relatively easy until you get to the middle of the game, at which point the difficulty ramps up almost unfairly. [I actually gave up around this point, because the intricate maneuvers were way beyond my personal skill level, but I did watch a YouTube video to see how the game ended.]

You gradually come across hidden e-mails that clue you in that something isn’t quite right with both the game, and its sponsoring organization. These moments are punctuated by the game host decrying these terrorists. I won’t go further to save any spoilers, but Attractio definitely follows the Portal model of a dystopian future with someone playing games with the player. I wish we could see something different in this mode to really surprise us again, but not quite sure what would work.

If you like Portal puzzles, are a masochist for really hard and thought-provoking gameplay mechanics, and don’t mind that you’ll figure out the story's ending a mile away, then Attractio might just be attractive to you. 6.1 out of 10
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bobdog's Mini-Reviews Corner / Attractio – January 2016 [Score: 6.1]
« Last post by bobdog on August 13, 2018, 10:49:38 PM »
Attractio is yet another Portal clone but does take strides to differentiate itself through the use of gravity, and the introduction of three separate characters. Unfortunately, it copies the Portal storyline nearly verbatim while also overcompensating with an increasingly complex difficulty factor.

Attractio offers an interesting concept: in a televised “game” a la “The Running Man,” three competitors vie to finish unique gravity-based puzzles in order to win a pardon (for a convicted murderer), new technology (for an earthquake victim’s community), or cold hard cash (for a steel worker). You alternate maps as each of these characters until toward the end, where two of the characters (still played by you) team up to face down the third.

Each map is a distinct Portal-like area, with walls and boxes and buttons to depress until you can exit the map to the next level. You have several unique skills. These include: 1) flipping gravity on the go from up to down (although you can’t walk on side walls), 2) using a “gravity” gun to change the gravity of boxes in any of 6 directions (up, down, forward, back, left, right), and 3) pausing time to grab objects that are moving at a high rate of speed (although this honestly was underused since it also slows you down at the same time). As you can imagine, early levels are relatively easy until you get to the middle of the game, at which point the difficulty ramps up almost unfairly. [I actually gave up around this point, because the intricate maneuvers were way beyond my personal skill level, but I did watch a YouTube video to see how the game ended.]

You gradually come across hidden e-mails that clue you in that something isn’t quite right with both the game, and its sponsoring organization. These moments are punctuated by the game host decrying these terrorists. I won’t go further to save any spoilers, but Attractio definitely follows the Portal model of a dystopian future with someone playing games with the player. I wish we could see something different in this mode to really surprise us again, but not quite sure what would work.

If you like Portal puzzles, are a masochist for really hard and thought-provoking gameplay mechanics, and don’t mind that you’ll figure out the story's ending a mile away, then Attractio might just be attractive to you. 6.1 out of 10
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Off (and insane) Topic discussions / Re: Random Babbling: 2018
« Last post by Silver Sorrow on August 13, 2018, 01:18:59 PM »
My favorite part of my own Odyssey Of Despair was being told that I just have to "push through" all the tiredness, etc. I've been "pushing through" chronic exhaustion for years now...I'm tired of pushing, goddamnit. These people. :madatwall:

So, yeah...you know it. There are times that I find myself screaming "ENOUGH ALREADY!" at the sky, but I don't think it makes any real difference. Although I do make it a point to be outside as I rant at the heavens because I believe it increases the chances that I will be struck by lightning or (better yet) crushed by a meteor.

On a side note, I find it just absolutely hilarious to the point of stockpiling weapons that when the problem is my fault, they demand payment immediately under threat of litigation, death, etc....but when it's their fault, I have to wait seven business days for a refund.

Currently, my mother's having bladder issues, possibly due to a "mass" they found on her bladder during her last CT scan. ("Mass" means...what, exactly? "Mass"ive problems, perhaps?) She has one doctor's who's not going to do anything until she sees a urologist and a gastrointerologist (or whatever), go through a colonoscopy and all these other tests, and this other doctor -- her oncologist -- who doesn't seem all that concerned, or even interested. To be honest, he's a neuro-oncologist, so anything below the neck isn't his problem. The third doctor, her primary care doc, is apparently looking over the tests and stuff right now. Well...not right this minute...I mean, she's probably eating lunch, ferchrissakes.  ::)

Funniest of all: the earliest the urologist could see her was in four weeks. You know, the only thing that keeps our society from unravelling completely is that some of us show enough restraint to keep from strangling receptionists right there in the waiting room.

It's a delerious kind of anxious limbo, really. In the meantime I've been keeping busy by cleaning out my dad's study so that I can move downstairs, so she won't feel so lonely. I think it would've been easier to divert a river than clean out that room...it's astounding how much stuff that guy could cram into such a small room.  :ss-weird1

A full time occupation, indeed. I love the advice to "go out and live!"...so much so that I want to kill them. Kill them stone dead, right then and there. There's no time for a personal life. There's maintenance and worry. That's it.  :lol:

My dad's people have been excellent; my mother's...not so much. They tend to disappear whenever things happen...but that means that I don't have to deal with their various stupidities in times of trouble, so I call it a win.
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When you do, I'd be curious to hear what you think.  A lot of people seem to hate Mafia III, but my suspicion is most of them played it before all the post-launch support came into play.  I was two years late to the party and thought it was fine.
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I really enjoyed the story of Mafia 2, and Mafia 3 is on my list coming up. Glad to hear you liked it.
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The Foxhole QuickViews / Dishonored series [2012-2017 -- Arkane Studios]
« Last post by Doc_Brown on August 08, 2018, 12:49:55 AM »
I have somewhat of an unusual relationship with the Dishonored series.  I find the first game to be the weakest in terms of gameplay, and yet it’s arguably the most iconic entry in the franchise (Drunken Whaler playing no small part).  Each subsequent title is more mechanically refined than the last, and yet the narrative keeps repeating the same story beats like a broken record.  I’ve ended up keeping only the extremes: Dishonored and Dishonored: Death of the Outsider.

The first game is our introduction to this world, particularly the city of Dunwall and characters like the Outsider and Daud.  Death of the Outsider, meanwhile, is the culmination of everything Arkane has learned in terms of the series’ gameplay, while also giving us a taste of Karnaca (which is as beautiful as Dunwall is dreary) and resolving Daud’s/the Outsider’s stories.  You honestly aren’t missing much if you skip The Knife of Dunwall/The Brigmore Witches and Dishonored 2.

Which isn’t to say these other entries are bad, I just don’t find them terribly essential.  The second game is literally the same plot as the first (a Kaldwin is dethroned in a coup and a loved one is imprisoned), and even the first game’s DLC rehashes some of the broad strokes (Emily being used as a puppet).  I also find it strange that the antagonist of Dishonored 2 is the antagonist of the first game’s DLC--either you’ve played the DLC and already defeated her, or you haven’t and have no clue who she is.

Speaking of Delilah, I have to say I’m just not a fan of her or her coven.  None of them feel particularly witchy--especially not when compared to Granny Rags, who seems like she’s stepped right out of a Grimms’ Fairy Tale.  Hell, there’s a point in the first game where Emily, referencing stories she’s heard, talks of pirate ships employing witches to control the weather or summon whales.  Tall tales or not, that sounds awesome.  Give me those witches.

I definitely want to see more, though, even if the Kaldwin Cycle has reached its conclusion.  A new story arc is not only a chance to do something different with the narrative, but also get a bit more creative with the powers.  A fundamentally different type of transversal (something like the 2007 Shadowrun’s teleport?) would radically change the approach to level design, but with two more islands left to visit in the Empire, who’s to say that’s an issue?  Go for it, Arkane, you haven’t disappointed so far.
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