Cheeky gnolls in vibrant, in-your-face, first-person-view
My Gamer Girl always plays using first-person view (FPV). Her background differs from mine, her first games were Everquest and even older MMOs that offered first-person view all along. Many of them were only playable using FPV. Meanwhile, my first D&D-like games – not including the original text-based games like Adventure! – were on the Atari 2600 and Intellivision and were only playable in a top-down viewpoint called “isometric view“.
When primitive role playing games came out (Wizardry, Ultima, and later, Eye of the Beholder) on the primitive computers of the time, they were all isometric too.
FPV gaming originated in a game called Wolfenstein 3D, but didn’t really take off until Doom. Which was great by the way, I played Doom like crazy. It changed everything for computer gamers.
But it wasn’t a role-playing game, it was a shooter, in fact it originated the entire genre of “first-person shooters”. Note that the first-person viewpoint is right there in the description of the game. Call of Duty is not a “shooter”, it is a “first-person shooter”.
Meanwhile, role-playing games kept getting better and better, eventually culminating in classics like Baldur’s Gate and Planescape: Torment. All beautiful, all thoroughly D&D-like, all incredibly detailed and difficult to master. And all of them in isometric view.
All of which has turned me into an isometric gamer. I like being able to see as much of the playfield as possible, scrolling out to maximum distance and looking down on everything like some sort of minor god. Terrain is easier to discern, elevation changes are surmountable, camera angles are generally manageable, all is good.
But meanwhile, my Gamer Girl carries on in FPV, and frankly, sometimes it looks more fun than my deity-like overview. I glance over at her monitor and there are colorful closeups of whatever she is looking at, in much greater detail than I get from my lofty view. Melees look especially colorful and vivid.
And so I embark on a great experiment, seeing what the world looks like through the FPV looking-glass. And wow, it is so different! I can’t find my way around anywhere. Even areas that I know intimately well like the Crafting House are completely different in FPV. People and things are constantly getting in my way. I am having to fiddle with the camera angle all the time, especially if there is any change in elevation. I never see what is behind me, or things that are coming up next.
In some ways it is much more realistic, although I hate it when people use the word “realistic” to describe a fantasy game. But still, it is, a “real” adventurer would not be able to see clearly in 360 degrees.
On the other hand, it is also flawed. One cannot see the weapon one is using which is just weird. Spell effects are often invisible. Special attacks like Cleave and Sunder have no visual cues whatsoever; you cannot even tell if you successfully pushed the button.
There are other pluses and other minuses. But mainly, it is different, very different, so different that I am having to learn how to play the game all over again.
You get to know your hirelings much better than you would probably like.
That’s more – and at the same time less – of my hireling than I would like to be seeing
Clipping is a problem. A big problem.
Inside an owlbear
Most of the time everything is very confusing and feels particularly action-packed
Melee in FPV. So confusing! So much action!
But you get to know your enemies on a much more intimate level. They have faces and expressions. They are malevolent in ways you cannot discern from above. They are not just your current opponents, but virtual creatures that are trying to kill you. It is personal.
Undead and unhappy
Sometimes you get real visual gems. Details that are simply not available in isometric view.
All in all, I am enjoying the experiment. I am not committing to stay with it, it seems much harder to me, and not in the way that a challenging quest is hard. More in the way that a bunch of bugs is hard, really more of a meta-hard, not “how do I beat this boss?” but “how do I manage to play at all?”.
It surely is different though. Maybe after seven years, different is itself a good thing?
I’ll let you know.