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OneMoreNameless
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icon Is it too late to say I love Second Sky? (+2)  
I realise I'm getting back into this series a couple of years after its final entry has been released, but I did leave a rather scathing rant about Epic Blunder the last time around so I feel there's a karmic imbalance that needs redressing.

I'm about a third of the way into DROD: The Second Sky and already it's an amazing game. I love the new puzzle elements and how well they build upon existing skills while introducing their own unique quirks and potentials (eg. the spear pushing live enemies like mirrors and the creative reuse of old hazards that allows). I love how each new piece is shown rather than told and lets the player figure out the implications themselves within initially simple puzzles. I love that the larger themed levels are broken up by shorter, more mechanically-diverse interludes to keep the pacing fresh and provide fun reminders / combinations of elements from previous games.

I love that levels can be reached and returned to quickly via a world map rather than backtracking through a filler hub. I love that secret rooms are mostly placed behind or located via mini-puzzles rather than squinting for random cracks. I love that I've spent numerous hours of the last two days playing this game and still have hundreds of presumably more difficult puzzles to go. I love that we finally have unlimited undo and a puzzle mode toggle to cut out any lingering UI irritations. I love - okay this one may be trivial - the title screen mixing familiar lighthearted roaches with dramatic foreshadowing imagery while still remaining simple and memorable.

It really is everything I'd wished for and the perfect capstone to an extraordinary puzzle engine.

Two questions, though. Do challenges count towards hold mastery or unlocking anything? I've managed (with difficulty) to complete all the optional rooms I've found so far but a couple of the challenges might be beyond my skills. Also ... did Caravel Games ever announce any plans beyond getting the DROD games on Steam?
12-08-2016 at 04:55 PM
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ErikH2000
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icon Re: Is it too late to say I love Second Sky? (0)  
It's not too late. And TSS loves you back.

-Erik

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12-08-2016 at 05:13 PM
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Chaco
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quote:
OneMoreNameless wrote:
Do challenges count towards hold mastery or unlocking anything?


No, they're just for fun. They don't count towards anything since there's no way to detect whether a challenge is completed on some save file.

(Theoretically, an architect could set a variable once a challenge is done, and then later do something in the *same* save file, but that would be Very Naughty since you'd have to beat the challenge and then do the unlock all in one go, without restoring. There's no hold that I'm aware of that does this.)

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12-08-2016 at 05:28 PM
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xpym
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quote:
OneMoreNameless wrote:
Also ... did Caravel Games ever announce any plans beyond getting the DROD games on Steam?

Nothing concrete yet.
12-08-2016 at 08:11 PM
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OneMoreNameless
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I have now mastered The Second Sky. Here are some thoughts on that, starting with a few more loves.

I love the level layouts. Each area has its own unique feel, the minimaps look pretty and cohesive, everywhere is that little bit more satisfying to solve and uncover. I love the new additions to the soundtrack. Most are pretty chill and good thinking music without being distracting. A couple of tracks are actually catchy and I may need to look them up on Bandcamp later. I always wondered what a ranged weapon would play like in DROD and I love that now I finally know: not all that satisfying and with a lot of fiddly tile counting. :D I jest, the bonus levels made clever use of their gimmicks and were amusing to play through.

Real talk now. Of all the mainline DROD holds, The Second Sky leaves me the impression of being the least varied. This isn't a bad thing - a tighter focus usually leads to better design and TSS's monster manipulation and positioning puzzles are extremely good at what they do. Nor do I have any desire for another KDD labyrinth. Nonetheless, many of TSS's new elements are somewhat iterative. Constructs move like an aumtlich, die like a golem, and respawn on a queen's timer. Kegs are mirror-bombs. The staff is certainly a game-changer but then the spear and pickaxe are just half a sword and the other half of your sword respectively. (And so on.) Again, these combinations test existing skills and work great as puzzle pieces but to me by the end of the hold they felt merely mundane-but-practical rather than wowing me like some of JTRH or TCB's additions did.

Part of this was due to many of DROD's most unique elements appearing either not at all or extremely rarely throughout TSS. Examples that come to mind are citizens, fegundos, decoy potions (I think?), Halph / slayers, but by far the most egregious case is tarstuff. It went from being a central mechanic to only having scattered appearances without puzzle-focus, mostly rendered moot to showcase the spear, and the one level themed with tar was actually half about spike-timed baby manipulation. Bit of a bummer for a veteran. Still! Always being late to the party means there are plenty of good user holds available to scratch these itches.

An interesting consequence here is that TSS could fairly easily have been a newbie-friendly release. If the devs had held back entirely from the aforementioned outliers and swapped the most standout difficult rooms into secrets or optional levels then the learning curve would otherwise be respectable. The room design is already fair and starts engagingly simple. I mean, you'd want a quick element reference available (eg. double click a tile to open up its description) but frankly even as an experienced player I wish the manual took a more informative tone. Try refreshing yourself on aumtlich beam interactions. I'll wait.

... which about brings me to the Rapid Fire Niggle Round pew pew GO

A couple of times the challenge scroll for a room was behind its green door which was annoying when I'd rather try for the 'real' solution in one go. Secret rooms that were strictly harder versions of the prior room felt tedious for the same reason. When force arrows are on doors it isn't clear which gets toggled without trial and error. Looping only a couple of music tracks per room theme is atmospheric but grindingly unlistenable for the whole 2-3+ hours a difficult level can take. Braxian Below is such a tiny level yet More Fluff is such a huge one, what's the deal with that? Temporal split puzzles too often involved spamming wait (or different plates etc.) with no challenge to sync up unless highscoring. Were there any subtle differences between thin ice and trapdoors-over-water other than affecting red gates because that seemed like a weird non-addition just for fluff theming.

I wish temporal aumtlichs were included in the manual and editor. Their situational spawning stands out against the usual timed spawners, could be mixed with other elements for great custom puzzles, and confused the heck out of me until I'd left the game to look up their rules on the forums. And here's me with a GOG purchase thus it seems no access to the custom elements pack.

Lastly, the GTFO tier.

Picross is rote busywork solved by formula and has as much relevance to DROD's creative puzzles as pixel-hunting for secret walls does. The larger picross rooms were RSI-inducing due to the engine's interface being inefficient for marking lines. Just ... ugh. Moving on. On Dawdling River was trivially easy for an optional level, visually underdesigned, and contained nothing unique. I can't imagine why it wasn't cut - TSS is not hurting for better content. Frozen Woods also felt like needless filler. It was clever playing the first time around and seeing the obvious tricks you had to rethink with a dagger; actually going through the entire level again taking those easier solutions with a sword was redundant. Maybe two rooms meaningfully differed, they could have been secrets for Woodland Glade. Halph's endgame gimmick levels were too easy, short and (Englos Defense) clunky to feel remotely satisfying next to Beethro's kingdom saving.

Hold totals
Time: 100 hours, give or take tabbing away for breaks
Hints: Once a level on average, mostly to make sure I was on the right track during arduous undertakings and hadn't forgotten an interaction or missed an obvious room layout quirk or something
Love held: 98%
12-20-2016 at 02:36 PM
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Chaco
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quote:
OneMoreNameless wrote:
Were there any subtle differences between thin ice and trapdoors-over-water other than affecting red gates because that seemed like a weird non-addition just for fluff theming.



Thin ice can also be melted by explosions, and thin ice can be dropped by Beethro even when he's disarmed. Those interactions don't come up very often (unless you're building a level specifically themed around thin ice), but they do serve to make thin ice a puzzle element in and of itself.

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12-20-2016 at 03:40 PM
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jdyer
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quote:
A couple of times the challenge scroll for a room was behind its green door which was annoying when I'd rather try for the 'real' solution in one go.


Aren't the challenges usually the unintended solutions? I don't know about the TSS process, but for all the other holds they raided the Challenge board.
12-20-2016 at 07:27 PM
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xpym
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quote:
jdyer wrote:
Aren't the challenges usually the unintended solutions?

A philosophical question ;) When a solution is legitimized as an official challenge, does it remain unintended?
12-20-2016 at 08:59 PM
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uncopy2002
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Probably it means it's an acknowledged solution.
12-20-2016 at 09:54 PM
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Nuntar
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The challenges vary. In going back and adding challenges to the other main holds, there were a few rooms where an unintended solution completely breaks the intended puzzle (for instance, Abyssian Fortress 2S, where you can start the mimic on the disarm token, causing Beethro to become re-armed). In many cases I decided to add challenges for doing the room as intended, because they are interesting puzzles that players might miss out on without introducting an incentive for the intended solution. If the US had been discovered before release, it would have been fixed, but Caravel's ethos is that USs can't be fixed after release because of high scores.

(There aren't a lot of this type in TSS, simply because USs that were found before release were fixed in most cases. The only one I can think of is Security Gates 3W, where Jacob didn't intend it to be possible to wade in and kill all the guards from the east entrance, but it is possible, and this was made a challenge rather than changing the room.)

However, most challenges aren't of this type. There are many horde rooms or manipulation rooms where the challenge is simply to do the combat or manipulation with an additional constraint, like no turning, no diagonal movement, killing queens in a certain order, etc. (A lot of these did indeed come from the Challenge board, others from H&S, and there were some I made up myself.)

I don't like hiding challenges behind green doors either, and I think TSS does it more than necessary. For the other holds, it was sometimes necessary because having scrolls in the open would interfere with existing demos (scrolls block serpent movement, brain pathing, roach spawning and double placement). It's also sometimes done because the wording of the challenge would give away something crucial about the room's solution.

By the way, Chaco is being characteristically modest. For Elemental Showcase 5.0 he made an absolutely fantastic entry all about the properties of thin ice (and Kieran's thin ice entry is also top-notch; in fact those two tied for second place in the voting).

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12-20-2016 at 11:57 PM
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GerAvos
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It's never too late and yeah, The Second Sky is amazing!
12-28-2016 at 06:46 PM
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