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A sci-fi horror game with excellent atmosphere and combat that can be truly terrifying... if not always for the right reasons.

Set Discrepancy, a review by Killer Wolf

This was one of the first games I latched onto when the review drive started. I mean, what is not to like? It seems like someone took the very best parts of works like The Thing (1982), Dead Space, System Shock 2 and Alien and threw them into a blender set to ‘frappe’. Would that make an interesting milkshake? Maybe. Does it make an interesting game? Definitely!

Set Discrepancy wears its influences proudly on its sleeve, but has its own rhythm and style. For starters, the control interface is a blast from the past. To me, it almost feels like a modernization of the old text base game routine, but with graphics and sound, if that makes any sense. By limiting the ways the player can explore and interact with their environment, the designer was able to focus on the story and the number of custom systems involved in telling it.

The raw level of atmosphere that Gibmaker establishes with Set Discrepancy is impressive. Even before the first infected person drooled incoherently at me prior to rushing in to deliver bodily trauma, I felt like I was in danger.

But lets back up for a minute here. The character creation setup had a nice vintage feel. The only complaint I have about it is that it would have been nice for the choice specialization to have bumped up the associated stat/skill a bit. While I'm definitely going to take a few shots at the percentage chance based system for skills and combat about seven seconds from now, the way you build your character DOES matter. After a really embarrassing start with my first character, my second build was actually functional!

Of course, once the fighting starts… things do get a bit rocky. It isn’t so bad at first. You start out with a genre staple: the wrench. It swings hard and true, and a few stout whacks are sufficient to cave in the head of whatever bothers you.

Firearms are a different matter entirely. You have a percentage chance to hit based on your stats. Unfortunately, it would seem the most important stat is your Mental Points. The more MP you currently have, the better chance you have at succeeding with your skills and attacks. They decrease when enemies appear, as well as when the character takes damage. You can restore them with sedatives or by completing an objective, but you’ll still spend more time worrying about MP than health by a long shot.

See, if one of your party members has lost even a third of their MP, the stat penalties on everything from firing a gun to hacking a security chest become downright brutal. If you happen to be in a dark room at the time with its own attending set of penalties, you can pretty much forget about succeeding at all.

The game also features one of my personal pet peeves: Percentage based skills that require the use of consumable items. For some reason, I was not getting anywhere near the 38% success rate my skill screen advertised. After expending my entire store of nanites attempting to open a level one security crate with a level one hack skill, I gave up on security crates for the rest of my time with the game.

Budding developers take note: If I have Level 1 Lock Opening as a skill, my character should never be left stymied by a Level 1 Lock!

I did experience a number of crashes while playing. Most of the ones that seemed to be caused by the game, exclusively, and not by my antiquated computer were resolved simply by downloading the newest version.

Gameplay : 2.8 out of 5

+ Detailed character creation

+ Old school crpg feel

- The controls take a little getting used to…

+ …but it seems like the streamlined approach lets you focus on content.

+ The interface and environment are really well integrated

- Really falls apart once you get into combat

- Don’t call it 38%. That means I should get roughly 1 in 3 hits. At 38% the character missed four times in a row.


Innovation : 4 out of 5

+ The interface almost makes the game feel like an old text based adventure.

+ The custom menus for skill and weapons use are all well executed.

+ The randomly generated game world means that next time you’ll be just as lost as you were this time, but that is a good thing! Getting there is half the fun.

Music and Sound Effects : 4.5 out of 5

+ Nice use of ambient space noise

+ Blips and bleeps in menu are very appropriate

+ Really excellent use of sound and music overall


Graphics : 3 out of 5

- Character types on keyboards from three feet back.

+ The artwork for the first cutscene is excellently done.

+ The art helps set the atmosphere almost perfectly!

- There are some graphical glitches/hitches. Doors start to open and then disappear. It looks like they phase out of existence rather than recess into the walls.


Presentation : 4.5 out of 5

+ The cutscene at the end of the prologue is excellently done

+ There is an incredible attention to detail throughout...

+ …we even get to see how much the installation and crew are insured for!


Overall – 3.7 out of 5

Despite the stability issues and my grievances with some of the combat and skill applications, I had a lot of fun with Set Discrepancy. I do wish that the combat experience felt a bit more polished, especially when compared to the overall atmosphere and story, but then again no game is ever truly perfect.

The bottom line here is that if you have a hankering for a good sci-fi horror story, told through an engaging RPG framework stuffed to the brim with custom systems, you need to download Set Discrepancy right now!

Posts

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Max McGee
My name is Legion: for we are many.
8404
I was going to save this for my own review but, either my dice luck is weird even in videogames or something weird is going on with the firearm to-hit chances. The shotgun almost ALWAYS hits with a stated MAX hit chance of "33%", while my pistol rarely hits with a stated hit chance well over 50%. I guess the shotgun is...just lucky?

Also, sometimes the "Red Box O'Miss" will appear when I shoot with the pistol, but my attack will (thank God!) hit anyway and do full damage. Bizarre.

Don’t call it 38%. That means I should get roughly 1 in 3 hits. At 38% the character missed four times in a row.

I agree combat can be frustrating, but this is your own darn misunderstanding of how probability works, not the game's fault. : P

Overall, I agree with much of this review. Including the frustration with the difficulty of hacking Level 1 security crates after I bought the Level 1 hacking skill. I also really wish successful tech tasks and hacking would grant experience points, otherwise spending 40 nanites to pop a crate that contains 20 nanites is horribly frustrating.

Still planning on writing my own review.

Firearms are a different matter entirely. You have a percentage chance to hit based on your stats. Unfortunately, it would seem the most important stat is your Mental Points. The more MP you currently have, the better chance you have at succeeding with your skills and attacks. They decrease when enemies appear, as well as when the character takes damage. You can restore them with sedatives or by completing an objective, but you’ll still spend more time worrying about MP than health by a long shot.

Actually, it's the COMPLETE VIOLENT DEPARTURE FROM REALITY aspect of this that disappoints me more than the mechanic itself. Because the item you need to restore MP is called "Sedatives". And note to Gibmaker, no matter how freaked you are by monsters, once you pop your tenth or eleventh dose of sedatives in like an HOUR, it really doesn't make you BETTER at keeping a firearm on target. In fact, quite dramatically the OPPOSITE. I know games shouldn't generally be held to the standard of realism, but Set Discrepancy generally nods to reality quite a bit compared to most RM games.
kentona
▲▲▼▼◄►◄►(B) (A)
19528
Legion
Including the frustration with the difficulty of hacking Level 1 security crates after I bought the Level 1 hacking skill.
I find this comment hilarious.
Max McGee
My name is Legion: for we are many.
8404
In all innocence (ignorance?)...why?
kentona
▲▲▼▼◄►◄►(B) (A)
19528
Have you ever played Iron Gaia? Replace "crates" with "camera"
author=Max McGee
I agree combat can be frustrating, but this is your own darn misunderstanding of how probability works, not the game's fault. : P

I understand how probability works, but when a skill with a 42% chance of success fails 8 or more times in a row, something is very wrong. That is why whenever I have attempted to use percentage based skills/combat feats in my own custom systems, I've chewed up a bunch of extra variables tracking how many times they miss and forcing success if the skills perform less reliably than reported. I try to apply a revision of the golden rule to my attempts at game design: Do not do unto others what you would not want done to yourself.

author=kentona
Have you ever played Iron Gaia? Replace "crates" with "camera"

Honestly, when I had my crate difficulties, I had a line from one of the Iron Gaia reviews looping in my head - "The world's worst hacker fights with security cameras for three hours."

At least here, we're allowed to shoot the security cameras... provided your team isn't too freaked out or in a dark room at the time.

EDIT - It wouldn't be hard for Gibmaker to explain away any realism issues with the sedatives. All he has to do is throw a log in someplace where a medical officer extols the advent of sedatives that are designed for rapid elimination. Maybe they were designed to fight acute bouts of space psychosis, but with the aim of keeping the crew member functional instead of drugged into the floorboards.

OR - Sedatives could become a pro-active measure that would decrease the rate at which mental points deplete.
Gibmaker
I hate RPG Maker because of what it has done to me
8709
Well I must argue in defense of percentage based skills that require consumable items. Without a cost for attempting the task, there would be nothing to stop you from just spamming the task until it's successful, which would invalidate the purpose of having percentage based skills in the first place!

Based on your statements I will make the MP-derived tech penalty less severe. At the moment I think it's 4 percent per MP point under 20 but it will probably be upsetting enough if it were only 2 or 1. :B

AND I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO SAY ABOUT THE CONSTANTLY FAILING AT 38% THING. Unless there's a failing in Ruby's randomizer function to begin with. Believe it or not there all ready is a feature in place that guarantees a success if you fail too many times in a row. If you repeatedly perform the exact same roll enough times such that the percentage * number of attempts exceeds 250, you get a free success. So if you'd stuck with it and hacked the safe 7 times you'd have done it! :D

Uh.

But yeah, I don't know what to say. 38% means 38%. :\ I too have been frustrated by constant strings of fails but I don't want to make it vanilla. But still, if the game makes you h8 it then it's not a very nice game. <Contra death sound>

author=Max McGee
Also, sometimes the "Red Box O'Miss" will appear when I shoot with the pistol, but my attack will (thank God!) hit anyway and do full damage. Bizarre.
Missed shots have a chance of striking a random target in the room. Which might have turned out to be what you aimed at in the first place. Happen?

author=Max McGee
I also really wish successful tech tasks and hacking would grant experience points, otherwise spending 40 nanites to pop a crate that contains 20 nanites is horribly frustrating.
It does. O_o? Unless it doesn't.

author=Killer Wolf
It wouldn't be hard for Gibmaker to explain away any realism issues with the sedatives. All he has to do is throw a log in someplace where a medical officer extols the advent of sedatives that are designed for rapid elimination. Maybe they were designed to fight acute bouts of space psychosis, but with the aim of keeping the crew member functional instead of drugged into the floorboards.
"All we need is one line, thank goodness we invented the ... whatever ... device."

Yeah I see your point. But I guess that's a basic failing of any game where medicine is a healing item. MAYBE I CAN JUST GET AWAY WITH IT.

Well thank you for putting your time into playing the game and reviewing. :) And thanks for the spanking good numbers in spite of your troubles.
This review is pretty fair in terms of the actual meat of the content but I am disappointed (by which I mean butthurt) by the score given at the end (because I am a huge fanboy for this game). Max has pointed this out already but I think it's worth reiterating that even a 90% chance of a given thing happening could easily result in any number of failures when that percentage is only relating to a "hit or miss" scenario. The average slot machine has a payout rate of something like 96%.. Yet you'll rarely walk away from one "up".

(Now,here's where I brag about my proficiency at an amateur game in a tiny niche in a tiny corner of the internet, sorry)

I didn't personally have much trouble with the firearm thing because I got my wield stat up to 5 by chapter 3 and haven't failed a single firearm roll with either the handgun or shotgun since then (which when coupled with a high aptitude stat allows a single character to clear 95% of the battles in the game, which is probably more of a real issue than the wield roll that people seem to dislike so much. I actually killed the security mech "boss" in the very first turn of combat using 3 upgraded laser pistol overcharges, it didn't even get to do anything :/). Also I think forcing success under given circumstances is a horrible thing to do and a step in the direction of "everything that is wrong with modern gaming", even if I can see your reasoning.
kentona
▲▲▼▼◄►◄►(B) (A)
19528
There is an expectation in RPGs that "brute force" is always a fallback solution to any of the game's challenges.
Player ingenuity and proficiency should not be penalized by diminished challenge leading to more boring gameplay. The problem with the vast majority of the RPG genre is that they're more interesting when you suck at them. When you know how to exploit everything and "play well" they become less interesting because you steamroll through everything. (but I still love this game)
author=Gibmaker
Well I must argue in defense of percentage based skills that require consumable items. Without a cost for attempting the task, there would be nothing to stop you from just spamming the task until it's successful, which would invalidate the purpose of having percentage based skills in the first place!


I just decided to play around my problem with it. After the first string of ridiculous failures, I ignored security chests entirely.

What I would do, and by no means am I suggesting that this is what YOU should do, would be to focus on nanite cost for a given task as opposed to percentage to succeed. Upgrading the Hack stat would both increase the level of lock that you could open, but also decrease the naninte cost required for "easier" locks. I'm just not a fan of x% chance to succeed. (I'll even admit to save-scumming through some difficult encounters in Fallout 1 & 2 when I was younger, just to get around the fact I could still miss every now and then with my Small Guns stat pumped through the ceiling)

Based on your statements I will make the MP-derived tech penalty less severe. At the moment I think it's 4 percent per MP point under 20 but it will probably be upsetting enough if it were only 2 or 1. :B


Technical question. Doesn't the game say that Mental Points provide a bonus to success rates? Does this mean that the base success rate is actually that much lower than what is advertised with full MP?

Well thank you for putting your time into playing the game and reviewing. :) And thanks for the spanking good numbers in spite of your troubles.


You're welcome. My issues with some of the core gameplay mechanics aside, I really enjoyed the game.

author=NewBlack
Max has pointed this out already but I think it's worth reiterating that even a 90% chance of a given thing happening could easily result in any number of failures when that percentage is only relating to a "hit or miss" scenario. The average slot machine has a payout rate of something like 96%.. Yet you'll rarely walk away from one "up".


I'm not going to debate the way probability works here, I get it. I'm approaching it from a gameplay perspective. I didn't mind it as much in combat because I was able to notice how much my hit rate actually improved when I dumped points into Wield. I expected my second level of Hack would have a similarly appreciable effect on my ability to open crates. It didn't.

Also I think forcing success under given circumstances is a horrible thing to do and a step in the direction of "everything that is wrong with modern gaming", even if I can see your reasoning.


It is just a personal thing. If I make a game, I don't want to punish someone for playing it. In the review, I point out that my first character build was a disaster. Without knowing what I was getting into, I built him as a hacker engineer type with pretty much zero battle acumen. He was terrible in a fight. I'm not saying that a player should be able to build a complete mess of a character and still get hand-waved through the whole game.

I'm saying that if a character uses a level 2 unlock skill on a level 1 lock, he shouldn't have to burn through 280 nanites and still end up walking away with nothing to show for it.
Gibmaker
I hate RPG Maker because of what it has done to me
8709
Ah.
Well sadly, at this point the %ge rolls are such a fundamental aspect of the game, they're not likely to go away. :(

author=Killer Wolf
Technical question. Doesn't the game say that Mental Points provide a bonus to success rates? Does this mean that the base success rate is actually that much lower than what is advertised with full MP?
For every point over 20 (the starting amount) you get a bonus. Under that it's a penalty. By increasing your max MP you basically "unlock" more potential for bonuses.

author=NewBlack
I actually killed the security mech "boss" in the very first turn of combat using 3 upgraded laser pistol overcharges, it didn't even get to do anything :/.
We're never going to hear the end of this, are we? :P
I've been meaning to play the new release for a long time and then write a review, but since we're at it, I find this review interesting but quite harsh concerning the gameplay : I'm not a big fan of being castrated by a Random Number Generator either, but (unless the game balance underwent huge changes since version 0.something) I found that this game shines in that actual careful planning is almost always able to reduce the risk of failure to a very acceptable margin. Especially in combat. As for crates, I do understand your frustration a bit, yet I would hardly resent a game for failing to open some totally random and optional container without even having a skill level vastly superior to the requisite minimum.

Having to be really careful in your use of MP and the relative scarcity of the associated medicine are IMHO an essential part of the gameplay : for instance, it encourages breaking groups apart to send the saner characters as scouts, and then using clever timing in moving different characters between different rooms, which is really challenging and fun. It also comes with a simple lesson : if you don't know how to shoot, don't use a firearm ; I had a feeble engineer too, and I did quite well relying on more able characters and using wrenches and having enough action points to hit enemies thrice before they can retaliate.

Anyway, the most elegant way that I know for avoiding repeated strings of failure (that's the law of small numbers for you) is something I saw on a P&P design website : random sampling without replacement, i.e. instead of a D20, having 20 cards that you draw and don't put back until you've got them all. Of course each type of activity needs to have its own set, so that you cannot ensure a critical in a fight by failing to open a crate 19 times before.

But honestly, knowing how to deal with probability can be a good design element if there are significant ways of concentrating or diluting the probabilities, as there are in this game. Becoming proficient at this kind of games makes you a better financier, too.
author=Gibmaker
Ah.
Well sadly, at this point the %ge rolls are such a fundamental aspect of the game, they're not likely to go away. :(


I like the game how it is, it just irritates me in a couple places =)

In any case, de gustibus non est disputandum.
Gibmaker
I hate RPG Maker because of what it has done to me
8709
author=Hasvers
Anyway, the most elegant way that I know for avoiding repeated strings of failure (that's the law of small numbers for you) is something I saw on a P&P design website : random sampling without replacement, i.e. instead of a D20, having 20 cards that you draw and don't put back until you've got them all. Of course each type of activity needs to have its own set, so that you cannot ensure a critical in a fight by failing to open a crate 19 times before.
I enjoy this idea.

author=Killer Wolf
I like the game how it is, it just irritates me in a couple places =)
Wll thx for sharing your review. It is good to see.
Max McGee
My name is Legion: for we are many.
8404
author=kentona
Have you ever played Iron Gaia? Replace "crates" with "camera"

You mean Iron Gaia Virus, which I spent like a billion hours playing. You can't hack anything in Iron Gaia. : ( Anyway, um, you're wrong. We can get into why if you want, but the math does not work out the same.

*opens rm2k3*

A basic camera in IGV has a 50% chance of being hacked for a character with no hacking skill, and a 60% chance of being hacked for a character with Hacking Skill Level 1. In Set Discrepancy, a Level 1 Security crate has a 0% chance of being hacked by a character with no hacking skill and a ~35% - mental point deficiency chance of being opened by a character with hacking skill level 1. 0/35 versus 50/60. It's not hilarious for me to comment on the low rate of success.

60% != 38% or less.
Max McGee
My name is Legion: for we are many.
8404
I understand how probability works, but when a skill with a 42% chance of success fails 8 or more times in a row, something is very wrong. That is why whenever I have attempted to use percentage based skills/combat feats in my own custom systems, I've chewed up a bunch of extra variables tracking how many times they miss and forcing success if the skills perform less reliably than reported. I try to apply a revision of the golden rule to my attempts at game design: Do not do unto others what you would not want done to yourself.

Still I understand what you're saying design wise but...that's just how probability is. A coin has a 50% chance of landing on tails, and sometimes it will land on heads ten times in a row. That's just how probability works. 50% chance doesn't mean "will reliably happen half the time". That's all I was saying. And you know that so...yeah. Okay. : )

Honestly, when I had my crate difficulties, I had a line from one of the Iron Gaia reviews looping in my head - "The world's worst hacker fights with security cameras for three hours."

At least here, we're allowed to shoot the security cameras... provided your team isn't too freaked out or in a dark room at the time.

That is the by far the least accurate of the three currently available reviews for Iron Gaia: Virus. : )
Max McGee
My name is Legion: for we are many.
8404
It does. O_o? Unless it doesn't.

This is my main issue. I'm fine with spending 70 Nanites to get 20 Nanites as long as I also get some EXP. But right now hacking security crates does not grant any EXP. And I have the current version. Really!

Missed shots have a chance of striking a random target in the room. Which might have turned out to be what you aimed at in the first place. Happen?

Ah! Awesome. Yes I've actually never seen a missed shot hit anything BUT the original target, but still...this is an awesome mechanic! I've been thinking of it as a "ricochet" and that's exactly what it is!

Can it hit you/your allies? Do the items in the room effect the ricochet chance? I'm curious now exactly how this works. I kind of wish there was a luck stat that impacted it.

What I would do, and by no means am I suggesting that this is what YOU should do, would be to focus on nanite cost for a given task as opposed to percentage to succeed. Upgrading the Hack stat would both increase the level of lock that you could open, but also decrease the naninte cost required for "easier" locks. I'm just not a fan of x% chance to succeed. (I'll even admit to save-scumming through some difficult encounters in Fallout 1 & 2 when I was younger, just to get around the fact I could still miss every now and then with my Small Guns stat pumped through the ceiling)

Yes, I agree. There should either be no fail chance on tasks that require BOTH a skill and a resource expenditure or the fail chance should be much lower.

For every point over 20 (the starting amount) you get a bonus. Under that it's a penalty. By increasing your max MP you basically "unlock" more potential for bonuses.

May I humbly suggest -1% for each point under 20 and +2% for each point over 20? Right now I think it's -4% for each point under 20 and +2% for each point over 20. I'd like to see the penalty cut dramatically. (Also it's weird that being freaked out giving you a huge penalty to doing things but being horrifically wounded doesn't penalize your accuracy in any way (say, at 1 HP) but that's neither here nor there. : ) )
I'm not sure wound penalties is a good direction to send combat in. Nine times out of ten, wound penalties turns a system into "hit them first, else die".

As for crate hacking, the bonus from succeeding the check is in the form of items + MP, which is not too bad, all things considered.

I don't know that I'd go so far as to call this game a financial sim, but I do find it more compelling when the resources in it are scarce. Right now, I'm swimming in an ocean of nanites, and so resource conservation is a non-existent problem for me.
Max McGee
My name is Legion: for we are many.
8404
I'm not actually suggesting wound penalties, FTR, I'm suggesting that "lost" mental points be slightly less punitive and "excess" MP be slightly more beneficial. Right now the MP system is rather punitive game design, I'd like to see it be slightly more empowering.

Alternatively, it's fine to just have everyone slamming and mainlining sedatives at a blistering rate that would make a serious narcotic addict blush. : )

As for crate hacking, the bonus from succeeding the check is in the form of items + MP, which is not too bad, all things considered.

Yeah, but it runs into the D&D problem where you get better at technical skills like repair, design, and hacking exclusively by shooting things in the face. I like how the Elder Scrolls games get around this, and even the Fallout series lets you get XP by using technical skills as well as shooting things in the face, unlike D&D where all character growth derives from murder.

I don't know that I'd go so far as to call this game a financial sim, but I do find it more compelling when the resources in it are scarce. Right now, I'm swimming in an ocean of nanites, and so resource conservation is a non-existent problem for me.

I'm really enjoying the resource management too, and I haven't gotten to the part of the game where there's an ocean of nanites yet. Actually, an ocean of nanites would be fucking terrifying.
Oh, hey, Ben Templesmith. Maybe this ocean of nanites things isn't so bad...

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