I finally finished Inferno: Nostos. I liked it, but not as much as I thought I would. As promised, here's my review.The Good
It was great to finally play a new Inferno campaign, so many years after INFR1. The new ship models were gorgeous, and the weapons were fun to use - especially the Subach HL-12 and the Corinthos.
return of the Shivans
was done very, very well. The last three missions of the campaign were the best, in my opinion. The last mission was excellent in all respects.
The teasing of
EA experiments with subspace
was a nice subplot that was new, fresh, and unexpected for someone who had already played INFR1. I'm interested to see where this goes in the next release.
The music was great. I liked the new tracks very much, and they were very effective in setting the mood.The Bad
I really did not like the characterization of the EA. INFR1 had the right approach; the EA was intelligent, strategic, and a credible threat. Even Blue Planet, for all that I disliked the hand-wringing, moralizing, and second-guessing, at least gave them a consistent philosophy and capable strategists. Nostos just treated them like Nazis in Space. And not even believable Nazis, but one-dimensional cardboard strawmen that didn't even rise to the level of mustache-twirling.
The campaign really should have been shorter than it was, or at least paced better than it was. The early missions felt like doing the same thing over and over, and there were at least three places where the story finally felt like it was going somewhere only for the rug to be pulled out from under you. Dangling a payoff and then yanking it away, repeatedly, quickly gets tiresome. And there were too many missions focused on fleet movements that didn't really interest me. INFR1 did a better job of pacing, both at a mission level and a story level. Derelict is an example of a campaign that also does a better job even though it has many more missions.
Balance was inconsistent and often frustrating. Several missions were not only too hard, but ridiculously over-the-top hard, to the extent that I wondered if I may have missed an important game mechanic that would have made them easier. And a couple missions really deserved checkpoints but didn't have them. I found myself cheating through missions more often than I would have liked, especially in the middle third of the campaign. There were also a few mission bugs that were annoying, but not necessarily major. (The most egregious was the failure to remove the player self-destruct in "The Storm Breaks", long after the relevant event had completed.)
The military jargon was irritating; it was overused and tended to detract from the overall conversation flow. I've criticized its use in the past; if I find that post I'll link to it here.
The treatment of Karpinsky was too overwrought and not handled as well as the similar subplot in INFR1.
The amount of ships and graphics required me to crank down my detail settings to avoid occasional lag, and I was playing on a fairly well-equipped machine.The Ugly
That circle of dots was far too distracting, as it added unnecessary noise which interfered with the already very noisy design. Many of the gauges that used to be on the periphery were now crowded around the center. It literally slowed down my reaction time because a) I had to find the relevant gauge, and b) I had to tune out the gauges surrounding it. Searching for gauges was doubly-handicapped by the fact that not only were they not in their usual spots, they weren't even in a location that was quick for the eye to move to. The Volition gauges take advantage of the five anchor points of the screen - the center and the four corners - and there is a reasonably even distribution among them. The Inferno HUD not only made the distribution uneven but also failed to anchor many of the gauges.
Adding to the chaos was the too-clever-by-half message system with the teletype text. It was a distraction that prevented full focus on what was happening in the mission, and the continual popping up/popping down quickly led to "alarm fatigue". Furthermore, the popup was usually not visible long enough for the full message to be typed out, as the box would disappear halfway through the typing.
One positive part of the HUD was the treatment of subsystems, with the "health bar" and escort list. Given the amount of subsystem objectives in the campaign, it turned out to be useful.