The EZA Forum Hall of Greats (September 2022)
ffff0 last edited by
Response to @bruno_saurus question about core tenants of Forza Horizon 5 being the best in the series.
Sorry for my bad English, I don’t know what “tenants” mean in this context. I assumed it means “aspects”, but if I’m wrong, please correct me and I’ll re-answer this question.
I’ve played only Forza Horizon 3, 4 and 5 and among those three the latest entry definitely feels the most polished and fun to play. I’m not an expert on racing games and I don’t have a driver license, so it hard for me to state something like “handling on mud is better here” or “track design is more competitive here”, but as a casual player I see no reasons to recommend any entry instead of Forza Horizon 5.
Oscillator last edited by
Questions for @Brannox :
I haven't played Doom II in a very, very long time, so perhaps I just wasn't any good at it back then, but I feel like it was very difficult right off the bat, with just a couple waves of basic enemies making me desperate for health, and a larger enemy mowing me down mercilessly every time. Does Doom II ease you in or does it immediately assault you like I seem to remember?
Have the pseudo-3D, heavily pixelated visuals harmed how it stands up against later entries in the genre, in particular id Software's very next major release, Quake?
The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay
Answer # 4
@DIPSET regarding The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay
Do you think Escape From Butcher Bay languishes in the past two much to be any significant to the here and now?
While I think history and context is really important in analyzing older games, I think Escape From Butcher Bay is still relevant today both historically and from a game design standpoint. In terms of the here and now, we live in an era of pretty quality licensed video games.
I feel like ambitious licensed games like Riddick walked so Batman Arkham Asylum can run. I guess Escape From Butcher Bay isn't at the top of most gamers heads when we talk about modern gaming, but I think it definitely paved the way for Machine Games to be successful and significant mainstream AAA developer.
Is there anything from Butcher Bay that you feel today’s shooters could do with implementing?
Escape With Butcher Bay was made with love and wasn't trend chasing. The game design compliments the source material to a tee. The premise of escaping from a prison compliments the film Pitch Black (the game used to be called Pitch Black FYI) where people needed to survive on an alien planet before all hell breaks loose. Take a core concept and go crazy with the game design.
So if I have one takeaway, it's that not every shooter needs to worry about TTK and slide canceling. Riddick and it's contemporaries all had their own spin on the core gameplay being outside of just shooting. Riddick seamlessly blended stealth, melee, and gunplay.
Modern games should really consider how hegemonized they've become with the same controls, same jump height, same ADS, same menu's. Devs should look to Escape From Butcher Bay and get creative with it and pave your own path.
Shoulderguy last edited by
@Shoulderguy regarding X-COM: Enemy Unknown
I suck at strategy games and I find many of them difficult to grasp and enjoy. How could you ease me into X-COM: Enemy Unknown without tuning out?
Do you think X-COM: Enemy Unknown is largely overlooked for a great game?
1.) I get that, I'm the same way but for fighting games. There are some strategy games like Total War that I'm hesitant to recommend to people who are new to the series. Though In my opinion, XCOM: Enemy Unknown is one of the friendliest to newcomers. I had never played an XCOM style game before this game and now I'm huge fan of them.
2.) I don't think it's overlooked. When it released in 2012 it won many GOTY awards from different media outlets and received much praise from fans. Since that time, XCOM-like games have become more common. We have Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope releasing next month, Marvel's Midnight Suns releasing in December and there are more games in development. That style of strategy game existed before XCOM: Enemy Unknown but it's recognized by most people as the game that boosted their popularity.
The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay
Question for @DIPSET
Does the gameplay evolve enough throughout the game in the way it handles stealth, or is it just sort of the same way to handle each situation?
Without getting into spoiler territory, let's just say your stealth abilities dramatically improve in Act II after your escape kicks into gear. This means the Intro / Act I plays similar, but your power as a player has some limitations which get easier later on.
I'd say the game pace overall sort of fluctuates what you're doing. If I had to pick ONE easy way of describing the game, think of it like an action-adventure. In, say, Uncharted, you aren't always in gunfights. Sometimes you are walking and talking, sometimes you're sneaking around, sometimes you are climbing. Escape From Butcher Bay is like that.
Some of the stealth is Point A --> Point B sneaking around going from shadows and ledges above enemies or platforming around (kinda like Splinter Cell), but sometimes the stealth is active combat where you're closing the gap and trying to shank a guard in the back of his neck and dragging the bodies into shadows.
Sometimes the Point A --> Point B has a lot of verticality and sometimes it's has seriously deadly mech suit guards all in a confined space on the same floor as you and sneaking is a tight squeeze.
DIPSET last edited by DIPSET
@ffff0 regarding FORZA HORIZON 5
I read your answer to @JDINCINERATOR so I hate to double down on this, but FH4 was my first Forza Horizon game in 2018. I put in around 40ish hours before moving on and completed a lot of the activities. Since you brough FH5, I figured I'd finally give it a try and I put a few hours in so far. And I have to say, I feel like I'm playing the exact same game that I played as recently as 2 years ago with no deviation.
So my question is this - YOU are in charge for making Forza Horizon 6. What needs to be added or changed to make the series stay fresh?
We need to get a racing game into our Hall of Greats and FH5 is genuinely a great candidate but I want to compare it to other potential great's as well. If we go back to the original racing festival video game series, Motorstorm, there is a distinct attention to thrilling track design. In FH5, the circuits are small and samey. The rally style tracks take place in the same open world that you drive around normally, but this time there are a few flag marker checkpoints. Nothing is bespoke.
So my question is this - Is the lack of great or even good track design not a major knock against Forza Horizon 5? If not, what qualities do you think the game brings to table to nullify this shortcoming?
@Brannox regarding DOOM II
So I need to preface this by letting people know that if they have any questions about newcomers to DOOM II, I only played DOOM II for the first time in my life this weekend. It's my first DOOM game in the OG series and I am completely blown away by it. I have had more fun in the first hour of DOOM II than I did for the entirety of DOOM 2016. [RHETORICAL] Why do people not talk about OG DOOM series enough?! Haha
I told some friends how I finally tried DOOM II and how blown away I was and they asked me which version I was playing. In which I replied, "Dunno — whatever is on Game Pass". In which they said, "The PSX version is way better and has a completely different tone, atmosphere, and music"
So I looked up the PSX music and I was pretty shocked at how different it is. It makes the version I was playing feel cartoony and whimsical by comparison.
So my question is this - Do the distinctions in the various versions of DOOM II make it hard to discuss the game as one whole? I ask because it seems like different people had dramatically different experiences with the same game.
Tell me about the modding in DOOM II. On cursory research, it seems like this game has had community support for the entirety of my life. Some of these mods looks nuts. How does it impact your personal experience with the game?
Thanks to both of you!
Capnbobamous last edited by
FYI I know there's a lot going on in this thread right now, so I'll make an aggregation of all of the questions and answers before the end of the day.
bruno_saurus last edited by
Answering @ffff0's Question regarding the Single-Take Camera
I personally love the One-Shot Take. I can see where you’re coming from with performance wise, but another game in around the same time frame, Horizon Zero Dawn a game I love, load times were pretty long. At least in regards to God of War, when you do have those interstitial moments of traveling between realms, you have a tad more engagement with Mimir talking and you’re walking with Atreus. And the areas of Yggdrasil, the life tree are wonderful looking.
At least as well you have areas you can go. To and from with these doors, which are loading screens, but you do get interesting conversations with Mimir which I do appreciate. And early on without Mimir, you have talks with Atreus to at least showcase some stuff without silence in the tree.
It also brings you closer to Kratos and see the emotions he’s having through that closeness which I highly appreciate after the Greek Mythology saga!
bruno_saurus last edited by bruno_saurus
Answering @Phbz questions regarding Atreus's mood change & Extra Worlds in regards to Cut Content
While that moment is sort of sudden, narratively it still makes sense to me. He just learned that he’s part God, and we already know from previous context he gets “sick”, which seems to basically be just him going in a rage and blacking out, so there’s potential that he has of being rageful in the past. So him learning he's part God basically gets him to be non-caring about his own actions as if they have any consequence. Power hungry type of thing. So sure it could’ve been smoothed over a lot, but contextually it makes sense still even if it was intended to be a longer section.
In regards to cut content with worlds like Musphelheim and Niflheim, these two realms I enjoyed how they varied exploration and combat in different ways. Musphelheim was basically the traditional God of War Trial of the Gods stuff that was optional in the Greek mythology games, just more directly in the game's story this time.
Niflheim wise, it feels like a good puzzle area of death traps and trying to manage the mist and what areas you want to explore first. I recall it being confusing at times, but rewarding when you finish it all. They might’ve had set in stone what realms were in the game at the start, and we’ll cut stuff from there if needed (which obviously happened).
In connection with your question about Atreus himself, they might’ve just wanted to have some more varied stuff in the entirety of the game. But I feel they’re valid to be there and in a Niflheim sense, you get context to show how ruthless Odin can be, in this case with Ivaldi!
bruno_saurus last edited by bruno_saurus
Answering @Brannox's Questions Regarding Labors and Gear Layouts/Tactics
While you do get a lot of XP from these, not all of them are combat based. Some are exploration based encouraging you to find Myths, Armor, and such! Which adds to the lore you discover throughout the world. They can definitely be better integrated into Ragnarok, but at that initial glance, it can be seen as just busy work with the enemies. You do learn about the world and your enemies at least!
I feel like the game justifies attempting to have the player switch loadouts and tactics. You might want to pair up your Talismans or Enchantments with what arrows you like with Atreus to maximize the effectiveness of those types of arrows. With Runics I love how they each look and they have different types of effects like freezing enemies or pushing them back.
In fights against Travelers, you do just bash them with your axe or Blades, yes but it varies in ways in maneuvering. If a Traveler is holding up an orb, you better throw your axe at it or you’ll lose a lot of health. Or if a Traveler has a shield at its back, that presents more of a tactic change within just how you use your axe and Atreus as a tandem. Then, Ancients aren’t affected by your axe until you throw one of their projectiles back at them, so there’s variety at least there. However, yes the tactic is throw the projectile and then use your axe.
Loadout wise think that’s just the choice of the player how deep they wanna dive into all of that. I think with the amount of great options it does give, that incentivizes myself enough to switch up some stuff leading into finishing the game.
ffff0 last edited by ffff0
Response to @DIPSET questions about what should be changed in Forza Horizon 6 and lack of great track design in Forza Horizon 5.
Unfortunately, I will not be able to answer your first question, because I don’t feel like anything is lacking in Forza Horizon 5. I mean, I can name a few things that can be better, like character animations during mission introductions, but then I take those ideas back, because I realize that they will not improve the game (this is not a character-driven game, it’s a game about cars). I’m sure developers will come up with something interesting, but that’s why they are making games and I’m only playing them. And, by the way, initially I had similar “more of the same” feeling regarding Forza Horizon 5, but the game grew on me eventually.
As for the lack of great tracks – yes, rooting routes in open-world environments require some compromises and games that feature actual racing tracks will always win in this regard. However dedicated tracks mean lesser number of tracks in the game, which means that you’ll be either done with the game relatively quickly, or you’ll be driving the same laps. This isn’t quality over quantity argument, this is just two different styles on racing games (like arcade racers and driving sims), and each style speaks to different audiences. I don’t think we should debate which style is more deserving to be in Hall of Greats, just like we didn’t debate whether we should have a JRPG or western-RPG. We picked both.
Brannox last edited by Brannox
Apologies for the late responses, but now I've got some time. Onto it then:
From @bruno_saurus regarding ramping up difficulty and it being paced well:
Yes I do, because of a mixture of the weapons you're given (and when you get them), the types of enemies you go against (and the increasing amount), and the difficulty modes. In the first level, you go up against zombie soldiers and imps, but eventually, it progressively gives you more variety until a boss level. At which point, they're supposed to be the most challenging moments by introducing a unique looking and quite powerful creature, and if you best them, the following level or two is a step below as a means to give you an opportunity to regroup, before steadily ramping up again, all culminating with the Icon of Sin, which throws SO MANY demons at you (and they never stop respawning). Think of difficulty in numerical terms: (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 7, 8, 9, and so on)
From @Oscillator regarding difficulty right at the start:
This kind of ties into my answer to @bruno_saurus above, but unless you pick one of the highest difficulty levels, the first few levels are quite nice in giving you a manageable amount of demons and plenty of ammo to take them down. As I said in my presentation, the first room gives you just two enemies, the hallway has one or two more, the room to the left has an additional two, and the large room has about four (and the exit room has one final imp dependent on your chosen difficulty). The next level has quite a few more enemies, but not any different types, so it's a progression.
From @Oscillator regarding it's visuals harming it and it standing up to modern games and contemporaries:
Absolutely I believe it stands up today, but that comes down to the caveat of 1.) All art is subjective and 2.) Different art design showcases different preferences of different people. To use your example of Quake, I only played that for the first time in the last year or two, and I really enjoy it's design of more modern architecture and external environments. But even still, the demonic style of DOOM is more my jam, especially considering (for me), I never struggle in discerning what I'm looking at. I can tell what kind of enemy is on screen, what kind of texture is on a wall, what kind of weapon is on the ground, etc., all with a glance, as opposed to taking a second of looking at the screen and thinking, "What in the world is... Oooohhh." I had a time or two in Quake. DOOM as a whole also stands out because of its ability to be played on practically anything with a screen (more on that in my answer to @DIPSET below), and it's really easy to know what your looking at. Overall one of DOOM II's defining qualities is how it looks to the point of being iconic.
From @DIPSET regarding distinctions between different versions (ports?) of DOOM II:
Potentially, because unlike the first DOOM where I know of many versions (OG DOOM, Brutal DOOM, Ultimate DOOM, etc.), I only know of the OG PC version, which I thought was the version ported to 360, and that's what I've been referencing (Not the DOOM 3 BFG Edition or the version in DOOM: Eternal). To the point I didn't know of the PSX version. HOWEVER, I don't think it really takes away from any version, nor does it make it difficult to discuss, because it's practically the same levels/enemies/weapons/etc. All that said, the fact you say it blew you away and had so much fun... I don't need it to be nominated to begin with, but I'm even more OK with it not getting in now (and would be fine with a ban) because it fills me with so much joy to know one person gave a game I love a shot and found value in it. And if you find a way to give the PSX version a shot and prefer to it to the Game Pass version, then fantastic.
From @DIPSET regarding about the modding community:
Modding and UGC has been a massive reason why it's endured for so long. The ability for people to create their own stuff on such a simple but immensely satisfying gameplay loop has been a hallmark of the DOOM community and id has leaned into it HARD. When they rebooted the series and opened Bethesda's first ever E3 press conference (my personal favorite presentation of Bethesda's by the by), there's a reason they spent a third of their slot on SnapMap. Because the ability to open up creation tools to the community can provide endless replay value. But back to DOOM II. Personally: I've always played on my 360 (that I remember. My Dad says the first two DOOMs and Wolfenstein 3D were my first games but I highly doubt that), so for not playing on PC, I personally haven't had the experience with mods, but the knowledge PC players have that option and opening up a whole new world of possibilities further showcases how much of an excellent game it is. And DOOM is FAMOUS of being up on EVERYTHING: Printers, graphic calculators, refrigerators, and even PREGNANCY TESTS for God's sake. So many modders out there are way too creative. Or have way too much time on their hands. Or both. Yeah. Both.
Okay folks, here is an aggregation of all of the questions and answers. I have updated the original post to include this as well for ease of access, and I will continue to update that throughout the week as necessary. If there are any mistakes here, let me know.
Forza Horizon 5
- ffff0's Presentation
- Brannox's Questions -- ffff0's Response
- JDINCINERATOR's Questions -- ffff0's Response
- bruno_saurus' Questions -- ffff0's Response
- DIPSET's Questions -- ffff0's Response
- Capnbobamous' Question -- ffff0's Response
God of War (2018)
- bruno_saurus' Presentation
- ffff0's Question -- bruno_saurus' Response
- Phbz's Question -- bruno_saurus' Response
- Brannox's Questions -- bruno_saurus' Response
- JDINCINERATOR's Questions -- bruno_saurus' Response
- Capnbobamous' Question -- bruno_saurus' Response
- Brannox's Presentation
- ffff0's Question -- Brannox's Response
- Phbz's Question -- Brannox's Response
- JDINCINERATOR's Questions -- Brannox's Response
- bruno_saurus' Questions -- Brannox's Response
- Oscillator's Questions -- Brannox's Response
- DIPSET's Questions -- Brannox's Response
What Remains of Edith Finch
- JDINCINERATOR's Presentation
- ffff0's Question -- JDINCINERATOR's Response
- Brannox's Questions -- JDINCINERATOR's Response
- DIPSET's Questions -- JDINCINERATOR's Response
- Capnbobamous' Question -- JDINCINERATOR's Response
The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay
- DIPSET's Presentation
- ffff0's Question -- DIPSET's Response
- Brannox's Questions -- DIPSET's Response
- JDINCINERATOR's Questions -- DIPSET's Response
- bruno_saurus' Questions -- DIPSET's Response
- Capnbobamous' Question -- DIPSET's Response
XCOM: Enemy Unknown
- Shoulderguy's Presentation
- ffff0's Question -- Shoulderguy's Response
- Phbz's Question -- Shoulderguy's Response
- Brannox's Questions -- Shoulderguy's Response
- JDINCINERATOR's Questions -- Shoulderguy's Response
- Capnbobamous' Question -- Shoulderguy's Response
- Capnbobamous' Presentation
- ffff0's Question -- Capnbobamous' Response
- Brannox's Questions -- Capnbobamous' Response
- JDINCINERATOR's Questions -- Capnbobamous' Response
- bruno_saurus' Questions -- Capnbobamous' Response
- DIPSET's Questions -- Capnbobamous' Response
- ffff0's Second Question -- Capnbobamous' Response
Star Fox 64
- Oscillator's Presentation
- ffff0's Question -- Oscillator's Response
- Brannox's Questions -- Oscillator's Response
- JDINCINERATOR's Questions -- Oscillator's Response
- bruno_saurus' Questions -- Oscillator's Response
I also plan on responding to questions tomorrow, as well as formulating my own.
JDINCINERATOR last edited by
I honestly don't know how I can be expected to choose a top 3 games. You all did a sublime job of presenting the games you brought-makes me wish I can enter them all into the Hall of Greats. I really enjoyed what you all contributed and the fact this edition is packed with 8 panelists-this is one juicy Hall of Greats indeed. I did tell @Capnbobamous that if there are more panelists then the cross-examination period could be extended, and perhaps the presentation period too. Anyway once again, hats off to every single one of you who presented.
Phbz last edited by
Curious to see how you guys are going to vote. This is a crazy selection of games.
@JDINCINERATOR regarding WHAT REMAINS OF EDITH FINCH
I just finished this game for the first time this morning. I have to say, I think it is one of the best short art house indie's I've ever played. Taking some ideas out of Dunkey's "Stray" review here, but the best examples of these art house games should be able to cleverly communicate their story through visuals and sound without relying too much on text or narration.
My question is this — Edith Finch uses a lot of voice acting and narration to tell the story. How effective do you think the narration is when compared against an Inside or Journey that stick to audio/visual storytelling?
One thing I love about this game is it's imagination in telling every family members story. Taking all of the stories on the whole, what are some overarching themes that you took from the game yourself?
@Capnbobamous regarding THE OUTER WILDS
Your video was absolutely fantastic. Not only did you articulate how the game plays, but you really put your own voice into what the game means to you. I know you already touched on this in your presentation, but like I just asked JD, what are some overarching themes that you took away from the game on a personal level?
Without having played it (yet), it's my understanding that The Outer Wilds is one of the most recent games that seems to be pushing the video game artform forward. Do you agree that TOW is raising the bar and how do you think this title is affecting the industry going forward?
Thanks to both of you!
JDINCINERATOR last edited by
1). The impact of Edith Finch's storytelling draws you into the stories of each Finch family member, as well as Edith's anecdotes-without them the atmosphere and sense of eloquence would be reduced, I think. Journey and Inside are remarkable expressionistic indie games, but they don't rely on words to tell their stories, whereas Edith Finch is about the past and the narration is imperative to make us care about what is going on.
2). For a small game, Edith Finch packs in some very eye-opening themes. Besides the obvious subjects of death and memory, the game's individual stories give us a myriad of themes. Childhood imagination, mental health, the fragility of life, horror, the idea of a curse and loneliness are all laid bare.
In an effort to make it easier to digest when looking through the aggregation post, I'm gonna answer every question in a separate post.
Response to @ffff0
There's a lot of aspects to your question so I'll go through it section by section.
While time mechanic is crucial to this game’s narrative and design, it can also be frustrating in so many ways. You may run out of time while exploring some location or solving some puzzle, which means that you have to redo everything again.
I can understand your frustration here, however it is something that has never bothered me. For one, every time that happened to me it was because I had spent the rest of the loop doing something else. There are no puzzles that require the entire loop aside from the very last one, which means that whenever I ran out of time whilst exploring, it's because I took too long to start exploring that location. And that's fine! It's how the game works, and all it means is that on the next loop I'll go there first, or as soon as it's available.
At worst, it's a minor inconvenience, however, I wouldn't even call it that. I think there's something thrilling about that race against time. Okay, I just started exploring this area, and now I hear the music that plays right before the loop ends, I better hurry! It's a fun way to add stakes to what you are doing without making it unfair, because like I said, if you don't see everything you can just go there first thing the next loop.
Sometimes this may mean repeating some challenging navigation or trying to remember how exactly you’ve got to where you were. This pushes you to do everything as fast as possible and if you rush at the wrong moment, you’ll miss some important clue.
I think this is fun. It's exciting and intense, because you're right, if you rush at the wrong moment, you will miss something. I don't think that's an inconvenience, it's a feature. Outer Wilds is generally a very chill game, and yet occasionally, as the loop begins to end, you have to rush, You have to make split second decisions, no time to second guess yourself. Sometimes you succeed, and sometimes you fail, and never once did my failures turn me off from the game. The loop ends, I exhale, smile, and vow to get back where I was as soon as possible next time. It's fun.
And the game never makes it unfair. You never have to guess if you missed something, because your quest log will always tell you if you have to go back and re-explore a location. Maybe you have to redo some difficult navigation, however this time you find it's less difficult because now you know what to do. You've already done it, it's easier now.
Also I think I should mention that you shouldn't feel stressed about clearing every location fast. You literally have an infinite amount of time to do things across multiple loops, so I don't agree that you feel like you have to rush through every location. The only time I ever rushed was in those brief moments before the end of the loop. Generally I think the game has a rather relaxed atmosphere.
Additionally, there are several locations, including one vital, that can be get into only during extremely short timeframes, so if you weren’t in the right spot at the right time, you will be lost. I believe developers even admitted that clues for getting into that vital location are too faint and lots of players are struggling with it (including me – I’ve got there by lucky accident, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to finish this game without a guide).
Do you agree that player’s enjoyment of this game is luck-based?
Pretty sure I know what puzzle you're talking about, and I agree it's kind of obtuse, however I don't think that one instance is representative of the game at large. And as is the case with nearly every puzzle in the game, once you know the solution, getting to that location is never difficult again. So to your point of certain locations having very brief windows of entry, that's true, however if you know how to get there the game does an excellent job of making sure you're aware of what that window is. At that point, it's very easy to get to that location on time.
This is a hypothetical example, but let's say there's a location that I know opens up at 12 minutes into the loop, and shortly after it opens, the entrance closes. The game has made it abundantly clear the time I need to be there. It's on me to get there on time. If I don't make it, that's the not the game's fault, it's mine. So yeah, the entrance is only open 30 seconds, but if I'm not there when it opens, that's my bad. And if I don't make it, oh well, I'll lick my wounds and do it right the next loop. That's the beauty of Outer Wilds.
Capnbobamous last edited by
This post is deleted!
Response to @Brannox
Sure, I agree it's a detriment when trying to convince people to play it, however it's not a detriment to the game. If anything, I think it illuminates just how excellent the game's surprises are. I don't wish to spoil things for you because I truly think they are worth experiencing for yourself. That shouldn't be considered a flaw of the game, it just means that it had such an impact on me that I would like for it to have that same impact on you. The game is built on a mystery, to spoil the mystery would be a disservice to you and your experience with it.
I think the game absolutely does a good job of keeping track of your discoveries and guiding you to certain places. In your ship you have quest log of sorts that, rather than tell you where to go, tells you what you have learned. It will also put big question marks for places that your log mentions but you have not yet been. For instance, let's say that you learn something about the planet Ember Twin, but you haven't been there yet. The game will put what you know about Ember Twin under a great big question mark, telling you that you have not yet been there. It's a subtle way of guiding you in that, if you have a question mark, it means you should go there. It will also let you know if you missed something at a place you have already been, so that you know should go back and explore it some more. The quest log does an excellent job of keeping track of what you know and subtly guiding you to where you need to be, and yet it actively avoids damaging the joy of discovery.
edit: It's late so I will answer the rest of the questions tomorrow, as well as ask my own.