Archive for September 2010

ArcaniA: Gothic 4

September 26, 2010

I recently purchased Gothic 3 and it’s expansion pack and I’m about 24 hours into the main game. While I enjoy many aspects of Gothic 3, and I even like the world they’ve created better than The Elder Scrolls universe, there are some serious problems with the game. Even with all the official patches and the fan made community patches the game is buggy. It also runs poorly on my machine, stuttering often and just providing that sense of “not quite finished” throughout the entirety.

The two worst parts of the game are the animations, which are just terrible. The swing of your sword is a simple back and forth motion that is aweful the first time you see it, and it gets worse as the hours progress. The second and worst offender is the voice acting. While the voice actors themselves aren’t all bad the majority of them are, and the dialog is C-Movie quality. I’m sure this is because the developers are German and it was localized into English.

Arcania Gothic 4 - 2010-04-15 14

What does all of this have to do with ArcaniA? The first thing is that I wish I hadn’t played the demo. An hour later and now I’m not sure I can go back for the 30+ hours of Gothic 3 I have left. ArcaniA gets so many things right that I went from not caring, to possible game of the year (for me).

The action takes place in third person with a wonderfully fluid control. This is the one thing I have always been angry about in regards to the Elder Scrolls. They include a third person view but it’s clunky and a nightmare to try and play the game in. Third person really makes a game more enjoyable for me. At least in RPGs.

I can’t speak for the quest flow of the game as I’ve only played the tightly controlled demo area, which was really enjoyable but perhaps not a good example of the actual game. I enjoyed the fact that it’s a new unnamed hero and not a continuation of the Gothic 1-3 characters, especially since the dialog in Gothic 3 made me dislike each and every one of them.

The level up system is much more intelligent and easy to manage this time around. You don’t have to find trainers to upgrade the odd abilities like “hunting” anymore. You get a skill panel where you can update your abilities each time you level up, moving the game more in line with contemporary RPGs. The combat, even the ranged combat, is much more entertaining that Gothic 3 or even Oblivions combat. You must actively block, dodge, and parry. They even included an idea from The Witcher and at the end of your swing your weapon will glow a faint yellow. If you click attack again while it is glowing you will do a flurry of attacks.

The game is still buggy, but it’s simply a demo. A demo that came out before the release of the game and it may not represent the final quality. If it does I might wait for a patch or two as the textures of clothes, even in close up conversation, often defaulted to a VERY low res texture that looked hideous. Add to that the “seams” of the terrain would show and the dialog isn’t much better than in Gothic 3.

Even with these faults I can’t wait for ArcaniA. There is just one thing I think they REALLY screwed up on. Calling it ArcaniA. I know the final capital A is for effect and that is fine, but when you are referencing your world and IN PARAGRAPH you say something like “explore the vast lanscape of ArcaniA and find adventure and excitement. Really? Ugh.

http://raptr.com/amuntoth/raptrcard

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“Professional” Video Game “Journalism”

September 24, 2010

bribery

Let me start by saying that I am by no means an expert on the subject. I can and am wrong sometimes and, if you believe my wife, I am pretty much always wrong. That being said this is the business as I understand it and if I am wrong, let me know. Just make sure you provide some kind of proof, either an article or interview with someone knowledgeable on the subject, or be yourself someone in the industry.

I don’t agree with the term Video Game News. At least not on any professional level. I think that using words like news and  journalism in regards to video games is misleading. To me these words imply a neutral and relatively unbiased point of view. Sadly that is simply not something you can find in this industry and there are some very simple reasons why not.

The first and biggest reason is that video game sites are completely beholden to the publishers and developers for their content. Sure they could give a AAA game a terrible score, and on the rare occasion they do, but they need to be careful and toe the line. If they piss off a developer or publisher they may not be sent early review copies of future games, which means everyone will go to their competitors sites to get reviews.

Add onto that developer interviews, gameplay clips, invites to press events and other exclusive content, or at least content that will keep them on par with all the other sites. Piss off the developers or publishers and you could find your site no better off than your average blogger, playing video games after they come out and re-bloging information from other sites.

Don’t believe anything like that could happen? It’s happening all the time. Remember the big stink when Jeff Gerstmann was fired from GameSpot? GameSpot never officially cited any reason for the termination but it came just after Gerstmann gave Kane & Lynch: Dead Men a fair rating. Eidos Interactive, the publisher of Kane & Lynch, is rumored to have put pressure on the site until Gerstmann was fired, a rumor that seems reinforced by the fact that the entire GameSpot site had a Kane & Lynch theme at the time, and Eidos Interactive was advertising the game heavily on the site.

For other examples do you think you can trust reviews in publications such as Official Xbox Magazine or Nintendo Power? We’ve all seen those periods in gaming where nothing really good is coming out. Do you think you could open those magazines and see the truth? That all of the games that came out for that system in a given month were bad? Of course not. It’s just not in their financial interest.

To me a real news source should be able to tell the truth, even if it destroys the subject they are covering. It’s the entire reason we have Freedom of Speech, so news agencies can report about what they have discovered, even if the government or other sources don’t like it. In games “journalism” there is no real “news”. Almost all information is hand fed from publishers to the “press” and it is only what the publishers want you to know.

Even the “editorials” in game journalism can’t be unbiased. They still have to be on their toes so they don’t piss off the hand that feeds them. To me this completely removes them from the pool of News media.

Does all of this mean that I don’t like gaming “news” sites? Of course not. I still enjoy editorials on Kotaku, MMORPG.com and others. I will always enjoy videos such as Sessler’s Soapbox on G4tv.com and video reviews from gametrailers.com. I even enjoy written reviews and they can be unbiased to a degree. You just need to ignore the “numbered” review and read the actual article. Often times a reviewer will slam a game in the written article and still give the game an 8 or above.

In short: If your “news” is handed to you by those you report on, you are an unpaid publicist, not a news source.

Good God I am never going to get a job in the gaming industry now.