Archive for the ‘Review’ category

Sundemo

June 19, 2011

Welcome to this weeks Sunday Demo. I know it’s been a while, but let’s get on with it. So what’s this weeks game? Dungeon Siege III, demo available now on Steam or Xbox360. Let’s get down to it.

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I played this demo on both the 360 and my PC. I’ll be covering it mostly from the PC perspective, as that’s really the one I care about. The first thing you’ll notice about Dungeon Siege III, without even starting a new game, is that it was designed around the consoles, with the PC being a port. The next thing you’ll notice is the graphics, which are far and above any other Diablo style Action RPG game out now. Of course they’ve decided to make the game very dark, visually. My guess is that they made the game this dark to appease those people who complained that Diablo was too bright, but they might have overdone it a little. Often I couldn’t tell what was going on, and adjusting the gamma just made everything look washed out. Still, I am truly impressed by the visuals on Dungeon Siege III.

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The next thing you’ll probably notice is that it controls like a retarded cripple elephant. I understand wanting your game to be unique, but taking everything good about action RPG controls and throwing them out the window is not the way to do that. The WASD controls will move your character and swivel the camera, but pressing right goes left sometimes and right others, depending on if you are pressing up or down at the time. It’s downright confusing and stupid, so you’ll most likely use the mouse to move around Diablo style. Of course, that’s if you can get past the fact that you won’t use the mouse buttons for anything but combat and movement. What does that mean? Well if you see some armor on the ground you’d like to have, you’ll have to walk near it and press E, not left mouse button. Things only get more confusing from there.

You press F, not C, to look at your character, I isn’t used for inventory, and you don’t aim at what your cursor is targeting. Instead the game chooses what enemy you are aiming at, based on what direction you last walked in. That means, if you want to run away a bit while firing, you’ll only be able to fire in the direction you are running. This get’s VERY frustrating when you’re surrounded by enemies and trying to pick off that ranged caster that’s destroying you. Instead the game will auto lock on anything in between the two of you, and you’ll have no choice but to kill that target first, or run over to the caster.

Combat is another interesting change from the traditional Diablo style games. You’ll fight small waves of enemies, usually four or five at a time, and until you get another squad mate you’ll be dying often, at least until you figure out the clunky, stupid controls. On the console they work fine, but for a PC game it should be a crime. The combat gets pretty intense, and it forces you to switch between AOE stances and single target stance, as well as a defensive stance used to heal yourself or gain buffs. I really enjoyed the combat, when the controls weren’t interfering, but it was pretty difficult in the early going. Once I got access to a companion though it became much more manageable.

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Overall the game was pretty fun, if a bastard of a PC port. The biggest complain I found, other than the terrible controls and UI, was the map system. You get a small minimap which you can make SLIGHTLY bigger, and that’s it. Have a quest and no idea where to go? Go F yourself, cause you’ll be wondering around with absolutely no idea where you’re going. The only thing that saves this from being the HORRID problem is that the game seemed pretty linear, at least from the demo, so it’s a little more difficult to get lost. I’ll pick it up, but I’ll probably wait for a Steam sale.

I REALLY Want To Like Vanguard

May 23, 2011

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Flying around the Isle of Dawn on a pegasus. Good times.

Due to the recent problems with SOE they gave me a free 45 days of Vanguard: Saga of Heroes. Before this I had only ever played the demo, and never gave it a serious try. Well, after just over a week of gameplay I think I’m done with the game. Is it because it’s a bad game? Nope. So what’s the problem? Well, first why don’t we cover the reasons why I want to love Vanguard.

-Things I Love About Vanguard-

Three Spheres: Character progression in Vanguard is split into three spheres. Adventuring includes your usual questing/killing mobs. Crafting is just what it sounds like, and Diplomacy is a collectable card game. Each of these spheres levels independently, and theoretically you could get to the level cap in Diplomacy without ever attacking a mob. You’ll get quests for all three spheres, depending on your level, and each sphere can be a lot of fun.

Leveling Speed: The leveling in Vanguard is MUCH slower than something like WoW, and I play MMOs to level. Once I get to end game I get bored quickly and start a new alt, so making the initial leveling take longer is something I can really get behind. When you consider the fact that each character has three spheres to get to level cap, this increases the leveling time exponentially, and really sends you out to explore the world.

Interesting Classes: Oftentimes MMOs have only a handful of classes, and they usually are pretty standard fair. A warrior, paladin, some kind of rogue, a non-magic ranged dps and a mage and priest. Vanguard has some truly unique and interesting classes, like the Psionicist.

Crafting is Amazing: Seriously, I used to think Everquest II had the best crafting in the MMO space, but I’ve changed my mind after delving into it on Vanguard. Not only can you level crafting completely independent of adventuring, including gear that looks cool and has stats effecting crafting, but each time you craft anything you gain skill. Once you’ve gained enough skill new abilities become available to use, if you have the right tools that is.

The Isle of Dawn Story: I can’t speak for the entirety of the outside world, but the story inside the Isle of Dawn was interesting, much more so than any MMO story I’ve run into yet. It had surprise twists that changed how things were playing out, especially if you read the information you get from the Diplomacy quests and Diplomacy itself.

Size of the World: The outside world, once you leave the Isle of Dawn, is vast. I mean, seriously you aren’t going to get across it anytime soon. It’s so big you’re given a mount right away in order to allow you to get from place to place in a good amount of time.

Different Places Are Different: What the heck does that mean? Simply that when you go to a new country in this game it really is a different country. You’ll have to learn entirely different crafting styles appropriate to the region you are in.

Defensive Target: I’ve loved this in every game I’ve ever seen it in. There is something amazing about being able to target an enemy while also keeping a friendly targeted for heals, hots, buffs etc. There’s no excuse not to have it in this day and age, and Vanguard has it.

Multiple ‘Energy’ Bars: Each class I tried had two energy bars, mana and stamina. When I use a melee ability it drains stamina, but if I cast it drains mana. It makes a lot of sense, but I haven’t seen it in many other games. Usually you get one type of energy, often mana, and that’s used for all of your abilities.

-What I Dislike About Vanguard-

Graphics: First off I know some people like this style of graphics, but I find anything with the ‘SOE style’ atrocious and just ugly as sin. The character models are a mix between EQ and EQII, both of which have some terrible character models, and that makes Vanguards characters truly awful to behold. From their massive shoulders to the odd stance they are always in, from the textures to the animations the characters in Vanguard are FUGLY. The landscape isn’t much better. It’s well designed to be sure, but the art department apparently couldn’t afford anything but fired SOE terribad artists. The worst part about the graphics is what I like to call “PS2” lighting. Many SOE games, including EQ, EQII and Vanguard, have what I like to think of as early PS2 lighting. It’s flat and does nothing to warm the world. It leaves everything 2 dimensional and boring, and I hope it doesn’t invade “EQ Next”.

Diplomacy is Frustrating: I’m OK with failing sometimes. I don’t like to, but it makes the winning so much sweeter. My ideal form of diplomacy in Vanguard would be designing a deck out of hundreds of cards and having it used in ALL diplomacy missions, with maybe a backup deck or two for those few types of battles my deck just can’t handle. Instead you are given a handful of cards, and every parley starts the same: Click diplomacy option, start match, get smoked while observing what types of cards they use and what their Bullshit cards take to fuel, then building a deck around that, then failing and refining until you win, then doing the same for the next parley. Imagine having to spend twenty minutes, and several deaths, for every mob you fought in a game. It’s horrible, and it’s designed horribly. A good idea that just wasn’t implemented well.

It’s Dying: I know people throw that around a lot in the world of MMOs, but Vanguard really is. According to the official website, the last update was over a year ago, and that was a hotfix. They simply aren’t developing ANYTHING new for the game, and while that doesn’t stop me from enjoying the content already there, it does make it feel like my achievements are less permanent.

The Combat Feels…Off: I can’t really explain this one too well. The basic idea is that it feels floaty. I’ll kill mobs, only to have them finish whatever animation they were doing, even a long casting animation, before falling to the ground. You press the button for attacks and it doesn’t feel responsive, and sometimes the graphic shows your cooldown as over, but the button won’t press for another few seconds.  The running and jumping feels just as floaty, but it’s the odd lag in the combat that gets me most. It reminds me of the same laggy feeling LOTRO first had with it’s combat, which has since been improved, if not fixed completely. At least in EverQuest II the combat feels gratifying and forceful, especially when you complete a combo and get a big animation for your spell. Vanguard just falls flat in this area.

-What Does This Mean?-

Well the three biggest parts of the game, Adventuring, Crafting and Diplomacy, are great ideas. I just don’t happen to like the implementation of two of them. I really enjoy the crafting, but that’s simply not enough to keep me involved, especially without an Ultima Online style economy. I wanted to enjoy Vanguard and play it till end game, but I couldn’t last more than a week. Sure, it might pick up, but the core of the experience isn’t going to change anytime soon, and I’m not going to keep playing a game I’m just not really enjoying in the hopes that it will magically become enjoyable for me.

I won’t get rid of the game from my hardrive, at least for the rest of the 45 days I got free, and I may give it another go as I try to get farther in the game, but I simply doubt it. I’ve got other games to play, and other MMOs to play if that’s what I feel like. For instance, I’m currently re-downloading EQII for my free 45 days of that game. Let me know what you think/thought of the game in the comments.

See you all around.

Assassin’s Creed:Brotherhood Review

April 25, 2011

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Talk to the hands gentlemen.

I’ve been a fan of the Assassin’s Creed series since  I heard that the first game would be set in the ancient middle east. Once I got the game and experienced the setting for the first time I was hooked, and not on the ancient setting. The story of Desmond Miles is much more interesting to me than either Altair or Ezio Auditore Da Firenze, and I had decided that while I liked the AC series, I was probably going to skip Brotherhood due to it’s multiplayer heavy nature and what I assumed would be a lackluster story of Ezio just tacked on.

Boy was I wrong. Brotherhood is just as much a standalone game as Assassin’s Creed II is, even more in some cases. The truth is that they should have called the game Assassin’s Creed III. Sure, it’s still Ezio and the overarching Desmond plot isn’t moved forward as much as I had hoped, but the story was enjoyable and more importantly Brotherhood showed me that they weren’t going to keep the series stale gameplay wise.

While the controls are mostly unchanged from II there are some minor changes, a few major ones, and some multiplayer specific cntrols that I am hoping they port over to the single player campaign. Specifically the targeting control. In the multiplayer you can press the middle mouse button and move your cursor to your target,. When you let go the target will be locked. In the single player game you have to face a target, hope it guesses the right one, then press the lock button. It will then decide to lock on to other enemies for no apparent reason, especially if you are trying to shoot someone with the gun for a 100% sync.

The single most important change between II and Brotherhood is the fact that you are put in charge of recruiting and ‘training’ new assassins. This takes the form of rescuing potential recruits from the Borgia’s men, then inviting them into the Assassin’s Guild. After that you can call them in at any time to help kill your targets, or use them to distract enemies while you get away. Keep an eye on them though as they can be killed. Your other option for getting your recruits more XP is to send them on missions in other cities around Europe. This is mostly a fire and forget scenario but it really drew me in, from the stories to the personalization of each recruit. I had a special recruit who had been with me much longer than the others, so I gave him a nice dye job for his robes.

Eventually your recruits, if you spend enough time on them, will graduate to full on Assassins. This doesn’t mean you can’t use them anymore, in fact they become killing machines that will help you whenever you need them. This is especially helpful when you get in over your head and are surrounded by dozens of guards. There is nothing more satisfying than looking out over a wave of Borgia men, pressing a simple button three times and seeing five badass Assassins come flying down from the rooftops to help eliminate your foes.

The graphics are starting to show their age, though I still couldn’t run it at full settings due to my new interim graphics card being crap. Still, even when I turned the settings to full they weren’t the best, even of console ports. It’s still a pretty game, just not breathtaking like the first Assassin’s Creed was. The sound is still good, just nothing amazing. You won’t be immersed in the setting like you would with a game like Bioshock, but the sound effects and music are still enjoyable enough.

The multiplayer is, next to the Assassin recruits, the breakout of the series. I wish there were more people playing it, as it’s sometimes hard to find a game on the PC, but the gameplay is much more interesting and unique than any other multiplayer I have ever experienced. There is NOTHING like the feeling of being hunted by half the people in the match, and knowing they are closing in, all the while you are trying to find that one person you are hunting. You can slip into a group of NPCs that look like your character, walk around a bit and when one of your hunters tackles the man next to you, you can punch him in the back of the head and knock him out, giving you time to slip away into the crowded streets.

Your kill to death ratio probably won’t be as high in Brotherhood as it would be in say, Black Ops, but it’s more about HOW you kill your target. You’ll get a measly 100 points if you sprint after your target through the crowded streets, but if you manage to blend into a crowd and wait patiently for your target to walk past and stab him without breaking cover you’ll get 500 points, but you need to pay attention to the time left, as well as the people hunting you.

It’s a constant give and take, choosing when to go for your kills, and knowing when your target is going to get away. It also feels amazing once you’ve leveled up enough to get the pistol. Then you can know your target is going to get away and drop all pretense. You can then take them out at range as a last “F You” before they escape over the rooftops.

All in all I think that Brotherhood is by far the best of the series. I hope they include the recruits and multiplayer in Assassin’s Creed III, but even if they don’t all they have to do is continue where Desmond leaves off at the last moments of Brotherhood for me to buy it as soon as it comes to PC.

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Rift Beta 4: The Likes

January 11, 2011

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The day Telara exploded.

Last time I talked about Rift it was the negatives and things I was worried about due to Beta 4. At the end of that I said I was still going to buy the game, but I didn’t get into any detail as to why. The following should clear that up and I hope will help push a few more readers to pick up this great game.

First of all let’s get the “it’s generic” argument out of the way. It’s true the game has very few “signature moves” so to speak. They aren’t touting something new to MMOs and that’s led a lot of people to write the game off without bothering to see more. But let’s look at some of the amazing games that have brought something new to the genre recently.

Warhammer Online – WAR brought the idea, as far as I know, of public quest. Quests that are zone wide and you don’t need to talk to anyone to accept the quest or help out.

Age of Conan – Amazing new melee combat with finishing moves that give Mortal Kombat a run for it’s money as far as blood goes.

Tabula Rasa – A more shooter oriented control scheme and a drastically different setting, making it a space aged shooter instead of a fantasy world. Perhaps not the first but one of the most high profile.

Auto Assault – A new setting of apocalyptic cars or whatever. You controlled a Twisted Metal meets Mad Max style monstrosity in a never ending destruction derby.

Matrix Online – It’s combat system was one of the more interesting things I’ve seen in any MMO in years. It was also, again, not fantasy.

Lego Universe – With it’s focus on building instead of questing Lego Universe might be the most unique MMO I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing in action.

Now, there are many more MMOs that have come out recently touting one or more things that make them unique, and while a few on this list haven’t failed, and Lego Universe is too young to pass judgment on, can we honestly say that having something new and unique made these games amazing? Are we all still impressed with Public Quests? Hell, most of us were tired of PQs by the end of the beta. Did Age of Conan’s blood and interesting melee combat matter when you got to mid game and realized they didn’t have time to implement quests or sieges? How are Tabula Rasa, Auto Assault and Matrix Online doing with their unique bits?

The point here is that originality doesn’t make for a good game. In fact, some of the best games in other genres have focused more on polish than on innovation. Bioshock had nothing in it that wasn’t in other shooters, but it did everything just right. Same with Starcraft II and the RTS genre, or Uncharted II and the third person platformer/shooter genre. What about New Vegas? That was basically Fallout 3, and yet it was done so well, and with just a simple change of location, that the game was amazing.

So no, Rift isn’t unique, and it doesn’t have a “gimmick” like other MMOs that have come out or are coming out. Instead Rift has focused on making a good game, on perfected what they took from other games in the genre. What they’ve come up with, even in BETA, is one of the more fun MMOs I’ve played in a few years. Rift may or may not hold me through it’s end game, but it’ll definitely be enough to get me to end game.

Now that I’ve had my rant on originality, let’ get to the bullet point style list:

Rifts, while I am worried about them late in the games life, can be extremely fun and addictive. Are they an interesting way to get players to grind? Of course, that’s what any quest is, but that doesn’t make it not fun. In fact, on Sunday when Trion did the MASSIVE fire invasion, where the entire zone exploded in fire rifts and everyone had to run around closing rifts, fighting off invasions, and finally tracking down and murdering a high ranking Fire general, well that was the most fun I’ve had in any MMO since trying to sell fish stakes in front of the Brittania bank.

Another thing both me and my wife loved were the artifacts. Much like EverQuest II’s collectibles, even copying the “ball of golden light on the ground” look of them, Rift’s collectibles are something we both really enjoy. Neither of us plays EQII anymore, so having this feature in a game we do play is going to be a blast, whether you get anything for it or not, it gives the player something to do other than just fight.

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Some of the spell effects are just badass.

Having your character not look like a retarded moose through most of the game is also a huge plus. This is due to the fact that, like Warhammer Online, you seem to have certain “looks” for certain level ranges, and while sometimes you’ll get something drastically different, for the most part you look pretty good. Add to this the fact that there are dyes in the game and, assuming they don’t suddenly open a cash shop and charge for black dye, your character can look as cool as you want. Does it dye the entire armor piece? No, just certain parts depending on the armor, which I couldn’t be happier about. There’s nothing worse for breaking immersion that running across GROGNAK TEH DESTRAWER in a flood fill bright pink plate outfit.

The PVP, while they did screw up by making it ten levels per bracket, was extremely fun. The battles were quick, which was nice, but still intense. There was a variation on Warhammer Online’s Murder Ball, but it was made much more fun by the quickness with which it kills the carrier, the turnover rate, and the fact that you got more points the farther you carried the ‘ball’ away from your base.

The leveling experience, from 1-20 at least, is just a blast if you like Theme Park MMOs. The questlines carry you through the zone, keeping you in appropriate levels and making sure you have a good time. Feeling bored of that? Head off the beaten path to get some more crafting materials or to look for artifacts. Better yet, go close some of those Rifts you see on the map. Tired of questing and rifting? Que up for some Warfronts. Is any of Rift truly unique other than the setting, which is still fantasy based? Nope. Is Rift one of the MMOs I am most excited to play? You bet. Sadly Beta 4 is over, and unless the never few betas are 30-40 or end game I doubt I’ll be playing more. Why? Rift only has two starting zones, and unless you have the option of going through many different zones for each level range after level twenty then I don’t want to burn myself out on the content before I start the character that really matters.

All I can say though is that if Rift wants to keep me for more than a year they better add a new starting zone in the first expansion. Heck, while they are doing that it might as well be for a third faction entirely. Maybe the death dragon faction? Who’d turn down a three way faction Warfront? Not me that’s for sure. Oh, but that has been done before, so I guess they shouldn’t worry about it.

Leave a comment and let me know what you think.

Sunday Demo: Winter Voices

January 10, 2011

WinterVoices

The name doesn’t make sense until you jump into this odd, episodic game.

I picked up Winter Voices for this weeks demo mainly because the cover art looked pretty. I’m not kidding here, but that’s the point. To randomly pick up demos and give them a try. When I picked up the game I didn’t realize that it was episodic and that the demo was just the first part of the prologue. Does this episodic game need to have it’s show cancelled, or is it destined to keep you coming back for each new episode?

Winter Voices starts out like an RPG, which I was kind of surprised about. You are a young woman in a very small village, with no option to change your sex. This isn’t a deal breaker by any means, but being a man it can sometimes be difficult for me to get behind a female avatar in an RPG. I’m sure the ladies in the audience understand.

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You must choose from one of three professions, and the game says that it will play out drastically different depending on your choice here. Sadly for the first time player there are really only two options, as the third is only for veterans. You might scoff at that, but until you’ve played the game you won’t really understand why it’s important to listen to the game when it tells you to pick on of the other two professions if it’s your first time.

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Next is the stat select screen. You’re allowed to allocate fifty points into any of six stats, but again until you play the game you won’t really understand what some of these options will do for you. Memory for example increases the XP you receive, but also increases the damage you take. When I first read that I was a little confused as to why having a better memory would cause you to get hurt more, but it all makes sense once you get into the game.

After that you’ll pick an avatar for your character ala Baldur’s Gate, then generate the 3D model your character will use. You don’t have a ton of options, with three or four outfits with different colors and a handful of hairstyles, but character creation is not what Winter Voices is about. The narrative is where Winter Voices things it’s strength lies, and it may later on in the game, but from my experience it is the combat sections that really made Winter Voices stand out.

Story wise you play a young woman whose aloof father has just died.

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Right there. DED.

The art style is something to behold, the cutscenes done in a ‘painted’ comic book style and the main game in a unique, washed out style that really caught my eye. It controls a lot like Fallout with an isometric camera and a point and click interface. The resolutions leave something to be desired as there are only five or six. I had a large black border around the game world, like old Ultima Online, but it didn’t bother me as the game uses that space to hold the UI elements.

Once you enter the game world you’ll quickly get into your first combat situation, and you’ll realize how different this RPG is from other games in the genre. For instance your combat seems more focused on escaping, not fighting. You’ll gain abilities that will help you get away, or prevent damage, and I assume that eventually you’ll be able to fight back, but you couldn’t in the demo and I think the game is better for it.

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Winter Voices has a pretty crazy looking skill tree with tons of skills. Each one is pretty unique and it’s fun to figure out how you could use each one.

You won’t just be spamming a flee button either, you’ll be navigating the battlefield like in Fallout, with a certain amount of movement points per turn and a grid to walk on. Your job is to figure out how to use your skills and abilities, as well as the terrain, to get away from the enemies without taking enough damage to kill you. This includes both setting and avoiding traps as well. Luckily you get an ability early on that allows you to find traps, if you want to waste a turn to do so.

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It’s important to realize that Winter Voices is not a traditional RPG. It feels more like an adventure survival horror game at times, and though it might not be unique it certainly was a new concept to me. The presentation is pretty amazing for the $5 price tag, though the dialog and spelling could have used a few more checks before it was released. At times it almost feels like a foreign title, which it is, but the translation is acceptable and can be intriguing at times.

One thing I wanted to touch on quickly was the save and loading system. Any RPG could learn a thing or two from it, especially the Western RPGs like The Elder Scrolls and Gothic. When you load a game, you are presented with a list of characters. You choose which character you want to load, then it will show you all of the saves that were made for that character. This would have been a life saver with Oblivion, and there were even entire programs developed to better organize Oblivions terrible save system.

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In short this is one of the best demos I have tried since starting the Sunday Demo Review. I highly recommend at least giving it a download, and at $5 per episode I’m going to enjoy tearing through the interesting story and gameplay style for a while, and the episodic nature of the game means I won’t be getting tired of the mechanics by the time I finish, and I’ll be drooling for another go by the time the next episode drops.

Rift Beta 4: So Far

January 9, 2011

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By the power of Grayskull! I have the power!

Beta 4 isn’t over, but I’m taking a small break from my powergaming session to give you my impressions so far. Luckily both me and my wife were able to get beta access this time without preordering, so we’ve been able to play together like we usually do. What do we think? Let’s get to it.

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Rift is an amazingly beautiful game.

We started two new characters for this beta, since we would be playing together. We went with red headed, green eyes dwarves without really talking about it at all. What we did talk about was what classes we would be. I chose a tanking warrior, Reaver to be specific, and she picked a healing Cleric. Eventually I added beastmaster which I don’t plan to waste any points on, I just wanted the pet, and then I chose the tank soul that is focused on magic, which turned out to be pretty cool.

We’ve been running around, leveling as quickly as we can and closing all the Rifts we come across. It’s been a blast, but I’m not going to lie and say that there haven’t been some issues. Less for me than for my wife, but they were still there.

One of the major issues is PVP balance. Trion decided to go with the 10-19, 20-29 brackets for PVP, which means you won’t be PVPing for most of the game. This is the stupidest decision you can make in a PVP game. A level 10 is completely useless against what will quickly be all level 17-19’s, just like WoW in the past. I can imagine it quickly becoming a scream fest when you load in at level 11, and everyone starts cursing you out for gimping the team and telling you to come back at 17. They don’t even have Warhammer’s “fake level up” thing.

Another issue is figuring out what classes people are. As far as I can tell there is absolutely no way for me to see what souls someone is using. That means I have to take someone’s word for it if I’m looking for a healer or tank for a dungeon. This doesn’t matter to me right now, as I’ll be tanking while my wife heals, but I can imagine this becoming a HUGE issue once the game launches.

My wife noticed something I hadn’t, and while it wasn’t a negative for me it certainly was for her. Once you get to the city of Sanctum you’ll run around and get a ton of quests. These quests vary wildly between PVP, PVE, and Dungeons. They also vary wildly in location in which they can be completed and level range. While some out there will love this random assortment of quests, my wife found it immensely annoying that this quest hub didn’t give her the normal small amount of quests that could be completed relatively close by.

Some professions we discovered were much harder to level than others. For example, I chose to go Armorsmithing and after I make something I can destroy it for a chance of getting my matts back, so I can use those e for the next item. This system is amazing and I wish I had it in every game. Unfortunately my wife went Artificer, and quickly found out that not only is it harder to find the materials to make Artificer items, but you are unable to break them down into their component parts. This means that, while I might get 20 skill points out of 15 ore, she could at most get 15. That might not seem like a lot, but it does add up. Silly? Yes. Annoying? Yes again.

Bag space is extremely limited as well. It almost feels like a Free to Play game that sells bags on a cash shop with how limited you are in bag slots. I spent every bit of money I had on the highest level of bags I could find and I still ran out of room constantly. I’ve never liked limited inventory in RPGs in the first place, but this is extreme. Why should I be forced to run back to town every few minutes to sell stuff when I would rather be out enjoying the world and NPCs I come across?

The worst offender so far though is that the Rifts can quickly get out of hand. You may find, once you move into the level 18+ areas, that all of your quest hubs are conquered by invasions, and that unless you have a large group of high level players you are going to be grinding for a while. This leads to many players banding together to defend and retake quest hubs, but it can also be annoying if you’re one of the only people around. For those that don’t know the Invasions aren’t like Rifts. The Invasions spawn dozens of monsters, all ELITE. This means you can’t pick them off one at a time solo either, so you WILL need MANY players to help you retake it. Especially if they are all level 17 mobs and you are level 12, at the level 12 quest hub. Yes this can and DOES happen.

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Lines for quest mobs are a fact of life in the beta.

With all that said I am still extremely excited about Rift. Will my wife be preordering and playing my pocket healer when the game comes out? It’s too early to tell, as there has been some issues between the game and her, but we’ll see by the end of this beta event. As for me, I’ll be preordering as soon as I can, though I may try and avoid the next few beta events, so I don’t suffer burnout. Or perhaps I’ll just play the Defiler side, since I like the Guardian side a LOT more and will be playing that at launch.

After the end of Beta 4 on Monday you’ll see another post from me discussing the things I disliked, AND the things I liked from Beta 4. I just wanted to hop on and give you all something to chew on while I continue playing this wonderful game. I can’t wait for it’s launch.

Fallout: New Vegas Review

January 6, 2011

Several years ago, before the release of Fallout 3, I went back and played through the entirety of both Fallout and Fallout 2. I had never played them before, and by the time I finished with both I was practically drooling for Fallout 3. While I was initially displeased by it due to the shooter oriented combat, I eventually got over it and I truly enjoyed the third installment in the series. I went of to spend over 100 hours in the game on two different characters, which may be why I felt a little burnt out the second I started New Vegas.

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Vegas is filled with booze, hookers and gambling. In game too.

New Vegas is basically a very large expansion pack for Fallout 3. The graphics, gameplay and presentation are near identical aside from the new locale. Does that make it a bad game? Or not worth the $40 price tag? Let’s find out.

New Vegas opens with your character getting shot in the face by a man named Benny over a platinum poker chip. You’re left in a shallow grave to die, and rescued by a robot named Victor. Victor drops you off at the local doctors house where, and though it seems impossible, your character recovers. Now the odds that someone who was shot in the head would recover in a few days in the real world are slim. In the world of Fallout, where everything is rusty, dirty and old, the odds that your character would survive without a massive brain infection that would eventually kill you anyway seems impossible.

The doctor is there to ask you questions and assign stats to your character, though anything you don’t like you can always change before you leave his house. I didn’t like the way they used the doctor to generate your character, as I felt that often times it didn’t make sense. Such as when he asks you a series of questions and you tell him the first word that comes to mind. At the end the doctor simply tells you that he has no idea what any of that means because he doesn’t know you, so you should just evaluate yourself. Good job doc.

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Instead of a children’s book to allocate stats like in Fallout 3, in New Vegas you get a mechanical grip tester.

After the doctor patches you up he hands you his old vault clothing and his pip boy, something I can’t imagine anyone giving up lightly in the Fallout universe. Still, at least they came up with a new origin instead of falling back on the “You’re a vault dweller, and the first one to leave” story that we’ve seen in several Fallout games. It IS interesting enough to get the ball rolling, so I can’t complain too much.

The starting town of Goodsprings was pretty enjoyable for me. I found it more interesting than Megaton, though there was no option to nuke the place. Still, the citizens had more interesting motivations and stories than I expected, and I immediately got a creepy vibe from Victor that only got worse as the story progressed. Goodsprings itself is basically a tutorial for the game, though they have included an option to skip most of it for anyone who is familiar with the Fallout 3 combat. If you do skip it though you’ll miss out on some of the dialog from an old friend, the voice of Amata in Fallout 3 is your tutorial guide for New Vegas.

Some people have complained that New Vegas took a while to get going, but I’d have to disagree. Some of the most fun I had in the game was in Goodsprings and the surrounding areas. Though I was told the game picked up once you got to New Vegas, I found it to be the opposite. By the time I made it to New Vegas I was well into many of the faction storylines, and the Vegas content actually felt like a slow crawl for around five hours. Still, after that initial bump New Vegas was exciting, but it’s the wasteland that really made this game for me.

There were bugs, but nothing out of the ordinary for a Bethesda, or Obsidian for that matter, game. I did however start playing the game after the first patch that cleared up many of the major bugs, so I did get lucky there. Sadly there is one bug that I seem to have, and it causes the games launcher to crash nine out of ten times I open it. It’s easy to skip the launcher entirely, but I like to use Steam to launch my games, so I just dealt with the ridiculous crashing of the launcher. Once I got in game it was a fairly bug free experience for me, though I may have just gotten lucky.

The companions in New Vegas are a lot better than those of Fallout 3. Both in their inability to permanently die, something I hated in Fallout 3, and in their backstories and side quests. I was especially pleased with Veronica Santangelo, who was voiced by Felicia Day. A Brotherhood of Steel (my favorite faction) scribe, Veronica has ventured out alone into the wasteland to find resources for the local Brotherhood chapter. By following her quests I interacted with the local chapter of the Brotherhood of Steel, and was eventually accepted into their ranks as an honorary Paladin. This really had me excited, as the Brotherhood has always been my favorite faction in Fallout.

This was where my choices in the game came to a head. So far I had been following Mr. House, and I had decided that his was the faction that I was going to fight for on this playthrough. I had just finished a mission for him, and he asked me to destroy every member of the local Brotherhood of Steel chapter. I was floored, and even had the ability to ask him if I could go about it in such a way as to keep them alive. Eventually it came down to a simple option. Kill off the Brotherhood of Steel or turn on Mr. House. I fought myself over this decision for hours as I did side quests and explored the landscape. Anything to avoid the issue. Finally I decided that I had committed to Mr. House, and I would continue to support him. I made my way to the Brotherhood of Steel bunker and was welcomed as a friend. My heart broke as I thought of brutally murdering them all, but I realized that if I set off the self destruct I wouldn’t be able to loot all that power armor and plasma weapons, and my armor’s durability was drastically low.

Luckily I had completed Veronica’s quest line, which has several diverging paths, and I had chosen to get a very interesting gun. This gun messes with mechanics, and basically one or two shots any robot or anyone in power armor. I felt terrible in a way I had never felt over a video game as I slaughtered my friends in the Brotherhood of Steel, going room to room and painting the barren metal hallways with their blood.

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I felt REALLY bad killing them. On the other hand, loot.

If every quest in New Vegas was as emotionally involving as that one was for me it would be my all time favorite game. Sadly though the writing varies wildly from side-quest to side-quest. Sometimes a story is interesting enough to keep me following it until I finish that particular quest line, but most of the time they are the usual “go here for no real reason and do this”. The later is pretty prevalent once you get into New Vegas proper. You’ll be ferrying orders, documents, hats, guns and anything else from one place to another, usually just far enough away that it causes you to go through a loading screen.

That is another problem with this game, and with the New Vegas area in particular. The loading screens don’t take too long on the PC version, but when I am having to go through a door every three minutes as I make my way around New Vegas the loading time really adds up. Especially when you realize that New Vegas itself it broken into five or six sections, each of which require a loading screen to pass between, and woe be the player who wants to go from south Vegas to north Vegas as you’ll be passing through several loading screen doors. Unless you decide to just fast travel there.

That’s one of the biggest issues in New Vegas. If you want to get anywhere without fifteen loading screens, you’re going to need to fast travel, which means it feels less like an open world game at times and more like a level based RPG shooter ala Mass Effect. Combine this with the boring landscape textures and the terrible animations that are notorious in the Oblivion engine and you’ve got a game that doesn’t feel as open or entertaining as it could have.

Another disappointment is the severe lack of good looking armor in the game. You’ll find mostly low level thug armor sets which look very much like bad guys in a Mad Max movie, and a few pieces of armor that look alright, but for the most part the armor sets in the game really let me down. Especially since most of the cool ones I found were faction specific, which means if I wore them, enemies of that faction would see me as hostile. Not exactly a good thing if you like the enemy factions armor set.

The last thing I want to touch on is the music. Fallout 3 introduced me to some real amazing songs from way back when, and reintroduced me to many that I remember listening to with my grandmother. The selection was somewhat limited, but when you combined the great dialog of Three-Dog, the oddly reassuring rhetoric of President Eden, and the amazing music they included, you felt like you constantly had a companion with you as you blasted your way through the wasteland. In New Vegas this is all but completely gone. There is an interesting station run by Super Mutants that I ended up destroying early on, which was kind of sad as it was the best station out there.  I understand them choosing Mr. Las Vegas himself, Wayne Newton, to be the voice of New Vegas on the in game radio, but at the same time his lines are delivered with so much slurring it was comical when he was trying to be smooth. Add to that the fact that there were only a handful of songs in New Vegas, perhaps as low as five that I heard (there are more, but it didn’t feel like it), and I had the radio off for the majority of the time.

Still, the faction and companion missions are the reason you should play Fallout: New Vegas. They are also the reason you should replay New Vegas over and over again, siding with the different factions to varying degrees and seeing what happens because of your choices. They are your choices, true meaningful choices that don’t have immediate consequences but sometimes come back to bite you many hours later, preventing the quick ‘oh no!’ reload that can happen with other games.

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Some quests are better than others.

At over 45 hours on a rather speedy playthrough I can say that New Vegas was well worth the money I paid for it. While more of an expansion pack than a new game, New Vegas was very enjoyable and it will continue to be for many more hours as I go back and complete new faction missions. Add to that Bethesda’s renown modding community and you have a game that will continue to entertain for as long as you want it to. Still, if you burned yourself out on Fallout 3, you might want to give your first playthrough of New Vegas a wait. Say three or four months?

Final Score: 7.5/10