Posted tagged ‘PC Game’

OnLive is the Future

January 15, 2011

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This is the future. Not so much now, but in the future.

  I believe that, within the next five years, OnLive will be the premiere way to purchase PC games. Within the next ten years it may be the ONLY way to purchase any PC games that aren’t indie productions. This will seem crazy to almost anyone out there, but just hang in there while I explain my reasoning.

PC gaming has seriously been hurt by piracy. Now I won’t go so far as to say that piracy is taking so much money away from PC game developers that they don’t feel it’s worth it to release PC games, but instead I imagine it’s the fear of piracy that permeates the business of video games. This fear causes most publishers to demand that any game they publish be heavily DRM’d, which costs a ton of money and does literally nothing. In fact, the best DRM they’ve come up with, Ubisoft’s “always need an internet connection” DRM, was cracked pretty quickly.

Publishers and developers aren’t the only problem either. It’s not just pirates that are costing the publishers and developers money, it’s the average user. How so? How much money do you suppose Ubisoft spent on their DRM service, including development, implementation, and server costs? Probably a lot more than they should have. How did the average gamer react? With fear, hate and distrust. I was one of these people, so I can’t exactly say it was an uncalled for action, but it did cost the publisher tons of money. More importantly it added to their belief that PC gaming was not a lucrative market. I mean hell, if they even try and prevent piracy their regular users will damn near riot.

So where does OnLive come into all this? OnLive is the PERFECT DRM service. If PC game publishers were smart they would be supporting OnLive with every ounce of their advertising money. Why? Think about the way OnLive works. Not only do you have to download a program, but you have to open OnLive to do anything. How is this different than Steam? I have Steam up and in the background at almost all times, but with OnLive I have to commit. The program opens full screen and immerses you in the experience a lot more than other PC game stores. Of course that’s a small part of it. Consider also the fact that it’s almost impossible to pirate a game if it was released only on OnLive. This isn’t a “you need an always on internet connection” DRM that you can hack and turn off. In fact, you have no files of the game on your PC and you never will. You would need to hack into their servers, change the files there, and somehow make sure they didn’t find out and just change it back. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I can’t see a way to pirate this on a large scale.

So we’ve effectively stopped PC piracy, given players an Always On DRM that they can’t really get mad about, and provided a great way to market a PC game, due to OnLives amazing “spectator” mode. So what’s the problem? Well first of all, no matter how good your computer is you can’t turn up the graphics. Given a big push from publishers and developers though people could learn to forgive this flaw. Would hardcore PC gamers be upset? Yes. Does any company care about hardcore gamers, let alone hardcore PC gamers? Probably not. The other problem is the lag. Now I’ve been playing OnLives free week of games (not all of them, just the ones available from there subscription service. That means mostly ‘meh’ ones right now) and I’ve rarely noticed any lag. When I do it’s usually a little choppy for a few seconds, and then I’m back to gaming. Of course I am limited as to what I can do in the background while I play. I mean I won’t be running torrents (another win for every industry), but I also won’t be downloading anything at all, which can be a serious pain.

In closing I think that, in the future, we will see OnLive or a service much like it rise up to take over mainstream PC gaming. Almost every company out there has given up on PC games in retail unless it’s a Blizzard game, so brick and mortar stores aren’t going to care. Within five years, if the industry is smart, OnLive will become the new console, turning the pain in the ass of developing for literally billions of different machines into a simple, one stop shop console experience that is almost impossible to pirate. Of course, to really kick this off they might have to work with the internet providers to possibly provide a “gamers tier” internet option where, for an extra $20 a month, you have a much better internet connection.

What’s the biggest problem with OnLive as I see it now though? Prices and selection. Their selection is alright and getting better, but their prices keep me from buying anything. They sell old games for full price, and they almost never have a sale. Even when they do it doesn’t come close to Steam’s sales. I know they don’t have the user base to be able to work those deals yet, but it really is a deal breaker for me. I mean I’m giving up my ability to play the game offline, or to change the graphics settings, and I’m ok with that. But if I’m paying full price for it, I might as well buy it from Steam with a huge discount and the ability to play offline.

What do you think? Have you tried OnLive at all? Now is the perfect time, as they are having a ‘free play’ week. Hop online and give it a shot, then tell me what you think in the comments.

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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

Risen Goes Down

December 30, 2010

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So sad, he must have played a Piranha Bytes game.

When I first played Risen it was a demo right after the game launched. I hadn’t played any of the Gothic games at the time, and had just finished my second playthrough of Oblivion. initially I thought it was just far too frustrating, letting a couple lowbie mobs like moths kill me over and over while I tried to complete a simple quest was so angering that I ended up rage quitting the demo and deciding not to buy it.

I decided recently to give the full game a shot, mostly because of Zeitgeist Game Review and his love of the game. One thing you might not know about me is that I LOVE video reviews. I’ve watched video reviews for thousands of games, from dozens of reviewers and I can’t get enough, even of video reviews for games I already own. So after watching  the Zeitgeist guy rave about Risen I figured I might as well give it another go. I’m glad I did.

At first the game felt completely fresh, as I made my way in from the beach where I was shipwrecked and met a woman in need of an escort I had an Age of Conan flashback, but it was still feeling like a new game to me. That feeling didn’t last long. By the time I made it to my first quest hub, a bandit camp in the swamp, I had a funny feeling that things weren’t exactly new. By the time I left the bandit camp I was sure of one thing: Someone, somewhere, actually sat the guys at Piranha Bytes down and forced them to play Gothic 3 themselves. After they stopped vomiting uncontrollably from the horror of that game, this person then told them they couldn’t possibly make Gothic 3 a playable game. Well thankfully they’ve proven that person wrong, as Risen IS Gothic 3 with most of the terrible parts removed.

You might feel that I’m being too hard on them, but let’s take a look at some of the similarities:

The first thing you’ll probably notice is the graphics. Sure you could say that it’s the same company so it’s most likely going to be the same graphic style, but I don’t buy it. Other companies, good companies, can and do change up the graphic style of their games to suit the new project. Now Risen takes place on an island, so if it’s supposed to be in the same world as the Gothic series, then I can accept that the games look a lot alike. I just wish it didn’t look like everything, including the clothing, was made out of really thick stone.

I soon discovered, after arriving at the Don’s camp, that I had to do quests for his henchmen in order to gain the trust of the group so that I would be allowed into the inner sanctum where the Don was. Anyone who’s played Gothic 3 knows what I’m talking about here. In Gothic 3 you had to do this dozens of times. Thankfull in Gothic 3.5 Risen you only have to do this three times.

You also have an indigenous population (the Don’s men/humans) hiding in swamps because 0f the invading, occupying force (the Inquisition/Orcs) who are exploring ancient ruins (both games) to find relics (both games). You start out as a melee/bow fighter, and you raise your wisdom (the thing that lets you learn/cast spells) by reading from stone tablets you find, or books on bookstands (both games). If you decide to become a mage you will learn that the mages revere the Sacred Flame (both games).

It may actually be easier to figure out the ways in which Risen is different from Gothic 3. For starters the overall story in Risen is much better than in Gothic 3. The voice acting is also infinitely better in Risen. In Gothic 3 I wanted to punch myself in the face whenever anyone spoke, mostly due to the game not being English in origin. In Risen you get a nicely accented main character whose voice actor is pretty good, and most of the voice acting in the game is very enjoyable, if sometimes monotone when you consider what’s going on at that moment in the world.

One of the things I hated about Risen was that you don’t get much in the way of armor. You have two armor slots, helmet and armor. You won’t be finding armor on mobs or in chests either, instead you’ll get a new armor once every chapter or so, and there being only 4 chapters in the game it’s lacking on armor types. One of the best parts of playing RPGs for me is usually finding new and unique armor that makes my character look amazing, and in Risen you’ll look like a boat crash survivor for about five hours, then like a pauper for another five. Finally you might get a robe or some leather armor for the third act, and you’ll be shoehorned into the default “end game” armor for the last chapter no matter what kind of character you build.

The next paragraph will contain final boss spoilers, so just FYI. The final boss was an exciting battle for me, but it felt more like a Mario boss battle than anything I had experienced in Risen up to that point. My character was a mage, but the only way to beat the final boss is to wear plate armor and carry a massive mace and shield that are specially made to defeat the final boss. You then fight him, not like you’ve been fighting humanoids this entire time, but by jumping around a platform that pieces keep falling out of, using your shield to reflect the things he shoots at you, which will stun him, then running up and hitting him with the hammer. You’ll do that seven or eight times, and several reloads due to falling deaths, and you’ll have beaten the game. It was a fun and epic boss battle, and I wish they would have included more fights like that in the game. Sadly though it did feel out of place, and took everything I had worked so hard to do for my character and made it useless.

It may sound, from what you’ve read so far, like I don’t like Risen and didn’t have any fun with it. That’s simply not true. After I played Gothic 3 I promised myself that I would never play another Piranha Bytes game again. Thankfully I didn’t know that PB had developed this game because it turned out to be very fun. It was everything Gothic 3 should have been, and felt more like an apology to the fans than a truly original IP.

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Final verdict? If you enjoyed Gothic 3 then you will definitely want to play this game. If you thought Gothic 3 had potential but had too many problems, you want to get this game. If you never played the Gothic games, or played Gothic 4 only, then check out the demo because Risen can be brutally hard. If you like open world RPG’s in the style of Oblivion, but with less to do outside of the main story and a smaller world, then give Risen a go. If you can find it for under $10 I would pick it up if you like these kind of games. Any more and I’m not sure I could recommend it unless you liked Gothic 3 a lot.

Risen gave me 30 hours for the first playthrough, as opposed to Gothic 3’s 50 hours, but I enjoyed the hours I put into Risen so much more I would recommend it over Gothic 3 even if Risen was only a five hour game.

The Sunday Demo

December 27, 2010

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Clones

I decided to pick up the clones demo without knowing anything about it other than the fact that the screenshots on Steam looked really cute. That doesn’t mean that the game is any good, but it’s been my experience that the better the art (not graphics) in a game the more likely it is that the developers aren’t just throwing out slop. It turns out that it’s a Lemmings style game where you have dozens of little guys that you need to try and get to an exit or finish line. You can’t control them outright most of the time, but they do have special moves allowing you to manipulate the environment. Does Clones rise about all the other Lemmings clones? Let’s get to the review.

From the minute I loaded up Clones I was having fun. The art style is excellent and the music is top notch. Not knowing what I was getting into, I was pretty pleasantly surprised to find a Lemmings clone. I started up the first level, a tutorial, and had a blast.

The level design for the tutorial levels is pretty simple. The idea is to teach you about the many abilities your clones have for altering the environment, such as a drill that can break through a floor, or blowing up your clone in order to destroy a part of the environment around it. There are many more abilities, and each of them have very specific situations in which they should be used.

I’m not a huge fan of puzzle games. It’s a sad truth that I don’t like to face. It’s made getting through Braid pretty difficult, and I completely gave up on World of Goo after nearly throwing my keyboard through my monitor. My problem is that I don’t like to fail. Oh I want it to be tough, but I want to just squeek by the first time. Once I start to fail I get more and more angry, and I have to quit for a while and come back later.

That said I had a blast with Clones throughout the entire tutorial. Once it booted me out, saying that I needed to complete more levels in order to continue with the tutorial on powers (What the hell is that?), I went and attempted the next area I had unlocked, a boss battle. The boss battles work like a head to head match, with the player trying to get more of their clones to the end than the computer is able to get. Instead of a side by side Tetris style view you get a full screen, and can see what the enemy is doing at any time by pressing a button.

It took me over a dozen tries to finally figure out what the hell I was doing (the tutorial levels didn’t really prepare me for this at all). Finally I managed to beat the boss by watching his screen the entire time and getting a better understanding of what I was supposed to be trying to do. Once I had completed the boss fight I discovered that the rest of that bosses levels were locked in the demo, so it was off to the next opened world where I feared I would meet another boss.

Instead of a boss this level greeted me with a platformer. You directly control a clone this time and the object is to use your abilities and power ups along the way to platform jump your way to the end of the level. Now I’ve been playing Super Meat Boy for the last few days and I have never played a better platformer. This made playing the platforming in Clones a terrible ordeal at first. The clone controls aren’t very good, and the levels, while well designed, require a much slower approach than I was initially ready for.

This entire time I had an odd feeling creeping up on me, and it was at this point that I realized exactly why. It may have over 150 single player levels (or so it claims), but the game seems like it was designed for competitive multiplayer. Head to head battles seem to be the order of the day, with the ability to use your clones to steal the enemies scoring clones, adding their total to yours. It sounds like a blast, unfortunately no one seemed to be online to play. I tried joining a random game and it told me it couldn’t find any, so I tried hosting my own game. After twenty minutes of searching for someone to play against I finally gave up.

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You’ll see this lonely screen for a very long time unless you have a friend trying the game with you

Overall I though Clones was a fun, if highly frustrating puzzle game that was very reminiscent of Lemmings, but with a few new twists. The art style is wonderful and fun, and the sound is very nice, except for the odd heavy german accent of the announcer saying the boss names. It just seemed out of place. I’d suggest anyone who is a fan of Lemmings, puzzle games or with a high frustration threshold at least download the demo and give it a try.

The game itself is $9.99, though it is 50% off right now so if you like it, pick it up while it’s on sale.