Posted tagged ‘Review’

Return of the Ultimate

May 28, 2011

NewInRed001

It’s been years since I’ve really gotten into Ultima Online, but this past week has seen me playing UO more than any of my other games. Why? Even after all these years it’s still the most unique, amazing MMO I’ve ever played. So what’s so good about this game that most MMO players have never even tried? Well, I’ll be playing for a while it seems, so I’ll keep you all in the loop.

The first thing you’ll notice, almost instantly, is the amazing community in Ultima Online. From the time I stepped out of the tutorial section, which lasted all of five minutes but covered the basics, I had people passing me and waving, or stopping to ask if I needed anything. A few even just stopped to chat for a bit. This really shook me at first, and I had to retrain myself to not find it strange to talk to strangers again.

After about twenty minutes of exploring the small town that they start you in, a town completely overrun by the undead, I made my way to New Haven, the only real city on the starter island. Within a few minutes I was wrapped up in a conversation at the bank about whether I wanted to play the game without any starter help, or whether I’d like a few items and a little bit of money. I took the items to help me not die, and the money to insure my items. Insuring is something that wasn’t always in UO, but you basically pay a certain amount of gold to insure an item, more gold for better items, and when you die all your insured items will stay with you. This would be prohibitively expensive for a noob to do to all his gear, but having a weapon and armor when you’re trying to get back to where your body is really helps.

Speaking of death, I’ve always been a huge fan of Ultima Online’s death system. When you die your ghost starts standing over your body. Unlike WoW, you don’t start at a graveyard and make your way back. As a ghost most people won’t be able to see or talk to you, unless they have a high spirit speak skill, so your goal is to find either a wandering healer NPC, a player that can see and res you, or head back to a city and find the main healer shoppe, where they will res you. Then it’s your job to get back to your body before it decomposes or someone takes your stuff.

Anyway, I was invited to join a pretty active guild on my first day, and they took me to their Guild Hall in order to have a small ceremony where they informed me of the guild policies and what was and was not expected of me. After that I was informed that the guild does a Hunt every night practically, and noobs were welcome to come along. We met up at 6pm pacific at the Guild Hall for a quick rundown of the night’s Hunt and what we were planning on doing.

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We took a portal one of our mages made to the ice caverns where we were to fight the White Wyrm and the Ice Fiends that patrolled near it. The cave was really amazing, the fog rolling through made it feel cold and obstructed our view, making it seem like people and monsters were winking in and out of existence.

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The UI of UO generally stays in the black area. It seems weird at first, but it allows you to see the game world unobstructed. Aside from the health bars up there, which are movable, and have small buttons on them that I can click to heal or purge my party members.

We made our way through the ice caverns and killed the dragon, and I only died twice. After a harrowing search by everyone for my corpse, which turned out to be underneath an ice elemental, I got my gear re-equipped and we decided to take on the rat people that were in a cave connected to the ice caverns. The first thing I noticed was that each of the rat people had a name. Not like “Rat Enforcer” like most MMOs, but a unique name for everyone of them.

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The rat fort was pretty cool. A massive wooden fort with high gates and wooden pole walls in a huge cavern deep underground. Of course they swarmed us like rats, but our mages and dragon tamers easily took care of the whole lot. After that we had to call it a night, and everyone finished looting and took the portal back to the guild hall. There all the money was given to the hunt leader, who took it to the bank and had checks written to split the gold between the four of us noobs who needed the money. They gave me my check, which I took running to the bank, and I now had 50,000 gold. It’s not much in Ultima Online, but it’ll let me keep my equipment insured.

All in all it was the best experience I’ve had in an MMO in nearly ten years. The people were all great, and even days later I mentioned not being sure if I was ready to leave the noob island of New Haven, and a guild member voluntarily came down and hung out with me for over an hour, just chatting and watching me kill things as he got a sense for whether I was ready, both character skill and player skill wise. Then we just chatted for a bit, and I couldn’t remember the last time I had done that in an MMO.

Ultima is back baby, and I’ll keep you posted on my adventures.

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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.

NewVegasOpeningCinematic1

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.

NewVegasStatAssignment

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

RisenSadSmoke

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.

The Sunday Demo

December 20, 2010

I hate when games come out that don’t have demos. It really pissed me off and makes me feel like they are hiding a poor game, hoping for ignorant purchases instead of informed decisions to sell their games. Sadly I have to admit that I still don’t get around to playing all of the demos that are available, so I’ve recently decided to change that. This will hopefully be a weekly thing where I play a demo, and let you know what I thought of it. Here we go:

VVVVV

VVVVVV

VVVVVV has a terrible name. I’m sure that it’s actually kind of clever if you are the developer and understand exactly where it comes from, but I’m not and I don’t, and I think it sucks. Terrible name aside, I found the demo for this game to be pretty enjoyable.

The graphics, as you can see from the screenshot above, evoke an Atari feel as far as the platforms and the pixelized hero are concerned. The backgrounds however are vibrant and highly animated, though subtle enough not to distract from the exacting gameplay. I’ve also never felt so sorry just from a sad face. The emotion the main character expresses is surprisingly good.

The sound is also designed to remind you of old Atari or NES music, and for the most part it’s fine. There are times when the beeps and boops will hit a terrible pitch that made me want to mute the game, but other than those few instances the music was acceptable.

The gameplay is where VVVVVV really stands out. Like Bionic Commando back in the day VVVVVV removes your ability to jump. Unlike Bionic Commando, VVVVVV chooses to allow you to manipulate gravity instead of using a stupid little grappling hook. VVVVVV utilizes only three buttons, left, right and space. Space inverts gravity, allowing you to walk on the ceiling or floor depending on what you need. You’ll use these simple controls to navigate insane mazes of spikes. Luckily the developers included numerous save points, and you’ll instantly respawn just inches from where you died, allowing you to try, try again until you get it right without punishing you too badly for your mistakes.

The controls were sometimes unreponsive, either shooting your character much farther than you meant to go, or not changing gravity when you press space. The first issue might have to do with the game utilizing a keyboard for platforming. I love PC gaming, but a keyboard does not offer the precision necessary for most platformers. It’s acceptable, but not a great idea. Perhaps the full game will have gamepad support, but I seriously doubt it based on the very sparse menu and the utter lack of options in the demo.

Overall I thought the game was pretty fun, and at $4.99 on Steam it’s a game I’ll be picking up come payday. I highly recommend anyone who enjoys good platforming at least check out the demo. While it can be frustrating at times it’s a unique game that is a lot of fun.

Have you played VVVVVV? Let me know what you thought of it in the comment section.

Disassembled: A Review In Pieces–Runes of Magic

October 21, 2010

It’s been a long time since I’ve done an MMO Review in Pieces. If you weren’t around back in March when I last did one, the idea of Disassembled is that I take an MMO, in this case Runes of Magic, and I review it 5 or 10 levels at a time.

This one is going to be kind of unique in that I am going to review levels 1-10, and then levels 1-10 AGAIN and then twice more! You can thank the dual class system in Runes of Magic, as well as the Elven starting area, for this. Without further ado, the review:

RoMTin

Tin Ore? Looks more like Hellfire Ore…

Let’s start with the character creation, the first real thing anyone see’s in an MMO.  There is a decent variety of options, including size sliders for everything from your head to your feet. The hair and faces range the gamit from somewhat realistic looking to anime style. The number of hair and face options is impressive, especially when compared to a game like World of Warcraft. Sadly picking a face also chooses the facial hair. I would have preferred this be a separate option as some of the facial hair is really good looking, if it wasn’t attached to the rest of the face. The Elves in general are more anime looking, especially their wild hairstyles.

CharacterCreation

There are eight classes in Runes of Magic, 4 available to both races. Each race gets two unique classes. For the Humans that means the Priest and Knight class. The Elves get Warden and Druid. The four classes available to all are the Warrior, Scout, Rogue and Mage. The classes all control a bit differently, having your typical melee dps, ranged dps, tanks and healers. Luckily, at least low level, every class is capable of putting out enough damage to solo efficiently.

Once you get past the character creation you’ll be transported to one of two starting zones, depending on which race you chose. The human zone is a nice forested area that reminded me of Elwynn Forest at first. The elves are on their own island, specifically in the Valley of Preparation. Within the first second or so of loading into the game it will ask you if you want to complete the tutorial. I highly recommend it. It doesn’t do a great job of teaching you the intricacies of the game, but it gives you a quick rundown of the controls and them rewards you with some pretty helpful stuff for your first character.

Once you complete this quick tutorial it will transport you back to your starting area and the real game can begin. You’ll be happy to hear that the game is quest centric, so unless you really want to, you won’t have to grind for your XP. At least not without a quest involved. The downside is that, in the human area, the quests are pretty mundane. You aren’t saving the world yet, but you are helping old ladies and cripples get what they need. On the Elven side of things you are force fed the history of the Elves, and it actually is more enjoyable that way. Of course the Elven race was created later, being introduced in the games first free expansion “The Elven Prophecy”.

When the game came out I remember most people dismissing it as a WoW clone, both in graphic style and in gameplay. I simply disagree. The graphic style is somewhat cartoony and designed, like WoW, to not require an amazing computer to run. That said I think the art style borrows more from games like Guild Wars and Lineage II than World of Warcraft. I can’t speak for the gameplay yet, as most MMOs are similar in control and I wouldn’t call that cloning. One thing they DID clone completely is the UI. You have your character portrait and stats in the top left, circular minimap with buttons in the top right, action bar on the bottom and chat window in the bottom left. While that is a little bit of a let down it’s not a terrible thing. WoW’s UI is amazing for an MMO and it’s not surprising most games that have come out afterward have copied it.

The sound design is pretty impressive. The background music is very enjoyable and it makes me feel like I’m watching an epic movie. It’s not always a perfect fit for the scene, but it’s still a treat to hear. The combat sounds range from acceptable for the melee combat to pretty impressive sounding for the magic wielders. The Mages electric attacks are particularly impressive sounding. The rest of the sound effects are acceptable but they don’t particularly stand out.

Equipment works the same as most MMOs these days, with color determining how good the gear is. There is nothing particularly unique until you get into the rune system, which doesn’t come into play much in the first ten levels.

One of the more unique aspects of Runes of Magic is the crafting system. First of all you can learn all of the crafting and gathering professions and train them up to the beginning of the second tier. At which point you will need to pick which professions you want to continue with. At level 10 that still hasn’t come into play, so I am able to try all of the different professions and decide which one is for me. It also takes two gathering professions to supply the crafting professions, such as herbalism and woodcutting to supply tailoring.

Those who have played Champions Online will recognize the items that appear sometimes when you kill enemies. It may be a shield icon, or a book. When you walk over the object it will give you a short term buff that can be pretty nice, such as increased health, or increased Talent Point or XP generation.

RoMDropPotion

Speaking of Talent Points, they don’t work like they do in WoW. Instead, as you complete quests or level you’ll receive hundreds of TP (Talent Points). You will also receive some when you kill mobs. For each character level you gain you can spend TP to level up your spells. While at first you can level up everything, as you level you will eventually need to start specializing once you obtain more and more abilities to spend TP on.

Lastly, I will briefly mention the dual class system.  At level 10 you can decide which secondary class you would like, and much like Final Fantasy XI you will only gain levels on your active class. So when you first get your second class you will need to go back to the starting area, which isn’t very far, and level your second class up from 1. This didn’t seem to take nearly as long, and there were plenty of quests so I didn’t have to grind at all. You also gain some stats and spells from your other class, which can be really nice. For instance the Mage class uses mana to cast spells. When dual classing you could perhaps do like I did and choose a Priest as the second class, to increase your caster talents and give you some heals, or you could pick something like a Scout. The Scout uses energy to shoot arrows, so if you run low on mana you can use your Scout abilities to finish off the mob, or vice versa.

I’m not sure how this will work out yet, but I will let you know in the second review of Runes of Magic, levels 10-20, coming soon.

Treant

Rating for levels 1-10:

Gameplay: 6.0 out of 10. The game is fun, but at this level the only thing that separates the gameplay from other games in the genre is the buff drops, and those happen so rarely that it doesn’t help distinguish it much.

Graphics: 7.9 out of 10. The graphics are aging a little bit now, but the texture work is still pretty impressive in some areas. I even enjoy the look of RoM more than that of WoW in many cases. Sadly it seems to suffer from “PS2 Lighting”. The lighting seems flat, like it’s constantly dusk. Still, the textures are better than EQII, which isn’t very hard to do.

Sound: 8.5 out of 10. Sure the music may be out of place sometimes, but I want to buy the soundtrack. Between that and the sound of the Mages spells I really enjoyed the sound work for Runes of Magic.

Unique: 2.5 out of 10. I can see things changing as I get higher in level, but at the moment I don’t see much that separates it from most other MMOs on the market, including the now free to play LOTRO. Still, the inclusion of tried and true MMO tropes, but with a unique combination, makes the game pretty enjoyable. Enough to keep me playing.

Overall: 24.9 out of 40. Not bad but not the best game out there. Still, for free, the game is truly enjoyable and it’s a shame more people haven’t given it a serious try.

Deus Ex: Completed!

October 10, 2010

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Ever since I was a small child I have played video games for hours on end. When I was young I had MAYBE 1-5 games at a time, though I only beat one or two games in my childhood in total. They were just harder back then, and they required you to play through the entire thing in one sitting. This continued until a few years into my Navy time. I just seemed to buy more games and never finish any of them. Then, a few years ago, something changed. It might have happened with Mass Effect, or it might have been the thousands of hours I poured into World of Warcraft (which sadly doesn’t have an “ending” or I would have beaten the damn thing hundreds of times by now). Truth is I’m not sure what happened exactly, just that I realized that I wanted to beat games. If I put the time into a game and it interested me I wanted to have the satisfaction.

This feeling led to me going back to older games. Games I had played when I was younger and just never got around to finishing. It let me playthrough, and finish, Morrowind and the Tribunal expansion (I haven’t started with Bloodmoon yet). I recently beat Gothic 3 (I doubt I’ll even play the Forsaken Gods expansion I own…), Dark Messiah: Might and Magic, Titan Quest and it’s expansion Immortal Throne and plenty more. Not to mention finishing most newer games I pick up (some quicker than others).

Where is all this leading? Into two different posts actually. The first (this one) is simply to announce I finally beat Deus Ex! I think it’ll be a month or two before I begin working on it’s sequel Invisible War. I just wanted to give some of my thoughts about the game. Keep in mind nothing I say is about the game in the context of when it came out. This means that while the graphics or sound may have been revolutionary at the time I will be describing how I feel they hold up in the year 2010.

Graphics:3/5: This being an older game, let’s start with the part of a game that ages quickest. The graphics in Deus Ex are a mixed bag. The faces in the game are done in a unique style that is interesting, but it makes everyone look like they have a muscular face. A really muscular face. The indoor environments are more than acceptable, and even good looking in some areas. The outdoors though is less enjoyable. Due to technical limitations at the time, the great outdoors can feel very closed in. The game takes place entirely at night, most likely so they didn’t have to deal with a horizon line. The “city” in the distance of some maps is obviously flat, but acceptable. Graphically the entire game suffers from what I like to call “PS2 Lighting”. It’s the same pitfall that EverQuest 2 suffers from. The lighting is flat and the scene is often made “dark”, whether that be from it being nighttime, to a heavy fog, in order to hide the limitations of the engine.

Setting (Story/World):5/5: The setting and story of Deus Ex is immersive and amazing. I know the game has been out for years but I won’t talk about the story too much as I don’t want to ruin it for people. Especially with the new Deus Ex coming out, and people going back to play the old ones. The story is set in the near future. The world is being taken over by corporations and there is a plague that may or may not have been created by the very people who are manufacturing a cure. You play as J.C. Denton, an emotionless (it seems) android, the most advanced type of android. You work for a company called UNATCO as security and counter terrorist activities (What?).

Gameplay:3/5: For those of you who don’t know anything about this game, the best way I can describe it is as a more in depth version of Mass Effect (gameplay wise). It is a First Person RPG with Shooter elements. The problem is that this tends to make people expect it to operate like a shooter. This expectation is quickly dashed the first time you run up to a group of enemies and fire six shotgun blasts into someones chest and you are quickly gunned down without having hurt anyone. Running and gunning is not really an option in Deus Ex, even toward the end when you’ll have upgraded many of your skills and augmentations. It is very much a stealth game, more akin to an RPG/Splinter Cell game than a shooter. That being said, once you get a feeling for the game it can be very enjoyable, as long as you play the way the game wants you to.

Sound:2/5: The first mark against Deus Ex is that, in order to not hear a high pitched whine or rumbling static constantly I had to download a mod that fixed it. After that the sound was acceptable. The footstep sound got annoying by the end of the game, and the gunshot sound was dull, but the voice work was pretty well done, even if the main character is monotone. I assume that is on purpose, like the Matrix.

Length:4/5: Deus Ex stretched on a little longer than it probably should have for me. At 26 hours I was very ready to finish the game, and I had no interest in going back in and seeing how I could have changed things. At 15 or 20 hours I would have been a bit happier.

Overall:4/5: I enjoyed the game, and it got me interested in the world and setting of Deus Ex. I’m interested to play the sequel Invisible War, and I can’t wait for the new game to come out, though I hope they allow for a less stealthy gameplay option.