Too many good games!

October 29, 2010

The only thing worse than not having a good game to play is having way too many quality titles all vying for your attention. Ok maybe it’s not exactly a ‘problem’, but Steam seriously needs to stop offering stuff at silly prices; how can we keep up?!

Titan’s Quest Gold (the original game + its expansion) was offered for $5. Silly to not insta-buy. And for a game released in 2006, maxed out it still looks really good (as in, if it was released today you would say it has good graphics good), and unlike Torchlight, it feel more Diablo-ish to me in that it pulls you in and makes you excited for what’s ahead. My major issue with Torchlight is that, at all points during the game, the object was always “go back into the mine”, and while it attempted to have a story, the story was basically “murder another level of the mine”. At least Titan’s Quest convinces you that you are making progress and actually going somewhere in the world.

I finally received my original Blood Bowl activation code, meaning I can pick up the Legendary Edition today and get at it. I’m really looking forward to it too, as I had a great time with Blood Bowl originally and only stopped playing due to a lack of variety, something 20 teams and enhanced multiplayer should fix. I’ll have a post up on Monday or so announcing an Inquistion + blog readers league (err, the details of it anyway, since um, I just announced it), so if you are at all interested, prepare for that!

Then we have the latest Darkfall patch, adding some Halloween-themed stuff along with bug fixes and area updates. I’ve still not gotten around to seeing a bunch of the new dungeons, and as always sieges and such are happening. Both in-game and on the forums general opinion has improved, with many simply excited for the upcoming additions (the next patch (audio) and, ultimately, the next major expansion).

And finally, the title that currently draws the most attention, League of Legends continues to entertain. Unfortunately I made the mistake of playing with Boink/Paragus in a ranked game, and since have contracted whatever disease he carries to attract horrible players. The unfortunate losing streak has my ELO down to just above 1300, which is sad considering how close I was to breaking 1400+. Lesson learned, and now to find a vaccine. I think it might require some Malady-wielding Teemo in his space suit. Shooting lasers usually fixes everything, right?

Good thing it’s Friday.

Great potential, utter failure.

October 28, 2010

Bad games are easy to move on from and forget, but bad games with a ton of potential are a bit harder to let go off, and certainly cause more rage. This post is going to focus around Disciples III, but it can be applied to a lot of different games (in MMO land, mine’s WAR for example, with WAR40k up next).

Disciples III has a lot going for it. It not only has great graphics overall, but the art style just has that ‘something’ that separates it from standard fantasy and really grabs you. The human-ish characters look heroic yet appropriate, the monsters look huge and terrifying without being silly-big, and everything just looks/feel correct. I honestly can’t remember the last time I though a game’s look fit this perfectly.

Then you have the core gameplay, which is a direct copy of one of my favorite series of all time, Heroes of Might and Magic. For those who missed out, you build up a city to recruit units into your army, which is lead by a hero in an overworld filled with resources, encounters, and random stuff to interact with. Fighting happens on a grid between two sides, and everything is turn-based.

On the surface Disciples III plays almost exactly like HoMM. You still build up a town, you still collect resources, and you still move a hero around the map to discover new stuff and all that. It even has some nice improvements like a bigger battlefield that is hex based, better ‘randomization’ when it comes to said battlefield, and some really nice camera work to show off everything. It’s only when you start to break down the other changes that the whole formula goes horribly wrong.

For instance, rather than having unit stacks, every unit in Disciples has hitpoints instead. On the surface this seems like a solid change, and it’s initially fun to have one unit fight and level up over a stack of 100 peasants or archers. But it’s horrible for game balance. The single-unit approach removes attrition, in that even if you end the battle with all your units at 1hp, they will be fully healed for the next one unless you get attacked again that same turn (unlikely). In HoMM, fighting even the easiest of battles could result in a few dead units, which would slowly weaken your army and force it back to base. In Disciples, you almost never need to return to base, and so each campaign map turns one long steamrolling of enemy after enemy, with your army only growing stronger and stronger as it fights more battles.

Other ‘improvements’ factor into this as well. Instead of having to return to your base to resupply and upgrade units, in Disciples units automatically upgrade once you have built the correct building and they acquire enough experience. It’s convenient, sure, but it again screws with the balance and the flow of the game.

Same goes for how you capture resource nodes. In HoMM each node had to be tagged individually, and could not be defended. In Disciples you capture area-controlling nodes, which give you access to everything around them. Capturing these nodes even changes how the landscape looks (humans turn the area a lively green, elves to amber autumn colors/trees, and the devils into a blackish volcanic area with lava). It’s again an awesome graphic effect, especially since it spreads as more turns pass. But like much of the above, it screws with balance, and makes secondary support heroes pointless since they can’t defeat the node guardian anyway (plus you can garrison troops at the node, and since attrition does not exist, they can hold the node indefinitely unless a massive force attacks them).

Throw in the fact that the AI might as well not exist when it comes to it controlling a side (it’s passable when controlling units in combat), and that multiplayer is a complete non-factor (hotseat only, 8 maps to play on, and all but two are 1v1 maps), and you end up with a great looking game with a ton of potential that is, in essence, a series of zero-challenge campaign maps that you steamroll over, hitting auto-battle every time just to progress the story. And the story itself is actually decent but crippled by the fact that the guy doing the voice work does, by far, the absolute worst job of narrating I’ve ever heard. I mean it’s beyond atrocious, and slaps you in the face right as you first load the game and hear the opening. Bonus points for having to listen to it every time you load up a save, because the voice plays the same map intro every time, to the point that after 3-4 times loading the same map, you start to laugh along with it while it cuts into your brain. I can only imagine this was done as some inside joke once the devs heard just how awful this was, and figured hey, might as well increase the suffering 100x over, right? Fuckers.

And again, this would all be a total non-issue if not for the fact that Disciples SHOULD be an amazing game. I mean hell, just copy/paste all of Heroes, insert your graphics/lore/story over it, and bam, awesome game. But no, the devs had to get all ‘creative’ and ‘improve’ on things, and ended up with this pile of woulda-coulda-shoulda bla-ware. How does something with such great potential but ultimately this much fail get released? Like anyone who tested this game for more than an hour would be able to point all of this out, and the fixes can’t possibly be all that difficult…

Can we get a Heroes of Might and Magic 6 please?!

Internet People

October 28, 2010

Not much to add to this other than lulz, so true.

The average WoW player.

October 27, 2010

If only my MMO of choice offered cross-server, anon pug groups with voice chat so I could, maybe, just one day, collect ‘epics’ with this guy.

Darkfall: PvP video from Aventurine

October 27, 2010

Aventurine posted an official video of the latest EU1 1v1 PvP tourney. Some nice camera work and good action clips abound, just wish it was a little longer.

With godmode turned on (no collision, ability to fly, invisible), AV could certainly get some very nice siege footage, or even just follow a PvP group around to catch the action. Looking forward to more of this stuff, and is AV the first dev house to record players in-game using GM accounts and putting out an ‘official’ video of it? I can’t think of anything like this from other game.

Earning the crown

October 26, 2010

Note: Someone please inform work that I have a blog to write, and hence I can’t be actually working all 8 hours of the day. I mean, come on!

And actually, being busy at work feeds right into today’s topic, inspired by a comment from my Darkfall siege post: what does it take to get the most out of a game like Darkfall, one that at times requires 3-4hr straight gaming sessions?

A game like Darkfall has a lot of things going for it, and most activities can be accomplished in as little as 30 minutes or so. With that said, the highlight events are sieges, which at the very least require two straight hours, and most go between 3-5 depending on the amount of action and whether you are attacking or defending. The question then becomes, if you are unable to set aside 3-5 hours to play, is a game like Darkfall ‘worth it’?

The quick answer is maybe.

If you really, really can’t set aside 2-3 hour blocks every now and then, probably not, unless you don’t mind only chipping in on a siege, or missing them altogether. That sounds odd for a PvP-focused game, but maybe your goal is just to explore the world, or to become a trader, or to be a behind-the-scenes type helping to run a clan. While sieges are indeed the highlights, the game offers more than just that in terms of unique selling points.

The other question to ask is whether the highlight events are the reason you signing up, or if those are a very nice extra on top of everything else. As I’ve written here before, one major difference between a game like Darkfall and WoW is that in DF, the high points are much higher, but their occurrence is much lower. WoW might not deliver unique or memorable moments, but you can predict and control what will happen every time you log in. If you are someone who has to get a cookie with every login, DF will disappoint you too many times to make the highlights worth playing for. If on the other hand you live for those high points, and accept that in order to get them, you valleys are part of the equation, DF might be your game.

It’s those uncommon extreme highs that draw attention to a game like Darkfall, but it’s the ‘everyday’ life of the game that might not be your style. For many, they enjoy following the game from the outside (reading a blog) than actually playing it. EVE is exactly like this for many, where the stories sound amazing, but the actual game falls short. And unlike WoW-ish games, to be a part of those stories you have to go out and get yourself into them. No one is going to take your hand and guide you, and certainly no one is going to hand you the crown and call you a hero just for showing up. In a game like DF/EVE, being a ‘factor’ takes a lot of ‘work’, and even then nothing is guaranteed. It all sounds obvious, yet for many it’s a deal-breaker they have trouble admitting/accepting.

(DarkFall-related post disclaimer/reminder. If you click the image link near the top-right of this page and buy a DarkFall account, I get paid 20% of the client cost. If you believe this taints my views and reporting on DarkFall, your opinion is wrong.)

Darkfall’s Kraken strikes again

October 25, 2010

This is good stuff.

It’s a clip from a livestream of some (I’m guessing) new players just out exploring a bit of Agon, sailing towards a volcano on Ruby. Make sure you have the sound on, it makes the whole video.

Spoiler: They don’t make it.


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