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.

Darkfall: Siege of Tirghan

October 22, 2010

As I was playing the recently purchased Disciples III, ($20 sale on Steam. After about an hour it seems like an interesting take on Heroes of Might and Magic) I was also in the Heroes Fate vent (allies of Blood) waiting for word that we were moving out for some siege action. I got dragged down, asked to log in, and informed that we were using some house recalls to get to the mainland to assist at the Vranghorn hamlet.

Now it’s been a while since my last real siege or PvP encounter, so I was definitely rusty. I grabbed a half-decent siege bag, recalled to the designated house, and grouped up with the rest of Blood and Heroes Fate. As we rode towards the hamlet we came across a decent-sized group of enemies from VAMP, and after a brief skirmish both sides pulled back and we arrived at Vrang. Sadly that was all the action we were going to see at that siege, as the attackers never showed up and shortly after go-live the one large siege stone was taken down and the siege was over.

We all recalled back to Izkand on Cairn to get ready for the second siege of the night, the hamlet of Tirghan. The first skirmish of this siege happened off the northern coast of Cairn. I arrived late, but it was clear we were heavily outnumbered here and just trying to pick off as many as we could. As I swam to the site of the conflict, I saw a piranha-like swarm of players in the water, with magic being fired above and arrows below. It was both deadly and impressive to watch, but sadly the encounter did not end well for us.

We made our last stand on a small island, trying to fire as much damage as we could on the enemies as they got out of the water to charge us. We held briefly, but soon were overwhelmed and cut down. A friendly boat was spawned and sent out towards our location, but it arrived too late to save us, and was eventually called back.

The hamlet of Tirghan itself is interesting in that it has a very tall spire right next to it, the top inaccessible without the use of magic to ‘launch’ up. At the very top is where our siege stone was placed, and it was at this location that HF/Blood had marked 10+ runes. The plan was to simultaneously recall directly to the top, knock/kill anyone off, and hold that position until the hamlet went vulnerable and could be captured.

As the ‘first strike’ party of ten were recalling, everyone else tossed as many buffs on them as possible, and then had to listen to vent as the fighting raged. From what I could hear, our initial group was able to secure the position, but a few of them got knocked off in the melee and into the enemies hands below. Their deaths were not in vain however, as we soon had a nexus portal up and running to get reinforcements to the spire. When this resource was used up (only 10 players can go through before the nexus is down), the rest of us mounted up and made our way over to the hamlet by land.

We gathered at a village just east of the hamlet, a small river dividing us and the enemy. For the next hour or so various skirmishes were fought on both sides this river, as we did our best to distract the enemy and buy our spire group more time. As the fighting went on, the enemy continued to try and get to the top of the spire to knock someone off and slowly chip away at that force. The race was on, with our side hoping to delay enough to stop the enemy from knocking down the siege stone, the enemy hoping to knock enough of us off the top to secure it and end the siege.

At this point however we were still outnumbered on the ground, so the best we could manage was to make a focused push at their numbers around the base of the spire, hope to get a few to overextend, and then fall back when they organized and charged us. The back and forth was intense, especially since at this point I had lost my last mount AND had my staff break. Low on arrows and food, unable to heal or escape quickly, I figured it was only a matter of time before I was chased and cut down.

That moment seemed to arrive after one of our more aggressive assaults, one that actually reached the very base of the spire. We got a little overconfident, and while we had the enemy backing up at first, they shortly countered and had us running. Their pursuit continued across the river, and as I ran I could both hear and feel arrows flying all around. Our side continued to flee past the village on mounts, and I figured I was as good as dead now, unable to keep up without a mount. In a last ditch effort, I climbed up an arching rock structure right in the village and crouched down in a tiny depression, hoping I was hidden enough to avoid detection. Luckily for me it was also night time at this point, which cuts visibility down drastically. As the enemies swarmed below me, I held my breath and hoped no one looked up. Moments passed, but eventually the enemies moved back to the spire and I was safe.

With about 30 minutes left until the hamlet itself went vulnerable, our full force was assembled and we made a push. The enemy held us at the hamlet for a while, with magic and arrows flying from both sides, and the occasional melee breaking out. Inch by inch however we pushed them back, and a few well-timed charges cut into their numbers and ultimately broke them. The remaining forces fled to the south, and many were cut down. After the hamlet was secured, one of the new ships (the Junk, officially pronounced Yoo-unk but far more fun to say junk in vent: “pulling out my junk”) was spawned and the zap towers were disabled.

The new ship is great, with six cannons per side and a nice layout. Its one weakness is its very low hitpoints, but for its cost it brings some devastating firepower. Our allies also spawned a Brigantine to help with the barrage, and the appearance of two ships drew the attention of DHW, who live nearby in the city of Serruk.

DHW made one push towards the hamlet, but quickly saw they were heavily outnumbered. As the hamlet had yet to be captured, we just pushed them back but did not pursue. As soon as the siege went live, the ships pounded the hamlet’s stone, making quick work of it. With our objective captured, many of us went after DHW, pushing them all the way back into their city. At this point it was past 1am for me, and I had already banked my siege gear and replaced it with a robe and some cheap-ish weapons. With nothing to lose, I charged into the city and swung at any enemy in sight. We managed to kill a few, but eventually our disorganization caught up to us and people started retreating. As I had little reason to retreat, I followed the SG of DHW, Johan Veil, into the cities mage guild and got into a quick melee. My night ended with the world spinning and everything going black.

It’s good to be back.

(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.)

Blood Bowl: Legendary Edition

October 21, 2010

A few days ago I got an email (went to spam actually) informing me of a 30% discount on Blood Bowl: Legendary Edition for anyone who purchased the original version. 30% seems significant, plus I enjoyed the original Blood Bowl, and a year+ of fixes and improvements is definitely a good thing.

On the other hand, paying “new game price – 30%” for what is basically an expansion is not sitting well with me. The major change here is a whole bunch of new races/teams, which is great, but it’s still the same game from last year that I paid $40 for. I played the original quite a bit too, especially online, but what ultimately turned me away was the lack of auto-matchmaking, and unless I missed something, BB:LE still does not have this feature. If it did, I’d have pre-ordered already.

The addition of all the new teams and their stadiums is certainly interesting though. Granted, no auto-matchmaking sucked, but it sucked in part because of the limited number of teams and the difficulty some teams had against a specific opponent. When you suck against two teams out of eight, that seriously limits things. Two teams out of twenty is not such a big deal. Toss in a bunch of new allstar players, team special abilities, and whatever else LE adds, and we are talking about a significantly changed game in terms of on-field strategy.

Another point of consideration: I never got into a pre-set league that really took off, which is also one of the key features of Blood Bowl. Now, if say Inq got a league going with weekly matches, that would certainly up the value of the purchase, likely making it more than worth the cost. I can almost hear the rage now as some high-percentage dice roll fails or a star players dies.

Something to think about I guess. Plus if nothing else, it’s another quality game to keep on the radar for a later date.

League of Lengeds update: Halloween, 1300 ELO, Yi

October 20, 2010

If I made a post about every League of Legends patch or updated, things would get a little out of hand. Riot, despite only selling the highest-priced reskins at less than 50% of a pony, pump out content so fast that I doubt anyone at Blizzard is even able to keep up with the patch notes. “Soon” in Riot-talk generally means “right about NOW”, rather than “3 year + $45 later”.

That said, the latest patch is somewhat different in that it not only included a great reskin of the 5v5 map Summoner’s Rift, but also some in-game changes that reflect the Halloween spirit, along with a bunch of Halloween-based champion skins. The map itself has some great lighting effects and lots of tiny details, and the skins that I’ve seen in-game have all been well done. The newest champion, Lux, has so far been in every game I’ve played (not surprising), but her viability is still up in the air. If nothing else, she brings some interesting things to the table, though she is far from the Morgana-clone that some expected.

My personal climb in ranked play has been going well, as I’m now above 1300 ELO in the 5v5 single queue. At this level I rarely see outright horrible play from anyone, and I can’t recall the last time someone ragequit out. Most matches are also fairly close, and team composition is somewhat consistent. The few times an ‘odd’ pick has been made, that players generally surprises people with how well he played.

Amumu still gets banned 90% of the time, so I’ve played a ton of games with Shen. He is a great champion to play, not only because he is a true tank, but because he can also get himself into position to dish out a surprising amount of damage. His ult also forces you to really pay attention to the mini-map, as anytime I suspect champions are fighting it out I take a quick glance into that lane and see if my ult might be needed. Being able to turn a death into a kill is huge in the early/mid game phase, and late game using the ult to save your carry in a team fight is critical.

When not playing ranked I’m still working on both Tryndamer and Master Yi. Both are considered less-than-optimal champions (though Trynd just got buffed), but for me they are a ton of fun to play. Tryndamer’s main ‘problem’ is that he is a beast in the 3v3 game, so even though he might be a little weak in 5s, he won’t get buffed too much due to the 3s map. Yi on the other hand is tricky in that if he gets rolling, he is more devastating than most champions, but if he has a slow start he brings next to nothing to a team. Jungling with him somewhat solves the early-game issues, but you still need a few early kills to really get the items you need to dominate.

As I’ve written here before, we (Inq) are having a blast with the game, and have built up a nice community in terms of people to play with. If you are at all interested in the game, feel free to use this link, and if you are looking for a good group to enjoy it with, apply here.

Last Chuck-o-the-day: Yup, the book is done, so no more Chuck after this. It’s been fun, but in life, all good things must come to an end (Yankee’s related joke quote, bonus if you can name it).

They were going to release a Chuck Norris edition of Clue, but the answer always turns out to be “Chuck Norris. In The Library. With a Roundhouse Kick.”


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