Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Walking Dead: The Game: Season One

It's been nearly two weeks since I finished The Walking Dead, and I still don't honestly know what exactly to say. There are some things I know I can say about the game, though. It's probably one of the best games I've played this year. Probably one of the best games I'll play for awhile. It tops out as one of the best games I've ever played period. Perhaps it's the best we just start from the beginning.

Episode One: A New Day

We start off finding our protagonist, Lee Everett, on his way to prison. We aren't really told if he did or didn't do whatever he's been accused of, at first. After some conversation with a kindly old cop, the squad car you're in hits a zombie, walkers as they're commonly called here as zombie fiction doesn't exist in this world, and the car goes off the road, knocking you out. Waking up you'll see the start of society beginning to fall. You'll meet up with those you'll be seeing a lot of in the coming episodes, and you'll have to make a few choices, some involving life and death.

This episode does a great job of introducing the characters, while leaving plot hooks for later episodes to pull on. The big ones are Lee, because he feels like your average everyman. Not like what other devs want to feel like your everyday guy, ala Nathen Drake. Lee actually feels real, he's got flaws, he's humble about his abilities, and he does actually get freaked out a few times, nearly losing his head, or actually doing so if you choose that.

The game is a sort of return to the point and click adventure genre. You'll move around environments, chatting with folks, solving a few puzzles, and soaking in the story. The game does a great job of building up atmosphere. You feel like you're living in a place where everything has obviously gone down the crapper. Things obviously aren't going to get much better, and you're stuck dealing with it.

There's some graphical hiccups, but that's about all I can say to complain here.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Tales of an XCOM Commander: Part 1

He wasn't even supposed to be there. He really shouldn't have been there. But God rest his soul, Captain Ibriham "Boomer" Moosen is dead. Ironically I'm fairly certain "boom" is the sound his organs made when that Cyberdisc made him explode with its death ray or whatever that is. We're actually researching it now.

I should feel bad, shouldn't I? But honestly, I didn't know Boomer that well. I only knew him from when he'd arrived from Egypt. I think. He'd been gifted to us from some nation after we'd saved their city. One of the best of the best as they'd told us. He never got much combat experience.

Of course the only reason he was there was so that one of our strongest, a miss "Flash" Gorden, could under go psychic testing. So, without really thinking about it, I sent Boomer. The others didn't really know him that much either. He went in, equipped with the shotgun he'd used during his days in the actual military. With the basic armor we handed every soldier who walked in the door, and a frag grenade. We gave him the decency of not checking his pockets, to see if there were any pictures or anything. That would've only added to the pain.

If only I could say the mission had gone better because of him. In reality, though, we lost a good ten or so civies. A few folks will be sitting in the med bay for awhile, and to boot, when they got back to base, it was only to hear that Major Gorden's testing was all for naught.

Sadly, the mission had been necessary. For a week or two, we'd been running low on supplies with which to research, or to produce things with. Follow that up with the fact that Japan had just witnessed a massive UFO fly over, going God knows where, and we were unable to stop it, lacking birds in the area, it was looking like our ship had sailed without us on it.

Of course our saving grace was a good sized city's doom. The aliens decided it was time for a strike, and they terrorized the populace, taking out at least half the ones we were supposed to save.

Of course now, we'll be ready for the next swarm of cyberdiscs. We'll be prepared.

Of course, I have my doubts that's the worse they'll throw at us.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown

I bring great and dire news! First, the good news. XCOM is freaking awesome. Last, the bad news. The world's fate is in my hands, so you best all start fearing for your lives.

For those who don't know, XCOM is a reboot(that's what I'm calling it at least) of the old UFO: Enemy Unknown/X-Com:UFO Defense. And until recently, I had never really heard about this older series, which I've heard some say is the pinnical of PC gaming. My mind went into "caustiously optomistic" mode when I read a few reviews and saw gameplay videos of XCOM, with the niggling doubts consisting of "turn based strategy game".

Personally I've never been too big on turn based games. I see it as an odd way that people would fight, seeing as how if I were being mauled by rabid early RPG rats, there's no way I'm waiting in line to fight back. But I was gifted with it, so, might as well give it a go. Below is my playing experience.

8:00-ish AM

The sun is coming up, and I pop out of bed realizing my download must finally be finished. I boot up the game, and decide to start on normal, with the tutorial, and without Ironman mode turned on. Ironman mode apparently prevents you from ever loading a previous save for the game you are currently playing, committing you to every choice, move, and decision.

Now, the simple version of the game is this, you control a squad of people, sweeping through a small area, a city block or two, searching for the aliens you've been sent to defeat. You'll engage them in combat, where you can either move your people twice a piece, or move them once, and then have them attack. Once you've killed all the ETs, you'll head back to your base with whatever you've collected. You'll use these collected resources to research new items, train your soldiers, grow your base, launch satillites to keep an eye on other nations, and try to keep all the nations of the world happy.

Wait, what was that last part? Oh yes, what you're running is XCOM. XCOM is the collective forces of the nations of the world come together to prevent alien attacks. So you'll have to balance keeping all the world in check, else nations will begin to pull out of the Council of Nations, seeing as how you seem to care about them as much as you do the person with mildly annoying hiccups. This comes to a head during abduction missions, where you're given three different missions, in three different areas of the world of varying difficulty, and with different rewards. The thing is you can only do one of the three. So you'll be helping one nation, making them like you, while two others start to question you. Do this to a nation enough, and they'll pull out. I understand the reason for the choice, making you balance who you're assisting, but I feel it's very forced. Moving on.

11:00 AM

With my morning things done, I can now really get into the game. I tend to judge a game by how long I can play it before I realise I've lost a few hours. XCOM does this rather well. I start playing around 11, I look at a clock at about 2, thinking it can't be right, and by the time I look back at the clock again, it's 3:30. XCOM, if you can get into it, will keep you busy.

Part of it is the "one more mission" mentality. Missions for the most part take about ten to twenty minutes, some going for longer, if you do them right. You're constantly seeing new things, whether it be new aliens, new squad abilities, new strategies opening up, or a new squad member because the last one is either dead, or in the infirmary recovering from alien wounds. For some reason, I got really attached to my squad. You can customize them a tad, changing their names, nicknames, armor appearance and color, and so on. Name them after your closest friends and family members and we'll see just how good you feel when you send them to an Very Difficult mission. The members of your squad will slowly rank up as you go, gaining a class, which you don't seem to get to choose, and new abilities. You'll also be able to kit them out in better gear, and weapons.

What makes these characters so easy to care for, is the fact that if they die, you're going to know how big of a loss it is, especially later in the game. If you lose one of your heavy hitters, one of your better squads, you know who you get to replace them with? A new rookie. You've replaced your combat veteran with a rookie, who will likely make his pants very warm the first time he or she sees a sectoid.

This leads me into talking about the game's difficulty. I'm playing on normal, and it's honestly not too bad, so long as you think about what you're doing. If you lose a person, it's likely because you were caught by surprise, or you left them out in the open to die.

A few things that have bugged me while playing the game is the animations, and the voice acting. The combat animations do really spice things up, making each battle feel epic and such, but it just feels weird when my soldiers take aim at an enemy, and then shoot at a wall, or both the enemy and my soldiers shoot at each other while clipping through either each other, walls, or their cover.  The voice acting on the other hand is across the board fairly decent, which would be fine, except for one problem. Your squad will be made up of people from varying nations, meaning they should all probably speak different languages, right? I can understand them all speaking English, though, you'll want your squad to actually understand each other. But all men share the same set of voices, and all women share the same set of voices. And they all sound American. I had a soldier from Brazil, who was obviously Hispanic, and they sounded like someone I would meet on the street.

But that's really all there is for me to complain about. If you'll excuse me...There's more XCOM to be played.

Also for later on in the week, be watching for my thoughts on The Walking Dead, with the release of its final episode on Tuesday. Here's a preview: IT'S FREAKING GREAT!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Dwelling on the Digital Age

Last night, as my birthday is soon, a relative got me XCOM: Enemy Unknown as a gift. They went to a GameStop, bought it, and the people behind the counter handed them a code. I was given this, and since last night I've been waiting for it to download, which has certainly given me much time to think, as my internet is next to worthless while something is downloading. In the chance it's on your mind, my internet runs perfectly fine and fast, but for some reason that just eats bandwidth away like a child eats candy on Halloween.

As I idled around my home, pausing the recording of "Firefly" I'd DVRed on my TV, pulling out my iPod Touch to check something that someone had posted on Facebook, before shooting a few birds at pigs for a moment, putting it away, before pulling out my phone and sending someone a text, all the while letting my computer download something out of thin air, no cords or discs required, that it hit me that I am living in the future. And I'm not sure I'm okay with that.

I'm perfectly fine, happy, and amazed by all of those things, minus the latter. Not because I don't agree with the idea, oh no, I love the idea of it. I love wi-fi,and I love things like Steam, or iTunes. But I fear that when, whether we want it or not, the majority of our media is only found on the internet, or the cloud, or what have you, that some of us will be left behind. What about those of us who live in the countryside, our internet choices limited? I have three choices out where I live. Hughes Net, which isn't going to happen, a local company, which thankfully does have decent prices for their good service, or I would be stuck going back to dial-up, if that even still exists.

As we move forward, what is there to be said for the minority that will be left behind?

A different thought, is what effect is this having on things like the game industry?

Years ago, on the GameCube, or PS2 lets say. You went out, you bought a game, and that was it. These days, you go out, buy a game, most likely will need to download a patch for said game, while also being encouraged to put down even more money for the possible day 1 DLC. We've gone from buying full, finished games, with likely a few bugs here or there, to buying games that will be complete months from now, and to have the complete will require more than the initial payment. Of course it's changed more than that.

We see things such as Free to Play games. These would've never been possible in a market where disc was the main way of reaching the customer, outside of the PC at least. But now they're becoming more and more, perhaps even scarily, common. And that's fine except for a few things. Many companies see these as the future, the main one coming to mind being EA. If that were to happen, I predict a future full of microtransactions. The microtransaction in and of itself is a flawed idea to begin with. You can of course go on playing, usually, without even making a single one, but at what cost? Depends on the game. In League of Legends, you'll unlock Champions, the playable characters, much slower. In Team Fortress 2, you'll just be playing to luck to see if you get that item you want. In a game like SW:TOR? You can't even hide your characters' hat without paying the extra dough.

Is that what we want for the future? Half finished games, that are only full when you've spent even more money that you would've for a full one years ago?

That's not to say I don't agree with some of the changes the new age has wrought. Patches are an amazing thing, allowing developers to fix bugs that before, players would've just had to deal with. They allow multiplayer to remain balanced. And I'm not entirely against DLC, either. GTA IV's DLC was fairly well done, it gave people more of what the original game was. More story, more missions, more things to do in multiplayer, but to me, the pinnical of properly done DLC is Red Dead Redemption.

Red Dead Redemption had many free weapons and such for DLC, while also being guilty of what I'm not a fan of, but have come to accept, the download of new maps, skins, etc. But take a look at its major DLC pack, Undead Nightmare, and you have something different.

Undead Nightmare included a new story, new characters, radically changed the game while keeping the fun in tact. Added new modes, characters, weapons, etc. to the multiplayer, and new challenges to both sides of the board. Take note here, Call of Duty, Battlefield, and most military shooters of today. They didn't just add in a few maps. They did add in a horde mode, though it was minor among the other additions, which I'm against, but again, it was minor.

This was a bit ranty, and crosses away from my original topic but there you go. Insert clever witty ending here, if you would be so kind.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Guild Wars 2: Final Thoughts

I'm going to admit something before we start today. I've yet to even hit 80 in Guild Wars 2. My highest character is a Guardian sitting at around 47 or 48. As of late I've been playing an entirely different class, the Engineer, and it's sitting around 40-ish. So, that's said, and out there. Perhaps I will someday hit 80. Who knows? Moving on.

The Good

I've complained a lot the past few times I've talked about Guild Wars 2, and that's partially to offset the praise it's been given thus far. That's a bit cruel, you might be thinking, but I always stood by the fact that it was a good game.

First off, it can be a very pretty game. The world feels large, and open, and there are many awesome looking views. The cities you'll be traversing feel huge, and varied, though honestly that can't be said too much about the areas outside their walls. Many of these places do feel interchangeable, at least to me. If you've seen one snow covered mountain, you've pretty much seen the entire zone. There're also a few small things tucked away, such as a playable piano in Ebonhawk. The best looking of these, in my opinion, are the "Branded" areas, where the game's world ending dragons have left their mark. These areas are simply stunning, and the enemies in them are very cool looking. Sadly these are used much, at least the 1-50 zones I played.

The combat also has some nice flow to it. You're skills are based on two things, the weapon or weapons you're using, and your class, which will make up your 1-5 slot. Your 6-0 are made up of skills you can swap in and out, that you unlock with skill points, earned throughout the game.

The game's Dynamic Events, a sort of quest that will pop up at random throughout the world, to be completed by many or few players, can also be fun, especially when they flow into each other. These for the most part are nice little distractions.

One thing I did like the idea of is traits, and skill points. Traits are sort of like putting points into a talent tree as you normally would in other games, except that these boost certain stats, such as your health, or your damage resitance. I think this is great, as it allows people to craft their character better. Skill points too feel this way. You'll accumulate these from leveling up and doing skill point challenges, of which there are about 3-7 per zone. With these you unlock new skills which will make up your 6-0 keys. There are generally a few fun sounding ones, such as the Mesmer's Blink, which lets them teleport somewhere else not too far away, or the Engineer's turrets, but after you've unlocked these, the others aren't really that interesting. They are broken up into tiers, sort of, once you unlock so many on one tier, the next opens up and so on. Once you've unlocked all these skills, as I'm told you use skill points as a currency at 80.

PvP can also be exciting. It tends to be a tad more skill based than other games, as everyone is decked out in full PvP gear before hand, and boosted to the same level. World vs World vs World is an interesting idea too, though I'm not sure it's used to its fullest.

The community is also a big plus to me on the game's record. There are still a few trolls here and there, but for the most part, many of the people you see in game are friendly and willing to help. The map discussions can't always be said the same of, but they're generally pretty good too.

The Bad

Yes we're getting back to this, though honestly some of this will be dwelling on the darker side of some of the things listed in the Good portion.

Guild War 2's world is very pretty, it's environments a decently varied, though on occasion it felt repetitive. This isn't much of a problem, in all honesty. The problem I have is that while the world is very pretty, it's not very interesting. The races you an play as fall into your usual RPG niches. Humans are humans. Norns are oversized heavy drinkers, similar to how dwarves are portrayed in Tolkein-esque universes. Sylvari seem to take the place of elves, literally being one with nature you know, being plants and all. The Asura are your genius inventors *cough*gnomes*cough*. Ahem. Sorry. Kidding of course, sort of. And Charr fall into the race of war-loving beings, that are pretty much as hostile while still being allies as you can find.

Also, the world ending threat that the game describes on the back of its box the "Elder Dragons" really aren't that important until later in the game. As an up and coming hero, I really don't start hearing about this until I've helped a few dozen farmers or soldiers with their bandit problems? The Branded areas discussed above were the most I ever saw of these Elder Dragons, and while they sounded fairly generic as far as threats come, these areas were stunning, I was sad they seemed to be rare.

As for the combat, I don't like how it doesn't have much evolution. You'll likely find a weapon you like, and stick with it, and by doing so you'll be stuck with the same five skills for your entire leveling experience. The same can be said with your other skills, you'll find what you like, and you'll use it. It was fairly rare that I found something new on my higher level characters that I thought was interesting enough to strive for.

On the dark side of Dynamic Events, even a few months after release, I still continue to see a few of these bugged, and uncompletable. There was one in a fairly early zone(if you consider 30-ish out of 80 early), that would've had you protecting a courier as they headed down a Seperatist(Humans fighting to prevent a treaty with the Charr from being signed) infested road, except for one small problem. The NPC literally did not move, had no speech option to make her move, etc. She just stood there, for my entire few hours in the zone. As far as I know, she's still standing there.

There's honestly not much I can complain about with traits. I really do like that idea, and I think it gives your character a more unique feel, as you assign points to help with your playstyle. What I can complain about is the price of doing so. Upon reaching level 11, you'll unlock your first trait. To actually assign said trait? You'll need to purchase a skill book, for about ten silver. This is about half the money I'd earned up to this point, as I've said earlier, and this just felt horrible. And don't think that's the last time you'll be buying a skill book. You'll only be able to put 10 points into each of your six categories for now, until you hit 40, in which you can pay a gold, again a bit less than I'd earned, and you'll be able to put another ten in each category, with it eventually maxing out at 30 points possible in a given category.

PvP for the most part seems alright for now, though there are times that it comes down to who has the most people on their side. My main problem with it is the fact that every area you'll fight over comes down to holding more points than your opponents, with a few twists thrown in here or there, like having a catapult, or each team having a strong "guild leader" that if killed boosts the other team's score. There's just not much variety here gameplay wise. Visual wise the maps are all nicely varied.

Lastly, the game's, as I would call it, premium options. For the most part it tends to be a boosts that will give you more experience points, or more currency pay out, etc., but there are a few things that just boggle my mind. For one, when you buy the game you'll get access to all four races, and all eight professions. You're only given five character slots. Want to be able to have a character of all eight classes? Dish out another $30. Yes, yes you can buy the premium currency with ingame money, but why should I have to? Yes, I do hear you, saying I don't have to. Say that to my bank. You'll probably be alright with the idea, on your first character. You're given a 27 slot bank, with which to keep your loose items. It's also shared by your characters. I do not have a problem with that. Not at all. What I have a problem with, is that if you want more room, which trust me you likely will, you'll need to dish out what comes out to be about $7.50 for more slots. Oh, but you can't buy just that much. You'll need to pay $10 and have a few extras hanging around. Forgive me, getting into a slight rant.

The Conclusion

Really, what matters of the end of the day isn't how much I can nitpick on Guild Wars 2. What matters is how fun it is. And 95% of the time, it's fun. It's fun when I'm just roaming an area and stumble upon a dynamic event, or group up with a few folks to get to a skill point. It's fun when I'm not restricted by what I can do. The other 5% is when I realise that something is far out of my price range, or that a zone has left me underleveled which does tend to happen more than I'd like. It stops being fun when the game pretty much puts up a sign saying "Want this? Give us a few more dollars. That or grind your eyes away for money." Money you'll want, mind you, so that you can afford the game's professions, which tend to be expensive.

But yes, at the end of the day, Guild Wars 2 is fun. I've played it nearly everyday for a few weeks now, and even if I get tired of it, I don't have to worry about paying or anything. I can just come back when I want. If you've never been into the whole MMO thing, this won't change your mind. There's a few solid ideas here, but it's honestly just a bit more of the same with some great polish to it. If you've been looking for a new MMO, this might be your game.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Hotline Miami impressions

After playing new indie game Hotline Miami...I honestly don't know what to say. It's almost as if my brain literally shut down while I played it. There wasn't much thought going through my mind, more doing.

I didn't really think as I burst through a door, punching a man in the face, before proceeding to do the same thing to his friend, the slight thought of hope creeping in that I might not get killed myself. There wasn't much thought as I moved swiftly into the next room, killing a man, picking up his baseball bat and chucking it at his charging companion, just before leaping onto him to beat his face in.

I never had time to think. It was either do, or die. But there are other things that I almost wish I'd thought. Why am I here? Why am I doing this? Am I Miami's greatest hitman? Or am I just some psycho on the warpath? The game gives only the slightest hint of a story.

The basic gist of it, is that you view a small area from a top down view. You move with WASD (though I hear using a gamepad is in the works, if not already useable), and use your mouse for combat. You'll equip a mask, which will give you unique benefits, at the start of each level. From there, you'll move through the level, killing everyone in your path, picking up a variety of weapons and guns, once everyone is dead, you move on to do the same thing over. If you die, which you will often, you restart in the blink of an eye.

I'm not sure if this is common, but for me, thought while playing this game simply ceased. It almost stopped being a game. It became more of a dance. Constant motion, trying to learn the steps on the fly.

I've never touched the stuff, but I honestly have to guess that the game's visuals are what an acid trip has to feel like. The screen shifts around like a ship on the ocean, the pink fog surrounding the area you're plowing through changes colors dramatically with each kill. Music constantly shifts. But then, suddenly, once all the bodies have stopped breathing, the music just stops. All of the sudden. You then walk back to the front of the level, passing every death you've caused. For once you actually can stop and think about what you just did, but by that time, it's obviously too late to question it.

The game's visuals made me honestly start to feel ill after a playing for awhile, so if you get motion sickness, count this into the factors of "buy or not".

Surprisingly, there almost seems to be more. In my mind, I constantly wonder to myself, "Why don't I care about all this death?", and as far as I can tell, the answer is simply because the game doesn't teach you to care. It teaches you how to kill, and not much else.

And you know? Maybe that's all you need...

Friday, October 12, 2012

Through the Mists (Part 4)

Townlong Steppes

After the long, dull quest lines of Kun-Lai Summit, I'm more than happy to finally be able to move on. The next zone is Townlong Steppes, where you'll mainly be helping the mysterious Shado-Pan, an organization dedicated to protecting Pandaria, and all who live there, as far as I can tell.

As you go on, the zones seem to contain fewer and fewer storylines, with Townlong checking in with only five, and the zone after it with only four, I move through them at a fairly decent clip, and they take you throughout the zone, keeping you travelling every now and then. I actually started to enjoy the story, and the voice acting, again here, where I'd become bored fairly early on in Kun-Lai, soon enough I've done the storylines for the achievement, and ding 89. Onto the Dread Wastes!

Dread Wastes

The Dread Wastes is a zone behind a giant wall errected to try to keep a race of insectoids known as the Mantid at bay. Before this point you'll have fought off the Mantid in Townlong Steppes likely, but there's a group of Mantid known as the Klaxxi here that you'll be helping out. Early quests mostly focus on you waking up a few of their champions they've incased in amber hundreds of years ago, and also one line follows Chen's pursuit of his family.

The lines continue to be interesting, though they lose a bit of speed in about the middle of the Klaxxi line, honestly. I know I'm not saying much on these two zones, but there's not too much to say that I've not said already about earlier zones. High points include the storytelling, which has been improved across the board, even in zones like Kun-Lai they kept you going for the story, with the low points being the fact that after doing a series of greatly designed quests, you'll be told to go kill ten of these, or collect seven, or eight, of these items. Items seem to have the Burning Crusade problem of low drop rates, on certain quests, as well, adding to some frustration.

Ding! 90

Of course, everything before 90 has just been building up to it. It's everything after 90 that is what's meant to keep you occupied, and let me tell you, the amount of content opened right at 90 is a tad daunting.

First off, you'll get to pick your last talent. I'm a bit disappointed by the Death Knight talents. None of them open up an avenue for damage. The first choice "Gorefiend's Grasp" is very similar to our current Death Grip, which pulls and taunts an enemy to us, except it can be used on up to five friends/enemies in an area, and sadly, doesn't taunt. The second one will be familiar sounding to anyone who's fought the Lich King, Remorseless Winter. It doesn't cause damage, but upon use will circle the player in a giant, personal ice storm. This will begin to slow nearby foes with a debuff, which will stack the longer they stand next to the Death Knight, and if it reaches a high enough stack, the foe will freeze. I see this getting use in both PvE, and PvP. The last choice is Desecrated Ground, which forms a circle on the ground that while the DK stands on it, they will not suffer any movement impairments. I see this one being popular in PvP as well.

After that, you're most likely going to want flying, which will run you 2,500 gold. Not too steep, considering the fastest flights go for 4,000. And then come the dailies.

There's about nine new factions giving you dailies to start off, in Mists of Pandaria. Two of them will be locked out until you get to Revered with another. You'll likely have come across the Tillers, farmers working out of the Halfhill Market in Valley of the Four Winds, already, and their dailies seem to revolve around planting herbs and such on your farm (more on that in a bit), and helping around by scaring off vermin and the like.

The Anglers are located down south in Krasarong, focus on fishing. The Golden Lotus are focused on defending the Vale of Eternal Blossom, where your factions new capital is located, and the Order of the Cloud Serpant is sort of like the Netherwing, in that you'll be grinding up their faction for access to Cloud Serpants, this expansions drakes as it would appear. The last one, the Lorewalkers, want to learn, what else, more of the lore of the land. This is done mainly by discovering giant scrolls which will reveal to you the continents past, and through Archeology.

If that doesn't sound like enough to do, you'll also have about nine new dungeons to run. Once you hit 90, there's no such thing as a normal dungeon to you. You can go back and do them if you're running with friends, I believe, but you won't be able to queue for them in Randoms. Every dungeon built for 90 is of the Heroic variety. This can also all be done in the new Challenge Mode, where your party is given standardized gear. You'll race to the end for the lowest time, and be ranked on new leaderboards.

If that's not enough for you, you'll also be given access to the new game..Type..? Mode..? Uh...Something, called Scenarios. These are smaller, three man instances, that can be completed by any arrangement of class/spec/so on. They're meant to be shorter than dungeons, and work sort of like miniture quest lines that can be completed as a group.

Beyond that, there's a new arena season, which looks to be the usual, with 2v2, 3v3, and 5v5 matches. With that comes a new set of gear. There're three new raids that Blizzard is staggering out over the coming weeks, complete with Looking For Raid, Normal 10/25-man, and Heroic 10/25-man. Also two new BGs. All of that's about par for the course, LFR version of the raids aside. Beyond that, you can train, capture, and battle new and old pets, try the new monk class, and the Pandaren race.

What I'm getting at by all of that, is that Blizzard seems to have tried their hardest to give players an insane amount of new things to do. Whether casual or hardcore, PvE or PvP, there's likely something that you should find enjoyable.

On the quality of that content, though, I can't honestly say. The dailies, Golden Lotus aside, seem to be very high in quality. They're short enough to keep you interested the first few times, with the rewards keeping you in for the long run.

The Tillers' dailies feature you working on your own farm, which before MoP dropped I heard comparisons to Harvest Moon, and something that made me cringe, Farmville. After trying them, it's actually a great distraction. The further you progress with the Tillers, the more plots you'll have to plant things, that you'll actually get use out of. You'll slowly make friends with people in the market, a new, more personal, version of a reputation, who all have their own items for sale, and once you hit the highest rep you can with them, they'll give you a nice little doodad for your farm.

I've yet to start with them, but from what I'm hearing, the Golden Lotus are apparently very grindy, and it's not good design to put two factions (one of which is the intriguing Shado-Pan) behind a locked door until the Golden Lotus allow you through.

Beyond this, once I've tried more of the 90 content, I think I'll be ready to "review" this expansion. Though "review" to me doesn't mean give it a score. I'm just not a fan of scores.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Through the Mists (Part 3)

Kun-Lai Summit

Sitting a short ways from level 88, I'm finding myself bored with the my current zone, Kun-Lai Summit. It's almost depressing that I'm bored with the quests, because the zone seems so interesting to me.

The zone seemed, at first to be very similar to the last zone, Valley of the Four Winds. Lots of open fields, farms, and the like. But as I moved further into the mountains that lined the north, I was happily surprised to see things such as NPCs that were apparently "guides" through the treacherous mountain passes(sadly not hireable or anything of the like), and right before the paths into the mountain, a sort of rest stop, with friendly locals. A questline will lead you through here, and it is sort of interesting. The quests before it, aren't.

They mainly feature your faction setting up a foothold in this new area, with the Sha coming more into focus. That mostly seemed like a rehash of Jade Forest, but it's honestly trying to do its own thing.

One of the early questlines you'll be doing early on in this zone is gaining entrance into a zone called Vale of Eternal Blossoms, where your factions' capital city is.

The Alliance and Horde get their own this time, with, as I've read, a raid between the two cities. The Alliance city, Shrine of the Seven Stars, has all you could ever need, really. Portals to all four Alliance cities, a portal to Shattrath City, a portal to Dalaran, and I believe a portal to the Cavern of Time. If you're one who hops around the world a lot, this'll be the place you'll want to set your Hearthstone. The city itself isn't too impressive, it's got some nice design, but it's not as sprawling as Dalaran or Shattrath. Outside the city are rep vendors from all of the new factions introduced, making for easy buying once you've actually earned the reps.

More Monk

One thing that I simply love about the Monk, is that every ten levels, you get a quest to be whisked away to the distant Kun-Lai Summit Monestary where the monks of the world train. You're ordered to go talk to a "Master" and they fight in by giving you a unique challenge using a move you've learned recently. It's great design, and it's awesome to see a form of class quests back, and it's a great way to learn the class. What it also almost feels to be, is unfair. I know Monk is the new shiny, but it would've been nice to see the other classes get some love, or something in the same form at least.

The class itself continues to be fun, with many tools in their kit, it's fun to generate some Chi, and have to choose what to spend it on. You'll of course have certain things you'll use in certain situations, but when you're in no trouble, there's a good chance you'll have two or three different attacks you could be trying out, with equal success or benefits.

For example, if I generate two Chi, while my target isn't doused in my beer debuff(if they are, I can breathe fire on them, something that's yet to get old), I can choose between a kick that increases my parry chance for a few seconds, while also doing damage, an ability that will absorb a certain amount of damage, one of the movies I gained from a talent tree choice that is a wave of energy that will either heal or damage, or just store it for later. It's awesome having these choices, though there will probably be a rotation by the time people begin raiding with Monks, which breaks the illusion of choice in combat.

Everything Else

Pet Battles continue to be fun, if anything they're a great distraction, and half of my guild seems to be struggling to actually level with the carrot of Pet Battles hanging over them.

I've yet to get to try out the last portion of the talent trees, I'm nearly to 90 so I should be able to start trying some of the new dailies, which aren't capped this go around, among other things. I've only stepped into one dungeon thus far, but I was impressed, as there were few trash mobs, and they mainly focused on bosses with fairly interesting tactics, making them go quickly without feeling rushed, yet still retaining some sort of challenge by changing up how fights went.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Through the Mists (Part 2)

Treking Forward

I've finished the main questline in the first zone of Mists of Pandaria's new content, that being The Jade Forest, and I must say....It's well worth it to do so. I wouldn't say it in and of itself was worth $40, but I dare say it comes fairly close.

As a bit of a guess on what it ends on...Most people who've gone through the game's older content tend to recall Wrathgate. Well, if you recall Wrathgate, I dare say the cutscene you're given during the end of this zone surpasses Wrathgate's own. And perhaps I'm building it up slightly too much to the point where it won't live up to expectations...

Moving on, after a few quests, I'm sent to the next zone, Valley of the Four Winds, to begin my mingling with the locals. This zone starts out fairly slowly, and doesn't ever really pick up much. Whereas in Jade Forest Alliance side you pretty much commit genocide of the Hozen, a race of monkey-like creatures, here you will destroy many of a race dubbed the Vermin, which appear to be oversized rats.

You'll help the local farmers on many an errand, but the high point of this zone is that you traverse it in part with Chen Stormstout, of Warcraft 3 fame. He and his niece are new comers in Pandaria, just as you will be, yet they have a slight firmer grasp on Pandaren culture, thus they sort of act as the middle point for you. You being at the low-knowledge end of the spectrum, and the locals being at the high-knowledge end, Chen and his niece ask just enough questions to allow you to learn the lore, without seeming to know nothing about their own people(though I would almost excuse it if they didn't know anything, as they've spent their time on a turtle).

Most of these quests end up falling in the simple "Go here, retrive this from the *insert animal here* that stole it*", before leading up to "Go here, kill a larger version of said animal." quests. Yet somehow I never really found myself bored. You'll be moving around the zone enough, and quests that shake up the formula are inserted at just the right spot, to keep you going forward. I'm about a bar from 87, and I honestly thought, after what had to be growing to near a hundred quests, I would be growing bored, but I simply wanted to keep going. There's a slightly believable relationship between Chen and his niece, Li Li, and even if the Alliance/Horde battles were in the background, it was pleasant to simply see some side character development, and learn about this new race's culture.

At first I was a bit iffy on a land full focused on a single race, and of the Pandaren in general, but now? I'm actually really getting into it. The Pandaren, while a gentle, peaceful race, are almost forced into their ways, lest they unwittingly summon the ancient forces known as the Sha, beings that feed off of negative emotion. It's actually sort of interesting just to think on that.

I believe soon enough I'll be moving onto a different zone, and I can't wait.

The Ways of the Monk

The new class to come with Mists of Pandaria is the Monk. The Monk relies mostly on hand to hand combat, uses an energy resource similar to a Rogue, but generates a secondary resource called Chi, similar to Combat Points, that feeds other abilities. They wear leather, and can spec into being Brewmasters(Tanks), Windwalkers(DPS), and Mistweavers(Healers), making the first new hybrid class to be added to the game, joining the ranks of paladins and druids.

They start a bit slow. Their basic attack is called Jab, and you do just that, you jab your enemy. This generates a point or two(up to three, I believe) of Chi, which later on is used to use stronger attacks, like roundhouse kicks and the like. It's easy to see where the influence for the class comes from.

It's honestly fun, once you've got a few abilities, but my main concern is balance. From the shape of things in the later levels, as I'm being told, the Monk appears to be seriously overpowered. Of course they are the new class, and as I recall DKs had the same problem. My main concern is that it either won't be addressed, or the poor things will be nerfed into oblivion.

I've yet to step into a dungeon with mine, and they've only just made it to level 23. As I tank for the most part, I specced into Brewmaster, was given a new stance to stay in, and a new form of taking damage, called Staggering. When you get hit by an attack, while in this stance, you will stagger some of the damage, taking only 80% of it right away, the remaining 20% will be applied to you over the course of the next ten seconds or so. It's interesting in concept, and it'll be interesting to see how it plays out in dungeons. I've yet to enter PvP yet with mine either, as at the lower levels I've found the queues to be ungodly long.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Through the Mists (Part 1)

I have journyed into the Mists, dear friends/readers/whatever you would prefer to be called, and I have returned in one piece, and let me dismiss a few rumors about this yet to be discovered land:

  • No, the island is not a secret base where horrible experiments are being preformed(as far as I know THUS FAR!)
  • The land within the Mists is not, and let me repeat, not made of ham.
  • Here there be dragons. Though you won't see too many during your first day or two there.
Ahem, sorry. Joking aside, I've had quite a bit of fun with my time in Pandaria, and I've just hit level 86 about half an hour from typing this. I've been taking it very slowly compared to some.

For the sake of this look over, here's what you get when you purchase Mists of Pandaria:

  • Access to a new race, the Pandaren, who can join either the Alliance or the Horde (Actually, I believe all races have been made open to everyone, despite which expansion you've purchased)
  • The new class, the Monk, which focuses on a more martial arts style of combat, uses Energy as a resource, and generates a secondary resource called Chi, which is used to power stronger attacks.
  • Your level cap will be raised to 90.
  • You will have access to the new continent Pandaria, with its seven new zones.
  • Six new dungeons, and two(one is split into two halves) remastered dungeons, three new raids(not including two world raid bosses), and four new Battlegrounds.
All in even if there's a bunch of content included, it doesn't really matter if you aren't getting your $40 worth, now does it. That's what you get with the expansion, you also get access to a new, I'd call it a minigame, dubbed "Pet Battles" even if you've yet to buy MoP. So first off lets just go over how your first step into the new content will be, and how I felt about it.

5.0.4 and the changes it wrought

The largest change that comes to mind that MoP kicked off with was changing up the talent system. Instead of the old points system, where about every other level you were given a single point to shove into a tree, you are now given a choice of three talents every 15 levels. Like in the old system, at level 15 you'll also choose your specilization, of three, or four if your a druid. Like in most MMOs, your spec will either shove you into the category of Tank(taking large amounts of damage), DPS(damage per second, pretty much killing things quickly), or Healer(Healing people). If you're a WoW veteran, or MMO vet in general, you likely know how that goes. But where did the talents I would've got from shoving points into line in my talent tree you ask? Why you just get them at fairly even increments as you level, instead of having to put the points in, what's even better, is that you don't even need to go talk to a trainer to do so.

Mana was also capped, meaning that no matter your gear, you will have the same mana as everyone else at your level, and also a few new attacks were introduced, and few taken away.

That's what I can think of off the top of my head.

Into the New Zones (Possible Spoilers! I'm trying to keep it fairly simple, but you never know)

While I have only seen the Alliance side of things(I only play Alliance, Horde scum), things actually start off with a bang. This zone is mainly meant to introduce the Alliance and Horde to the natives of Pandaria, which, even though that's what the name implies, is inhabited by things other than the Pandaren, and vice versa.

You'll start out on a fairly focused chain, which is about your faction of choice wooing one race of natives, Jinyu for the Alliance basicly fish people that sort of remind me of Jar Jar Binks but better, and the Hozen for the Horde a race of monkeys. Considering the only thing I ever did to them was murder them, the Hozen didn't really seem interesting to me, but they're in an existing conflict with the Jinyu, and oddly enough the Alliance gets stuck with the faction on the losing side of that. I honestly did like the Jinyu, and I'm not going to say Horde favoritism, because the two sides once the Horde and Alliance are introduced to them, get fairly balanced out.

Once you've assisted your factions new friends, you'll be sent to do something else, which for the Alliance is something I won't spoil, but it left me scratching my head. From there your off to a lovely village called Dawn Blossom, which is where the true experience started for me. Once you get here, you'll be given a few quests, which will lead you to different places, and different stories.

This highlights one of the strengths I've seen in MoP. There's a larger focus on story, even to the point where you won't get an achievement for a zone until you've completed all the stories open to you, instead of just doing 80 quests or something. There's a lot more voice acting then I recall in Cataclysm, though honestly, I didn't care enough for Cata quests to keep my sound on, favoring simply listening to music on YouTube. Here though, I actually feel like I'm part of something, I'm interested. Of course, this is just the first zone, I've yet to venture from it, so we'll just have to see how intact that feeling is by the end of the last zone.

You'll also be restricted to the ground for all of this, until you hit the new level cap of 90, and honestly I don't miss flying. The world feels bigger when seen from the ground.

Pet Battles

Even if you've yet to buy MoP, you'll be able to enjoy the new feature called simply, Pet Battles. If you've played Pokemon or one of the many games it inspired, you'll be in a familiar place here. Your vanity pets will enter the field of battle against another pet(or up to three for both you and your opponent), and they will duel to the death. If they are victorious, they will gain experience, and over time level up, up to a cap of I believe 25. They will also eventually unlock six moves, with three slots for those moves, and a choice of two moves per slot. As in Pokemon, certain pet types will be weaker against other types, and stronger against yet another type.

You're also given the ability, once you've brought a pet up to level 3, to capture pets you'll fight in the wild.

It sounds a bit odd, doesn't it? In action though, it's extremely fun. WoW's questing system pretty much encourages you to go it alone, but I think this encourages playing with others even better than a raid or a dungeon. It's much more casual, as if you beat someone you challenge, your pets won't gain experience. I palled around with a guy from my guild, just trying different combos, and I didn't care if I lost or if I won, it was just fun.


That's my thoughts thus far. Personally I'm enjoying this much more than I thought I would. I'll talk more in depth about the Monk class next time, hopefully(just hit 15), but honestly, I won't be taking a dive into the playable pandas. I wasn't too big on them before the expansion hit, and I'm not too big on them now. Though their NPC counterparts have actually made me laugh, literally out loud on some occasions, and are interesting.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

FTL: Faster Than Light

The clock ticks to 1 AM as my download finishes. I should be asleep, sure it's a Saturday night, but honestly, I'm tired. But pure interest has drawn me to simply try a single game. One run. An hour later, I've gone through at least four ships as I crawl off to bed.

FTL: Faster Than Light is a bit hard to describe for me, and to those who asked me, I described it like this: You know how on shows like Star Trek they constantly say "ALL POWER TO THE SHIELDS!" and the like? Imagine someone made a game out of that.

And it would appear someone did. FTL: Faster Than Light isn't a game I would say is simple in concept. You're balancing power systems, while dealing with a crew, while dealing with an enemy ship. You need to watch your shields, the enemy's shields, your crew's health, your systems, your weapons, and that's just the beginning. Once you actually start to layer strategy onto there? It just sounds a bit...Cluttered.

In execution, the game plays nearly seamlessly. Your 1-4 keys are assigned to your weapons, keeping them at your fingers at all time, your crew is easy to control, a few clicks and their off to where they need to be, and with a press of the spacebar you can pause the game and give yourself time to think.

You start with a small crew, and a ship, you're given a map with a few stars you can travel to, and given the goal of trying to move through eight systems to get vital information to the Federation at the end of the eighth. In between you'll run across pirates, slavers, and slugs. I showed the game to a friend, who said it was a bit like The Oregan Trail, and in a way, he is right.

The game also has a few roguelike qualities. If you die, you start over, and every map is randomally generated. This keeps it feeling fresh, and honestly, I've yet to beat it. Perhaps that's just a bunch of bad luck, or perhaps it just means I need to get better.

A few of my complaints, though, are that there's very little control of what's going to happen to you. This leaves a sense of exploration, but there were so many times that I went through half the game without seeing a new crew member, or a decent weapon just floating in the black, that I almost felt a bit cheated when I reached the end of the game, still using the starting weapons. I could've invested in a few from one of the many stores you'll run across, but I almost always preferred leveling up my systems over this. That's just my preference.

There's also not much here, story wise, the random events are well written, but there just needs to be more of them, and I'm sure there's a chance of that in an update.

But the main game? I didn't really go into detail, but it's worth it. You'll be balancing your shields, mainly, around your weapons, and your engine which allows you to dodge a bit. Other systems include oxygen, which allows you to breath, and your medbay, where you'll be healing your crew members if they get close to biting it. If the idea of captaining a ship for a more personal experience in a dogfight, look this one up.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Guild Wars 2: The Little Things Edition

Yeah I've been writing about Guild Wars 2 a lot. Yeah it's not really in a very positive light. Yeah this is likely gonna be one of the final pieces on it before I give it a proper "review". Probably.

Tonight I figured I'd get down to the nitty gritty, and talk about some of the minor things that Guild Wars 2 doesn't seem to get, but on the more positive side, I'm also adding in the small things I think it does right.

The Not:

PvP gives no XP

sPvP(which I believe I discovered means "Structured PvP") gives you no experience. At all. Instead you level an independant "rank". This might be nice once you've hit the level cap, but on the way up to that point, this makes me feel like I'm wasting my time. WvW happily does give you exp, but we'll discuss WvW a bit further down the line.

Social Solutions

The first thing I tried upon booting up GW2 for the very first time, once I had actually managed to join the world I wanted, was try to see if there was a form of custom chat channels. There is not. Now I understand, if you want to keep in touch with your friends, perhaps they want you to join a guild. The word is of course in the title. But the option at the least would be nice.

Another problem I find is the Friend's List. My problem with this is that it almost seems to copy Blizzards BattleTag/Real ID system. Except it doesn't tell you this. When you add someone to your Friend's List, you will see that person no matter what character they're playing on. If you stick to only adding your friends, this shouldn't be a problem. If they want some privacy, they can list themselves as "invisible" and you won't see them pop up, which is very nice, and a feature I'd like to see in other games. But this is a double edged sword. Someone can also add you to their list, without you ever knowing(in my experience), and see you at all times. Do you see where I'm going with this? I see this as partially an invasion of privacy. It's not likely to be a big problem, but it could be a problem none the less, thus, I'm not a fan of it.

Cruel Crafting

Crafting at first seemed like an excellent way to level, or grab a few levels here or there. But if you want to actually do a lot of it? Prepare to go through a lot of picks, axes, and scicles. You will need a lot of crafting materials, from areas you've possibly outleveled, to continue leveling. And with cooking at least, you're going to need to "discover" many recipes to move on. Now some of these are actually so easy to figure out, you're likely to miss them because they're in a game. Bread and butter make...Toast! Of course! This is actually a bit fun at first until you realise that they're a bit specific with what you need to discover a few recipes. Also the amount of items you need to make dyes is out of this world. Why do I need 25 potatoes and 25 of something I can't recall off the top of my head to make a dye?

Dynamic Dilemma

The first time an NPC runs up to you, points to you in particular, and informs you of a settlement being attacked? Awesome. The second time, same dialogue, same direction? Less awesome. The fourth time? Not on your life.

The world at first feels very alive. People move and you don't get the feeling they're waiting for you to show up to go about their lives. Caravans move along their routes, towns are harassed by various hostile races. The list could go on. But then, you walk into the same area, and find the same event going on for the tenth time. Going through the second Charr zone, I can't tell you how many times I killed what I assume was the same giant that kept attacking the same town. Moving through zones helps a tad, but the feeling once lost, is a bit hard to get back.

The Got:

Alright, alright. Time to give Guild Wars 2 a break and talk about a few of the smaller things that I think it truely does well.

Crafting Correct

Now, I bashed crafting just a bit up on this page, but there are a few things that it does very well. The more of an item you craft, the less time it will take to make that item. This is very nice, and very helpful. I don't feel like I'll have time to play a game of Monopoly when I make large stacks of items.

Also, even though I complained about the discovery system, when you actually figure out something on your own, and haven't seen it in an article, or a guide, or something, it's actually really awesome. These times can just be so far and in between, for me at least, that it's sort of a let down when you don't find one for a long stretch.

Community Channels

While the lack of custom channles is a bit annoying, the channels you're provided with are actually amazingly pleasant. The people are pleasant and helpful, and it's a far cry from say, WoW's trade chat. Perhaps the community is just different, but whatever the reason, it's awesome to see.

Subtracting the Subscription

This is probably the reason Guild Wars 2 is really big. Because in my eyes, if you slapped a sub fee on this? Uh, no. I think the game was built with the fact that you don't have to worry about getting your bang for your $15 a month.

Really, perhaps that's the problem I'm having. I simply want to get my most out of it, but when I try to, I simply end up grinding away like I have before. I'm not saying that is my problem, but it's possible, I suppose.

I would mention something about WvW here, but I actually added some new thoughts on it/corrected myself back on my impressions part 2. I was wrong about part of it, I'm always willing to admit when I am. :)

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Guild Wars 2 impressions part 2

After, according to Guild Wars 2, I've been playing for 39 hours over 8 days. That's quite a bit of time when you think about it, nearly two days. I've reached rank 2 in PvP, I've 100%ed two zones, and 17% of the world. And yet, I'm only level 31, going on 32.

Story aside, I feel like I've honestly been doing the same thing in every zone. You could make the argument that that's what happens in every MMO, but let me explain. In WoW, as you level up, you get gear, you get new abilities, etc. In Guild Wars 2, as you level, you get gear, and every now and then you save up enough for a new ability.

Where in a game like WoW, or SW:TOR, you have a set of skills based on your class that you'll earn as you level, Guild Wars 2 gives you skills, based on your class, according to which weapon/weapons you have equipped. While this seems clever at first, you don't earn anything past the original skills for weapons, and it can become a bit bland to continue using the same ones over and over and over.

I did take the time to try the PvP. As for the, I believe it's called "sPvP", and I've yet to figure out why, it's fun, frantic, and fast paced. Your goal in the ones I've played in is to capture as many of the three points as you can, and hold them slowly increasing your team's score. You also get points for killing other players, and in some of the fighting grounds, killing the other team's "Lord".

For the most part, PvP seems really balanced. This is in part to the fact that once you enter the PvP area, you are boosted to level 80, and given an entire set of PvP gear, which makes the playing field much more even. Something that just feels weird, though, is the way teams are balanced. If multiple people leave one team, the teams will be balanced by shifting some players around. This is done quite often in other multiplayer, but it still feels odd, and it's not pleasant to go from the winning team to the losing team.

As for the World versus World...It felt very zergish. While there is some skill to it, I'm sure, it seemed that the larger mob of people generally won the day. I didn't do much in it, so it's really hard to talk about it, but gear aside, any bonuses given by it are really only good for WvW.(AN EDIT HAS APPEARED! Here it is: As it would appear, I was wrong in this regard, as it would appear the bonuses given by WvW actually do apply to everyone, which is honestly a nice touch. I will keep the rest of this how it was before, instead of redoing this entire section, as I find that would break flow) Which really isn't something to criticize. In a game like WoW, you raid to earn gear to raid more. That's how it works.

And on the story front, things seemed to have taken a turn for the generic. For awhile the voice acting was actually really good, and the Charr voices, especially my character, seemed to deliver well enough, but then, once I hit a big choice where SPOILERS! you're supposed to choose between three factions to join for the rest of your leveling experience, things got much worse. Every Norn's voice actor seems intent on giving a horrible preformance, humans are hit and miss, and Asura and Sylvari are just bland. Charr seem to be the most consistant, and even their voices can be poor, or just plain flat.

The cutscenes are bland as well, two characters stand staring at each other while they speak and fling their arms around. When a different character starts speaking, one of the two vanish to be replaced by the new speaker. It's very....Dull. The story itself was actually getting to be very interesting, but now after  I picked my organization, it's not moving very quickly.

Something that I've constantly been thinking about, is that if you took out the item shop, and the free to play model, and shoved in a subscription fee, would people still be going gaga over this? I honestly don't think so. Honestly there's been very few times that the game has shown its F2P teeth, but when it did, I grew very annoyed.

For instance you start out with five slots to put bags in. Your sixth slot is locked until you pay for it, for about $5 in gems, or about a gold of in-game currency. If I had never spent a piece of money, by this point I've probably earned about a gold. Income has increased, but of course with that spending increases slightly, and leveling my cooking takes a bunch of that. My second time seeing it, was when I tried to buy more space for my bank.

You start out with 30 slots for your bank. That's honestly a decent amount, until you realise that your bank is account wide. That's not 30 slots for one character, that's 30 slots for all of them. To buy more space, you need to spend 600 of the game's premium currency, or about $7.50 in real money, and considering you can't buy them in that amount, you'll end up having to buy the $10 pack of 800 gems. Or you can spend about 3 gold for the gems.

In the end, is Guild Wars 2 still fun? Yes. I would say I've gotten my $60 worth. But it is not without its flaws that I've not seen anyone mention, so perhaps I'm the only one that sees them? Or perhaps the only one who really cares.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Guild Wars 2 actual gameplay impressions

Alright, it took me an entire night to get the thing installed. I actually bought a CD copy so that I would need to avoid a long download(my internet can handle a good, even latency just fine, but downloads? Computer says: "NOT ON YOUR LIFE!"), and once it's all installed? 60,000 files that need to be downloaded.

So the next morning, I boot up the game when it's finally done, and try to join the server that the people I know are playing on. Here's the problem. It's "full".

Forgive me, but if say, a WoW server is full, you can still play on it. Later in the day I checked and it wasn't full, so I transferred from the server I joined instead right away, but I still don't understand exactly why I couldn't just roll on it in the first place. Especially with these 'overflow' servers that they have in place.

Moving onto the actual game, I rolled a Charr Guardian. Character creation is nice, there's many options open to you, more than I've seen in other MMOs. The first thing I'm greeted with is a nicely animated opening cinematic, with some half way decent voice acting. The voice acting after this? Not so much. It's not so bad in the Charr area, but I rolled a Norn just to see a different starting area, and my God is it bad. And that's really a disappointment considering the story can at times be actually interesting, when it's not being blatantly predictable.

The gameplay itself isn't too different from your usual MMO, at least to me. It's nice, and fluid, and the ability to roll around is actually pretty cool. The main thing that sets GW2 apart from the crowd, it would seem, is the way it handles questing, and its PvP.

Questing is done mainly through what I believe are called "Renown Hearts". I personally call them either "Area Quests", or "Meta-quests". You walk into an area, instead of talking to someone, being given a quest, doing it, and turning it in, you walk into an area, are given a few objectives on the fly, and can do as many of them to fill up a progress bar for that heart. Once you've filled the bar, the NPC that was giving it to you turns into a Karma Vendor, which sells generally one reward that's useful to your class. Karma is earned through one of the game's other main selling points, Dynamic Events.

These events occur at random, throughout the world. They could be as simple as escorting an NPC, to as big as saving an entire town. How you do in these events could change the face of the world. Temporarily. Generally by the time you'll come back by, the status quo will have been returned. These make the world feel much more alive compared to other MMOs. That is, until you've seen the same event occur multiple times, thus destroying the illusion.

Arenanet seems to have tried to eliminate grinding by giving you experience for just about everything you do, be that crafting, exploring, doing Hearts, or Events. Except here's the problem, in my experience, just to reach your next level, you're going to need to do all of those things. Not just one, unless you want to take much, much longer to level, but all of them. I was a few levels behind my Personal Story, quests given to progress your own storyline through the game, when I realised I hadn't even touched crafting yet. Out of Hearts, and with no Events going on nearby, I decided to check this portion out. For the most part, it seems like you'll actually get worthwhile gear out of this, as to how long said gear will last you? In my case, not too long, as once I'd passed by story quest and moved to a new area, I found a vendor selling a shield which out did the one I had just produced.

A few problems I've had with the game is that a few quests are bugged, which they're so few and far between that it was never a major problem. Income seems to be fairly tight, also. By level 16, the most money I've yet to see is about 16 silver. I'm not saying that money should just be handed to us, but your income is a simple trickle, and it's going to be far lower if you want to actually level those professions. By the time I'd hit 10, I needed to buy a book to be able to use the skill points I was building up. Said book cost me 10 of my then 16 silver. I felt crushed, and broke.

There are a few problems that I'm actually foreseeing. I can't judge if they exist or not yet, but here they are.

Endgame. As far as I can tell, it would appear that the large endgame that you're working towards is the World versus World PvP. But here's the thing: You can actually queue to play this very early on. It's not really endgame content when you can actually do it for a majority of the game. In PvP you're power leveled to 80, the current cap, as to be on even footing with your opponents. And that's great! It makes it more based on skill than gear, and I'm all for that. From what I've heard, there's only six of the game's PvE dungeons at the moment, and apparently they're more for cosmetic upgrades, rather than actual better gear. I suppose you could argue that you'll have all of the world to go through, and all the zones to 100%, but honestly, I'm not sure I'd want to. I could see that getting very grindy, very quickly.

My second problem, is the sense of progression. I've been playing for nearly three days, not all day, I will admit, but three days of probably at least four hours of play each, and I've just hit 16. In my opinion, that's just slow. I've not even left the first zone, which is intended for 1-15 level characters. It just seems to take forever to get anything done. Your character moves so slowly, it's almost like they're tredding through mud. It takes a bit of time to get Hearts done, your story missions have a tendancy to drag on, it's just annoying at times.

Yet for some reason, I keep going. Don't get me wrong, Guild Wars 2 is a good, fun, game. It was a bit overhyped, and honestly I don't think it's much different when compared to other MMOs, but it's still a nice romp through a very pretty, if slightly generic, fantasy world.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Guild Wars 2 first impressions

Well. I'd call it peer pressure that drove me to buy Guild Wars 2. I know people who bought it, and I know they seemed to enjoy it, but I'm always iffy with buying a new MMO. I was going to wait and see how it was doing a few months down the line, but, oh well!

With that said, I honestly think this game was way overhyped. I in no way(having not played it) think it's honestly a bad game, but hype simply makes me iffy. Things rarely ever live up to hype, for me it was Skyrim, for others, say Duke Nukem Forever. So, I'm stating it ahead of time, expect me to be very nitpicky.

The Box

Now, after saying that, this is going to sound very picky! But hey, the box is what you're going to see in store, the box is what should make you want to play.

I play WoW, and I think WoW has a very well made box. Some beautiful artwork on the front complete with a nice short description.

The Guild Wars 2 box's front consists of its logo, which is nice, but against the white background, to me, a bit bland. The back contains a quote from IGN "Guild Wars 2 shouts brilliant design." That's not too bad, I suppose, but it doesn't say much. The synopsis for the plot: "The all-powerful Elder Dragons have woken from their slumber, threatening the land. Now, heroes from the five great races of Tyria must band together, or die apart." Hm...Sounds a bit generic. But that's just me. The features toted are 'Your Character, Your Way', 'Innovatiive Gameplay', and 'You Make the Difference'. Alright, I can roll with this.

The Contents of the Box

Opening the box itself, you're welcomed by a foldout that details which classes can use what weapons, the standard key bindings, and a short little explanation on how to install. For me personally, I truely miss how we're moving away from manuals. I know that it's cheaper for companies, it's cheaper, but to me, that used to be part of the experience of buying a new game. Taking it own, prying the box open and pulling out the manual(sometimes even before you got home!), I just sort of miss that.

And that's my experience thus far! Time to install it. More posting soon enough!