December 16, 2008
Today is a sad day for me, I’ve just finished Fallout 3. When I originally started playing the game, my intention had been to stretch things out and see as much of the map as I possibly could, but alas my enthusiasm for the main storyline got the better of me. I finished the game with a level 15 character, 5 levels below the cap of 20.
I will miss very much the game’s ambiance and it’s peculiar form of humor, which made the whole Fallout 3 experience feel quite unique. It’s been a while since an RPG has engrossed me as much as this tile has and I think I will be going through some form of withdrawal symptoms in the coming days. That’s how much I enjoyed immersing myself in Fallout 3′s setting.
Here’s hoping for an expansion pack or three in the near future!
December 1, 2008
After roughly 20 hours of play, I’ve just finished Obsidian’s latest expansion for Neverwinter Nights 2, called Storm of Zehir. I’m writing literally minutes after reading the closing credits. The experience is still fresh in my mind and so I think that now would be a great time to give my brief impressions on some aspects of the game.
Continuity : This title is not a direct continuation of the Original campaign and Mask of the Betrayer. It has some tenuous links with them but overall it is a fairly self-contained entity story-wise. After reading the official game forums, I learned that this seems to have bothered a lot of people, who I guess were hoping to pick up where MotB had left off, and were looking for a similar experience as the one they had had with NWN 2 in the past. Personally, I feel this new storyline is quite refreshing, although it is not as epic and grandiose as previous offerings, I still think, in it’s own low key way, it is just as compelling. Bigger is not necessarily always better where story telling is concerned. The whole mercantile and economic struggles backdrop to the SoZ campaign was for me a very refreshing departure from the standard fantasy RPG fare, indeed quite an original take on the genre. I would welcome more of this kind of atypical approach to storytelling in an adventure game.
The Overland Map : Another bone of contention on the forums. I liked it very much. It adds another layer to the game and points back to the overland travel component that featured in such classics as the Ultima series and Baldur’s Gate. It definitely pushed some old school nostalgia buttons for me. I also appreciate how it made a variety of hitherto more or less useful character skills a lot more valuable to a party. I think SoZ made rangers and druids shine, justifying their status as an adventuring class, which was not something that was easily done in a pure dungeon crawl type of game.
The small dungeons : I loved these ! Short, sweet and to the point ! A great many of the explorable dungeons that are found on the overland map would more properly be classed as ”interior encounters”, taking up about 10-15 minutes of playtime to complete for a well balanced party. I love this direction in game design. I admit to having over the years gotten a bit tired of some of the bloated, stretched-way-too-long, dungeons found in past Forgotten Realms games. Good on Obsidian to have moved away from this!
The music : Absolutely fabulous ! A few people on the official forums have commented quite positively on this aspect of the game and I have no qualms in following their lead. The soundtrack to the game is fantastic and very atmospheric, with nods to a plethora of adventure movie music scores. One forum poster mentioned a certain Indiana Jones vibe to SoZ’s score and I think that this person is spot-on. A standout for me as far as game music is concerned.
So that’s pretty much what stood out for me after playing SoZ. I think that I may have enjoyed SoZ more than other people have simply because I came to it with no preconceived notions and expectations about it, having only read one preview of the game. When I picked it up, I was simply looking for a little diversion from the MMO grind burnout that is starting to afflict me this holiday season and SoZ hit the spot quite nicely. I would recommend it to anyone just looking for a good DnD 3.5 fix.
November 22, 2008
Well, I’m very sad to see this title go. With NC Soft’s announcement that it is shutting down TR in February, I think the MMO genre has just lost one of it’s more original offerings. Say what you will about it’s flaws and shortcomings, you can’t say it wasn’t different and innovative in many regards. With it’s porting of FPS style play into the Massively Online world, it’s character cloning system and it’s setting based on a completely original IP ( yes I know, very much influenced by a slew of others, but still…), I think TR could not be considered as ”just another MMO”. It definitely had it’s own distinctiveness.
Strangely enough, if I have to think of one thing that I will miss about this game, I’d have to say it is base defenses. In TR, the Bane ( the Bad GuysTM ), would constantly be mounting attacks on various forts and outposts throughout the game zones, and you as a player would have the option of joining others ( or try to do it solo ) in repelling these incursions. Often in general chat calls would go out that such and such a place needed defenders because it was about to fall, or that a given place needed to be retaken. It gave me quite a rush to speed off to one of these hot points and fend off the alien raiders, standing on a parapet and emptying magazine after magazine of machine gun ammo into the oncoming Bane waves, only to eventually lose my head and jump down into the fray, pouring shell after shell of shotgun ammo up close and personal style !
Oh yes those were indeed exciting times!
Few MMOs have given such visceral and sustained adrenaline rushes and I think that this intense action-trip was a feature that set TR very much apart from all other MMOs.
It’s too bad all this will enter the realm of pure memories come February, I believe it deserved a better fate, eventoday’s highly competitive MMO niche market.
/Salute Tabula Rasa
November 18, 2008
Can’t get that song out of my head since I’ve started playing Bethesda Software’s Fallout 3. In fact, I’ve pretty much got all the old time tunes that feature in the game on permanent rotation in my head. The Galaxy Radio play list is by far my favorite part of the game ( yes I need help ).
I’m a big sucker for atmosphere in a game. A well conveyed setting, that adeptly lets you experience various moods and feelings, really scores points with me, which is why I think Fallout 3 may well be my game of the year. Age of Conan had the same effect, with it’s rich Hyborian tapestry. I play computer RPGs mainly for reasons that center on a need for escapism, and games like Fallout 3 and AoC hit that particular button well as far as I’m concerned.
Before playing Fallout 3, I had a;ready played all the Elder Scrolls series games from Bethesda, including their famous Oblivion offering. That being said, I was never a huge fan of the game mechanics in those titles, the first person twitch-based combat system and improve-as-you-use character advancement they featured never having been a hit with me. But I always managed to overcome these obstacles to enjoyment by immersing myself in the rich world the games were set.
It’s the same with Fallout 3, but to a even higher degree. This time the game mechanics for me are even less of an obstacle than was the case with oblivion. The change from the isometric turn-based combat of previous fallout titles to Bethesda’s first-person hybrid turn-based / realtime system has not demanded that big a level of adaptation and I am glad that they kept the S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stats system and the perks of previous Fallouts. I think Fallout 3 is a very smooth transition from the old Fallout to the new. I now realise that all of the the misgivings I had about the new direction in game-design Bethesda’s takeover of the franchise would bring were for nothing. Even if Fallout has been ”Oblivionised” to a large extent, this is not necessarily a bad thing.
I’m still relatively early into the game, my character is a level 8 talker / scientist type guy, but so far I am very happy with Fallout 3 and would recommend it to anybody who enjoys old time music and truly atmospheric RPG gaming !
November 13, 2008
I’m sure many massive gamers, who like me have slogged through Robert Jordan’s imposing Wheel of Time fantasy series, have said to themselves that this rich setting would translate quite well into an MMO. Jordan’s world is huge and well fleshed out, with the kind of depth and variety that one would think allows any MMO developer a huge variety of creative options. It’s notoriety and level of appreciation by it’s fans I think would garner a wide spectrum of interest and certainly help the marketing of the game. In short, Jordan’s universe has a lot going for it as the setting for a massively online title.
Well, looks like a company called Red Eagle Games has come to the same conclusion and is actually acting on this idea and making a bunch of Wheel of Times games, which includes an MMO, as announced here. My first thought when I read this was a hearty ”It’s about time!”. Among all the numerous fantasy book settings out there at the moment, I think Jordan’s is one of the most accessible and easily adaptable to MMO gaming, with enough of it fleshed out to give a solid base to work from while still leaving plenty of room for creative innovation. The only other fantasy book settings ( which I am familiar with ) that I think has as much potential in this regard as the Wheel of Time universe are Steven Erikson’s Malazan setting and Raymond Feist’s Midkemia.
So I’m pretty excited about this announcement and am looking forward to rolling up my Ogier Swordmaster, White Heron specked of course !
I’ll admit my enthusiasm for SWG has been hot and cold up to this point. I’ve had a bit of trouble getting into the game. Why that is ? I’m not quite sure really. Maybe it’s because I’ve been able to get my Star Wars fix elsewhere, in single player games like KotOR for example.
Since the announcement of Bioware’s The Old Republic MMO, I’ve been thinking about Galaxies more and more, realising that I may not have given the game a fair shake. While this thought process was going through my head, what did I find in my email in-box : a free month of SWG play ! Coinciding with the in-game Moon Festival event.
So with this momentous coincidence happening, I have decided to give SWG another go. A serious go this time. My characters in WAR really need to have their rest XPbars topped off, so this is perfect timing for me to re-acquaint myself with SWG.
But, before jumping back in I’ve resolved to read all of the player guides related to the game ( some aspects of SWG being quite arcane, at least to me ) and make sure I’m as informed as I possibly can be before returning to my Wookie Bounty Hunter.
This approach has really paid off. I’m not as bewildered as I was during my previous attempts at getting into SWG. I’m even enjoying some aspects of the game that rebutted me previously. An example that immediately comes to mind is space combat. Another, strangely enough, is house decorating ! Yes you read that correctly ! Having consulted the player guides on furniture placement in SWG, I finally discovered how to move around pieces in my house, a task I had in the past given up on in disgust. This time I made some macros as suggested, and have spent a few hours immersed in the minutia of home decoration, SWG style ! Which is quite hilarious, seeing as my real world dwelling is rather spartan and carelessly unadorned, functional but rather bare.
This just illustrates the to me the fact that even though SWG has, in my opinion, some seemingly strange, archaic or just plain counter intuitive aspects to it, if you make an effort to go the extra mile and understand the dynamics behind the way these elements work, you may actually come to enjoy this venerable title despite it’s lack of shiny newness.
May The Force be with me !
October 28, 2008
If you have been playing the game and reading the various forums that deal with WAR, you will have noticed that some are not completely satisfied with how the game’s RvR component has turned out. Some frequently mentioned items that people feel contribute to this are the preponderance of scenarios and scenario grinding to the detriment of overland RvR, class/side/balance issues, mediocre rewards for keep and objective taking/ defending and bugs/exploits.
What I find problematic with WAR’s RvR boils down to one simple thing : I don’t really feel like there’s a war going on in the game. For me there is no clearly defined ”us and them” feeling attached to the whole Order vs Destruction conflict. Strangely enough, when I fight other players in scenarios and RVR, I don’t really see them as ”the enemy” but rather as fellow gamers grinding their way up the renown ranks, almost in a cooperative mentality. You allow me to get to some kills on you and rank up, I do the same for you and your mates. Everybody wins. Even if the whole war theme is recurrent and much in evidence in the PvE quests, the lore and even in the landscape, I find that from a game mechanic perspective, it still seems absent.
In my mind, what causes this phenomenon is the lack of a clearly defined and identifiable”front line” in the game. Taking Lotro Monsterplay as an example, when I log in with my creep, by looking at the map, I can rapidly see where the main areas of contention are and measure the progress either side made since I last logged in. I have little problem seeing the ebb and flow of combat throughout the Ettenmoors by looking at what keeps have been taken. By monitoring chat I can understand what is going on and get the feeling that there is a dynamic struggle between ”us” and ”them”. I get the feeling that there is some strategy involved and a concerted plan by either side to attain a given objective. In short, Lotro Monsterplay gives me the impression that there is a ”Big Picture” in the strategic sense of the word, which is manifested by the easily measured loss or gain of territory.
I don’t get that in WAR. In Age of Reckoning, combat is ”all around you”, omnipresent, but seemingly unfocused. I don’t really know, or in the long run care, that the other side is ”pushing here” or ”massing there”. I’m just going on my merry way through the tiers with no real stake in maintaining the territorial integrity of my side. The enemy just took a keep ? So what, good for them. I won’t be here long so I don’t care. I am just not drawn in to a larger picture in WAR. Heck I can’t even see one.
Hopefully I will get to experience another side of WAR’s RVR when I reach tier 4, because I do realise that I can’t have seen everything the game has to offer in this area after having only just completed tier 2. Until then though, I am anxiously awaiting the upcoming free play weekend Turbine has set up for lapsed Lotro subscribers in order to jump back on my Black Arrow and take part in a much smaller scale, but more easily identifiable and understandable, war.
October 22, 2008
So yesterday the one of the worst kept secrets in MMO land was finally revealed : Bioware’s next big foray into the Star Wars universe will be a massively multiplayer title. No big surprise here, the announcement in many ways being a mere formality following the considerable speculation and leaks surrounding the project in the past few months. Bioware’s returning to the Old Republic setting does make perfect business sense in light of the popularity of the Knight’s of the Old Republic franchise. Releasing an MMO in this segment of the Star Wars timeline is a pretty safe bet and it’s success, to some degree or other, seems guaranteed.
While the launching of an MMO set in the Old Republic era of Star Wars is for me an exciting prospect, I can’t help also feeling a twinge of sadness for the eventual fate of Star Wars Galaxies, which may with time become simply known as ”That other Star Wars MMO”. Yes, I know it is already a rather old title and has suffered some serious player base attrition with the whole NGE episode, which incidentally is around the time I started playing SWG, yet I also know that it has recently been enjoying a modest resurgence in popularity, with many returning players seeming rather pleased with the direction in which the game is going.
With the oncoming appearance of a competitor on the Star Wars MMO scene, I am worried for the title and it’s viability, and many questions come to mind concerning it’s future. How will the fact that is no longer the only Star Wars themed title in the MMO market affect it ? Will it be able to develop distinctly enough from the Bioware game to retain it’s originality and give it’s current subscribers reasons to stay and maintain their accounts ? Will SOE keep supporting it to a decent enough level ?
I hope the answer to all of these questions is yes, but I have the feeling that this is far from certain. A while ago I remember listening to a Yivvits and Mr Bubbles SWG podcast where the hosts seemed to be saying they would leave Galaxies in a heartbeat if the Bioware game lived up to it’s promise. And this is from some pretty dedicated SWG players, which I would say is reasonable cause for concern.
Only time will tell I guess.
October 14, 2008
Do you pay attention to the part of your XP bar that mentions if you are rested, or have vitality if you play EQ2, in order to maximize your levelling efficiency? Do you find that the bonus that being rested confers makes you change your playing habits?
As far as I am concerned the answer is yes to both these questions. Having just started to play Warhammer Age of Reckoning, I recently noticed that my newly-minted Magus had exhausted his rest bonus and was only getting normal XP. This kind of thing doesn’t happen much to me because these days I normally play in small spurts, which makes it hard to deplete rest, and also often take long vacations from a given game, which enables me to build up a rather large amount of rest until I come back. So I seldom run out of the stuff.
But this time it’s different, mainly because I have been playing marathon sessions of WAR with a fresh character, which burns up rest very fast indeed ! In this case I found that not having the rest bonus as I was playing really bothered me, making me feel as if I was not getting all that could get out of my play sessions. Even if I am not a power gamer or power leveller by any stretch of the imagination, I was still very bothered by the fact that if I kept going with my ”unrested” Magus I would not be playing in ”optimal” conditions, whatever that means.
So after much soul-searching I decided to park him for a bit and roll up an alt in order to let him ”rest up” for a time. I normally never do this, although I know many who people do this regularly, and I admit that I am a bit surprised. I thought I was above such petty game mechanic manipulations aimed at slowing down character progression in MMOs, but obviously I am not.
Ah the things we learn about ourselves through gaming!
October 7, 2008
In the past few weeks I have been taking advantage of two free game time offers ( is it me or are they getting more frequent these days? ), 30 days of Vanguard, starting September 18th, and the Lotro double XP weekend, running October 2-6, and boy am I glad I took advantage of these opportunities !
Regarding Vanguard, I have to admit that my enthusiasm for this tile has always been at best lukewarm, I have tried before to really get into it, but to no avail. That is until this free month came along. This time, I think I finally ”got” why some people are so into this game and I believe I know why my attitude towards Vanguard has changed. The first reason is that believe that I have been brainwashed by countless hours of listening to the Voyages of Vanguard podcast, which has surrepticiously implanted in my brain the idea that this game is actually quite fun. You can’t be a regular listener to the show without at some point starting to buy into the host’s and other contributor’s enthousiasm for Telon. The second reason is that instead of taking up my Orc Dreadknight where I left off and slogging on with him, I decided to re-roll a Vulmane Druid and give Vanguard a fresh start by going through the new Isle of Dawn starter zone. This somewhat restored a certain ”shiny newness” to the game and rekindled in me a sense of discovery that is quite enjoyable. Lastly, the most important reason why I am liking Vanguard more and more is it’s old-school feel and it’s nostalgia inducing ”vibe”. I can’t explain it rationally but Vanguard really does bring me back to simpler MMO gaming times and I am surprised to see that this strikes a chord in me. I guess today’s more modern, more polished and more ”in” MMOs lack some of the stripped down straightforwardness that a title like Vanguard brings to the table. In essence, to me Vanguard is ”old”, but in a good way. When I log into the game I no longer bring with me the kinds of expactations I would bring to AoC or some other recent titles. Now I rather go in considering that I am in a time machine to the past which enables me to enjoy a more ”innocent” and ”naive” flavour of MMO gaming.
My time back in Lotro was short and very sweet. I only played my Black Arrow in the Ettenmoors, leaving my Elf Champion in storage till Mines of Moria comes out. It was nice to see some old faces, seems like a lot of of ex-Nimrodel creeps headed the call back. One thing that really made me happy was to see that I am no longer so emotionally invested in the PvMP aspect of the game, what I mean is that I am a lot more casual about the whole thing, enjoying it for what it is, warts and all. The unbalanced nature of the Moors no longer stirs in me any inordinate passions or inflames in me any rightous anger at the state of things. Which is a good thing because really, there are a lot more important things to get worked up about in life. Sadly I noticed that this was not the case for everyone, some creep players still venting copious amounts of bile towards the freep side and all their various manifestations of cheesyness. As for me, I found my time geting zerged, farmed and cc-stun-mezzed rather enjoyable when all is said and done, and have now come to better appreciate Monsterplay for the zany creature that it really is.
Here’s a cheer then for happy reunions!