Skyrim is around the corner. And by around the corner I mean three weeks ago. So really around several corners. And I can hardly wait, as summarized below:
Also, I have a preview for the game up at Hooked Gamers, pieced together with everything I could find on the tile around the interwebz. Take a look!
Inspired by Klepsacovic, I just realized something.
Q: What do Adam Jensen of Deus Ex: Human Revolutions and Rogues from World of Warcraft have in common?
A: They are both sneaky.
They stick to shadows.
They use hit and run tactics.
They put out an incredible amount of damage in short bursts.
And they both get stuck with boss fights where the only way to fight is out in the open, and none of their penchant for sneaky antics gets leveraged in any way!
1. Superb Stability
My copy of Rage has had zero issues on my PC. It ran the first time I launched it, it never stuttered, never showed any graphical glitches or screen-tearing, it never crashed. It works like a charm. I know “this game installs and runs” shouldn’t technically be a reason for loving the title, but given the sheer amount of rage over Rage (I had to – sue me) in the Steam forums, I am very grateful for the utter lack of technical difficulties with the title.
2. Breathtakingly Beautiful
Carmack has done it again. The game world is absolutely, incredibly, undeniably gorgeous. From the smallest rocks to the largest cliffs, and from the tiniest settlements to the massive towns, Rage is a beautiful, gorgeous game. Stepping out of the Ark for the first time, I spent the first five minutes just spinning the camera around, looking at the beauty of the world that surrounded me. The shafts of lights from a sun, half-obscured by billowing photo-realistic clouds, water that shimmered and rippled and textures that jumped at you with the sheer amount of detail contained within.
3. Destructive Driving featuring Various Vehicles
Unlike other games that make you work for it, Rage gives you a vehicle pretty much from the very beginning. You can continue to get newer, better, more specialized vehicles, as the game goes on, but you can drive at the very start. You don’t get a shoddy starter vehicle either, this little quad can book it, and it can get you where you need to go because there are significant travel distances between points of interest on the map.
And then there are the races. There are a variety of tracks where you can race your various vehicles in modes ranging from simple racing, to an all-out war zone with machine guns, rocket launchers and road spikes. The racing mythology is well-embedded into the gaming world, and winning several races gets you some recognition with NPCs randomly stopping to admire your success and praise your driving skills. Yet the driving part of Rage feels a little disjointed, as if it was a separate game that was incorporated into the larger game world, and the developer was clever enough to hide the areas where the overlap was soldered together.
4. Walloping Weapons
The weapons in Rage, all the way from the starting Settler Pistol, are meaty and pack a wallop. These are id Software weapons. They are highly detailed, they feel solid and chunky in your hands, and they shoot some serious ordnance. If the several weapons were not enough, each weapon also fires several types of ammunition, like the Fatboys that double the standard round damage for a pistol, or the Fat Mammas, which proclaim that if these don’t kill your target, you better hightail it out of there! Every weapon in rage feels just right. They have an authoritative presence, and it’s satisfying to see them do their dirty work. Add grenades and the much-touted (and rightly so) Wingstick, and you are a one-man mutant-slaughtering bandit-bashing army.
5. Ostensibly Sensible Objectives
Did you ever have to gather 100 pigeons in Grand Theft Auto? What about 100 feathers in Assassin’s Creed? Better yet, have you tried the World of Warcraft achievements? There are several collectible items and objectives peppered through the game world of Rage. However, they aren’t as arbitrary as 100 of who-gives-a-shit. One is 3 field goals. There are field goals, and you have to drive your vehicle hard enough into something to fling yourself from it far enough to fly through said field goal. It sounds like a fluff objective, and it is, but it is fun, and there are only three of them. There are also 18 jumps in the game. Not 100. not 54. Just 18, and hitting each jump doesn’t simply add a +1 counter to your number of jumps, it rewards you with items for each individual jump, if successfully completed.
But perhaps the best of these collectibles are the Rage Collectible cards. Within enemy stronghold, settlements and the open game world, there are a total of 54 game cards for you to find. These aren’t just tokens, but effectively a tabletop game, where your cards have health and damage numbers, and you try to beat opponents to cash out a hefty chunk of change.
This is the kind of obsessive compulsive game completion objective that I can get behind. Objectives that are fun to achieve, and give rewards if you complete, instead of a flat percentage towards your percentage completed score.
The characters in Rage are well fleshed out. The animations look life-like and the voice-acting is absolutely top-notch. Largely, they still suffer from the MMO-esque NPC syndrome: they are only there to dispense missions and collect rewards, but somehow it still works. People can be seen walking about towns, bandits freely roam the desert in deadly vehicles, and there is a natural buzz to life, despite ultimately plastic characterization of their humanity.
7. Raging Rollercoaster
Rage isn’t a sand box by any stretch of the imagination. Sure the game world is huge, and once you get a set of missions, you can choose to complete them in whichever order you see fit, but at the end of the day, the entire game is a linear experience of getting from point A to point Z, hitting B, C, D etc. on the way. And as much as I love open worlds, this is actually a beautifully thing. Rage is a tightly controlled experience. Intense firefights in claustrophobic close quarters, vicious dune buggy races across torn tarmacs, linear gameplay in a (largely) linear world. Rage is the ultimate roller-coaster. Once you get on, you don’t want to get off.
I can’t give away the ending, obviously. Nor can i divulge details on what your ultimate objective is. But I will say this: there will come a point when you will realize you are not the hero of this story. You are simply a small cog in a much larger machine, and you are to do your part the best way you can. This is ultimately what really set Rage apart for me, the realization that no matter how powerful I got or how many enemies I can kill by simply flexing my biceps, I am ultimately insignificant, a mere speck in the unending evolution (and devolution) of the human condition.
Syp thinks we are the real villains of MMOs.
We have no qualms against torturing, assassinating, stealing or even committing genocide if our superiors structure it as a “quest objective.” We have no options for diplomacy and no recourse but to end all life in our wake. We do all of this and move on without a second thought as to the carnage and emotional wreckage we leave behind. We build our success on mountains of corpses and call ourselves “heroes.”
Oh my god. I am a horrible, horrible person! Talk about mid-life MMO existential crisis!
You know that moment, when you get up from your PC, and cheer out loud, because you accomplished something so insanely unachievable, you can’t believe you did it yourself? That is what happened to me in my first Dominion match in League of Legends.
I was playing with a friend. This friend was in the same room as me, sitting to my left. A third guy, someone we had randomly met online was also in the game. The last two spots on our team were filled by pugs.
The match started, and we started rotating through the various nodes. The three of us managed to hold on to two nodes and kept methodically pushing a third, the other two players milled about in the middle and occasionally assaulted their nodes closer to their nexus. The enemy was able to dedicate four champions against our three, and of the two nodes, we occasionally lost one, and fell back long enough to capture another node, bringing us back to the status quo of 2 nodes. We were effectively bleeding points throughout the game. By the end, their nexus had 350 points left, ours had only 1.
We were losing, badly.
And then something magical happened. Through no coordinated effort of our team, we managed to neutralize two nodes and capture three. For the next six or so minutes, we fought for our lives as we pushed against the enemy, interrupting node channeling and keeping them from capturing even a single node. They came close several times, beleaguered and disrupted, desperately trying to get that one final point that would bring them victory. But somehow, through sheer willpower and an unprecedented amount of effort, our team managed to keep them at bay.
The match ended with 0:1, in our favor. They lost all 350+ points against our final point. We shoved our chairs back, threw our fists in the air and cheered. It was one of the greatest moments I have ever had in online gaming.
And that, my friends, is why we play.
I just finished Deus Ex: Human Revolution after my second time through. My save files were corrupted right after I completed everything in Hengsha the second time around (about 80% of the game completed). As much as that had sucked, that actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because it turns out I had made some fairly silly augmentation choices.
- The various augmentations. Despite there being some really foolish augmentation choices, the overall system was well-thought out and true to the Deus Ex experience.
- The stealth aspect was superb. I learned to take out entire groups of enemies using just single takedowns and the cover system (no double take-downs, no noise reduction, no forced distractions, no invisibility). You can upgrade your abilities to further augment the stealth play-style, eventually turning into an invisible killing machine. But I loved the fact that you could use stealth to your advantage from the very beginning.
- The game offered multiple paths to reach your objective. I think it is a little misleading to say the game offers multiple options to complete an objective, because at the end of the day, you just need to get from point A to point B. The game does offer multiple paths to get there though. You can run and gun. You can use lethal takedowns and stick to the shadows. You can use non-lethal takedowns to pursue the path of being a pacifist. You can bypass most enemies en route to your objective.
- The moral dilemma upon landing in Hengsha the second time. I had played as a pacifist the entire game, and I had to choose to remain a pacifist or to save a character’s life. I ended up choosing the later. It is moments like these that make great video games, when you are forced to make genuinely tough decisions, where the option you choose isn’t the easiest or the most moral of the presented outcomes.
Did not Love:
- The damn boss fights. They sucked. They didn’t offer “choice” in how to handle the boss. Each boss fight was “pump boss full of lead till it keels over”. As a stealth player, I was sorely disappointed.
- The story, though well-written, can be summarized in about seven sentences.
- Stealth gameplay adds artificial length to the game. If you shoot your way through and don’t engage in side-quests, I don’t think the main story would take you more than 5-6 hours. Which is a little lame.
- The choice at the end was to literally press one of four buttons to see a different ending. I felt cheated at the end. I felt like the game had engaged me to make all of these decisions during my adventures, and none of those decisions eventually mattered because in the end I could simply flick the switch for whichever ending I chose, regardless of the logistical or moral choices I had made up to that point. I didn’t like that one bit.
Overall it is a great game, and one I would recommend for any RPG/Stealth lover. It has it’s flaws, but they can be (largely) overlooked. Give it a try if you haven’t yet.
Online Gaming Overload
I had slight MMO overload over the last few days. I played WoW almost compulsively, because it was so easy to invest just another half hour into it and get another level for your character. I had a small episode of a burnout, so I decided to purposely stay away for a few days. It worked. It has been three days and I am itching to play it again.
I have been dabbling a little into Champions Online. I am level 11 now, but the I am not quite happy with the Archetype I picked. I also read that this was probably the most balanced of the offered Archetypes, so if this is the best they have to offer without paying, then maybe I ought to focus my attention on City of Heroes, which has recently transitioned into an F2P model as well.
Good game to start off in, the tutorial levels are very well laid out, and I had a lot of fun with the smaller skirmishes. But I have my hands rather full these days and something’s got to give. That something has turned out to be Global Agenda. Not that it matters, because where I dropped Global Agenda, I picked up…
…League of Legends
God damn whoever made this game because it is addictive as hell. I have only played two games so far, but my DOTA flashbacks have effectively ensured I will be screwing around in this title for a while. I am going to try out all the free to play characters for now, just to get a better handle on the game, and I am not touching Dominion yet, simply because I must wrap my head around the basics first. I will also continue to research the paid characters and see which one best suits my play-style. All in all, good game, and I am glad (wroth) that I got coerced into giving it a try. Because now I am hooked. Damn it.
I am steadily getting better as a Protoss player. I have made it a rule to get at least four to five 1v1 matches in a week so my macro game continues to improve. But my true love in StarCraft II right now is playing with a friend in ranked 2v2. It is a treat to play and I am very happy with everything it has to offer so far.
Leveling at the Speed of Light
As lonomonkey will tell you, and Rohan will corroborate, leveling in the post Cataclysm vanilla WoW areas is … well … speedy. I am playing on a completely new server. So unlike Rohan, I have no heirlooms to boost my XP gain, but I am now in a guild that gives the XP boost. Even without heirlooms, not only am I out-leveling the zones I am questing in faster than finish them, I am also gaining a level about every 20 minutes of play or so. I wonder how much faster I would level if I had all heirloom items.
My hunter is currently level 34.
Last Monday, I was level 5.
My /played is less than 13 hours.
That is ridiculous.
Rohan gives a few reasons why Heirlooms are unnecessary at this point:
- The XP gain is vastly increased in Cataclysm. You really don’t need heirloom items, at least not until level 60. I haven’t played much past level 61 yet to know how much of a difference it makes.
- Heirlooms take away the joy of the upgrading your equipment micro-game. I completely agree. I look forward to every boss because the beast might have a good upgrade for me.
- I will tack on a third reason. You work so hard to get the currency for buying out the heirloom items. You can now use them on something much more useful. Instead of squandering your resources on heirlooms.
Two Toons, Two Servers, Two Factions
My mage is comfortably sitting in Hellfire peninsula at level 61. The mage is Undead, whereas the Hunter is a Night Elf. They are also on different servers.
I started the mage because I wanted to experience the Horde story. I have been quite impressed by what I have come across so far. I chose the server because two of my friends played on it, and they have since quit, having started their university courses in the pursuit of a Master’s degree.
I started the hunter to be in Gevlon’s PuG guild. His guild is on the Alliance side, so I didn’t have a choice of faction there.
Both toons also have their own dedicated bank mules, though it seems to me that the hunter is making a lot more money than the mage did at his level.
I have decided I will level the hunter during the week, and the mage only over the weekends. With the hunter, the levels are still easy to come by. The mage will benefit greatly from a week’s worth of rested XP when I have a go at it this weekend. I think that is a good strategy.
Pro Gold Tip: Linen Cloth sells like hot pancakes. They are bought out faster than I can put then up.
Any European players playing Fallen Earth (now or when it launched F2P?) What server will you be on? Let’s team up, because I am definitely playing it post October 12.
And enjoy the digital side and under-boobs. It’s a plague, I tell you!
A Sound of Thunder is a movie that was released in 2005. If you haven’t seen the movie, you should, it is a decent flick, despite the (now) dated CGI and some truly horrendous green-screen shots, but I am just digressing as usual. Fair warning, there are spoilers ahead for the movie. By spoilers I mean I will lay bare the entire freaking plot of the movie.
In the future, some 50 odd years from now, one group of scientists have discovered time travel. They form a company called Time Safari and take oodles of money from rich folks to go back 65 million years and hunt dinosaurs. But what about the butterfly effect, you ask? Well the scientists are smart, you see. They always take the people to the same exact moment in time to kill this one poor bastard of a T-Rex, who gets stuck in swamp mud seconds before a volcano erupts. In short, he was going to die anyway, the travelers just change the means by which he dies.
In one trip, someone (we find out later) steps on a butterfly on their way out, and that changes everything. The present starts changing dramatically. 24 hours after this particular incident a “time-wave” sweeps the globe and all sorts of extinct insect species invade, complete with foliage of all different types and sorts. These time-waves will continue endlessly until 65 million years of alternate evolution catches up with us. Since we were the last major species to evolve, the last time-wave may turn us into something completely different (it does at the end) or it may wipe us from existence altogether as if we never happened.
Each successive time-wave brings with us newer species of beasts that have evolved in an alternate history on Earth, and they continue to stem any of the protagonists’ progress towards a solution to their time-sensitive dilemma. The first wave produces foliage and giant insects. The next wave results in what can only be described as “baboon-o-raptors” (velociraptors that survived the Jurassic era and have evolved to develop the intelligence and cunning of your common baboon). The wave following that one results in giant bats (not very imaginative I know). Since each wave brings with it new forms of both flora and fauna, the environment (and its challenges) constantly change.
Think the changes Cataclysm made to the surface of Azeroth, except each time-wave fundamentally changes the geography every time.
Sidenote: There is a huge hole in the plot. Minutes after the hunting party kills the dinosaur, a volcano erupts, destroying all life in the area. This effectively implies that the butterfly in question would have also died. So stepping on it and killing it, technically, should have had no consequence in the first place. Just saying.
The MMO: The Butterfly Effect
This creates a wonderful setting for an expansion-based MMO. The game starts normally. You are a civilian in the normal world, and at the beginning of your journey, the first time-wave knocks you off of your feet. You get up, only to find yourself surrounded by chaos. Vines and roots have sprouted everywhere and there are massive insects roaming the streets. There is panic everywhere. You have to gather your bearings and figure out what is going on. Information is scarce, and you have no idea that something like time travel exists, let alone that we screwed up the past resulting in a morphing present.
The setting would be earth, except ravaged by the sudden influx of brand new forms of flora and fauna. The ultimate objective for the MMO would be to figure out what is happening, and undertake smaller missions near your starting area, trying to sort out the cause of everything. You must band with other players to help out the beleaguered and trapped scientists of the massive facility where time-travel is made possible (thus the raiding experience). After rescuing these individuals you have to gather equipment from around the world to repair the machinery that will allow you to go back in the past and undo your mistakes.
Each successive expansion will be a “time-wave”. The landscape radically alters, new species and born and the existing ones evolve further (or go extinct), and you have to continuously adapt to the situation, steadily working towards repairing the machine. The machine, post-first-time-wave, has been encapsulated in a temporal shield, protecting it from further damage from successive time-waves.
Each time-wave thus brings macro challenges as you recover equipment from around the world, as well as micro-challenges in specific locations. For instance, say you travel to Japan to recover a critical particle accelerator. In order to acquire it, you must first help the local populace by dealing with their pest problems. They will then befriend you and guide you in the right direction. The individual who will sell you the device has his own agenda and goals that you must satisfy before he agrees to help you, thus following the established MMO dynamics of questing and (streamlined) quest hubs.
This is highly preliminary, and a very loose concept I know. I am just sharing it because I want to see what other MMO bloggers have to say about the story and setting itself. We will get to mechanics and MMO conventions in a later post.
This is one of my favorite new zones in the revamped vanilla zones. Eastern Plaguelands is tied together by a caravan of simple individuals, led by one Fiona. They travel from tower to tower in the Plaguelands, stopping at each location to attempt to fix the local pest problems, en route to Light’s Hope Chapel. Well done Blizzard!
See? I can say something positive about World of Warcraft!