Guild Wars 2 – What I’m excited about

Purdy monster

Come at me bro!

Any gamer who takes a mild interest in up-coming titles, particularly MMO fanatics, will undoubtedly heard of ArenaNet’s upcoming game, Guild Wars 2. There are heaps, and heaps, and heaps of cool posts about the games features so I’m not going to list them all here. If you haven’t kept up to date with the game’s development some of this might not make sense, so I recommend you check out the official Wiki.

World vs World vs World

This features pits three servers in battle against one another over a period of a couple of weeks to see who can come out with the most points. Think of it like some of WoW’s battlegrounds, only much bigger and more intricate. There are keeps to protect or attack, siege weapons to build such as arrow carts and ballistae and golems, supply depots to control, secret pathways to explore and dominate. The list goes on. The feature isn’t revolutionary; apparently other games have done something similar, though I personally have not played them before.

I think what I love most about what this mode promises is the scale for massive armies to clash head on, or for battles to be fought on many different fronts by smaller guerrilla groups pushing at a tactical weakness of their enemies. If this is executed well, and I have a feeling it will be, it offers a huge break from the regular story driven content which is sometimes needed. Not only that, I can imagine roleplaying guilds participating in WvW combat as part of an army, developing a dynamic war based story as they play.

PvP

What we’ve seen so far on the PvP front hasn’t been particularly revolutionary, but it does look like a solid combat experience. I love that everyone is pushed to max level and given gear to match, making the fights far more skill based. I’m not one to grind for hours hoping for an amazing piece of armour or weaponry, so knowing I can participate in PvP and fail because I’m just not as good as everyone else is actually a good thing. It makes the experience more honest and gives less ways to excuse my poor performance.

Story

So, ah, where’s the kitty litter?

I did play Guild Wars 1 but I never finished it and did not play the expansions. Something about the game just did not draw me in enough to keep me hooked. I kept creating new characters so I really missed out on a lot of mid and late game content, meaning I know very little about the back story and lore of Guild Wars. But, what I’ve seen so far of the Guild Wars 2 narrative has me intrigued and excited. The personal stories are a really nice touch which adds replayability and I hope they continue to be meaningful well into late game, when the game starts to draw all the races together for the battle against the Elder Dragons. I also love love love the individual races and the little quirks each has; it makes me excited to try out every race available and I honestly don’t know who I will create first.

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Dust 514 Beta

IGN Australia recently issued an invitation to all registered members to participate in a beta event for Dust 514 from CCP, the makers of Eve. “Great” I thought “something new and free to play this weekend to stop me spending money”. I grabbed my code, downloaded the game and dove right in.

Except it wasn’t that easy. I had to go through a laborious registration and character creation process. While detailed, it lacks the substance that really has a player investing in their character and it left me asking why I should care about which part of the galaxy I came from and who my ancestors were fighting with. The story was there, but it didn’t seem to make a difference to the gameplay.

Which leads me to…the gameplay. You choose one of three classes, specialised in close combat, sniping and recon or anti-vehicle combat (did I forget to mention you can deploy nifty tanks and space cars, and aircraft? I think, though I haven’t found those yet). I tried the heavy infantry style class first and found a mission, after more time dicking around in menus, and was dropped into a capture point style map. I figured out we needed to capture the flashing red stuff and protect the flashing blue stuff. Great. Some helpful disembodied voice kept telling me about supply depots and null canons needing my help but she forgot to mention where on the map I might find them. All I could see was glowing boxes labelled “A” through “C”.

I put the objectives out of mind and just decided to shoot stuff. In this department Dust seems to fair OK. The controls are little unresponsive but it’s pretty run of the mill left button zoom right button fire that everyone is used to now thanks to games like Call of Duty. I wouldn’t brag about my skill in shooters so maybe I’m not the best person to judge, but I wasn’t hooked. There were some interesting looking weapons and gadgets (some of which I couldn’t discern the purpose of) but essentially they are standard guns with fancy space skins.

After getting the shits with the game after an hour or so I thought I’d try again with a cool head using the sniper/scout class. I figured it couldn’t be too hard to find a cosey dark little corner and wait for someone to present their face to my well targeted bullets (or are they lasers? I couldn’t tell). Except the dark corners are pretty lonely and no one was nice enough to walk by. So I thought “the game said the sniper has some camouflage, I’ll sit somewhere a little closer to the action”, and then I died. A lot. The camouflage didn’t seem to hide my very well and though I got people in my scopes, the zoomed view sways so much that I don’t know if I was shooting their head or their toes.

I can see where CCP are going with the game and it honestly has some promise. You’re a mercenary, out fighting wars for money and  using that money to upgrade your equipment (fitouts, in-game). There’s a really interesting link to the Eve MMO which vets of that game will probably love.  The disconnect lies between the mediocre gameplay execution and the attempt to explain game mechanics through endless menus and written tutorials. You’re thrown into the middle of a war, given some high-tech weaponry and asked to do something but it’s never clear exactly what you’re doing and why.

Unless significant improvements are made I can’t see myself paying for the game in the future.

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“Fallen Kingdom” Video is a Minecraft Masterpiece!

RPGish:

I love this video. I’m hesitant to buy Minecraft myself because in the past I’ve become easily bored of similar games, but some of the stuff you see people creating on Youtube is really amazing.

Originally posted on Allahweh's Domain:

If I were to attempt to describe this video to you, ultimately my words would fall short of conveying the sheer awesomeness that is “Fallen Kingdom.”  So, regardless of whether you are a fan of “Minecraft” or not, I highly encourage you to check this video out!

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Outwitters – turn based strategy and cute little critters

Last night while trawling Bashiok’s twitter feed due to boredom (and a morbid little desire to see what mess he had got himself into now) I stumbled upon his tweet about a turn based strategy game for iPad called Outwitters. I’m normally not a big fan of gaming on the iPhone and iPad, though like everyone else I got hooked on Angry Birds for a little while, but I downloaded the game anyway. I’m really glad I did!

Does Sponge Bob Square Pants live here?

It’s a turn based strategy game where you start with a small army of little minions with varying strengths, weaknesses and abilities, and you have to try to destroy your opponents base before they do the same to you. Admittedly I’ve only had the game for a few hours of play time (and I’ve lost every game, but let’s not talk about that) but it seems like it could become addictive. Kind of like chess, but prettier and with baby octopus. Check it out.

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Civilisation – World Peace?

It was by pure accident that I began playing Civilisation V again these last few weeks. I hadn’t touched the game in about a year and didn’t notice, at least not until after my current play sessions, that an expansion titled Gods and Kings was about to drop. Unfortunately I don’t have the expansion yet but I’m really enjoying my foray into the world of dictatorships and endless wars anyway (that’s how the game is meant to be played, right?).

On starting the game this time I chose Alexander the Great as my Civ leader. I’m studying an ancient history at the moment so I thought it could be fun to look at how accurate he has been portrayed. Well, that was a dumb idea which I gave up on when the Macedonian general began sending his settlers to found places like Athens and Sparta.

Historical fuck-ups aside, I’m really enjoying the game. My favourite aspect would have to be the ability to craft your own history, building a story which explains where your civilisation has come from and how it became what it is in the current age. When initially starting the game I had some grand, Kofi Annan style ideas about leading a world of diplomatic peace towards scientific discoveries and pure happiness. That was until Princess Catherine of Russia decided to backstab me and turn her allies against poor little Alexander. Without making a deliberate decision to change my overall strategy I started pumping out naval units, cavalry and siege weapons and within a few dozen turns I had wiped out a couple of civilisations and was dominating land and sea. What happened to world peace?

Lest you think I am some opportunistic, blood thirsty tyrant (thanks, Bismarck), I assure you I did attempt to broker peace. I sent city-states gold and supplied them with goods, I tried to appease other civilisations by providing them with almost anything they asked for. I even stopped blowing their towns up! But it seems, at this stage in the game at least, that my fellow world leaders cannot forgive me. So I’ll have to kill them all.

It will be interesting to see how the expansions changes the game. I’ll let you know.

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My problem with Witch Doctors

I mentioned in my last post that my main DIII character is a Witch Doctor named Mim (after my cat; meow!). Over the past week or so playing her through the early stages of Hell difficulty I’ve become more and more frustrated with the class. They are a versatile class, at least theoretically, but it seems to me the number of viable enjoyable builds is pretty fucking limited. I want to talk about a few builds I’ve tried and why I don’t like them.

Splinters:

Over on the official forums you’ll find most people are running a build based around using the Poison Dart – Splinters skill and kiting around the map to slowly wear down the enemy. Sounds boring right? It is. I’ve used this build off and on when I’m struggling against a tough mob. It usually works but it is lame beyond belief. I can’t even imagine how much slower it would be in Inferno where most enemies can kill you by farting in your direction.

Vision Quest:

This skill requires you to have at least four actives on cooldown to trigger Vision Quest, allowing you to spam your strongest spell. I’ve used this, spamming Dire Bats and while it’s effective so far, it just seems cheap. You’re essentially ignoring your wide variety of spells and pets to steam roll over any poor bastard standing in front of you with one skill.

Pets:

Today I finally created a pet build which I thought was working pretty well. I was cruising through Act 1 Hell, killing the mobs with annoying modifiers such as “Jailer” combined with “Mortar” and my pets weren’t dying too much. It felt a little more fun, though much slower than some of the high dps builds I’ve tried. Then came the Skeleton King. He swung his mace like…something that swings…and killed all my dogs in one go and almost destroyed my gargantuan. I beat him, but it was such a slow fight that I ended up changing my build on the fly to speed it up.

Skeleton King

Mace to the face

There are obviously many other builds I’ve tried, including variations using Zombie Chargers and crowd control with skills like Horrify but nothing has achieved that combination of effectiveness and enjoyability that I’m craving.

Maybe it’s my gear? I’m bidding on some stuff in the Auction House right now in the hopes of improving Mim’s chances, but I’m not confident. She’s either a toothless tiger or an obese declawed feline.

What does everyone else think? Is there a build that maintains the versatility of the class while still having a decent level of damage? Or is this Blizzard’s intended design, somewhere between a wizard and a really squishy barbarian?

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Diablo III – First Impressions

No cow level? WHAT?!

Diablo III is here, as I’m sure anyone with a slight interesting in gaming knows by now. I wanted to share some of my impressions with the game based on my own play through so far. I’ve spent about 50 or so hours spread across four characters so my experience is pretty broad. I haven’t finished Inferno yet (feel free to rage at me for being wrong), but these are my thoughts.

When first loading the game I was honestly a little disappointed. The graphics are definitely not mind-blowing and, in my nostalgic little mind at least, didn’t seem like much of a leap forward in comparison to DII. That is until I started trawling the net and came across some screenshots of the current Diablo’s predecessor. That shut me up

Diablo II screenshot

It was a lot prettier in my mind…

Gameplay:

DIII is exceptionally easy to get into. Load the game, go through the quick character creation and start killing things and collecting the shiny stuff that drops. There are no ridiculously complex systems to learn, no skill trees to trace with your face up against the computer screen to ensure you don’t miss a branch and gimp your character (to some people’s dismay, more on this later). It’s point and click and use your skills.

If you’ve played Diablo II or other similar games before, Normal difficulty is going to be ridiculously easy. It wasn’t until the second or third boss fight that my Witch Doctor, Mim, died for the first time. The silly lass thought she could stand toe-to-toe with the Butcher. Once you beat Normal and hit Nightmare, things get a little harder, though it’s still not much of a challenge. Hell (for me at least, don’t laugh) has been more challenging. I’m currently on Act II with my main and I’m dying a lot. I suspect I need better gear.

Gear:

The reason people like me kept playing Diablo II for years, at least in part, was to thrill of the chase. The hope that this time, maybe Duriel would drop a bit of gear that made my palms sweaty, my eyes pop and my mouth to grin and spew forth happy words. It was the mix of great stats on awesome looking items which made your character just a little bit stronger (or a lot, if you were lucky).

Diablo III continues this with sometimes mixed results. The gear looks beautiful and is extremely plentiful, but it isn’t quite as a great. Blizzard has changed the way stats are randomly assigned to gear so now it seems you’re just as likely to find a wand with +60 dexterity as you are a wand with +60 intelligence. I guess the idea is to open up the field of  items and possible builds, but it doesn’t feel right, right now. The Auction House helps, but it doesn’t solve everything. Blizzard has plans to address some item issues in upcoming patches.

Yellow! Blue! GIMMIE!

Skills:

Each level your character gets a new skill or rune, which start to unlock after a few quick dings. Over time, the skill system becomes increasingly more nuanced but it never feels complex to the point of needing a game guide, walkthrough or build from the pros who have already rushed through Inferno and are complaining on the forums. Skills have a basic effect, such as the Witch Doctor’s “summon zombie dogs” which can then be modified by a series of runes, making the dogs drop health globes or absorb some of your damage. As you level, new skills unlock and new runes open up, to a maximum of five choices. This is where the nuance comes in, and the theory-crafting begins (which I’m shit at, so don’t ask).

I’ll be writing a lot about Diablo III as I keep playing. Some of my opinions might change, others will develop and some stuff will keep annoying me. For now, I think it’s great but there’s some room for improvement.

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