Saturday, January 30, 2010

Dragon Age: Origins - Return to Ostagar Review (Spoilers)

Seeing that they managed to put up the latest DLC for Dragon Age after much delay, I jumped and bought it. I am currently working on a Dalish Elf playthrough so I headed right on over into the adventure.

It started off decently enough, with some political intrigue hinted at by finding letters between Cailan and Orlais, and there is the whole idea of going back and finding the King's and possibly Duncan's body to get you into. Sadly that is where any sense of enjoyment for the game ends.

Instead of creating too many new areas, it heavily reuses the camp at Ostagar from the beginning of the game. I end up trudging through the same familiar, boring landscape fighting waves of mindless zombies. There was absolutely no story at all, other than following some Darkspawn necromancer through the ruins killing his summons. Then you kill the necromancer and get a choice of what to do with Cailan's body. Whoop de fucking doo.

For a game so heavily entranced with story, for additional content that is merely a straight-up dungeon crawl to be added is simply unacceptable. It is inexcusable for a company of Bioware's stature to put out the complete and unadulterated shit that was this DLC. $5 for a 1 hour dungeon crawl completely blows my mind. You don't even get to find Duncan's body, the one thing that I was really looking forward to finding.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Star Trek Online Beta Thoughts

After hearing some mediocre reviews from the beta, I decided to go and download the open beta client with a key I received from Gamerzines. It only took about 2 and a half hours to download the client and off I went.

The character creation, like all of Cryptic's games was incredibly deep. There was a dizzying array of options for creating alien species. Not being a Trekkie in the least bit, I decided to go with a custom look rather than an established species. In the end I created what looked to be a female zabrak. If only the fun that came out of the creation carried over into the actual gameplay.

I've read comparisons over this being similar to Pirates of the Burning Sea, a game I loved in beta but never caught on post-release, in relation to ship vs ground combat. I don't really think this is an apt comparison because ship combat is boring in STO in comparison. I even had a friend ask if I was moving during combat it looked so slow. Even using the boosts out of combat did little to make it more exciting. Overall, it just didn't feel as good as PotBS did. Ground combat was also boring, at least in the early stages.

The storyline was just utter rubbish and I found myself just clicking through until I saw the green text telling me what to do. A voiceover system would be a lot more engaging than what is currently being presented. There was no connection for me to even try and engage myself.

For me, a definite don't buy.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Look Ahead

I figured I would take a break from talking about what I've been playing to look ahead to what this year may bring.

My Targets

Mass Effect 2 - Probably won't be getting this right on release as I want to get another playthrough of the original in first, but as a huge Bioware fan, this is a must buy. Still a little iffy about having to reload weapons, but that looks to be minor hiccup in a good revamp of combat. The Must Play RPG of the year.

Alpha Protocol - I am worried about this game. I haven't heard much about it lately though it looks to have an interesting premise. Hopefully the delay means the game will get thoroughly polished, a concern with Obsidian games. I will definitely wait to pick this up so if it gets horrible reviews I won't have wasted money.

Diablo 3 - Yeah, not this year but a major target for the future. Almost makes me want to play the second one again, except for actually having to play for the umpteenth time.

Starcraft 2 - I don't buy RTS games for the story, only the multiplayer, so I hope I don't end up being forced to buy the other two games for more units and the like. Heck, the only campaign I've played through in an RTS is Company of Heroes, and I've played a lot of RTS games.

Supreme Commander 2 - Total Annhilation and Supreme Commander have been my absolute favorite RTS games of all time. Strategies are perfectly balanced and the game is complex enough that it takes awhile to learn and master the game. I am giddy with excitement.


Star Trek Online - I am interested to see how big of a flop this will be. Cryptic is proving itself to be a very poor MMO designer and recent comments and news are pointing to another Champions Online launch. I think their only concern is getting the game out and receiving the money rather than providing a quality experience for the customer.

Star Wars: The Old Republic - A pipe dream for 2010, but this will be the next MMO that I jump headlong into. I have friends to play it with and developer that cares for it players.

WOW: Cataclysm - I really hope WoW doesn't pull me back in for another expansion pack, but if history is a guide it will happen again. My saving grace is that if it comes out in November, NANOWRIMO will prevent me from picking it up, at least for a month.

I really wish there were more MMOs to hop into, but I haven't been impressed with any of the recent offerings. Fallen Earth was interesting, but never hooked me past the trial.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

What I'm Playing: Empire: Total War

To start this off, how in the hell did this game ever get a metacritic rating of 90? The game was unplayable at launch without constantly going in and deleting files to keep it from crashing. I had bought this the day it came out and had returned it to Gamestop within a week. Being a steam game though, I still had access to it, not getting the urge to download until recently.

While most of the crashes have been removed from the game, the game is still lackluster. I loved the original Medieval: Total War and enjoyed the Medieval 2, but cannot get into this game in the least bit. I'm not really sure what it is that is putting me off either. The game is sluggish on my computer when it shouldn't be, which contributes to my frustration.

I guess the problems lies in the lack of control I feel over my empire. I've been playing a lot of Civ 4 recently and in comparison, Empire is severely lacking. No peaceful means of expansion, minimal control over territories, and not much city control. I know Empire is more a war game, but a little variety would be nice. The only advantage that Empire theoretically has over Civ 4 is in actually playing out the battles. If only it were true in practice. Shoddy camera controls and overall lackluster AI makes it more enjoyable to auto-resolve every battle. Random point: why the fuck can't troops move quicker on the campaign map. Dear lord it takes forever for them to move.

Another peeve of mine is in regards to the DLC. Really, unit packs? You are going to charge people a couple of dollars for non-placeholder units? It is a big rip to me, as I have no problems with DLC for a game when it actually adds to the playtime. In the old days, this type of stuff would have been free content patch or combined up with a new campaign or something in a full blown expansion. Now they feel they can just nickle and dime us. Needless to say, I don't plan on purchasing any of the DLC.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

What I'm Playing: Team Fortress 2

The WAR update for the game that came out a couple weeks ago effectively killed my playtime down to only five hours in the last two weeks. Before that, it had enjoyed a long stretch of 10-20 hours a week, only being broken up by Dragon Age.

There are two main issues that I had with the update. The first is the classes. I absolutely loathe the playstyles of both demomen and soldiers, my two least played classes. Spamming projectiles on the cart and around corners doesn't take much in the way of skill. So of course, the new update makes everyone choose the classes to play with, leaving teams of sometimes 10 soldiers and demomen combined. I know this will balance out again, as I have already seen it steadily waning, but until it gets back to the old breakdowns, I end up frustrated more often than not.

The second issue is in regards to achievements. I like achievements that you get by going on a lucky streak or just doing what you are supposed to a bunch of times. I absolutely loathe achievements that make me change my playstyle, like taunt kills and taunting after kills. Let me just focus on killing and be pleasantly surprised as a window occassionally pops up saying "Achievement Unlocked: Yada Yada." It wouldn't be so annoying if the easiest way to get the new weapons was through the milestones. You can get to the first milestone pretty quickly, but end up having to change playstyles to get to the last one.

TF2 will continue to be on the backburner for at least a little while longer.

Monday, January 4, 2010

What I'm Playing: Portal

In a continuation of what I've been playing, we arrive at Portal. I saw this game on the steam holiday sale for $5 and jumped on the bandwagon. While the game overall is good, I am glad I didn't spend anymore money on it.

The game does a good job of getting players slowly adjusted to the game mechanics, introducing them one at a time. The puzzles were overall pretty easy to complete, requiring only minimal retries with no need of searching for outside help. I liked the fact that even the jumps that required placing a new portal in mid-jump were decently easy to pull off. Nothing gets me madder than having to do a jump twenty times in a row to get it just right.

The storyline, while minimal, was just intriguing enough to keep me interested. The frosted glass windows high above left me feeling like someone was always above watching, even though in reality there wasn't. Glados provided comical voice overs, as I really enjoyed the ones involving the companion cube and it talking to you.

The light combat, with the turrets in the android training course, was just dangerous enough to keep you on your toes. The easiest way to beat them being portal in behind and kick them over was a little disappointing. This is counter balanced by the ability to get them to kill each other which was a fun way to do it.

The game only lasted about three hours for me, another two added on by playing through again with developer commentary on. This is the main reason for me not wanting to spend more than five bucks on the game. Hopefully Portal 2 will include a longer game and possibly some multiplayer co-op.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

What I'm Playing: L4D2

I figured I would start a series of posts chronicling what I've been playing for the last couple of weeks. The short is a decent number of games, but nothing too in depth. I'll start with one I received for Christmas, Left 4 Dead 2.

Team-Based Gameplay

Not having played the original other than a demo, I can't comment on whether it was too soon after the first or if enough of an upgrade. I can only say that I've been having an overall good time with it. My main complaint with the game (which is also a positive depending on the time) is the over reliance of team based gameplay. I have no problems playing on teams having participated in CAL matches and a tournament for Battlefield 2, but random pick-up teams leaves you wondering what kind of game you are in for.

I have had plenty of great games where the team was clicking and people were communicating and we would end up steamrolling on Versus or Scavenge. But I've had plenty more experiences with utterly horrible teams that wouldn't talk and wouldn't even work together, having one member go running off ahead of the group and leaving us to fend off the four infected players. This leaves a Jekyll and Hyde effect as the good teams were some of the most fun I've ever had in a co-op game while the bad ones have left me rage quitting in frustration.


The levels in the game are really a mixed bag. Some are just god awful to play through even when you are a good team. The bridge and plantation come to mind in this regard. Fighting a non-ending stream of zombies for a couple minutes straight with no break just gets on my nerves. The best round of plantation I had was when the gate glitched and immediately opened after talking on the radio for the second time, letting us escape to the boat, ignoring the whole climax of the battle.

For the bad ones, there are some definite winners. Hard Rain comes to mind for the interesting storm mechanic. Fumbling around in the howling wind and pouring rain was quite exhilarating and improved an otherwise drab level design. Also, I like the daylight levels as opposed to the screenshots of the mostly nighttime first game. Something about broad daylight gets me more interested.


I can't imagine having to play through the campaigns without melee weapons as you would have to in the original. Being surrounded by enemies is easy to clear away with a couple swings of a baseball bat or machete, rather than spinning around shooting with a shotgun or assault rifle. Heck, probably a fifth to a quarter of my kills are with melee weapons.


Overall, I would recommend this game to people, though I find myself slowly getting to the point of playing when I see friends on. Maybe I just have a lower tolerance for stupid than most, but the bad teammates can kill a round a for me.