Saturday, June 30, 2012

Impressions on Mass Effect 3 - The Extended Cut


Well like a lot of Mass Effect 3 fans I downloaded the Extended Cut a couple of days ago and then replayed the end-game again which took about three hours. My overall verdict is that this is exactly what Bioware needed to help explain the ending - and that is the approach they have taken which involves filling in some of the plot holes that emerged during the last hour or so of the game. For those of you hoping for a vastly different ending, you will be disappointed. For those wanting some explanation and closure, this Extended Cut should do the trick. It's just a pity they didn't include this in the original version of the game since it would've saved Bioware a lot of headaches.

I've commented on some of the highlights of the Extended Cut below (SPOILER ALERTS ahead):

  • The Extended Cut explains what happens to your squadmates when you do the final push towards the beam that teleports you onto the Citadel. Commander Shepard calls in the Normandy to pick them up due to them being injured.
  • The Extended Cut explains how the Normandy ends up outrunning the blast and landing on a strange planet - well sort of.
  • The Extended Cut gives you more insight into the choices you can make at the end when talking to the Catalyst. You can also learn more about the history of the Catalyst.
  • The Extended Cut actually shows which crew members are remaining depending on the choices you've made.
  • The Extended Cut actually has a proper epilogue narrated by Lance Henriksen depending on the choices you've made throughout the game.

Meet the Pyro



It's about time they got around to creating a video for my favourite class in the Team Fortress series. I'm of course talking about the Pyro - and I think it's pretty hilarious :). Check it out.

Worthwhile DOS Games


Here's a pretty choice link (thanks Danno!) which shows a diagram of the most worthwhile DOS games - not sure who it's according to but the image has got quite a few that I know of!

All I want to know is, where's Star Wars: X-Wing and the original Settlers? :)

So how many of these games have you played? How many do you remember when they came out?

For me, out of the 100 games listed:

  • 83 games I can identify/remember when they came out
  • 55 games I've actually played
  • 26 games are amongst my favourite games of all time

So not a bad selection considering that's more than a quarter of the games listed! If you're curious to know what my favourite games from this list are (or at least the games I spent way too much time playing):

  • Sid Meier's Civilization
  • Sid Meier's Colonization
  • Command & Conquer
  • Commander Keen
  • Day of the Tentacle
  • Full Throttle
  • Gabriel Knight
  • Hero's Quest (Quest for Glory I)
  • Jagged Alliance series
  • Lemmings
  • Little Big Adventure
  • Loom
  • Master of Orion 2
  • Mechwarrior 2
  • Quake (mainly for Team Fortress 2 though)
  • SimCity 2000
  • Star Control II (although I actually played this later in life)
  • Stunts
  • Syndicate
  • Monkey Island 1 and 2
  • Theme Hospital
  • Theme Park
  • Transport Tycoon Deluxe
  • UFO: Enemy Unknown
  • Wacky Wheels
  • Wing Commander and Privateer series

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Skyrim Review


Wow I really ought to get the award for latest game review ever! Yes, would you believe it if I told you I was reviewing a game that was released almost 8 months ago? Oh well it’s about time I did I suppose since Skyrim was easily one of the most anticipated games of 2011. Bethesda Softworks’s bread and butter is the Elder Scrolls series but did it live up to all the hype?

Plot (4/5)
The plot is okay – it’s your usual Fantasy Fare: you’re a relatively obscure character that somehow becomes everyone’s salvation as foretold by some almost forgotten prophecy. You know I even should award fewer points because just like the previous two Elder Scrolls games, you start off as a prisoner! However the huge background and history of the world known as Tamriel is interesting and detailed, mainly thanks to the many Elder Scrolls games before it.

Like the previous Bethesda Softworks game, Fallout 3, the main plot is only a tiny portion of the rest of the game and it ends rather abruptly with little fanfare. However, if you’ve played Bethesda Softworks games over the past decade – this is hardly a surprise. Plus there’s a lot of alternate quests and storylines to pursue including an interesting civil war between the Imperial Legion and the Stormcloaks. Reminds me of this intro actually…



But with fewer spaceships – and probably not as interesting battles…

Gameplay (4/5)
Overall, the game is a fun game to play. I was a bit annoyed about the elimination of classes entirely and the fact your character can do just about anything but it quickly passed. Like previous Elder Scrolls games this is an open world action RPG where people go about their daily business regardless of whether you’re around or not. Combat is a simple affair where you use a combination of mouse clicks and swipes to do different actions, whether it’s shielding an attack, firing arrows or casting a spell.

What is different about Skyrim however is the huge number of customisation options you have available in terms of crafting armour, weapons and potions. It’s quite a simple system too since even I got into it (and usually I can’t be bothered due to the complexity involved).

Also, you're able to use shouts like this one which did the internet meme circuits towards the end of last year:



The shouts are a skill that basically gives you an edge in combat, especially against dragons.

Sound (3/5)
The audio is a bit soft by default, which is slightly annoying and the voice acting is generally poor for most characters. Once again, this is pretty usual for Elder Scrolls games barring major characters (Patrick Stewart was pretty awesome as Uriel Septim in Oblivion – too bad he dies at the beginning).

Music (5/5)
The soundtrack actually took awhile to grow on me, but grow on me it did. Morrowind’s soundtrack still happens to be may favourite out of the three that Jeremy Soule have done for the series but Skyrim has quickly become my second best now. Jeremy once again delivers a soundtrack that is glorious and beautiful.

The music is also timed very well with the action sequences in the game. You'll very soon recognise the music that plays which warns you a dragon is circling overhead...

Graphics (4/5)
Animations and graphics are generally similar to Fallout 3 which in turn is derived from Oblivion’s engine. So in that regard, the graphics aren’t that great. However, the jaw-dropping scenery of the Nord homeland is sensational and has to be seen to be believed. Add to this fact that you can occasionally see the aurora borealis and you end up with a game that has truly magical graphics... as long as you ignore the clipping and poor animations...


Replay (4/5)
Thanks to the modding tools available and the mods that have been generated as a result, this game has a high replay value. True the main quest is a bit short compared to the rest of the game but there’s a big chunk of quests to complete out there and with different races. I only focused on the main quest any maybe did 50% of the side quests and that still took over 50 hours to complete. I’ve heard of people playing for over 200 hours and still not exploring the whole game yet.

Polish (4/5)
The interface is generally an intuitive and clean one – except when it came to picking favourite skills/spells/weapons. It would’ve been nicer if they had a more traditional method of having a slot to place a weapon combination and then assigning it to a hotkey. Instead you have to pause the game and switch weapons that way (or at least I haven't found another way to do). Probably a result of the game being ported to console perhaps? The game also has the usual collection of quest bugs you’d normally find in an RPG.

Score - 9/10

Skyrim is a worthy successor to Oblivion. Nothing really has changed much in terms of the formula but if it ain’t broke why fix it? You could do worse than trying out this masterpiece (like taking an arrow to the knee for instance - okay sorry that one's been done to death :)).

If you want to get the game, you can get it off Steam.

If you like this game, you might like...

Videos:




Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Guild Wars 2 Beta - First Impressions

Well I've played a bit of GW2 and overall so far it's looking pretty good. I'll pretty much sum up what I like, what I don't like and features that are too early to judge.



What I like

Graphics
The graphics are a remarkable improvement over the original and the animations are much more fluid and life-like. The animations in Guild Wars seemed a bit stiff. As an example of the detail they've put into this game, you even get to see water droplets on the camera after surfacing from an underwater swim - which is something you'd more likely see in an FPS like BF3.

Cutscenes
Cutscenes are pretty well animated compared to the first GW and involve close-ups of your hero talking to NPCs.

Map
The map appears as a giant painting, with different brushstrokes representing the continent that is Tyria. It's a very appealing aesthetic - quite a minor one too but it fits in with the rest of the game's artwork having that hand-painted look.

Different backgrounds
I like the fact that you're able to pick different background stories for your characters, plus the fact you start off in different areas depending on your race (at least I assume this is what will happen). This is a boon for the true roleplayers out there as it makes GW2 edge closer to the realm of single player RPGs.


What I dislike

Voice acting
The voice acting is pretty terrible but then again, it was pretty bad in GW1 too.

Complexity
The game seems quite a bit more complex than the original Guild Wars. Maybe it's because I'm so used to how the original Guild Wars works, but there is definitely information overload when you look at some of the items. The feel of the UI is more akin to traditional MMORPGs and I don't know if that's a good thing or not. Some of us just want to focus on improving our stats, skills, armour and weapons just like in the original GW. This brings me to another point.

It seems that when it comes to the old way of leveling your character, the game has in fact become less complex. I don't believe there's a way of assigning points into stats anymore making it a bit more similar to Diablo III for example where it does that for you. I don't think you even get to pick skills since they automatically unlock the more you use particular weapons (hinting that skills are tied to certain weapons).

Combat
Combat seems more similar to action RPGs like Fable now which means it involves you doing somersaults and rolls to dodge enemy fire while using one or two skills yourself to dispatch them. This isn't terribly exciting but maybe I'm being unreasonable: I only had 3 skills unlocked and the engineer is probably not the most exciting class to play at the beginning.

Too early to judge

Events
While the random Events system that spontaneously spawns quests for nearby players seems like a good mechanic I remember encountering several events within the space of a few minutes. I suspect the frequency is high to allow almost everyone a chance to participate but it seems kind of strange when a village is attacked by bandits, only to be attacked at the same bridge every 5 minutes! More variety with random events may have helped or they could've perhaps lowered the frequency somehow.


Saturday, June 9, 2012

Guild Wars 2 Beta - Character Creation

Good news everyone! I've been invited to the Guild Wars 2 Beta event that is running this weekend and there's no Non-Disclosure Agreement. This means screenshots and videos of this highly anticipated game! Unfortunately, I blew my quota downloading the game, 30 GB all up, so as you can see it's a pretty large game! So I am now once again, shaped (boo!).

No matter, the game still seems to run reasonably well and I've already taken some video and screenshots. In this post, I've uploaded some photos for the character creation process in the game which is more advanced than the original Guild Wars - probably more advanced than a lot of traditional MMORPGs for that matter.

Anyway, onto the screenshots!



Firstly we have the screen where you pick your "home world". I don't actually know what this means and there seems to be a lot of them - I recall seeing something similar in WoW so perhaps they're adopting a similar mechanic in terms of where all your account details are saved? Some were already full but I suspect all of these will be wiped anyway once the game starts in earnest. Anyway, I've selected Divinity Coast as my "home world".





Next we have character creation. You get 5 slots to create a character (which I believe is the same amount you got in the original Guild Wars). However, in the original you really only had 6 professions and one race to pick from: Humans. In GW2 you now have 5 races to pick from: the Charr, Humans, Norn, Asura and Sylvari. The Asura and Sylvari were locked for the beta. You also have 8 professions to pick from: Warrior, Ranger, Mesmer, Engineer, Thief, Elementalist, Necromancer and Guardian (so five of the old professions return along with three new ones).







You now have quite a bit more flexibility in how you create your character. Not quite at the same level as The Sims but close. For example, instead of just picking the height of your character you can now pick the physique. Other things that are new to character creation is the ability to change several facial features (such as the facial hair, eyes, nose, mouth and jaw) and pick particular colours for your armour.






The most exciting part though is the ability to create a background for your character, a bit like traditional single player CRPGs. You're able to choose a favourite tool for your engineer - I ended up picking the goggles. You're also able to pick how you handle situations: do you use charm, intimidation or do you have a moral compass that others respect? Was your character brought up on the streets, as a commoner or as a noble? You can pick that too! You even get to pick a "missed opportunity" - the two more tragic ones are no doubt not knowing who your parents were or losing your sister to centaurs. Missing out on joining the circus seems like a more amusing one!




Finally humans get to choose which of the old gods they revere (Kormir for me) and your character is set. Depending on your race, you will have different background questions to answer which will have a slight impact on how your adventure unfolds.


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Space Quest producers join the Kickstarter bandwagon



That's right, the Two Guys from Andromeda, Scott Murphy and Mark Crowe (another bunch of ex-Sierra adventure game developers), have come out of retirement to create a new sci-fi adventure game obviously inspired by Space Quest. And yes, they're doing it through Kickstarter (just like Jane Jensen and Al Lowe). This is another one of those projects that I think is worth backing but as of today they still require another $150,000 to go and there's only 6 days left... perhaps everybody is already Kickstartered out? They've managed to get a bunch of veteran voice actors to join them though which is surely something going for it...

Anyway, if you're into the old Sierra style adventure games and especially if you're a Roger Wilco fan, pledge your support!