Friday, 30 March 2012

Screenshot of the Week - Shiny Frosty Wyrm

World Of Warcraft Screenie this time, in the Wetlands

Bioware respond to Cupcake Craziness

If you remember, on Tuesday I wrote about the fans protesting Mass effect 3's ending in a rather unique fashion. Last night (for those of us in Europe), Bioware responded to the mad idea in, I must say, a rather humorous fashion. Bioware decided instead of going with the 3 options given to them, they would proceed to select their own fourth option in the form of donating them to charity. Ah, the irony.

The cupcakes actually look rather delicious.
I know there are quite a few fans out there who are angry with this decision, but you have to give credit where it's due. And those complaining about their decision are acting a bit hypocritical; I mean Bioware gave us 3 endings to ME3, we chose a fourth - complain and protest. Fans gave Bioware 3 options, they chose a fourth - donate to charity.

With so many hopping on the EA hate bandwagon and others acting like complete babies about the ending fiasco, they really are starting to make me get annoyed with the ME3 fan community. Saying a kind word about the ending or about EA or Bioware on the internet can get you floods of rage from angry forum users of late. Don't get me wrong, they're only a minority, the majority are forming well-produced and thought out criticism and providing accurate feedback regarding the ending.

But anyway, I digress... Just wanted to let you guys know about this as it definitely made me smile!

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Up and Coming: SimCity

Happy Friday eve everyone! I'm going to be looking at something a little different today, rather than the usual Action RPG games I ramble on about. Today I'm going to be having a look into EA Maxis' next instalment in their much loved SimCity Series. 

Just looking at this screen cap makes
me want to play this game again.
Personally, the last SimCity I played was SimCity 3000 back when I was around 9, I remember getting it fairly close to the release date in 1999 and, boy, did I spent countless hours building up huge metropolis' only to plague them with earthquakes and other natural disasters (Space Junk was a barrel of laughs). But for some reason SimCity 4 flew under the radar. I think this may have been because at the time I was playing my consoles more frequently, but who knows?

So after looking at what SimCity (5) has to offer, I was rather impressed, along with heavy graphical improvements and the features from the older games will likely be included, there will be a lot more being implemented such as resource gathering playing an important part; Senior software engineer at EA Maxis Dan Moskowitz has stated, "If you've built up an entire city on the economic basis of extracting a certain resource, when that resource runs out your economy will collapse.".

Online play is another feature that is being added, which will allow you and your friends to build up a region of cities which sounds pretty awesome. But recent complaints have spawned from critics about this, why you ask? Well... to start up the game you will require an Internet connection. While for many of us having a stable, broadband, Internet connection seems like a standard amenity, many people without will not be able to play at all. Once the game has started, you won't get booted from the game, which I guess is some good news for those who use dial-up still, or have a very shaky connection. But still if your internet is down you can't play a local game...? That just doesn't make sense EA!

With a Simulation Engine called
'Glassbox' fans are expecting good things!
On the plus side however it has been announced by maxis that modding will be supported in this game, which is awesome for any PC game out there. If there are bugs, you can be pretty sure some modders out there will make a fix or a workaround. Also, the amount of fun cosmetic stuff the gaming community comes up with is astounding, so this was definitely a step in the right direction.

A new dynamic simulation engine is also being incorporated into SimCity which sounds interesting, simmed units dynamically and randomly creating traffic jams whilst they actually travel around town or to work, now that's attention to detail! Especially considering that many people will be hoping to build cities with populations in the hundreds of thousands.

As for release date, all that has been stated is that it will be a 2013 release, so I guess we'll have to be patient for a year, but this game has definitely piqued my curiosity and will be a game I'd love to invest in when it gets released. But for now I will leave you with the announcement video, enjoy!


Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Mass Effect fans protest ME3 endings with cupcakes.

So a former WoW guildie, one of the co-authors of drunk tank informed me that there has been another method of protest against the Mass Effect 3 endings. I am rather glad she informed me of this as it is rather hilarious.

As a note THIS MAY GIVE AWAY SOME OF THE ENDING STRUCTURE OF MASS EFFECT THREE - You were warned.

Basically, the player who started the campaign has raised over $1000 in a matter of hours to fund the creation of 402 custom cupcakes (three distinct colours to match the three ending choices) to Biowares offices in Edmonton in Canada. The cupcakes will also bear the message "No matter what colour you choose, they all taste the same!" - A pun referring to the distinct lack of difference between the available endings in ME3.

Some more info:

The thread that started the campaign: http://social.bioware.com/forum/1/topic/355/index/10658883
The site that collected the funds for the order: http://retakeme3cupcakes.chipin.com/retakeme3-cupcake-campaign

I'm personally astounded by the power of the internet, over $1000 donated in mere hours. I'm also suprised by the resolve of these fans willing to show how they feel even after Bioware announced they will be working to make extra content available, Fans definitely want more, and they aren't afraid to make bold (and brilliant) statements such as this.

Feature Analysis - Easter Eggs & References

Hey guys, sorry about the delay in content. Had a busy few days. 

Today I want to talk to you about Easter Eggs. I know Easter is coming up, by try not to link what I'm saying to chocolatey treats. You all probably know what I'm talking about but for those who don't - Easter Eggs in Games are messages, features or jokes the fans can relate to intentionally left by developers and they can be in the form of pretty much anything. They can be in game Items, locations, NPC Dialogue the list goes on.

Finding things like this always brings a smile to my face.
Many people have different opinions on what they consider an Easter Egg, some people consider Glitches and Cheats to be Easter eggs. But I prefer to think of them as little notes, references and personal touches left behind by the developers that are very hard to find. For example if you look to the right, we have an Image that fans of Bioware games will understand. The Image from Mass Effect 2 shows an Ogre from another one of their successful games - Dragon Age: Origins. People who had not played that game would be none the wiser when stumbling upon this, even Kasumi (an in game character in ME2) states 'I don't know what this is'.

There are also brilliant references to pop culture in many games, I mean just look at this list containing the currently known easter eggs in Skyrim, I'll admit, some are so subtle you think the person who discovered it is clutching at straws but others make you think "now that you mention it...". Bethesda pack their games full of these references, both the Fallout and Elder Scrolls series are full of them.

Rockstar games, the developers of the Grand Theft Auto series tend to have a more obvious method of letting players know that they've found an Easter egg. In GTA:III there is a sign on a wall you shouldn't be able to access saying 'You shouldn't be able to get here!', In Vice City, you can find a room with a chocolate Easter egg in the middle with 'Happy Easter' engraved on it and below is my personal favourite from San Andreas.


D'oh Rockstar, you so silly...

Easter eggs for me are always a welcome find, more often than not they're something that will make you smile, and its always nice to see the developers put that tiny bit more of effort in to give the fans another thing to talk about in their game and a way to make their fans happy.

If you fancy having a browse and seeing what Easter eggs are out there, eeggs.com has a compiled list of thousands of video game Easter eggdiscoveries. So what Easter eggs have you guys discovered? 

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Screenshot of the Week - Misty Mass Effect Monster

When playing through ME2, this guy was just standing there in the mist... creepy.

World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria Beta now Live

You heard it folks, the first phase of the Beta for the upcoming expansion for World of Warcraft has been announced as live on WoW's US website. I'm not sure how these things usually work, but i'm guessing this is an indication EU servers will also be getting access to the beta very soon, if not immediately.

MoP has boasted a new continent, a multitude of new features and an overhaul of old talent systems.
According to the official website, this first live beta only focus' on the starting zones of the new race - Pandaren, and you will have the ability to play through the zone and level a Pandaren from 1-10. As with usual betas for WoW, content will be released in a staggered manner as and when Blizzard feel it's ready for public testing and feedback. 

Blizzard have taken a new approach this time on who is invited to the beta. Firstly, the purchase of an annual pass not only secured you a copy of Diablo III (release date May 15th) but also a beta invite, meaning a lot of people who would usually not bother opting in have actually been given the chance to test the up and coming content. For more information and FAQ on the beta opt in, check this link

Mists of Pandaria seems like it will be full of great features and content, but will it be enough to bring millions of ex-subscribers (myself included) back to the game, well, only time will tell.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Dr. Ray Muzyka, Co-Founder of Bioware addresses ME3 players.

Dr. Ray Muzyka has today addressed the fanbase of the Mass Effect series regarding the ongoing controversy surrounding Mass Effect 3's ending. His statement has no confirmation whether or not the ending will be expanded upon or changed, but he does mention that more information will follow throughout April.


Make what you will of the article found here. I for one am somewhat indifferent as to whether more content or a better ending is released, if it is - great! If it isn't - I can live with that too. As I think I've said in a previous article, I just want more information on what happens to the squad and the rest galaxy after the dying moments of ME3.

Dark Souls set for PC release?

Well, some breaking news today, news that I am hoping to be true.

While nothing has been confirmed yet, it seems very likely a PC port is coming.

Namco Bandai Games & From Software's action RPG title may be getting a PC port very soon. The rumours spread today after an image was spotted in Australia's PC powerplay magazine (below) and the twitter account of Rich Bantegui - Namco Bandai Games' community manager (above).

Fans of the game immediately identified this was
from the difficult title.
The lure of Dark Souls for many gamers is that it is a very hard game, reminiscent of 'old school nintendo' style difficulty, something that many games tend to avoid by providing a multitude of different difficulty settings. The game recieved excellent reviews and is very popular among the console gaming community, which is why I am looking forward to seeing it come to the PC.

Suited for more hardcore players, you will most likely find yourself dying a lot more than winning in this game. something I've been looking for in a game for a while. Whilst I do like to play the easy going games, more often than not I prefer to play my first play through on a difficulty above normal. 

So this is another piece of news I'll be keeping an eye one as it progresses, I really do hope the PC port goes ahead, another Action RPG title is always welcome in my gaming library.

Man, it does look awesome, too.


Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Feature Analysis - Autosave

'Ohh this dungeon is creepy' *Clink* *SLAM* *SPLAT* - Dead.
'I can kill this boss... oh f*** he's tough' *Boom* - Dead
'Oh damn it, game froze, I'll have to crash it'


These situations are annoying enough without ending up half an hours worth of game time backwards purely because you forgot to save or because the game offers no decent auto-save feature. It's likely something every gamer has experienced at least once or twice and many gamers probably have this happen to them more times than they'd like to admit and it's a hell of a pain.

After playing a few different games recently I've noticed the multiple different methods games implement auto-save features. Some are a pain, some are brilliant and some don't even have it! so I'm going to have a look at those I prefer and why.

Firstly Bethesda's system in their RPG's. This system saves the game when entering a new area, it doesn't matter how far in the area you are it will just save at the start of it. While this is a nice method on an easy difficulty, when playing on a harder setting this can be a huge pain. You can spend a good half hour progressing through a cave/vault/barrow barely surviving and then something you aren't prepared for hops out and kills you,  effectively wiping the last 30 minutes of progress. Like I said on an easy setting this is great (because to be honest it's quite tricky to die on easy in both Fallout & Skyrim in my opinion), but when playing on Very hard/Master you need to get in the habit of quicksaving... like every couple of minutes. Fun eh?

Shepard's Game just crashed. He hasn't been quicksaving.
The second system that bugged the hell out of me was Mass Effect 1's auto-save system. To me the points where this would save seemed completely random. Sometimes it would save at certain defining points in the story and at others it wouldn't. Occasionally it would save when entering a new area, but again, other times it wouldn't. I probably lost around 2 hours on my first playthrough purely because I wasn't quicksaving as often as I could and didn't realise how far back the previous auto-save was. However in Mass effect 2 & 3 this issue was resolved with frequent autosaves which was a very pleasant surprise. 

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning also includes a nice and frequent autosave system similar to the frequency in Mass Effect 2, however due to dying rarely in that game (I only played it on normal so far) it's hard to tell if the saves were frequent or I just didn't notice a bad disparity due to a lack of deaths.

One of these was always
a welcome sight in FFVII
Many older games don't even bother with auto-saves and even go as far as only having designated save points... that's right final fantasy, I'm looking at you. Now I'm not sure if this is still the cas in FFXIII and FFXIII-2, but in all the older titles, you are required to visit a save point to save. This isn't as annoying as you would think, purely because it is such an established mechanic in Final Fantasy, and your play eventually compensates for it, e.g. making sure you are stocked up on potions and your group is healed, taking breaks when you get to save points etc.

Many genres of games don't implement autosave whatsoever, RTS games such as Battle for Middle Earth rarely include such a feature in their single player campaigns however death isn't as sudden in these types of games and you can predict when saving is necessary, I guess it would also be hard to define when a good point to save would be in these types of games. Some RTS games do include it but to me it seems like an unnecessary feature in this genre.

In my opinion Autosaves should be included in Action RPG's and FPS games, and they should be frequent. they are only really needed in games where death can be sudden an unexpected, Turn based and many Japanese RPG's will usually put a save point before dangerous bosses anyway. It's good to get into the habit of quicksaving frequently or just saving but with many games I could go without the tedium.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Skyrim DLC Leaked?

Well well, after a weekend of a mix of beer and intense play of Mass Effect 3 I hadn't had time to keep up to date with the breaking news of the gaming world. So today in my usual Internet trawl I stumbled upon this:

A post showing possible DLC details provided by an ex-Bethesda employee.
(Click to enlarge)
The source of this image was here, the post on that link has a nice summary of key points at the bottom for you all to read. Personally I think it seems legit, but as usual, with most of the stuff flying around the internet, I am going to remain calm and see this as a possibility rather than confirmed content. But if this is what is going to happen... wow! Damn it Bethesda, I've already clocked 200 hours on Skyrim, are you trying to make sure I have no time for anything else!

I will be sure to keep up to date when more info about this appears!

Bitter After Taste - Unexpected endings.

BEFORE YOU READ, BE ADVISED MAJOR SPOILERS WILL BE IN THIS POST. YOU WERE WARNED.

So as most  people who keep an eye on the gaming community know, a lot of people were really disappointed with Mass Effect 3's ending. So much so that there has been a massive outcry from the community calling for a change in the ending, even raising $66,548 (£41,998) so far for charity in a petition for Alternate endings to be added. So what makes some game endings so hated?

Shepard's last adventure is a pretty entertaining ride.
For Mass Effect 3 at least it seems that fans were annoyed by a number of different things. And rather than write a garbled summary of what the majority of fans think - A player has compiled a good, easy to read list of what many think are wrong with the ending which you can find here.

I managed to play through ME3 this weekend and personally, I didn't think the ending was terrible. I Just thought it lacked substance, and left me with far too many questions as to what happens next, I like detailed epilogues at the end of games and Mass Effect 3's was all too brief, there was no description or anything showing what happened to everyone else after the war. Also, it seems the choices you make throughout the game have very little to no effect on the ending which seems rather different from the previous two titles. That being said, ME3 for me was a very enjoyable game, sure the ending was a bit of a let down but the journey to it was amazing.

I definitely felt a tad less manly after playing through
FFX-2, at lest there was a bit of virtual eye-candy.
There have been other games that have also let me down in terms of an ending, Final Fantasy 10 being one that springs to mind. However I think this let me down because I was expecting a happier ending for Tidus (main character). After the effort he puts in throughout the storyling to save not only Yuna (love interest) but Spira (the planet he's on) as well, I would have thought there would be a chance he wouldn't dissapear. I wouldn't call it a bad ending. I think it just took me by surprise.

However a couple of years after a sequel was released giving players a chance to continue Yuna's story in Spira. Personally I bought it and played through purely for the story. The game itself was no where near as entertaining as it's predecessor and had a 'Teen Girl' feel to it as your levelling system was pretty much dressing up the 3 female (and only available) characters for different abilities, with a happy and colorful world and cutesy cut-scenes. I only powered through to see if it was possible to change Tidus' fate (and you could for an 100% clear or 'perfect' ending). While it was nice to see that ending, I felt that FFX-2 was a very disappointing sequel.

Fallout 3 was another one that had a peculiar finish to it. Resulting in your player (apparently) dying from radiation or sacrificing another to do it in his stead. However, during the storyline you acquire a super mutant follower which could have done the task without death but it wasn't an available option. Many fans were rather disappointed by the death of their player, so Bethesda released DLC that gave closure to what happened after your character after this scene. That's right, they bought your player back from the dead. And many fans happily paid for the DLC.

Broken Steel allowed you to continue the story after that which was released with the vanilla version.

So this made me think that DLC's and unexpected sequels are a great (albeit somewhat underhanded) way for gaming companies to squeeze some extra cash from you, and with games that you invested a lot of time in, many players won't even think twice about spending £10 to find out if their beloved character has a future. To be honest I won't be surprised at all if extra ending related DLC is released for Mass Effect 3 - and personally, I'd probably buy it in the vein hope Shepard is ok. It seems that most players tend to want their characters to survive, and it's only really in games with endings that your character dies or disappears that gamers seem to get their feathers ruffled about.

I don't get that annoyed about sad endings, but I honestly much prefer the scenario where my hero saves the world and gets to see the fruits of his labours in a new happy future. So what about you guys? Do you get annoyed when your character dies a hero? or are you happy he managed to complete his task? what is your Ideal ending?

Friday, 16 March 2012

Elder Scrolls MMO?

Well, after a bit of browsing on the usual information sources on the net, I found out that something awesomely amazing is possibly in the works for Bethesda and Zenimax.

The article I found about it is Here, It's all very vague and I would advise fans not to go off the rails with this one.  A summary of the article:

  • The game would take place a full millennium before The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and likely take place during the “Second Era,” hundred years before any of the other Elder Scrolls games. 
  • Elder Scrolls Online will have three playable factions 
  • Expect an announcement in May 2012, more info at E3 possible
  • MMO  related job postings have been on ZeniMax’s website for quite some time
  • Bethesda and Zenimax refused to comment on the above linked article

I tend to remain sceptical when it's 'Anonymous industry sources' handing out the info. Until I see an official statement from Bethesda or Zenimax, I am going to keep this as just a rumour in my head, so I won't be massively disappointed if this doesn't go ahead.

Would definitely play a stealthy archer class I think. My favourite style of play in Skyrim was this.

But if anyone can get me back into MMO's it would definitely be Bethesda, they are one of my favourite companies, and it would be interesting to see what they would bring into an MMO. This is definitely something I'm going to be keeping up to date with, and be sure to see more info when I can find it.

The link for the article again.


Thursday, 15 March 2012

Nostalgia - Rose-Tinted Gaming Goggles

Most long time gamers have those ghosts of gaming past in cupboards, away in storage or up in their loft, and occasionally we get the urge to play through them again hoping to re-live the exciting memories and hope for fun that once was. But sometimes we all look at something with rose-tinted goggles.

This was most certainly NOT a barrel of laughs when I
was young
The first game that would spring to mind for me would be Sonic & Knuckles Collection - My very first PC game. Recently after seeing it go for cheap on Steam I went ahead and re-purchased it. I was rather excited, as I used to spend hours on this game although I never did actually complete it (Gimme a break I was 7), so I sat down put on my headphones and began and for the first few Minutes - It was glorious!

However after that initial 'I remember this! I remember that' wore off, I began to notice that It wasn't as great as I remember. The first few zones were easy... I mean really easy. Within less than 20 or so minutes I was in the Carnival Night Zone, and I met my nemesis from my childhood - that god-damn barrel (pictured above), but I figured it out soon enough, you simply press up and down... Anyways, after that annoyance dealt with, I continued and managed to complete Sonic 3 within an hour. Sure there were some parts that were a little tricky, but the experience of hours of play in my youth and having more common sense now made the game a whole lot easier and, well, a bit boring.

Another game that I have recently played from my younger years is Rollercoaster Tycoon - a game I spent a lot of time on back in the year 2000. And this had the opposite effect to sonic, I enjoyed re-playing it so much I ended up buying Rollercoaster Tycoon Two (plus x-packs) from amazon, for a steal of a price. However I still couldn't help but be critical on the the game and definitely thought it could do with some added features.

Shut up and spend your money guest 2326!
Firstly, including a 'speed up time' feature would be a god-send, too often I found myself staring blankly at the screen waiting for cash to come in and too many times, I had completed my objectives but had to wait 3 years of game time to finish the park (which also makes me think once your objective is complete you should finish that park anyway...). Also a few times I found it difficult to navigate and a full dynamic 360 view would be welcomed.

But after I thought of these points I had to laugh at myself. I was critiquing an old game for features it didn't have and maybe couldn't even support back when it was developed. and for what it was, it was a damn good game.

However some games always remain timeless classics in the mind of the player and for me the only thing I'd ever change about the following three titles would be the Graphics - Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy IX and Final Fantasy X (sorry FF Fans, VIII was good, but I didn't enjoy it as much as the others). When I found these games again, I decided to get hold of an emulator and play them on my PC. The memories just came flooding back, and I diligently played each game through until the end.

If  dated graphics don't offend you, play through FF7.
NOW!
Admittedly, I didn't play them as I did when I first played them. I was replaying them more for the story rather than unlocking all the secrets and spending hours doing tedious stuff (Lightning dodging in FFX anyone?). I did do a few things though, such as training gold chocobo's in 7 & 9, and getting the more secret of Aeons in 10. I think I wouldn't change these games (except graphically) because of the time I had poured into each title. I'm fairly sure that with each one I probably spent near 70 hours playtime when I went through them the first time.

But looking back and playing through these games shows me just how much the gaming  industry has changed, titles now are easier to get into, easier in (default setting) difficulty, and have a plethora of more features. Think of the tutorials you get in games nowadays - usually a whole level devoted to teaching you, whereas sonic's tutorial was the manual you had in the box and FFVII's tutorial was speaking to NPC's and slogging through a lot of text.

Also, these older games don't have multiple difficulty settings, if you were stuck at something you had three choices - The path of the Hero (get better and keep trying), The path of the Rogue (try and find cheats if your parents will let you use the dial up internet connection, at least for those my age) or The path of the Coward (ragequit). Now if things are tough you can just dial down the difficulty in the options. A good example is Skyrim, on the hardest difficulty - Dragons can very quickly kill you dead and are scary, but on easy they are about as much of a threat as one of the rabbits you see running across the landscape.

And yet gaming hasn't just changed for the worse, as technology progresses, so does the ability to implement options and features of convenience. You'll hear a lot of 'pro' gamers go on about how things were better 'back in the day'  but in honesty if you gave them a game now that doesn't include things such as auto-save, level select, difficulty settings and game over meaning game over, they would criticise the game into oblivion.

It is strange to take a trip down memory lane and look at these games that don't include so many features we see as standard now. It shows you how gaming is evolving and the progress it has made over the past couple of decades. Some titles have lost their way and others have shone through and are still going strong, but it's always fun to have a look at where they began.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Feature Analysis - Equipment in Games

So, in an effort to get up to speed with the Mass Effect franchise so I can get on to ME3 as soon as possible, I downloaded (legally! through steam) 1 and 2 on Friday and had a big ol' gaming session this weekend, completing ME1 (albeit I kinda rushed that) and making headway into 2.

However playing these titles made me think about something. Gearing up your characters and how different games do it. There are some systems I like and others that just become tedious to deal with. So I'm going to have a look at what makes a gear and equipment system good or bad.

Variety, in my opinion, always helps a gear system along, if multiple choices of armour or clothing are available you can customise your character well and that tends to help with immersion and connection to your character. Too little to choose from and you can occasionally be restricted to pick one generic choice, too much to chose from and it can become confusing and trivial. 

Personally, I think a strong gear system is in place in Fallout, there are multiple clothing and armour choices to pick from and you can easily discern what is best for your character; stealthy assasin: light armour such as leather or recon armour and for close combat or front line kind of action: Combat armour, power armour or something similar. Fallout's system is good as you can pick and change what you need for different tasks and the bonus' are easy to understand. The weapon system is easy enough too, find weapons you like? keep 'em in good condition in your inventory. Others you can store in your players home.

Dragon scale Armour in Skyrim is the most damage resistant
 of light armours available
Skyrim (also from Bethesda) has quite a nice gear system too, you can enchant your gear for different tasks and purposes and use different sets for different styles of play, a little more variety would have been nice though. 

A system where variety got a bit too much for me though was Mass Effect 1. Whilst on the surface it doesn't look too complex, being an avid RPG player I tend to explore each possible way and gather all I can, so I was constantly picking up new stuff. Armour had three different stats and slot(s) for mod(s) all of which became a lot to take in. Damage reductions against certain types of damage, health regen, shield boost, shield regen... it all got so much that I just picked armour to wear that had the highest damage resistance and just whacked on a health regen mod on most squad members. Weapons were also a pain to deal with with the obscene amount of mods, whilst picking a weapon was easier than picking armour, modding it wasn't. So overall dealing with your teams equipment became a chore rather than fun, I'd often find myself spending a good 15 minutes on sorting out three members and then another 5 just turning unwanted stuff into omni-gel.

However Mass Effect 2 effectively headed off this issue with a simple and elegent system, a little more choices in what you can dress your squad up in would be nice but Sheperds choices and customisation was aesthetically pleasing. You can choose the colours, patterns and armour types of Shepherd as pictured on the left.





Availability also plays a big part in the gear systems, now I don't know about you guys, but for me earning or unlocking a decent weapon feels a hell of a lot better than buying it. Being able to get the best gear available through a shop fairly easily seems a bit anti-climactic. For example, in the Final Fantasy series - looking back at the older titles such as VII and IX here - killing a boss usually meant you would get something decent, a good example would be Cloud's ultima weapon in FFVII obtained by killing, well, the Ultima Weapon, which can prove to be a rather tricky fight.

Now this is one pricey sword, 
However, buying weapons isn't always too easy, and sometimes saving up enough gold or whatever currency the game requires can feel like quite the achievement, such as buying The Solus Greatsword (pictured on the right) in Fable, which takes a whole lot of questing and work to be able to afford, and it's damage is, on the most part, better than any of the other weapons available throughout the game.

Another nice way to acquire gear is unlocking it through achievements and progress in a game, such as call of duty, where as you progress through the multiplayer ranks, more weapons and customisation options are made available to you. 

Some games also Include crafting to create your arsenal or armoury, Kingdoms of Amalur having one such system that I really approved of - one that stops you making the best stuff too early. Many crafting systems in many RPG's and other games can be considered broken. In Skyrim for instance, by creating a few hundred Iron Daggers (the easiest thing to make) you can find yourself in the best armour available in next to no time. In comparison, KoA: Reckoning limits the player well, as a pre-requisite to creating armour is salvaging parts and materials from pieces already gathered - and what you acquire from enemies is very dependent on your level. Imposing these sort of barriers is a good idea in my opinion as you are more appreciative of new weapons or armour when you get them.

Don't you just hate it when someone shows up at the battle
wearing the same thing as you...
Having different options on how to acquire gear is always nice, though. Most modern RPG's and MMO RPG's give you all of the explained options to acquire gear; killing Enemies, Buying or Crafting and in large, well funded games such as World of Warcraft and Skyrim, each one brings their own flair to each method.

So in conclusion, what I think the Ideal gear system should Include? Well Ideally I'd love to see the below:
- Top stat armours with multiple different appearances. e.g: Multiple aesthetically different armours with the same stats as Daedric Armour in Skyrim
- Simple to understand stats, enchantments etc.. e.g. don't overcomplicate items saying they will protect you from x and not from y
- Artificial barriers preventing the player from acquiring amazing gear too early e.g.: implement stat, level or crafting restrictions
- Include the different methods for acquiring gear, however I think the best stuff should be won in monumental battles, through quest completions or through boss kills.

Friday, 9 March 2012

What am I playing? - Fallout 3 Vs New Vegas

Hey guys, What am I playing is going to be a column that delves into the games I am currently enjoying, be them 1 or 10 year(s) old.

So recently I have been playing through both of the more recent Fallout titles from Bethesda. With Steam offering the ultimate editions complete with all DLC for reasonable prices, I thought 'why not'.

The House always wins...

Today I want to objectively look into the points that make a game good for me and see what each game has to offer and which I prefer, so ready your Pip boys it's time to leave the vault.

1. Storyline (PLOT SPOILERS BELOW)
Bethesda are very good at making open RPG's and keeping away from having a set in stone path for your character follow. Whilst there are some constraints, you have a lot of freedom in how you wish for your character to act, be it a slick talking, stealthy scourge of the wastes or a righteous, all guns blazing warrior you have the freedom to be what you would like. In this aspect, Fallout New Vegas offers a lot more freedom - this is down to the multiple factions you change your standing with throughout your gameplay. New Vegas offered multiple completely different outcomes to completing the standard game, and surpassed Fallout 3 in that aspect, where you were confined to a few different speech options or choices in the final moments of the game.

Vault 101

That being said, the storyline of 3 gripped me a lot more than New Vegas - A lone vault dweller seeing the wasteland for the first time in an effort to find his lost father. As for New Vegas, the storyline definitely worsened after you get hold of the platinum chip, your epic quest for vengeance is kinda stopped short, not to say it doesn't have its moments afterward, but I definitely reached a peak in mystery and intrigue before you approach Benny.


NV does offer a very interesting story throughout the available DLC's however, which all have minor links to eachother, which was nice and kind of made up for the lack-lustre main storyline.

So NV offered more open ended gameplay and choices and had nice storylines within the DLC but 3 had a gripping storyline throughout and for that the victory of this section goes to Fallout 3


2. Gameplay
'SHIT!SHIT!SHIT!SHIT!SHIT!' were my exact words I think.
With Fallout, my preference is to play on Very Hard Difficulty. Before I invested in the games myself, I played with a friend for many hours on Normal. The problem with normal is there's only really the risk of death in the first few levels while you adjust and you tend to just stockpile Stimpaks and food without much need to use them. Very Hard difficulty offers much more of a challenge, nothing gets the blood pumping more than meeting a Deathclaw or Super Mutant Behemoth on this difficulty.

New Vegas bought something I loved to the table, Hardcore mode. Activating this just added to the challenge and you can spend a good half hour trying to get past a certain group of enemies over and over, you can't just instant heal up with a few spammed stimpaks. You actually had to live like a wastelander - keeping hunger at bay and feeding yourself whenever you could. New Vegas also added a couple of mini-games to the table, being casino orientated, so you get the option to kick back in post-apocalyptic Vegas and play some card games or slots which was a nice feature.

For both games on PC I did have the issue that the vanilla games crashed - a hell of a lot. Sometimes I'd go a couple of hours with no crashes and sometimes I would have 3 in 15 minutes. Didn't experience any issues with the DLC on either game but I had to make sure I was constantly pressing F5 (quicksave) as not to lose my progress. Very annoying, but I guess it built up a good habit.

Anyway, I digress. In terms of gameplay New Vegas is the clear winner, a forseeable outcome as it was built on the foundations of Fallout 3.

3. Atmosphere
This is one of the key points for me, as this attributed to or detracted from my enjoyment of both titles. The overall feel of the games. Fallout for me has always enticed me due to the feeling of mystery and exploration into the unknown whilst walking the wastes, finding places untouched by humans for many years, and the sense of wilderness and lonliness.

I found the Capital Wasteland in fallout three was amazing. Be it walking the Super mutant infested streets of DC or finding an abandoned vault in the wastes the sense of adventure was always present.

What I also liked about the Capital Wasteland, is that you could eventually stumble on a place that has had no contact from anyone since the war, be it just a house where the inhabitants perished when the bombs dropped. Or the underground remnants of a factory basement - now full of nasty creatures.

New Vegas, on the other hand, doesn't seem as barren at all. One of my major gripes with the game was the fact I wasn't so much as wandering a lonley wasteland anymore, I was just moving from settlement to settlement and it seemed humans were everywhere. Sure the Mojave had its share of abandoned buildings and facilities, but nowhere near the amount as 3. This annoyed me. I lost that feeling of imminent danger and it didn't feel so much as a wasteland as it did in 3.

Yeah it did have big barren areas, but there was -never- the thought that you could have been the first in 'x' place since the bombs stopped dropping and people hopped out their Vaults. This gave the game a completely different feel to 3, which in some ways is good, keeping it fresh and new, but in other ways it was a little disappointing.

So with that being said I'd say the winner here would be Fallout 3


Conclusion?
While both games are awesome in their own right and both have good and negative aspects, I will have to side with Fallout 3. This is mainly because of my third point, and the fact that it kept me playing a lot more than New Vegas. Once I had completed the main story and DLC in New Vegas, I never got the urge to trawl through the Mojave and Explore every single nook and cranny, but with Fallout 3 I did. Fallout three has definitely consumed many more hours of my time than new Vegas also, and even with a smaller amount of guns and armour and extra features, it managed to grip my attention much more than its successor.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Scroll of Resurrection Changes by Blizz

Well well, as a friend of mine pointed out to me yesterday, Blizzard have crazy buffed their scroll of resurrection feature for World of Warcraft.

This service is provided by Blizzard for people who convince their friends who quit to subscribe to World of Warcraft once more. Previously this feature just offered 7 days of free game time but now there are massive benefits to re-join World of Warcraft for ex-players - see below:

Now that's incentive to get your friend back and for your friend to come back. 
As a ex-hardcore player who officially quit in January after a month of dwindling play, this seems really tempting on the surface for me, but in the end I realise that while I'd get a free character boosted to level 80, and some free game-time, this doesn't really resolve any of the reasons why I quit WoW in the first place.

So why have Blizzard given this the crazy buffs it's received? simple. Cataclysm haemorrhaged subscribers, somewhere around the 2 million mark I believe, and I think rather than trying to promote the game to a new audience and attract newer players Blizzard want the people back who used to put a nice steady stream of income into their pockets.

Maybe one day I'll go back to playing but until some of the stuff I quit for gets sorted I'll probably stay away.

Screenshot of the Week - Skyrim Face Follies

Found a forsworn being friendly in Skyrim
Full Size: Here

Release Day DLC?

Gaming faux pas or playtime for the privileged? With EA/Biowares recent decision to add some pretty gnarly DLC to ME3's collectors edition or available for separate purchase on the day of release, many gamers are outraged by this decision.

For those of you who aren't sure about what I'm talking about here, I'll try to summarise:
On the release day of Mass Effect 3, downloadable content available at an extra cost or with the collectors edition (which is of course more expensive than the standard version) was made purchaseable, which includes a new squad member and new looks for all the existing members - nice features but also in the opinion of many gamers story changing features.

Source: Metacritic
As you can see on the image the right, whilst achieving a good critical review by those in the industry, ME3 - more specifically EA/Biowaare has clearly pissed off the gaming community by pulling this stunt for more cash.

And that is what it is, and had the community not been so outraged, it would have been a successful business strategy. EA knew that the gaming community that have invested in their previous ME titles would most likely opt to buy the DLC, however I don't think they expected the sheer amount of rage that has been expressed since the release of both ME3 and ME3: From Ashes DLC which has caused an outcry from many gaming critics and even resulted in many trying to boycott the game.

People, myself included, expect content that is completed by the games official release date to be included in the standard game, with a couple of neat features (but nothing game changing) in the collectors edition. EA have definitely screwed up here, had they given a few months before releasing it, gamers would have been none the wiser and invested in it with no argument, but their radical plan to do it on release was just stupid and whilst they have likely made a lot of money through ME3 and the DLC, I think it's a safe bet to say that they probably didn't make anywhere near as much as they had hoped.

I have to say though, I do agree with Nintendo's philosophy on DLC, they want their released games to offer the gamer 'the complete package' and that's something that many producers should think, but with the willingness of gamers to purchase DLC it seems as if you are missing a trick if you don't jump on the boat. Personally I have rarely bought DLC and most of the time it has been in an 'Ultimate Edition' bundle with the game itself.

I miss the times when you bought a game, then half a year later the expansion pack came out...

Game Spotlight - Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning

Happy Tuesday all, I want to talk to you today about a relatively new game that I have been playing through recently - Kingdoms of Amalur : Reckoning.


Released on the 10th of February, I was expecting a lot from KoA:R; it had some great names working behind it including Ken Rolston, The lead designer of Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (a game I thoroughly enjoyed), and it had promised a lot of hours of gameplay in conjunction with a very highly spoken of combat system.

After a little deliberation with some gamer pals, I hopped on Steam and downloaded it the day after release and had the weekend to get stuck into to it.

First Impressions
I was a little underwhelmed at first, whilst there was the reasonably cool opening cinematic and scenes of action before you play, I immediately felt a little disconnected with the game. While the lore wasn't that hard to follow it seemed like the opening cinematic was more of a history lesson rather than something that gets excited and raring to go. But I shrugged that off and continued on to create my character.

Character creation
I always enjoy this part, it gives you an immediate connection to your character and helps you get immersed in the game. While the system in Reckoning isn't as detailed as something you'd find in one of Bethesda's RPG's, it still offers a nice level of customisation. You have four races to choose from and some basic face presets to begin your creation.

Not my actual character, Just an example.

Into the fray
Right, so the game begins. First off, if you are playing this game on the PC with a mouse and Keyboard and not a controller - the mouse sensitivity is outrageous, before I did anything  I had to turn it all the way down. Secondly I advise selecting press instead of hold to sprint for Left-Ctrl, believe me, your little finger on your left hand will thank me after playing for a couple of hours.

Now that's out of the way you can start to play. The tutorial is easy to follow and the combat begins, I found that really fun. The beginning tutorial also gives you a glimpse of each play style be it Warrior-type, Rogue-type or Wizard-type and you get to have a play around with a selection of weapons although not all. I felt the tutorial was done very well and helped you figure out what you will want to play.


The real game begins...
To avoid spoilering the rest of the game for you, I'm not going to describe the rest of the game in much detail, but I will give my feelings and an overview of many of the aspects.

First off - questing. Questing is standard practice in any RPG and the availability of side quests is very welcome in many to keep the game open and non-linear, which I feel is key to producing a successful RPG, however Reckoning, I think, has slightly overdone it. Aside from the main storyline there are multiple quest chains and factions available, so much so that the objectives of which seem to blur together and become very repetitive, you know, kill x amount of y, clear x area of y, go to place and activate or kill x. As other reviewers have noticed, the quest system seems more like something you'd expect from an MMORPG rather than a single player game and isn't really as engaging as I could have hoped.

Another thing I noticed is that I got a distinct feeling that the turmoil and danger in the world isn't very prevalent at all, at least in the first Three main areas - Dalentarth, Plains of Erathell and Deltyre. Sure there are nasty creatures to slay in each and people to help, but it really doesn't seem that you are making any world changing difference.

The main storyline, whilst having a couple of nice and new ideas felt very generic and wasn't something that reaches out and pulls the player in to a world of immersion, and again, especially during the earlier stages of the quest line, I felt I was doing a lot of unimportant busywork.

My Character mid-way through the game - Warrior build
Combat feels good in the game, with the option to change your speciality throughout by visiting an NPC. Playing one spec can become a bit stale after a while but with the option to change and with multiple weapons available keeping the action fresh is easily doable. Each spec has their own talent tree and their own spells to use so picking a combat style that suits you is easy - My personal favourite would be a Greatsword wielding warrior.

An example of one of the warriors' available spells 
The game does involve other features that help create the finished package, one of the most prominent would be the crafting which is quite well done in comparison to other systems I have encountered in the past, you craft gems, potions and Armour/weapons - each with a unique system. Admittedly they took me a little time getting used to, but once I had done a bit of each I had fun making potions and crafting armour.

To sum up, whilst being a game with a lot of content and good character customisation, Reckoning failed to deliver on one key point for me - I didn't feel immersed in Amalur at all. The side quests text felt so unimportant I even found myself skipping the descriptions and heading straight for the objectives - much like how I'd treat a daily or levelling quest in an MMO. However, Reckoning does provide on another front - its an easy game to get into and have fun with; the combat system was very well done and the fact that (I felt) the lore doesn't suck you in too much means I can go back and play an hour here and there.

Overall rating from me - 7/10

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Obligatory Introduction and whatnot...

Well hello there people I have most likely asked or pressured to visit my blog!

I guess we'll get this whole introduction thing out of the way as fast as possible as, well, what I really want to write about is games and not myself.

So, I'm an avid PC gamer from Surrey, UK. Currently working in a sales position in a company which unfortunately has nothing to do with games. Ideally I'd want to work in the industry but with little to no official qualifications, edging myself in there would likely prove quite the challenge, and so WASD Shift was born out of an epiphany to talk about something I enjoy.

So what are my plans for the blog?
Well, I will most likely be giving my opinions on the games I play, thoughts on news in the community and perhaps occasionally webcomics, I haven't completely decided yet. I want to let myself fall into the blog and let it evolve as I go along. So please bear with me as I get the ball rolling!

So, yeah, thanks for coming along! Hope you enjoy your visit!