Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Too many games ... and more stuff.

I seem to find myself in a quandary right now. I have so many good games I want to play, and more coming out soon/already released, that I can't play them all. I want to finish them, but it seems I can't devote enough time to any of them to progress very far. So I'm left with a bunch of games that are half finished, which I'll probably never play again. It's so damn frustrating.

The biggest issue that's come up is that I want to get Mass Effect 2, now that it's out, but I had to stop myself cause I still haven't finished Dragon Age. Yes, Dragon Age, the game that /everyone else/ has finished already, some more than once. And it's not like I don't really enjoy Dragon Age either, the times I have played usually wind up with me being up way too late and having to work in the morning. Perhaps that's it, I dunno. Maybe I'm subconsciously worried I will get too absorbed in any of my games that I keep myself from playing them, and end up spending my time reading blogs/forums on the Net or watching a movie.

Maybe also it's that when I do read a blog/forum, or watch a movie, it's a short/defined amount of time. I know if I watch a movie it will be over in 2 hrs so I can go do something else, or go to sleep. If I get gaming I lose track of time and end up being on the PC for longer than I wanted.

I do enjoy FPS games due to their short round length. I can frag a bunch and in a short time I've got my fix and can move on to something else. City of Heroes was nice when I played it cause I could hop on and do a couple missions in a half hour or so. It's not like I got a lot of a level in that time, but I could accomplish /something/. Playing Dragon Age I don't really like stopping until the story has progressed an chapter or so. Same when reading.

Guess I just wish that games would come in more small, defined "chunks" so I could game a little and feel like I did something, and not have to devote a few hours to gaming in a night. I never really liked instances in WoW, or any other MMO for that matter, as they all seemed to require at least a couple hours and I don't like being that restricted.

Maybe I'm just getting older and feel my time is more precious. Or maybe I just need to focus on one game at a time until completion, thus sparing me the hell of choosing which one to play. Though I do like having options, at least some quick options.


Also, I'm not sure I really want to play LotRO anymore. I know it hasn't even been a full month yet, but the game is just not attracting me enough to play it. And if I'm not playing it at least once a week, I'm not paying the subscription fee.

I know Inferno wants to duo with me more, as he's bugged me on more than one occasion. But I just don't have the stomach for gaming "marathons" as he likes to play. He can sit and play for 4-5 hrs /easy/, while I'm bored after a couple hours, and wind up theorycrafting stuff on the Net. Or reading forums.

I still don't understand him being so obsessive over MMOs, especially when he has /so many/ awesome games he hasn't played. He still hasn't played Half Life 2 for god's sake! Or FEAR 1! Or Fallout 3, or Assassin's Creed 1, or Batman: Arkham Asylum, or Mass Effect 1! The list goes on. About the only games he plays are real time/turn based strategy (he loves the Total War series, in all it's incarnations), or an MMO. Only if he's subbed to one, cause he says he feels the need to, since he's paying for it. Which is the stupidest reason I've ever heard. You don't feel the need to watch TV all the time cause you pay for it, or talk on your phone continuously cause you pay for it, so why should an MMO be different. Especially when you pay a hell of a lot less than the aforementioned two, and even less than normal since he's got the $9.99/mnth plan for LotRO. /facepalm


In Aion, I'm still not playing but it seems like more and more of the people in my legion have left due to burnout, so now there are the scant core people (most of the leaders) and all new people. Many of whom are from other legions that fell apart. Once people have seen how repetitive Aion can get in the post-35 levels, they tend to leave. And since the PvP in Aion seems pretty lacking, population and rewards wise, there's not really an endgame to speak of. Aside from grinding NPC guards or doing the Dredgion battleground instance /over and over again/.

I'm really glad that I left the game when I did, cause I think I'd want to shoot myself if I had stuck around. Especially if I had grinded to 50. Oh god ... that would have been hours/days of my life I'd never get back for sure.

I try to keep in touch a little on the legion forums though, cause the people are still a cool bunch. But since there's no real options on the horizon until Star Wars: The Old Republic launches sometime in 2011, I doubt I'll get to game with them soon.


One of the things I posted in the legion forums was about Star Trek Online, as I managed to snag an open beta key. Thank god for subbing to news and a fast email checking widget. I got one of the keys and eventually DLed the client. And after seeing the open beta, up to Lt. Commander 1 (level 11), I'm not going to play it anytime soon. It was a cool side adventure, but STO really needs some more polish, lag fixes/server stability, and a real /reason to grind/. Cause even though you do missions in STO, they are about as interesting as the random ones in City of Heroes. Only less fun cause they take a hell of a lot longer for less XP.

An in CoH, I could get cool powers and fly around and stuff. In STO I get some kind of weird sci-fi/Trek hybrid game, where nothing makes sense in a Trek setting. If the game was /real Trek/, there would be mostly humans crewing the ships (as Starfleet is like 98% humans), the uniforms would be standard, and everyone would use phaser pistols/rifles.

In STO, humans are an miniscule minority amongst players and NPCs. And people are using weird cannon disruptors and abilities like Gravity Well and Tectonic Shift and shit. Tachyon beam drains other ship's shields? I can scramble the enemies' sensors so they shoot each other? I can use my tricorder to AoE knockdown the enemies on the ground, also taking away their personal shields? WTF?!

It all reminds me far too much of Star Wars Galaxies, pre-CU/NGE. SWG was a cool game, but it was only Star Wars in name, with some settings and characters thrown in to appease the fanboys. It never played like true SW, nor was it true to the IP in gear/items. STO is /exactly the same/. It's just a sci-fi MMO with some Trek tidbits thrown in for colour.

The massive instancing is also not to my taste, as it leaves the gameworld feeling completely disconnected, and doesn't allow for completely random exploration. You can't just wander around on Vulcan, you have to be in an instance to go there. And then the mission areas are pretty small. Not cool at all for an IP that's all about exploring the unknown.

But my biggest gripe with the game is that it's sooooooooooo repetitive, even at the low levels. Almost every mission is "Oh no, Nausicaans/Klingons/Gorn/Orions are attacking these miners/scientists/freighters, we must stop them!" And then you fly/run around and kill the enemies, whilst stopping every so often to hit F to scan/activate/analyze some glowy object. That's the basis of the entire game.

The only cool parts in the 11 levels I played were the continuing story with a Vulcan ambassador being one of Species 8472, and the fleet actions, where you do a mini raid with other players. Though the fleet actions had bad aggro so the first person to get close got focused on my every enemy ship, often dying very rapidly. This would sometimes continue on to the next player.

The coolest part of the fleet actions was when I got my Science ship and could use Scramble Sensors on a blob of enemy ships to make them start killing each other. They never usually killed each other, but their lack of firing on any of my fleet made it super easy for us to focus fire on them instead and wipe them out quickly.

Pretty much I can see STO going the way of Tabula Rasa quite quickly. It probably won't shut down, as the Trek fanatics will support it, but I can see a huge drop in subscriptions after a month or two. There's nothing to do in STO, really. You can't even just visit most places as it starts an instance for everything.

Basically, it was cool to try STO and get some nice screenshots out of it, but I don't think I'll ever pay to play it.


I haven't mentioned it before, but I've also been beta testing another MMO, this one a free to play (f2p) model one. I never figured I'd try a f2p MMO, especially since most are so utterly terrible and grindy, but after reading a bunch about it on Keen and Graev's blog, I figured I should give it a shot. Also cause Dungeons and Dragons Online recently went to a f2p model and has been doing a hell of a lot better as a result, and I was somewhat impressed with DDO.

Allods Online is made by a Russian company, who's most recent NA game was Heroes of Might and Magic V, IIRC. I think I played III or IV, but this gave me some hope it wasn't going to be complete shit. I was really surprised.

Allods is actually really well done, and the amount of polish on it is rivalling Aion or WoW. Probably because it's been out in Russia for almost a year, IIRC, so like Aion, they've had a lot of time to work the kinks out. The CB here was mostly for localization.

Other than the somewhat harsh attribute system (f-ing up your attributes can completely GIMP you), and the overall WoW cartoon like graphics, I really like the game. The world is seemless, aside from usign things like teleporters/scrolls or the ships between allods (floating islands in a sea of magic). The combat system is a little rough at the low levels, but picks up quite well around level 9-10, and the game is designed around PVP!

That's got to be the biggest reason I have actually played the CB so far. I would like to see how the PvP works out, especially their end game, the Astral Ships. Astral Ships are crafted by the players (usually a guild of players), and crewed by multiple people. Kinda like people originally wanted STO to be. Each player mans a station, and there are spots for a lot of players per ship. When you venture out, you are flagged for PvP and can be attacked by anyone, IIRC, so same side ganking can occur. You use your ship to fight raid boss style mobs in the magic sea, or find undiscovered allods. If you land on one, it creates an instance for just your ship crew, and you can go explore the allod and find new monsters/etc. Apparently these mobs will have better loot, and be tougher of course, but the loot can be stolen out of your treasure room by other crews if they attack you while heading back to port.

Allods is a cool naval game/fantasy MMO that looks to make PvP a cool priority. I'm not exactly sure on how the item store will work, since most of the stuff I have seen won't garner them a ton of revenue, but it looks to be only cosmetic/helpful stuff, no game breaking gear or XP scrolls.

I haven't managed to get very far in Allods though, and the CB is ending in about a week. But, the OB will carry over to launch so I think I can try more then, especially since my CB character will be wiped, so there's not a ton of incentive to put a lot of work into levelling him.

Another thing that is nice about Allods is that since it's f2p, it doesn't matter how little I play it. It will never cost me a monthly fee. Pretty sweet, if you ask me.


That seems to be all of it. Until next time, kiddos.
The Rev.

Friday, January 15, 2010

LotRO, Dragon Age and more

Hey again. Since my departure from Aion I've had to find other games to keep me busy. Not that I played a ton of Aion, nor was it the only game I played, but it still was a large portion of my gaming time each week.

Since Inferno is still plugging away in Lord of the Rings Online (LotRO), I figured I would try and pick it up again. I really didn't leave it before because of any serious negative aspects, it was more because Inferno and I were duoing when we played and our playtimes stopped matching up. After playing Aion for 5 beta weekends, open beta and 3 months of live, LotRO is like a whole new game to me. It was amazing how much more immersive Middle Earth is compared to Atreia. There are no loading screens in LotRO, aside from buildings, and the view distance is huge. Zones are wide and open, so there's less of the "on the rails" feel of Aion.

I found it interesting that I spent a lot of my time after coming back to LotRO either, crafting or gathering crafting materials. Since I needed a refresher on the skills/UI, I decided to up my weaponsmithing skill on my Captain and took it easy. It was a completely different feel than Aion.

In Aion, everything felt like "rush, rush, rush", and the world felt so disconnected, especially since the zones had no real connection to each other. Travelling in Aion was always by teleportation/scroll when changing zones, so everything felt like it's own little space. I couldn't tell you how the zones lay out on a map, even though the in-game map shows it. There's no point to it, as /no one/ runs to the portal to change zones. You /always/ port between. It's just faster. And that was one of the problems in Aion. Everything is focused on doing things the fastest, most efficient way possible. ie. solo grinding.

LotRO, on the other hand, has so many actual roleplayers on my server, and a lot of players with maxed characters, that the people all take things slow and enjoy the ride. People are really helpful, and take the time to do things other than level. It's really nice. I actually met a couple of brand new players in the Barrow Downs and we went and did some small group content. I have stumbled into more than a couple RP events in Breeland, it's crazy. Aion never had any RP aside from ERP/emo/drama crap in Pandemonium.

My biggest problem with LotRO is that so far, it's been /waaaaay/ too easy. I've been trying to do all the old quests I had in my journal, but since they changed the level curve since I left last time, all my quests are 3-4 lvls below me. I would like to see the stories/lore that unfold in the quest arcs, but I don't think I can enjoy killing low level mobs for much longer. I'm going to have to go find a quest hub with level appropriate quests and stick to them instead. Only do the Book quests if they are lower lvl than me.

Another problem I have with LotRO is that I don't play anywhere near as much as I did in Aion, and since it's easy to level in comparison, people can outlevel me quickly. The two aforementioned new players are 7+ levels higher than me, and that was after a few days of me not playing. Since so much of LotRO is based on quests, grinding doesn't work to level, so teaming with them doesn't work.

Also, since Inferno is also playing, he's got on my case a little to team up with our old characters. He's got a lvl 40 Champion that he plays on his own, while our duo characters are lvl 25 and 26. We teamed up for a bit with my Captain and his Loremaster, as I thought that my Captain would be a better duo member. I can heal and buff, plus DPS a little, much more handy than just tanking on my Guardian. Especially since his Loremaster has little in the way of heals, mostly CC and DPS. But I think the best bet at this point is to stick with the Guardian to duo with him and keep my Captain to solo with. I don't want to have a Guardian to solo with if I feel like, and I doubt we'll get to team up that much.

I'm also amazed at how little I notice the poor quality graphics in LotRO (compared to Aion). Since the game has very pretty environments, and a very good sense of immersion I forget what I am looking at and get sucked in to the gameworld. I do notice some of the improvements Aion had are missing in LotRO, but that's more aesthetics than anything.

We'll see how LotRO goes though. I might just stick it out for a couple months, and leave to play other games. Even now I have other games that are taking up more time per week than an MMO. Not a good sign.


Another game I have been playing a LOT of is Shattered Horizon. It's an FPS in space so there is true 3D gameplay and some cool physics effects. The game is a lot more twitch and strategy compared to something like Call of Duty 4. CoD4 is all about complete chaos for the most part, and shit blowing up everywhere (nades, tubes, airstrikes, choppers, claymores, etc.). On the flipside, SH is about using strategy and flanking to outmaneuver your opponents and take control points (or just kill them :P). Since the maps are truely 3D, you get some awesome flanking going on.

Biggest gripe with SH is that it didn't get busy until it was $5 on Steam for a 1-day XMas sale. Now most of the players are noobs, so trying to get them to think outside of the "CoD4 box" is sometimes frustrating. But I have met a lot of cool players from before the game was busy. One actually added me to his Steam friends, mostly to join whatever server I'm on (I'm guessing). It's cool though, as the ones I've met are the top ranked players in the game. The one that friended me is #1! Pretty cool that they want to hang with the guy who's only slightly better than average. I'm much better with the tactics than with the actual twitch. I think my reflexes are getting worse with age. Not quite the FPS pro I once was (kinda :P).


Another game I've been playing is Torchlight. Since it was only 20 bucks on Steam, I figured WTH and got it. I also had the benefit of trying the demo and I really liked it. It's totally like Diablo I & II, and has a ton of polish on it. I really like it, but since it's SP only and the storyline is kinda weak, I really only get into it once and a while. Much better as a filler game, rather than a primary game.


The big game I got is Dragon Age: Origins. I was initially super hyped about the game (as it was supposedly the "spiritual successor to Baldur's Gate"), then after it was released and I read reviews of it (all positive, btw) I was a little skeptical. I don't really understand why I was, maybe perhaps it was because I was still playing Aion, and DA:O takes a lot of time to finish, plus is very addictive (according to many), so I was probably worried it would kill my desire to play Aion. Borderlands almost did that to me, but I finished it after 30+ hrs.

Since getting DA:O, I've played it a lot, then left it alone for like a week, and picked it back up here and there. Now that I've got a ways further into the story, and my party is really starting to develop, it's totally hooked me. I can get stuck thinking about it when I'm not playing. The dialogue is top notch, and the characters are interesting. Though I would like to have met the damn healer NPC by now, as Hard mode is punishing as Hell and a lack of true healing makes the fights pretty effing hairy.

I can totally see myself playing DA:O again, with a completely different class/race and party composition. It'd be nice to see the asshole side of conversations instead of the good side like I almost always end up playing.

DA:O is a nice blend of MMO/RPG and I think it works /really well/. The only thing that is missing is being able to co-op it, or play on private custom servers/worlds. We'll see how this goes. I'd kinda like to finish my first paythrough off soon-ish as there are some more cool games coming down the pipeline that I want to try out.

- Mass Effect 2 is out soon, so I want to see the continual story of Commander Shepard. I think I'll get it for 360 to enjoy the big screen, and continue my character from before.
- I'd still like to try Assassin's Creed 2 as well for 360. The first one was pretty cool.
- Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is due out in March and looks to be my own long awaited replacement for Battlefield 2142. It has dedicated server support for PC and lots of cool upgrades. Kofi and I are going to play this a lot, I just know it.
- Star Trek Online is due out in a month or so, and even though I know that it's not going to be all that shit hot, I want to try it out and see for myself. The ship combat might be enough to keep me around while they make the rest of the game shine.

I'm sure there are other games I'm missing, but suffice to say, I think I will have a busy gaming schedule ahead of me for the next few months.


I think that's it for now.
Later folks.