Jul 242013
 

Neverwinter_Brightened_Logo_FinalAt one time, I really had ridiculous amount of hype built up for Neverwinter. At PAX East, I had a chance to play it along side The Elder Scrolls Online, and I personally enjoyed Neverwinter far more despite being two different games in completely different points in development. After PAX East, I spent quite a bit more time with Neverwinter while it was still in beta. I wrote quite a lengthy preview, describing a whole of different things you could do, encounters to expect, and things I really loved about the game. Now that Neverwinter is officially live, I went back into Neverwinter for some extended time adventuring and leveling. Does Neverwinter still stand as one of the best Free-to-Play MMOs on the market?

Neverwinter_Screenshot_JeweloftheNorth_012513_jpeg25I eagerly hopped back into Neverwinter, opting to build a Drow Rogue because the option was finally available to me since the Drow race wasn’t available during beta. I never found much of a reason to care which race or deity you chose, because there’s not really anything that impacts your decisions. The races all have some general stat bonuses, but you can typically choose one that’s favorable to your chosen class. Again, I don’t think your choice in Deity matters at all, as I had the same outcome regardless of choice across numerous characters. Classes really don’t have much of a unique feel to them either, as you’re either doing melee damage with a warrior or rogue type, or you’re basically doing ranged arcane damage with a cleric or wizard. This pretty much means play whatever you want, because in the end it won’t really matter anyway, though I can tell you that the Rogue will have an easier time leveling solo – but you’ll read more about that shortly.

Blowing through the tutorial again, now slightly more streamlined, I made my way back into the city. I decided I’d work on making this character a tradeskiller instead of going straight into adventuring, in an attempt to experience the game from a completely different perspective than I had originally approached it during the closed beta. I really like how crafting is done, giving you the option to log into a web portal to manage your crafting, so you can continually improve your skills without really ever needing to be at your computer. Because crafting is essentially clicking a recipe and waiting the time limit for it to finish building, having it available on a web portal is really a genius idea. You can also buy components for recipes from the marketplace with astral diamonds, but the biggest problem is the inability to purchase common items (like thread) without being logged into the game and purchasing more essential components from an in-game vendor. Hopefully that’ll be expanded on and improved as Neverwinter gains more active players.

neverwinter_controlwizard_1__mediumGoing into adventuring, the Rogue plays considerably different than the Cleric did. The Cleric worked better as a Paladin type, being able to throw heals on himself while tanking mobs and doing AoE damage. The Rogue does a ton of damage and can easily blow through a group of enemies, but he’s fragile; so unless you’re sure you can blow through the entire pack, you’re dead. This results in the Rogue being able to solo most quests far faster and far more efficiently than almost any other class. The Wizard does fine until around level 26, and then he can’t do enough AoE damage to survive encounters. The Cleric does fine until he also slows down on AoE, and the poor Warrior classes don’t ever have much of a chance to do much of anything without a group or a partner. What this means is there’s basically no class worth playing solo except the Rogue, which is completely broken from a balance perspective. Hopefully solo content will be addressed in future patches.

While I praised Neverwinter highly at PAX East, diving back into Neverwinter was sadly alarming to find out how much my initial adoration had already faded. The leveling grind is essentially the same thing from start to finish. You’ll go through one area, level up, and then do it again once you get to the next area. Repetition is fine, but when the quests barely change and the dungeon crawls are mediocre at best, it’s very hard to stay interested in the level grind. Once the game went live, the game became considerably more populated – which was great for social aspects and marketplace availablity. Unfortunately, that also opened the flood gates to spammers, astral diamond farmers, and of course the typical grievers who like to sit in town or in public channels and spam stupid comments. It was essentially “Barrens Chat” from World of Warcraft, which sadly just about ever public channel in every MMO ever inevitably devolves into. Does that ruin the experience? No, not really because you can always leave the city or turn off (or ignore) public chat channels.

491ecbaaac89bbe4b251af02f4d597721370571768You can somewhat customize Neverwinter to be whatever type of experience you want it to be, but it comes with a price. You’ll get all sorts of little Nightmare boxes to open up, which drop far more often than anything you’ll really be able to use. These boxes offer a chance to get some rare loot or something really great like an epic flaming mount. Unfortunately, it costs nearly a dollar per key to open these boxes, and because these boxes are not only fairly common but their contents are completely left up to chance from the good ol’ RNG (Random Number Generator), you could spend one dollar to get something useful, or you may spend over $100 and never get anything worth a dime of in or out of game currency. Because of these things, Neverwinter has had absolutely zero staying power for me. I quickly fell out of love for it, opting to choose scratch my for an MMO by playing something more traditional because all Neverwinter made me do was wish it were better. Unfortunately, without some major changes, it’s stuck in the same boring rut that other titles have been stuck in since the launch of World of Warcraft, and that’s not only sad for Neverwinter, but for the MMORPG genre itself.

PC Game

Graphics

80
 

Audio

80
 

Gameplay

50

Creativity

45
 

Execution

35
 

Offset

65
    

5.9

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

Neverwinter is available to play free of charge, however we were provided with a content code which allowed us to access some locked items such as the Drow race.

May 092012
 

Over at GamesIndustry International, they’ve got the scoop on why news on a new Dragon Age title is scarce. According to industry analyst Michael Pachter, Bioware has been slow to begin work on a third entry in the fantasy RPG series because the team responsible for its development has been too busy working on Star Wars: The Old Republic. It was previously revealed that the team will make a sequel instead of developing additional DLC for Dragon Age II.

“Dragon Age III appears to have slipped to FY:14. We had previously expected the next Dragon Age to be released in Q4:13, two years after its predecessor. However, we believe that a significant portion of the BioWare team responsible for the game was reassigned to Star Wars in order to create content and fix bugs to keep the game’s audience engaged,” he said in the report.

The third game has yet to be officially announced, but we know that it will 1) feature a new protagonist, 2) use the dialogue wheel from the second game, 3) allow players to import save files, and 4) have a map four to five times larger than that of the first game.

Old Republic was supposed to be the game that would wrestle away control of the MMO space from World of Warcraft, or at least be the first game to coexist peacefully with it. Instead, the game is bleeding subscribers just months after launch, losing 400,000 just in the past two months. Meanwhile, Blizzard’s MMO-to-end-them-all trucks along with around 10 million active subscribers and a new expansion set for a holiday release.

Elder Scrolls Online is its next challenger, and my colleague Ryan Hillis has a few things to say about that.

Source: GamesIndustry International

May 062012
 

It had been rumored for quite some time, but this week RPG super giant, Bethesda Softworks, announced that The Elder Scrolls Online was indeed a game in development and would eventually see a release. With the overwhelming success of Oblivion and the recently released Skyrim, it was only a matter of time before an announcement of the rumored title finally saw the light of day. MMORPGs have had great success in the past, and one based in the world of the Elder Scrolls franchise seems more than destined to grab some shares of that market. With the amount of gamers that have experienced at least one of the popular Bethesda role playing games, it may be the most highly anticipated MMORPG in history, maybe even more so than Star Wars: The Old Republic. So a game made by such a successful development team, with insurmountable hype behind it warrants a few questions and even more speculation.


The Elder Scrolls series has been nothing short of epic. In just its first month, Skyrim nearly eclipsed the total lifetime sales of its predecessor, Oblivion, and clocked well over half a billion dollars in retail sales before the end of 2011. That kind of growth will put any Elder Scrolls title at the top of the hype meter and you can expect similar numbers from the online game. The game will sell well, and even has the possibility of surpassing MMO superstar World of Warcraft as the most popular multiplayer online RPG. So, what can we expect from The Elder Scrolls Online? What type of features might it have and what kind of gameplay might be expected? Let’s go over some of the stuff we might see and some things we hope to discover from this upcoming title.

If recent history is a factor, you can bet your bottom dollar that the online version of The Elder Scrolls will have no shortage of dragons and shouts. Fus Roh Dah has become a phrase well known in the gaming community, and everyone loves dragons. If dragons are featured, they will most likely play a part in dungeons and raids, with a high possibility of spotting them around towns and villages during real time world events. As for shouts, it would be very likely that one of the playable, and possibly most popular, classes would be that of the Dragonborn variety.

As for the other classes, it can be expected that the typical classes from Elder Scrolls past will make their returns. Splitting up mixtures of ranged, melee and magic seems like more than a possibility, with typical classes such as mages, archers and warriors making an appearance. Bethesda, however, will be creative enough to label these classes with better titles other than the basic ones used for so many MMOs. As for races, there would be little point in changing them from the traditional Elder Scrolls games, since that is what the vast majority of fans have already known and come to love. So you can expect Nords, Orcs and a variation of Elven based races will make an appearance, as well as some of the others from previous titles such as, Argonian and Breton.

Dungeons, like every other MMO, will be part of the experience. How else will you be able to team up to obtain the highest level weapons and equipment? Dungeons will each have their own back stories and enemies, but how these dungeons will be accessed has yet to be seen. One possibility may be the use of Oblivion Gates that allow teams of players to enter and begin destroying the baddies within. Regardless of how they are accessed, they will most likely be the same basic “instance” practices used by most other MMOs.

The world of The Elder Scrolls Online will most certainly be breathtaking. The previous games have been known for their beautifully sculpted landscapes and large, expansive worlds. In a game that will have to feature such things; Bethesda will absolutely come through in this category. According to the popular RPG creator, the entire continent of Tamriel will be available to explore. Previously each Elder Scrolls game featured a specific “province” of Tamriel, such as the eastern territory of Morrowind, the capital city location in Cyrodil (featured in Oblivion), and the northern, snow capped kingdoms of Skyrim. Each of these maps will be available as playable areas, and the game will be set approximatley 1000 years before the events of Skyrim took place.So, you can expect the most expansive and incredibly massive world that has ever been seen from the popular software developer.

Recently, MMO games have taken a turn from a more turn based attack system and implemented a system that involves more action. Like in the previous Elder Scrolls games, you can expect that Bethesda will continue the growing trend and stick with a non-turned based battle system. They seem to work better, and since Bethesda is already used to creating such RPGs, which is most certainly what we will see in the online title.

We all know that they will be there, and any combination of Bethesda and an MMORPG will have its fair share of bugs. The game will be heavily tested and probably feature a lengthy series of open and closed beta test before release. Regardless, bugs will be everywhere in the first few months of the games release, we can only hope that they will be minuscule and not be anything game breaking. With the amount of people that will be playing the game at launch, it can be determined that the first month of so may not be a pleasant experience, so keep that in mind.

Now that we have gone over what you can expect from The Elder Scrolls Online, it’s time to delve into what they can do to make sure this title lives up to the hype. What do us as gamers want to see? What changes can they make to ensure that this experience is a fresh take on a popular genre? What might they leave out that would enrage the internets?

We need dragons. Plain and simple. Good, now that the dragon conversation is over, The Elder Scrolls online has one major issue that needs to be addressed before any speculative talk can begin. That is the big issue here, and it needs to be solved before it becomes a problem. Bethesda has had these issues in the past, and MMOs are traditionally the worst when it comes to bugs. Make sure this doesn’t break the game, and we can all live the rest of our virtual existences happily. Also, the game needs to be unique. Gamers don’t want to play an Elder Scrolls version of World of Warcraft, so don’t try to imitate them. They may have a great product, but you have a great intellectual property and tons of fan support. There is no reason anyone should pop this game in and see the same old thing they have for the past few years, i.e. Rift, Warhammer.

We need dragons. Plain and simple.

One thing that WoW doesn’t do well, but others have succeeded in doing is the world event. This has become a staple for popular games such as Rift. This would be fairly easy to do with Skyrim having random encounters with dragons throughout the world. The same should apply in the online game as well. How great would it be to visit a small village in the middle of nowhere, only to see it being decimated by a vicious dragon? Screaming over the local chat channels to rally troops around the village in order to take down an invading dragon seems likely and should happen. Did we mention we love dragons? Also, random spawned Oblivion Gates would be a welcome addition, especially amongst party groups. Hunting down these gates throughout the world and obtaining high quality gear and weapons would be a fun and innovative way to infuse some of the history of The Elder Scrolls lore, as well as, work in some great world event features.

The game is nowhere near release, yet speculation and hype will continue to build until it does. Fans everywhere will be looking for info on what is to be expected and what features we will see, and until Bethesda releases that information; we will all just have to play the waiting game. With all the tools and fanfare surrounding The Elder Scrolls Online, there should be no real reason why the game can’t be a huge success. There has yet to be an MMO that has taken the reigns from World of Warcraft, but The Elder Scrolls Online has the potential to slay the giant. One thing is for certain, no matter what happens, no matter what has been said or what will be said, The Elder Scrolls Online will sell like no other. Bethesda will make sure of that. The game will more than likely break records for MMO sales at release, and if they can minimize the bugs, may continue to do so.

The Elder Scrolls Online is currently being developed by Zenimax Online Studios and Bethesda Softworks and currently has no set release date. As soon as more information arrives, we will be more than happy to report it. Until then, we will just have to wait and see.

Mar 162012
 

Bethesda is looking to develop their own MMORPG based on the widely popular Elder Scrolls series.

According to an industry source, ZeniMax Online Studios and Bethesda will officially announce the title in May 2012.  Setting wise, the title will be rumored to take place a millennium before The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

As of now, the only gameplay details to be known is that players will choose between three fractions, each being represented by an animal (lion, dragon, and bird of prey).

The title is planned to make an appearance at E3 as well as Quakecon 2012 in August after the May announcement.

So far, ZeniMax Online Studios and Bethesda have given no comment concerning the matter.  Keep in mind that the companies were also planning on developing a MMO based on Fallout, which was rumored to have fell through.  Either way, there’s some kind of MMO in the works, but time will only tell.

Source: Tom’s Guide

Nov 302011
 

One astute Elder Scrolls fan has extracted the in-game text from the books found across Skyrim and has made them available to the masses.  Well, to the eReading masses anyway.  This dedicated fan goes by the name of Capaneus, who runs his own website.  It is here where he has made the texts available via MOBI (for Kindle) and EPUB (The majority of eReaders).  Snatch them and dump them into an eReader before they are gone.

Another viable and awesome (yet time consuming) option would be to print all those texts and bound them into an actual book as this pc mag article suggests.  Regardless of your preferred method, being able to carry around books full of Skyrim lore (The Black Arts on Trial, anyone?) is pretty darn cool.

Oct 112011
 

Having already seen the leak of the full Skyrim map now, a month to the day before release, the booklet from the Xbox 360 version of the game has also turned up online, it’s starting to look as though someone has got hold of the game well before release, that or there is someone within Bethesda who is really letting the cat out of the bag.

Sep 142011
 

On Friday the doors to Birmingham’s NEC will open and members of the public will be able to get there hands on some of the most anticipated games set for release over the coming months. So with literally dozens of unreleased games to get your hands on in such a short space of time here are ten of the most exciting, incredible unreleased titles that you should dedicate your time to playing while you’re there.

Inversion

Few details about this offering from Namco Bandai are available at the moment. Having been on track for a late 2010 release, this was inevitably pushed back and back until finally the release date was confirmed for February 2012. While the details are scarce we do know that it will be a third person shooter that involves gravity manipulation and destructible environments. So far even the trailers for the game have been cryptic, but they appear to show some kind of unknown, possibly alien, force acting upon the earth, causing the interference with our gravity. Inversion will be available for PlayStation, Xbox and Windows.

Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

Nintendo’s latest game in the Legend of Zelda series is almost ready to hit stores so if you still have some qualms on whether or not this game is worth your time, you should definitely take the time to check out Link’s latest adventure. A prequel to Ocarina of Time, Skyward Sword changes the mythology with Zelda not a princess, but instead a friend of young Link and rather than the master sword, as the title suggests, Link is in control of the Skyward Sword instead. With such a close release date, this is one that you should definitely get a quick hands on with, to try out the different battle system, where not only timing your attack, but the direction will also depend on how much damage you can do to certain enemies.

Assassin’s Creed: Revelations

Ubisoft have confirmed that they will be showing this one off at Tokyo Game Show, so naturally this one should be playable for all. Being a blaring sequel, Desmond will be making his return, as will both playable ancestors, Altair and Ezio. Ubisoft have confirmed that this will be the last in the series to be set in the renaissance era but not the last in the series. Some new additions that should be shown off are the new hookblade which allows for both attacking enemies, as well as making it possible to zip line across parts of the city. The game will also see the addition of literally hundreds of bomb varieties which can be crafted.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

one of the biggest games, both in hype and all round size is Skyrim, despite not being released this one could well be game of the year materials. Bethesda are exceptionally good at games that require a giant game space and many hours of gameplay. So, with one of the biggest maps out and an estimated 300 hours of gameplay, this one will definitely be worth a look in. Whether or not the food of Skyrim that has turned up at several conventions and expos over the past months will make an appearance remains to be seen, but rest assured if it is, then a hog roast will taste a lot better than the venue food.

Uncharted 3

2011 has become the year of 3′s, with more third entries for series than you can shake a stick at, perhaps one of the biggest this year, especially if you own a PS3, is Uncharted. The third installment once again sees Nathan Drake traversing through fantastic, visually stunning environments in the search for treasures of lost races. With Uncharted having such a close release date, this is another title we should be able to get our hands on throughout the course of the weekend. Even if you don’t have a PS3, just because of how good this series is, everyone should take some time out of their busy day to take a look in.

Halo Combat Evolved: Anniversary

Ten years ago one of the most revolutionary series appeared, bundled in with a console. Since these humble beginnings, Halo has gone on from Bungie to 343 industries who decided a remake was in order to mark the anniversary of us meeting The Covenant and of course, Master Chief. If other presentations are anything to go on, then CE Anniversary will definitely be playable for all to relive some of those incredible, multiplayer experiences of days gone by, but with updated graphics and the option for Reach rules.

Battlefield 3

Battlefield has always been about team work, so with this one sat at GAMEfest, waiting for us to get our hands on it, make sure you have a friend to back you up. Battlefield 3 is set to be a direct sequel to Battlefield 2 and not part of the Bad Company games. While some may be disappointed they really don’t need to be, BF3 i set to be one of the most intense, multiplayer experiences of the year, across all platforms. Vehicles are integral to the online war zones of the Battlefield series and this time around Jets are making a come back. It has been said that there won’t be a tutorial for jets and that once online it will be a case of learning through doing. With flight based vehicles, notoriously hard to control, being able to get in that little bit of extra practice at GAMEfest will certainly come in handy before the game is released in October.

Mass Effect 3

Finally, we will be able to see what all  the fuss about Fem-Shep is. Mass Effect 3 is set to finish off the story from the previous two games, taking Shepard right to the heart of the battle against the Reapers as well as Cerberus. This will be the end for the Mass Effect trilogy and is another entry that has seen it’s date pushed back into next. But, i would rather wait while they tweak than be disappointed on release date. After GAMEfest the wait continues until March 6th 2012 before we can finally get to work cleaning uo the universe.

Modern Warfare 3

While most of the games featured here will be playable in London at Eurogamer Expo the following weekend, this is not one of the,. Modern Warfare 3 makes it’s first and only playable prior to release appearance at GAMEfest. While this may not be high up on your list of games to play, odds are it’s on everyone elses and unless they have a few thousands systems, you won’t want to leave this one until the last minute. The biggest selling, and most over hyped, franchise Modern Warfare 3 is set to improve on previous releases. With multiple new features, focusing on making the online experience a lot more balanced and talk of a better single player story line, Modern Warfare 3 is definitely worth at least a quick online match while it’s there.

Gears of War 3

By Friday, you will have seen a handful of reviews, you’ll have watched Ice-T unbox that damn console again and you will be uncontainable ahead of being able to finish the story the following week. So, to help with the need to control Fenix once again, you will be able to have a hands on taste of one of the years biggest releases days before it comes out. Gears of War 3 will continue the fight you started all those years ago, bringing the story to a final, Epic, end. Be sure to get a hold of this one and don’t go leaving it to the last minute because, along with Modern Warfare, this will probably be one of the most demanded and anticipated experiences of the weekend.

So there it is. Amongst the vast amount of incredible new titles making an appearance at GAMEfest, ten of the best that you should be going out of your way, if you weren’t already, to get your hands on for a few minutes and to pique your interest ahead of the incredible releases over the next few months.

Aug 062011
 

An odd series of events has taken place recently with Mojang being sued by Bethesda over the usage of the word “Scroll” in their upcoming game. While it may seem like Bethesda is absolutely obsessed with protecting their copyright over their ever-important series “The Elder Scrolls” it actually turns out that Bethesda is not suing Mojang, at least not directly. Those who are attempting a legal battle with Mojang are actually the brass over at Zenimax (the parent company of Bethesda), and while I haven’t gained enough details to “tell all” within this article I have gained a picture of the offical legal documents sent to Mojang.

Aug 052011
 

As promised Notch has finally made a full, official statement regarding the lawsuit from Bethesda accusing his latest game, Scrolls, of using a name which infringes upon their trademark for the Elder Scrolls believing it will cause confusion amongst fans. Notch once more backs up his love for Bethesda and gives his views on the situation.

The full statement is from his official blog:
Bethesda are suing us, here’s the full story!

A lot of people want more details about what is going on, so here is everything I know:

First of all, I love Bethesda. I assume this nonsense is partly just their lawyers being lawyers, and a result of trademark law being the way it is.

About half a year ago, our lawyers recommended us to register “Minecraft” as a trademark, so we did. I had voted against it initially, but we did it anyway. Better safe than sorry, and all that. At the same time, we also applied for “Scrolls”, the new game we’re working on. We knew of no similarly named games, and we had even googled it to make sure. I’m not even sure if you CAN trademark individual words, like “Scrolls”, but we sent in the application anyway.

(Disclosure: We’ve enforced the trademark for Minecraft once, when there was a minecraft clone on iOS, using our name. People were emailing me saying our iOS version was buggy and bad, so we asked them to change the name of their game, and they did.)

A while later, out of the blue, we got contacted by Bethesda’s lawyers. They wanted to know more about the “Scrolls” trademark we were applying for, and claimed it conflicted with their existing trademark “The Elder Scrolls”. I agree that the word “Scrolls” is part of that trademark, but as a gamer, I have never ever considered that series of (very good) role playing games to be about scrolls in any way, nor was that ever the focal point of neither their marketing nor the public image.
The implication that you could own the right to all individual words within a trademark is also a bit scary. We looked things up and realized they didn’t have much of a case, but we still took it seriously. Nothing about Scrolls is meant to in any way derive from or allude to their games. We suggested a compromise where we’d agree to never put any words in front of “Scrolls”, and instead call sequels and other things something along the lines of “Scrolls – The Banana Expansion”. I’m not sure if they ever got back to us with a reply to this.

Today, I got a 15 page letter from some Swedish lawyer firm, saying they demand us to stop using the name Scrolls, that they will sue us (and have already paid the fee to the Swedish court), and that they demand a pile of money up front before the legal process has even started.

I assume this is all some more or less automated response to us applying for the trademark. I sincerely hope Bethesda isn’t pulling a Tim Langdell.

Aug 052011
 

Todd Howard (game designer for Skyrim) at Bethesda has announced at Quakecon that the Dark Brotherhood will once again work under the cloak of night in Skyrim. Bethesda’s official blog via Twitter has stated the following.

“Dark Brotherhood confirmed by Todd #Quakecon

Aug 052011
 

Earlier today the news broke that Notch had been contacted by Bethesda with regards to his secretive project Scrolls. Bethesda’s lawyers are claiming that the title could cause confusion between Notch’s next project and The Elder Scrolls series and are making the claim that the offending title will infringe their trademark.

Notch’s response has been that he hopes this is ‘just lawyers being lawyers’ and says that he still loves Bethesda, which isn’t too hard, however he also claims that having contacted the gaming giant they currently have ‘no comment’. But how far this will go remains to be seen accusations of breaching trademarks are a serious business.

Currently very little is known about ‘Scrolls’ only that it is supposed to be a like a card game. This would leave very few people to be confused between a pc card game from an indie developer and one of the biggest games, within one of the biggest franchises out there based around adventure and slaying giant dragons. It is however Important to remember that if Bethesda’s trademarks have been infringed then this will become a totally different ball game and would more than likely result in a name change for Notch’s project.

Before more information becomes available it would be wrong to jump to conclusions and it appears that both sides have a leg to stand on as well as a good argument to back up their respective claims. The overall outcome will also be helped as both Notch and Bethesda seem perfectly rational and no one has made this a slanging match. Hopefully Notch will change his name or Bethesda will withdraw the accusations and life in the gaming world can go on calmly and smoothly. Either way, no one would benefit from a media bloodbath.

But for those who don’t know of the Elder Scrolls series you could also argue that some confusion could arise which is obviously where Bethesda are coming from. How this will pan out in the future remains to be seen and while Bethesda are obviously trying to protect their brand as well as their customers, could full legal action against one of the most popular indie developers of our time cause more damage to their image than a game with a similar name?

You can check out Notch’s Tweets on the situation here as well as some more information on Scrolls here.

Jul 272011
 

Battles rivaling the scale of Shadow of the Colossus would be nice.

Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the much-anticipated favorite for RPG of the year, is set to arrive in November, but I’m not anywhere near as excited as my fellow gamers seem to be. I’m not going to deny that Skyrim looks gorgeous and fun, and having owned most of Bethesda Game Studios’ games, dating back to Terminator: Future Shock, I’ll be the first to tell you that the company has released some truly amazing titles over the past 20 years; however, I have legitimate beef with some of their recent releases, and my confidence in their abilities has waned.

In truth, I’ve only experienced one, relatively brief playthrough of Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. The game initially imparted a good impression, but after a few weeks, I found myself feeling that it didn’t hold up to the rest of the series in terms of quantity, quality or longevity and presently maintain that it is a far cry from the “All-Time Greatest RPG” it’s often touted as being.

There were some bright spots: The “Thieves Guild” quest branch was more involving and intriguing than anything I’d experienced in any previous Elder Scrolls game. It was lengthy, spun an interesting story, and the missions involved built up to an exciting Mission Impossible-style heist, ending with a satisfying payoff. I loved the whole experience.

I also enjoyed the first few “Dark Brotherhood” tasks. These were very unique and a breath of fresh air from the usual, stale standard for RPG quest design. Unfortunately, the developers may have run out of time or inspiration, and the remainder of this guild’s quests devolved into a minor variation of the loathsome fetch quest: Go to a location, pick up a note that details your target and his or her location. Go there and kill the specified enemy. Rinse and repeat until you reach the end of the line.

From there, I began to encounter major design problems and badly-designed missions. I still vividly remember the moment where I had to admit to myself that Oblivion was a sad case of the bad outweighing the good.

Oblivion’s level scaling system was something of a hatchet job. This backwards game design encouraged savvy players to avoid leveling up, so they could breeze through the game, squashing foes that remained scaled down to low levels.

Move along. Nothing to see here.

Loot also scaled to the player’s level. For this reason, I quickly ceased to explore the game’s dungeons, because I knew I would only find equipment that was, at best, marginally better than what I already had. It also didn’t help that the copied and pasted nature of the caverns’ level layouts were more apparent to me than in Morrowind.

Oblivion presented me a massive game world, filled with dungeons, but gave no real incentive to explore any of it. After a few weeks, the game was shelved. Few titles have collected more dust among my game collection.

I also despised the main quest. The uninspired layouts and lack of quality loot that awaited me every time I passed through an Oblivion Gate lead me to equip any available accessories that boosted my movement speed and blindly run straight to the Sigil Stone.

Subsequently, Bethesda released a game more to my liking: Fallout 3. As a Fallout fan, I was intrigued by the thought of the creators of Morrowind and Daggerfall taking a stab at a Fallout title. As someone who played Oblivion, I was horrified and had little confidence in the developer as they were. Fortunately, Fallout 3 didn’t feature the giant design gaffes that nearly prevented my enjoyment of Oblivion.

That being said, there were still a few unforgivable issues. The game’s dialogue and plot couldn’t hold a candle to past Fallout games. In fact, I found the story to be awful. The main plot feels like a hollow Hollywood take on the Fallout universe, as directed by Michael Bay. It doesn’t help that the DLC add-on, Broken Steel, which was much anticipated for expanding the story, does little more than add a big explosion at the end.

Fast-forward to Skyrim, and the game’s premise seems similarly dull on the surface. Dragons are invading the land of Skyrim, and it’s up to the “Dragonborn” player to hack and slash them into submission.

I can only presume that the plot will thicken as the game progresses, but I’m hoping it will involve more than the dragons being manipulated by some evil wizard or knight, who will inevitably be killed by the hero in a standard fare final showdown.

Regarding game mechanics, I’m not completely won over by the announcement that the player can dual wield, or cast magic with one hand, while hacking up enemies with a sword in the other. This may have worked in Clive Barker’s Undying, but bearing in mind that Bethesda has struggled to craft a suitably challenging game in their last few outings, doubling players’ offensive powers leads me to worry that we’ll have another cakewalk on our hands.

A recent series tradition that started with Morrowind, the number of skills available to the player has been pared down from previous games, but this time around, the developers have also removed the ability to choose a character class.

A frozen wasteland could make for a fantastic RPG setting.

In truth, this is something I can deal with. Many of my favorite role-playing games allow players to organically build skills and attributes without being shoehorned into a typical RPG character mold.

On the other had, the developers claim this is to allow gamers to get into the action much quicker without having to fuss over “numbers and spreadsheets.” This kind of talk reminds me of Bioware’s often disappointing efforts to simplify the role-playing elements in their games to cater to an action-gaming crowd, going so far as to claim that something “awesome” has to happen every time a button is pressed while hyping the release of Dragon Age 2. Contemporary developers should realize that simplicity and instant gratification are not what all gamers are after – hence the success of previous Elders Scrolls games and other high profile RPG franchises. The next Deus Ex: Invisible War is certainly not what gamers want.

I’m still very much on the fence about Skyrim. I opted to skip Dragon Age 2 after hearing about its “copy pasta” level layouts and unfocused story-telling, and I won’t hesitate to do the same if the latest Elder Scrolls game misses the mark in similar ways. For now, I’m awaiting Skyrim with caution, eager to hear what my fellow gamers have to say about it upon its release on 11/11/11.

Jun 292011
 

Years ago, when a new game was released, there were no questions to ask. There was one game to get, and you either bought it, or you didn’t. Now, with special and collector’s editions running rampant, how do you know which copy to buy? Do you enjoy all of the little extras and the extra disc of behind the scenes footage? Or do you just want to tear right through the shrink wrap and get right down to playing the game? It’s a lot to think about when some of these more prestigious editions can cost $150 bucks of your hard earned cash.

It's cool, but regrettable.

I for one love the special editions. I enjoy the little extras, especially when they are well worth the money, such as the limited edition of Dead Space 2 that included two extra games, special content and a nice little replica of the Plasma Cutter. Gears of War special editions are nice too, with a customized tin to hold your game and a plethora of video content available via a supplemental disc. But what about these more expensive editions? Does anyone really use those Modern Warfare 2 night vision goggles (even though they are cool as hell). When Halo 3 came out, being the Halo fanatic that I am, I could not resist purchasing the Legendary Edition of the game so that I might own a small recreation of Master Chief’s helmet. In retrospect, that was a terrible purchase for $129.99 when I could have bought the cheaper special edition for $70 bucks. The helmet is cool, don’t get me wrong, but I would much rather have that money back.

Nearly every big release has some variation of a collectible edition, also some with pre-order perks. Right now, if you pre-order The Elder Scrolls VL Skyrim, you will receive an actual, physical map of the game world. If you are teetering on the edge of purchasing Skyrim (which everyone should anyway), is that bonus enough to push you over the edge and pre-order? What about the Gears of War 3 editions? There will be the standard game for $60 bucks, an enhanced edition with tons of goodies for $10 bucks more, or the Epic, take out a second mortgage, Edition for $150 that includes an illuminated statuette. Do any of those packages tickle your fancy? I just can’t imagine many people willing to shell out over twice what the average retail game sells for, just for a cool statue of Marcus Fenix with lights on it.

Which edition will you be buying?

I am all in favor of special editions. I enjoy the little bonuses, the extra content and sometimes the little happy meal style toy I receive with it, but these outlandish packages that seem to be over priced plastic got to go. I understand that there are hardcore fans of these franchises that will shell out the cash when it comes to extreme editions, and good for them. They deserve to have nice things, but I just can’t justify paying so much money for these editions. Sure, these helmet look great, but give me a break! Paying an extra $10 bucks or so for some great add ons and extras is a great idea to boost revenue and give gamers what they want, and I am all for it. Almost every game has an edition where you can get tons of bonus features for a few extra dollars, and most of them are worth it. So I say buy em up. Spend that extra money on the games you love in order to obtain nice things, and show the publishers and developers that you support their product. I enjoy my Fallout 3 lunch pale and bobblehead, my tiny replica of Isaac Clark’s Plasma Cutter, my cast iron Big Daddy and my large collection of art books so I will be in line at midnight buying the same $70 some-odd dollar special edition as usual, and laughing at the first guy who walks out of the store, lifts his abnormally large box in the air, and screams for eternal glory (it’s me).

Jun 252011
 

There are a great many examples of games that might have been better if left to PCs alone for graphical and control capability, but today I want to focus on a few games from this year.  Though there is probably a greater fanbase with consoles and capability for sales, the question I would like to pose here is:  What is the cost to the games themselves?

Duke Nukem Forever

There was probably no salvaging this game – allow me to make that clear.  With DNF, its an average game at best even on PC.  However, the wait wouldn’t have been nearly as long had the game not been delayed for a console port.  According to the wiki, the game was actually finished in 2010, and the console port actually extended the release date for yet another year.  Reports of clunky controls plagued most of the console reviews, so a few scores may have also been salvaged had the game been PC exclusive.

Dungeon Siege 3

This game’s controls are designed so badly on the PC version that it is nearly unplayable.  Though the game looks and feels beautiful, the keyboard setup causes the game to feel like it was ported to PC from a console game – and fairly badly at that.  In addition, the only way to enable a gamepad currently is through the use of a wired Xbox control attached to the PC, which adds insult to injury.

This is a shame, and something I hope they put a great emphasis on fixing soon.  Having purchased this title and waited excitedly to play it, I was grossly disappointed by the experience.

Skyrim (and the other Elder Scrolls Games)

If Skyrim is anything like its predecessors, it will be highly likely that the in-game menus will suffer for ease of use to be usable on console controllers.  While this doesn’t hurt the gameplay in areas away from the menu, there is no denying that the menu is a very central part of this game series for equipment settings, general inventory, and the map for fast travel.  The same could be said for the Fallout series, so I won’t create a separate category for that here.  I would hate to deny these amazing games to console users, but PC gamers do suffer for the portability when things like drag-and-drop or higher resolution menus would actually make the game easier to play.

Dragon Age II

The redesign of this game for ease on console was one of the major reasons it did so badly in reviews, in my opinion.  Like Mass Effect, it was given the wheel-like choice menu that makes things easier for console gamers to control using analog sticks.  The menus and skill trees, while innovative, might also have been easier for PC gamers had they been instituted in a different way.  The action-based combat had a clear difference from the original, and the camera controls didn’t seem to be designed with PCs in mind.

For a game that was as highly anticipated, it was a major letdown for many fans of the series.  The replayability and glamor of the original was simply lost, and one has to wonder if space requirements, a problem that only exists for game discs, couldn’t have been a major cause of this.

Crysis 2

This one is obvious for this list.  The original Crysis, when it debuted, would hardly even run on anything except for the most impressive hardware.  The graphical capability and physics of the game, even more than the actual gameplay, were what made the game impressive.  For the sequel, that was clearly not the case.  To dumb down the things that made the original impressive was almost a crime for fans of the original.  PC gamers went in expecting the same magic, and they were left wanting.


In conclusion, I wanted to simply state that I have no issues with consoles for gaming.  My issue is with the games themselves, and whet they might have been capable of.  With the exception of Skyrim (because it isn’t out until later this year), I feel that had these games been more exclusive, they could have been capable of so much more.  I hope I haven’t offended the console community with this post – I am simply advocating for the best gaming experience possible.  I am just as much a fan of PC gaming as I am console exclusives, and the shoe would be on the other foot if some of those exclusives were ported away from consoles into the PC direction.

Thank you for reading.

 

Jun 092011
 

I, for one, have been waiting for this game for what seems to be an eternity, and finally it’s so close that I can taste it.

A 15 minute gameplay video of Bethesda’s up-coming title Skyrim was shown on G4′s E3 coverage today. Todd Howard (the lead Game Designer of Skyrim) walks us through a glimpse of the world, explaining the new real-time conversation mechanic and all other newly added features of the Elder Scrolls series. Some of the newly added features in this addition of the Elder Scrolls series are as follows

  • Talking to AI will no longer force you to zoom in on their face.
  • Duel-wielding is now an option.
  • All player-characters now use Dragon Shouts
  • Dragon Shouts are learned from Dragon Runes that are left on ancient chasm walls and temples
  • Dragons are now in the game, and not just in the idle chatter of villagers
  • More realistic animations of the players character. This makes third-person view a much more enjoyable experience.
  • New quest system has been implemented. It allows for an unlimited number of unique quests by watching the players play-style and customizing each piece of the quest after it.
  • Dragons are un-scripted in the game. That means that their AI makes its own decisions, like whether or not to attack you, or lay siege to an entire town for the hell of it.

There are a million new features in Skyrim, but I don’t want to bore you all to death. So, why don’t you all just go and watch the video for yourselves?

May 112011
 

Editorial note:  This article has been reverted to its original submitted text.  Unfortunately, a few errors in the editorial process caused fact issues, and I accept full responsibility for this.  As you can see, the original text never referenced the city of Megaton in Oblivion – that was a glaring error.  In the future, we will work harder to be sure issues like this become a thing of the past.   -Frank Moricz

First off, it’s being developed by RPG powerhouse Bethesda so thats a no-brainer to begin with but even beyond that, every new trailer and teaser for the epic game should only bring more joy and boners for all the gamer boys and girls.  Let me explain why.  Every Elder Scroll game released to date has had an epic story and overarching lore, hell Skyrim isn’t something new.  It’s been around since Elder Scrolls: Arena.  That’s how devoted Bethesda is to the source material.  You can literally spend days pouring over the lore and books scattered across Cyrodill in Oblivion and I don’t expect Skyrim to be any different.  Forget Bioware and their take on the space epic (also forget Dragon Age, eww) because Bethesda has plans to blow them out of the water with this new title due out in the fall.

Brrr. Nords be chilly.

Skyrim has been in the works for about four years now and its nearing completion but still not much is known about the game other than a few key facts.  Dragons, Bioshock-esque weapon style (as in two separate hands for weapons or magic that can be used interchangeably with the trigger buttons), and a new dynamic quest system that has some promise to not be as completely broken as the old ones used to be.  Remember the excitement of starting a new game in Oblivion or even Fallout 3 to remember, oh crap, every location is the same and nothing is different.  Sure you can try to play it differently but chances are you’ll stock up in Megaton first or go through the Wayfarer’s cave outside the Castle Town in Oblivion.  Skyrim promises to alleviate this by having a dynamic quest system where quests will be given by many people and you’d be thrown into many different locations.  Let me give you an example.  It’s been written many times before but it just sounds to cool not to write.  How many times in Oblivion did you kill the shopkeep only to lose all his quest lines after?  Have no fear for in Skyrim his son will begrudgingly take over as owner of the shop and give you the quests.  I’m sure you can rape this function too by killing off whole bloodlines and towns as they give you quests but hey, what can you do?  Also, on top of the ever changing quest givers, lets say you just got back from a cave where you killed a bunch of rats only to find out the shopkeep’s son has a problem with rats in a cave.  Oblivion would either have you complete the quest now as you picked up some amulet of trans-something or other owned by his great uncle in the cave but not in Skyrim.  Skyrim puts you in a completely new cave and rewrites the game as you go.  Suck on that Gamefaqs.

Not much is known about the dragons and such but you can suck out their souls when you kill them.  Their SOULS.  Dragon encounters can happen anytime on the map so maybe think a super Deathclaw encounter mixed with the semi-random placement of a Big Daddy in Bioshock.  I’ve seen no first hand gameplay but videos show a new weapon system that is to die for, literally.  Finishing moves are introduced (maybe like Assasins Creed?  Weaken the enemy and give a finishing blow with a parry) as well as the awesome knockback damage and weight of weapons and armor.  For once you can feel like you’re actually fighting and not just pressing buttons.

All we can hope for now is more horse armor.

Apr 192011
 

The list below is in no particular order.  These are the top 5 rpg games I am most looking forward to.

Mass Effect 3

Since BioWare first opened shop in 1995, they’ve been laying down the law as to what it means to make an RPG. In more recent years their titles, spanning from Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic to Mass Effect 2, have received awards from numerous sites as the best RPG of the year.

I need not make an introduction for Mass Effect 3. If you don’t know about it, go purchase the first two titles of the trilogy now, and go make a post on this page about how great you thought they were.

 

Mass Effect 3 is wrapping up the story of Commander Shepard and his crew on the Normandy as you try to save Earth from the destructive robotic hive mind known as The Reapers. BioWare has already leaked numerous details concerning the production of this title, all of which have the fans psyched: the same characters, including ones from the first ME title, Ashley and Kaiden. However, for this run, the production company is taking a darker turn and making the plot as grim as possible. This is fitting, as with most sci-fi save-the-world games, it comes down to tough decisions and undesirable consequences for your character. BioWare has masterfully combined the decision-consequence based gameplay with a thrilling plot, excellent gameplay mechanics and excellent voice acting, making it one of the most expected titles for the Q4 of 2011.

Photo source: CVG

Diablo III


 

It’s not really fair of me to heap praise upon BioWare if I don’t give equal mention to any of it’s other competitors. While BioWare has been forging ahead with character-based immersion in their games, Blizzard has been ruling the throne of the real-time strategy portion of RPGs since their release of Warcraft: Orcs and Humans in 1994. However, one of their more famously received titles was the 1997 release of Diablo, and its follow-up Diablo II in 2000.

Everyone has been expecting Diablo III. Unfortunately, still not much is known about it, although Blizzard has been dropping hints here and there. They’ve promised five new classes: a Witch Doctor, Monk, Wizard, and the powerful Demon Hunter. No news on the plot yet, but Blizzard has promised something true to the original Diablo heritage: a focused, linear storyline with all the bloody hack-and-slash goodness. New features would include: new skill developments, artisan and crafting abilities, and perhaps most importantly, a revamped Battle.net, which includes social networking features and constant access.

Photo source: IGN

Star Wars: The Old Republic

Another BioWare title, I felt as I had to include this one just for the significance. While fans thought Knights of the Old Republic: The Sith Lords was marginally disappointing (and I mean, very marginally), they have been craving a sequel to The Old Republic series for more than seven years. Seven years, BioWare has kept us waiting, and now, we have details on their answer: an MMO.

The story takes place some 300 years after the events of The Knights of The Old Republic, and quite a long time before the events that take place in the movies. Conflicts are arising between a new Sith Empire and the Republic after the Treaty of Coruscant, the alleged end to the Great Galactic War. The decision to move the story to an MMO was a sound one, as massively-multiplayer online content is arguably the only shell capable of addressing all the needed lore that the Star Wars canon can contain. Players can choose between Republic and Sith factions, with four character classes belonging to each. The Jedi Knight and Consular mirror the Sith Warrior and the Inquisitor, while the Smuggler and the Trooper mimic the Bounty Hunter and Imperial Agent. Each class has advanced classes, all unique to the Star Wars universe. With any luck, this will be the title that wraps up the inconsistencies with the Dark Lord Revan and other character stories within the Old Republic timeline. BioWare has a website that is frequently updated with new information on background and history, as well as details on game mechanics. I suggest you go check it out.

Photo source: SWTOR

Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Bethesda was one of the first developers that grasped the notion that in order for the player to truly take on the role of its character, that player needs to see the entirely of the world that the character is placed in. This is what Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind was known for, and this of course was expounded upon in Oblivion. Oblivion got game of the year by almost every well-known games news site during its 2006 release, and now we get to see if Bethesda can one-up themselves.

Not only does Skyrim look visually beautiful, but once again there is a vast lore that the player must undertake in order to understand game mechanics. Bethesda has incorporated a utility called “Dragon shouts” which are words of an ancient tongue belonging to the race of your character—these words can in turn be used to power up your abilities, as the Dragon Shouts are canonically attributed as the voice that a leader used to bring others into battle. In terms of other mechanics, it seems that the entire affair has become more streamlined, taking out redundant or unnecessary features and creating a more simplistic, streamlined game for the player. Don’t take this as a sign of Bethesda wussing out on the works—the game has over 120 dungeons with some impressively-designed mythical beasts making sure that you don’t succeed in your mission.

Photo source: Joystiq

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Last but not least, we have an Eidos title, the third and follow-up prequel to the prestigious Deus Ex series. Customization has always been the name of the game for Deus Ex titles, and the chaotic futuristic society of all three titles proved to be the proper environment to load your character up with all different kinds of ability-enhancing tech. This was needed to enhance your skill and increase your chances of success.

 

This new story follows the story of Adam Jensen, a security enforcer at a company specializing in nanotechnology in a time where bio-tech is being protested and proliferated at the same time. Jensen is loyal to his job, but is not necessarily approving of the new nanotech upgrades that his company puts out. A break-in at the company forces Jensen to accept this new lifestyle, as his body is left badly damaged, and can only be repaired through mechanized parts. Jensen begins investigating as to who attacked his company and ends up uncovering a gigantic conspiracy.

Human Revolution works of the same original Deus Ex groundwork, but features some really cool changes—new melee abilities, coming from blades extending from Jensen’s arms, as well as the ability to choose between a stealth or assault mode of play. Visually, the game looks superb, borrowing themes from medieval Renaissance and futuristic steampunk, and I have no doubt that the plot is equally appealing.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution comes out this May.

Photo source: Deux Ex

 

Apr 162011
 

When I first started gaming, we were rocking the Atari 2600 and spending our days playing Pitfall 2 nonstop. Then one day, my parents brought home a Tandy computer, and with it a game called Kings Quest. My world changed in an instant, we were faced with real decisions and scripted events. We learned the all important “Save before doing something new” method of survival. The face of gaming had been changed forever…

As time went on we ended up going on more adventures with the first family of Daventry, but I personally started to go even further. I adventured through space with Mickey Mouse, destroyed the Black Cauldron and even went on a Space Quest with a hapless janitor. Every decision I made always ran the risk of extreme peril. While my family and I played these games, we always had to remember to save often.  Navigating a simple path could end if death if you were not paying attention – puzzles were so complex that serious thought had to be involved when trying to tackle them. Mickey himself fell victim to a few ill-prepared decisions (note to self: Put your spacesuit on PRIOR to opening an airlock)

These games introduced all sorts of things we encounter now, rudimentary ARGs were rolled out. Looking through books to solve puzzles or even calling phone numbers to hear recorded messages became an integral part to get to the next part of the game. Having the right tool for the job was always imperative and often times I found out that I forgot to pick it up. The world was one giant puzzle and even the simplest item was a key to something different, I used a mint to save a kingdom once. LucasArts then jumped onto the scene with games like Maniac Mansion, the The Dig and the Indiana Jones Adventure games. Stories were written better and graphics continued to improve, we even got away from text input.  Cursors began to replace the arrow keys and icons and visual inventories began to pop up.

As CD format came around, some games started to incorporate more and more combat. There were less puzzles, and more people that were required to be slaughtered. These games led to straight action adventure titles like Elder Scrolls. A few graphic adventure games continued on, such as the Monkey Island series, but even in those cases perilous situation began to filter out. In fact, you can only die in Monkey Island by accessing a hidden easter egg. I always felt like as I got older, these games began to get easier and puzzles became less complex. Fortunately though the graphic adventure game still had its own, albeit small, niche. Then Kings Quest VIII came out and this niche came crashing down. In ’99 The Longest Journey came out, effectively, but the era of adventure games came to rest – a great ending to a formidable genre.

Some would argue that The Mask of Eternity wasn’t necessarily a bad game, but it was a huge departure from the original style of play. Games much like Elder Scrolls popped up more often (once again, not bad) and the adventure title itself went through a rebranding of sorts. Soon, the original game type was nearly forgotten. Roberta Williams, creative mind behind much of Sierra’s early success, eventually spoke out to what she felt changed the genre:

Back when I got started, which sounds like ancient history, back then the demographics of people who were into computer games, was totally different, in my opinion, than they are today. Back then, computers were more expensive, which made them more exclusive to people who were maybe at a certain income level, or education level. So the people that played computer games 15 years ago were that type of person. They probably didn’t watch television as much, and the instant gratification era hadn’t quite grown the way it has lately. I think in the last 5 or 6 years, the demographics have really changed, now this is my opinion, because computers are less expensive so more people can afford them. More “average” people now feel they should own one.

Currently, the graphic adventure games still break onto the scene from time to time, console users received the first 2 Monkey Island series as updated remakes and a group of fans came together and created The Silver Lining, a sendoff to the original Kings Quest series. Remnants of earlier titles can sometimes be spotted in games that we play now. A few remakes can also be found, but original content is few a far between.

The questions I ask is, if these games made it back into the forefront of gaming titles, would you play them?

Apr 142011
 

D'awww

We’ve all heard the stories of people getting lost in their games of World of Warcraft and becoming completely engrossed in the gameplay and level grinding.  It’s a common occurrence and even probably just a reason to play video games for some people.  It’s the perfect escape.  Who wouldn’t want to get away from the troubles of work and life just by turning on an N64 and living in Hyrule for a weekend?  It works wonders for any genre of gaming but what about the super hardcore RPG’s?  Most newer RPG titles have storylines and characters to fall in love with or hate but if you’re looking for a pure escape from the world do you really care if Sin was really Jecht and Tidus was probably just a dumb stoner kid?  Let’s take it back to the basics.

When you think of JRPG’s do the titles Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest (Warrior) come to mind? They should.  Of course, there’s always many more titles to choose from, whether it’s the rather old school Etrian Odyssey or the Tales series, but let’s talk about the big two for right now.  Final Fantasy has gone astray in the recent years in terms of being a complete grind fest (if you’re just looking for the main story), but Dragon Quest still holds true to its roots by not giving a crap about the characters and letting you just wail away until you decide to turn off your gaming console.  There’s exceptions to that of course, but none of the entries in Dragon Quest (save for Dragon Quest VIII) introduced much of characters at all other than sprites that you connect with on a basic level.  Even in the plot heavy Dragon Quest V you can recruit monsters to fight for you and not care about any of the main characters if you so choose.

Yeah, we don't care about your problems

My point being, these old school RPG’s are great for some therapeutic battling.  If you feel like you’re down on life and just a measly level 1 Luminary, then why not pop in some Dragon Quest VI and level yourself up more from the comfort of your own couch or bedroom?  Can’t get that promotion at work?  Never fear – you’re sure to level up soon if you keep playing that one game (probably at the cost of losing your real job though).  I’ve been trying to play through each Dragon Quest game in order (which would explain my reasons for gushing about the series) but at a hectic time in my life its akin to running every morning to clear my head.  I turn on my NES and play through a bit just leveling my characters and battling the monsters that come up.  Sure, there’s a few times where I get my ass handed to me by the stronger enemies but hey, thats just life.  At least this life lets me destroy evil archfiends.

I only beat this game since I had a Metal Slime in my party

I’m sure you can make this argument for a bunch of other genres but I really think RPG’s take the cake.  Not just turn based ones either.  Wait until November for when Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim comes out and you’ll know what I’m talking about.  Until then though, I’ll be Dragon Quest-ing away.

Apr 082011
 

#5 – The Quicksave / Quickload

Ah, the infamous f5/f9 setup that has allowed me to experiment or quickly amend mistakes. This is an irreplaceable feature for me. Especially in exploration type games such as Fallout or Elder Scrolls titles, there is no need to ask myself “what if” when I have these buttons at my fingertips.

Wouldn't it be easier to kill you? Hmm.

Snarky reply? Quicksave/headshot. When all shit breaks loose, I just quickload and everyone likes me again. It’s a beautiful thing.

Can I get away with …? It’s easy to test the waters with a quicksave and some nimble thievery. If I can manage to sneak away with the massive loot, then I’m home free, but If I get caught, redemption is only a button away.

Yes, you could pose the argument that playing like that isn’t “hardcore”, but in the late-game, using Fallout: New Vegas as an example, you have no way to apologize and set things right. You can literally destroy something by accident that took you many hours to earn.

#4 – Expandability

Nowadays, some argument could be made for consoles regarding upgrades and the addition of extra features. People can add keyboards when needed, they can pay ungodly amounts for headsets and other peripherals. The hardware, however, must remain the same. You have no option to boost your RAM or video capabilities, which means a few things:

  • Setting up the visuals is far less complicated
  • You don’t get to set up the visuals.

Dragon Age 2 is a good example. PC users were able to download and install additional high-resolution textures that were simply not supported by consoles. See the example below:

Personally, I like graphics. I want the capability to make the game as beautiful as possible without video lag. When the computer isn’t powerful enough, I’m an easy-to-install upgrade away.

#3 – Modifications

Many games now are being designed to support user-end modifications. Some of these can work on console ports, but some of the very best ones will only be available for a computer. The best part is that almost all of them are completely free – people do it for the love of the game. There are far too many examples to list, but here is a video of something called the “Midas Mod” for Oblivion.

Some mods will actually work better than DLC or full-blown expansions to the game. I’ve seen them add entire questlines, lands, companions and even item sets.

For games that don’t allow modifications as easily, people have released modified save-game files that can add the desired effects. Relating back to #4, however, my favorite mods are simply the ones that make the older game even more beautiful.

Let it be said, I am against modifications when it comes to multiplayer titles – for games that don’t verify file integrity this can be a huge problem. For single-player games though, it’s amazing.

#2 – Dynamic Control

Want to use a 30 button mouse? Doable. Want to completely reconfigure the keyboard to the way you are used to playing? Done.

With most console games, you see a few various sets to choose from. Especially amongst the disabled community, this can pose major, major issues. Here is an excerpt from the forums for Killzone:

A consideration request from a disabled gamer who absolutely loves this game to the developers.

on 03-05-2009 07:12 AM

I was not sure where to put this, but I have been playing the game and absolutely love it. But my special adaptive controller does not have any . Motion support whatsoever nor could I use it even if it did. Currently I have to stop when I reach any part of that requires motion control and have my friend use the regular controller to do it and then switch back over to my controller to continue playing the game. This takes about five minutes and my friend is around. Although he is not always around to do this for me.

Is there something that the developers could do were I could turn the valves or plant explosives without using motion control?

If I could program some kind of alternative to doing this it would make this game so much more accessible to the disabled community. This is one of the greatest games ever and if I could get the developers to at least consider it and give some feedback about this it would be greatly appreciated. I absolutely adore this game and it would mean so much if this could at least be considered.

Any support or questions/or comments are greatly appreciated.

this is a real request” that I somehow hope can be made a reality :-)

This has less to do with consoles and more to do with console ports. Here, the issue lies solely with the developers for not thinking ahead. This is also just a single example, but something I’ve seen more and more lately. With computer games, and the wide variety and customization options that are available, this is far less of an issue.

#1 – Loading Time

Disks are getting faster. DVD readers, blu-ray readers, etc. When I throw a new game into a console and am overexcited about playing it, I have to go through the process of updates and a god-forsaken span of load time while the game is loaded up. Hard drive speed is much faster typically with gaming PCs, and that time gets cut in half. With the advent of things like solid-state hard drives mixed with distribution clients like Steam, the longest wait time is typically for downloading.

Either way, there’s a wait. However, (and again I’ll use Dragon Age 2 as an example) some games can be pre-loaded before the release date. If the files are already locally installed, it’s merely a matter of hitting the play button once we reach the official date of release. Once I do, the load time is nil.

This is a problem that is slowly working it’s way out of our lives. Hopefully soon, we can get back to the days where we can experience cartridge-like startup and see a “Press Start” within mere seconds of initiating a game. Oh, how I miss those days.

Mar 012011
 

Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Remember how captivating and thrilling Elder Scrolls: Morrowind was? So do I. Remember how you told your “friends” to go masturbate somewhere else when Oblivion came out? So do I. Remember Skyrim? YOU WILL…

...and you'll LIKE IT

 

watch?v=yoXFk-0NrDI&feature=player_profilepage

…Huh? Oh. Sorry, I wasn’t paying attention. I instantly went into an anticipation induced seizure after 15 seconds into the video. Luckily, my boner was paying attention and it has informed me that battling has been completely renovated and there’s dragons now and urgh.. ugh… HNNNGGGGGGGGGGG…

Warning: This game is likely to cause you to constantly question, out loud, to yourself, in the cold darkness of your studio apartment, “Girlfriend? What the FUCK is a girlfriend?”

 

Battlefield 3

Do you like anything? If you answered yes to this question, watch the video below.

watch?v=wi2tae2PmmU

This trailer terrifies me. The bar has been raised so high with first person shooters that I’m totally convinced the next game in this series will be “Battlefield: Shoot Your Dad in Real Life.” A Beta code for Battlefield: Shoot Your Dad in real Life can be conjured by mixing the ashes of Black Ops and Modern Warfare inside a bowl made of baby-skin that had belonged to any infant born from an Activision employee.

No, but seriously, this game is what ICP was talking about in “Miracles”. This game is a magnet. This game… Right here… is a magnet.

 

Diablo III

Next we find a game smothered in mystery, confusion and frustration: Diablo III. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Blizzard came out and told us that this shit is all a joke. In fact, since the latest delay in the release of this game, I’m 100% without a doubt that the world IS going to end in 2012. If Diablo III hasn’t released by then, dork-raging gamers (who have run out of games to play that exhaust their mouse buttons to powder) will find a way to create REAL magic and use it to dissolve the Earth’s crust. Only then can we be one with Diablo.

After that, we’re fucked man; I hear that not even death can save you from him.

Portal 2

How about drugs? Do you like to drop all the dirty acid your tax returns can afford and transcend to a place that belongs  to the glorious unknown? Do you know about portals, man?

You can’t spell “Portal” without “Pot”.

 

Have you ever seen yourself… seeing yourself… seeing yourself? The concept of Portal is the only thing that understands me while the gameplay supplies me with the means to do everything I’ve secretly wanted to do in a crowded Walmart at 2 AM after peaking from a previous impromptu Windex chug. Add bleach and gasoline and you’ve got Portal 2. Now, on top of many other things, we’ll be able to fully make use of the portals by using them to alter air currents and harnessing the power of magical gels that no one seems to be able to explain to me. However, the mystery is erotic.

Warning: Playing this game will give you the desire reach through a mirror and service your own genitalia. Or maybe that’s just me.

Lastly, we have…

 

Duke Nukem Forever

watch?v=wVuuyRGB_BA

…which is hardly a shooter game and more of a guitar solo played with bloody steak tendons plucked by erect pornstar nipples.

Duke Nukem has always been well known for being testosterone projected onto a screen. I will bet you my left dick that the collector’s edition comes with beard stubble and a constantly smoking cigarette. Playing this game will, undoubtedly, cause you to slowly grow a third arm from your chest with a hand locked in the “metal horns” position. Don’t worry though, they make t-shirts with holes in the chest. We will adapt and we will evolve.