Category Archives: Games

Neverwinter Online

It’s been a while since I made a post. I could have talked about my short stint in Age of Wushu (wonderful game; needs better account security measures), or how awesome the Guild Wars 2 Living Story has been (still loving this game like you wouldn’t believe), or how amazing the TV show, Revenge, is. Instead I’m going to talk about my newest–and most surprising–addiction: Neverwinter.

Neverwinter is a new free-to-play MMO from Cryptic and Perfect World. It uses the D&D 4th Edition ruleset; it’s set in the Forgotten Realms city of Neverwinter (obviously); and it even has my non-MMO-playing friends playing it.

Combat is aim-based. Sort of. It’s more of a soft-lock targeting. You only have to be facing the general direction of the target. But it’s not tab-targeting, and if you turn in a different direction, you’ll attack a new target without having to tab off the first one. There’s also dodging and a limited hot bar, so you can spend more time watching the fights than your cooldown timers.

Crafting is done by “hiring resources.” Instead of you, the adventurer, standing at a crafting table and turning out chainmail, you’ll hire someone to do it for you. Crafting works on a timed system, anywhere from 5 seconds to hours. It can even be done through an Internet gateway, so you can keep up with it even when you’re not logged into the game.

There’s an auction house, mounts, five-man dungeons, NPC companions, instanced PvP, and the usual assortment of “kill 10 rats” style filler quests. But the game also has instanced quests that are reminiscent of D&D adventures. Inside you’ll find traps, treasures, lore, rooms full of monsters, secret doorways. Everything you expect from a D&D dungeon crawl.

And that brings us to the real heart of the game: the Foundry. The Foundry allows players to generate their own quests and campaigns. The system is easy to figure out with a simple tutorial, but it allows for some powerful storytelling. This is where the game will flourish. This is what will keep me coming back. As people get more familiar with the tools, the quests and campaigns in the Foundry will rival anything you’ve seen from the greatest single-player RPGs you’ve ever played. Even now, just a few weeks into release, there are already some terrific quests out there.

Unless you hate fantasy settings, hate D&D, or hate action combat, you should definitely give Neverwinter a try. It’s completely free; there are a ton of people playing; and the Foundry can keep you busy for ages.

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The SimCity debacle — it’s your fault

I’m going to make this short and sweet:

If you bought SimCity knowing it had always-on DRM, you’re contributing to the continued decline of gaming and the erosion of your rights as a consumer.

You’re telling the publishers that you don’t mind them treating you like a criminal with a potentially unlimited wallet they can suck dry with DLC.

Consumer protection laws in the US don’t protect software purchases. Someone did the math and realized that at release, SimCity worked about 10% of the time. 10%. If your vacuum cleaner only turned on 1 out of every 10 times, would you deal with it, or would you return it and get one that worked? Well, software developers don’t have to let you do that. They can tell you to go fuck yourself. Dispute the charge on your credit card, and you risk having your entire account banned.

Software developers are in an unusual position of being able to treat their products as both products and services. You can’t share your games, even within your own household, because they claim you need one copy per computer, just as you would a physical product. And yet, they also want to act as if their games are services, subject to their whims regarding usage. If EA shuts down the SimCity servers, you can’t play the game any more (without hacks, at least, and that assumes EA doesn’t patch those out). If they only want to ship half a game and make you buy the other half via DLC, they can do that, too. Hell, they could leave off key elements, liking saving the game, or the UI, or the ending, and you can’t do a damn thing about it. No refunds, not even for a digital download.

There is only one way to fight it: VOTE WITH YOUR WALLET. Don’t buy games from companies that have anti-consumer DRM. Don’t let them treat you like a criminal. Make them make games that are fun, not just money-generators. That means:

Don’t preorder, especially if you haven’t tried a demo or seen gameplay footage, and especially if you don’t agree with the DRM.

Boycott companies that have always-online DRM for single-player games. Yes, the entire company. Ubisoft backed off their DRM because it was hurting their bottom line. I haven’t bought an Ubisoft game in years, and I know a lot of other people who haven’t done so, either. If they ever fix the DRM for Anno 2070, I’ll be glad to purchase it, but a three-activation limit and signing in through Uplay (despite already signing in to Steam) makes it still a no-purchase.

Don’t buy DLC before its released. Those Season Passes are becoming a popular way to pre-buy DLC, but you’re buying something without even knowing what you’re going to get. Wait until you actually know what you’re buying. Make them have to earn your money.

We can return to the days when AAA meant a truly fun game, not a console port with pretty graphics, loads of DLC, and not much else. We can make publishers stop treating their paying customers like criminals. But we can’t do this if people do nothing but bitch-and-buy. Because if you do that, don’t be surprised to find that someone keeps feeding you shit; you’ve proven you’re willing to eat it.


DC Universe Online

In my apparent quest to make it impossible to figure out what game I’m playing at any one time, right after I wrote my last blog post, I saw a livestream of DC Universe Online (DCUO) and decided to try it out. I’d played for a very brief (as in minutes) time when it was in beta, but I wasn’t impressed. The livestream made me reconsider. I’ve been playing nonstop since I installed it, and I’m enjoying every minute of it.

I made a cyborg supervillain with bow skills and acrobatic movement. That means I climb walls, do somersaults, vault long distances. There’s no falling damage. When you fall from a great height, you crash into a three-point landing that cracks the ground beneath you and then hop back up. Combat is exciting. There are combo attacks, people flying across the screen, flips, etc.

Most of the quests follow the basic kill [x] of something or collect [y], but they have a lot of style. Most have voiceovers, and the Joker, my mentor, is appropriately evil.

I’ve even done PvP and PUG dungeons, neither of which I normally have anything to do with. I also subscribed so I could get a hideout when I hit level 12, and I’ve been very slowly accumulating housing objects to fill it.

In some ways, DCUO is an action RPG single player game. The only time I’ve grouped with other players was in the dungeons. It offers a ton of things to do, from quests, PvP, and dungeons, to obstacle courses based on your movement style (super speed, acrobatics, or flight)  to crafting, which I still haven’t quite gotten the hang of, and collectibles that offer rewards when you complete them. Stats are separate from wardrobe, so you can have the exact look you want without having to sacrifice abilities, and the game offers tons of clothing options that are straight-up wardrobe-only.

This game probably won’t hold my interest for more than a month, but I’m enjoying the hell out of it at the moment. If you want to try out a game that simply remembers that games are supposed to be fun, I really recommend this. Who knows, maybe after I’m done with my villain, I’ll try out the good guys’ side.

And because I will never have a character with as cool a name in any game ever again, allow me to introduce my supervillain, Certifiably Insane.

Certifiably Insane


How does life get so busy?

No, really, how is it I can fill up every spare minute of my day and still feel like I’m running backward on a treadmill? I know I’m not alone in this. Hell, I don’t even have children, so I don’t have the added stress of also adding in kids’ schedules. I can’t even imagine.

Anyway, busy life has meant not quite as much game time lately. I still try to squeeze in some Guild Wars 2. My main is level 60 now. I’m slowly creeping up to 80. Maybe I’ll even get there before the first official expansion and requisite level cap increase.

I’ve also been keeping my eye on another NCSoft game, Wildstar. If you haven’t heard about it, I highly advise you to go to that link and watch all their videos. If you are or were a fan of World of Warcraft, you’ll recognize similarities in the art and humor. That’s because Carbine Studios was started by, among others, a bunch of former World of Warcraft developers.

Besides a little GW2, I’m also playing Two Worlds II with Joe on occasion. This game is not all that good. The AI often gets stuck. The UI varies between okay and laughably bad (the President could probably launch nuclear weapons with fewer button presses than is required to join a multiplayer game). The world graphics are fine, but the character graphics are fugly. I would not have liked the game if I’d paid full price for it, but since it was a Steam sale game and I probably only paid about $10, it’s acceptable.

I also reinstalled Mortal Online after discovering it went F2P. Or more accurately, it has a no-time-limit trial. Skill level limits, no housing, some limitations on thieving and the like, but overall, it’s a pretty good way to get into the game and have time to figure out if I want–and have the time–to subscribe. Mortal is the ultimate fantasy sandbox PvP game. Territory battles between guilds, player murderers, open world PvP, full loot. It’s my kind of game.

Guess that’s about it, unless you want to hear all about my dental quest to get a broken crown fixed.

Yeah, me neither.


New year, more games

So 2013, eh? Guess that’s okay. Lots of stuff going on lately. I finished my book and turned it over to my beta reader. I’m hopeful the plot is more cohesive now. I’ve been trying to squeeze what gaming time I can around holiday stuff. Yesterday was my birthday, so I took the whole day off and gamed. It was bliss.

So what’s worth your gaming dollars lately? Well, Steam is still having its wallet-breaking sales, and I’ve been grabbing a few things here and there. Not as much as last summer, but I’d grabbed so many games then it’s not even easy to find something I don’t already own. Other than that, I’ve been playing Guild Wars 2 and The Secret World.

GW2 just ended its Wintersday event, and it’s just as good as the Halloween event. These guys really know how to do a seasonal activities. Snowball fights, a five-man instance, several other unique instanced events, and another jumping puzzle, which I didn’t do, because I can’t do timed jumping puzzles very well. Oh well, maybe it’ll return for next year, and I can give it another go.

GW2 was in several top 10 sales lists this holiday season, despite still being nearly $60 to buy. I’m so happy to know the game seems to be doing well. I know I still get put into overflow servers every time I go into Lion’s Arch. That’s kind of crazy.

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The Secret World recently went to a buy-to-play model, making subscriptions optional. I’d said before I would have bought the game had it been B2P, so I was happy to see it did, and I bought it right away. Not only can you find it for a good price (it’s currently $22.49 on Steam and Amazon), but sometimes you can catch it even cheaper than that). All current content is available for that price, but future content will be available as mission packs in the store. I don’t particularly care for content locks, but since you get a lot of initial content for the price and no limits on bags, bank slots, or the trading post, it works.

Oh, and the game is fun, too. I played in the closed beta and thought it was pretty good, but not good enough to justify the price (full box price + subscription + cash shop). Now though, it’s quite worth it. The investigation missions are real brain-stumpers and are easily the best part of the game. Not all missions are top-notch, unfortunately. There are still too many “kill 10 rats” style quests. The crafting system is rather weird and could really use some refinements for ease-of-use. Combat is fun once you’ve gained plenty of skills so you can mix-and-match to make multiple builds but at first it’s rather dull. I do like that they provide “starter decks,” which are example builds you can follow. If you get all the skills, you can also collect the specialized outfit that goes along with the build.

Overall, if you like MMOs, want a setting that’s different from the usual fantasy/steampunk fantasy, and enjoy solving puzzles, there’s no reason not to get The Secret World. You’ll find hours of entertainment for one low price.


Guild Wars 2 headstart weekend

This weekend began the Guild Wars 2 headstart access for pre-purchasers. I’d been waiting for this since the release date was announced, and I’d even scheduled the entire weekend to do nothing but play. So Friday night, after an awesomely fun Livetweeting Terrible Movie event held by my friend, geardrops, the servers opened up around 11:30 pm. I got in when server population on all the servers was low, so I had my pick. (Tarnished Coast, if you’re curious).

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The servers started filling up quickly, which was no surprise. I created an Asuran warrior (though I’ve since switched to an Asuran elementalist as my main) and started the tutorial. I noticed something about the tutorial. Before, the end boss forced you into the downed state. It doesn’t do that any more. After that, you’re thrown into the world, which in my case is Metrica Province, to begin your adventures.

If you’ve been following Guild Wars 2, you know questing is done in a whole new way. There are renown hearts, dynamic events, personal story, and dungeons. Now, the first dungeon is only available at level 30, so that wasn’t something I got into this weekend. Personal story is just what it sounds like. Solo-able (though you can group if you want), instanced stories based around the choices you made at character creation. They have branching paths every so often, full voice, and cut scenes.

Renown hearts are similar to traditional quests, with the exception that you have multiple ways to complete them, and you don’t have to talk to the quest giver to start them. But you’ll be killing creatures, collecting things, or activating/deactivating something. Once you’ve completed a heart task, you can’t do it any more (or rather, you can’t get any more credit for doing it). Completing the task gives you karma points, which is a form of currency you use to buy stuff from karma vendors. The renown heart quest-giver turns into a karma vendor on completion and provides gear that can only be purchased through them, so it’s worth checking their trade list when you’re done.

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Dynamic events are the strength of the game. An event can occur for many reasons, but player choices and random chance are the most likely reasons to start one. When you’re nearby, you’ll see a message pop up to let you know there’s a dynamic event in the area. The events range from escort quests to collection to world bosses to holding off waves of enemies. Events can be chained based on success or failure. Early events tend to be chained less, plus the sheer number of players made them into complete zergfests. Around the teen levels, you’re more likely to see the full chain. (Hint: be sure to stick around and listen to the NPCs. They’re talking about the event, and if there’s more to do, they may continue it). For example, I wandered into a building where the Inquest (the evil Asura), were trying to steal golems. We failed to prevent them from taking them. So the two NPCs in charge of the golems held a conversation to figure out where they might have taken them. They ran off to the other building. When they got there, it kicked off another dynamic event to rescue the golems. That was because of our failure.

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This headstart weekend has had a bit of a rocky start. Not horrible, but there have been some problems. I never experienced any disconnects or login issues, but I know many players, especially in Europe, have. The trading post has been down all weekend. Grouping up with friends in overflow servers is iffy at best. Mail wasn’t working on Friday night or Saturday, but it appears to have been fixed by Sunday. Since mail is the only way to trade with other players (it’s free, instant, and you don’t need to find a mailbox), that meant no trading. But the core game has been running perfectly for me. Dynamic events with dozens of players around have been smooth as silk. I have almost all my graphics settings maxxed. In fact, I only turned one down to cut down on bloom effects, not because it was causing framerate issues.

Another feature that makes the game great is the way everything is shared. There’s no kill-stealing, no ninja-looting, no way to take something from other players. Everyone shares in the XPs of a kill. Everyone can harvest a node. If everyone assists in killing a world boss, everyone gets to access the treasure chest afterward. You’ll be happy to see other players around you instead of thinking they’re going to tag all the mobs you need and force you to wait. You won’t have to stand in line to kill a boss either.

At the end of the day, one question remains: Is it fun? And the answer to that is, oh hell yes. There’s so much to do and everything gives you XPs. A story on Massively just came out about a crafter who hit level 80 this weekend by doing nothing but crafting. (His guild fed him mats). But since the game down-levels you whenever you enter a lower-level zone, if he goes into a level 1 area, he’ll be about the equivalent of a level 4 or 5. He’ll still be tougher than someone who has that level naturally, but he can still be killed, and he won’t be one-shotting everything around him.

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If you’ve been wondering whether the game is worth getting, it absolutely is. It doesn’t completely revamp the genre, but it pushes it forward enough that it’s hard to go back to other games without feeling a bit let down by the dated concepts. Official release is Tuesday, October 28.


The Steam sale extravaganza and finishing games

So if you missed it, Steam recently held their annual summer sale, where each day titles were deeply discounted, often down to a price of $2.49. I let myself go wild, spent around $200 on pretty much anything that caught my fancy. When all was said and done, I had over three dozen games in my Unplayed category, including the games I’d bought from previous Steam sales.

It was a lot of fun, but it also gave me the incentive to finish up several titles I’d let languish in a partial state. Since the sale ended, I’ve now finished Bastion (good story), CostumeQuest (nice dialogue options), LIMBO (fine until the end, when the puzzles started requiring split-second timing), and Metro 2033 (great story and combat). Decided I didn’t care to finish Legend of Grimrock and uninstalled it. And I’m now working my way through finally finishing Fallout: New Vegas (which would be a lot easier if it didn’t keep crashing to desktop).

Of the new games I bought, I’ve already installed Terraria (best $2.49 I’ve ever spent; I’ve already put in 33 hours), and A Valley Without Wind (9 so far). The latter is an odd but intriguing indie title, and I don’t even know how to explain what it’s about, because I still don’t quite get it. I’ve also played about 7 hours of Galactic Civilization II, but I’m not quite sure I’m interested in continuing. For one, it’s not co-op multiplayer. For another, there’s an insane amount of time spent just skipping turn after turn while you wait on something to happen. In Sid Meier’s Civilization V (which Galactic Civ II is similar to), in the early game there’s a lot of that, but later on, you’re doing stuff constantly. I may just move on to something else.

Other than that, also finished the original Dawn of War II campaign (co-op). Not liking Chaos Rising too much, though. I was disappointed to find we were still playing those pretentious douchebag Space Marines for one. For another, it just felt they cranked the, well, chaos, up to eleven for no reason. I’ll probably go for Torchlight next.

The games I bought (some of these were in indie bundles): Alter Ego, A Valley Without Wind, Atom Zombie Smasher, Blocks That Matter, BRINK, The Darkness II, Dead Space 2, Dear Esther, Droplitz, Dungeon Defenders, Evochron Mercenary, FEAR 3, Garry’s Mod, Galactic Civilization II, HOARD, Hunted: The Demon’s Forge, Killing Floor, Magicka, Quantum Conundrum, RAGE, Red Faction: Armageddon, Red Faction: Guerrilla, Sam & Max: Seasons 1-3, Sanctum, SOL: Exodus, Superbrothers: Sword & Sorcery EP, Swords and Soldiers HD, Terraria, Thief: Deadly Shadows, Trine 2, Two Worlds II, Universe Sandbox, Wings of Prey, X3: Albion Prelude, X3: Reunion, X3: Terran Conflict.

With all that, the games I already had (like Skyrim and The Sims 3 with all its xpacks), Guild Wars 2 starting in three weeks, and Borderlands 2 unlocking in six weeks (which I’ve already preordered), I won’t run out of games to play for a long, long time.