Delayed Responsibility

I Shouldn't Be Gaming Right Now… But I Am!

Archive for August, 2009

Champions!

Posted by deckard47 on August 31, 2009

Tonight, it’s going to be for real. I’m not sure who will be fighting crime in my stead tonight (it may be Captain Obliviox, who moonlights as a badly-coiffed guitarist in our badly named Rock Band band), but I assure you I will spend way too long designing my silly outfit. And then. Crime!

Also, Wolfenstein may get finished, and I’ll try to break into Planescape‘s main quest (I’m still fussing about in the initial areas, having conversations with physical manifestations of holy alphabets… Which is as sweet as it sounds). Oh, and now that I’ve unlocked my silver guns in Bound in Blood MP, it’s time for Gold Guns (and that really expensive guy with the good sniper rifle). Whichever way you swing it, it should be awesome times. Later.

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In Which I Reassess

Posted by deckard47 on August 30, 2009

So I’ve been known to be nasty before. I’m not always completely intolerable, maybe, but I say mean things about games, and sometimes they might not deserve it. So it is with Wolfenstein. A few days ago, I basically said that I liked Airborne a lot more, and couldn’t understand what the people who made Wolfenstein were thinking of when they let that game escape into retail.

It’s both amusing and embarrassing, but I’ve been playing Wolfesntein basically nonstop since then. I haven’t played a single second of Airborne. This is what happened: I opened up Airborne, and decided I would go back and play the first mission on Normal, and unlock some more “secret air drops.” What followed was an almost point by point performance of what I hate about MoH: Airborne. Every other step, an enemy would spawn in front of me or behind me, out of thin air, sometimes while I was watching empty space. He would then proceed to hit me, each hit blurring my vision and making it impossible for me to retaliate. The secret to melee combat in Airborne is this: they are stupidly resistant to it. If you punch them, they will recover instantly and whack you 3 times. If they hit you with the butt of a rifle, you lose control for long seconds. Just when you regain control and thing you’ll be getting back to punching them, they hit you again. It turns out melee combat (which can be upgraded, giving you a knife, by using the MP40 enough) is not only frustrating, it’s completely unfair. Then there are the stupid, laughably spaced checkpoints. I was wrong. Wolfenstein feels ludicrously generous in comparison, check-pointing based on mission completion and level progress. In Airborne, instead of dropping you at the last check point (say, right after you blew up that fuel depot), the game will drop you right back out of a plane.

You know what’s great about that? Nothing. Sure, it means that you no longer have to worry about those objectives you already completed, but it also means that every bad guy has respawned. Great. Now, you have to fight the “randomly” generated enemies again. It’s like playing a multiplayer game, except the enemies aren’t smart or fun or people. It’s a game that lacks not only good design and good pacing, but any sense of character. It makes the bots in the original UT seem like the most well-drawn enemies ever. It’s boring and frustrating, and its why I’m done with Airborne, stuck on the 3rd mission.

Now Wolfenstein… Funny thing, Wolfenstein. The checkpointing is indeed worlds ahead of Airborne‘s. My initial rage was quickly mollified, as I realized that the game’s super-powers are designed to let you breeze through any reloaded encounters. Seriously, once you’ve died in a room, or been defeated by an unexpected rush or grenade, you know exactly what to do. Hit the “time slow down” key, turn the corner, and waste those Nazis. Even the game’s highly derivative “invisible ninja” enemies can be foiled with a shock-wave power that turns them into statues of ash.

Actually, these ninja guys deserve a little censure. Remember Fear 2 (ok, you three, listen up)? It had amazingly scary, tightly made levels and enemies, and a great shooting/bullet-time mechanic. After Max Payne, it’s the only game to get this thing right, to make it feel really fun, where every other game fails (including Wolfenstein). It also, in both of its Monolith incarnations, featured super-fast invisible techno-ninjas. In the hospital level of Wolfenstein, these guys appear. Sure, they’re wearing smocks and don’t have funny tubes sticking out of them (the gassy super-soldiers grabbed that art asset), and they chuckle in a super-corny way, but they’re the same guys. Except they don’t hop around the walls and attack you in the dark, making them boring. Instead, they appear out of nowhere (below your field of vision, often) and kill you in two hits. It would be annoying, but for two things: hitting that bullet-time/shockwave thing fries them instantly, and you can kill them very easily if you restart and know where they are.

Which kind of sums up what I like about Wolfenstein. It may be derivative in every single way possible, but it never makes playing hard. No, bizarrely, it was designed to facilitate player progression. It’s designed to make it fun and easy to play through the game’s levels. Which is just wrong, if you ask me. I want a game that irrationally, impossibly thwarts simple progression. I want a game that takes away my progress and rewards me with crushing, vicious boredom and failure.

As mentioned elsewhere, Wolfenstein really isn’t sure what to do with its world. It tries, from time to time, to be “scary.” The hospital level and the secret research lab levels (oh shit, spoiler!) both try to leverage the “scary hospital” and “scary monster test subjects” elements of Fear 2, respectively.  In fact, it is worth mentioning that the scary slavering test subject thingies are really ripped straight from Fear 2, along with the inviso-ninjas (although the slavering things are also ripped from Far Cry… I feel like this comic helps, in this situation). Regardless, any tension these levels might engender is quickly erased when you realize a few things: all characters, from friends to enemies have hilarious, MST3k-worthy dialogue, and they all recite of their dialogue as seriously as possible. Likewise, the scary ninja guys have this totally evil chuckle they emit, just before they stab you. I guess it’s supposed to be like an evil villain laugh? It sounds like they’re chuckling about Cheetos or Mountain Dew or something.

This kind of behavior runs throughout the game. As mentioned in a previous post, all of the Nazis have Boris and Natasha accents (they’re more amusing than your allies, almost). As opposed to Airborne‘s language appropriate yells (you know, “Schnell!”), these guys yell “Theeee Ameeerikaahhhner!” I missed my calling, I think I’d make a great 3rd banana Nazi voice actor. Bizarrely, it’s when it is flaunting all of its hilarious genre impossibilities and amusing cliches that the game wants to be taken the most seriously. Everyone is very serious about the “test subjects” and “secret experiments,” and all of the resistance fighters seem to think that they’re even more serious than Victor Lazlo ever was. Raven just can’t seem to make up its mind. This kind of ludicrous narrative is best aided by a plot and performances that know when to wink at the camera and when to play it straight. Wolfenstein seems to take perverse pleasure in doing everything backwards, playing up what should be serious, and sternly presenting the most laughable aspects of this version of Nazi terror.

In the end (as is so often the case with Raven), it doesn’t  really matter though. They cut through the shit that makes other games completely unbearable, at the most basic level, that of gameplay. I can make fun of their silly accents and their uninspired bits of design, but their game is 100% playable. It’s both strange and unfortunate that in the slew of games I’m playing today, Wolfenstein stands out as a shining example of how to to (some of) it right. Go Raven.

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Oh, the Cleverness of Me

Posted by deckard47 on August 27, 2009

That’s a misleading title up there. Really, I just wanted to link you to a very cool article over at GameCritics.com. What, I’ve never linked to them? Silly me. Now I will.

Alex Raymond has a great post up over there about the commodification of sex in our society (although that’s just the setup), and how sex is depicted in video games. It’s great, and it focuses on problems that are obvious to a lot of people (I hope), in Mass Effect and Alpha Protocol. Although, I think we can all agree that when it comes to sex, Alpha Protocol looks like Bill O’Reilly when compared to Mass Effect.

Second (and of much less import), I wanted to say that the blog has been getting a lot more traffic recently. I’ve no idea why (I’m lazy with my stat-tracking), but I wanted to thank the new people who have been regularly showing up over the past two months. It’s incredibly gratifying and awesome to know that people besides me and Owen (and those courageous, early adopters) read the blog. Please stand by for the announcement of special, Delayed Responsibility subscribers-only rewards. Rewards of friendship dolars. Maybe.

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A bit of This and That

Posted by deckard47 on August 27, 2009

I’ve been tardy with the posting (I’d apologize, but I feel like we know each other well enough for an apology to be both redundant and pointless) lately. I can only blame myself (too much Race to the Galaxy, online and off), and a two-day wedding I recently attended. Good times, but not, as you might expect, gaming times. But now. Now things are different.

I’ve been committing the unfortunate sin of starting lots of games and thennot finishing them. DoW 2 and Company of Heroes? Unfinished. In their place, I’ve started up Planescape Torment (excellent, I’ve already earned most of my experience points from talking to people. You know, about life and death and stuff), the new Wolfenstein (bad, and not in the good “bad” way), Medal of Honor Airborn (good, in a very well-made and tense, yet curiously uncreative way), and soon, Champions Online. Bah.

So, before I accidentally go into another communications blackout, I have my impressions of recent games, exciting games, for you.

Most recently (and briefly), there was the WET demo. The name is dumb. Yep. It’s silly, it allows bad, dumb games sites to talk about “getting wet” and “splashing down” and other horrible, horrible things. This is not ok. The fact that the game stars Rubi, and she’s, you know, a lady, seems to lead these sites to the highly mistaken impression that their sub-human vocalizations are funny. Anyway, the demo is pretty cool. The shooting and sword-fighting seem alright, the movement and level design seem fun, and the music is kinda rocking, in a way 90% of game music isn’t, no matter how hardcore it is.

In fact, I’d say I was really excited about it, until Owen pointed out, quite sensibly, that he had no idea how they were going to spool this gameplay out for longer than a few hours. We’re talking Terminator Salvation length, here. Maybe he’s wrong, but I don’t know how long I can do this stuff before it gets old. It got old in Max Payne, but I enjoyed that game’s writing, because I’m a bit of a dork. As always, we’ll see. It’s coming out in about 2 weeks though, so I don’t have much time to think about it.

Champions Online hates me and won’t let me play. I’m not going to talk about it.

Wolfenstein is really, really bad. The main character’s name is B. J. Blazkowicz. He looks like a trollish version (more so) of Matt Damon from Bourne. Except in Bourne, Damon is always being all clever and shit, and this guy makes Red Faction’s Alex Mason look emotional and quick-witted. It’s hideous to watch scenes with him. This also means that all of the (hilariously-voiced) “European” villains and allies call you “Beeeeee-Jay!” No, no, no, to quote John Travolta. You’re not having any fun yet!

Aside from the repeated, accented requests for oral sex, the acting and writing is awful. It’s a bunch of crap about ghost Nazis and shady ethnic (European-ethnic) allies, and it’s less coherent than the third Mummy movie. You’ll get a mild form of Mad Cow disease just from watching the opening in-game cutscene, where one man with an American accent and one mand with a “British” accent give Beeeeee-Jay some incomprehensible expository dialogue. Why bother, guys? Even the best bad/genre movies are adroit at communicating their McGuffin plots, so that they can get to te effective genre-exploitation. This is not that kind of entertainment. It’s not even smart enough to laugh at itself.

Oh, and the gameplay. Guns handle in a depressingly static way. You can upgrade them and this will make them more effective (and silenced. Who cares about silencers. You’re fighting Nazi-demon-ghost-zombies), but they’re still boring and completely uninteresting. Your super-powers are uninspired, and they’re horribly introduced. At first, I died while using my Veil sight (think a kind of vision that allows you to do that Geordi “I can walk through walls” trick), because I reverted back into realspace while still in a wall. Now, this is kind of a cool idea, because we all no how cool it is when you re-materialize halfway out of a wall. It looks sweet!

What it really means is, go back to the last checkpoint. Oh yeah. Checkpoints. What fucking year is it. Checkpoints? You know what guys? Checkpoints don’t “make the difficulty higher and more rewarding,” or something else equally bullshit. They make you play back over parts of the game you’ve already mastered and don’t want to see again. In this case, they make you play back over a bad gam you don’t like. That stupid Nazi shaman guy who blinked everywhere and took forever to kill, despite the fact that he never shot me once? I don’t want to deal with him again. I stopped enjoying meaningless, padded gameplay hours when I went back for my first key card in Dark Forces. I’m not 10 anymore. Stop pretending this is “good design” and admit that it’s lazy.

This reminds me. Medal of Honor: Airborne. A well-made game. A game that makes me hate the lazily, falsely “emergent” endless bad guy trip-wire method of level population somewhat less than did CoD4. A game whose RPG trappings feel better and more natural than Wolfenstein‘s. A game whose parachuting mechanic is almost completely useless and superfluous. It’s just well-made enough for me to ignore these things. It’s also a game whose checkpoints and absolutely un-fucking-forgiving difficulty almost made me quit last night. When I die because an invisible bad guy who spawned in on top of my own helmet pistol wips me for 10,000 points of damage in my weak spot, killing me instantly, I am not at all amused. When I have to go back 20 minutes of play and carefully inch my way back to the front (which is fun), I do not appreciate that same soldier’s identical damn invisible twin doing the same thing to me, in a house accross the road. It’s bad design, and it’s so terribly, blatantly transparent, it ruins what would be a good game for me. I’ll keep trying, but for now, I’n not terribly excited about going back to the game.

Hmmmm. Time to chill out. Planescape: Torment then. Since my Nameless One is a badass at conversation (16 INT, 16 WIS, and 16 CHA, thank you very much), he sucks at combat. As such, he and Mort are regularly murdered by HiveDwelling gangsters. Still, I just had a cool conversation with a guys about regrowing trees in the Hive, and earned some experience by convincing a woman not to rob me, since I’m so intelligent. What a badass game. I also installed all of the fixes and mods from the comunity, so it now runs at a viewable resolution. No more hurty eyes!

For now, I think that’s it. I’m trying to get back into Red Faction: Guerrilla, so I can finish it (I know. Bad Tom!), because Owen has already bought and beaten the DLC. Also, we’re waiting for EA/Bioware to unscrew the PC version of Pinnacle Station DLC. Seriously Bioware. I like paying you for things. It makes me happy to pay you for things that make me happy. Don’t make it hard for me to pay your for things, or play the things I pay for. It doesn’t make sense for anybody. Ok, enough of this. Must work.

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Tormented…

Posted by deckard47 on August 22, 2009

Yes, for the first time, I’m playing Planescape: Torment. I had to fiddle with the resolution a bit, because in its original form,  it hurt my eyes. Now, I’m wandering the mortuary, opening desks and the like. It’s interesting, to see this and compare to it to other Infinity engine games. Some things are the same (certain sounds and voices, I think), while other things are refreshingly different from the BG/IWD mold I’m so familiar with.

So far, the pathfinding is absolutely atrocious (although it is an Infinity Engine game, so what exactly was I expecting?), the Nameless One gets his ass kicked in combat a lot, and I really like the journal entries and most of the writing. Amusingly, he insists on saying “journal updated” whenever he writes in it… I’m using it to annoy Owen.

I’ve died once already, which (aside from returning me to my mortuary slab) resets a lot of the people I’ve killed. Strange. I guess I’ll post more later, but for now, it’s interesting, and hopefully the story and characters will kick off soon. Journal Updated!

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Episode 2, Round 2

Posted by deckard47 on August 16, 2009

So this is the second time I’ve finished Half Life 2: Episode 2, although this time I did it on a computer that did the game justice. It is (as it was the first time) quite a pretty game, and while some things don’t hold up and show their age a bit. Still, overall it’s an amazing game, every single bit of it. Playing it again, I was strongly struck by the things that affected me the first time round (whether I talked about it or not).

The first time you see the Hunters, they’re frightening, and they punctuate their sneaky, abrupt appearances by almost killing Alyx. When you fight them for the first time, they are fast, vicious, and aided by Valves catchy, propulsive techno soundtrack. Fighting them is exhilarating in a way most video game enemies can’t catch up to. Likewise, the final defensive battle is a tense, just-long-enough battle of attrition (and yes, I got “Neighborhood Watch” this time through!) that ill prepares you for the game’s final moments. About those [SPOILER. Stop now, this is your last fucking warning, go play the game already]. It’s still well-written, it’s still moving, and the game’s forced perspective and the restraints the advisors place on you are still incredibly effective devices. They telegraph this last move a good deal, what with Eli and Gordon’s “conversations,” but I don’t think I expected it quite as much the first time round. So, good job Valve, as I think I said the first time. This game makes me incredibly envious, thinking about the kind of awesome people and environment that made this game. This all deserves another post, a special, HL2: Ep. 2 post, but for now, let me say that this is the best thing I’ve played since I played it last.

Also, I think it’s nice that this is one of the first games that I’m writing about now that I wrote about then (when the blog first went up). It feels properly cyclical, as if I’ve finally been around long enough to have my own history. Lucky I spend so much time thinking about myself, right?

So here’s to Ep. 2. Until the next one, I doubt there will be a game I play that impresses its own extreme quality and competency upon me in the same way. Excellent.

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GoG is Amazing

Posted by deckard47 on August 12, 2009

And I’ve never purchased a game from them, despite getting in on the beta ASAP way back when. But I was going through their “community suggestions” section, a place where we get to vote on what game we want them to re-release next. There’s lots of cool games, many of which I haven’t played and want to play. But then I saw this:

Star Trek: The Next Generation Interactive Technical Manuel

You can bet your ass I added my name to the list of excited gamers waiting in line. I didn’t even know this existed. As a person who owned copies of a lot of these manuals (in fact our house always had two, since Owen would buy them first), the TNG manual was always my favorite. This is so cool. I’d recommend going to their site and checking out the page. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t add your name to various games, increasing the chance of a re-release. After all, System Shock, its sequel, and Planescape: Torment, are up there in the top three. I haven’t played a single one of those games, and I really should.

Of course, the list of “wanted games” also reveals some horrible truths. For instance, people want both James Pond and James Pond 2. Really? People also want a lot of the Army Men games. There are more people want the Army Men games than there are that want Zeno Clash, hilariously. Still, there are a lot great games out there waiting for GoG to pick them up, so get voting.

[edit] Oh my God, they have Chex Quest 2. And Chex Quest 3. I need to go sit down. I didn’t know there was more than one of those games!

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Updates. Also, the Olyphant

Posted by deckard47 on August 10, 2009

A lot of little things to mention today, and one or two big things.

I’ll start by saying that I saw A Perfect Getaway yesterday. It was pretty good, both for a “genre film” (by the way, that’s  a silly fucking term), and for a murdery-thriller kind of movie. Everyone was good, except Milla Jojovich. I don’t know why she’s still in movies. I guess she was “hot” once (and that was pretty debatable), but now that she’s no longer new, people have to realize that she’s an incredibly inept and uninteresting actress. On the other hand, Timothy Olyphant was amazing, and proved once again that he is a really creepy dude. He just doesn’t move his upper body when he walks… He’s like a snake. Anyway, if you were planning on seeing some shit like GI Joe, Funny Peopl, or The Ugly Truth, this movie is about a hundred times better (and I haven’t seen most of those other movies!).

So, games. The Arkham  Asylum demo is indeed pretty slick, as most people have noticed. Of course, I don’t really care about Batman or his opponents (especially Rocksteady’s Harley Quinn. I’m sure she sells more copies of the game than would otherwise be possible, or something?), and the game’s “everyone is either a hulking muscle-bound monstrosity [I’m talking about Batman here] or a nurse/school girl/temptress” philosophy of character design is hilarious and annoying. Still, there’s cool combat, and leveling up. Those damn levels always get me! I need an some kind of tonic, or pill.

I’m finishing up the final Wallace and Gromit episode, and once again, Telltale has silenced me with their competent mediocrity. It’s just not that interesting, even less so than their Monkey Island game was. Ah, well. Things could be worse, I suppose. I could be playing a Wallace and Gromit platforming game in the spirit of Pitfall. That would actually be funny.

Of course, I have to return to Company of Heroes and Dawn of War II. In CoH I’m just now getting to the “Blood Road” SP mission (or whatever), and I failed miserably on my first try. As always with this game, it’s quite apparent what I’m doing wrong. The hard part (predictably) is how to fix that what. Right now, I’m not micro-managing my armor  enough, leading to slow attrition (unforgivable, when I have some amazing armor Commander skills that instantly replenish my tanks when they are destroyed).

Likewise, I’m still using my infantry poorly, throwing them into difficult situations that always end up going the Axis’ way. Really, I’m just playing sloppily. I know that certain situations require certain responses (an occupied house and mortar team combo is best dealt with by a tank assault on the house and a sniper for the mortar guys, for instance), but I’m often too lazy to martial the proper forces. Often, I’ll send in troops who are closest, not best for the job.

In multiplayer, I’ve explored all three of the command trees. The air drop infantry tree is by far the most user friendly. The armor tree is difficult to implement, and often leads to swift German MG rushes and Panzer blitzes, which always fell me.

Of course, amid all of these fuck-ups, I’m still discovering amazing strategies that are a lot of fun. It’s great (in the early and mid game), for instance, to plop a camouflaged sniper down near a pair of capture points.The enemy will mostly send infantry to take the points, and they never see my sniper coming. Likewise, there’s nothing like leaving a lone MG and AT crew on one side of a river to hold back the early tank/infantry assaults.

I’ve yet to play as anybody but the US, but I’ve also read that the British are made for turtling (smartly). Sounds like my kind of thing.

DoW II is starting to falter, with only 5 missions left before the finale. Mostly, this is because I’ve reached the level max for two of my characters. It’s sad, to realize that the real reason I’ve been playing is to level up; it’s not for the loot, and it’s certainly not for the story. Right now, CoH seems to have a more compelling campaign, simply because it makes you change your strategy from mission to mission, with different loadouts, enemies, and landscapes. Honestly, I’d be happy if both of these games got sequels, but I’d ask for CoH 2 first. Weird, huh?

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Company of Heroes Impressions / Revisiting Dawn of War

Posted by deckard47 on August 5, 2009

So, as part of my “bleeding money out of my face” strategy, I picked up the Relic Super Pack (CoH and expansion, DoW and first two expansions) from Steam. I’m single-handedly keeping those fuckers in gold plated cars. They have such delicious sales.

Company of Heroes is, unsurprisingly (and in a welcome way) the bridge between Dawn of War and Dawn of War 2. It’s more of an RTS than DoW 2, but it’s much more tactical and precise, as opposed to DoW‘s Starcraft-like “fire everything!” gameplay (Chiwetel Ejiofor reference!). Your squads can level up and become veterans (although maybe your guys in DoW can do this too?), and you can upgrade them with various new weapons, abilities, and items, much like in DoW. Having played both DoW and CoH recently, it’s safe to say that CoH feels a lot better.

Which reminds me. A while back, Tom Chick said that after playing Red Faction: Guerrilla, playing other games with big areas and explosives (Just Cause, GTA IV, etc) felt fake and wrong. This is exactly how I feel about not being able to aim my troops in different directions. It’s so simple, clicking to order a move, and then dragging in the direction you want the unit to face. Maybe it’s been done before, but this is the first time I’ve seen it. It makes even the simplest infantry move seem tactical. And when you’re moving the big, slow-aiming units, it’s extremely important. Once tanks get introduced, the direction they’re facing becomes one of the most important things in a mission. It makes the second-to-second activity of the game feel more important and decisive, and it does it effortlessly. I’m not learning some horribly complicated new way of approaching combat. I’m just realizing that, yes, it’s important which way that guy is facing.

Equally impressive (to me, at least) is the fact that I like the look and feel of the world Relic has created. Comparing DoW and CoH (and even DoW 2), you’d think I’d prefer the Warhammer titles’ look and feel, just because they’re set in a colorful, vibrant universe. Instead, CoH has created a WW 2 landscape so detailed and beautiful (it looks almost as good as DoW 2), it’s as entertaining, if not more so, than its extraterrestrial counterparts. Of course, it helps that DoW took place on nondescript ice/grass/desert/industrial planets, and DoW 2 takes place on highly detailed, beautiful desert and jungle planets. I’m not sure how battle-scared northern France seems more original and beautiful than lush alien jungles, that that is how I feel about it right now.

Of course, I’m still struggling a bit with the RTS part of CoH. I’m not great at managing lots of guys, and even my mission to clear a road of German patrols and troops was tough. I was (as always) turtling along, killing everything slowly, until I hit the last pocket of German troops. My riflemen (who were upgraded with heavy weapons) got completely screwed by the German defenses, and I had to mortar the defenses from a distance, waiting for more paratroopers to drop in. I’ve got the hang of the mortar crew, the MGs (with their wonderful cones of fire), anti-tank guns, and other special weapons, but I have trouble managing my basic rifle units. I’m always babysitting them, since they always either a) sit too far away and don’t fire enough, or b) move up close and get shredded. I think I’m handling them wrong, but we’ll see.

I’m excited to pick up some tanks (soon?), along with some units better dedicated to armor-destruction. really, any vehicles at all would be cool.

As for Dawn of War, it’s sadly been overshadowed by its own sequel and by CoH. It’s like a combination of the two, but both of those games are better at what they do than DoW is. I’m still curious about all of the races it has, but it’s single player is not nearly as interesting as the SP in DoW 2 and CoH. Maybe the multiplayer (which is what I loved when I first played the game years ago) will still have something to it?

[on a side note, it’s amazing when modern games don’t have widescreen support. I know DoW came out a while ago, but it still annoys me]

All in all, these are really good games. It amazes me, how much Relic is doing with the RTS genre. Blizzard, the “master” of RTSs, is producing Starcraft 2, a game that couldn’t look more uninventive and stunted if it tried. Relic does interesting new things with the genre every time they make a new game. I know Blizzard has to worry about competitive Starcraft players killing them if the game isn’t “just right,” but they’re being left behind by Relic. From Homeworld to Impossible Creatures (a game I loved to death, for many reasons, one of them being the ability to create a unit called the “Wolvery Owl.” Fuck yeah) to DoW 2, these guys have shown that they’re inventive, smart, and willing to take risks. I’m excited for their action-RPG, Space Marine (although the irony of that title when viewed alongside the heroes of so many video games is intense), and for whatever else they have in the works. My vote? Awesome RPG-campaigns for the Orks, Eldar, and Tyranids in DoW2. That would be so sweet.

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Leveling Up, When Possible

Posted by deckard47 on August 3, 2009

In honor of my most recent obsession, Dawn of War 2, I wanted to write something about the games that have tickled that part of me that really enjoys collecting points (experience points, mostly). This isn’t going to be a post about CRPGs in the most traditional (for me) sense. I’m sure I could write a lot about Bauldur’s Gate (my first real experience with such games, outside of tabletop D&D) and the games that followed it, but I’m interested in games that managed to work in this delicious mechanic without wearing that big, elf-ridden “RPG” stamp.

We’ll get to DoW 2 eventually, but I wanted to start with some older titles, ones whose RPG tricks didn’t stand out to me at the time.

On of the oldest is, of course, Dungeon Keeper (which predates BG, now that I think about it). Now, it’s not exactly like the game hid its RPG aspects. I mean, you could train your monsters in the training room, and they would level up and gain new abilities. Not subtle at all. Read the rest of this entry »

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Impressions: The Real God of Waaaaaar

Posted by deckard47 on August 3, 2009

I know, I know, why can’t I leave poor little Kratos alone? Wait. I am the God of Waaar! Sorry. I got carried away. I’m just so excited.

Dawn of War 2 is fucking sweet. I know I’m just a bit late to this one, but I tried the demo out back in the day, realized that even at basement settings, my MBP couldn’t run it, and decided to wait until I had a system that could do it justice. Such a system now resides in my living room. Enter the Blood Ravens. It looks pretty damn good, although I don’t know how it stacks up against other big name RTSs. Then again, since the only other names out there as big as Relic are busy working on their super-sexy Starcraft sequel, I don’t honestly care. When you play this game, it’s almost comical how much Blizzard stole from Warhammer 40K. I’m not saying this to be mean. Everybody steals from everyone else in the land of video games. It makes generic fantasy novels look like the New fucking Wave. But, I mean… Tyranids and Eldar. Jeez, they seem familiar, don’t they?

Now that I’m done being snide, what do I think (besides the aforementioned sweetness) of this new Dawn of War? I think it’s the best RTS I’ve ever played, and that’s mostly because it’s barely an RTS. Instead of the average-RTS campaign offered in the original DoW, this game offers one shorter campaign where you play as several squads of Blood Ravens. Remember those annoying  in-building missions of Starcraft? It’s like those mixed with Diablo. You level up your squads (in, I must say, the most delicious leveling mechanic I’ve experienced this year), you pick up items (and sell them for XP!), kill guys for experience and listen to your grizzled veterans try to sound surprised when (oh no!) the Tyranids totally start ruining their shit. The story is absolutely standard, and the acting is just about right for it. No one’s winning any stars here, except for the writers, who manage to populate a game with grizzled marines while simultaneously not using the word “fuck” every 5 seconds. They must be using some kind of wicked magic over there at Relic.

You can only have 4 squads under your control at any time, but so far I have regular marines, my kickass melee commander (who I want to start over as a ranged character… I’m hopeless), some heavy weapons guys, snipers, jump jet guys, and a mech. The gang’s all here, although I guess I’m missing some of the actual tanks that were in the original, as well as some magical guys? I tried a multiplayer skirmish against an easy computer, and it owned me. I’m sure if I meet people online they will destroy me, so I’ll hold off on that as long as possible. I really need to stop, because once again I’m neglecting more official gaming activities. Oh well. I’m sure the campaign will end soon, and then I’ll actually have to learn how to play the real game, and stop turtling around the SP maps in my horrible skulking ways. Rough times.

Of course, this makes me want to go back and check out the games of theirs that I missed, especially the Company of Heroes games. I’m really interested to see what the midway point between the first Dawn of War and the second is, gameplay-wise. I’d be willing to bet that I would really like it, what with the upgrading and cover-finding and stuff, until it became apparent that I was playing a real RTS, and I quit in fear. I’ll probably try it anyway.

More on Dawn of War 2 soon, I expect, although I also want to learn how to play Race to the Galaxy. And Stone Age, which just arrived in its awesome box. Excellent.

PS: Steam lists GTA IV as an “adventure game.” Ha.

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