Monday, December 28, 2009

Everyone Loves A Sequel

This year has been full of amazing game sequels. And what's even better is that unlike movies, video games tend to improve with each installment. Now looking forward to the upcoming year, there is even more to prepare oneself for. The question is, how prepared are you for your sequel ?

There are some things you should be aware of before you dive into the latest franchise release. You may not want to play the game at all if you haven't played the first or previous game. Video games are becoming more and more story driven. Mass Effect is a game that really is not that special or amazing. There is some shooting and puzzle solving, but the story is phenomenal. Other games have followed suit, so be aware that playing the first game in a series like this is almost essential to enjoy the sequel. Ask a friend (or your friendly blogger) about a certain game if you are unsure.

When it comes to first-person shooters, just go for it. The single player campaigns usually have very weak story lines that are not memorable. You play as any variety of fighter and you kill the bad guys. The only exception to this rule is the Halo series. But don't worry, you can pick up any Halo game and really enjoy the game play without knowing the details of the story. In almost any case, your FPS games can be sifted through without worry. Just point and shoot. Classic fun.

Even if you have played the first or previous game, read up before you buy the sequel. Games designers are beginning to reward their loyal, diehard players with extra bonuses. The best example of this is Mass Effect. If you rank your character up to a level 60, you will have special privileges when Mass Effect 2 comes out as long as you use the same hard drive. This is becoming more common and is a really nice reward for the avid gamer. So if you want out of the ordinary perks, see if there are challenges you can complete the first time around that will help you when you start round two.

If you have already played the sequel but not the first game, be aware, the original may not be as much fun. Let me guess, you enjoy the story, loved the game play and salivated over the graphics. Well, you are now going to experience your very own crap lousy time machine. When sequels come out, they have usually fixed things. Glitches are gone, controls are easier, and the graphics are always better. So do not expect the same experience. The best example of this is Assassin's Creed 1 and 2. I personally played the second game first. It blew my mind and consumed my life. But a buddy of mine warned, the first game will frustrate you. He was right. The jumps and movements of the character were far less fluid. The controls were tricky. The graphics were still good but less impressive. I'm glad I played it, I just wish I had played them in order.

The bottom line is that you should do your research. See what the original game was like if you haven't played it. If you have, get yourself ready and refreshed for round two. And remember, that anytime you go back to the launch game, don't expect the exact same thing. Any game can seem crappy once you have experienced the satisfaction of its newer, upgraded offspring.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Come on baby, light my fire

You need to come light it, because Torchlight certainly didn't.

Ok - in defense of this game I am writing this review after spending only about an hour in play. So I can't exactly review it 100% accurately, but I'll go off of my 2 levels of experience in the Torchlight dungeons. There is a free demo, so if you are interested I encourage you to download and play it.

Story: 6/10 ZOMG There is evil afoot! As far as I can tell, there are bad guys overrunning the dungeons/mines/caves which hold a magical element that the people of the town of Torchlight make their living off of. This story has definitely never been done in an RPG. It's a good story line, just way...WAY...way over done. "Evil bubbles up from the depths and threatens to overrun this town as it has so many others. The heart of a villain has infused the Ember, and his darkness seeps through the veins. To survive, the townspeople must break the cycle of destruction; they need a champion who can destroy the evil at its root." (from the "About" section of the Torchlight website)

Graphics: 6/10 Again I feel like I keep having to defend this game because of my own faults, but I am not sure that my computer is up to speed? Maybe the graphics really just weren't that great. They seemed really blocky to me.One kind of neat thing was that you can see the outline of bad guys through walls, and they have kind of a 3D-outline-esque look to them. This is a much appreciated addition to the game because of the stuck camera angle and the many, many walls of the dungeons (all basically linked hallways). If it weren't for this feature, I assume you would be getting constantly pwned by baddies you didn't even know existed.
The settings are really well executed. The mines have great textural elements, and the pathways are clearly marked. There's not much getting lost in this game. The map overlays on the center of your screen but it is not distracting. The photo above shows your key items menu and HP/MP meters. It's all very clear. Good thing - because there's basically zilch as far as tutorial. "Click to move. Hit tab to change your spell. Good luck!"

Sound: uhhh/10 I honestly can't remember if there's music. Obviously it's not annoying enough that it stuck with me, just pleasant background noise. The bad guys yell and make a general ruckus when you're slicing through them. There's voice acting for the spoken parts (which you can still click through if you read faster than they say it - love that!)

Gameplay: 4/10 I despised the controls for this game. It's click to move, click to pick up items, click to talk to on Amazon to buy a new mouse when you've played this game for more than 2 hours and your buttons are worn off. I desperately wanted to move my character with the keyboard and click to attack. The attacks are ridiculous though -- you just click click click. I felt like I was going insane. If a horde of baddies attacks it's just madness, and then I kept missing loot because you have to click on each item. Even when you open trunks. Very strange, if you ask me. I prefer the method where you click on the fallen enemy/trunk and a window pops up with the inventory.
Also character creation is extremely lacking. There are 3 classes: warrior, mage, archer. You do not get to customize your character in any way, other than to choose the class & if they have a dog or a cat as a pet. Sad! If you want to play as a girl, you're stuck as an archer. I played as a warrior. He was ok. I named him "Inigo."
When I was done playing through the dungeons I could not for the life of me figure out how to save and quit, so I just quit. I'm not sure if I log back in if I'll have to go back and replay everything I already did or if it auto-saves or what. Like I said, there is nothing as far as tutorial other than little quips on the loading screens. The help screen wasn't even very helpful. Oh well -- If I log back on and I have to replay what I've already done then I'll probably just uninstall.

Overall: 5/10 This is just an average game for me. It's got some high points, it's got some low. I am having the world's biggest brain fart, because I can't remember what game I used to play on console that this is exactly a rip of off (but the one I played was multiplayer..) but I'd just rather play that, to be honest. Admittedly I'm not much of a PC gamer, but it's all that darn clicking.

Buy/Rent: Download the demo if you're into the RPG Dungeon style games. It's definitely a game you could lose a lot of hours in. I recommended it to my husband, as he enjoys these type of games. If you like the demo, $20 for a game isn't much money at all. I wish I could tell you how many hours of gameplay you'll get out of your money, but I just didn't get that far. It was about an hour or so for me to start up and get through two levels of dungeon, so I would assume that it's going to offer quite a bit of gameplay. Also replayability as you can have a character of each class. Try it for yourself - let me know what you think!

And many thanks to my friend Jer for sending me the download of Torchlight. When I am hopelessly addicted to this game, despite my finding it sub-par, I will blame you.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Idiot's Guide to First Person Shooters

Playing a First Person Shooter (FPS) video game can be intimidating. When I first started gaming, I played almost exclusively RPGs and Strategy. But now that I'm all grown up, I have strapped on my big girl guns and taken on the world of Call of Duty. I've played with a lot a people from numerous countries and here are some of the tips and tricks that I picked up over the years. Had I known them in the beginning, I would probably be a much better player now. They are simple but obvious. Hopefully they help your game as much as they help mine.

1) Know your maps. Does it ever seem like people are just jumping out of nowhere and shooting you down ? It's because they know their surroundings. Take five minutes in a private lobby to run around the maps. Find stairwells, alleys, windows, sniping locations, and just the general feel of the map. You will know where to go take the defense or where they might be coming to prevent their offense. Even if you have something as simple as a random spawn point, it will be that much easier to find where you are at and get moving again.

2) If you can't find a safe spot, make your own. Getting spawn killed ? Drop a smoke grenade as soon as you respawn. You may die throwing it down, but at least the teammates behind you will have some cover to get out and find the player keeping you pinned down. Need to reload or deploy a time-consuming weapon ? Find a nice, covering bush or tall grass and go prone. Crouching in an obvious corner might be, well, obvious. They know you are hiding to control that AC-130 gunship, they are going to come and find you.

3) Reload, Reload, Reload. I cannot stress this one enough. So many times I have been spectating someone going in for an easy kill, but they forget to reload first. They go to shoot them in the back but only have three bullets left in the clip which isn't enough to kill the enemy. Problem is, while they reload, the enemy now knows where they are and are going to turn around and get the kill. Reload as often as you safely can. Safely. If you are in the middle of gunfire and your clip empties, do a quick drop to prone to finish loading your gun, pop back up and keep on gunnin'.

4) To aim or not to aim. Taking the time to pull up your gun and shoot down the sights will definitely increase your accuracy. Some maps are big and will allow you tons of time to get a shot off. But some maps have much tighter spaces and this is where your Close Quarters Combat (CQC) or "run 'n' gun" come in handy. Shooting without aiming can have its pros and cons. Shooting from the hip is much faster. You are far more likely to shoot first if you don't take the time to look down your sights. However, your accuracy is going to plummet. It's the spray and pray method. But overtime you can become more accurate with hip fire and greatly improve your game.

5) Know your weapons. If the map you are playing on is the size of three football fields, dont bring a shotgun. And it probably wont help to bring a sniper rifle into a tiny warehouse. If its a big map, carry a weapon that will succeed with some distance. If you can carry two guns, make one a ranged weapon and the second a pistol or something for up close. If it is a very small map, maybe an automatic weapon that has a high damage rating or even break out a shotty. And no matter what, dont forget to knife ! Sure it may be funny to shoot someone in the back of the skull, but once you take the shot you have given away your position to other players. Knives also come in handy when you are out of bullets or your running around in circles with them.

So those were just a few tips. They can be applied to almost an FPS game. I may do a section later with even more ridiculously obvious tips. But for now, this should be enough to get any player started on their road to FPS glory.