Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Star Wars: The Old Republic - Session 1, Part 2/3

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Star Wars: The Old Republic - Session 1, Part 1/3

During the recent Beta Testing weekend, I took to the Academy as a Sith Warrior. These are my first steps into the new LucasArts MMORPG.

Sorry my voice is so quiet. I will endeavor to fix that problem in the future.

Hands-On Preview – Crusader Kings II

** Originally posted on **
Paradox Interactive is one of those game companies which can really appeal to some gamers. With their often intricate gameplay, rich political worlds, and clean macro- and micro-level strategy, proponents could sink days at a time into Paradox’ titles. Crusader Kings II is no exception.
Having beautiful visuals, epic music, and the most menus I have ever seen in a real-time strategy game, the game invokes a feeling similar to King of Dragon Pass. Loading this up for the first time, I felt like I was being transported back to a time when PC games were very distinctly not console games. Having said that, I stand firmly in the percentage who don’t enjoy their games as much as others could.
Crusader Kings II is a menu-driven, pauseable, real-time strategy game based on the Middle Ages during the time of the first crusade all the way through to the third. Realizing what it was, my eyes immediately glazed over as I began to expect a long lecture in a droning monotone. The game doesn’t quite deliver on that front, but there isn’t any changing that fundamental, titular basis.
I was bored to tears during the first hour of play as I struggled with the steep learning curve of the game, as well as my total lack of knowledge about the subject matter. Selecting only the very easiest historical figure to play with, (a long process in itself, as there are seemingly endless dynasties to start with,) I began my history lesson. There was a lot of guesswork as I tried to marry people off to neighbouring dynasties. My bid for filial bonds between myself and some of the other powerful countries was met with total denial unless I agreed to marry way under my station. I did enjoy having the power to end plots to end my life, which were propagated by my own vassals, by simply demanding that they do and then marrying them off to some low-life courtier who resides halfway around the world, thereby getting rid of them and the problem pretty thoroughly. Getting more into the career of my dynasty, I began to succeed in blending my blood into a rival faction, hoping to gain power in their houses and eventually usurp their leaders, replacing their rule with my own. That didn’t quite work in the way I imagined, and I ended up losing the game very quickly. After three similar dismal failures, I honestly began to hate the basic game.
The visuals are pretty stunning, I must admit. The map is so huge and highly detailed that the game seems more a container for the interactive cartography than a surface upon which the game is played. The mountain ranges and other topographical features serve to texturize and flesh out the look of the game. I have spent a long time just flipping through the county status screens, which are accessed via this beautiful map. The menus themselves are also very pretty. Using retro-style portraits for each individual character is a nice touch, you will never see one used twice for any of the adults, (the children are all standardized male or female “child” avatars though.)
This game’s sound deserves some note. The music is very epic and deserves the highest rating it could possibly be given. Sitting there for hours, clicking through menus without much attachment to what I was doing, the music made the game playable for me. The sound effects seemed jarring and tinny when played alongside the music, and listening to that blend of sound was a little like having braised striploin and Kraft Dinner for supper. Clicking through the character selection screen will play a single harp note, multiple clicks reveal a song being played. I spent a good, long time clicking through this menu rhythmically until I was satisfied that this is one of the best functions in the entire game.
The gameplay was a deep, menu-driven experience. It suits the style of the game, though I was constantly wishing there was more action to be had. The game is paced slowly and can actually be paused to issue commands and react when news of war or plots pops up on screen, enabling you to react instantaneously to anything. The steep learning curve could be off-putting for new players, but may actually appeal to Paradox Interactive’s more dedicated users. The amount of characters, counties, and titles might be daunting for anyone other than a History major or an eidetic memory and a Wikipedia account.
Given how good the music and the visualization of the world are, as well as how little fun I actually had while playing this game. I give it a 6 out of 10.
Big thanks to for the pre-release copy of the game.

Friday, November 25, 2011

New Video Up!

Raven & Mandy 5 - In which we dig.. Forever

New texture pack! New everything!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Magicka Receives Massive Engine Overhaul

** Originally posted on **
magicka wizards and title

 Paradox Interactive have recently announced that Magicka, their spell-slinging action-adventure title, will be receiving a massive tech update. This free, downloadable patch will eradicate several off-putting annoyances as well as improve how the game actually plays.
Full details for what is featured in the game engine update:
• Fairy familiar added, revives characters after death occurs in solo campaign
• Checkpoints now save progress even if game is quit
• Chapter select added to replay previously played chapters
• Several improvements to the server browser
• Physics and collision detection improved – less falling through the floor
• Frame rate stuttering – should be less noticeable for some users
• Extended particle system with particle lights
• Improved light performance
• Several minor bug fixes, game balance, and tweaks “
-Paradox Interactive
As can be seen, the improvements range from dramatic, (being able to resurrect yourself in the middle of a level,) to very minute, (tiny tweaks which I would never have noticed in my adventures.) All in all, this is going to be the largest update since the game’s release, and it couldn’t come sooner.
This announcement come hot on the heels of a new DLC package entitled The Stars Are Left. This new DLC, satirizing both Lovecraft’s venerable Cthulhu mythos as well as Mojang’s cult beta Minecraft, is something I have been waiting for with bated breath.
The features of The Stars Are Left include:
  • New Adventure levels with the titular theme being featured in each
  • New challenge maps
  • New boss battles and enemies
  • New items and magick sequences

Standard fare as far as Magicka DLC goes, but they haven’t disappointed me yet, this should be amazing. Honestly, if you’re a self-professed armchair wizard and have not picked up this gem, then you are missing out.
All in a day’s work for Paradox Interactive. Thank you for such apt timing!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Rise of Immortals Acquires European Servers

** Originally posted on **

In a recently press release, Petroglyph unveiled that they are taking Rise of Immortals to a more global scale.

In response to rising player demand in Europe, Petroglyph recently deployed new server hardware in its London data center, thereby significantly reducing server ping times to the UK, Germany, the Russian Federation, Poland, and other European regions. “

The statement goes on to say that European players will still be able to access North American servers and vice-versa, as no character is bound to any particular server. Rather, players join via an auto-connect function at the beginning of each game which selects the lowest ping time from a list of available servers. This allows for regional populations to play together, trending the likelihood that people close to their local servers will have the lowest ping time, but players will be automatically redirected when a server experiences downtime.

Petroglyph calls Rise of Immortals a Free-to-Play Multiplayer Online Battle Arena game with RPG elements, a F2P MOBARPG if you will. Free-to-Play meaning that the basic game is free of cost to everyone, but Petrogyph draws profit from a series of microtransactions that may occur in-game if the player wishes to expand their experience. MOBA is a style of Realtime Strategy gaming which draws heavily on the success of a particular Warcraft 3 map called Defence of the Ancients. The RPG elements involved include persistent experience earned towards levelling up each Immortal individually and a skill tree.

Features of Rise of Immortals:
• Free-to-play
• 14 unique Immortals, with additional Immortals released on a regular basis
• Persistent per-Immortal level progression and skill trees 
• Persistent artifacts for stat enhancements
• Player versus Environment instances with boss encounters
• Player versus Player instances with up to 5v5 multiplayer
• Player versus Bot instances with up to three-person cooperative play
• Persistent experience and leveling in both PvP and PvE instances
• Account and Immortal statistics tracking
• Player hub instances for socialization

Rise of Immortals can be found on PC.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Lazy Impressions: Gears of War

** Originally posted on **

I’ve gotten Gears of War for the Xbox 360 recently. Not the new one, but the oldest version you can possibly buy on the free market: Gears of War 1. This is a pattern with me, I will overlook a series until it comes full circle and joins the halls of the great trilogies, then I will recognize the series as something worth checking out, and finally begin the descent into whichever universe has captured my attention. I mostly attribute this phenomenon to my general laziness.. Anyway, I’ve gotten Gears of War recently.
I’m honestly not a big fan of the genre, so please take this article with a grain of salt, but this game sticks out for me as one of the better ones. The reasons why I don’t like this kind of game are plentiful: The machismo doesn’t appeal to me; the blind, senseless killing; the facelessness or de-characterization of the enemy; the narrow range of view; the recycled, ineptly written storylines; etc, etc. There are so many ways I could pick the entire genre apart, though instead I’m going to focus on how this particular title rises above the rest.
The Locust are your enemy. They are alien and faceless, but they are interesting. They’ve come from under the ground and don’t fit into any of the archetypes you find in literature about aliens. I suppose they’re not really aliens at all, but they are very, very strange. Seemingly made up partly of clay, mechanical parts, and human bits with an exoskeletal casing. They seem to stagger under their own weight and the weight of their enormous guns. This last point is simply part of the universe though, since the human Gears also look genetically engineered to be able to lift buses.
gears of war box art
The universe in Gears is gritty. Not slick, nor shiny like a few FPS I could name, everything seems crafted for war, even the people. The Locust and the Gears are pock-marked, scarred, seeming to belong to one another, though their conflict is one fuelled by blind hatred and genocide. I can only imagine the heartbreak on Emergence Day (the day that the Locust first sprang from the ground,) when Seran civilization fell. The survivors on this world adapting from life-as-we-know-it to military rule as a means to see another sunrise. Gears of War seems to successfully capture the visceral feel of an invasion of a once beautiful planet.
The environments are beautiful. The crumbling, Roman-esque architecture of Sera, dotted with future detail and symbology, is a pretty playground for the Locust. The levels run through piazzas and overgrown courtyards that naturally compliment the strategy of the Locust. That is until Delta Team goes underground and your environment becomes a drab, grey-brown experience in which the Locust stick out like sore thumbs. The Gears seem to belong more to the underground environment than the Locust do. Up to that point it’s a very attractive looking game.
This kind of game always lends itself well to multiplay, and Gears is no exception. While I don’t play much competitive, firefight-style games, I’m always down for co-op campaign gaming. The co-op campaign is exactly the same as the single-player campaign. Your characters are always in the story, interacting in the same ways even if Dom (read: P2) is controlled by the second player. The fear and panic that two people feel as they come up against insurmountable odds is binding and I wouldn’t change that about Gears. I’m happy that they kept that 2-player format throughout the series, rather than increasing the amount of player characters that can be busting heads at once. This is going to be a bit of fun.
So, having ripped the genre, and putting Gears of War on a pedestal amidst the detritus, I feel it deserves a play-through. If I, a self-professed critic of macho firefight gaming, can get so much enjoyment from this franchise, then I think it should be on everyone’s radar. I hope that Epic Games releases more titles in the franchise and expands on the existing storyline in the future.

Monday, November 7, 2011

DC Universe Online Now Free To Play

** Originally posted on **

On November 2011, after a short 11 month stint of a strict subscription-based business model, Sony Online Entertainment has eagerly adopted a tiered free-to-play system for their fierce physics-based MMORPG, DC Universe Online. Executive Producer Lorin Jameson stated, on the SOE Gamer podcast, that this change "...will allow everyone an opportunity to figure out where they want to be, and how they want to pay for it." When asked why he thought the change was necessary, Lorin added that he wanted players to be able to get involved in the game without commitment, to test the waters.

Following a trend of subscription-based MMOs going F2P, including such ongoing games such as Lord of the Rings Online and Anarchy Online, DCUO joins the ranks of good games which simply cannot compete against Blizzard's beast, World of Warcraft. Subscription can still be bought in various packages, but SOE is also adding two new tiers of commitment for people who are not willing to put up the monthly fee. There is a limited free-to-play format which will give you 2 character slots, a limited inventory, and access to all of the core areas not included in the DLC packages. There is also a Premium tier, which sits comfortably between the subscription and F2P levels, and includes more inventory and character slots, as well as access to other varied in-game privileges. After spending $5 on the game, players are automatically upgraded from Free to Premium. This includes players who have once been subscribed and have let their subscription lapse into dormancy.

Microtransactions have arisen in the game. A player can access the in-game store and buy items, equipment, character slots, inventory slots, and even DLC with credit purchased with real-life currency. The online store is also available for this purpose, and can take various payment options which does not include turning your hard-earned cash into DC credits.

There is some contention around whether this trend of subscription-based MMORPGs going F2P is actually a good thing or not. Personally, I am glad of the conversion, because through it I have found a good game that I wouldn't have been likely to pay for. I'm not a DC fan, not a comic book fan, nor an action-MMO fan, but the experience flying high above Gotham City and having shootouts with goody-goody heroes is definitely worth my time.

Download this game on PC and PS3 for free. Large content download required.