Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category
so. a year or so ago, i reviewed this passive web game called robowars. you guys may remember me talking about it.
so, recently, it was discovered by the robowars community. (you can see all the comments) in fact, yesterday they made a poll out of it where you can earn “scraps” (in game currency type stuff) for your robot if you take the poll.
well. of course, i did.
anyhow, apparently the community is saying that a lot of things have changed and i should check out the new version. sounds like a plan.
that’s what i love about all of these thin-client online games. fresh updates constantly — no big, clunky downloads.
some friends of mine and i are in the dungeon runners beta — and, it’s pretty cool. the game is entirely worth playing for two reasons:
- it’s crazy cheap (free or $5 a month)
- the “go to” feature.
the game is basically like a cross between dungeon siege (the controls) and diablo (the mechanics) with a few of the very most basic wow mmo features. it’s pretty much just bash the shit out of stuff and head back to town to sell your phat lewt.
tho, as we’re all only around level 8, we really don’t have much else to go on.
did i mention the “go to” feature already? yeah. it rocks.
all you do is right-click any of your group’s portraits (also, the groups are persistent — logged in or logged out. like a mini-guild.) and click “go to” to be instantly teleported to where they are. it’s all kinds of crazy-convenient. for me, i’m always lost (remind me to tell you about the time i got lost in an olive garden — yes, the restaurant.) so i just warp to my buddies wherever they happen to be. for our friend kameron, it’s all about warping into a fight to “help out.”
probably another feature i should mention — drops are all pre-owned. as in, you whack some badass mob, he drops 10 things, 5 are yours, 5 are your buddy’s. you can’t pick his stuff up. he can’t pick up yours. you can, however, pick it up and then drop it again and he has access to it. totally takes the stress out of worrying over group loot hogs.
pretty much, it’s a grinder’s game. it’s accessible. they took some of the most painful parts about group grinding and added some fun features to help.
that being said, the game is still skewed and off-balance. for example, the skill prices (you buy, not earn new skills — it’s a grinder’s game, remember?) don’t scale right. i’m a few xp short of a level 8 mage and i just now have enough gold to buy a level 2 spell.
it’s fun. it’s easy. it’s pretty pick-up, put-down. it won’t break the bank. it’s easy to draft along with your friends.
oh, and i should mention that it’s hella funny. as you walk away from a merchant after selling some stuff, he says “if you see a bitter woman, send ‘er over here!” from crazy weapon speed descriptions to “of the liger” suffixes for items, there’s some really pretty funny stuff in there.
i like it so far. it’s a keeper.
this may come as a shock to you guys, but i love all manner of games.
shocking! see? i told you!
i’m sure all of you guys have played moria or nethack or slash’em or whatever. i know i have. good stuff, but i could never really get into it too deeply. i’d make it a couple levels and have my hack-and-slash satiated. crawl, however, is rivoting.
in fact, my friend maeldron, fresh off the purchase of 2 copies of burning crusade (he’s a dual-boxer sometimes…) and with a week off from work to kill, played… yep, you guessed it. crawl. yeah. he hates me for that.
linley’s dungeon crawl is the very, very best roguelike out there. period.
tho, as much as we (all of us at sas) played it over the last two weeks (not me for this last week. i’ll get to that.), we find ourselves wishing that it was multiplayer. how sweet would that be? a roguelike that was multiplayer! not text-based, zork-like multiplayer like traditional muds, but tactical, graphical multiplayer! (not to bash traditional muds — they are the reason my first semester at college was a 1.7 gpa — whoops!)
that’s what i’ve been doing over the last week. not hacking in a multi-user server for crawl. that’d be a crazy amount of work, but digging up and installing our own private server of the multiplayer roguelike tomenet. (the networked version of “troubles of middle-earth“)
yeah, it’s based on tolkien — which isn’t necessarily a bad thing — but, it’s hella fun.
it’s a real-time game with shops and dungeons and mobs and whatnot. it’s the only one actively developed on that i could find. it has a windows client (for some of you less nerdy folk) as well as the standard linux fair. it’s open source. (which let me change the terrible, terrible idle timeout value) on the surface, it basically seems like a modern mmorpg only playable at the command-prompt. we haven’t played with it enough to really say “yea or nay” to the game design yet, but, it sure is cool thus far.
well. it’s up and running on our linux server, so let me know if you want an account and i’ll send you some connect information.
if you’ve never played a roguelike, tho, you need to download and play crawl. it runs on just about every platform known to man.
no. i’m not menopausal. it’s bookworm adventures. i just beat the final boss battle in book 2 with “menopause.” thought it was pretty damn funny.
if you haven’t played bookworm adventures yet, you’re missing out. something fierce. it’s completely cool to beat down badguys with words like “bodacious” or with a gemmed-up “aviary.”
my favorite tho? smacking an enemy who is overly susceptible to color words with my hammer that does extra damage on metal words with “bronze.”
and, yes. i’ve even seen the rare diamond tile — holy badass, batman.
you MUST play this game. riddling sphinxes. raging boss battles. snappy dialog. is absolutely necessitates your attention.
especially when you one-hit a 29-heart badguy with “temperatures” and a fistful of gems.
UPDATE: ha! i just found this: dungeon scroll. it looks like bookworm adventures is a total and complete ripoff. funny. i’ll check out dungeon scroll and see how it plays.
so. here i am, browsing the resistance: fall of man reviews.
pretty much, they’re looking like i anticipated — which is good. i’m not a big fan of surprises. and, personally, i think the whole alternate history thing kicks ass.
but, what do i come upon? the review from gamezone on gamerankings.com.
what the hell? at first glance, it looks fine — a 9.5 — but, after looking at his little chart? that “gameplay” has to be a 9.6 and not an 8.6.
that, or the “med/hard” part factors in a 10 somehow. the overall rating is higher than any of the others? huh? and the gameplay is an abysmal (by comparison to the other stats) 8.6? that has to be a typo.
heh. or maybe the game is greater than the sum of its parts.
and, in this day and age why are we still breaking reviews down with “graphics” and “sound?” if you feel like you absolutely need to break it down, try something like this:
design (you know, sound, graphics, artistic vision): 9.6
execution (programming — where the rubber hits the road): 9.4
features (replayability, weapons, multiplayer): 9.4
overall (to hell with all that. this is what i think): 9.5
disclaimer: those are translated numbers, of course. i don’t (and sadly, probably won’t ever because it’s likely not coming to the 360 or wii) have the game.
not that i really want to get into the whole 7-9 grading scale thing. you know how i like to rate games: good. bad. or meh.
p.s. speaking of — i’ve got a gears of war review coming. holy-mother-of-god-awesome….
there are a few things i’m going to cover:
- the artistic integrity of the review.
- the evidentiary integrity of the review.
- the editorial process itself.
um. i liked it.
i’m the very last person in the world to criticize sentence structure as i deeply enjoy taking bizarre liberties (quite offensively) with the english language. i do it for style and interest and to add what i think is a fun “cadence” to my writing. he’s just doing a similar quip. it made reading his review fun. the allusions were fun, if not thorough.
basically, i considered his prose fun.
this part, however, sucked.
i think this is really what stuck in the craw of most of the intelligent opinions i’ve read. he seems to have a fistful of unsubstantiated bashings nestled together by his obvious distaste for the d&d game. in fact, if you read it, he actually harps on d&d rules or d&d game design in every single paragraph except the opener:
- “Hello D&D superchrome”
- “It foists Wizards of the Coast’s latest v3.5 D&D system (a molehill that’s become a mountain at this point) onto your hard drive with stunning fidelity”
- “As if the pencil and paper “module” approach were a virtue that computers”
- “Time to shuffle another party member (improved to four simultaneous) through the level-up grinder”
- “D&D certainly puts the “rule” in role-playing”
- “For D&D fans who want to play an amazingly thorough PC translation of the system they’re carting around in book form, it’s proba-bly closer an eight or nine.”
yeah. we get it. you hate d&d. devote one paragraph to it and press on.
“dozens of artificial-looking areas vaguely linked by forget-table plot points you check off like grocery to-do’s.” like what?
“Wander and you’ll wonder why the forests, towns, and dungeons are like movie lots with lay-about monsters waiting patiently for you to trip their arbitrary triggers.” again. example, please?
“they might as well be graph-paper lifts filled with room after room of pop-up bogeymen” any elaboration there?
“Maybe you’d rather chat with the dumb NPCs that speak and sound like extras in a bad Saturday morning cartoon?” another, unsubstantiated statement. getting the drift?
so. i understand the article is necessarily short on word count. i get that. if that’s the case, however, splay it open with only one paragraph on d&d hate. a couple on plot, writing and character development. one on general design. maybe the last one on performance. reign in the looooooong metaphors. leave in a coupla pointed zingers. ta-da — call it done!
it’s not terribly hard. just cut back on your ngj poo and get some meat in there. your review is all icing and no cake.
well. and position consistency is always good.
“Time to shuffle another party member (improved to four simultaneous) through the level-up grinder, which you can click “recommend” to zip past…but then, what’s the point?”
so, number crunching is good? or bad? them building in controls to hide excessive munchkin excitement sounds like they are trying to ease up on the “rule-playing.” wait. no. that can’t be right because you just said it was something akin to plus-sign hell.
“That five-of-10 is actually a hedge, by the way.”
and, what in god’s name is that? so, people who only like things that are black and purple will like it. ooh. and someone who only plays spades online prolly won’t like it. someone who has always wanted to play a tiefling in a game would like it. someone who thinks merp was the only way role-playing games should be made would prolly hate it.
in the name of sune — give it a rating already! if you think it’s a 5, then give the damn thing a 5. don’t completely negate any point you may have made by saying something stupid like, “if you like this kind of game, you’ll like it. but, if you don’t, you won’t.”
no shit. really?
what the hell is going on here? skipping over the fact that green says he knew it wasn’t ready to print but printed it anyway, i really only have one question for this part:
when the hell did web publishing deadlines start driving print publishing deadlines?
“we have to publish this on the web now! if we don’t, our print deadline in two weeks is totally screwed! shit!”
what genius thought this one up? if it’s not ready, folks, don’t publish it on the web. especially when you have plenty of time before it goes to dead-tree land.
it’s a one-click, instant-publish sorta medium, guys. you could have done it the next day. next week. whenever the hell you wanted. it’s not like the blue-line was waiting on the damn review. if you know it’s not right, don’t publish it.
your website is this ever-changing, ebb-and-flow living document. the only hard, irretractable deadlines you have? yeah — your own.
anyway. that’s pretty much all i have to say on the matter that really needs saying.
here for posterity, the review:
Quote: By Matt Peckham
This review appears in the January issue of Games For Windows: The Official Magazine.
As everything-the-original-did — and more — follow-ups go, Neverwinter Nights 2 deserves a banner&something like “mission accomplished.” Think the sequel to Jurassic Park, where Spielberg’s all “You want more dinosaurs? I’ll show you more dinosaurs…” As a contemporary CRPG, on the other hand, NWN2 leaves a lot to be desired, and that’s too bad, because these are the guys who brought us Planescape: Torment and Icewind Dale 2…and therefore they are the guys I’m least inclined to take issue with.
But issues exist, and defining them is really no more complex than saying, “Hello D&D superchrome, buh-bye storytelling and character development (you know, those things you’re supposed to “immerse” yourself in).” The idea seems to be that we’re meant to rah-rah about a superabundance of feats, spells, races, prestige (advanced) classes, and math-equation tickers full of the usual “I attack you with a +4 sword of –” booooooring. Fine, sure, dandy…but when is a “role” not a “role”? Simple: when it’s a rule to a fault.
Ever loyal bites
I’m cruising for a bruising (don’t I know it), but NWN2 is a splash of cold water to the face: A revelatory, polarizing experience that — in the wake of newer, better alternatives — makes you question the very notion of “RPG by numbers.” It foists Wizards of the Coast’s latest v3.5 D&D system (a molehill that’s become a mountain at this point) onto your hard drive with stunning fidelity, then tacks on dozens of artificial-looking areas vaguely linked by forget-table plot points you check off like grocery to-do’s.
Sure, the interface is sleeker with context-sensitive menus and a smart little bar that lets you more intuitively toggle modes like “power attack” and “stealth,” but with all the added rule-shuffling, NWN2 seems like it’s working twice as hard to accomplish half as much. Worse — and blame this on games like Oblivion — NWN2’s levels feel pint-sized: Peewee zones inhabited by pull-string NPCs with no existence to speak of beyond their little playpens. Wander and you’ll wonder why the forests, towns, and dungeons are like movie lots with lay-about monsters waiting patiently for you to trip their arbitrary triggers. As if the pencil and paper “module” approach were a virtue that computers — by now demonstrably capable of simulating entire worlds with considerably more depth — should emulate. It’s like we’re supposed to park half our brain in feature mania and the rest in nostalgic slush, and somehow call bingo.
The dungeons feel especially stale, so linear and inorganic they might as well be graph-paper lifts filled with room after room of pop-up bogeymen (Doom put them in closets; NWN2 just makes the closets bigger). Maybe you’d rather chat with the dumb NPCs that speak and sound like extras in a bad Saturday morning cartoon? Oh, boy — there’s the portrait “plus” sign! Time to shuffle another party member (improved to four simultaneous) through the level-up grinder, which you can click “recommend” to zip past…but then, what’s the point?
In all fairness, it’s not entirely developer Obsidian’s fault. D&D certainly puts the “rule” in role-playing, and a madcap base of D&D aficionados is no doubt ready to string me up for suggesting that faithful is here tantamount to folly (to these people, I say: “Go for it, NWN2’s all you’ve ever wanted and more”). Call me crazy — I guess I’m just finally weary of being led around on a pencil-and-paper leash and batting numbers around a glorified three-dimensional spreadsheet in a computer translation that should have synthesized, not forklifted.
That five-of-10 is actually a hedge, by the way. For D&D fans who want to play an amazingly thorough PC translation of the system they’re carting around in book form, it’s proba-bly closer an eight or nine. But if, like me, you want less “rules for rule’s sake” and more depth and beauty to your simulated game worlds, you can certainly find more exciting prospects. Part of the reason we call them “the good old days” and think fondly of games past is that it’s always easier to love what we don’t have to play anymore.
so, i played this game called robowars last night. it’s another one of these web-based passive games i’m enjoying so much. i was telling one of the sas guys about it and decided i’d just write up a quick review.
first impressions are fantastic. the ui is great. all of the hard-wired graphics are fantastic. although nice, i’d still like a low-bandwidth version — maybe it’s just me. even all of the weapon and armor icons are good. all the atmosphere images are good. the only ones that are actually quite poor are the pictures of your robot.
it’s totally weird. here we have this great looking site with killer images for some 30 or 40 weapons, but, the main thing you look at — your robot — looks … um … bad. you can customize it tho! you can pick from any of dozens of photoshop “colorized” versions of the same image. have your robot be pink! yay!
anyway, overall, the imagery in the game it great and i’m assuming it will just get better.
also, looking around, most everything made sense. buy weapons here. buy armor there. bank is over there. scrapyard is over here. very easy and intuitive to get around and, all of the game narative style naming works. so, getting ready for battle seemed pretty easy. you even start off with plenty of money — cash for buying everything and repairs, scraps for a few repairs but mostly to trade in for cash and diamonds which give life back to your disabled robot.
you have health of course. but, you also have battery power. it fills up daily and you can perform actions until it’s drained. then, at 9am the next day, you can spend your upgrade point and have it filled again.
(dude. robot/sci-fi games could be so cool for the passive environment if done right. not a metagame thing like daily turns, but fuel cells that need to be recharged!)
so, i buy 2 chainsaws (the best weapon you can get starting off) and some really terrible wooden armor (again, the best i can get at a low level. wood, tho?) and wade out into the pvp arena.
it looks okay, but playable. you see a list of other players (by default) near your level that you can bang on. they’ve got their levels and win/loss percentages all laid out. should be easy pickin’s to find myself a patsy.
i select someone at random with a terrible, terrible win percentage. click. how many attacks do i want to use? huh?
what does that mean? how many do i get? how much battery power do they use? what on earth?
um. so, i click 25 — the max. go!
the readout comes back with a large blinking graphic “major defeat!” uh for who? me or him? i read the cryptic text. “0 of your 25 attacks are victories.” later down the feedback “294 damage dealt. 384 damage blocked. you take 10 points of damage.”
again. say what?
a couple things:
- i was as well armed as anybody could have been at my level. i attacked a guy of a similar level. should have been a 50-50 sort of thing. maybe even better my direction since his loss percentage was so low. (more on that later.)
- if i blocked almost a 100 additional points of damage over and above what he dealt, why did i take any damage at all?
- major defeat, assumably for me, evidently means doing 10 points of damage to me when i have 110 health.
whatever. i just pressed on thinking i would figure it out and get a feel for it.
turns out, nah. it never made any more sense. every attack i did seemed like some big roulette wheel in the sky determined the results. i was getting things from 0-9 of my 25 attacks would be victories, yet, my win percentage was in the 70% range. huh?
it was strange, unintelligible voodoo combat. the bummer about that is that if you can’t be marginally accurate as to who and what your chances are of defeating and opponent, no one will try. then, the next time they come back to their account, it’s been crushed by someone 10 levels higher (yes. that is correct, there’s no mechanism i saw that prevented that kind of griefing.) it’s kinda depressing. you don’t know who you can beat and all the crazy powerful players are farming the really weak ones.
next site, please.
anyway, aside from a few spammy knick-knacks primarily used to generate clicks or “votes” on various external game listing and whatnot, the only thing to actually “do” on the site is get some pvp love. and, unfortunately, that part’s not very fun despite my 70% winning percentage.
a few fundamental game design issues:
- no incremental increases in power. meaning, you fight and fight and fight with no increase in character power/strength. you gain xp like mad — i jumped 6 levels in my little 45 minute foray, including time to figure out what was going on.
- cash xp balance. and, unfortunately, i have hocked everything i can at the pawn shop and still will be at least another 6 levels higher before i can afford a weapon with a level requirement of 3. the armor is even worse. if the only way to earn cash wasn’t fighting, i could totally see the item prices justified. as it is, i’ll be level 40 before i have enough dough to buy a level 10 item.
- the level disparity and griefing. there needs to be some mechanism in place to prevent high-level characters from just smashing lower level ones. that’s where all the lower player’s piss-poor, misleading loss percentages were coming from i bet.
the game looks good. sets up nice. but the actual play is meh. it’s not critically flawed because it’s certainly a cool concept, even if relatively one-dimensional.
lump it in as a prettier dark throne with robots.
is it bad to hate a game after only one round of combat? shouldn't i want to give it more of a chance than that?
tho. i find it hard to look at shalkith online more than once. why is that? aside from the hard-to-remember-weird-named url, of course. it's because of the deep depression (okay, not really deep. but it is depressing.) i've achieved looking at the potential and then experiencing the actual execution of the game. it's a game of 'strategic dragon combat.'
it physically hurts my brain.
this game could have been amazing. in fact, should have been. reading through the help documents — which are remarkably complete — you get the impression this game is well balanced with deep gameplay.
i should probably qualify that. by deep gameplay, i mean interesting and strategic for a web-based, passive mmo game. not casual — passive. as in something you can play every now and then when you login to the site for a few minutes at a time or a few hours at a time.
these passive web games are an enormous, untapped goldmine. shalkith promised to take me into that realm and finally fullfill some of the promise that poorly balanced and atrociously executed previous attempts at the format had aborted.
what pains me the most is the foundation for shalkith is sound. for example, here's a short list of the great things about it:
- multiple-multiple strategies
- many dragon types and ages
- fantastic (well. damn good, anyway.) art
- brilliantly interconnected skills and abilities
- fascinating business model
now. here's the list of what's bad:
- the interface is absolute shit
seems pretty off balance eh? you should be able to put up with a poor interface when the rest of it is so very crunchy-good.
that's the bummer, tho. as delectible as the 'good list' is, the 'bad list' is so much more pungent stank. i challenge you to go make a dragon and go through a few rounds of combat.
the author is trying to mimic an application-type game in a web framework with little or no technical web development skill. (well. no skill for a modern web developer. he's pretty tits for a developer 10 years ago.) something that should be simple and easy to navigate is a cess pool of broken web paradigms with a splatter of confusion tossed in for fun.
i'm just so angry at him for screwing up something that could have been amazing. so, i'm not just bitching, i'm going to offer a few bits of advice.
- ditch the input boxes full of text. write out regular html content dynamically.
- ditch the weird cover/layer art things. just put them inline.
- ditch all the silly unnecessary clicks. there's no sense in a 'click for more' option.
- ditch the stupid html and get a real web designer to build it.
- ditch the dumb 'hitting the back button breaks our tos' type crap. if you can't technically figure out how to allow for that, then you absolutely don't need to be developing the site.
the gist of all that? hire a professional to develop it. it looks and plays like hell and doesn't do your game justice.
whew. now that that is out of my system, i wanted to offer up some alpha accounts for folks to get in/try out/bang on my own entry into the space. send me an email if you want to know the super secret location to set up an account.
be warned, it's pre-alpha, one-dimensional and extremely (well. moderately. it's still usable.) ugly. basic gameplay isn't painful — just not very pretty. getting the content drawn out first. anyone who wants to give it a try, let me know and i'll send you a quick email to give you the basics.
so. i’d been avoiding it since i downloaded the demo and devoured the half a dozen or so levels that ship with it.
i bought marbleblast ultra and it’s a riot.
the controls are super responsive, but have enough play in them that is just ‘feels right.’ it reminds me a lot of when mario 64 first came out. simply maneuvering mario around that world was most of the fun of the game.
it has that gentle balance between inertia and weight that is so much fun in driving games when you swing the ass-end of your porsche around a tight corner as you power-slide through the curve.
yeah. it’s like that.
i powered through both the entire set of beginner levels and the intermediate levels, making par times or better on all of them. that’s 40 straight levels of love, folks. all of it good. (a few of them, i was even ranked in the top 1000 — woot!) and, i still have the whole set of 20 advanced levels to go.
then, i fired up the multiplayer mode for a bit of ball-on-ball action. it’s a total kick in the pants.
where the single player levels are more like precision highwire acts, the multiplayer levels are more like a skatepark-come-moshpit. you roll around, bouncing off of each other as you chase ‘gems’ around the ‘park’ for points. the one with the most points in the time limit wins.
you’ll find yourself bounce-blasting off ridges and screeching around corners in a balls-out (pun intended) race to the next grouping of gems.
i can see why the guys at penny-arcade love it.
speaking of multiplayer, tho, there’s something incredible that needs to be pointed out. i’ve seen a couple of articles on how xbox live and achievements are bringing back the old arcade ‘high score’ love from decades past.
this is different.
instead of one monolithic score (you have one of those too) times and scores and rankings are broken out by level. so, basically, it comes down to who performed best in that 2 minutes of gameplay — one level at a time.
it’s leaderboards for each individual level. between you and your friends (or those top-page crazies who complete a level in 3.5 seconds that takes me 1:30? how? email me with how!), who can complete the level faster. there were several instances where i’d completed a level under par, but went back just to dust my buddy trizity’s times. heh. talk about replayability.
when did casual games get so competitive?
it raises the bar and redefines multiplayer gaming in a casual game setting. simply a fantastic game burrowing down to the very essence that is ‘gaming.’