Archive for the ‘Brink’ Tag

Dungeon Siege III (PC review)   Leave a comment

Developed by: Obsidian Entertainment
Published by: Square Enix
Out now
Reviewed on: 17th July, 2011.

Presentation: The graphics, effects and sound are very advanced and contribute a great deal to the game. Objects, characters and environments are rendered beautifully and the spell effects, while not the most amazing I’ve seen, are certainly exceptional.

Atmosphere: The first stumbling block is the atmosphere. You won’t feel like you’re saving the world in a truly epic tale or just a small part in something much larger. You’ll feel like you are stumbling through the same trite fantasy scenario that could have could from any book in the oversaturated market of fantasy novels. The loot tables mean that you’ll never get equipment as impressive as some from Diablo or Torchlight on top of that.

Control and Mechanics: Designed for a gamepad, this game doesn’t really have excellent mechanics. What’s worse is that keyboard mechanics cannot be reconfigured and an early patch mixed up the controls to pan the camera left or right. These problems have not been fixed at time of writing. The layout isn’t ideal for everyone, so I’d avoid it. (NOTE: Shortly after posting this, I was told that an update fixing these has gone live,  the blog post is here.)

Who should buy this: People who want a somewhat competent hack and slash game with a few interesting new features and can pick it up for no more than £10. People who just can’t get hold of Diablo II/Torchlight/Magicka/one of those free online hack and slash games.

Who should avoid it: Anyone not in the above list, but especially anyone who wants a bug-free game or an inheritor to the Dungeon Siege games.

If I have to give a score: Like early Magicka, it’s a very buggy take on the Diablo genre. Unlike Magicka, it has little innovative and less hope of speedy bugfixing. I wouldn’t recommend it to any but the most forgiving of Dungeon Siege fans. 1/4

Review

I have already written about Obsidian’s problems. I think part of their problem is they seem so relaxed about their failures, even though they promised the errors of Fallout: New Vegas or Neverwinter Nights 2 would not be repeated in their next game. Here we are and bugs abound, patches add new ones and they have an “awww, shucks” attitude to it all.

Obsidian’s sloppiness aside, it’s a game that has some strengths that do shine out: it has a very polished presentation and a few interesting twists of the usual combat. Character creation has, for better or worse, been replaced by a selection of characters. Each of these has a small set of abilities and the game is very good at making you use and learn them. You cannot just pile drive through the enemies, you have you use these skills carefully and thoughtfully at times.

Another interesting feature is the transmutation of items for gold rather than selling them. This removes the haul of items back to a seller that you’d see in most roleplaying games. These few features do not really make up for the compromises needed to make the leap to the consoles and the resultant problems arising from Obsidian’s mistakes.

First, the plot is lacklustre. Evil person gains immense power, takes over a fair, just kingdom. You are one of the few survivors and you are being hunted down. It’s almost as if they got their plot ideas from TV Tropes or something. They also make definitive statements about previous games that were ambiguous because of character design or choice (i.e. the hero of the first Dungeon Siege was female).

Consoles are limited in their capabilities compared to PCs and so the adaptation of the genre to the console format brings a few necessities that are forgiveable, but for PC players to have a fixed keyboard configuration that then messes up after a day one patch is not so forgiveable. Obsidian’s attitude towards all this when they jokingly expressed that a decent tutorial system, better controls and varied loot would “make good DLC” shows a company that increasingly needs to be taken out back with a shotgun.

So the patches aren’t going to be coming quickly. In my recent downtime, Fallout: New Vegas received a new bugfix and that’s been out for ages. I know these are the people who, at their core, made Fallout, Planescape: Torment and published the Baldur’s Gate games, but they are a shadow of their former selves even if a glimmer of their lost glory sparks now and again.

The controls are set tight and a gamepad isn’t really ever going to be the best medium for controlling the action on the screen. It’s not as if control configuration would be too much to ask but the game feels rushed once you get passed the refinement and polish of the graphics. The loot system and equipment presents a really mediocre experience with none of the weighing up strengths or weakness of varied equipment you’d find in Borderlands or Torchlight.

You’re also rushed through the tutorial of the game, which is brief and gives you no hint how the combat system really uses the special abilities. You could almost discover all this by accident after missing the brief mention of special attacks in the tutorial. You won’t feel you have real knowledge of how the inventory works in the game, nor how you really improve your skills or balance your character so you’ll end up looking at online guides or just getting around for yourself. It’s not overly hard to figure out, but a more comprehensive tutorial would be nice.

Multiplayer is the real let down, however. There is no ability to form PC-only parties or get a group of friends around to play. This is a console game and you can have one extra player, who plays a kind of sidekick. The second character won’t get saved or be used as anything other than player one’s sidekick, and can often feel a little redundant. This is not attributable to error in creation, but error in design. It was not going to work so why did they make it this way?

My final line on this game is that this is the sort of game that can fill a bored weekend for a single-player experience if you pick it up for a few quid in a bargain bin, but you’re not going to see it in one for a while (on the other hand, seeing how quickly Brink fell in price…). There’s no real reason to recommend it unless you are a devotee of the Black Isle cult of Obsidian or a really committed Dungeon Siege fan. If you are the former, you probably will have switched off at my criticisms of Obsidian anyway, if you are the latter, play the demo first. If you are anyone else, give this game a wide berth.

Dungeon Siege III is out now and available at retail or digital distribution for around £29.99.

The good old days of gaming   Leave a comment

Recently in a Steam sale, I picked up the game VVVVVV. The name draws attention to two features of the game, the fact that each of the six characters have names beginning with the letter and the triangular spikes that litter the game. The game is a deliberately retro platformer and it wears its intentions on its sleeves from the ZX Spectrum-era music to the loading screen from those by-gone days.

When I tend to think of retro games, I tend to think of games beyond a certain point in time, more than two generations in console terms. PS2 and Xbox games aren’t retro to me yet, but Playstation, Sega Saturn and N64 games (as well as their contemporary PC titles) are. What I’ve seen, however, is a lot of people use the term retro gaming to refer to games specifically from their childhood days. Now, my first gaming machines were from the 16-bit era and, as such, long after the video games crash of 1983. As such, when I see VVVVVV it really harkens back to an age of gaming where I was not alive, let alone playing games, but I have played video games from the 70s and 80s and do consider myself a bit of a retro-gamer, but playing VVVVVV made me think.

It presents itself as a very hard game and it really is. It also presents itself as very frustrating and, perhaps that is true for the hardcore fans who saw their first games before I was born and are pushing towards middle-age or have reached it by now, but I never found it frustrating. There’s this one bit where the game puts you through a series of levels where you have to dodge carefully placed spikes to reach a platform which you bounce off to get to a trinket on the other side and it almost seems to gloat (given the screen names) about how frustrating, unfair and, ultimately, how unrewarding the trinket is at the end.

And that’s something that bothers me. It’s not frustrating me at all because there’s no real challenge there. It’s simply a matter of time and death is barely a setback. Sure, I died a few hundred times getting through that puzzle, but the point is I got through that puzzle.

What do we actually want from older games? The fact is their difficulty alone wasn’t enough to make them good games. Castlevania on the NES was hard, but it was possible to do it first run, you just had to sit and think about how you were going to approach each task rather than learn by rote what you needed to do at what moment in order to get further. VVVVVV isn’t like that, there’s a lot you learn to do simply by rote and getting your timing right can be very hit and miss.

It’s not an awful game, it’s got a lot of charm to it. What it does, however, is make me very thankful that games have blossomed beyond the very limited set of genres and ideas that games in the 70s and early 80s had. In Charlie Brooker’s Gamewipe, he gave the example of a programme from the early days on computer gaming where one presenter dismissed games as lacking any long-term or mass appeal. He criticism wouldn’t stand today because, at the time, games only came as aesthetic variations on one of a few concepts.

My point to all this is we should not harken back nostalgically to a supposed golden era of gaming where things were better, because games are much better today than they have ever been. It’s fun to play some of the older games that were good at the times, but can we really compare classics like Space Invaders to the best of modern day gaming? No, Space Invaders bores me to tears quickly because it’s the same level repeated for the sole achievement of earning an increased number near the word ‘score’ that does not appeal to me as much as it did to those gamers. Pac Man is a little more fun because there’s a bit more balanced challenge and variety but, again, modern gaming wins out. After the NES came out, the face of gaming changed radically and grew into new forms; it still does.

The problem is every time a Brink or a Dungeon Siege III or a Duke Nukem Forever comes out, players are rushing to praise how older games had it right, but they are comparing the better games that they remember to any game coming out today. The fact is that there was plenty of crap coming out then, why does anyone think the crash of ’83 happened? But people won’t remember Custer’s Revenge or E.T. on the Atari 2600. People remember the first Castlevania more than they remember Simon’s Quest and we don’t realise that we do this all the time (and not just in gaming).

So I have a criticism of VVVVVV and that’s the assumption that pins a lot of the talking that games are too easy, too soft on gamers today. They’re not, because the difficulty of games like VVVVVV aren’t a complex, satisfying challenge; they are just arbitrarily difficult to extend game length and we should not condemn modern games for cutting this out. What’s worse, I don’t get irritated or give in to the frustrations of VVVVVV because death is so trivial and arbitrary that it’s turned itself on its head and become fairly easy to complete.

This week in gaming   Leave a comment

* Valve Corporation have released beta authoring tools for Portal 2.

* Chris Taylor of Gas Powered Games argues that the free-to-play model is the future of PC gaming.

* Cthulhu Saves the World has been approved for Steam release, the creators are hoping for a May release.

* GoG.com have announced a weekend long sale on Activision-themed RPGs, including the Vampire: the Masquerade games.

* Opponents of piracy are pushing a new US Bill to combat piracy. It won’t work, I’m sure.

* The US Navy have taken the fight against Somali pirates online in an MMO, something it’s been building since 2009.

* Valve announced that it has no plans for a Source Engine 2, preferring incremental changes in patches to massive engine shifts.

* Brink has vanished from the UK Steam storm, but Bethesda have been fairly tight-lipped beyond that they are looking into the issue.

* Ars Technica’s Opposable Thumbs looks at the future of the Halo franchise after the release of the Defiant maps.

* After the devastation of the PSN and SOE, Sony Online’s downtime should be only a few more days.

* Also in MMO news, NCSoft has announced that Lineage’s Western servers will be shut down on the 29th June. No new accounts can be created and remaining time will be refunded.

Brink launch trailer (PC preview)   Leave a comment

Looks good, but I’m uncertain of the long-lasting appeal.

This week in gaming   Leave a comment

* Despite the push behind The Old Republic, a Janco Partners analyst has proposed that the Mass Effect would make a more profitable MMO for EA.

* Bethesda have revealed that Brink will contain 102 quadrillion unique characters appearances, as well as over 26,000 lines of dialogue (a refreshing high number for the company behind Oblivion).

* Crytek reported around 50 lay-offs, a large hit for the company behind Crysis.

* Sadly, we’re told not to expect a Super Meat Boy 2. After the trials of making the first, Team Meat wants to wash its hands and move on.

* On the plus side, though, there is finally a level editor for the great indie hit.

* Deep Silver, it has been reported, needed Square-Enix to distribute Dead Island.

* Ubisoft have released details about the new Assassin’s Creed game, Revelations.

* The Ages of Empires Online beta is available for download, but best hurry or you will miss the boat.

* Increased game sales of its video games division have partly offset the decline of media giant, Warner Bros.

* EA have reported stated that it expects Star Wars: The Old Republic to be ready and released before March 2012.

* Mass Effect 3 will expand its target market and increase its commercial appeal to a wider audience.

This week in gaming   Leave a comment

I’m abandoning main news in order to push for more separate news articles, leaving more room for quick-cap news here.

* Opposable Thumbs talked about the story and aftermath of the controversial Potato Sack promotion for Portal 2.

* One of the iconic Abe games (Oddysee or Exoddus) is getting a new HD remake sometime in the future, it has been confirmed. We can hope this’ll find its way to the PC.

* THQ’s Red Faction: Armageddon has been delayed by a week, no explanation has been given but last minute bug fixing is suspected.

* After disaster after disaster, F.E.A.R. 3 has been pushed back again from its already amended release date to later in June.

* EA’s latest Need for Speed entry, The Run, has been detailed and dated for a November release.

* Players will be able to download the Brink server software via Steam before the game’s release. Bethesda have also offered an FAQ about the configuration of the server.

* With their recent woes, JoWood have received a helping hand from GoG.com who are selling JoWood titles with up to 75% off this weekend. With a little luck, this’ll help keep the wolf from JoWood’s doors.

* John Romero has started work on a new Facebook game. The game, Cloudforest Expedition, will be the second game that Romero makes on Facebook and is expected this Summer.

* Lord of the Rings Online creators Turbine are merging their US and EU LOTRO servers, relieving Codemasters Online of their duties maintaining the EU servers on the 1st June.

* After a bumpy ride with Alpha Protocol, but success with Fallout: New Vegas and preparations to ship the new Dungeon Siege game, Obsidian Entertainment have apparently gone through a round of layoffs.

* Mojang have released details about the modding plans to be implemented in Minecraft Beta 1.6.

* Bethesda have released details of the changes from Oblivion to Skyrim. Looking at some of the changes (especially to attributes), I don’t think this’ll be the breaker in my downward preference for Elder Scrolls games (from Daggerfall onwards, anyway).

That’s all for this week. See you after the weekend.