Archive for the ‘Obsidian Entertainment’ 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.

Obsidian’s problems   Leave a comment

If there’s one thing I want anyone to take away from this, it’s that, regardless of how much we loved Black Isle and how good their games could be with proper QA, we should just stop buying Obsidian games until they either change or die off. The sad fact is they are not improving their QA after 8 years of buggy games.

Obsidian Entertainment recently released Dungeon Siege III and while Metacritic scores are veering towards the better side of mediocre, user scores are hitting the same lows as games like Dragon Age II. While it’s easy to treat this as a sign that you shouldn’t take professional reviewers at face value due to their unfortunate tendency of being less critical of games that they ought to be, there is a distinct problem at Obsidian that needs to be solved.

I am talking about their bug-ridden software. Defenders of Obsidian often point to their game’s large scope and depth as a reason for the bugs and we should expect these problems. This simply doesn’t work as a defence, Dungeon Siege III had a larger number than any comparably-sized release I’d seen for a long while and, more importantly, launch-time patches designed to fix problems introduced even more problems that seem so surreal and outlandish that it is hard to imagine how any programmer could derail a patch so.

It’s not even as if Dungeon Siege III is the only bad release, either. Look at the Wikipedia pages for Fallout: New Vegas, Neverwinter Nights 2 or Alpha Protocol. Of them, only Fallout: New Vegas got a positive Metacritic score across both professional and user ratings. While it’s the case that Fallout and Neverwinter Nights 2 both have fans of older, non-Obsidian games lowering their user ratings, the lion’s share of complaints from both games seem to be about bugs.

It’s interesting they don’t mention Neverwinter Nights 2 or Alpha Protocol in this.

What is worse, as demonstrated by the Dungeon Siege III launch-time patches, is that Obsidian’s patching policy makes the problems worse. Dungeon Siege III with its control reversal problem or its hour-long game lockout due to two separate patches is not the first to do this, both Fallout and Alpha Protocol fell short here with new problems introduced as old ones are being (often only partially) fixed.

Dungeon Siege III is also plagued by a horde of poor design choices: co-op mode puts the second player, in the words of Penny Arcade, in the role of a side-kick in the first player’s story with no long term gains; players cannot reconfigure any keys or controls for the keyboard, and many complaints on the forums have been met with a “use a gamepad” response. There is also the fact that many older fans of the series complain that the game doesn’t live up to the earlier games, but to what extent these sentiments are based on problems or just dogged gamer conservatism is hard to tell.

If I’m not holding punches for Mojang over this, I won’t for Obsidian. Various game magazines have spoken with people at Obsidian about this issue and they have received the same line: Fallout’s problems were unfortunate, but we’re working extra hard on the QA of Dungeon Siege III.

They evidently didn’t work hard enough, as evidenced by these new patches. They are like the trainwreck spouse who keeps coming back with a promise this time will be different and ends up wrecking it for you yet again if you let them in. In this situation, part of the blame lies on the person who keeps foolishly letting someone like that back into their home, likewise the consumer needs to be more demanding and more savy about what they are getting for their money. There aren’t really any major consumer rights groups for video games out there that have really made themselves known and it’s long overdue.

The short of all this is that Obsidian needs to change the way it views QA, but no promised internal effort on their part has enacted such a change. If a company fails like this, repeatedly over the course of at least four games, then it is time for the consumer to force the change. The simply answer is do not buy Obsidian’s games, do not buy Dungeon Siege III because you liked Black Isle and want to see Obsidian survive regardless of how talentless they are at QA or because you need that third instalment of a loved series. Stay away from Dungeon Siege III because it is buggy and mediocre, just like Neverwinter Nights 2 and Alpha Protocol.

This week in gaming.   Leave a comment

* SquareEnix are speculated to soon unveil a new Carmageddon game, after the cancellation of the series in 2005.

* The Witcher 2 will require an NTFS-formatted HDD (with 16 Gb for the game) due to the file size limitations of FAT32 and the large size of some of the game’s files.

* Dragon Age 3, despite the poor reception from gamers of Dragon Age 2, is on the horizon as BioWare starts looking for environmental artists.

* Gameloft’s CFO has argued that incorrect evaluation of market value has inflated the social gaming market and created an unsustainable bubble.

* The eagerly awaited open beta of APB Reloaded, set to start on the 18th May, has been delayed due to an unforeseen bug.

* On the subject of MMO Betas, Guild Wars 2 will have its own coming in the second half of this year.

* Despite the partial reversal of fortune for the beleaguered studio, Champions Online and Star Trek Online developer Cryptic Studios is to be sold by Atari.

* On the subject of decline, NCSoft has attributed limited marketing to its own decreased sales.

* CD Projekt Red have announced that The Witcher 2’s upcoming DLC will be free.

* THQ now argues that it rivals EA and Activision-Blizzard in size following the success of Homefront. Homefront’s mediocrity evidently didn’t damage it’s sales too badly.

* Sony Online Entertainment is offering free identity protection services to European customers who might have been affected by the recent hack.

* Honest Hearts, the first of three recently announced DLC packs for Fallout: New Vegas, has been released.

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.

This week in gaming   Leave a comment

Sorry it’s a day late. Holidays created the delay.

Quick cap news

* South Korea has enacted a gaming curfew preventing gamers aged 15 or under from playing online games from midnight to 6AM. The curfew was passed unanimously.

* Gearbox has announced that any talk about Borderlands 2 not from them should be dismissed. It has stopped it popping up.

* Telltale has announced a release date for the remake of Hector: Badge of Carnage.

* An “ultra edition” of Super Meat Boy for the PC has been announced for release in the UK between and September.

* With its UK release, Mortal Kombat creator Ed Boon recalls the original game’s controversy nearly 20 years ago.

* THQ reports boosted sales for Dawn of War II Retribution after switching the platform from Games for Window Live to Steam.

* Ubisoft are offering free games with every purchase this weekend. It wouldn’t be too hard to purchase all the Ubisoft games worth having with such an offer.

* Fallout: New Vegas has little in the way of extra DLC so far, but that has not stopped a GOTY edition being prepared, it seems.

* An internal memo from Activision revealed a very strong optimism on the future strength of the Call of Duty series, good news for Call of Duty fans.

* Fans protested against certain aspects of Portal 2 on Metacritic. Personally, I agree that the in-game store is a bit of a low blow from Valve, but finds the criticism beside quite off the mark.

Main news

Lack of time means there’s no main news this week, but the upcoming week promises a full return to schedule and a review of Portal 2.

This week in gaming   Leave a comment

Quick-cap news

* Epic Games will host a two day set of tutorials on the Unreal Development Kit at the East Coast Game Conference.

* Dungeon Siege III has been delayed, now releasing in late June.

* Hi-Rez has switched Global Agenda to a F2P model with those of us already having paid getting “elite agent” status.

* Funcom’s Call of Cthulhu-esque MMO The Secret World, announced four years ago, is officially on the back burner.

* Myst Online is now released as open source, fulfilling promises made as far back as 2008.

* The Call of Duty versus Battlefield 3 marketing war is estimated to end up costing US$200m. This truly is the war to end all wars.

* GameStop are opening a Facebook store. The new system allows sales and pre-orders done via the Facebook interface.

* It’s been reported that Apple has rejected PopCap’s experimental label, Unpleasant Horse, from the App Store on grounds of “maturity” issues.

* Multiplayer has, sadly, been ruled out of Mass Effect 3, but the details are looking good.

* Wrestling star The Rock wants to star in a Black Ops film adaptation. Given his last foray into game-based films, I hold little hope for great artistry.

Main news

Minecraft is leaving beta this year, with plans to release the final version on 11th November. This coincides with the release of Skyrim by Bethesda. Many may be disappointed by the fact that the final release won’t look much different from the beta (which itself is not a whole deal different from the alpha), but assurances are that development will continue. Other reports are that beta 1.5 will add weather effects.

Busy week this week, see you after the weekend.

This week in gaming   Leave a comment

The quick cap news

* Play.tm falsely reported two new Fallout: NV DLC packs on their way, but the report was denied by Bethesda.

* One more reason to see the PC as the natural home of the indie developer is that Nintendo stated a complete lack of interest in what it calls “garage devs.” Most think it is merely the Nintendo crying at the Apple Store eating so readily into handheld sales.

* NPD have stated that they are slowly adapting to the new era of digital distribution, after criticism that it couldn’t account for what is now 40% of the market and still growing.

* The new Stars Wars MMO from Bioware Austin, the Old Republic, has nearly 1.5 million beta-testers according to EA.

* For those with misgivings about the bugs in Dragon Age II, a patch has been released which most importantly fixes the busted save file problem.

* The final DLC for Mass Effect 2, called Arrival, will see the light of day on 29th March, across all platforms. This last DLC sees Shepherd to the edge of the known galaxy and will lead in to Mass Effect 3.

* Volition are saying the PC is worth investing in, despite the threat of piracy. I suppose that’s very easy to say given that they probably know as well as anyone that piracy dents sales very little.

* On the subject of piracy, Ubisoft showed themselves to be both dumb and hypocritical this week as it was discovered they had effectively “pirated” their own stuff after a Reddit user launched the accusation.

* Jagex, developers of RuneScape, have a deal with Hasbro to make a new Transformers-based MMO expected to be released sometime in 2012.

* Valve announced that they were hiring Doug Church. Church has an impressive 20-year long career that saw him work on projects like Thief: the Dark Project, System Shock and Ultima.

The Main News

The big story today is that the $400m Activision versus EA lawsuit got the go ahead and has been scheduled for May. The saga started after Activision counter-sued ex-Infinity Ward devs who accused Activision of firing them to avoid royalty payments. The suit exploded as 38 others at Infinity Ward then filed lawsuit against Activision. EA were added into this after Activision accused them on using unlawful practices to create this whole situation for Activision in the first place.

It, finally, gives me such great pleasure to announce that a game I loathed since I first heard its stupid, half-baked premise and saw the ridiculous and sometimes tasteless publicity stunts pulled for it has been released to utter disappointment of the part of reviewers. Homefront’s release to poor reviews left publisher THQ with falling stock by more than 20 percent. Reviews concentrated on how brief the single-player campaign was, as well as poor writing and voice acting, while speaking more favourably of the multiplayer aspect. If you’re are looking for a decent multiplayer game, however, you can do a lot better for a lot cheaper without having to go through an utterly implausible story. Even reading the reviews that are 80+ on Metacritic, they often point out the same problems as the lower reviews, but seem arbitrarily to tack on a good score as if to keep THQ happy.