Archive for the ‘Game Review’ Category
Game Review: Diablo III by Blizzard
It was Diablo II that started my serious and time-consuming addiction to video games. Curse you Blizzard for putting out such a fun and incredibly rewarding game. This time around, it’s been many years and much talked about, but finally here: Diablo III. Diablo is back from the Hells and it’s your job to stop him, as long as you have a PC or Mac with a decent video card and persistent internet connection. Seems like such a small thing to ask for defeating a Lord of Hell, doesn’t it?
You’re back in Tristram again for an epic battle of good versus evil. A vile plague has taken over the land, precipitated by the fallen star. Pick one of five classes, barbarian, demon hunter, witch doctor, monk, or wizard, and go on the offensive against the forces of Belial, Azmodan, and Diablo himself.
The game download and install was smooth and error-free. Getting a battle.net account and getting signed in is as easy as giving an email address. Sign in and you’ve got 10 character slots to mix and match your warriors to your heart’s content. The classes are self-explanatory and conform to your standard MMO themes. Barbarian = tank, Monk = martial artist, Demon-hunter = archer, Witch doctor = summoner/necromancer, Wizard = um…wizard.
I played all five, and the only one I didn’t enjoy was the witch doctor. Maybe I’m a stickler for details, in that there are no environments that mimic an African or South American setting, so he seemed out of place. Act I is a town and tombs, Act II is desert, Act III is a castle, and Act IV is the high heavens/hell. Where did the witch doctor come from? Did he get on the wrong boat somewhere? Plus his abilities are goofy rather than cool, so it just felt forced on Blizzard’s part.
There are four acts in the game in increasing difficulty, all four are graphically beautiful and fairly diverse. The monsters get a little repetitious, but there’s only so many different kinds of demons you can animate, right? And boy howdy are there zombies galore to kill (in case you were wondering). The cut scenes are great and the overall story is well worth playing through. Once you’ve played through it once, you’ll catch a lot of little hints throughout the game that didn’t make a whole lot of sense the first time around. Kudos to Blizzard on the writing aspect of the game. The story was interesting and the dialogue between the main characters was decent. The henchman dialogue when you’re on a long run is hilarious, and I thought that was a great way to break up the monotony and build characters.
I’m not going to go through all the particulars, if you play MMO’s or Diablo II, you’ll see all of the usual elements. Leveling, spells, skills, stats, equipment, armorer, merchants, healers, henchman..it’s all there. The addition of the armorer and jeweler were a nice touch, but really don’t come into play into nightmare mode. I also liked the choice of three henchman. Not everyone likes to play the same way, and they give you some leeway there in choosing between Templar (tank), Scoundrel (archer), and Sorceress (um…sorceress).
Stash. A very smart decision by Blizzard, your stash is available to all characters on your account. This lets you put aside rare items for other character slots and vastly increases the enjoyability of the game. They even allow you to expand it up to three full pages by buying expansion space with in-game gold. I didn’t need more than a single tab, but when you start collecting sets it’ll come in handy.
Multi-player Loot. In multi-player games each player gets their own drops. How can you not like that? No more ninja-ing a boss drop, and yelling at people for being greedy bastards or running behind a powerful party like a dog looking for scraps.
Auction House. You’ll see this again in the bad section too, but for now the good…the auction house lets you buy those precious items you need without spending hours running around in loot runs like Diablo II. You also don’t have to deal with the assholes that populate MMO’s who think ripping people off is funny, since Blizzard acts as the go-between on all transactions. I can’t tell you how much I love the filter system on the auction house search…it gives you laser-like precision in finding the good stuff (that you can afford). You can search by type, level, up to three attributes, and buyout price.
Graphics and Sound. This game is beautiful and sounds spectacular. Period. From the backgrounds to the particle effects to the avatars, everything looks good and sounds awesome. They paint some very disturbing pictures along the way, but you expect that when fighting the Lords of Hell. Lots of great creepy voice-overs for the demons make this a game you don’t want little Sally playing before bedtime. Plus, it’s fun to take a minute every once in a while and look around for all the little details the artists threw into the environments.
Multiplayer. Everyone else is complaining about it, so I might as well too. The game requires a persistent internet connection to the Blizzard servers, even in single player mode (lame, right?), so the servers in the first couple weeks are dragging like a dog’s butt with mange. There are a lot of discussions and videos out that demonstrate the exact problem, so I’m not going to go into depth. Just know that in a party of four, when you get into a scrum with lots of monsters…nothing you see on screen is actually happening. Lag. Lag. Lag. I’ve seen it anywhere from a half-second to five seconds or worse. You’ll teleport all around the screen, you’ll get hit from out of nowhere, and your buffs won’t fire until after the fight is over. Basically, from my perspective, the game is nearly unplayable with four people at this time. You get to the point of hitting all your buttons like a madman and hoping for the best. It’ll get better…I have no doubt, but it may take a while.
Auction House. Here it is again! First the big one. The action house is glitchy and a big chunk of it has been offline for most of the first couple weeks. The gems and crafting materials are all offline as of this writing because they just didn’t work right. I need those rubies, mother fuckers! Fix it! Sigh…now I feel better. Second, and this is just my opinion, but the auctions are two days long. In game time, that’s freakin’ forever. Who has two days to wait around for an auction to finish? It should be 24 hours max, or better yet, let the player choose from some pre-set selection of values. One hour quick auctions would be perfect. Third, the auction house is flooded with junk. I don’t know what malfunction infects people who think their 13th level shield is worth 500,000 gold, but there are some fucking idiots out there and they need to go away.
Linear Game-play. Not everyone believes linear game-play is a bad thing. Some people like to spend 12 hours on a game and know they beat the main boss and saw everything there is to see. In this case, they’d be right. There are very few side quests, and none of them give you anything significant. Diablo III is a straight up point A to point B to point C kinda game (kill everything in between). This seriously reduces the fun of replay in my opinion, and for as long as they took between Diablo II and III, I would have appreciated two or three alternate paths to victory, even if they had to shorten the game a little overall. I can’t tell you how tired I am of wandering around that fucking oasis…and you will be too.
Player differentiation. You get to choose one of five classes and male or female (which makes no difference), after that, you’re the same as every other Barbarian out there. You all have the same skills at all the same levels. You can choose skills based on how you like to play, but there’s no downside to activating skills. You can change them up at any time with no downside. It’s too easy. Ultimately, it means the game comes down to equipment, and with the auction house…that’s trivial. It boils the game down to a series of accounting exercises. Honestly, this bores the crap out of me, but I like to be different. I’m weird like that.
THE VERDICT: Near miss on rehab.
I enjoyed the play through the first time, and gave enough time to all five classes to get a flavor of what they’d be like. For my final run, I had a juggernaut of a Barbarian that made short work of Dialbo (in single and multi-player modes). For now, multi-player just isn’t there, and the single player…been there done that. Twice. My son will probably put in another 100 hours, but he doesn’t have the aversion to level-grinding that I earned from long hours of addiction to Diablo II.
I did enjoy the great new twist on the secret cow level, and I won’t spoil it for those of you who haven’t been there. Just take my word for it…you’ll laugh your fool head off at the cleverness of those Blizzard game designers.
See you in Tristram, Diablo fans!
PS. As of tonight, the 1.0.2 patch is out!
Game Review: DC Universe Online
So here’s my dirty little secret: I’m a video game junkie. I didn’t intend to be. I didn’t plan it. It just sort of…happened.
First you play a little Pacman, then a little Street Fighter 2, and before you know it you’re up all night playing Diablo II’s Secret Cow level on Nightmare level, cackling like a fiend at a rare rune drop. It’s a very slippery slope, my friends. My latest near-relapse was caused by the free-to-play MMO DC Universe Online.
Since I lost 30 hours of writing time to DC Universe Online last week, I thought the least I could do is get a blog post out of it. A couple of basics and then on to my thoughts. First off, it’s PC and PS3 only. PC requirements are fairly low, both computers in our house ran the game with no glitches or graphics issues and they’re both several years old. If you’re a fan of MMO’s or the DC Universe, this game is worth downloading and checking out.
I’m more of a Marvel guy myself, but I can appreciate that both franchises have their appeal, and fans of DC will have a great time making characters and tooling around Gotham, Metropolis, the Watch Tower, and the Hall of Doom.
Extremely fun character creator. We had fun making all kinds of crazy characters and I had particular fun bringing to life characters from my writing, including zombies, demons, sheriffs, wizards, and tomahawk-wielding teenagers.
Initial game-play is easy, intuitive, and fun. Leveling, powers, equipment, movement, are all standard MMO/FPS-based and if my 6yo can run around Gotham throwing batarangs, then so can you. Higher level instances, shifting powers, weapon combos, and on-duty possibilities are not as easy as they should be, but they aren’t rocket science either.
Gotham and Metropolis are well designed, expansive, and interesting. Gotham is dark and rainy with lots of elevated train tracks and dark alleys, while Metropolis is bright, sunny, and all gleaming metal and chrome. They feel like the characters that give them life in the comics; Batman and Superman.
Leagues/teams/duos make for fun times. I had a blast playing with my sons as a super team. Getting together and staying together is made really easy through the interface. It’s also really easy to join up with random folks if you wish to complete missions, but playing with friends and shouting as someone does something cool is the real fun in this game.
Character creation is limited. I know, I know. I just told you it was fun and you could make all sorts of crazy super heroes. What I didn’t tell you is that they all fit into a few archetypes during actual game-play. You choose a side (good/evil), you choose a mentor (Batman/Superman/Wonderwoman) and then you choose a power and a weapon. It’s the second two things that leave me rather cold. Every character must have some sort of power, even if it’s gadgets, and a weapon combo, even if it’s as simple as brawling. Ironically, what this eliminates is the way to make iconic characters like Superman, who either has no powers but near-invincibility or all the powers depending on which comic nerd you ask. The expansion packs add in a few powers, like the light powers of the lanterns, but overall the only difference in game-play between ice and fire power are the on-screen sprites, and that’s just disappointing. I’m convinced it was the only way to have balanced game-play across thousands of possible choices, but after playing 7 characters for 30 hours…it feels lame.
The missions are boring. I’m sure others have complained, but if I have to break out of Brainiac’s ship one more time I’m going to fucking break something. Once or twice is fine, but let players bypass this 20 minute grind once they know the basics and get on with it. Beyond that, the missions are all extremely predictable smash and fetch roundups. The only thing that changes from mission to mission is the particular sprite you’ll be beating the shit out of while you smash and fetch. There are no real puzzles or mysteries, and nothing that even takes particularly good teamwork. You are cast in a strictly backup role to the main heroes who you see every once in a while as you fuck shit up that they apparently don’t have the time for.
Equipment is the real equalizer. I know this is pretty standard for MMOs these days, but I can’t stand the idea that a rare armor drop is the difference between life and death for your heroic Green Lightning Bug-man. Once you get into the mid-levels (10-20) the only thing you’re really after is new gear to boost stats. In a world filled with Booster Gold clones, that might be fine, but all you have to do is look at the iconic heroes to know where the game went wrong. Does Superman or Wonder Woman run around with a red exobyte-socketed chest plates and synthium boots of courage (or whatever). No.
VERDICT: No rehab for me.
I’m relieved to be able to put this one aside after playing through most of the missions and instances and getting some cool “oh hell yeah” moments out of the game. My kids will probably play another 100 hours, but they don’t have the aversion to level-grinding that I earned from long hours of addiction.
See you in Gotham, DC fans!