Now Playing: Batman – Arkham Asylum

September 2, 2009 · Print This Article

batman arkham asylum joker 544x326 Now Playing: Batman   Arkham Asylum

I finished Batman: Arkham Asylum yesterday and really liked the experience from start to finish. Great job by developer Rocksteady! I went in expecting a Bioshock version of Batman, which might have slightly thrown off my enjoyment for the first couple of hours. But once I realized that this is actually a stealth game/brawler, and once most of the core mechanics had ramped up, I kept playing and playing. The best compliment I make is that it kept getting more interesting the further in I got, rather than less. New gadgets and little twists on combat and stealth kept everything fresh until the very end. The sense of character was outstanding in places – taking down 7 or 8 armed guys late in the game, with the Joker taunting his own guys in the background and the AIs playing more panicked voice lines for every guy who disappeared, made me feel like a 100% badass dark knight. “Fear me, I’m coming for you next, thug!” Brawling with all mechanics in place – which includes knife guys (need to be stunned before hit), stun baton guys (don’t attack from the front!) and weapons (don’t attack at all!) – was great as well. Once you start stringing together combo hits the action just flows beautifully, and the game puts a positive spin on blocking by using an appropriate counter mechanic, rather than the bland “I negated an attack but didn’t advance the action” standard. I never reached the 40 hit combo achievement, the best I could do is 28. But I certainly tried for it every time I went into combat! Very nicely done.

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Now Playing: Fallout 3

November 15, 2008 · Print This Article

l 640 360 ef51c6f9 685d 4cb7 8210 290be6fafa65 544x306 Now Playing: Fallout 3

When it comes to Bethesda’s big, open world RPGs, I have a predictable pattern: I will hopelessly fall for every other game that they release. When The Elder Scrolls: Arena was released in 1994, I was all over it. Then Daggerfall hit the streets, and I never got past the initial quests. Several years later I was hooked again, dedicating hundreds of hours to Morrowind; only to be left cold by the even grander follow-up, Oblivion. If this alternating outburst of enthusiasm sounds weird, there’s a simple reason for it: Bethesda’s games are so comprehensive that I can’t play more than one every few years. When Oblivion arrived to much fanfare, I found that I just hadn’t recovered enough from Morrowind; I was feeling like I was replaying the same game again. I knew how much I should have been loving Oblivion and actually bought it for all available platforms. But every time I stopped playing early on.

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Now Playing: Dead Space

October 26, 2008 · Print This Article

dead space game Now Playing: Dead Space

If there haven’t been many blog updates in the last week, you can lay the blame squarely on the shoulders of Dead Space. In times when I normally write my posts or work on BBelief2008, I have been playing Dead Space instead. When I should have been going to bed around midnight, I kept playing Dead Space instead. It’s one of the best games I’ve experienced this year.

(The following text won’t contain any story spoilers, and no major game spoilers. But if you prefer to not know anything about the game, you might want to stop reading right here.)

Dead Space is a case study in focus and execution. There are a few novel touches (like the 3D inventory and 3D UI screens), but when you get to the bottom of it, there’s a preexisting example for every one of Dead Space’s game elements. Dismembering enemies? Soldier of Fortune 2. In-game economics and stores? System Shock 2 (and, more recently, Bioshock). Node upgrade system: Final Fantasy X/2. Resurrection monsters: Archvile from Doom 2. Zero gravity sections: Prey. And of course Doom 3 paved the way, by the way of Event Horizon.

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Now Playing: Etrian Odyssey

July 29, 2008 · Print This Article

The Gamestop in Petaluma is a weird little shop: when I couldn’t find Etrian Odyssey a year ago because it had sold out everywhere, I found that the Petaluma shop had several copies in stock. Now that Etrian Odyssey 2 is out,  I once again couldn’t find the game anywhere – until I went to the Petaluma Gamestop. The curious thing is that now that I own Etrian Odyssey 2, I’m playing the first part again, while saving the new one for an undetermined upcoming vacation.

etrian odyssey highres 250x174 Now Playing: Etrian Odyssey
The Yggdrasil Labyrinth beckons…

I was hooked on Etrian Odyssey last year. Played it night and day, ignoring the big consoles and all books I’d been reading at the time. After many years, I was addicted to an oldschool RPG again. I mapped out dungeons, I killed monsters, I leveled up. Etrian Odyssey’s gameplay is a tried and true formula that appeals to our basic need to explore – something that Clint Hocking explained much more eloquently than I ever could in his 2007 GDC talk.

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Now Playing: Neverwinter Nights 2

November 3, 2006 · Print This Article

God I’m excited for this game. The first one was good, the construction kit was great, and from what I hear the editor for NWN 2 won’t be an inch worse than what the first game offered. And that’s really what it’s all about, you know: the construction kit. I spent a good part of my highschool life making D&D modules for Unlimited Adventures, and…well, making stuff for “other” games (even though I barely finish, let alone release, much anymore) is plain fun. I’m hoping for a fun built-in single-player campaign, but tapping into NWN 2′s seemingly limitless potential is what it’s all about.

Too bad this game is such a resource hog. My 7800GTX can decently render the interiors at 1280×1024 (which is a crooked resolution for my natively 1600×1200 LCD icon neutral Now Playing: Neverwinter Nights 2 ), but as soon as I leave the house and get into that first campaign fight the game chugs majorly for reasons entirely unknown. It all looks decent, but not very complex and like it should warrant such high system requirements. And the toolset doesn’t even load on my Dell, it crashes on startup. Probably some laptop ATI driver issue, my desktop machine works fine. But still annoying as hell when said toolset is such a major selling point.

I’ll dig in deeper over the weekend to evaluate the gameplay. First impressions were okay, but I haven’t played far enough yet. I hear the story and conversations are really good, so that’ll be fun to explore. And of course I want to see how painless it currently is to author custom content. I already downloaded the .obj converter, but it’s 3rd part and I don’t know yet how well it performs.

Now Playing: Dark Messiah

October 29, 2006 · Print This Article

The copy of Dark Messiah that I bought yesterday leaves me no choice but to bitch. I really wanna like this game, but in the first 10 minutes of the game I’ve already died a dozen times and am stuck because apparently, I need some degree in Fantasy Ladder Climbing to get up a ladder that *might* save me from a quickly approaching zombie thing that came out of nowhere and I can’t quite defend against. Instead, I keep running into the ladder with nothing happening and get killed again and again. Apparently I’m not the only person this is happening to, and apparently it’s a bug. A bug where you can’t climb a ladder on the critical path ten minutes into the game?! You got to be kidding me.

Let’s not even get into the fact that I first installed the DVD version, and when it asked me whether I wanted to associate the game with my Steam account (cool, I think, gets the game patched automatically) it did not just associate the game with my Steam account – it downloaded a 2nd copy of the whole game into my Steam directory! Which took about 3 hours.

Maybe I’ve been too spoiled by console releases that work out of the box, or maybe the PC market is really going to hell. Judging by the even small area of shelf space that my local EB now has alloted to PC releases, that’s definitely the case. And who can blame them when consumers have to deal with stuff like this.

On the positive side, this game does look very promising. Can’t wait until I can actually play it! ;(

I reinstalled the DVD version of Dark Messiah and was able to proceed at the point where I was formerly stuck. Since then, the game has run smoothly and without bugs.

It’s a good game, the first one that has made sword- and other types of melee fighting fun for a long time. Handling those daggers is pretty damn cool. And I find myself going back and forth between all sorts of ways to kill enemies, everything is well done. Graphics are okay, but the environments are kinda bland. Maybe I’m too biased because of Wheel of Time, but I still haven’t seen a fantasy game that has made significant visual leaps and bounds from what WoT offered 7 years ago. The story isn’t terribly intriguing yet, and I get most mission objectives from them telling me “now do this”, not because they naturally flow from the game. But then again I don’t really care once the atmosphere of the current mission grips me.

Fun little game if you expect WoT/Thief and not another Underworld or Arx Fatalis. I’ve read that it gets repetitive later on, but so far I’ve been entertained.

Now Playing: Half-Life 2

October 11, 2006 · Print This Article

I have finally finished Half-Life 2. The original game, that is, I guess I’ll continue with Episode 1 now. Somebody give me a medal or something!

Well, that was unexpected. HL2 Episode 1 just sorta ended. It was fun, but not quite as long as I thought it would be. I guess now I’m really done… And Victoria can stop complaining about the loud shooting noises eminating from my office icon smile Now Playing: Half Life 2

Now Playing: Titan Quest

August 14, 2006 · Print This Article

I don’t play that many games anymore, so when a game hooks me for more than a few hours that’s a major accomplishment. By that token, Titan Quest has already done an incredible job. But I was predestined to play this game ever since it was announced. I have an affinity for Greek myths and anthropology. Combine that with a solid Diablo-type experience and I’m there the day the game goes on sale. Never mind that it took me almost three weeks just to get through the Greek part of the quest. That’s a different story. My actual problem is that now that I’m done with the Greek quest I don’t have any motivation to go back and finish the game even though I really want to want to. The experience curve in Titan Quest is well paced. It looks great. It’s easy to play. But unfortunately the game just kinda flattens out after a few hours. You just stand there clicking away without ever having to dodge anything (the first Telkin battle is a joke compared to the Diablo II bossfights), losing your companions (who do most of the work for you) isn’t penalized at all, and the economy is so out of whack that reaping in all the gold you find doesn’t add to the feeling of accomplishment. I never finish listening to the conversations because they’re non-quintessential to what I’m doing anyway. There’s only one way to follow and I’m following it because that’s where I get more experience, not out of motivation to further the story. But anyway, it’s hard to make great games and it’s easy to criticize them after they’re done (I should know). The point is this: I’m done playing about a third of Titan Quest, a game I really like – and what’s it’s really made me want to do is play Icewind Dale again.

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Now Playing: Oblivion

March 26, 2006 · Print This Article

This is going to be a negative post about Oblivion, and I expect that precisely 99.9% of my readers will disagree with me on this one. So before you read any further I need you to understand just how much I want to like Oblivion. I loved Morrowind (and I played Arena and Daggerfall extensively back in the days, too!), I’ve been looking forward to Oblivion for a long time.

With that out of the way, and with the express understanding that this is not a dig at Bethesda, I have to say that I am seriously under whelmed by Oblivion’s first hour of gameplay. The 3D just does not look all that good, the UI feels crippled to account for the Xbox version and the game runs like ass on my GeForce 6800 (at least as soon as a character appears on screen). In 800×600, I might add, with video settings that the game auto-detected itself.

I could deal with bad framerate any day if I felt that I was playing something seriously impressive. Unfortunately the overall presentation just leaves me unimpressed. The main menu, UI and loading screens look unfinished and stylistically bad – as if somebody was doing a bad impression of the “old parchment” look that the last game used. It’s trying to be medieval classy but bright and friendly at the same time, and that just ain’t working for me. (Then there’s UI issues like the fact that I can’t ESCape out of menues or right-click the inventory away, but that’s just a side note.) Textures are blurry even at the High setting with no detail textures, the faces look artificial and disproportionate. The terrain, supposedly one of Oblivion’s major selling points, doesn’t look very good even with details maxed out. Anything more than a kilometer away is a huge, blurry texture mess. Never mind that I had to go through six or seven dungeon levels just to get to the surface…

A lot of criticism to level against such a popular game, I know. I just felt like sharing my first and honest impressions. Of course I’ll keep playing, and I still expect to love the game as much as the last one. But I seem to have been way too hyped up about this game so that the first playing session inevitably led to a letdown.

Now Playing: Ultima V Lazarus

January 2, 2006 · Print This Article

u5lazarus Now Playing: Ultima V Lazarus

I distinctly remember playing Dungeon Siege multiplayer at the Legend offices and exclaiming “Oh my god, could you imagine an Ultima game with this engine? It would be so amazing!” The forest environments in DS looked very good, and the relative disappointment of Ultima IX was still weighing heavy at that time. And now, after almost 5 years, it is here: Lazarus, the complete port of Ultima V to the Dungeon Siege engine. The first of its kind that ever got finished. For that alone I give kudos to the team.

Before we go any further, you have to understand that Ultima V was my first ever Ultima game. I must have been 14 or 15 at the time, and was playing the Amiga version that I had bought(!) at Karstadt in Essen from my hard-earned allowance. My English wasn’t nearly as good as it is now and I didn’t understand everything perfectly, the graphics were bad even for that time, and Ultima VI was already out for the PC (showing me what the series promised for the future). Still, I was enchanted. Had the cloth map spread over the chair next to me to trace my progress through Britannia. Kept a journal of all the information I had gathered and kept a list of where every character in the game lived (you never know when you had to find somebody again). And played for days and months without end.

It is with this background that I reinstalled Dungeon Siege on the computer and added Lazarus. And it is with this nostalgia that I am giving Lazarus an extended try. Because quite frankly, if it wasn’t for all the memories and the knowledge what this mod could possibly be I would probably have dismissed it as Yet Another Mod(tm) and moved on. I mean, who has time to play all this stuff, anyway?

Ultima V Lazarus is definitely good, and I’ll upgrade that assessment to “Great” if I get sucked into playing for a fair amount of time. So far I’ve only managed to leave Iolo’s hut and make it to Britannia, and reactions have been mixed. The nostalgia and the atmosphere that goes along with it are still there. I love the music, I love visiting the old towns. All NPCs are there and have expanded conversation trees. The introduction with the Shadowlords is still evocative. But the graphics, which seemed so great when Dungeon Siege came out, look dated now. And I still can’t see the sky, which was a complaint in the original game. The new artwork created by the mod team is serviceable and never destroys the mood, but it doesn’t hold up to commercial games. It’s telling when I can spot the Poser model in the opening sequence as soon as it appears on screen.

Maybe it is because I have played this game several times before that I don’t quite get sucked into it anymore. Instead of exploring a new, exciting world I feel like I’m on vacation in some part of the country that I lived in years ago. It’s fun to revisit all the old places and memories, but it’s not the same as back then. I also notice that I lost a lot of patience since the first time I played games like these. I tire of the conversations rather quickly and just want to “see stuff and kill things”. I know that’s a terrible thing to say and kind of misses the whole point of playing an Ultima game. But what can I say, I’m older now and have less time for this stuff icon smile Now Playing: Ultima V Lazarus Of course I’ll still keep playing.

You can download Lazarus on the official Lazarus homepage. If you ever played an Ultima game in your life you should definitely give it a try. The music alone (which is available as a separate download) is worth the visit. So, once again, a big congrats to the team that made this possible as a hobby project. Let’s hope for more finished conversions in the future, especially the Ultima VI project.