Sunday, August 29, 2010

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light

Im very interested in this game, its gotten good reviews and Im ready to buy it. There's only one problem: it doesnt have online coop - yet. Its being added via a patch "sometime in September." Right now the game, which is designed for coop play, is only playable with 2 people in local coop. While its great that the game features local coop, not shipping with online coop is a deal breaker for me: it means the game is unfinished.

Microsoft simply rushed the game out so it could be part of its Summer of Arcade promotion. On principle, I refuse to buy unfinished games which come with a "promise patch" to add features or fix horrible bugs in the future. No, Im not paying full price for a game thats 80% complete, because whats next, paying for a game thats 70% finished, or 60%? Do you see the problem with setting a precedent of paying for unfinished games? Publishers like Square Enix, once you give them inch, they take a mile. Ill buy the game, but only once its complete.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

BattleBlock Theater Trailer - The Behemoth

The Behemoth is one of those developers whose games I get legitimately pumped up for. Dan Paladin, the chief artist and visionary behind the company, has a unique design style that you will either love or hate. This will be the company's 3rd game, and judging from this trailer alone, it certainly has the potential to be their best.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Friday, August 20, 2010

Torchlight II Gamescom 2010 Trailer

Torchlight is pretty damn fun if you ever got into Diablo or similar dungeon crawling lootem ups. The graphics settings even have a netbook mode! Adding coop and multiplayer to such a solid formula has some serious potential. If it debuts at the same $20 price that the original did, its going to be an instant buy for me next April.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

LittleBigPlanet 2 Trailer

Not the greatest trailer, but it makes the point: this is the game that lets you create your own game. Like no, really make your own game - replete with cinematics, various camera angles, characters, dialogue, music, everything. The original LBP was one of the most ambitious games I ever played. The fact that it all worked so brilliantly online with community level sharing and rating resulted in me being so sucked into different peoples custom creations that I actually never even finished the developer created levels. They just sort of seemed like afterthought, really just a way to show players the ropes of the game and get them interested in creating. If fact, I was so interested in playing other peoples levels that I never ended up making my own. Mark my words, I wont make the same mistake twice with LittleBigPlanet 2.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Bioshock Infinite: Debut Trailer

Rapture in the Sky? Im not even sure what to make of the trailer. Clouds of roses are cool and all, but how are they going to tie this into the underwater universe of the first two Bioshock games? Is it just an attempt to cash in on the Bioshock name, or will this actually be worth playing? Personally I would rather see Irrational Games move forward with a new IP rather than churn out Bioshock sequels every other year.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Starcraft 2: Impressions

Simply put, Starcraft 2 is the best Real Time Strategy game Ive ever played. It sets the bar for the entire RTS genre and easily surpasses its peers in nearly every respect. There are other great RTS games, and saying that Starcraft 2 is better than them isnt my way of trying to diminish their greatness. Im just saying that as good as they are, this game has set the bar higher.

What games am I talking about here? The elite competition for Starcraft 2 in the RTS genre comes from the following games: Company of Heroes, Supreme Commander, Sins of a Solar Empire, Warhammer 40k: Dawn of War II, Warcraft 3, Age of Empires 3, and Command & Conquer Red Alert 3. Thats basically it. Below these games there is another class of very good RTS games which include World in Conflict, LOTR: BFME, Halo Wars, as well as other C&C games and older or more obscure titles like Rise of Nations. Each of these games has its nuances and unique qualities which makes them worth buying and worth playing. Depending on your taste, a game like Starcraft set in the future out in space may not appeal to you as much as something like Age of Empires. But its all window dressing for the core play mechanics. And even if you strip away the sci-fi the setting, the amazing graphics, the story, the layers and layers of production polish and all of, Starcraft 2 still eclipses all other games in the RTS genre simply based on the quality, depth, and balance of its gameplay.

Which hasnt changed much in over 12 years. Thats not to say that Blizzard didnt tweak anything with Starcraft 2 compared to its predecessor, but the resulting game is very similar to the original at first glance. Only if you played the original quite a fair bit will you notice how many changes and updates Blizzard has made to the formula, while maintaining the same overall look and feel. The game is easier to play, first and foremost, and you dont have to be some 300apm hotkey hotshot to enjoy the game and even play competitively. Using hotkeys and shortcuts will certainly speed up your play, but it isnt nearly as necessary as it was with the original game.

The graphics are probably the first thing most people will notice. This is one of the finest looking PC games to come along in quite some time. The cutscenes and in-game dialogue look positively phenomenal, right up there with Uncharted 2 as the very best I have ever seen. The gameplay itself is a technological marvel, as you can have hundreds upon hundreds of units on the screen all with rockets and lasers ablaze without suffering from the dreaded slowdown - and the whole thing looks amazing. There are some really nice looking RTS games out there too, but Blizzard has just outdone themselves with the combination of quality and performance you get in Starcraft 2. My system isnt nearly state of the art (core2 duo @ 3.2ghz 2GB RAM and a 512mb 3750 ati card) and it runs the game at a rock solid 30fps+ with all settings on HIGH, no matter what kind of crazy shit is happening on screen. Its incredible.

The main complaints that I have about the game are rather minimal. First and foremost, I suck at it. The game is hard simply by nature of the fact that A) RTS games are hard and B) Starcraft 2 is one of the deepest and most complex RTS games. But, I suck at chess, and many other games that are truly great but where extremely high level play is unattainable for all but the most passionately committed. I once posted an article from another blog called Insomnia about game complexity and depth, and the writer made an interesting observation:

It is indeed even possible to measure the absolute complexity of a game (and therefore its depth, and therefore the degree of skillful play that it allows) by simply measuring the maximum distance between the best and worst possible players. In our coin toss game that distance is zero. The best and worst possible players are forced to play exactly the same way (press the button; make a random guess), so that it is impossible for us to even distinguish them. In the most complex games yet made, Civilization, say, or Marvel vs. Capcom, or Supreme Commander, that distance is so great that the best player always towers above the worst like an invincible, untouchable god.

The lesson here is that you can enjoy a great, extremely deep and complex game like Chess or Starcraft 2 without ever becoming very good at it. Dont be discouraged by the complexity of the game - embrace it. You will become a better gamer because of it. Consider it a challenge and your incremental improvements will be very rewarding. The key is to always play someone - either a human opponent or a bot or an AI - who is slightly better than you. This is how you get better. If you play weaker opponents you will rarely have to correct your play to beat them, and making small corrections and improvements in each game results in wholesale changes over time., Blizzard's online service, has a full slew of matchmaking features which pit you against opponents at or slightly above your skill level. The system works perfectly as far as I can tell, and if you dont feel up for playing people its always a blast to play against the AI either by yourself or coop with a friend.

The single player campaign lasts 15-20 hours and is produced with a quality that has never before been seen in the RTS genre. I was initially concerned that Starcraft 2 would not ship with a Zerg and Protoss campaign, with Blizzard instead opting to make those DLC - werent we getting shorted? The answer is a resounding no. The Terran campaing is longer than the campaigns of all 3 races from the original game combined. Plus there are special challenge missions, secret missions, hallucinatory crytal meth missions (seriously), and more achievements than I have ever seen in any game before in my enitre life. The amount of single player content outside of is staggering and easily worth $60 alone.

I know a lot of the people who read this blog dont play RTS games and probably dont care about Starcraft 2 or PC gaming in general, and while I respect those people and their gaming choices, I almost feel bad for them because they are really missing out one of the best games of the year - if not all time. You just have to be up for the challenge (and your PC does also). Blizzard has created a masterpiece in Starcraft 2, its a game where everything just comes together - the technology, the story, the online features - to create something truly special that only happens a few times in a generation. While no game is perfect, Starcraft 2 is epic on a scale few games have ever reached.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Castlevania: Harmony of Despair GT Review

I played a little bit of this last night and I have to say its quite fun. Its pretty different from the single player games in that there isnt a story or a leveling up system, and instead you just collect gold and loot from chests and monsters to upgrade your gear slowly but surely. Its a game thats going to take some grinding to complete. Also - its really, really not meant to be played by yourself, as in, you will just die over and over. The bosses have a ridiculous amount of health and require teamwork to take down effectively. Its a new spin on an old formula and although the game isnt meant for casual players or people unfamiliar with the franchise, personally Im loving it.