Play Together Stay Together
Since we escaped our WoW addiction back in 2008 we’ve tried to get that same itch scratched by other games. Borderlands has come close, but actual MMOs have left us rather cold. Most are so instanced that you lose all feeling for the world they create even when they look as beautiful as the likes of Guild Wars 2.
Strangely though a game that suffers from all the same flaws of these alternatives, and which is a long way from the polish and grandure of WoW has managed to pull us in.
That game is Neverwinter. The difference with this game? Simple.
It’s on a console.
This not only grants the ease of playing from a sofa, but with a controller in everyone’s hand the opportunities for enhancing the combat scenarios are far greater than any PC based MMO I have tried. I haven’t actually played Neverwinter on PC so I can’t fully compare the two but the console implementation feels so right it’s hard to fault. I’ve never had my character moving around a battle arena anywhere near so much as I do in Neverwinter.
The game itself does suffer in many other areas from being controller based. Inventory handling is a real pain, and you are limited to how many different potions you have ready on quick draw. Also many other aspects of the port feel under tested or just plain ropey. We’ve even joked amongst ourselves, this being a free to play game, that you have to pay for the ‘high frame rate pack’.
But it says something for the pure mechanics of the game and it’s capturing of the usual MMO hooks that Linda and I our both actively grinding our toons up to level 60 pretty much everyday. We’re popping in to check on professions even when we’re not going to quest. We’re grouping with friends and getting that social fix of chat and laughter that MMOs often excel at, despite that never really being a design point, it’s just part of the DNA of the up and down times questing systems create.
That gaming bug has a habit of finding you right where you weren’t really looking.
We bought heavily into Destiny. We finally broke our absence from the next-come-current gen and picked up a couple of PS4s and a digital copy of the game itself. We dived in to the world and have been playing it pretty much every night since launch, and even one full day when we had a rare day without work.
However, like many others, we’ve found the world, or perhaps I should say solar system feeling a little bland, the story hidden away on Bungie.net via some cards you can’t access from the game. The universe they have created is actually quite interesting, but the way it is presented in the game is just all wrong. However I find myself thinking the whole set-up could have been handled so much better, and the game is even suited to it!
You see Destiny is a game of two halves. The first has you leveling up whilst playing the story. By the time that is over you either are or close to level 20, the max standard level in the game. You then start the second half where you are running and re-running missions to grind out gear to level you past that 20 barrier.
So how do I think the game should have been laid out? Well…
The game should start at the end of the golden age. The Darkness has come and humanity is fighting a loosing battle. Of course they hard thing with a war you must lose is how does the player ‘win’ within that context. Well I would have had the players fighting to clear the lands that the Traveler was going to protect. Your guardians clear the zones of Fallen, Hive, Vex and Cabal, introducing you to the races. You’re winning battles as you hear of the loses of the war, first Mars falls, then Venus. Finally you hear that the Moon has been taken too just as you secure the lands where they say a Tower will be built to shelter what remains of humanity. Withy only the Tower and the Cosmodrome left you are sent to The Wall to make a last defence of the cosmodrome, a sort of horde mode where you inevitably die.
Only then are you awakened by ghost, back from the dead in the now wasted lands of twisted metal and human remains. And so begins the fight back. Continuous Strikes, Raids and Patrols holding off the Darkness ready to begin the strike back.
This would have opened it up for a set of DLC packs, each one detailing the fight back across the 3 none earth zones. Moon, Venus & Mars.
To my mind that split of the story and grind sections would fit perfectly with the gameplay and feal more natural. The repetitiveness of the late game grind fitting nicely with an eternal struggle to just survive rather than defeating the Darkness and then for some reason still fighting the same battles again and again.
All thing said though, Linda and I are still enjoying our time with destiny, the mechanics are without question fun and engaging. And I think provided you have a constant team available to you you can have a lot of long term fun with Destiny.
The original Portal was the sleeper hit, a diamond forged under the immense pressure of having Half Life 2 Episode 2 and Team Fortress 2 as box fellows. It delighted with it’s puzzles and fresh perspective on first person game play. When it came to the second game I watched my wife, Linda, play through it first. It seemed like a game that went on too long, that overstayed it’s welcome somewhat, and though I enjoyed the vocal performances of Ellen McLain, J. K. Simmons and of course Stephen Merchant, it all seemed from outside too much of a good thing. I did in fact play a fair bit of Protal 2, completing all of the co-op missions with Linda which in themselves were excellent, and perhaps worthy of the entry fee on their own. But even these slices of excellence couldn’t persuade me to devote my time to the single player story.
However come to 2014, and with the game very soon to be featured on Gameburst’s Replay show for January I figured it was well past time to try it for myself. And as it turns out I was rather wide of the mark. Though the game is quite long, especially in relation to the tight storytelling of the original, it in no way feels stretched. There was always something to be thinking about, some new puzzle to solve, as well as keeping up with the overarching narrative that there was no time to become tired or bored. The addition of new mechanics some way into the story freshened up the gameplay of the original, whilst still remaining true to the core principles of the puzzles and had you once again thinking outside of the box for the solution to progression.
Can I claim Portal 2 is greater than the original? That I am not clear on, but it is in no way less, and when it comes to games such a statement is rare indeed!
It was shortly after BioShock first launched that I picked up a copy on Steam. As a veteran of PC shooters I was looking forward to a game with a bit more depth than the average shooter of the time, and dare I say with an actual story behind it. Things started well, I found the whole world of Rapture captivating and the mix of gun play and the games ‘magic powers’ of plasmids a unique twist on the usual FPS style.
Then I came to the first Big Daddy encounter, and died. Restarting at the last vita chamber I retraced my steps and faced again he lumbering hulk of the Big Daddy. And died again.This process continued for a good four or five attempts until, more by luck than anything, I defeated him and was able to move on. At least until the next encounter, when the process started again. My enjoyment of the game quickly diluted, and before long I had shelved the game into the growing ranks of my Steam library.
Over the next few years I would occasionally try out the game again but always stumble on the same step. In the meantime my wife managed to play through BioShock, BioShock 2 & even BioShock Infinite, whilst I still could only wonder at the twists and turns of the story behind Ryan and Fontaine. Who were they, what drove them to turn the promise of Rapture into the war torn, plasmid obsessed freakshow come ghost town I had witnessed?
So we come to 2014, nearly seven years after the games initial release and I started again, on XBOX 360, this time with everything set to as easy as possible. Nothing was going to get in the way of the story this time! And what a joy it was, to not struggle with battling the big ones, but still to have the fun challenge of navigating the once wondrous Rapture. Poking my nose into every situation I could, listening in to voices of the past and photographing my way to improved skills.The big twist that lies within BioShock was somewhat known to me, being an avid listener of podcasts it was impossible to avoid after such a long period. But the knowing in no way lessened my enjoyment of living through the reveal, of understanding what had driven my character behind the scenes, and how complete the failure of Rapture was. I, like so many before, felt the ideal and then self-destruction of Rapture flow through me. Such promise of something greater brought down low by the same old problems of all civilizations. BioShock succeeds where all great games succeed for me. In telling it’s story not through cut scenes, but by environment. Through the dilapidation of what was once grand, through diaries of the inhabitants be they the great or the small, the process of true discovery. Of piecing together the tattered strands and reaching an understanding of what had happened on ones own terms. In these ways games will always out run movies and books, not by aping them.
Now I am freed to continue my adventures through both BioShock 2 and Infinite and their associated DLC packs. I feel as though a large weight has been lifted from my backlog of games, a behemoth of a failure in my gaming repertoire. Perhaps 2014 will turn out to be the year I actually break the back of my back catalogue!
Table Top Day 2013
We played a fair few games yesterday in honor of the first ever Table Top Day. Reminded us of how much we enjoy co-op games. Will have to seek out more. Also we’ve decided to dedicate one evening a week to playing, so we don’t become as rusty on the rules as we were before yesterday!
Overseeing the correction of a great wrong on Tuchanka.
I recently bought myself the new Criterion game Need For Speed: Most Wanted™. I opted for the PS3 version as I knew a few others getting it on there and the draw of Autolog is a strong one for me, always driving up gaming enjoyment and adding extended life to a title. It transpired however that at some point in the past I had linked my PS3 name to an old EA Origin account which was not the same one I had for the 360 and PC games. So I called up EA and eventually got my PS3 persona removed from this account and transferred to my more active account.
The joys woes of Autolog
Great I thought, now my Autolog will be picking up details from both my PS3 and 360 friends within the game. Alas no, after spending a few hours racing and earning a good hundred thousand SpeedPoints™ I opened the menu to see all those points disappear and my score reset to what it was before I started the session. More calls and chats with EA were unable to rectify this problem so I finally decided to have the old origin account deleted, this must surely remove all details of it from Autolog right and I can start over?
So after about seven days wait (I had requested the deletion over thanksgiving, which probably wasn’t smart of me for a US based company!) my old account was removed. I booted up the PS3 and deleted my saves and the game data file so everything was fresh. And indeed my score had reset to zero and all seemed well, I could earn points again and progress in the game. However, the game refused to connect to Autolog. I received an error 193 stating I had already connected Most Wanted to Autolog with another Origin account. Well yes I had, but now that account was gone and all I had was my active account, but no matter what I tried I couldn’t get past that error. Even creating another PS3 account, I have one for purchases in Danish Kroner, simply gave me the same error which seems very odd as that had never been added to an Origin account before. Something in Autlog is effectively banning my Origin account from the system!
And so I find my interest in the game, for which I paid full price on launch, sapped. Without the heart of Autolog behind it the game feels like an empty shell. I have no need to finish a race better than in first place, my time is unimportant. Billboards loose their appeal as only seeing my own name, without even my own avatar makes them dull and uninteresting. EA at one point even told me to contact PSN support, how exactly they would be able to change anything inside of Autolog I’m not sure.
My only solution seems to be to rebuy the game on 360, effectively rewarding EA with a double purchase because they lack the control of their own systems to rectify the issue.
It’s not often I get mad with game publishers compared to most, but this is one of those few times.
My gaming schedule of the past few months has not been of my own choosing. However far from this being due to some subversive mind control I have chosen to have my gaming dictated by the choices made of two of my favoured podcasts. Namely those being GameBurst and Cand & Rinse.
We all know the joy of being swept up in the latest releases, joining in the twitter gossip and forum posts that erupt whenever a new game comes along. However following such practices can become a very expensive pastime, requiring day one purchases of games.
How then to capture that sense of community and belonging without the cost of day one buys? Why by tracking the gaming choices of GameBust’s Replay show and Cane & Rinse’s weekly output. Both shows deal with games that are removed from the wave of the new by at least a few months, and sometimes years. Picking up a game you don’t own to ‘play along with’ becomes a far more economical choice, and yet you can still get that same sweep of excitement and belonging that chasing the new instils. Sharing thoughts with others that are playing the same games around the same time, twitter comments and forums posts are all there in check. Plus you may well find missed gems that you never knew were out there such as I have in Valkyria Chronicles.
For me this has become a very good way to keep involved without the incessant rush to keep up with the ever increasing barrage of new releases. Long may it continue!