Tenfold Hate

Micromanagement and Sleep Deprivation
November 9, 2009, 3:40 pm
Filed under: Dragon Age: Origins

This weekend was all about Dragon Age: Origins and I managed to clock in around nine hours of game play Sunday. I can’t say enough good things about this game. Since its release last Tuesday, I seem to be revisiting the unhealthy gaming habits I once practiced around the time of WoW Mark One when I averaged around five hours of sleep a night.

The thing about Dragon Age is, the story is written so damn well, tearing myself away from the computer would be tantamount to shooting my DVD player seconds before the climax of an enthralling movie.

My first couple days of game play were spent severely micromanaging the combat (literally changing tactics after each turn) but the more familiar I get with the game mechanics the more settled I become with letting the NPCs wreak their own havoc.

Speaking of which, I’m having a ton of fun with the NPC party members. So far, Alistair’s the only constant outside of my rogue. I’m dead set on wooing Morrigan. Maybe if I take care of her mother for her like she asked, she’ll have a change of heart.

I have a thing for bad girls. But I must say, lately I’ve been leaving her at camp a bit since I got the more healing-centric mage from the Circle of Mage’s Tower to join my party. Skills over beauty, I guess.

For my fourth slot, I rotate between the dog and the bard. In that case, beauty trumps the coolness of having a loyal war dog in my band. I’m tailoring the bard’s skills toward archery, so she makes a much cleaner fit into my party of tank/melee/healer than the cyber mutt.

So many options, so little sleep! What class/party combos have you been playing around with in DA:O?

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Dragon Age: Origins (Believe the Hype)
November 4, 2009, 3:52 pm
Filed under: Dragon Age: Origins

No single-player fantasy RPGs have really jazzed me in a really long time–the last two I stuck with through the course of the whole storyline were Neverwinter Nights and Sacred. Yesterday I picked up Dragon Age: Origins. From my initial impression of the game, this is just what the doctor ordered.

I installed the game at about 9 p.m. I’d tool around with the character creator a bit before bedtime. After creating a noble dwarf rogue, the only thing that got me away from the computer at 3 a.m. was having to be at work in 4 hours.

Combat is fast-paced and animated, but gives players the option to “freeze” the action and distribute tactics among party members a la the old school strategy games I was weened on (SSI anyone?).

There are three main classes to choose from (warrior, rogue, and mage) each of which have pretty detailed skill trees that allow you to tailor your character to your liking. Want your mage to manipulate the elements? Check. How about a shapeshifter? Check. Want to play your rogue like a classic ranger with bow, arrow, and animal companion in tow? You can. Or a duel-wielding cutthroat? You can do that too.

The storyline is extremely well-crafted (with plenty of betrayal and backstabbing in the 5 or so hours of the storyline–and there are 6 distinct origin storylines in all–I’ve played thus far). The voice acting is second-to-none, and the dialogue is never cheesy or melodramatic. Take note, NCSoft. I’m still giggly about the high cheese cut scenes and nonsensical plot lines I had to suffer through in the original Guild Wars.

If you’re aware of Bioware’s best work, you’re already familiar with the uncanny ability they have to make you feel as if you’re playing the staring role in some sweeping, intense epic story. They pull this off without a hitch in DA:O.

Outside of the fact that this is a single player and not a multiplayer RPG, the world feels a thousand times more than the standard MMO fare that seems to continually move further and further from its RPG heart-and-soul with each passing year.

This has all the elements of a classic fantasy RPG, with all the great bleeps, bells, whistles, and polish that today’s cutting edge game development can provide. I’m really looking forward to whittling away a nice chunk of the fall playing this game.

Back At It
October 23, 2009, 12:13 pm
Filed under: MMORPGs, Warhammer: Age of Reckoning

After a healthy MMORPG hiatus, it’s hard to believe it has been nine months since I’ve posted. I was in Champions beta for a wee bit, but got bored after clocking in a few hours of game play. Nothing particularly wrong with it–but there was nothing “right” for me about this game either. Plug highly customizable superheroes into the most tired, played out, massively multiplayer cookie cutter formulas. If that’s your bag, you’ll be pleased as punch.

It’s not so much that I’ve given up on MMORPGs as I feel MMORPGs have given up on me–or more accurately–turned their backs on fans looking for something they haven’t seen a thousand times before. Despite all this, I’ve been itching to play something, and that something equaled resubscribing to Warhammer Online. I’ve been playing very casually and having a swell old time in Tier One.

Mostly, I’m trying some of the classes I didn’t bother with the first time around (magus, shaman, and Knight of the Blazing Sun). Server consolidation, new open world RvR incentives, and 10-day free trials have made Tier One RvR a very healthy, fun place to spend a couple hours a night if you enjoy PvP.

Over a year after launch, I still feel this game has some of the best classes in any MMO–and the PvP is as close to being done right as anything out there at the moment. Which admittedly, may not be saying a hell of a lot. I love the Warhammer books, so being a tourist in that world again is a great deal of fun for me too.

That’s not to say there still aren’t issues.

1) While the outcome of RvR results in the victors having access to buffs, experience bonuses, and special vendors, these massive battles still have little to no bearing on the game environment itself (barring flight path accessibility). This is my old hang-up with all MMORPGs (phasing, while a clever immediate fix, would not be a cure-all).

2) Tier One RvR has been great–everything I’d hoped for the game the first time around. I had a blast RvR’ing a Knight of the Blazing Sun all the way through Tier One, but once I reached Tier Two, the RvR action quieted down considerably. I found myself back where I was left during my first go at WAR: queuing for scenarios. Again, these are great fun but should not serve as the focal point of a game.

The two Tier 3 characters I played after launch are on the last remaining Open RvR server. The pop on that server is painfully quiet so I really can’t speak to the Tier 3 experience at the moment.

If I could transfer these characters to a more populated server I would in a flash, but I think at the moment, there are no Open RvR to standard server transfers permitted.

3) After a few web browser searches, it appears the WAR blogging community is virtually non-existent–either burnt out, faded away, or simply not vocal enough. I know from my time back in-game, the players are out there. Are any of you WAR bloggers still kicking around?

While I’m having a great time, I’m not forgetting my initial zeal for this game that slowly faded after a couple months’ play when “War Is Everywhere” slowly began to feel like “Grind Is Everywhere.”

In my opinion, WAR’s Tier One experience is second-to-none and the vibrant Tier One RvR makes it the most casual-friendly game I’ve ever played.

My big question is, will the healthy Tier One population translate to the higher tiers as time goes by, or will I end up playing a bunch of different classes through Tier One and find myself hitting the wall I hit a year ago?

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The Usual Hiatus
January 29, 2009, 9:34 am
Filed under: MMORPGs

I hit that wall I face every couple months where online gaming totally loses its luster and just doesn’t feel very satisfying, so I’ll probably be taking a little breather from posting for a wee bit. Too much snow here.

In the meantime, here’s a really funny video blog from Beau Turkey.

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Men in Tights
January 22, 2009, 10:17 am
Filed under: Comics, MMORPGs

There’s a lot of speculation about what the new shiny of 2009 will be. Though at best it’ll garnish nothing larger than a niche group of players (if it’s any good–or in fact, more than vaporware) I’m intrigued by Darkfall. Any move away from the gear-based, Barbie dress-up game that all major fantasy MMOs have become has potential in my book–and FFA looting ensures that your character won’t strictly be what he or she wears. I’m certainly willing to forsake somewhat outdated graphics for a change of pace–but I tend to enjoy PvP. Most don’t. And FFA looting has the potential to become very frustrating very fast depending on player culture and maturity levels.

But the big slugfest of the upcoming year will surely be between DC Universe Online and Champions. DCUO will no doubt win out on the sub side since they have the big name license and the big name company behind them. But which will be the better game?

The recently released preview of DCUO fell short in my eyes. The city (presumably Metropolis) seemed too “clean,” the character models didn’t scream “Jim Lee,” and the screen was overpopulated with glowing orbs and floating whirligigs, hearkening back to the power ups and hovering coins of arcade games of yore. I loved Crystal Castles and Double Dragon, but the thing is, I wanna forget I’m playing a video game every so often in an RPG.

Both DCUO and Champions promise an “action-oriented” game too. This is another cool idea that has yet to be executed well. One of them has gotta pull it off, right? But let’s get back to the subject at hand–MMORPGs–and what they’ve been sorely lacking. Story.

Now before you start up, I don’t wanna hear how the Death Knight is really cool and Blizzard really outdid themselves with adding quirky quests and fun twists to WoTLK. Stitches by any other name is still Stitches and I’ve been there, done that, it was fun, but it’s over.

This is where Champions hooks me in. Their Nemesis system allows you to create an archenemy for your hero who plays a significant role in your game play. Now this creates some solid potential for unique storytelling, one that moves away from the cookie cutter quest lines we’ve all been ushered through for the last half decade. You’ll not only be able to customize your character with an even greater breadth than Cryptic gave us in CoH, but you’ll be able to customize your powers and how they look.

The main thing that troubles me with superhero MMOs is that I’ve never found it an adequate fit for existing MMO conventions, like the tank/healer/DPS archetypes or the raid/dungeon crawl-reskinned-as-instanced-evil-scientist’s-underground-lair-crawl. Since those mechanics are so rooted in fantasy tabletop RPGs, they’ve always seemed strangely forced to me in any other genre.

A Great Way to Whittle Away Your Friday…
January 16, 2009, 11:21 am
Filed under: Animals

Totally unrelated to anything in the geek-o-sphere, but my coworker sent me this link to the funniest blog ever. Enjoy the three-day weekend! New president Tuesday. Big week!

My Rune-Keeper Hits 20
January 12, 2009, 10:01 am
Filed under: Lord of the Rings Online

After a night of my brother-in-law and I finishing off some quests in Buckland and running around the Old Forest, we hit twenty on our rune-keeper/warden combo. This was a pretty substantial ding for me since at 20 I get my first “rez” spell–or whatever the LoTRO equivalent is–since technically your character never “dies,” but is simply defeated in battle.

I’ve been going a bit heavier on DPS, reserving my healing for fellowship quests and emergencies. For the most part, it’s been working out well. The more DPS spells you cast in any given battle, the more powerful your attacks become at the loss of your healing capabilities. The same goes in reverse if you’re healing.

I love the flexibility of this class, though I’ve gotten caught with my pants down every so often. I tend to get too cocky and get too far up the DPS “ladder” when I’m taking on a mob that’s above my head. At that point, it’s often too late to work my way down the chain to cook up any substantial healing. And it’s easy to get cocky with the RK–at times I feel like I can take on all of Middle Earth, only to be humbled by a signature mob or a large group of foes.


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