I'm in my 20s, I'm married, and I've been playing games since I was 4. I still remember buying my own NES system at Sears and going home and playing Mario/Duck Hunt. Fast forward to the present, my wife and I now own a PS3, 360, Wii, and Wii U.
As far as contemporary systems go, I also own an iPhone 4 (which I game on very heavily - check out HookChamp), a 3DS XL, the Kinect, the PS Move, a PSP-2000, and a Playstation Vita. If I had to choose a system I had the "best times" with, it would be a two way tie between the Sega Dreamcast and Sony Playstation 2. My favorite game series is Mega Man Classic, but I own every Metal Gear, Devil May Cry, Zelda, Kingdom Hearts, Wario, Tony Hawk, main series Final Fantasy, and Resident Evil game ever released in the US (and a lot more), so it's a close call!
There are too many good games out to count now, but I'm always itching to play my backlog of old PS2 action titles. I'll play anything and everything action-adventure, so if you have a game in mind, drop me a line! I have strong opinions regarding the financial decisions of many publishers, but at the end of the day, I'm willing to give anything a chance; especially if it comes recommended by a community member.
Oh; and in 2012 I started contributing to Destructoid.
Resident Evil 5
Fallout: New Vegas
Dragon Age: Origins
Skies of Arcadia
Lunar 1 and 2
World of Warcraft: All Expansions
Super Mario Galaxy 2
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3
Devil May Cry 3
Phantasy Star Online
Ape Escape 1
Rockman and Forte (Megaman and Bass)
Jet Set Radio Future
Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
Donkey Kong Country
Final Fantasy Tactics
Dark Souls II
Deception IV: Blood Ties
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes
South Park: The Stick of Truth
Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy
The Wolf Among Us
Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag
Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
Super Mario 3D World
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
Dead Rising 3
The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD
Pokemon X & Y
Super Mario 3D World
Grand Theft Auto V
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
Persona 4 Golden
Tomb Raider (2013)
Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon
Brave Fencer Musashi
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
Far Cry 3
Assassin's Creed III
Retro City Rampage
Guild Wars 2
Binding of Isaac
Kingdoms Of Amalur: Reckoning
Zone of the Enders 2
Kid Icarus: Uprising
Batman: Arkham City
Kingdom Hearts II
Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance
Dust: An Elysian Tail
Tomb Raider II
Metal Gear Solid 4
Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood
Zombies At My Neighbors
Super Bomberman 2
Mass Effect 2
Mass Effect 3
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2
Tony Hawk's Underground 2
Assassin's Creed II
The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Ninja Gaiden Black (Xbox)
Power Stone 2
No More Heroes 2
Secret of Mana
Final Fantasy IV
Final Fantasy X
Super Mario RPG
Super Mario 64
Super Mario World
Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island
Super Mario Galaxy
Super Mario 3D Land
Mega Man 8
The Lost Vikings
Bujingai: The Forsaken City
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy Kong's Quest
Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence
Call of Duty: World at War
Call of Duty: Black Ops
Half Minute Hero
Kirby Super Star
Super Meat Boy
Jamestown: Legend of the Lost Colony
Shantae: Risky's Revenge
Mighty Flip Champs
Child of Eden
Kirby's Dream Course
Shadows of the Damned
Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR)
[Read on for a description of every main series Elder Scrolls game ever released in the US, and my completion of them all in 2013.]
2013 is going to be an exciting year. Now that I know you guys enjoy reading my Quests, I'm going to make an effort to do even more of them from here on out.
I hope that you guys have learned a bit about the franchises I've covered so far, as my plan is to inspire others to share their thoughts and feelings with the series of their choice as well (which many of you have done!).
As I stated in my blog, the third entry in The Elder Scrolls saga is one of my favorite games of all time, and cemented my love for the series. No other open world game has replicated what Morrowind did for me.
In honor of that fantastic feeling, I'll be replaying every game in the franchise.
Yes, the first two series entries, Arena and Daggerfall, are fairly dated. But since I grew up on Wizardry, Kings Field, and many more classic dungeon crawlers, I think I'm up for the task. It also makes it easier knowing that the first two games are absolutely free on Bethesda's website.
For this Quest, I'll beat the main story of each game, and keep playing other content as I see fit. Since there are only five games in the core series, I'll be completing every bit of DLC to elongate the third, fourth, and fifth games.
I expect the first two to take quite a while, regardless of the lack of DLC. I'm also including The Elder Scrolls Online, which could also take up a lot of time to complete the main questline. I'll include extended thoughts on each game after I play them, since open world titles tend to provide you with different experiences every time.
If you haven't joined me on my Quests before, the way they work is pretty simple. It's kind of like a retrospective, but rather than just give you an overview of a franchise, I'll generally let you know what I thought of the game when it was released, and what I think of it now.
If I didn't provide a complete vision of what the game is like before I replay it, I'll provide an "extended thoughts" section below each applicable entry. I'll update my progress in real time through my blog, and after I finish the entire Quest, I'll share it with you guys on the front page.
The Elder Scrolls: Arena - PC [Owned]
Size of map: Undetermined, due to instanced design
Although it was far from the first RPG (that was about 20 years earlier), Arena came out the same year as the first King's Field game, cementing it into a gold age of PC RPGs.
Arena is unique in that you can explore all of Tamriel, and not just one or two areas -- Morrowind, Oblivion, and Skyrim are all at your fingertips, provided you can handle the dated visuals.
Speaking of the ability to explore everywhere, the way Arena handled the map is kind of odd. The map itself isn't a continuous, connected world -- it's actually instanced. You have to use fast travel to go between towns, so it's very hard to determine the exact size of the world map.
Like Daggerfall, the game is randomly generated. I hope it holds up somewhat!
EXTENDED RP THOUGHTS:
The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall - PC [Owned]
Size of map: approximately 487,000 square kilometers
Daggerfall is a classic RPG game, through and through. It provides a number of graphical and engine enhancements over Arena, and starts to follow a more traditional Elder Scrolls formula that would help define the series in the years to come.
You could become a vampire, werewolf, and wereboar (the former two would be implemented in nearly every subsequent game), and the political system was incredibly well done, and pretty much unprecedented at the time.
The game was also controversial at the time as an M rated game, as it showed lots of blood, nudity, and had sexual dialogue (which could be removed through parental controls in the options -- remember those, PC gamers?).
Unlike Arena though, you weren't free to explore all of Tamriel. Instead, you were stuck with High Rock and Hammerfell, although the game is so large, that Morrowind is suggested to be 0.01% the size of Daggerfall's map.
Bethesda jumped through this hurdle by randomly generating most of the map, although that caveat makes it bigger than pretty much every game ever made outside of possibly EVE Online. The sheer scale of the game is so unimaginable that it basically isn't possible today.
EXTENDED RP THOUGHTS:
The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind - Xbox [Owned], Xbox (Game of the Year Edition) [Owned], PC [Owned]
DLC: Tribunal [Owned], Blood Moon [Owned]
Size of map: approximately 25.9 square kilometers
What couldn't I say about Morrowind that hasn't been said already? The vast plains, the amazing mushroom forests, the detailed ruins and keeps -- it pretty much trumped every single open world game ever released at that point, and the fact that they were able to cram it onto an Xbox disc is nothing short of amazing.
I spent well over 300 hours on one character just exploring, crafting items, and making up my own quests (this is with zero time spent on the main quest). Speaking of crafting, while some may say it breaks the game, the ability to create pretty much any item or spell increased the game's enjoyment tenfold.
I was able to spend hours creating spells like "Cure, Cura, and Curaga," as well as a "Mario Jump" spell that allowed me to leap hundreds of feet into the air. You could levitate, craft "The One Ring of Invisibility," -- anything. If you could imagine it, you could probably do it in Morrowind.
The one major detractor from the game is the fact that it hasn't aged well. Without a solid texture pack on the PC, you'll probably feel the burn of jagged, dated visuals.
While I don't think Tribunal was anything to write home about, Blood Moon rocked, and I'll be doing both for this Quest.
EXTENDED RP THOUGHTS:
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion - PC, PS3, PS3 (Game of the Year Edition), Xbox 360 [Owned], Xbox 360 (Game of the Year Edition)
DLC: Knights of the Nine [Owned], Shivering Isles [Owned], Mehrune's Razor [Owned]
Size of map: approximately 41.4 square kilometers
Oblivion, I felt, had a much less interesting world, and premise, than any other TES game before it. There's something about the plain feeling of Cyrodil that just didn't resonate with me.
While the trademark sidequests had some pretty great storylines, the main quest was probably the weakest and most repetitive yet. The gist is that you're constantly trying to seal "Oblivion Gates" to prevent evil forces from bursting through into Tamriel.
The problem is, the Oblivion realm is dreadfully boring, and Bethesda tends to re-use assets and even layouts so often, that it really takes away from the allure of the game.
That "samey" feel kind of projects itself onto the game in general, actually. Unlike the previous games (Morrowind especially), sometimes it's hard to discern where you are unless you look at your map. For me, that's not a hallmark of an Elder Scrolls game in the slightest. Contrary to popular belief, Oblivion's map is actually larger than Morrowind.
Still, while I think Oblivion isn't a great Elder Scrolls game, it's a pretty solid RPG that pretty much every fan should experience at least once.
I'll also be adding on the fairly short and lackluster Knights of the Nine and Mehrune's Razor questlines, as well as the incredibly detailed, and amazing Shivering Isles expansion.
To be frank actually, Shivering Isles comes close to Morrowind's greatness and originality, and judged seperately as its own game, is probably one of the strongest Elder Scrolls titles.
EXTENDED RP THOUGHTS:
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - PC, PS3, Xbox 360 [Owned]
Skyrim immediately grabbed me more than Oblivion ever did, basically within the first hour. Although Bethesda just substituted green plains for snow (which also got old sometimes), the "dragon" hook gave the game markedly more character right off the bat.
The concept of a "dragonborn" hero that actually feels heroic, and the mere fact that dragons constantly patrol the skies made for a much more interesting, and fun game.
As always, the sidequests were much more fun than the particularly drab main questline, but I probably wouldn't have it any other way, as a few of the sidequests had better narratives than full retail titles.
Although I think Bethesda could have done better, Skyrim is still quite an amazing game, and a great gateway into the Elder Scrolls series. In addition to the rather short main quest, I'll be playing every expansion released for the game to date, and will update this Quest should any more DLC surface.
EXTENDED RP THOUGHTS:
The Elder Scrolls Online - PC
Size of map: Unknown
I have no idea what to expect from The Elder Scrolls Online. In some ways, I can see it ending up like my Old Republic experience: getting to max level, enjoying the story, then promptly quitting. In another breath, I can see the vast lands of Tamriel in glorious HD, and not just restricted to Morrowind, Cyrodiil, or Skyrim.
Subscription based models are pretty tough to run these days in tandem with Blizzard, but given the prestige of the series, I can see them trying it initially. We'll see what 2013 brings, but honestly, I'm just excited at the idea of being able to see Summerset Isles close up.
It's not often that I'm impressed by do it yourself projects, but this gaming relating one caught my eye. The perfect marriage of retro and contemporary gaming is what made me so interested -- I love it anytime there's reverence for old school (which is probably why I get along so well with Destructoid's Chad Concelmo!).
One of my wife's co-workers had an awesome idea for his friend's birthday. His friend was a massive Skyrim fan, so he knew that he had to seize the opportunity, and make him something really special.
Initially, he considered ordering this custom Skyrim cartridge off of 72-Pins, but shortly afterwards he thought he would go the extra mile and make it a bit more personal.
After doing some internet matlockery, he came across a template, official Nintendo seals, a font that was as close as you could get to the NES cartridge style, and some laminate to protect the project's integrity. He ended up finding some awesome original retro-themed Skyrim artwork, and everything kind of just came together.
After doing some Photoshop wizardry he pared down the label for an NES cartridge, removed the old one and some yellow residue with Goo-b-gone, and BAM -- instant custom cartridge.
But he wasn't done there, because at this point, it was just pretty to look at -- and that wasn't enough. Using a guide from Instructables, he used a utility knife and a screwdriver to crack into the case and add some functionality to it.
All of this DIY madness makes me want to work on a project of my own -- I think Dark or Demon's Souls would be PERFECT for this.
Haven't you heard? Kirby's Dream Collection is out this week. Last Sunday, to be exact! Good old Nintendo Sunday releases. Jim will be covering it proper on the front page, but I figured I'd share my thoughts with you guys here.
Kirby's Dream Collection is very similar to the Wii's Super Mario All-Stars Limited Edition collection, but it has a little more "juice" to it, and it isn't hard to see why.
Not only does KDC contain Kirby's Dream Land, Kirby's Adventure, Kirby's Dream Land 2, Kirby Super Star, Kirby's Dream Land 3, and Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards, but it also has new challenge stages, a charming mini-booklet on Kirby's history, an in-game museum, and a soundtrack CD.
So how does it stack up?
If you're a hardcore Kirby fan, you probably need this collection. Although the included soundtrack and booklet don't go the extra mile to make this a "must have at all costs" type of deal, they are charming enough to add to the allure of the package.
The rather small booklet mostly contains factoids that us Kirby fanatics already knew, but seeing the original design proposal for the series, and a number of original designs all in one place makes for a great read anytime you want your Kirby fix.
The soundtrack is just one CD (which hilariously states that "you cannot play on your Wii"), and contains a mix of tracks from sixteen Kirby games, as well as three tracks that were recorded for the anniversary celebration. It would have been a bit nicer to get a more fleshed out multi-disc collection, but ultimately it is pretty enjoyable mix for when you just want to drop everything and get your Kirby-dance on.
The in-game Kirby museum is also cool, as it goes through every game throughout the years from 1992-2012 with random world factoids, but it's something you can do in fifteen minutes and never do again. That little adorable puffball has had quite a few games since his birth, but sadly, you can only play six of them on this collection: and the museum constantly reminds you of that.
So what if you're not a fan? Well, if you don't care about anything ancillary, and just wanted updated versions of the six classic games, you are going to be disappointed as hell. To be clear, these are direct ROM dumps and not remade ports on offer.
For instance, in the first Kirby's Dream Land, after clearing the game, you had to reset (turn off/on) your Game Boy unit to play again. Same deal here. If you're the type of person who can't stand lazy designs like this in updated packages, you'll most likely be fairly frustrated here. At the very least, there is GameCube, Classic Controller, and Wii-mote support.
Additionally, a number of these games can be found fairly cheap on the 3DS and WiiWare Virtual Consoles already, which means you wouldn't have to drop $40 on the package of six games to actually own all six. In fact, the only game not available right now is Kirby's Dream Land 2 (which is actually available everywhere but the US on the 3DS VC, and is coming to the US at some point).
The rest you can pick up for $3-10 each digitally, or perhaps even less online. If you're looking to get this for multiplayer, note that only three of the games support 2 or more players -- Kirby Super Star, Kirby's Dream Land 3, and Kirby 64 (and for the uninitiated, Kirby 64's multiplayer is for mini-games only).
Thankfully, unlike the Mario All-Stars Wii release, there is actual new content involved in the form of challenge rooms. These challenge rooms use the same engine as Kirby's Return to Dreamland, but involve all-new experiences. As you race through levels to get the best time and kill as many enemies as possible, you'll unlock more challenges, and even have the opportunity to race Magolor from RTD.
Races are a lot like the King Dedede gourmet races from Kirby Super Star, but a tad more enjoyable, as Magolor is a much more interesting opponent than Dedede ever was given his propensity to zap you while competing. The challenges don't offer a full game, but it's not a mini-game either: it's something more in-between.
All in all, I'm satisfied with the collection, but I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who wasn't a franchise fan. If you're a savvy enough consumer who just wants to casually play the series, you can easily just find these piecemeal for cheaper than the asking price. If you're a true fan however, you might want to pick this one up before it's gone forever.
When I was a community member, I always thought it was really important to get to know who the people on the front page are -- that was a key factor in drawing me to Destructoid, and as a result, I try to respond to as many people as I can, whether it's in the comments on the front page, via a PM, or in the c-blogs.
This is my extended response to all of those people who are looking to either break into the community, feel a lack of community, or want to know how to get involved in writing. Hopefully when you combine the above articles with this one, you'll get a clear Voltron-esque complete picture of who I am.
All of this is written fairly off-the-cuff with no preparation outside of the images -- but then again, that's my style baby!
Chapter 1: Jumping into the unknown
After lurking Destructoid since late 2008, I finally decided to join the community and write a blog under the username "Magnalon," which is a combination of Magna Centipede from Mega Man X2, and Shenlong, which is either a dragon or a Gundam depending on how you look at it. It was about Lord of the Rings Conquest: a game most people hated, or couldn't give a damn about.
It was literally the first gaming blog I ever wrote. Anywhere. Because of Jim Sterling and Jonathan Holmes, two staff members that are widely loved and still here, I was emblazoned to write that one seemingly insignificant blog. I felt like their editorial voices were extremely unique, and gave gaming websites a fresh coat of paint.
My original avatar was Wesker, from Resident Evil. I attempted to engage the community, and talk about the things I liked, and didn't like. I commented quite a bit, for better or for worse, and eventually, I started to learn what types of games nearly every community member enjoyed.
After a few months, I changed my avatar to Legato Bluesummers from the anime Trigun, which you'll see in my profile bar to the right to this day. My blog header has also stayed the same from day one (The Stampede is a Trigun reference, but it's also my old Mech Assault clan's name, which was #1 in the US).
Before I knew it, I was getting emails and comments asking me to grab a beer, or hang out and talk about all of the obscure games that I had talked about in my blog. It was an awesome feeling to say the least, as many other gaming sites' comment sections are just barren wastelands of discussion.
After writing a few c-blogs, I got a small handful of PMs asking if I wrote for any gaming websites. The answer at the time was "no," but I ended up looking for one as a result, and found Gamer Limit.com. At the time, Gamer Limit was a very small site ran by one of the nicest Aussies you'll ever meet.
Within weeks, I started reviewing games, and became the Editor-In-Chief and Co-Owner. After adding another incredible writer named James, who became a Co-Owner with myself and the Founder months down the line, things started rolling.
We were accredited by Metacritic and Gamerankings, with help from James, and the 100+ reviews I had written alongside of other staff. We started getting thousands of daily hits and got an ad deal. We attended two E3s, which I couldn't have done without the help of my fellow staff mates, and James, who heavily helped plan it and set up our business documents.
When I was at E3, I had the opportunity to give Jim, Chad, and Niero a hug, and meet Jonathan Holmes and Anthony Burch, among many others. In terms of coverage, I got extremely sick both years because I over-exerted myself and wrote around twenty previews each year. Despite my illnesses however, my passion for gaming still ran strong. If I went back, I wouldn't have done less: I would have done even more.
But running a website is really hard work. Eventually, we had a few writers who moved on to other publications -- AusGamers and Game Informer to name a few. With increasing responsibilities at home, there was no way I could continue to keep the site as flowing as it once was, and it became extremely stressful. Right now, the site is mainly a more relaxed venue, but I still really enjoy reviewing games on it while I'm not writing here. To date, I have reviewed around 165 games that are viewable on Metacritic and Gamerankings.
While this was all happening, I was still very active on Destructoid. I had my first c-blog promotion, and it felt great. While I was doing well at Gamer Limit, my community presence at Destructoid was steadily growing.
People started to identify me, and a lot of the staff would respond to my comments. I had a "Question of the week" on RetroForce Go!, I was referenced on Podtoid a few times (My obsession with Demon's Souls paid off!), I managed to actually get on the botched Podtoid 100, and I won a "Comment of the Week" contest when that was a thing on the front page.
Even though I'm staff, I still link my old avatar in my profile, which has lead to many people exclaiming "OMG you're Magnalon!?" after they click my profile link on the front page. It's a great feeling, as I've made many friends by clicking on their profile links and seeing that they have similar interests.
If you want a major tip when it comes to community integration -- fill out that profile page with as much information as you're comfortable with!
Chapter 3: Friendship and familiarity
But as I started to rise in both communities, more battles were ahead. As I started to spend more time on Destructoid, I eventually became known as the "c-blog sheriff," or the "c-blog police." This was a term coined by the community, because I would pretty much try and comment on every blog I could get my hands on.
If someone was new, and broke some of the unwritten rules, I'd try to steer them in the right direction. If someone was copying blogs from another site and stealing content, I'd try to investigate so the c-blogs could have as much original content as possible.
Funnily enough I had many arguments this way with various community members. I got into a few heated debates with EternalDeathslayer and SilverDragon in particular. Shortly after contacting them and hashing it out, we got along extremely well. Heck, SilverDragon and his girlfriend (now wife) even came and visited my wife and I down at Disney World!
After some time, I hung up the spurs and retired as sheriff. I felt like many others were rising up in my place, and I had to focus on other projects. But that doesn't mean I stopped interacting! I ran many contests as a community member, and interacted with my friends on a near daily basis. This became extremely hard after seeing some of my favorite people pack up and leave, or quit video games altogether.
So, I started a Twitter account specifically to keep in touch with some of the members who left the community. Over the course of a few years, I started to accumulate a ton of fellow Dtoiders on my account, as well as making connections with people outside of Destructoid, on just about every other gaming outlet on the web.
Chapter 4: Staff
Throughout all my years at Destructoid, I had developed a strong editorial voice, augmented by my knowledge and experience with pretty much every genre and era of gaming: from retro to Modern Warfare.
Dale North and Hamza noticed this, and brought me on as a contributor to Destructoid early in 2012. Due to my reduced role at Gamer Limit, I was able to easily start pumping out content for Destructoid, and it couldn't make me happier.
I don't really have a niche per se, as I pretty much enjoy everything, but I do try to make a point to highlight Nintendo content, as I feel like it was a bit underrepresented before I came in. To hone my skills, I started to freelance (literally for free, and for fun) for a few sites like the retro-centric 1MoreCastle.com.
I feel like things have come full circle. Just a few years ago I was looking outside at the house Destructoid built, and now I'm in it. Yet, I feel like a lot of things have stayed the same: and that's a good thing. I'm still free to write things like this and slum it in the comments. I'm still free to PM people, hang out with some of you, and tweet back and forth with some amazing dudes and dudettes.
Initially, Jim and Jonathan were my inspiration, but eventually, all of Destructoid inspired me. You can easily see why I still love writing here. People have come and gone, but that happens literally everywhere: it's a fact of life.
No matter what happens, for those people I make the effort to keep in contact with: it's like they never left. In fact, some people who don't read the site anymore still contact me about my articles, just because they want to support me -- if that isn't an amazing feeling, I don't know what is!
In light of that, I want to formally say "thank you" to everyone here.
Chapter 5: ???
What does the future bring? I have no idea. What I do know is that I'm mostly in charge of my destiny. If something happened and I couldn't write anymore for the rest of my life, I would regret next to nothing, given how much this community has helped me grow as a person, and given all of the friendships I would still have.
I've gotten a few offers from some smaller websites, but I choose to write here given my history with Destructoid. While I can "never say never" when it comes to my future employment in the writing arena, I do know that I would never accept a job that didn't allow me to continue writing c-blogs, and comment on Destructoid. It's too important to me!
I’ll give it to you straight: if you've played the Diablo III beta, you’ll notice that the game seems fairly limited and droll. Thankfully, the beta itself was probably one of the worst snapshots of the full game.
One of the most deceiving things about the beta is how limited the rune system was at the time, which lead to player outrage for limiting certain skills to certain quick-slots. Essentially, this required a rigid construction of your character, to the point where people called Diablo III “dumbed down”, and vowed to ignore the retail release. This assessment couldn't be farther from the reality.
Most people probably aren’t aware of the game’s “Elective Mode”, hidden tactfully underneath the veneer of the gameplay options menu. This allows you to put any skill in any slot you want, and completely customize your build the way you want it. Hilariously enough I was included in that naive group, as I didn't even discover the option until after I beat the game for the first time.
In addition to the robust skill system (which gives you more abilities as you level up), you’ll immediately notice that the “Rune” system and passive ability system allow you more customization than any dungeon crawler to date. This mechanic would be tiresome if it weren’t for the fact that Runes utterly change how each skill plays out.
For instance, a skill that replenishes your mana may be further augmented to replenish your health as well, changing when the skill is best used in the middle of a hectic boss fight. Alternatively, it could be modified to give you a mana increase over time after activation, which can be helpful in more attrition-oriented fights.
Another Rune may make a non-damaging skill like a trap or an evasive move inflict damage, or root enemies instead of just slowing them; and so on. You can respec instantly at any time (respeccing changes your abilities – this usually costs in-game currency and the use of an NPC in most RPGs, but it is free and clear in D3).
Respeccing mid-fight can be extremely exhilarating, but Blizzard cleverly rewards players at higher levels of difficulty by giving them a stacking “magic find” (a statistic for finding better loot) buff for NOT respeccing during a certain amount of time – genius.
So what good are fancy skills if there are no interesting boss fights to be had? Thankfully, D3 delivers on that front. Bosses are no longer kite, kite, kite, kite, kite, kite; don’t get hit. They’re basically full-on raid encounters, a la your standard MMO – but in a good way.
Unlike most MMOs that require you to have a guild or assemble a swarthy crew, pretty much every boss in the game outside of maybe Inferno Mode can be soloed, provided you have the skill-set.
Typical MMO boss tropes like “stay out of the fire” apply here, but there’s also a number of different circumstances that will require quick thinking, split-second reflexes, and most of all – the drive to keep moving, to avoid various traps. Unlike Diablo 2 (or most dungeon crawlers in general), pretty much every fight is environmental, which means that some sort of other-worldly hazard is out to get you while you’re locked in combat with your foe.
It makes for a pretty interesting gameplay experience, and honestly, the higher levels of difficulty really change the way developers should look at dungeon crawlers as a whole.
To clarify, there is a Normal, Nightmare, Hell, and Inferno Mode, with a maximum player level of 60. At the end of Normal, you should be around Level 30. At the end of Nightmare, you could be anywhere from 45-50 or higher. At the end of Hell, you should be 60, ready to tackle the 60-only Inferno Mode. Right away in Nightmare, I noticed a stark contrast in terms of difficulty – I can’t wait to see what Hell and Inferno are like.
My main character right now is a Demon Hunter. I’m nearly finished with Nightmare Mode right now at level 48, and I’m feeling really good about my first character choice. The Demon Hunter is essentially a ranged rogue of sorts, and is the very definition of a glass cannon. He can get in (and out) of danger at a moment’s notice, but if he’s overrun, that’s pretty much it.
Thankfully he has a ton of traps, slows, escapes, and various other tricks at his disposal to be a more effective force on the battlefield. You don’t have to go the traps/trickery route though, as you can go full DPS by changing up your passive skills to accommodate.
Although the Demon Hunter is the only character I have above level 30, I do have one of every class above level 10. So far what I’m noticing is that the Barbarian just utterly dominates. He has a ton of abilities to hit groups and single targets, and the fact that him and the Monk take 20% less inherent damage than all other classes is pretty insane. I can't complain of course because he can't do *everything*, as every class has their unique signature on group combat. I especially can't complain because I plan on having a level 60 Barbarian myself on day!
The Monk is more of a group-centric character (he has mantras and the like that can heal, and buff the group), but he’s still viable on his own depending on your build. The Witch Doctor is similar to the Demon Hunter in that he’s a major glass cannon, and has a bunch of tricks up his sleeve.
Tactically, the Wizard is just about what you’d expect out of a typical Diablo spell caster, but he has a few really cool abilities (like a time slow dome) that sets him apart from the rest. Surprisingly, although there seems to be a bit of a slant towards the Barbarian (based on my higher level play with my friends), every class is fairly balanced, and I’ve seen success with every type of player.
I also had an opportunity to do Diablo III’s “Cow Level” (I don’t want to ruin it here): suffice to say, given that I spent three hours of preparation grinding for the materials and the 150,000 gold to do it, it was fairly disappointing. Despite the let-down, however, it’s nice to know that you can enter it an unlimited amount of times; unlike Diablo II, where you had to sleaze the system by refraining from killing the Cow King, and could easily do it accidentally with an errant Frost Orb.
So what about the DRM issues you've no doubt been hearing about? Well, as I've stated above, in less than a week I've nearly beaten the game approximately 6 times. I honestly haven't had major issues with the "always-on" requirement, as I've only been dropped from games a few times -- thankfully, my checkpoints were always extremely close by and I only lost 5 minutes of time at maximum (although my XP and gear were completely fine; it was just my short amount of progress that was lost).
I'm not one of those people who generally believes that "even the most minor inconvenience is unacceptable", but I completely agree that always-on DRM is pretty absurd for the single player portion of the game. At the same time, I haven't seen any evidence of duping or account training, so I'm willing to put up with this inconvenience in exchange for the ability to play one of the best dungeon crawlers to date.
Additionally, Blizzard has a good habit of supporting their games, and if Warcraft III and Starcraft I are still being supported, I'd say Diablo III's future is set in stone. If you're taking a stance against the game on principle, I have no issue with that, but at least try the soon-to-be-available free trial if you aren't keen on giving Blizzard any money at this point in the game.
All in all, I’m extremely happy with Diablo III. I plan on playing with all five classes to supplement my Demon Hunter, and I have a swarthy group of friends who plan on doing the same. I’m very excited for Torchlight II, but at the same time, I’m thrilled to see that D3 clearly has legs past the first month of play. If you like dungeon crawlers, you may not be blown away by Diablo III, but you will probably enjoy it.
After nearly getting 1000/1000 Achievement Points for Mass Effect 3 last night, I was lying in bed holding my wife, and thought of something: what will my future kid think of my Gamerscore?
I’m in my mid-20s, and my wife and I are both thinking of having our first kid soon. Now I know gaming sounds like an absurd thing to think about in the grand scheme of raising a child, but it can’t be all business time all the time, right – I am going to play games with my kid!
Some time ago thanks to the recommendation of a Dtoider, I watched a technological symposium regarding this surprisingly frightful “score” oriented future, in which every product possible (tangible or not) is tied to a “score”: similar to Coke Points, but regulated through an electronic device, applications, and technology like NFC. Essentially, marketing will infiltrate our lives.
The plus side to this digital future is that your posterity gets to look at your Gamescore, Trophies, or “Kindle Reading Score” (if such a thing is ever created), and see what you did: in other words, your legacy. As I was lying there last night, thoughts popped in my head like “Dad, you never beat Ninja Gaiden III on Master Ninja? That game is babysauce compared to Samurai Gaiden!”. Or, “Grandpa what in the heck is Devil May Cry, and what the heck is HD?!”
People often will knock on Achievements and Trophies but I think it’s a fairly neat idea, both in the short and long term. For basically pennies on the dollar, Microsoft was the first gaming company to build brand loyalty simply for rewarding gamers with nothing but textual and numerical bragging rights.
In the long term, it allows our friends and family to see what we’ve accomplished, or what games we’ve played. In fact, I’ve started a few conversations at gaming events by using the Xbox Live App, adding someone to my friends list, and checking their gaming history.
This may seem trite to a lot of you, but hopefully I’m not alone in thinking of the potential for the future of gaming legacy.