Your heart pounds in your chest as you crouch beneath the window. Just behind that wall you hear the sound of foot steps running past. Further down the street you hear a Panzer III engine rumble to life. Gun shots ring out across the city interspersed with cannon fire and anti-aircraft batteries opening up on their targets. In the distance you hear the resulting explosion of a bomb impacting the army base.
Nearby, your squad leader is imploring you to get across the street and secure the depot. If you can secure a foothold in this city, you're certain that you'll be able to overwhelm the enemy and take it. It's an important strategic location, it has an airfield that will be key to air dominance in this area of France. It's an uphill battle. Half of your squad died shortly after you para-jumped into the city, and the enemy has already fortified the depot.
Popping a smoke grenade to obscure the vision of anyone down the street, you race to the building closest to the depot. You turn and see your squad leader halfway across the road when he is suddenly cut down by an enemy rifleman. Looking for the shooter you set your sights on the church bell tower. Seeing slight movement, you pull the trigger on your rifle...
It sounds like a heavily scripted AAA shooter. The reality of WWII Online: Battleground Europe is that every unit in the game is controlled by another player. Players crew every tank, fighter, bomber, truck, and infantry unit in the game. It is not uncommon to play infantry and see a squad of tanks engaging the enemy, while over head dozens of aircraft jockey for position in the sky - hoping to open up an avenue for their side's bombers to soften up defenses.
I've played WWII Online off and on for the past 10 years (yes, it's been continuously updated and improved) and have had enjoyable experiences with it. I thought it was time to revisit the game this past month after having not played for a year or so. I also wanted to clue people into what they're missing here.
It should be said that this is not an easy game. It's one of the more hardcore shooters out there. One shot, one kill. It is very unforgiving in that regard, and as such players coming from CoD and it's clones are repelled by this games deep tactical nature in droves. Tactics and cooperation are the name of the game here. That is not to say that you can't be a lone wolf, if that is the case though, you'll want to join up with some people near your base to coordinate your efforts. It doesn't do anyone any good if you get shot without being able to report the enemies that you saw.
Infantry can be quite fragile. Nearby explosions will temporarily blind and deafen you. But coordinated, and with support from armored units, infantry can truly be a force to reckon with. Beyond that, it also makes for some of the most intense gameplay you'll ever experience. With death potentially lurking behind every corner, simply making it from building to building can provide a real adrenaline rush. This also means that real tactics work. Covering fire will actually keep players pinned down, it's a refreshing change of pace.
Vehicles are a huge part of WWIIOL. From the trucks required to tow an anti-tank or anti-aircraft gun into position, to the tanks providing infantry support and blitzing the enemy positions, each contributes to the overall success of the mission. A neat feature of WWIIOL is that is allows for two players to crew a vehicle. Drivers/Gunners on tanks, and Pilot/Bombadier/Gunners on planes and bombers.
The air war is perhaps the most difficult element of the game to master, and the most rewarding. The extremely realistic physics engine means that it takes some time to get comfortable just flying. Over control the plane? Well, someone'll need to explain to Meg Ryan why you died in a flat spin. Again, not very forgiving, but hugely rewarding in the end. The thrill of surviving a 5+ minute dogfight and seeing the wing shear off of your opponents Me109 (yeah, I usually play allied) is unparalleled. Whole books have been written just on the topic and you can dive as deep as you want.
The graphics are looking pretty dated unfortunately. Despite character models that underwent an overhaul a year or so ago, they still look last generation. I suppose on some level that is a concession to be able to have so many units appear on screen at once, but then again, there are still entirely open fields in some places with flat landscapes. The terrain could stand some work as well.
Overall, it's a great experience. It's unique, and its worth trying out. If you dig hardcore simulations like Arma 2 and want something a bit more massively multiplayer, this might be a game for you. I can be found in game @rcmodels. Or on Twitter @SirKerrald.
Neverwinter, Cryptic's hybrid coop/MMO entry into the licensed Dungeons and Dragons arena, has been delayed until "late" 2012. Wizards of the Coast, owner of D&D, published a press release announcing that the lawsuits and countersuits between Hasbro and Atari over the rights to publish D&D based video games have been settled. Wizards provided no further details regarding terms of the settlement, only that licensing has returned to Hasbro and that Atari will continue to publish several games under license from WotC and Hasbro.
Wizards also made note that Cryptic has moved the release of Neverwinter from end of this year to "late" 2012. Noting that Cryptic has recently been sold by former publisher Atari to Chinese MMO publisher Perfect World: "Perfect World will be investing in a more immersive experience for release in late 2012."
Cryptic's community manager commented on the developments on the official forums, saying "Perfect World, our new owners, have decided that they would like us to take more time to make Neverwinter a "more immersive experience". This doesn't mean that production on Neverwinter is stopping (The truth is the exact opposite). This doesn't mean that Neverwinter is being cancelled. This doesn't mean that Perfect World is taking over development and making a grindfest. This means Perfect World is allowing us (Cryptic) another year to work on the game, polish it, and release a better Neverwinter."
So we're in the process of cleaning out the house. We've got a dumpster, and we're tossing stuff left and right. Now, I've held on to my old game boxes and manuals because i dig the art and always wanted to have some sort of a game library type area. These aren't your small little dvd size cases either, these are mostly the huge PC Game boxes that you used to buy when it felt like you were making a big and awesome purchase. Back when manuals were 300 pages (w00t!) and they actually put effort into the packaging.
Should I keep it? Or should I toss it?
Here's a snapshot of just some of the stuff there:
Eve Online has been around for quite awhile now, and from what I've read it has come quite a ways. The typical thing you hear is that it is incredibly difficult for a new player to learn the game and become effective enough to do what he/she wants for quite awhile. That much, I can assure you, has not changed. It is still an incredibly difficult game to learn. I've been playing for almost a month and I'm still trying to figure things out. Having said that, there are many fun and rewarding things about the game that make it worth sticking out. This is definitely not a game for everyone.
Let's take a walk down memory lane for a moment and look back at my first moments in Eve. I originally played the free trial in February of 2010. And by played the trial, I mean I messed around for a few minutes and suffered through the opening tutorial on my 4 year old laptop where it played like a Powerpoint presentation. I said forget about it after 2 days and moved on with my life. Over the course of the year since then I retained my interest in the game and every subsequent article that I read about the scandals and backstabbing only whetted my appitite for Eve. After building a new gaming computer in May and delving into the backlog of games that I had missed for the past 5 years, I promptly forgot about Eve until Incursion began making news: a major update that promised to make things a bit easier on new players.
At the end of April of this year, a friend whom I had frequently discussed wanting to play Eve with joined the trial with his Rift guildmates. I said the hell with it and jumped in headfirst, dropping $20 for the initial month and cd key. Creating a new character, I was greeted with the somewhat familiar tutorial of 10 missions that walks you through some of the very basics of the game. This tutorial is entirely text driven. It is a combination of courier missions and combat missions, or industry/market/mining related missions depending on what "school" you start off in (think of it like a class, fighter, electronic/tech warfare, economics/trade). This gives you a brief run down on different functions and then pretty much drops you into the game with an ok frigate and some money.
From there on out, you're grinding PvE quests trying to make money, get better ships, and outfit that ship (sometimes more expensive than the ship itself) and eventually make it out to low security space for some pvp and where I view the real game as existing. Nearly a month in, I have yet to take part in any PvP. Leveling takes time. Literally. Skills have a time period that it takes for something to level. I found myself liking this quite a bit actually as I could level my skills while I'm at work and signed out.
I lucked out, my friend's guild has a player that has been playing Eve for several years and has shown us some of the finer points on how to play the game. It's at times confusing or counter intuitive. There are player corporations that are dedicated to teaching new players how to play, like the Eve University. New players really HAVE to either find a veteran player or hook up with Eve University. Interpreting stats and determining how to fit you ship and which items will better benefit you, or which skills to train in what order (there are tons) are quite confusing at first.
Now, I've dished quite a bit on how difficult Eve is to learn, but what makes it fun? Why dedicate the time? Because flying with a group of people and running missions, and coordinating attacks is a ton of fun. It's all about the human aspect. Sure you can pull off some big heist or prey upon some lone miner, but the real fun is in the fleet actions. If you are going to play Eve, your number 1 priority needs to be finding a group of real people to learn the game with. If you do not, you will not have a good experience.
I've only played the game for a month, but I'm going to give it a 2nd and evaluate as I go. I've found it can be a fairly casual game because the leveling system easily allows for this. The time sync doesn't need to be huge. I'll post some more updates as I get deeper into the game.
If you decide to take the leap and jump into Eve, hit me up: my pilot's name is Kerrald. I'll be happy to help you learn the game and you're welcome to fly with me.
Adventure games are somewhat of a lost art when it comes to AAA titles. Where once they reigned supreme as pretty much the only games around (think: the Sierra years), today they have been relegated to a niche genre position. LA Noire has hopefully changed that.
My take away from LA Noire is its story. The fact that it takes story seriously, makes it central, integral, and instead of making cutscenes skippable, it makes the action scenes skippable. This is a clear declaration about what is important in this game. A real shift from the idea that story somehow "impedes" gameplay. The developers have made it clear that the gameplay in this game is the story.
Looking at what constitutes actual game play in this game its easy to see how this is a return to the core elements of what made adventure games great: 1) A strong story filled with a wide array of characters at its center. 2) A compelling mystery or series of mysteries that constantly drive you to continue. 3) The opportunity to look around and logically deduce (in most cases) or infer answers to whatever is going on in the story.
In the case of LA Noire, it is this last point that is new and refreshing. Here, it isn't just about figuring out which item goes where. In LA Noire, you get to apply that deduction or inference to your interactions with characters in a meaningful way that dictates to some extent the info you'll have to solve the rest of the case with. And it does this without breaking the missions at all. There is nothing more frustrating in an adventure game than missing a some insignificant pixel sized object 20 minutes ago or longer that you needed to solve this puzzle. Not only that, but you don't even know what it is that you're missing (The Longest Journey, I'm looking at you).
The Legend of Kyrandia 2: The Hand of Fate. Classic adventure gaming goodness.
LA Noire sidesteps this issue remarkably well. You may still be able to come to the correct conclusion, but you'll need to come about it another way. At no time have I truly gotten stuck to the point of banging my head on the desk or rage quitting. That is not to say the game isn't challenging, but it is a bit on the easier side. The hint system never leaves you wondering, in some ways it may be overly helpful, but on the whole I've found it well balanced between giving the play the chance to learn and discover and keeping you from getting stuck.
Syberia: Occasionally frustrating, yet gorgeous all around.
These frustrations have long been a synonymous with adventure gaming. On some level I have to grit my teeth and prepare myself for the aggrevation that I am sure is to follow whenever I boot up a new one. And at the same time it is these frustrations that most people characterize the genre with.
LA Noire has created the perfect fusion of traditional adventure gaming hidden within this persona of being a AAA title (of genre indeterminate if you look at the advertising). Hell, this game needs to wear its genre on its sleeve. As of now, in my mind at least, it is at the vanguard of what is sure to be a renaisance of games along this vein. The IPs that can work in this format and in no other are numerable. The content exists, and I don't think that they all need the same budget as this game.
If you're on the fence with this game, take the chance pick it up. And then try out some other adventure games too.
Today on my Facebook feed, a post from one of my good friends to another popped up. It was about how his relationship with Triple Play 2002 has finally come to an end. To give you an idea of the magnitude of this event, I'm going to post verbatim what he wrote:
So as you probably already know, I've been playing a season of Triple Play 2002 every year since I bought the game in 2001. With every passing season, the Red Sox roster would make alterations. So would I. I made sure that my roster was exactly the same as the opening day roster of the real team. I also updated other team rosters. It got tougher in later years. I had to create the Dustin Pedroias and Jonathan Papelbons of the world. So it is with great sadness that I inform you that I will be ending the streak this year. I turned on the game last night (she's a deeply scratched PS2 mold) and discovered that the only remaining players on the 2001 lineup were Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield. Only Florida Marlin Josh Beckett could be traded for. I briefly contemplated recreating the entire 2011-2012 roster (a full days work probably), but ultimately decided it was time to let go of the past. Sad face emoticons abound.
That is the kind of fanatical dedication that one has to admire, regardless of game or genre.
Rest in peace Triple Play 2002. Gone but not forgotten.
And to Depo: I hope you find solace in the arms of another baseball game.