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Wow! A first monthly musing off me?! Well at least you know I've started, and depending on future musings, it might very well be not the last.

Anyway: here is my first musing on a subject, which I hold hand on chest to. Role Playing Games. Mine may be a bit worse than some others' blogs, but what the hell, I'll go with it.

Before the Mass Effects and WoW's multiple patches, there was a well known mechanic which although is more then 25 years old now, can still confuse and baffles players without playing Neverwinter Nights, Icewind Dale or the KOTOR series.


The D20. A gift for hardcore players but an absolute bewilderment to everyone else, me partially included

There were other things that would stop a casual player in it's path, bear with me on this...

- Every level you have to allocate points to skills. Depending on which game you play, there may be 10 of them, or near-enough 50 depending on the game you play, and the build you make
- Every 4 levels you have to use up an attribute point. Certain games had 30 points of attributes, while others had 28 (or 32 for DDO purchasers, possibly NWN) points to allocate on the first level. Choosing it seemed simple enough, but if you used it on the wrong type of class, well you deserve what you're getting.
- Every skill and certain attacks ALL have a DC or a Difficulty check. If you don't read any of this be prepared to die. A lot. Using that same skill over and over just to find out it's doing NOTHING means you haven't been attacking the enemy. JUST KI-- oh fine... *walks off pitying the person who couldn't kill a DC 0.25 enemy that has done the exact thing on him/her*
- Depending on the setup, especially on low level characters, expect to have the accuracy of a predictable drunken bloke. If you dual wield, you'll get a penalty for wearing it at first, but if you're using that setup, expect that penalty to fade the stronger you are. If you are not proficient with said item(s), then you'll be hitting air, which does nothing, and the enemy will laugh at you in the face and probably down you with one fel-swoop. Even if it's a smelly Trogolodyte.
- Feats are either given to you automatically or you can add a custom feat of your choice almost every level. Depending on your build it may be a gift or a curse - especially if you decide to multiclass.

I don't know about you, but I'm already reading at this and am thinking: If it's that simple, how comes many other games don't use this system?

The answer is, as I said before, it's probably because it's a bit TOO clever. The Modern RPGs nowadays are moving away from the said D20 and are implementing different systems to their games. Games like Final Fantasy usually have a set cap on it's attributes, such as 255 attack, 99 Dexterity (or in FFX's case, 255) and many Tri-ace games would do with a obscene amount. 999? Nope, 255? MUCH more than that... 99? Don't make me laugh... the highest cap on a certain attibute is 9999.

Purists playing the post-game content of Valkirye Profile, or the much more known Star Ocean games KNOW that having that amount, as well as capped HP and MP stats they should have that in order to survive a deadly attack from one of the post-game bosses, because they can not just use a deadly single attack, they can use a deadly STRING of attacks that most casualists would throw their consoles out of their window and then theirselves. But with great mechanics comes at a price. The plot is usually either slow paced, poorly acted, or worse. Don't get me started on the terrible lip-syncs for non-japanese languages, this is the reason why I usually look at something else until that cutscene is over.

Having said that, however, the Final Fantasy series is very well translated after the FFX set of games, because they told the American Voiceovers to try and get it close to what the Japanese are saying. It's a bold move, It doesn't work all the time mind you, as some speeches still sometimes get a misinterpreted lip-sync, but it is getting better, and by the looks of the International release clips of FFXIII in just over a month, it may look like they've finally got the acting with the lips right. Saying that, people who might have purchased the International version of the recent Star Ocean game on the PS3 can actually listen to the original voiceovers. Whether they remain annoying or not is up to you.

Which brings me back over to the mechanics. Every Final Fantasy game is different, same with the Tales series, and don't get me wrong, some ideas in the Star Ocean series. Although the core mechanic may be mostly the same in the said games, there will always be something for you to think about, before rushing into a boss battle then -- 'CRAP! I forgot to get the skill for the new armor I found!! Oh well, back to another 100 minutes of grinding...' ¬_¬

The same is said with many MMOs. If you didn't specialise your class properly you know you're going to be kicked out of an arena team or PvE guild beating some of the most dangerous foes of the said game's lore. This is why there are many guides online to help you with that. Since everyone knows how to make a Combat Rogue or Demonic Warlock, it isn't considered as cheating, and once you're fully ready to take down the bosses with up to 99 others (once again, depending on MMO), be thankful there are guides there to stop you from being mocked, or repeatedly killed by that same damn Warrior for the 572nd time... Modern RPGs, and MMOs outside of DDO also have a lot of calculations. It would probably be best to read the updated manual on what stat, skill and item does what, and how it affects you, because no-one would want to recruit you if your Hunter has a measly 10 Hit Rating at level 80. NO ONE.

So If you seem interested on RPGs, rent one or try a free-to-play before purchasing it. If not, just watch your back.. *sharpens knives*

A +2 Dagger of Pure Good and a +4 Axiomatic Dagger of Malice. I made that all up for entertainment purposes.

[Since I have played very few hardcore JRPGs I might have missed out on a few bits or a lot of information. Blame the Europeans for not giving us a megaton of those games...]










I just had a horrible realisation that people on Steam and now xfire, which could spread to other IMs have got a student virus. It's starting to spread like wildfire, so I need everyone just to be a little careful. I'll post a full post from a clansite since it's not just my clan, Warrior Nation that has been having this problem:

From WNxPinkShadow:
For those who do not know this yet, there is a virus spreading himself through Xfire.

Someone who is infested messages you with this message:

hi can you help me out with my school project?the teacher told us to make a program in VB 2008 to check our school website students ,and give them notes by the program without needing to go to the website can you help me out?i made the program but i need testers can i send you so you can test? when you launch program click button New Student,put random name and note and i will check our school website if it appears

Please do NOT accept! It sends you a malware program! You'll lose your xfire account and email account, maybe more.

If you get this message just close the window.

If you message an infected person you'll get this message:

dude dont accept any file from me im infected

EDIT: This goes through steam as well! Be careful!

Another person has posted more info about that steam virus:

[15:12] jeherλ: people will send you invites to get free games
[15:12] jeherλ: which apperantly would be steam give-away's
[15:13] jeherλ: they link you to a " whats supposed to look an official steam site"
[15:13] jeherλ: and it requires logging in
[15:13] jeherλ: might wanna add to avoid those
[15:13] jeherλ: they are not official steam websites and the login is encrypted with keylogging software

Please spread the word! Let everyone know about this!

So whatever you do, DO NOT CLICK ON ANY DOWNLOAD OR LINK FROM INFECTED PEOPLE. You risk losing your steam games, or worse...

UPDATE:Turns out it's starting to happen on MSN as well now... to avoid embarrassment I've got an almost safe way to avoid this:

1. Turn off or disable File Transfer on xfire, steam and other IMs. If you can't, do not accept any link from your friends if he's talking about working on VB2008. It's most likely malware. If all else fails, remove the infected friends, even if it means blocking them temporarily
2. The same is true with Phishing. Do not use links outside of Steam's application. If you use credentials on non-trustworthy sites even if it says Steam on it you're more likely than not going to lose your games, account details, and the worst case scenario with xfire/IMs, your operating system.

If all else fails, go to safe mode, disable the internet and backup ALL your files prior to rebuilding the OS you was using. Back up using DVD-Rs, Blu-rays or hard drives, and some USB sticks ensures you keep the files. I really hope no-one has to do that, but it's best to be safe than sorry
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Xelviar
8:21 AM on 01.20.2010

In 1998 in Japan, eventually releasing in 2000 in Europe, Squaresoft (which is now Square-Enix) tried a completely brand new concept that would change some RPGs for some time, and that game is more or less known as Vagrant Story. It changed the way we would play the RPGs in the future, and certain games more or less have a form of staple in it, but rather than go into details about exactly why, I'll just rave and eventually rant a little about it.

It is a PSOne title, meaning it will always look somewhat blocky but for some odd reason, when square maximised the power of the PS1 without going overboard, they really managed it. It still looks pretty, even if the polygons and textures still have squares all over the environments and characters.

It also had a unique plot, whereas you wouldn't EXACTLY know what would happen until it happens. Even if you've played it about 0, 12 or 99 times, it is still very well constructed that you may still want to watch them, or speed it up by skipping the scene altogether. I wouldn't advise it on the first playthrough as it still puts certain game's plots of recently (eg. Avatar) to shame.

It is one of the games that also had a unique concept: Rather than attacking one target, you had to attack their limbs, making certain elements more tactical than usual. It is also one of the games where everything is done in real-time, meaning that if you don't watch yourself in combat, you'll get killed...

And it will happen. A LOT.

One of the game's innovative features is also one of the most annoying and badly guided things, it's somewhat uneven difficulty curve. The firstmost annoying part is when you go through the Snowfly Forest, and it doesn't exactly indicate you on where to go, apart from a somewhat cryptic clue. You're there trying to get through the forest and you ALWAYS seem to get back to the area with the stairs. Not just that, but there are some enemies which seem to be completely unbalanced too.

In the first few areas, you can kill enemies with no problem, but when you get into the forest, it's thrown out of the window. When you start to chain a mob, about 3 times out of 5, this will happen: MISS. Bloody hell, even chaining will bring back the same results: MISS. MISS. MISS. And when you DO hit, you're at such a high Risk, you do no or next-to-no damage, and then the enemy kills you in one hit.

ARRRRRGH!!!!

It's not just in the Snowfly Forest, without checking walkthroughs there is no indication of where to go next, and being a somewhat newb to the game I went down a path that I'd realise I'd have to go back LATER, but a walkthrough was adamant to take me down there. I couldn't even hit the enemies for crap, and as above, I kept missing. Then I got owned by the freaking Dark Elemental.

Although saying that, I had it much worse... the Earth Dragon prior to events in the Undercity ALWAYS uses it's breath and kill me in one hit. It gets so bad at times, I nearly throw my PSP into a TV being so angry and annoyed, but after a while I still play it. I will probably complete it, but it'll probably be in my 30s before I EVER do.

So there you go, although I like Vagrant Story's plot and certain mechanics, I absolutely hate it's lack of knowable balance when it boils down to certain areas and enemies.








Before you go and spout off that it's a review which doesn't affilate with Dtoid, I've made it clear that I'm going to post reviews now and then which coincide with new releases, or games that have been out a while. I will also not rate them so it will be a constructive criticism in the form of a Kotaku review, with a final outcome. Please be aware there may be some early ingame spoilers as well, so look away from the story section if you want the game to be spoiler-free!


DARKSIDERS
Formats: Xbox 360 (Reviewed), PS3
Cost £49.99/€($)59.99
Players: 1
Multiplayer Features: None

I always had anticipation that one day a game comes in and actually does what it says on the tin, be interesting, somewhat original, and take the best ideas out of other games and make it gel. Well, we have had it before in the form of Ubisoft's Beyond Good and Evil, But Darksiders is the Zelda game of the 21st century.

---

STORY
The game starts off with a background of a fight between Good and Evil. No surprises there you may think, but the council made a pact to make a truce to end the seemingly endless bloodshed with the angels and demons, and seven seals were created to prevent the planet from going into disarray. However, once the Kingdom of Man was almost thriving, a war erupts once more, with one of the horsemen, War, goes down to attempt to stop the bloodshed. As you find out, it wasn't exactly supposed to happen, and you seemingly get blamed for the actions that happen, and you lose nearly all of your abilities. To make matters worse, he gets the Watcher, brilliantly played by Mark Hamill, to help or hinder him to ensure that he finishes the job that the council has ordered him to do.

-----

GRAPHICS
Once you first insert the game, you'll instantly notice that it looks bleak, very bleak. To be honest it is for a few hours, but once you've crawled through the first dungeon, it starts to look a lot better once you begin to visit other areas of the game. It is very well animated, and for the most part very pretty, but there are times on the 360 that the game begins to slow down. It isn't unplayable, but bear in mind this is more frequent on the 360 than on the PS3, while the PS3 has jagged lines or slightly worse textures than on the 360. They are almost near-identical otherwise, and which version you pick up is a matter of preference, as they are exactly the same.

GAMEPLAY AND LIFESPAN
Before you say it's a Zelda clone, it partially is, but as Jim Sterling pointed out in his debate, Darksiders invented the teleportation gun, the voidwalker. You won't get that until late in the game, but there are other items and collectibles to get scattered throughout the game world, which will take many hours to find every unlockable and object. Combat also feels tight, but also very clunky in places. Sometimes you will get moments that you pressed the right button, but it takes time for the character to block or even evade the attacks thrown by the enemy. This is no gamebreaker, but it will take quite a few attempts to truly master the blocking controls. Other than that, it does respond to actions and attacks well, and moving the character around isn't as bad as many might think.

You can expect a casual playthrough of about 15-20 hours on the first playthrough, with more or less hours depending on the difficulty, amount of items you collect and the amount of retries you have on repeated playthroughs.

SUMMARY

Pros:
Interesting storyline
Great voice acting
Some unique boss battles
Pretty locations after the first few hours
Gets the best ideas of other games and actually makes them work
A fairly lengthy adventure
Great implementation of dungeon-items
You can control a warhorse! How awesome is that?!
Controls outside of combat usually work well...

Cons:
...but it gets slightly fiddly and clunky in combat
Slowdown on the 360
Slight graphical issues on the PS3
Might not be everyone's cup of tea, since it may seem unoriginal

Overall, Darksiders manages to be a completely original game, even if it does take ideas out of other games, and is worth a rental if you are already enjoying Bayonetta. If you do decide to buy it, you will not regret it, as it lasts a good while, and getting all the Achievements/Trophies will take multiple playthroughs.








Let me just admit this right now: I'm a sucker to games. I have been ever since I had Super Mario Bros./Duckhunt on the NES, I always have had enthusiasm to play computer games and get as far as possible without getting bored or throwing the thing away like it's a cardboard box, but what has happened over the past 2 months is nothing short of astonishing.

First of all, rental site LOVEFILM started Game rentals for all consoles bar the PC. I think it would be relatively awkward to make PC games work for the start, and also DRM will make it nigh on impossible to rent PC games, let alone buy them...

That is where Steam comes in.

Unbeleivably, the last two months I have been draining money away at games I might not have even bothered with in the first place, to others that I really did want, but was reluctant to fork out for it, even if it is cheaper than sometimes buying the retail box from the stores.

It started in November where they trialled (or not, well for me it is) a one day sale every day for 5 days and nights, starting at 12PM EST (or 7PM UK time), you had 24 hours to see a game you'd play and then purchase it. I started with Left 4 Dead Game of the Year Edition (Which is infuriatingly £35 in one store I won't disclose), and then I bought Star Wars KOTOR.

But it hasn't stopped there. Oh god.



The 12 days of Steam Christmas sales have been a huge eye-opener, and I have purchased a lot of games at unbeleivable prices. From the quirky Osmos and Mr. Robot, to the blockbuster titles such as Mass Effect and even the Oddworld Games, which I fondly remember on the PSOne.

14 games over last year, and how much did I spend on it? £130? Nope. £70? Not even close.

£30. For all those games.

And all of a sudden you might have to agree (or not) that it seems far superior than the consoles for games as well as doing a multitude of other things.

Not that I hate console and handheld gaming, far from it, but if makers actually start lowering the prices of games on the PS3 and 360, the PC will undeniably be the superior platform for years to come.
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