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11:56 PM on 06.28.2008

Diablo 3, or why Blizzard keeps on disappointing me

So I'm not very excited for Diablo 3. I read a bunch of articles, looked at some screenshots, and even watched the big long gameplay video but nothing could really raise my interest in it. Most people would probably say in response that maybe I'm not into fantasy action-rpgs, or that maybe if I would have played through the first two games (that's right, I'm a Diablo virgin) I would be a bit more enthralled. While these accusations might have a little bit of truth to them, the main reason why Diablo 3 doesn't look special to me is because it really doesn't seem to be doing anything new.

Now, being a Diablo virgin I'll admit that I'm no authority on Diablo gameplay. However, from what I've seen so far from Diablo 3, this game doesn't stray too far from its previous brethren in terms of its playability. As Blizzard has said already, only a mouse will be needed in order to play Diablo 3 (of course, we all know that this is bullshit and that hotkeys will be very neccesary in order to truly play the game at a fun level). The Diablo games always been very "clicky" games and it seems like this one will be no exception. But is this what gamers really want? Ok, maybe some gamers do like very clicky games. To me, however, this seems like a step backwards in gameplay. Its been a while since Diablo 2 was released, and I can't help but think that clicky action-rpgs are a thing of the past. Hell, I remember that even when I bought Dungeon Siege I thought that the gameplay felt outdated. However, seeing Diablo 3's old-fashioned, trite gameplay was only a mere slap in the face compared to a certain previous announcement by Blizzard.

Starcraft 2, what a game! I remember when Blizzard first announced it, the internet collectively cried tears of joy! I shed a few myself, until I say what Blizzard was doing with the franchise. The dark atmosphere that I so enjoyed in Starcraft was replaced with cartoonish, Warcraft 3 styled graphics. Art design aside, they announced very early on that they were going to be sticking very closely to the original Starcraft gameplay. I realize that, like Diablo 3 there are some new twists (read: gimmicks) that might make the game feel a little more fresh. The problem is that none of these are really new. Take the height element that they're implementing. Basically, some units can walk onto raised platforms and hills now making them less of an obstacle. This would be cool and everything if hadn't been done already in games (I'll talk about this a little later). Also, they did away with many of the great innovations from Warcraft 3. They're different games, I know, but if Warcraft 3 could be such an innovative game, why can't Starcraft 2 be one too? I fear that Blizzard might be too afraid to mess with this franchise in any extreme way, but since they're on the most highly acclaimed developers in the world, you would expect them to try to set the bar higher.

Relic Studios has always been one of my favorite developers. Their first game, Homeworld, literally introduced a new dimension into the genre with its remarkable 3D gameplay. Since then, they have always been delivering fresh, creative innovation through their games. Last spring, I bought their game Dawn of War. It has since taken WC3's place as my favorite small-scale rts. At first glance, the game seems like a WC3 ripoff with its similar perspective and graphics. However, this game doesn't play like old rts games. I could write a whole blog post about how great this game is, but I'll just say that its painful for me to play older rts games like CnC or even Starcraft after enjoying myself in DoW. I mentioned before about the new depth Starcraft 2 will be adding to unit mobility and the terrain. Well, this has all been done already in DoW. After finding out that Terrans even have a jumpjet troop now, I find it silly that Blizzard dares to call this new and innovative. In DoW every race has a jumpjet troop whose main purpose is increased mobility around the terrain. Thats right, while all of you hardcore Starcraft players are jotting down what possibilities this may add to your photon cannon turtling or zergling rush strategies, us DoW players have been playing with these guys for years already.

And yes, I know that DoW wasn't the first game to have jumpjet troops. What sickens me is not the fact that Starcraft 2 is including these, but that Blizzard is making such a big deal out of such minor inclusions. Thinking back to the gameplay trailer for Diablo 3 last night I remember a couple sections where I told myself that they must be kidding. Ok, so the barbarian can jump now. Oh, and they are including a bar at the bottom to use skills easily. Aren't these kind of things what you'd expect in a game nowadays? The witch doctor has a new ability that sends locusts after its enemies. Why the hell would that show that ability off? Its so trite and boring. The environment can be used to kill enemies. Ok, so this a little new, but I really don't think its that innovative (more like a gimmick). The one thing I will say is kind of cool (though a bit over the top) was the zombie wall. I can say with a high degree of certainty that this is the first time this has ever been in a game.

A couple months ago, I played a little game called Company of Heroes. A pretty impressive game, though held back by its WWII theme. It had taken many of the innovations of DoW, thrown many other ones out (jumpjet space orcs with swords don't mix well with WWII combat) and had brought into the mix many new ones. When Relic announced that they were developing a sequel to DoW, I was probably more excited than I have been for a game in 5 years. When I found out more about the game, I realized why I like Relic games so much and am growing less fond of Blizzard games. DoW2's gameplay will be vastly different than DoW's, but not in an unfamiliar way. It will the same beast, just much more evolved. It will bring a more fresher, more enhanced game experience that DoW or CoH did. Assuming they continue their streak of gameplay creativity, it should raise the bar for rts games even higher. Blizzard seems to have hard time seeing this bar. They are giving the fans what they want, but leaving the rest of us a bit short.

I, for one, was desperately hoping that with all of Blizzard's teasings that they would surprise us all with a new franchise, or a fresh approach to one of their existing ones. Everyone predicted that the announcement would be for Diablo 3, am I the only one who is disappointed that it was?   read

2:13 PM on 09.24.2007

Some thoughts about review scores

After reading Aaron Linde's recent review of Halo 3, I was left with a bad taste in my mouth. The written review seemed pretty solid, if perhaps a little too negative in my opinion. The score that he gave the game, though, really stood out to me. Now, keep in mind that earlier that day I took a little visit to metacritic and had been hopping around from review to review to see what they thought of it.

Here is a sample of some of the scores:

IGN 9.5/10
Gamespy 5/5
1Up 10/10
Gamespot 9.5/10

Basically, almost all the scores are above 9/10. OK, so maybe Aaron is just trying not to over-inflate his 8.5/10 score as many people claim game critics often do. This lower-than-average score got me curious. I thought to myself that maybe hes just a reviewer who likes to keep his scores down in general. So I looked through some of his past scores and found the following:

Bioshock 10/10
Planet Puzzle League 9/10
Crush 9/10
Grim Gringoire 8.5/10
Bomberman Live 8.5/10

At this point, I became a bit bewildered. Is Halo 3 really at the same level as Grim Gringoire and Bomberman Live? One has to ask themselves, though, if one can even compare Halo 3 to these games. However, since they were reviewed by the same person you'd have to assume that he values them the same.

I have a couple theories as to why Halo 3 received an 8.5. However, the one that I firmly believe to be the most true is that Aaron was influenced too much by all the hype the game received. Lets face it, Halo 3 was pretty much the most hyped game of all time. I found Aaron's review to focus on many of the flawed aspects of the game, perhaps in order to justify his argument that Halo 3 is not the perfect game that everyone expected. His 8.5 score is the icing on the anti-hype cake. Theories aside, there is a more important aspect of the review that deserves more discussion.

Consistency is very important when reviewing games. I personally don't look at a website's review scores as a whole because I realize that not one, but many reviewers are responsible for them. When I question a reviewer's score, I look to see what other games they have reviewed to see if they are consistent. If they are, I respect and admire the reviewer greatly. If they aren't, then I have a difficult time taking anything the reviewer scores seriously.

Aaron is not the only one reviewer I have seen who I think could work on consistency. There are many of them all over the internet. If you're reading this Aaron, I would love to hear what you think about consistency in game reviews.   read

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