Why The Witcher 3 is Awesome and Why You Should Play It

by on Sep.20, 2015, under game reviews, games design, pc, playstation, rpg


Sure, you’ve loaded up the Witcher and the rather shaky beginning doesn’t grab you. You hit Quit and move on with your life, wondering what the hype is all about. What I’ll say to you then is, seriously, give it a chance. Once you finish the intro area (White Orchard) and get through Vizima’s plot hook, you’ll be set free. And that’s really where the game starts. Look, I’ll just come out and say it. The Witcher 3 is a master class in doing a RPG. CD Projekt Red, where were they hiding all of this creativity and talent in the previous two Witchers? I found those games incredibly frustrating, and never finished them. But right now I’ll tell you, I’m on my second play-through after doddling and ferreting my way through to story completion.

Here’s what I liked :

  • The density of the visuals
  • How your choices have significant impact on the fate of characters and the world
  • The combat
  • The visual style
  • The variety of quests, many of them hooked me that I’d forgotten the original thing I was intent on doing

And here’s what I loved :

  • The details – environmental, visual and character
  • The voice acting (well, most of it)
  • The story
  • The sprawling world
  • The hybrid narrative-meets-openworld approach

And the best part of all, the sense of continuous discovery. No matter what I was doing, I knew that within the vastness of this sprawling epic I’d happen upon something interesting. A fellow traveller being ambushed that I had to save. A derisive NPC needs something done before she’d help you. A deep cavern hidden in the hillside, housing an elite monster. And loots! Loots everywhere!

It isn’t like this game is without foibles. Yet those little nigglies are navigable and easily forgiven as they’re swept aside from the relentless tide of story, crafting, exploring and of course… GWENT. Gwent is a card game in the style of your typical Magic TG or Hearthstone. You build your deck, deploy your powers and hope your strategy pays off (literally). It’s one of the most polished minigames within a game that I’ve yet to encounter (and I usually ignore them).

Do yourself a favour. Get outta Vizima. And into the best game you’ve played in your life.

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It’s 2015! Time for a random post

by on Feb.18, 2015, under consoles, game reviews, gaming, pc, playstation

Yup it's NYC

Yup it’s NYC

Ah, another day (and year) in the gaming world. SOE gone! An actual VR platform is imminent (and will be so for a long, long time even post-release). Mobile gaming turned either experimental or cutesy.

What more is there? Well for me, I’m about to download Evolve. Other games on my 2015 horizon, in no particular order :

  • The Division : MMORPG meets cover-shooter meets post-apocalyptic New York. At PAX Australia, this was my personal highlight, absolutely.
  • The Witness : Jonathon Blow’s return to the Myst-style puzzler, whatever, it looks great.
  • Star Citizen : I played Elite Dangerous and was sorely disappointed after the VR novelty wore off. Worried SC might be similar but I’ll give it a shot.
  • Ghost of a Tale : A little adventure game as a dungeon-delving mouse, looks cute and fun.
  • Eve : Valkyrie : Will the VR novelty wear thin on this one? I’m willing to risk it…
  • The Witcher 3 : I kind of liked the Witcher 2, but after playing Dragon Age Inquisition, I wonder if my taste for openworld RPGs has faded (if it even really existed).
  • Battleborn : Jury is out on Gearbox’s upcoming MOBA but the trailer looked cool enough.
  • No Man’s Sky : Super-duper universe-scale exploration MMO, which sounds quite boring if my experience in Elite is anything to compare against.

And that’s about it. My next post will be a review of Evolve. If you’re excited about a game this year, leave a comment! I’d like to learn if I’ve missed anything awesome.

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Report from Auraxis : The New Planetside

by on Nov.06, 2012, under FPS, game reviews, mmo, pc

Planetside 2 has been beckoning me, as daily rants and ideas trickle in from the community of /r/Planetside , a subreddit where the Sony developers have opened the gates and talk openly about their game.

Finally, after a many months of looking over the shoulder of early beta testers, I got my chance to play the new game. I also note that this thing is definitely beta – it goes through a bi-weekly cycle of updates.

So what do I think so far? Planetside 2 rocks. As long as you don’t compare it to the original.

You see, once you start the comparisons, you open up a severe critique. Planetside original (or vanilla, or ‘one’) was a cutting edge game that pushed the boundaries of the technology of the time. They innovated and shaped it into something awesome, carving out a new genre in the process : the MMO FPS. Before the inevitable decline, brought about by a couple of noted expansions and balance issues, we enjoyed massive campaigns in an endless struggle of epic proportions. Tanks, aircraft, troops, transports, resources, bases, hacking… it was endless. And it was fun. There was a place for everyone in the original Planetside, whatever the skill level or latency. The key to PS1 was the scale : your tiny struggle could easily map into larger macroscopic objectives within the game. And this quality is important to remember.

Now, here we are in 2012. The new Planetside is a game that attempts to merge the nostalgia into a modern shooter engine, copying elements from popular squad shooters like Battlefield 3. What I really enjoy is its solid shooter qualities, along with a strong base defense/offense mechanic. The game rewards you for playing the objective. It rewards you further for playing in a squad or a platoon. I enjoy the deep certification trees, reminding me that this is indeed a MMO that we’re playing. I can follow my whims in where to spend my points, and the promise of a vast amount of choice in future is what’s going to keep me coming back. A word to the wise : when you join up, join a squad as quickly as possible. If you luck out like I have, you’ll find a decent amount of teamwork and coordination, and enjoy the experience so much more.

The bad : I know that this is beta, so I expect a fair amount of bugs and issues. What I’ve found most wrong with Planetside 2, ironically, is in the places where it tries to be like Planetside 1. What they’ve cut, and what they’ve added, doesn’t make a lot of sense from a holistic standpoint. For example, the presence of the Galaxy as an airborne troop transport, is not justified in how the game plays out. I can instant spawn all over the place, without requiring me to wait (and wait, and wait) for a Galaxy to land in my area to take me to the next objective. And these things are so weak in the face of deeply certted players in their anti-air capabilities that they inevitably get shot down before they become useful. And the only reason the GAL exists is because it was there in PS1. This is just one example of many. And another riff I can go off on is the wider, macro-field gameplay. PS2 base and territory mechanics leave a LOT TO BE DESIRED. Capping territory has very, very little benefit at all. So you could log in and play for an hour, capture a vast swathe of territory (if you’re good) and when you leave and return again? Lo! You’re back to square one. There is very little inter-connectedness between the bases, no player sanctuary, no holistic benefits to gaining territory, and most importantly : no opportunity to win in the ‘greater game’. PS1 had this stuff, so it makes me want it. And therein lies the issue : PS2 is not PS1. It’s an epic shooter, no mistake, but if it’s going to enjoy any longevity it’s got to improve the meta-game.

Enjoyment without a greater goal is not how epic memories are forged. It’s just a distraction. PS2, for now, is a great distraction.

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TERA : A New Fantasy MMORPG from the who-fucking-cares dept.

by on May.25, 2010, under games industry, mmorpg, pc

Oh TERA. You have polish. Evidently. You have production design. Evidently. You have swords, and elves and quests. Evidently.

And the only thing you could come up with is reticle-based dodge mechanics in combat? Really? No, I mean, Really??

The only way to beat WoW is to trivialize it by an excellent, forward-thinking game. Even playing copycat won’t get you further than an infinitessemal slice of the MMORPG market. What a waste of time!

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Upcoming Game Excitement

by on Nov.05, 2009, under FPS, gaming, pc, rpg

All of these games are released, but I’m waiting for payday to start delving in. 🙂

#1 Dragon Age : Origins

From the RPG experts comes Dragon Age : Origins. The excitement I have for this has not waned over the years, in fact the various YouTube developer previews have exceeded my expectations. The combat looks plain fun, together with a rich detail in environments, spell effects and gritty melee action. It’s obviously a heavily story-driven game, so I’m hoping it isn’t too cutscene heavy. This is my next game purchase and I can’t wait to have a go!

#2 Torchlight

Torchlight came out of nowhere, and I’m honestly not sure where I heard about it. For the quick and fun Diablo-style dungeon crawl, this will be a nice ‘casual’ game to break out once in a while, as the content randomization doesn’t suggest I need to remember any story arc or quest objectives. I lament the lack of anything multiplayer, but I did enjoy it’s spiritual predecessor, “Fate”. Just something to tie me over until Diablo 3.

#3 Borderlands

This one got my attention recently. The “RPG and Shooter made a baby” tagline is an idea whose arrival was only a matter of time. The “RP Shooter” aspect is displayed readily, and is easily grasped right away. It’s a shooter, but as you ‘level up’ you’re obviously taking on bigger challenges and pouring out more damage and extra abilities. I like the idea of a small co-op mission-based style of game, ala Left4Dead. And I have to say the trailers are pretty funny.

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Narbacular Drop

by on Sep.12, 2006, under computer graphics, game reviews, gaming, indy, pc


Unfortunately Named HL2E2

Last month, footage for (the unfortunately named) Half life 2 : Episode 2 exploded onto the ‘net with tremendous speed and enthusiasm. And for good reason, too. The game looks fantastic, as we’ve come to expect. The interesting part of this story however, was not the continuing struggle of Alyx and Gordon Freeman, nor the next iteration of graphics and physics technology that the next chapter will have.

The excitement was about a little game that will be bundled alongside Episode 2. A little game called “Portal”.

(continue reading…)

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Team Fortress 2 Video

by on Sep.01, 2006, under FPS, gaming, pc

Thanks to the continued excellence of Valve, we get an old favourite from the Quake era, Team Fortress 2! I just had to show it. We suspect that it was featured for a select audience at either PAX or Leipzig. I’m surprised that this hasn’t seen a broader release.

I think I like the promo as much as I’ll like the game!

Words won’t do this justice. You have to see it to believe it.

Source : YouTube.

Technorati tags : , , .

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Carmack Pulls a 180

by on Feb.02, 2006, under games programming, pc, xbox

photo from joystiq

“The Xbox360 will be id’s primary development platform.” – John Carmack.

All I can say is, “Did I read the article right??”

This is the man that popularized OpenGL and brought the opensource mindset into the hearts of the general public. Before the upstart iDSoftware, virtually no one had released the sourcecode for a hit commercial game before (to my knowledge).

PC Gaming would likely not be where it is today if it weren’t for iD’s efforts… I know its probably not true, but does it sound like to you that iD is abandoning the PC?

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Hoping for Utopia

by on Jan.10, 2006, under FPS, game reviews, games industry, pc

dystopia mod

Dystopia, the best Source mod ever, gets to Update 4 this week. Signed, sealed and released! Cyberfans rejoice and a big congratulations out to Team Dystopia.

The update contains two new maps, with numerous gameplay tweaks overall. I am guiltily addicted to this slaverous mix of teamplay and action. Forget BF2! Dystopia features mixed team objectives and dual-sourced gameplay. Play as a decker and breach security systems in cyberspace… or join the fireteam and forage ahead as a heavy mechdroid in meatspace. Its fast. Its hard. But so much variety and choice are packed into this game that its virtually impossible to get bored. An extremely well conceived effort, and a visual treat.

Support the Source mod scene and go vote for Dystopia as Mod of the Year!

Valve and Dystopia

Team Dystopia’s early intentions were to release this as a demonstation of their capabilities. First as a Half-Life2 Source Engine modification, and ultimately as a commercial venture. They’ve met with mixed success, partially due to Valve’s (the maker of Half-Life2) resistance. Valve, rarely famous for kind shepherding of young game-makers, typically likes to completely own property invented within their engine. And with Dystopia, we can only guess that Valve is playing the same old game.

When Dystopia was released, Valve introduced a crashing bug into their game engine, which effectively killed Dystopia completely. Momentum lost. Its not likely intentional, but once that was fixed, we heard murmurings from Valve stating that “commercial-level releases in the mod community are discouraged”, supposedly because quality is “never achieved by indies on the first go”. Do it fast, do it iteratively, and build your fanbase. This was Valve’s preference. Listen to us, they said : Be Like Counterstrike.

cs 1.6

Ah Counterstrike. The mod that grew into the most popular online activity since pr0n.

And Valve owns it.

Now their reticence starts to make some sense. Don’t make your mod perfect on the first go, they say. Perhaps they mean : Let us examine its potential, first. Its too bad we’re a little smarter about this stuff now? The early mod days, including Counterstrike’s debut, had very little engineering sense to them at all. This made quality releases almost impossible. But when you look at the detail and the testing that go into upper-echelon mods today, you’ll find an entirely different animal. Some of them have pros on their teams. Others are funded. And many hope for a commercial payoff one day. The mod scene runs the spectrum, of course, with jokers and amateurs alike. But with Dystopia, it was a wholly different beast, and was professional right from conception to execution. Truly a model that should be rewarded. You can’t really blame the publisher, since its in their interest to see a return on their investment – which was the very platform from which these games have sprung. Yet, arguably, it was precisely those initial successes that fed Valve’s success today. They simply wouldn’t be here if we didn’t want to play the new Counterstrike (including yours truly – seven years running!). Valve wants to own the best of them, and its far easier to do that when they exhibit the merest seeds of success.

Rest assured, there are many people (some of whom I know personally) that are watching the outcome of the Dystopia venture with intense interest. Dystopia’s success could serve as a model for indie gamedev in general. I sincerely hope that Valve does the “right thing” and gives them a Steam publishing deal (like they did with Darwinia, another indie developed game). With quality, with fanbase, with a dedicated team and a healthy product, what do they have to lose?

In the meantime, we’ll have fun with Dystopia, and here’s to one day seeing them take their game to the bank. This stuff is the power politics of business, and Dystopia may not win. Personally, it’s Valve’s loss if Dystopia chooses to go elsewhere. I mean, what if Counterstrike was made for Quake?

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Glancing at some greats

by on Oct.28, 2005, under game reviews, gaming, pc


I have an assortment of posts on the backburner, but in the interests of maintaining a pulse here, I just decided to share some 2-line reviews of some of the new stuff I’ve tried in the last month. In case you’re interested :

Age of Empires III : A very, very pretty yet shockingly un-innovative version of AOE 2. Tweaks abound, but not much more, except for a very repetitive soundtrack.

Fun Factor : I liked AOE2 a lot, and the challenge is decent. So yeah!

Myst V : Sad to say, this last chapter in the Myst universe has the worst graphics of all of them. You’d think the engine was Lithtek. Having said that, I’m enjoying the challenge. A must for Myst-fans, a myss for everyone else.

Fun Factor : I cannot disguise my disappointment, but I intend to tough it out.

Splinter Cell : Chaos Theory : With the Amon Tobin soundtrack, absolutely kickass visuals, one could not go wrong with SC:CT. The odd spike of console-itus mars the feeling a little, but all in all a masterpiece of production by a fine studio.

Fun Factor : Hard to put it down! Every corner is lavishly created, and pulls you in. So great, I love Splinter Cell.

F.E.A.R. : Haven’t delved too deeply into the latest FPS favourite, but surely impressive (if not a little gruesome).

Fun Factor : Firefights are spectacularly intense, and its a challenging and interesting experience.

Guild Wars : Not new, but new(er) to me. The “all instance all the time” model defies the “massively” in this MMO for me. Its treats you with a lush environment with interesting combat, quests, and gorgeous player models… and punishes you for having invisible walls and absolutely no JUMP!! Arrhhh!!

Fun Factor : Do I care about the plight of the Regents of Ascalon? Not really, LOL. I paid for this diversion, and thats what I got.

Having an interest in design theory and computer games, I thought it interesting to do somewhat of a survey of top-selling games for my own edification. There’s even a contest going on out there, although I confess it might be a little out of my reach to evaluate 100 PC Games!

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