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Monday, September 28, 2015

Are MMO's Dead/Dying?

As I renew my subscription for The Old Republic, I remember all of the people who keep telling me how the game is failing or how it will be shut down within a few months. I look at the new expansion, Knights of the Fallen Empire, and wonder if I should continue sinking my time and money into what may or may not be the saving grace for a game that struggled when first released.
I think what needs to be said first is that an MMO takes more time and money than a regular AAA game. Destiny (yes, Destiny is an MMO no matter how much you deny it) has had a very rocky start and continuing rocky path. From the lackluster DLC to a person directly tied to the game insulting the customer/fanbase that purchased the game in the first place, its not hard to see why. I'm not dogging on Destiny, I'm just saying this is basically what happens. World of Warcraft was a massive giant back in the day. Now its dwindling. Its not a bad thing, just happens. Games loose their interest after a time. The oldest game I'm still playing since when it was released would have to be Dragon's Dogma, and even then its more of a every now and again thing.
Unlike most game genres, MMOs have their own time table. I can play Skyrim until the world freezes over but an MMO will stop eventually. No matter how popular, no matter how much money it may make, its going to end. And I mean end as in no one will be able to play it ever again. Of course, you have your exceptions like Runescape which have basically been around since the dawn of time. The horrible fact you have to realize when playing an MMO is eventually the servers will shut down. That's just facts. Companies can't keep up a server going forever. That costs time and money that could be spent on other things. Part of the horrible thing about this is how much time you've invested in the game. I've probably spent about over a thousand dollars with The Old Republic, minus the subscription fee. That's really excessive. Part of the reason I don't quit is because I've put so much time and money into the game it would be a waste to stop now. Its not something I'm proud of but its just a fact.
The Old Republic is set to release a new slew of content with Knights of the Fallen Empire. It promises a whole new addition to the current story, adding in extra items, higher level cap and all the same stuff that usually comes with an expansion. One could see this as the final death throws while others could see it as a revitalization of the game. What was a slow burn release now finally ignites and makes it's mark. The expansion releases about a month from now, so for now all I can do is wait.
To answer the previous question in the title: no, I don't believe so. No genre completely dies. Not as long as there are those who want to see it still go on.

Straddling the Line Between Annoyance and Success (Video Game Bosses)

While I didn't get to post my reviews or even thoughts about either Mad Max or The Phantom Pain because I purchased them so late, I've been playing them a lot. Aside from guns, violence, blood, cars and both based off of insanely popular series, the games themselves don't have much in common. Mad Max is more about the downfall of society when savagery is left in place of basic resources while Metal Gear is more about espionage and ridiculous yet hilarious moments.
Both games have bosses and... if I'm being honest, I have my gripes with them. Metal Gear's bosses are vibrant, really varied and seriously annoying at the worst of times. Mad Max has the same carbon copy boss for each warlord in an area. I'm sure they change it up later in the game but this is all I've seen. In the case of Max, I really have nothing to say about their bosses, which is probably bad. The worst thing you can do is fall into obscurity. You're not the best so you'll never be praised and gain the recognition and possibly money to go along with it. While being the worst, is bad, you still get some notoriety or at the very least infamy and end up as some GameGrumps or other Youtuber's butt of a joke. While Max is a great game, the bosses win no awards. Apart from a different color scheme, the first three bosses I've killed look and fight the same way. The only difference is their 'personality', a term I use loosely since its more or less a few lines of dialogue here and there.
On the other hand you have The Phantom Pain, who's bosses are insane to say the least. The Parasites, Quiet's sniper duel, Metal Gear Sahelanthropus, the Man on Fire. Each boss is difficult in its own right and defeated in it's own way with it's own backstory, fleshed out characterization and difficulty. But the problem with some of these enemies is, while memorable, are kind of annoying. The Parasites follow you relentlessly and soak up bullets like there's no tomorrow, not to mention having the ability to regenerate their health as well as the fact that there's never only one. Quiet's duel is considered boring by most people since you can easily find her and as long as you have a sniper or long ranged weapon, she's easy as sin. The Man on Fire and Sahelanthropus are bullet sponges that have to be killed in their own unique ways. (SPOILERS) When you actually have to straight up and kill the Metal Gear, the fight itself is probably the most annoying thing for me. This relentless twelve story mech just stalks you and does its best to kill you with its limitless arsenal. If you do manage to get it down to less than half it's health, it breaks out it's instant kill move. I died at least five times that fight.
While Max had the easier bosses, Metal Gear had the most satisfying. Being stalked by the Man on Fire was tense and heart pounding. I had to search around my terrain to get him in a place where there was water. Blast him into it or just make water fall onto him rather than firing off every bullet in your arsenal. Each time I defeated a boss it felt complete. Of course, most times the boss got up again in a later chapter and was even more annoying than before. The feeling of tackling something really challenging and over passing it is a feat unto itself.
I think the best example of this would be any game from From Software, from Demon's Souls all the way to Bloodborne. Each of the bosses was well crafted to be as difficult as possible. You had to tackle challenges that didn't equate to any other boss and each one was weak to its own thing. One minute you could be fighting a lumbering, lazy giant who's powerful swings were a death sentence. Next, you could face off against a duo or trio of enemies that challenged where you kept your mind not only on your terrain but on surprise attacks. The enemies would kill you easily but ending them was a triumph in itself. To conquer a great challenge with the feeling in the back of your mind that there is always another, more powerful enemy just over the bridge.
In the end, I think what it really comes down to is a personal standpoint. Every 'Souls' game I play is met with challenging difficulty that needs to be overcome by my skill. While Borderlands is more about timing and having the right weapons. Or maybe an MMO which challenges you and your party to use their skills and items sparingly and work as a team in order to grasp victory with that last sliver of health.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

One Piece Pirate Warriors 3 PC Review - 8.7/10

One Piece is both an anime and manga series consisting of pirates, powers and basically everything else in between. The series itself has been running since the late 90's, with over 700 chapters of manga and anime as of now. While the game isn't a complete story of the entire series, considering it isn't even near over yet, the game consists of the beginning of the show/manga up to what has been currently released in the anime series. The game itself is based off of the Dynasty Warrior's style of gameplay, as seen in the recent Wii U title 'Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Warriors", where you fight mobs of enemies nearly single handedly over a map completing objectives along the way.

The Good:
I've always been a fan of cell shaded graphics. It gives any game it's in a nice look and style while also being easy to run on whatever platform it's on currently. The style fits nicely with the game's combat and story, making for fast gameplay without any hiccups.
This is the first 'Warrior' title I've played and I'm sorry to say that considering I actually kind of like it. 'Warrior' is basically, as I mentioned before, you playing as a sole bad ass running through a map and clearing hundreds of enemies by yourself or with a few allies. Not only does it feel really awesome to crush through enemies with well timed attacks and combos, but the speed is also something really great. I don't play games that go this fast that much but I have to say that its pretty awesome.
I've actually been a fan of the show for a while. I started pretty late, having my own little marathon through about 200-300 episodes. The show is funny, with some really great fight scenes and some pretty cool story telling. The game pulls some of that in as well. Basically, I'm rewatching the entire series again but this time I get to play it. While the game isn't as lengthy as the anime, clocking in at least a few hundred hours if you were to watch all of it, its still a pretty decent chunk of the show.
Combat is super fluid. You can easily run from a tough fight or to one if you wish. Combos are really the bread and butter of this game and they are insanely satisfying. Even though I usually stick to one combo that gets the job done, I never really get sick of it. Even if I do, I can just switch to another one at my whim and it just feels really great. While its good to sit back and have a thought provoking story with deep characters and dark stories, its always nice just to have some mindless fun every once and a while.

The Bad:
I've always been one of those 'easy' players. I always want to choose the easiest difficulty first and then, after beating the game, going up in difficulty to either sweep back around for all the harder difficulty achievements or just to challenge myself. This game makes it abundantly clear, every single time a mission is completed, that you can't get an 'S' rating on a level playing on easy. Okay, I get it. Whatever, but I don't have to be constantly reminded of this. Yes, I'm playing on easy, don't judge me. Its minor but a minor annoyance still.

This game isn't for everyone, I can admit, but its fun all the same. Its fast, fun and offers a pretty decent amount of gameplay time.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Why Video Game Movies Usually Fail

So, hey, new Hitman movie. Is it going to be good? I'm not going to hold my breath. That's not to say it won't be good, rather that its not the best idea for a game to movie adaptation. I have a few thoughts on why most, if not all, video game movies fail.

1. Don't work with fighting games.
While the first Mortal Kombat movie was an exercise in cheesy goodness, the sequel was not. Of course there are other issues why the sequel failed: switching actors, purposefully cheesy script and dialogue, horrible CGI over extremely good practical effects. But the main reason is the cast. Fighting games have the most characters possible. Hell. Now if you don't have at least 10 characters to choose from in fighting games, people will tear you apart from the lack of a sufficient roster. The original Mortal Kombat had still far too many characters for it to work in a movie. Fans of Reptile, Scorpion and Sub Zero were probably not too happy to see their favorite characters under used. The reason it wasn't too much of a blow is because those three characters are basically the same visually. They don't have much personality either and in Reptile's case, most of them don't even really talk. Point is, you have to put all the roster of characters in and NOT choose someone to be better than another. Fanboys/girls will rage all day about how their favorite character was misrepresented or, "Come on? Defeated by THAT character? You must be tripping!"

2. The premise must be simple.
As much as I hate to admit it, The Elder Scrolls can never have a movie. Think about all the awesome things about Elder Scrolls apart from combat and magic. The biggest thing to come up is the lore. From countless books, tomes and just simple throw away dialogue from random NPCs, Elder Scrolls thrives on you wanting to know more. You hear someone talk about the Fall of Kavatch (probably spelled that wrong) or the Eruption of Red mountain. Either you already know, want to know or don't care. You have agency to dive deeper into the lore of the games to find out more about the Dwemer or not. With movies, you can't know what will and won't be important. You have so much to work on and so limited time to explore what really is necessary. Its similar to the point about fighting games. You either focus on a character or event no one wants to know about or an event/character everyone wanted but is never mentioned.

3. You can only use action for a genre.
While you may disagree, action is really the bread and butter of simple stories. Die Hard doesn't have too much depth other than its action yet its still a good movie. Comedies are a possibility but you could always run into the problem of a joke just not being funny. In action, as long as you keep it awesome it can really do no wrong. Physics be damned, this thing will happen and most people will like it. If you choose drama, you might as well not even make a direct video game movie but a spin off like so many fan made films online. Fantasy has the same problem like mentioned in the second point. Too much in too little time. Action really cuts away the fat of all of the complexities. If Hitman was a thriller, it probably wouldn't do well. Slasher, definitely not. Thriller implies Agent 47 is in some sort of actual danger and is frightened by it. But, if you've ever played a Hitman game, you'll know 47 has the emotional range of a door. Slasher is immediately taken out for similar reasons. Of course they can't kill the main character and of course 47 would have to be the slasher. Otherwise there's no one to project onto. As awesome as a fight between 47 and Jason Vorhees would be, it would have to be action at best. Jason hunting a character who doesn't even flinch in the face of gore or death or 47 hunting someone who... well I take back my 'expressions like a door' for 47 and put it on Jason. He literally never shows his face.

Celestian Tales: Old North PC Review - 8.5/10

Celestian Tales is a turn based RPG available on Steam. It focuses in on a story with six main characters in a fantasy setting.

The Good:
There are a total of six main characters you can choose to play as, all with their own skills, backstory, beginning prologue and such. You choose one of the characters and follow their story that intersects with the other six. I haven't gotten around to playing all of them, but they all seem the same save for the prologue. Each character begins in their own small backstory which then leads into the main game. Its not often you see this level of detail from a kickstarted game or even from most triple A titles and publishers.
The sprites and other visuals all look exceptional. I'm not sure, but I think most, if not all, the artwork was done specifically for this game. While most characters fall back on a similar expression, its a very nice touch.
Combat is fairly decent. Which is to say it isn't broken. There's a fair bit of strategy but nothing insane. You attack, buff, healing item. All the standard stuff. That's not to say the system isn't lacking, it's just choosing to go by a familiar system we've seen and probably played. Point is, its not difficult to get into combat.

The Bad:
As far as I've played, you don't really get to make a whole lot of choices in this game. Sure, you can walk (relatively) where you want and use the skills you want but you can't make any dialogue choices. Apart from small things, the story will do as it pleases. Is your character kind of an elitist dick? Well too bad! You can't change it. I know this is par for the course when it comes to original RPGs like Final Fantasy, but this is 2015. We've made some serious graphical, not to mention mechanical, leaps when its come to games. Even hollow choices, while terrible, would have given me the illusion of choice. Its more like an animated movie I can control sometimes but ultimately I have little agency over. This isn't a terrible thing. Ni No Kuni had pretty much the same thing story wise. You were following Oliver's story and every so often you could just say yes or no, but I, at best, tolerated that.
You choose from six different characters who are all designed a certain way. You can't change this (as far as I've seen), so you're basically stuck as whatever the developer wants you to be. For you guys, you get all of two white characters to choose from. For the ladies, they get four white girls. While (most) of the characters don't look terrible, a token character maker would have been great. Instead, I have to play as a blond haired, slightly tanned guy. It doesn't detract from the game, it just makes me feel like I have less input in the overall game.

I'm not at all disappointed in my purchase. This is a pretty decent game that I might continue playing. I believe its still at a reduced price at the time this will be posted, so if you like the game you should pick it up soon for a fairly cheap price.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Choice of Robots PC Review - 8/10

Choice of Robots is an interactive novel available on Steam. It was marked down by 40% so I thought why not pick it up. The main basis of the game is that you have created robots. Not all robots but something significant to you personally.

The Good:
This is a very minimalist game. Its basically a novel but online but one you make up as you go. Through specific set choices, the story unfolds for you in different ways. You start off choosing where the story begins. One choice is you being judged by a robotic Anubis, weighing your life on scales, testing you on your life and the sins you've committed. Another has you sitting with a robot in a somewhat romantic setting and you reminisce on your life. Each of these stories plays back into a main story. Though your first choice will (presumably) affect the multiple endings, the main story is a almost completely a blank slate for you to mold. You can even name some important characters, such as yourself and the robot you build.

The Bad:
This is definitely a niche game. Shooter and RPG fans are not going to able to immediately pick this up. Rather this is more meant for people who enjoy books or someone who is getting into writing for themselves. I find it enjoyable though not many other people will.

The Meh:
Personally, I would have made some drawings or even music for this. At times, the experience feels kind of muted. You really need to engross yourself in what you're doing otherwise you're not likely to enjoy the experience. Basically, if you don't like reading books, this probably isn't for you.

I understand this was a pretty short review but there isn't much to talk about. This game is more of an experience. You really need to play it for yourself. The game is really cheap at the moment. Slightly more expensive than a soda but less expensive than a sandwich at the store. If you have a few bucks, I suggest you give it a try.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Windows 10 from a Gamer's Perspective

The ultimate problem when faced with a new operating system is, "What are the downsides?" Apart from the visual aspects, what you really want to work is the system itself. After a few years of straight console gaming, I've gradually evolved into a greater amount of PC gaming. Its quicker, easier, more convenient but also a whole lot less reliable. When your console works, you can just go on your PC to dick around or find out what's wrong. When a PC gamer's PC stops working, that's pretty much the worse possible outcome.
For starters, most people will have gotten this for free, so cost is not really an issue. Of course, you would have had to reserve a free copy of it, so if you're reading this now its more than likely you will have to purchase it. It looks... different. Not a bad different, its just that I've been used to Windows 7 for so long its a bit jarring.
The problem I DO have with this is the drivers. Ah, sweet sweet annoying drivers. If you don't know what drivers are, basically they're the systems on your computer in laymen's terms. Sound, video, battery. Stuff like that. Drivers connect that stuff to your PC so they actually work. Apart from that, even I'm not entirely sure what they are. About two years ago, I got the worst virus ever. And I mean the worst. Corrupted my hard drive. Had to get a completely new hard drive and add a new operating system to it. With the help of my tech savvy brother, we got it working again. Although, I wasn't able to play any games. The driver that would basically read my video card was non existent. I had to go search and download an entirely new driver just so I could play video games again. It was not a pleasant experience. Now? Windows 10 has a problem for some people where the sound driver doesn't work. Basically I don't have any sound. "Why is that such a problem?" you may ask. "Can't you still play games?" Apparently not as I've found out. I've tried three of my games of which two flat out don't work (Dark Souls 2, Dragonball Xenoverse and Fallout: New Vegas). Dark Souls 2 'works'. I mean that in a sense that I could start it up and the game actually goes to the title screen. Apart from that, I know nothing else. Xenoverse on the other hand, does not. It says I need a 'Shader model 3.0 or better'. I would like to point out not only did I do a PC review of this game so you know it works, but I have no idea what a shader model 3.0 is so I have to add that to my list of things to manually fix. New Vegas on the other hand just flat out does not work. Apparently lacking a sound device makes it unable to work as well.
So, to recap, this does not work as well as my previous OS. All of these things can be patched in at a later date and I can manually fix them (maybe) but I shouldn't HAVE to. That being said, all of my PC related reviews will have to be put on hold for the foreseeable future. Thanks for all of your support. I hope to have this working soon.
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