Posts Tagged ‘Console’

h1

Played Lately: Week At A Glance

June 29, 2012

Well, this has certainly been a busy week for gaming, I’m sure my Raptr feed has not seen action like this in months. Here’s what has been occupying my time:

The Secret War

I’d originally planned on going into this “blind” but I caved during last week’s beta 4 weekend. My husband and I played a couple hours just to get a feel for it, and in the words of Mr. GC, “‘Ignite gas cans and draw zombies into the fire?’ God, I love this game!”

Zombie killling-wise, I’d say my sentiments echo his, but I do have my misgivings about the clunky feel of combat. Still, it’s something I can see myself easily getting used to. More importantly, I feel it’s a small price to pay to experience this unique game with its mystery-driven story and incredibly atmospheric setting, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s where Funcom has focused most of its efforts. I’ve seen people describe themselves as getting “lost” in TSW, and I have to agree with that feeling wholeheartedly. I look forward to playing in the early access this weekend — Templar on Arcadia.

TERA Online

I’ve been dabbling in this MMO ever since I bought it for half-price earlier this month. I have to say combat in this game is drastically different from all other MMOs and is very engaging. Graphically, it’s also a feast for the eyes.

Still, I’m not feeling the motivation to play it much. I’ve been trying to figure out why I’m not making the connection because I don’t think the reason has much to do with the gameplay, which I actually find quite enjoyable. It galls me to admit that it might be due to the art style. Maybe I’m just being shallow, but you’d be surprised how much something that could have an impact on my experience. I’ll probably go into it a bit more in a separate post at a later date, but for now I plan on getting the most out of my free month and we’ll see where I’ll go from there.

Star Wars: The Old Republic

This is still my MMO of choice, and will probably remain so for a while even when newer games this year will come out and vie for my attention. Patch 1.3 was released earlier this week on Tuesday, and I had been looking forward to checking out the updates it offers.

I haven’t really had a chance, though. For the last few weeks, I’ve been playing on the Imperial side almost exclusively, concentrating on leveling up that Bounty Hunter I’ve always wanted, the class I’d dreamed about ever since the game was announced. Coupled with my husband’s Sith Warrior, we’re steadily making progress towards level 50 and I hope we can keep up the pace, as level-capping her is currently one of my MMO goals. Right now we find ourselves on Hoth, on the cusp of wrapping up Chapter 2.

Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood

I swear, I’ve had this game and AC: Revelations sitting on the to-play pile still in their original wrapping since…damn, I think November of last year. In fact, I think I picked them both up during a Black Friday deal, telling myself that I’d better get it now at a good price since I had definite plans to play both at some point anyway. Famous last words. Incidentally, that’s also how I ended up with my unmanageable Steam to-play pile.

Okay, so it was probably a terrible, terrible idea to start this game Monday on the eve of the Skyrim: Dawnguard DLC and Mass Effect 3 extended cut releases, but I had a feeling deep down that if I didn’t open that box like right now it was never going to happen otherwise. And so, I spent the day playing Ezio and getting used to climbing walls and shoving around civilians again. I also discovered something about myself: I am way too impatient and bloodthirsty to make a good, stealthy assassin.

Mass Effect 3

No spoilers. I downloaded the extended cut for the ending first thing Tuesday and fired up my last save point that afternoon in order to see the changes. However, this time around I decided to choose a different ending, opting for red instead of green. Then, I watched the other endings on YouTube.

As you may know, I’d just finished the game earlier last week, with the original ending. I had a friend tell me that I should have waited for the extended cut to arrive before I did, but after seeing the new ending I’m glad I didn’t. Having played the original version so recently made me appreciate the new one all the more. It really emphasized for me my problem with the old one in the first place — not the actual events of the ending itself, but instead just how lazily the entire sequence was executed.

The new ending fleshed out the story, explaining some of the ramifications and the fates of my squadmates and friends. More importantly, it had feeling — which was what I felt was lacking in the original. I was almost brought to tears in the final moments, and that’s when it hit me: the storytelling is what I like most about these games, and the emotions they evoke. It’s not the what but the how, as in this was how the story should have been told, in the BioWare way that I know and love.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Dawnguard

No spoilers. This week, I made my return to Tamriel in order to play the new DLC (I own the game for the Xbox 360). Thanks to the new content, I get to be a vampire lord! Er, a very nasty and ugly vampire lord, as in no one will be swooning over me anytime soon. Disappointed to say that playing as a vampire lord is a bit of a pain though, and I’ll probably only do as much as it takes to get my vampire perks, then go back to fighting and adventuring in my Nightingale gear.

I also get to ride a new flaming undead horse, which to me was a very timely addition, seeing as how one time these bandits shot and killed my last horse almost the instant I quick traveled and loaded into the zone. I wasn’t even on it! I’m not kidding, that actually kinda pissed me off, damn cowards that would shoot an opponent’s horse…

Uh, back on topic, so far I’m liking Dawnguard. Still, I’m not sure if it will be worth the money for some. As most expansions like these go, there seems to be one main quest line driving the entire thing, spruced up with some goodies like new weapons and locations, etc. on the side, but not much else. It also makes the gameplay feel more linear than I’m used to getting from Skyrim. You do, however, get to go deeper into the lore of the game, which is one of the strongest aspects of the Elder Scrolls series and incidentally something I happen to really enjoy.

h1

True Nord – Thoughts On The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

December 7, 2011

Over the last month I’ve been racking up the hours on The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, but I know I haven’t been talking about it much. Quite simply, I’d always rather be playing the game than be writing about it. Certainly, I enjoy my time away from MMOs to be by myself and play games like this every once in a while.

I think I’m up to between 100-150 hours in that game (for some reason Raptr doesn’t always seem to log my time on the Xbox correctly, even when I’m connected) and yesterday I finally earned my last achievement. Not counting Arcade games, Skyrim is the only title I have for the Xbox right now that I’ve managed to fully “complete”. I think that alone is testament to how much I enjoyed it; there have been many other opportunities in the past to hit that 1000/1000 mark, but no other game has ever given me the delight and motivation to do it the way Skyrim has.

And yet, I’m still not done, judging by the dozen or so quests I still have left in my log, and I don’t doubt there’s probably a few more out there for me to find. But while I love huge games like this, at some point, I’m always wary of burnout. Despite the varied dungeon designs and gorgeous vistas, beyond doing the main quest lines, things could get a little repetitive.

I also have a tendency to want to do everything all at once — a dangerous habit for someone delving into a sandbox game, because I always end up spreading myself too thin. “A little bit of this, a little bit of that” is how I played, which is what happens when I’m not forced to prioritize. Friends I’ve told this to think I’m nuts, but I basically tracked every single quest (including the Misc. ones) so that my map would be filled with a mess of little markers. Instead of overwhelming me, the sight just made me happy. I think everyone tackles Skyrim a different way, but that’s how I did it — eclectically.

While I bounced between different quest lines with no rhyme or rhythm, I also varied using my abilities and took breaks out to craft whenever the fancy struck me. On the bright side, I think that’s how I reached level 50 so fast, because practically every skill was being leveled concurrently.

I also chose to play a Nord because I’ve always been drawn to the warrior archetype, but ended up being more “thievey” than anything. I love pickpocketing, but I think that has more to do with my curiosity with what everyone is carrying than any actual desire to steal.

I also enjoyed the dragon encounters. They definitely do their job of breaking up the old routine, being random and all. I’m sure everyone has an “unfortunate timing” story involving dragons. The funniest one I’ve heard belongs to a friend of mine, who was on the quest to burn 3 and exactly 3 beehives when a dragon descended upon him and incinerated the entire area, causing him to fail immediately. My own story involves a quest where I had to hand over all my gear in order to infiltrate a fancy function. Literally the second after the NPC took all my stuff, that was when I heard the dragon…and all I had were my party clothes.

So many quests of note in this game, but I think my favorite has to be the Dark Brotherhood story line. Funny how it turned out that way, since it creeped me out to do their quests initially, and I tried to save them for last.

Now all I need is the email that tells me my order of the epic soundtrack has shipped, and I’ll be a happy woman. Like many others, I also ended up purchasing the guide for Skyrim. It was invaluable to me in helping me get around the game’s massive world, and if the need ever arises I guess I can also use this monster of a book to bash in a dragon’s skull. And it’s not even the hardcover.

h1

Awed And Augmented – Thoughts On Deus Ex: Human Revolution

September 19, 2011

Last Friday I made the push and finally completed Deus Ex: Human Revolution, refusing to relinquish the Xbox360 until I was done. And now that I’m finished the game, I believe one of my commenters said it best when they used the term “class” to describe the experience of DE:HR. I mean, have you ever appreciated a really good movie or read a book you just couldn’t put down, because its plot elements were just so well put together that they flowed almost effortlessly? I can’t remember the last time I was so impressed with an RPG, which is good because I mostly bought DX for its story, and I wasn’t disappointed.

In the end, I did come to enjoy everything DE:HR had to offer. In fact, to cut to the chase, the only two major issues I had with the game were 1) the so-named “tacked on boss fights” (but more on that later), and 2) the numerous times when my delicate senses were accosted by the horrible voice acting by the main character (who was probably advised to act too cool for any line of dialogue he speaks, which would certainly explain why everything was delivered in a laughable monotone).

What I really liked about DE:HR was the flexibility it offered. At first, I admit I wasn’t all that crazy about the game mechanics or the augmentation system (which arguably forms the basis of these Deus Ex games), but I did learn to love it. In fact, it’s where much of that flexibility comes from. Once you play the game a bit and start to “get” where it’s coming from, the whole world of DE:HR opens up to you. It also gets easier and gives you a lot more room to play with once you gain more Praxis points. There are so many ways to tackle the situations in this game, even two players with completely different play styles can have a lot of fun with it.

I for one have neither the skill nor capacity for sneakiness, instead preferring bloodbaths to stealth runs, so I played the entire game like a shooter.

My husband on the other hand, he of the seemingly endless fount of patience, challenged himself not to kill anyone or even be detected. Needless to say, watching him play was an infuriating cycle of “oops-pause-reload last save”, “oops-pause-reload last save”, “oops-pause-reload last save”, bringing me dangerously close to just grabbing him by his collar bone from behind and re-enacting a classic Adam Jensen takedown on his ass. And that’s why he’ll probably get the “Pacifist” and “Foxiest of the Hounds” achievement, and I…didn’t.

The only parts of the game I dreaded were the boss fights. Most of the complaints you’ll see about this game will probably involve them, and for good reason. I didn’t think they were going to be so bad but after experiencing them for myself, they do somehow feel apart from the game. First of all, the boss encounters in this game are all straight-up fire fights. So for those who were totally digging the whole stealth and sneaking around thing and not having to kill a single soul, I can see why they would be pissed.

But even as someone playing as a trigger-happy mercenary, I can’t say the boss fights felt all that great for me either. Simply put, they can be difficult. While I don’t normally mind a challenge, the problem is I don’t think the game prepares you for these boss fights. Much of the beginning emphasized and even encouraged stealth and taking enemies down quietly and non-lethally, making it look like a bad-ass bag of fun. Then just as you’ve gotten all your stealthy augments and started falling in love with your stun gun, they throw you into death trap to fend for yourself against some heavy-rifle toting meathead nicknamed “The Bull”. I had damage reduction and all my guns upgraded, and the first time I still flailed around like an oiled-up squid.

Yet, if you know what you’re getting into, DE:HR is still a rock solid game. And the world details are phenomenal! Even when you think you can get away with something, the game’s just too “smart”. Just like real life, someone might catch you moving behind even a tiny window panel in a door and the next thing you know a dozen guards will be alerted to your presence. And as someone who can read a bit of Chinese and French, I was also amazed at the number of Easter eggs I found in Hengsha and Montreal; everything down to the emails to the graffiti scrawled on the walls meant something significant (or was just plain old fun).

I also developed a knack for hacking, and poured points into that as well as social persuasion. Both to me were like little mini-games related to the story, scattered throughout the game. This is where I think the game excels, by giving you many ways of dealing with a situation (with the exception of the boss fights), leading to different branches of the story in a way which I think is even more elaborate than a BioWare game. Picture all the game elements like its plot, features, or mechanics each being an individual thread, and all of them coming together to make a perfect web, and that’s how I felt throughout my playthrough of DE:HR.

h1

The Catch-Up

September 6, 2011

Well, earlier last month I expressed hopes that August would be a little less “turbulent”, and what happened? We had an earthquake and a hurricane came hurtling up the east coast. Such as it was, we lost electricity for five days last week in the wake of Irene. Still, trees and branches toppling onto power lines every time we even get a slight breeze happens to be a very common occurrence in my area, so no harm done. I know things could have been a lot worse.

Losing power, however, did mean putting a damper on one’s gaming and blogging lifestyle. Even after power was restored it took a while to get the house back in a state fit for habitation (hey, after almost a week in the dark, you’d be surprised to find how much you just don’t give a damn anymore). I was able to play a little catch up this weekend and read up on things I missed last week, but other than that I haven’t really had the chance to do much in terms of gaming.

I missed the bulk of information coming out of PAX Prime this year, only getting bits and pieces from random tweets in my Twitter feed during the power outage, and from catching up on reading blog articles from last weekend. Granted, I know PAX is a fan convention and I was mostly paying attention to MMO-related news especially with regards to upcoming titles, but for better or worse I guess nothing really big happened.

Though if my computer had been connected to the internet last week, I think most of my time would have been spent refreshing The Secret World site, even though after the countdown clock reached 00:00 a whole lot of nothing happened. OMG, it could have been part of “the plan”, after all! Of course, I found out afterward that I was already registered for their beta for doing their “personality test” way back when oh who knows how long ago.

Here’s the thing: I would be thrilled if I got into TSW beta, but I do draw the line at anything that involves the words “requires Facebook”. While participating in the full experience apparently ups my chances, I have a strict no-whoring-myself-on-Facebook policy, call me an old softie but that’s just how I feel.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution was a game I’ve had on my radar screen for a while, and after it got good reviews from critics and the people I know I decided to pick it up. Ended up buying the Xbox360 version because every once in a while I want to remedy the fact I’m neglecting the poor console. Unfortunately, I was literally in the middle of playing this game when the power went down last weekend, so I haven’t had the chance to get very far. What I’m really liking so far is the story, which is something I knew I could count on, though sadly I have to say the voice acting is rather atrocious.

Perfect World Entertainment has plans to make Star Trek Online free-to-play later this year.

You don’t say.

I didn’t think the news of STO going where many others MMOs have gone before was going to be that surprising, considering how almost everyone including myself has been expecting an announcement like this ever since Champions Online went F2P. I admit I’ve sort of wanted this to happen for a while now, ever since I realized the F2P model probably better suits the pattern with which I play STO.

When the hurricane arrived last Saturday, Rift’s half-birthday celebration was like the last thing on my mind. I assumed it was over when we managed to get back online again late last week, but to my surprise the perks notification was still popping up and sure enough our alts were still benefiting from the extra experience gain. I didn’t even realize Trion had decided to keep the event going on for another week until just now, citing the east coast weather problems as the reason for the extension.

Honestly, I don’t think anyone was beating themselves up over not being able to take advantage of the half-birthday bonuses, not when there are so many other things that take priority in a storm, but I have to say I am seriously impressed by Trion’s consideration.

h1

Hard-Boiled In Los Angeles – Thoughts On L.A. Noire

June 24, 2011

It wasn’t until I completed L.A. Noire that I finally started getting an idea of why some of my friends don’t like reading depressing books. It doesn’t usually bother me to read novels where the good guys don’t always win, or where the main protagonists are put through an unbearable amount of strife, but apparently my brain objects when it comes to games.

You see, it’s one thing to be reading about the characters in a book, it’s quite another when you are the protagonist in a video game. In L.A. Noire I find myself connecting to my character on a whole different level because I’m the one playing Cole Phelps, making his decisions, determining his successes and failures. I become attached to my video game characters in a way I don’t with heroes in a novel.

So when bad things happen, I get royally pissed.

In some ways, this is my way of giving my kudos to Rockstar Games and Team Bondi. They’ve done a great job with the story and characters of L.A. Noire, and made me care. Still, I’m detecting a pattern here, no pun intended. Those who have played Red Dead Redemption will know what I mean. Without giving away anything, let’s just say most of L.A. Noire isn’t exactly all sunshine and lollipops either. In fact, it all goes downhill after Homicide.

Once again, I’m don’t want to make it sound like that that’s a terribly bad thing — after all, as its title suggests, the game draws heavily from elements of film noir, including sex, violence, and moral ambiguity. All those themes were captured very well, and it’s certainly not Rockstar’s fault that after finishing the game I felt like I needed a hug.

Anyway, enough of me bitching about the story. Moving on to the other features, I’d mentioned before how much I liked the interrogation aspect of the game, even though I sucked at it.

There is a super fine line between “Lie” and “Doubt”. Trying to read a suspect’s expression remained the biggest challenge for me (other than navigating awkwardly through the mean streets of L.A in those old 1940s automobiles), especially once I discovered how very little distinction there is between the behavior of someone who is actually lying versus that of some hyperventilating idiot whom I just tackled after chasing him down for like 8 city blocks. Seriously, all the perps are friggin’ Olympic sprinters or something.

The beauty of the game is its open world, but here you are much more limited in your activities. Playing as a cop, shenanigans can only hurt your mission and make you score less at the end of a case. There aren’t even mini-games to distract you, though you can drive around discovering famous L.A. landmarks or hidden cars, and there are always street crimes you can solve by accepting them as they come in on your radio. However, they all end up boiling down to three categories — shoot the bad guy, chase the bad guy, or shadow the bad guy.

The recycled content was probably my biggest disappointment, but at least they make it dramatic. The character of Cole Phelps himself is like a mystery within a mystery; he’s a good cop but also a flawed hero, and the more you play the more you learn about him and his past. There are twists (albeit some good, some bad), great dialogue, and like I said, some emotional moments. The game soundtrack is also incredible.

All of that makes the repetitiveness easier to bear, though at some point I did stop picking up street crime cases all together, not to mention it also took me 3.5 weeks to finally finish L.A. Noire. The game’s formulaic nature (at least for the first half) made it impossible for me to sit through more than one or two cases per play session. At times I loved it; at other times I wanted to hurl my controller at the TV screen, especially near the end when the game took a baffling turn.

Like I said, however, it’s a rare gem that can make me care that much about a story and the characters despite its flaws. I’d rather feel something than nothing.

h1

L.A. Noire – Halfway Point Impressions

June 9, 2011

E3, I love you because I’m getting all excited for all these upcoming games, but you’ve also managed to completely kill my gaming mojo. It’s difficult to get motivated to play anything right now, when I’m thinking of all the new stuff that’s going to be coming out in the next year. If you’ve noticed, I’m also in a bit of an MMO slump at the moment, even though that has little to do with anything; Rift is just slowing down but I’m looking forward to the big update at the end of this month and I’m still logging in every day to play a little, and do my dailies like a good little chump.

Not that I mind the slow-down; sometimes a break from online gaming keeps me sane and it also gives me a chance to dust off my neglected Xbox 360 and play some single-player console.

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been slowly working my way through L.A. Noire, the newest gem from developer Rockstar. I’m only about halfway in, just made it to Vice. Don’t get me wrong, I like their games, but like so many of their titles in the past, nothing about it really grips me and makes me feel I have to finish it as fast as humanly possible. At the same time, it works. I think Rockstar games are meant to be savored over time, or things will start to feel real repetitive, real fast.

L.A. Noire does have a certain je ne sais quoi to it though, something that separates it from anything Rockstar has made in the past. Cole Phelps, the character you play, is a good cop, a complete boy scout — which is a big shocker in itself already. I can’t punch a stranger in the face and start a street fight whenever I want, nor hogtie innocent civilians and leave them on the railroad tracks. You can, however, still drive like a maniac, which actually isn’t something I do deliberately, so that’s good news for me.

Speaking of which, recently I’ve been in discussions of whether or not driving is any easier or harder in this game compared to past Rockstar games. Despite the amount of property damage I do or the number of cars I go through, I’m actually not that bad an in-game driver. Really. I’m not. I swear. I’m just…reckless and don’t care enough. If that sounds contradictory, consider how I still manage to get into car accidents even when I strive to drive nicely and obey all traffic laws. Heck, even my damn partner got into a fender bender when I told him to drive — a bad one, which caused my jaw to hit the ground when it happened. It’s not just the controls, I think it’s also the AI which seems to have gone either completely suicidal or vindictive on me, causing other cars to turn blindly into my side or stop directly in my path. And no, Finbarr, the siren doesn’t help. Give me Red Dead Redemption, I prefer “driving” a horse any day.

But enough ranting from, because I doubt anyone is buying for a second that I don’t enjoy mowing down streetlamps or sending post boxes and newspaper stands flying. I need the outlet for my frustration, after all, from the interrogations. But while questioning suspects is the biggest challenge for me, it’s also fun as hell to read their faces and judge their movements and expressions. It has become my favorite aspect of the game. Mostly, catching them in their lies isn’t the problem, it’s accusing them of lying when they’re telling the truth which gets me every time. Apparently, I have trust issues.

Anyway, maybe it’s the more solemn nature of the game or the classy 1940s feel…or maybe it’s the fact you play a cop. But whatever it is, there’s an aura of sophistication around L.A. Noire that instills patience, thinking, and the willingness to put in the time. Or maybe it’s the other way around. The cases so far are excellent and well put together, the complexity evolving nicely as I go from Patrol to Traffic to Homicide to Vice and later Arson. I’ll probably go more into detail once I’m done; regardless, so far I’m enjoying myself.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,156 other followers