2 Gamers Review one Game

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Team Fortress Review

Team Fotress 2 - Review - Pickypants

To be fair, I have been waiting for Team Fortress 2 since I played the original to death.

Team Fortress 2 is a team based, multiplayer only FPS shooter for the PC and Xbox 360. There are nine classes in the game to play as, Sniper, Scout, Pyro, Demolition Man, Soldier, Heavy, Medic, Spy, and Engineer. The gameplay is quite basic, ranging from control points on a map, to capture the flag, to the (incredibly boring) straight up deathmatch.

Gone are the random killfests of the Unreal Tournament and Quake franchises where the designers decided that adding a few vehicles would progress the genre. TF2 really puts things into perspective.

What makes TF2 so wonderful has got to be the class dynamics. Each class is so beautifully complex and powerful in its own way, but the greatest part of the class system is that each can be foiled by another. Too many engineer sentry guns? Bring in a spy to destroy them. Scout rush? Sentry Gun. Heavy and Medic combo? Sniper and Pyro. There are so many situations that crop up during a typical match (which can be as short as a few fierce minutes), you will find yourself using the death timer to plan your counter and change classes upon respawn.

TF2 is instantly accessible, and incredibly deep. Doing a quick search of the classes played most by players online, you see many people devoting equal time to a number of classes. Unlike a fighting game like Virtua Fighter where people will continue to play the fighter they know best, the situations in TF2 determine the best course of action. The level of balance is akin to a ballet. A ballet of carnage.

The classes are, as well wonderfully detailed, with a cartoonish, cell shaded feeling to them. They all have different accents and personalities which endear them to the player beyond their combat effectiveness.

If you have played the original and are uncertain about its faithfulness to its source, the differences are many, but I think they work better now. The biggest change is the loss of the grenade. Many TF players had their grenade priming and jumping skills at an almost godlike level, so to them, it might seem sad to lose them. However, without the grenade, playing your class intelligently becomes much more important. The grenade was a crutch to make certain classes better than they were, and I for one, am glad they are gone. Second, the classes have been overhauled. The medic is so much better in the new version, its almost a different class. The heal axe has been replaced by a heal-gun, which can heal from up to 15 feet away, including around corners. The gun fills life very fast, and can occasionally render the target and the medic using it, completely invulnerable for about seven seconds. Suffice is to say, that’s enough time to fuck any defense, no matter how well equipped.

Other changes are minor, maps like 2fort4 added a ramp up from the flag basement for two ways out of the base, engineers can build teleporters, flags can be capped without your own flag being in the base, spies have a one-hit kill from the back and can turn invisible, but with all these changes, it feels very much like a turbo-charged version of the original.

The only gripe I have now is the same gripe I had then. People can add all sorts of rules and weapons and sounds to their servers, forcing us to play by their arbitrary (and usually flawed) sense of fairness. For example, taking away the respawn timer, adding automatic zoomed sniper rifles, and other balance crushing nonsense. But if you can find a good server full of half-way competent players, you can be sure to have a grand old time.

Team Fortress 2 is probably the primary reason to purchase the Orange Box. Yes Portal is great (all 45 mins of it) and the Half-life 2 sequels are decidedly Half-lifeish, but TF2 is a resurgence of smart FPS shooting on the PC. If you enjoy the genre, but are limited to Counter Strike Source and Halo, go get this game, and bask in its incredible-ness.

And if you want to thrown down, look me up on steam. My steam ID is “Fagfingers.” Bring it.

Pickypants 11-01-07

Team Fortress 2 - Review - Harshly_Von_Smokenstein

Well, upon reading Picky's review, I really want to avoid repeating what he states. I'll try to sum it up in a paragraph or so.

9 classes whose abilities augment/counter each other, cell animated graphics that are awe inspiring, fantastic sound effects, the same smooth control, etc etc.

There are certain things I would like to touch upon. First of all, the PC version of the game does suffer from something I like to call consolitis. Basically, for some reason, game designers think that console players are stupider than their PC gaming counterparts. I'm not sure where this bias came from, but comparing FPS titles that are PC only vs those that span the console-PC gap you find certain additions that seem somewhat unnecessary from a PC gamer's point of view. Example? Huge arrows pointing you in the right direction. Huge signs displaying where respawn rooms are, the intelligence, capture points, etc. I sort of took it for granted that as a PC gamer, I am expected to memorize FPS maps. I guess console gamers need these brutishly huge reminders? I don't know.

Second, the sheer amount of stats that are saved are great. Fucking...great. This game will monitor the number of points you accrue with each class, how long you play each class, the most damage done, most headshots as a sniper, most backstabs, most damage healed, most assists...the list goes on. Furthermore, every time you die you will be notified with a small message if you came close to, or broke, a previous record. A somewhat subtle pat on the head. Other small things like upon exploding from a demo-man's well timed grenade, you are treated to a death animation that will show you where your head went flying off to with a small arrow. Very amusing.

Third, and this is my only real absolute bitch about the game, is the fact it runs off steam. Now, steam may work fantastic on brand new machines, but my own PC is roughly 2 years old. P4 2 gig processor, 1 gig of RAM, decent vid/sound cards. Steam consumes an assload of fucking memory while running. I usually leave my primary messaging program going while I play in case a friend wants to join in. Now, when someone messages me or something, it'll take steam a good 5 minutes to fucking minimize and then another 5 minutes to reload the game. So...goddamn...irritating. Then, logging out of steam isn't a simple button click. No, you have to make sure all the built in windows are closed. This includes any advertisements they have going, steam-chat windows, etc. Then you can shut down. All in all, I really hate steam as a multiplayer gaming platform. Battle-net for the fucking win.

I'm sure the last complaint can be relieved with a PC upgrade, but still...steam seems to be the first videogame related program that my computer struggles with. Sure, I can take it as a clue to, again, upgrade...but fuck, the game runs fine.

Anyway, start cranking up your stats. Now. After finishing Portal of course.

Harshly_Von_Smokenstein 11-2-07

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Follow-up Review - World of Warcraft - Post 60th Level

World of Warcraft – Follow-up Review – PC – Pickypants

It has been a while since I last looked critically upon World of Warcraft. I have reached the all elusive level 60, ran several 5-man endgame instances (BRD, Strath, Scholo, LBRS, UBRS, DM-Trib) spent a lot of time in Alterac Valley, got my epic mount, and started my tier .5 armor quests.

I have not run the instances enough to get a full set of my level 60 gear (Valor). I have not attempted a 20 or 40 man raid instance, and I have not gotten any "fat purple loot."

The last time I reviewed WoW I was floored by it. The level progression seemed easier, the casual gamer (or as I like to call it, the "Gamer with a job") could easily log in for an hour or two, grind some mobs, and get some good sellable lewts. Your time felt like it was well spent. No matter what timeframe you had, or what class you were, you could see some progression happening.

I am sure you know where I am going with this. We've been told over and over about level 60 in WoW. How it's a new "beginning." "Life begins at 60." I have heard that since level 10 in barrens chat (/shudder). And you know what? It's true. But not in the way that makes me happy.

Levels 1-59 are like college during spring break. You have so many options for having a good time. You can quest, seeing new places, you can hang around the AH looking for deals, you can grind, or you can just say "Screw it, I am going to gank some allies." There's a wonderful air of freedom about, and you accomplish your tasks AND have a good time to boot.

Level 60 is the cold hard reality of after college life. The best guilds totally ignore you, snickering at your pathetic resume. You realize quickly that to be considered a tiny step up from pathetic, you need to outfit yourself in your first blue set. Your class armor. Class armor drops in the 5 man instances; Scholomance, Strathome, and the Upper and Lower parts of Black Rock Spire. The first few times you run these instances, you realize two things, they are exciting, and they are hard as a motherfucker.

After one or two runs of these deep, interesting dungeons, you start to wonder how long it will take to get your "Oh so important" quest pieces. You check
Helm of Valor drops off of Darkmaster Gandling 6.1% of the time.

You might see 6.1% and think to yourself, "Well that seems quite low, but I am sure I will get it eventually." This is really bad thinking. You see, what fails to mention, is Darkmaster Gandling is actually 2-3 hours into Scholomance (with a PuG).

Back when you could clear Shadowfang Keep for loot for your lowbie friends, you could get the run time down to as little as 20 mins. When you have such a small run time, you can tackle it several times in an hour, and still have time to check the AH before logging off for the night. If Helm of Valor dropped off of Magius in SFK, you would be able to get it (on average) after 5 hours of play time.

As it is in the game currently, (especially after the patch stopped 10 man Scholo raids) it would take a person, (on average) 30-45 hours depending on your group and skill.

Now I know what the haters would say at this point. "The Helm has a low drop rate because its one of the hardest set pieces to get," "If you are good enough, you can farm Gandling in 45 mins," "WTF noob, stop complaining." Etc. etc. etc.

Haters (or as you call them, "Raiders") will take any measure to justify the exorbitant amount of time they have spent to get their characters geared up to the point that they are now. Since they have already pissed away hundreds (maybe thousands) of hours on their characters, they clearly have no room to argue about what is worth your time as a gamer.
This bears repeating. Please reread this paragraph now.

Getting back on track. Other than the time commitment, the biggest problem with end game progression is it's entirely loot based. People fail to remember how much better their character got with a single level. Everquest and Everquest 2 combat this by having AA or Alternate Advancement points. They basically are like an extension of xp whereby you get points to spend to make your character better. In WoW terms, it would be like gaining additional talent points to spend. Once you hit 60 in WoW, people need gear to make them better. The problem with that is, the gear isn't really that good.

Oh sure, that fat purple gear looks awesome, STR +1,000 gloves are great. But that gear is not what we are talking about. That gear takes such a monumentous commitment, I won't even comment on it. I am talking about what Blizzard says is "casual epics."

My neck slot is currently "Woven Ivy Necklace":
+6 STR
+10 STA

Not bad eh? I got it from a quest in the hinterlands. It took me an hour to complete. I also got exp while doing it, since I wasn't level 60.

Now if I want to play alone and get an epic (purple) neck slot I have a few options.
Easiest is the Amulet of the Darkmoon (+10 STR, +19 AGIL, +10 STA)
This is a reward for the seasonal world event "The Darkmoon Faire."
There are several items you turn in to get tickets at the fair. You need 1200 tickets to get this necklace.

The (arguably) easiest way is to amass 360 Thorium Widgets to turn in.
It takes 3 Thorium Bars and 1 runecloth to make a Widget.
3 bars x 360 widgets = 1080 Thorium Bars 1 Runecloth x 360 widgets = 360 Runecloth 1080 Thorium Bars / 20 per stack = 54 stacks of thorium. 360 Runecloth / 20 per stack = 18 stacks of runecloth.

This means if you need engineering to combine these reagents into widgets.

If you have all the necessary materials, assuming a few trips to the bank it would take you 10 hours of in game time to combine them all. 6 seconds per widget, plus trips to the bank. (add it up).

That's assuming you've bankrolled enough to purchase the reagents, which will differ from server to server, and what time you buy them; but I don't need to tell you that buying 54 stacks of Thorium without getting gouged a few times takes an insane amount of time. Also, if you don't have engineering, how likely do you think it is that someone else will combine materials for you for 10 hours?

Assuming you have made ALL these widgets and turn them in for your necklace, you have yourself a nice purple necklace.

Compared to "Woven Ivy Necklace," however "Amulet of the Darkmoon" nets you a total of 10 AGIL and 4 STR. That's it. Gratz.

Once you wrap your brain around what a time and money sink getting "end game items" is, you start to wonder if you should just stop gathering loot altogether.

For the unconvinced, lets run another example.

A warrior is only as good as his/her weapon. I happen to be a 2h wielding warrior with heavy points in the arms tree for huge crit damage.

My current Wep is "Crystal Spiked Maul."
This fatty is

168-252 Damage
+16 STR
Critical Hit chance +2%

It does me pretty well. I bought it from the Auction House for 300 gold. To be totally crappy, buying gold online, this will cost you a real world time of 15 or so minutes, and about $8.00. Or you could just save up your in game gold.

The obvious purple choice for a similar character build would be The Unstoppable Force.
This badass is
175-292 damage
+19 STR
+15 STA
+2% Crit
Chance on hit: Stun target for 1 second.

Pretty neato!

How do you get this 2h ass-smasher? Well it’s considered "casual" content, so all you have to do is get exalted in Alterac Valley so you can buy it for 140gp.

Granted, Alterac Valley is a million times more fun than dying in an instance, but how long till the fun turns to the grind?

People have varying opinions about how long it takes to grind exalted rep in AV, especially after patch 1.10 made it harder to leech rep. I have heard everything from a few months to two weeks.

One thing is for certain, it takes a really long time.

Doing a quick search for leveling services online, I found that going from Neutral to Exalted reputation was on average 45% more expensive than leveling from 1-60.

While hardly proof, this shows that companies whose job it is to take money to grind have deemed it more of a time sink than leveling from 1-60. That totally blows my mind.

So to get "The Unstoppable Force" imagine spending more time than you did leveling from 1-60 and you get a good idea of how much time the end game content takes to achieve.

What do you get for that time spent? Over Crystal Spiked Maul, you net:
+3 STR
+15 STA
1 second stun proc
7-40 additional damage per swing

I don't know how much you value your time, but other than the stun proc (which warriors can train in arms btw) you are looking at 7-40 more damage per swing. My warrior has 5,000 hp. Time sink FTW.

I know you get more items to choose from when you hit exalted with AV, that does not, however justify the insane amount of time needed to get there.

Lets just say, for argument's sake, that instead of making widgets and grinding in a 40-man zergfest for months that I log in, do some world PvP, chat with friends, then maybe log out. Play some other games (console gamers anyone?). Perhaps spend a little time with my family. Go on a little vacation. Have sex. Masturbate. Take my dog for more walks. Watch all the LOTR bonus features I've never watched. Read a graphic novel. Save my money (which I will have gotten by working for a living) to buy something nice.

After all of this, I would log back in, and if I saw an ally level 60 warrior with identical gear, but The Unstoppable Force and Darkmoon Amulet instead of my Crystal Spiked Maul and Woven Ivy Necklace. Lets say we 1 on 1 PvP with each other.

As we have already established, the ally in question has on me:
15 STA
7-40 damage per hit
1 second stun proc

This translates into real game terms as:
+20 armor (Agil)
+ 0.5% crit (Agil)+ 14 AP (or 0.5 dps) (STR)
+150 hp (STA)
and the 7-40 extra damage

Assuming the ally beats me in PvP (54.25%) he will finish me off 3.45 seconds faster than I, him.

3.45 seconds. That's what he's got on me.

All the fancy graphics and purple text cannot hide the fact that level 60's by and large are not that different from each other.

One healing pot or priest buff, and victory would be mine.

Of course it can be argued that a fully clad tier 2 warrior would wipe the floor with me regardless of pots and buffs. This is true. The amount of time required to gather that many drops, however, is so vast, it is doubtful that I will ever cross swords (maces) with such a warrior. Which begs the question, If you aren't going to engage in PvP with the opposite faction, why spend so much time getting gear for it?

Why indeed.

World of Warcraft is a phenomenal game. It's fun to play and lose yourself in for a while. But when the time spent gathering items to make your character more fun far outweigh the fun you will have in the first place, it becomes time to re-evaluate why you play the game.

After running scholomance for the 10th time, it’s not interesting anymore. You gloss over the lore, don't even look at the graphic details in the dungeon. You try to figure out how best to get to a boss for loot without fighting many battles in between. In short, it has become a job.

I have a job. It's not fun. Why the hell would I want to log into a second job? And pay for it to boot!

In my opinion, asking yourself what you want out of the game and following through with it is the only way to play post 60. If you want to raid an enemy town, DO IT! If you want to just work on fishing and enchanting, DO IT! Do the things that are on your schedule and don't rely on shoddy PuGs or controlling guilds.

You have nothing to prove to the cyber community. If you stay true to what you want, and don't over commit your WoW time, you can still have fun, you just won't look as pretty.

WoW post 60 gets a very low score from me. I understand the dilemma Blizzard has trying to bring solo-able content to a game that seems to be geared toward the end game raider. Quite frankly, I don't know what I would do in their position. That still doesn't change the fact, however, that the end game is tedious, boring, and time consuming.

Better content FTW.
gg Blizz ß obligatory

*All math calculated using the World of Warmath DPS Calculation Tool. Download a copy at

PickyPants 4/10/2006

World of Warcraft – Follow-up Review – PC – Harshly_von_Smokenstein

Well, Picky and I have been tossing our hands in the
air recently as to a review. We have been investing a
lot of time into handhelds and that seemed overplayed.

We decided on slamming back at Blizzard
Entertainment's World of Warcraft from the perspective
of the end game. Hindsight is 20/20. Perhaps.

Without repeating my previous points in the initial
review, I'll just state that I really enjoyed the
game. It provided something that most of the MMO's
out there didn't...casual, soloable content.

What I wasn't prepared for was the post-60 train wreck
this type of gameplay produces. I look back on my
experience with Everquest 2 or Dark Age of Camelot
and I realize...they made shit hard for a reason.

It wasn't to make sure everyone invested all of their time just to
get one stinking level. It was to help along people in themind
set necessary for what is deemed affectionately as
the "gear grind" when you have topped the level cap.

In those other games I mentioned, you are so
accustomed to pick up group mechanics and spawn
camping for items that doing so at 60 for the really
good stuff isn't that much of a difference. Sure, it
probably takes longer, but that has been the name of
the game when advancing, level wise.

World of Warcraft uses its siren song to lull its
players into a false sense of security. "Come play,
Casual Gamer..." these voices whisper seductively,
"Come play, its easy. Look how easy it is. You don't
even have to group with strangers...You can do
it...all...on...your own.". And I didn't have any
proverbial wax to coat my ears with. I was sucked in.

Then, with the type of surprisingly nauseating force
of a dodgeball to the groin, the level 60 gear grind
hits you in the face. Casual solo gameplay, chatting
it up with guildmates about what to look for next
level as far as a shield goes, etc...melts away. I
believe the killing blow is when your guild becomes,
or if you join, an END GAME RAIDING GUILD. When you
read that, I want you to imagine each letter slamming
into place with deep foreboding vault sounds.

Got a job? Great! Your guild will ignore you and
eventually shun you because you "aren't showing the
dedication required to make this guild successful.".

Got a girl or boyfriend who likes to actually spend
time with you? Fantastic! Your opinion on good
farming areas will mean nothing unless you have a set
of tier 2 epics to back it up!

What, for 59/60 of the levels is a fantastic damn game
for the casual gamer, becomes virtual hell. I have
barely logged in more than perhaps 3 hours this month
now that my character is 60. Sure, I had a 60
mage...but I rerolled a Hunter. Sure, I could level
up my rogue...but I'd just end up in the same place.

Shaking my fist at the total stupidity displayed by
the average Pick up Group (PuG) member or playing
something else.Obviously, the individual who invests the most time
raiding end game material (Blackwing Lair, 40 Man-AQ)
will have the best gear. Gear with such superior
stats that they easily vanquish enemies 1 on 1 or help
turn the tide of a larger conflict. Great. I have no
qualms with that. I understand that even though that
dwarven hunter has way better gear than me...I'm not
by myself. There are some orc warriors or tauren
druids on my side with extremely good gear too.

What I don't like is the mentality that "longer time
spent grinding raids for epics" equates to "better
gamer". Unfortunately this is the prevailing
mentality of most any well geared gamer out there in
World of Warcraft. If we were to adopt this type of
logic in real one would complain about the
elderly driving. They have spent decades longer
driving vehicles. Therefore they are better at

But they aren't! Most of the time. Always an
exception to the rule, but generally speaking I've
found that quality always over-rules quantity.

The crux of the problem is that in World of Warcraft,
and most every other MMO available, quantity provides
quality.This all brings me to the excited re-emergence into
the WoW post 60 gaming experience I underwent at the
news that patch 1.10 was providing upgrades to the
tier 0 sets, half of which are epic.

I've gotten three of the pieces and I'm already stuck.

Basically, I have to run Undead Side Strat under 45
minutes. All of my research has lead me to the fact
that the only way to succeed is basically have at
least 4 of the 5 people geared out in epics.

Huh. The thought of a pick up group achieving this is
laughable. Not impossible, but its basically like
putting a .5 percent drop chance on an item and then
hoping you get it the first time. Perhaps, but not

Developement claimed they finished it with green gear.
But this is the damned DEVELOPMENT team. If anyone
knows their asses from a hole in the ground concerning
the game, I should hope it’s the people shaping it.

This argument holds no water for me.

Casually, I have lead myself to the second tine in
this tuning fork of disaster. The dependance on the
PuG a casual gamer must adopt. Perhaps my own
experience is extremely different than other folks,
but at 60 it is very difficult to find a guild willing
to devote a lot of its time to the 5-10 man raids.

With the simplicity of hitting 60 inherent to the
game, everyone is anxious to start farming Onyxia
rather than running LBRS for a chance at the hunter
shoulders. Once in a while someone might get a guild
group going, but it is definitely not a nightly
occurance for me.

Great, now I'm forced to run an instance with people
who didn't have to group with anyone for 59 levels.
Fantastic. Now I have to toss out the inherent rules
of rolling on items that Blizzard created because of a
fear of ninja looters. Now I have to devote 2-3 hours
of my time to kill a boss that isn't guaranteed to
drop anything my character can use. Nope, I'm not
even guaranteed that the group won't fall apart 2
pulls from said boss because the healer went AFK or
some other random event.

PuG's have destroyed my interest in World of Warcraft.
Its very interesting though when I compare the late
game grinding of EQ2 to WoW. At least in the previous
game people knew how to operate in a group dungeon
excursion. They've been doing it since level 10! I
knew that the only reason I'd wipe post level 45 in
EQ2 was because someone went link dead, someone was
surprisingly stupid (not a fear though, just would
happen from time to time), or something unexpected
happens such as unpredictable aggro range on pull or
doing a portion of an instance for the first time.
I never worried if the tank would know how to manage
aggro. I never worried about high DPS classes going
overboard and pulling aggro off the tank. I never
worried about a healer blowing all their mana on
damage instead of conserving it for healing.

In the World of Bore-craft...I do. Did.

That is all I really have to say at this time. My
shift at work is over and I have some Battle for
Middle Earth 2 to look forward to.

harshly_von_smokenstein 4/17/06

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Mega Man Maverick Hunter X - Review

Mega Man Maverick Hunter X - Review - PSP - PickyPants

I am the biggest pussy ever.

As a modern gamer, I often lament the ease at which video games can be completed. Resident Evil 4, Metal Gear Acid, Metroid Prime... all these excellent games in their own right, but all geared a little too strongly towards the "lowest common denominator" of gamers. For example, in Resident Evil 4, once you get the hang of the controls, you (as a gamer) start to discover new ways to take down zombies, or circumvent them entirely. You've spent your money wisely on certain upgrades, and saved the "treasure" pieces to turn in only when complete. In short, you've played the game "well."

Unfortunately, there are complete moron gamers out there who do not play the game "well." They waste grenades, sell everything, buy useless weapons and upgrades, and don't break every single barrel and pot to see what hides inside. In short, they are "retarded."

Modern games have to take these "retarded" gamers into account, and make the game finish-able to them as well. What you get, unfortunately, is a game that does not scale in difficulty while you are playing it, making the good player "unlock easy mode" so to speak. Which is silly, since they are the gamer who is most likely to survive on a higher difficulty rating.

Most serious gamers tackle this problem by exclusively playing multiplayer games. This is one of the reasons, in my opinion, that the online multiplayer genre has expanded so much over the last decade. The person versus person conflict need not rely on AI programming or intelligent legwork, the person who is most skilled finishes first. May the best gamer win.

This does not discount the playability of single-player games, however. There are many excellent games on the market that rely on a single player only experience. Mega Man Maverick Hunter X is one of those games.

Back to me being a huge pussy.

I am a confident gamer. I have an incredible number of game titles under my belt. I also, as I said, pine for the days of the 8-bit game, where challenge was the name of the game. Over the last few months I have played through the "classics" again via my DS (Kid Icarus, Castlevania, Mertroid et. al.) and with my slick USB NES pad and emulators (Wizards and Warriors, The Legend of Kage etc.) The challenge of those old titles is exciting, nostalgiation the nogstalgia.

Now when I picked up Mega Man Maverick Hunter X, I did so with reluctance. I have the emulators to play the original and the SNES to load it up. As I had neither rom nor cartrgidge, though, my lethargy won out in the end, and I picked up the PSP title.

The game looks good. I wasn't blown away by any stretch or means, but it looked pretty decent. Quite frankly I expect more visual punch on the PSP, as proccessing power seems to be the only advantage it has over the Nintendo DS.

Within ten minutes of actually playing, I was getting slapped around like a night elf druid in The Barrens. I couldn't believe the difficulty in this game. It was initially exciting, then immediately frustrating. I was falling off ledges, and dying all over the place. I wanted to blame someone else, the shoddy control of the PSP, the glare from the sun on the screen, my lack of experience with Mega Man past Mega Man 3.

Was Mega Man X really this hard initally? Did I accidently unlock "Turbo Fuck You and Kill your Ego" Mode? I felt like I had launched myself into The Legend of Zelda's second quest without ever having played through the first.

By the time I got to every boss, I had a mere sliver of life to fight them with. I think I even heard the Armadillo boss snicker at me a few times.

Within two hours of playing, I went from gamer extraordinaire, destroyer of titles, to complete wet blanket n00b. It was a humbling experience.

I turned it off to check harshly's review. I wanted to see how far he had progressed through this "bear trap to the balls hard" title. I won't spoil anything, but his review made me feel even worse.

Since that time, I have not picked up the title again. I would recommend Mega Man Maverick Hunter X to anyone who needs to be knocked down a peg or two. I think it's a good therapy tool to get one to start thinking really hard about why we are here. It really unlocks some deep, psychological stuff.

As for playing it for fun, you might have more fun breaking your own neck.

-Pickypants 3/23/06

Mega Man Maverick Hunter X - Review - PSP - harshly_von_smokenstien

Mega Man Maverick Hunter X is of course a remake of the classic Mega Man X title. A pretty classic platformer with a small element of "Find The Goddamn Items" tossed in. Unlike Metal Gear Acid this is the perfect "play at work" title.

The game is broken down into various stages controlled by a theme boss whose defeat unlocks a special weapon that can be used in other stages for more ease or, in Boomerang Kawanger's cutter's respect, gather unreachable items.

Control is fairly tight. I've always had an issue with the directional pad on Sony's consoles. They have never seemed as tight or fluid as say, the SNES's controller, and do take some getting use to. The PSP is no different in this respect and I did go through a frustrating period getting use to the sensitivity.

Like trying out a new condom, or so I've heard.

Once all the bosses have been defeated you now have a tribulation of 3 stages devoted to irritating the crap out of the playerthat samestages will conjure that same delightful irritation as before because the bosses become sub-bosses. Then you kill Sigma, blah blah blah.

One of the things I enjoyed about the Mega Man series was figuring out the bosses patterns. More than any other title from my childhood, the Mega Man games stand out for their boss encounters. Much like the first time I played them, this time around on the PSP was no different and I found to my delight that I had no clue as to when to jump, dash, or shoot when it came to each boss's defeat.

Read: I had to learn them over again.

Armored Armadillo was probably the one that irritated me the most simply because of how long the fight took. His pattern was that rough, but his damage soaking/deflecting ability was probably the hardest of the regular bosses for me due to my innate impatience.

The graphics overhaul was great. I do wish there was more background/foreground trickery like the very first trial stage and you go in front of and behind moving traffic. Alas, this is the only time you really get treated to such effects. Its almost like the level designers fit for they were overhauling itfor the PSP platform. In fact, now that I think about it, the longer I played the more it felt like I had stepped back in time.

But this game doesn't truly get interesting until you beat it the first time and then get to go through as Vile.

Holy shit, its like a brand new, even better, game. I was impressed most with how different Vile and Megaman were treated as far as control goes. At first, Vile seemed to be less mobile or reactive to some of the more difficult areas...but with a lil' determination I soon found myself finding his ability for multi-directional weapon fire and "pausing" in mid-air to be very useful and intuitive.

I enjoyed the game much more as our blue man's arch-rival. I enjoyed his customized weapon combinations after a few bosses were killed even more. I did not enjoy the end cut scene for Vile though. I won't give it away, and I don't want that to make folks hesitant to try this game. Its like a Stephen King book. Its fantastic in the beginning, the middle build up is great, and the bubbling ending in sight is fantastic...but that final period will just piss the shit out of you. Fortunately it isn't a deal breaker like some games.

Overall, this title is worth the effort because there is some challenge but not enough to make you want to choke a bitch...thethan you'dalue is a bit more thanyou'd expect...and the satisfaction of getting all the heart tanks, energy packs, weapons, and finally the Hadoken Fireball is like a good masturbation driven orgasm. Something you keep to yourself with a big shit eating grin.
(Picky's note - gross!)

harshly_von_smokenstien 3/8/2006

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Kirby: Canvas Curse Review

Kirby: Canvas Curse - Review - Nintendo DS - PickyPants

As much as I like the Nintendo DS, I think I chose this game to review specifically to rile up harshly. His insistence to stick to the "cool kidz" gaming console that is the PSP whips me into a frenzy, and the only recourse I have is to force him to review the gayest video game ever made (I mean gay as in awesome).

Kirby: Canvas Curse is a game where you paint rainbows with a magical paintbrush for a plush pink ball to fly around on. Suck on that harshly!

Ok first things first, I have never really given the Kirby series much play time, with the exception of groaning when randomly selecting him while playing Super Smash Bros. Melee. There is a threshold every Nintendo fan tries to cross, where cutesytsey-ness of a game and its childlike qualities become too much for the person to enjoy. Most of us are fine playing Mario Kart, the platformers, the Smashes, and the Zeldas despite the inherent kiddyness of the titles. We just have a great old time and snicker at the "cool kidz" who would rather look good playing a game then have fun playing it. But the Kirby series has always teetered dangerously on the edge for me. It's just a little too creepy.

Thankfully, early as it was in the DS' life, Kirby Canvas Curse looked different enough for me to pick up and try. And I am very happy I did.

Canvas Curse uses no buttons at all, just the stylus. It seems a little unnerving at first, and I started to feel like the game was too simple. You trace lines on the screen for Kirby to follow, and poke and prod Kirby's enemies while he gleefully bounds around smashing into stuff. After the first three chapters of the game, however, the pace picks up considerably, and the difficulty increases exponentially.

Kirby gains his enemy's abilities when he smashes into them. There are many different types of abilities and each is pretty interesting and fun to screw around with. Thankfully, with a few exceptions, the abilities you gain aren't required to pass the level you are on like Wario Land 3, so you get to simply enjoy the new "suit" (as it were) without pressure.

The later chapters of this game get downright devious, with fast scrolling levels, spikes and lasers shooting everywhere and large bosses. Thankfully you always feel like you have complete control of Kirby. The stylus interface really clicks, and your brain makes split second decisions to problems quite easily.

A great element of the game is hunting down and spending "medals." These medals are found hidden in every level, as well as being earned from rerunning levels to a time limit, and for playing unlocked mini-games. Once you accumulate enough medals, you buy extra content from a "store." The content runs the gamut between very lame (unlocking songs in the sound test menu) to cool (new mini-games) to awesome (higher life total for The Kirb). This feature really adds a lot of replay value, and is a good way to mess around when you don't have much time to play, or are frustrated by the current chapter.

The only negative thing I can think of is this game really only stays fun for a certain amount of time before you might want to turn it off, like Metroid Prime Pinball or Wario Ware. Thankfully, also like both those games, Canvas Curse is something you can come back to again and again.

While not the best title in the DS line, Kirby is a solid platformer that tries something new, and suceeds. Here here!

PickyPants 2/14/2006

Review - Kirby: Canvas Curse - Nintendo DS - harshly_von_smokenstein

Kirby Canvas Curse is a fucking delight. I fucking love this game. From the moment I start my DS up to the moment I shut it off I was fucking hooked. Fuck, I love this fucking game so much. What with the ability to choose from over 30 different heroes to the fact that both Sentinel and Scourge offer slight nuances to master....Fuck, this game is unbelievable.

What will make you either a Kirby Newb, or Godlike, is the knowledge of the item base in the game. Is Kirby an Intelligent Hero? Then you may want to steer towards Perseverance so you can go for Refresher later. Yet, Agility or Strength Kirbies can benefit from this same item as it later becomes a component for Battle Fury.

One of the least used items in the game in my opinion, is the Diffusal Blade, but it is so delicious. 10 Charges of Purge, Feedback, and some Agility/Int bonuses that Kirby can really use early or mid-game.

Used up all the charges? No problem! It is an ingredient for a tier 3 item...Manta Style! Unlimited charges, but costing mana, it allows you to create 2 illusions of yourself. Great if you are fighting those big zapper type heroes who will be forced to guess which one is real.
Assuming the enemy Kirbies haven't gotten a Kirby Gem or Kirby Wards.

I didn't know this, but evidently the developers of this game decided to push the envelope and allow customized sound as well. When a particular Kirby, be it Sent or Scourge, gets several Kirby-Kills in a announcer bellows "MONSTER KILL!" or "GODLIKE" or perhaps "HOLY SHIT". Its great. But from Unreal Tournament. I'm fucking addicted to this game.

So thank you, PickyPants. Thanks for making me review Kirby's Whatever Adventure Involving Clouds, Rainbows, Stars, Unicorns, and Other Assorted Crap. I loved it. MONSTER KILL!

harshly_von_smokenstein 2/15/2006

Friday, February 03, 2006

Metal Gear Acid Review

Metal Gear Acid – Review – PickyPants – PSP

I don’t know why Harshly is out to get the DS. I don’t know why he continues to laud the PSP like it’s an Epic drop from Molten Core. The PSP has been a serious disappointment for gamers since its inception. A lack of quality software exists seemingly due to Sony’s obsession with converting movies to UMD format and charging $24.99 a pop. Outside of the homebrew opportunities, the PSP is the clunky wet fish of the videogaming world.

That is not to say it does not have its moments. Metal Gear Acid is one of the best launch titles released since Mario 64. When I originally purchased MGA from GameStop, the “employee” stated empirically,

“Dude I wouldn’t buy this if I were you, you’re going to hate it!”

Now I am all for a GameStop employee stating his opinion, but to make such a statement infuriated me. I mean, not all gamers like racing games and fratball. I asked him why he thought that, to which he responded,

“It’s not what you think it is. It’s a CARD game!”

He gave such a disgusted focus on the word “card” it sounded as if a “card game” had raped and murded his dog.

I then jammed my hand all the way into his chest, ripped his still-beating heart out and smashed a giant Xbox controller into it over and over again.

Ok so I thanked him for his advice and bought the game. I am such a pussy sometimes.

To the game!

Metal Gear has been a hit and miss franchise for me. While I enjoy espionage action as much as the next fat anti-social Dorito choker, I have found the games a little bombastic. I like to enjoy a story, get some character information, and have the mood set in the form of brisk, well paced cut scenes, not hear an 85 minute dissertation on the detriments of Nuclear War. Still, one would be hard pressed to find a game that draws you in so completely by the end, Snake’s relationship with “the boss” in Metal Gear Solid 3 for example, so I always forgive the tumescent nature of the games by their completion.

Metal Gear Acid is no exception. After turning it on, you don’t necessarily “play” the game for a good 30 minutes. During that time you watch snake talk to people and politicians talk to each other (evily!). It’s all incredibly insipid and sets the stage for what is possibly the strangest game plot ever. Some truly bizarre things happen in this game, some of which are awesome, most of which are headscratchers. I won’t spend any more time on the plot when there are so many good things to focus on, suffice is to say, it is tedious, long-winded, and irksome.

After suffering through 30 minutes of boring text and a few awesome seconds of murderous puppets hijacking an airplane, you finally control Snake in all his glory. This is where you begin to see a glimmer of hope. Snake’s movement and actions are controlled by cards you play. That’s this game’s “thing.” There are a lot of cards in this game. There’s one for just about anything snake would do, from shooting someone with a FAMAS machine gun to putting a hentai comic book on the ground for GENOME soldiers to pick up and read. The interface is incredibly clunky on the onset, and even the first few missions can be frustrating and challenging, but as steep as the learning curve is initially, it soon becomes a matter of pure instinct.

The missions are all battlefields or office buildings, minefields or bridges, basically any location from any MGS game in the past. Snake and all the guards/cameras/sentry guns are on the map, and in turn based action, you play cards that tell snake what to do. Each card has a cost to it, which essentially tells you when you get to go again, so while the Soviet AK-47 does more damage than the FAMAS, it costs more to use, so Snake will take longer to recover.

Anyone with a history in Magic the Gathering will dominate this game. There are so many cards in the game, and so few you can put in your deck, deck construction becomes the most important thing in the game. This is why the first few missions are so brutal, because you haven’t the card selection to do anything meaningful. As you progress through missions, you get points which can be spent at the “card shop” to buy packs of cards. Just like MTG, you get a serious feeling of “pack crack,” as you meticulously save your points up only to blow them all in 15 seconds opening packs and giggling like a wild beast.

One wonderful thing you can do in MGA, is play through the maps you’ve already beaten for extra points. Each time you re-enter a mission, you are given one of two mission objectives, either “Destroy all enemies” or “Get to the finish without being seen.” Since you don’t know which one you’re gonna get, you have to plan for both, and build your deck accordingly. The amount extra points are contingent on how good of job you do. You also get free cards if you do super well. Hallelujah! I haven’t enjoyed “xp’ing” out of mission like this since Final Fantasy Tactics (PSX version).

One humorous aspect of the game is the “Auto-Deck Builder” tool. I think this function is designed to give you the worst possible combination of cards in the game. Seriously, the computer deck building AI is so f’ing bad, you would swear it was added as a practical joke or something. To use an MTG reference, The Auto-Deck Builder will give you (out of a 30 card deck) 26 shitty enchantments, 2 creatures (not even your best ones) and 2 lands. Actually, the cards are so similar to MTG sometimes, you would swear you are playing some futuristic MTG mod instead of a Metal Gear game.

In fact, if you are an experienced MTG player, you will snicker at some things in this game. First of all, every so often you get an “upgrade” that “allows” you to increase your deck size. That’s pretty funny. Also the super-duper rare cards are often these ridiculously high cost cards that do all kinds of damage and no good player will ever have one in their deck. Lord of the Pit?

The game does feel like you’re playing old school MTG, not the new namby-pamby Magic where all the cards combo off of each other and each turn takes 25 hours. This is like “Forest/Mox Emerald/Black Lotus/Channel/Fireball” shit here! Well… More like “Taiga/Kird Ape.” If that made sense to you, go buy this game right now.

Every so often in this game, a new set of cards opens up to you in the card shop. Each set is based on an older MGS game. This gives you a reason to play new missions and move forward rather than rack up an ungodly amount of points on one stage to buy every card in the game. In fact, once you start to feel like your Snake is invincible and the rest of the game is a cakewalk, you are given a second player. Now you have two characters on the battlefield, which means you need to build two decks. The inclusion of Telico (the second character) is perfectly timed, and maxing out her deck takes you almost to the finish of the game.

If I had any problem with this game it would be its challenge. (Sorry Harshly) This game is too easy. And playing it on the “EXTREME!” mode doesn’t make it harder, it makes it take longer to win. Once the initial challenges are overcome, you get to the point where your deck is so good, the enemies are a cakewalk. Don’t get me wrong, the missions are still exciting, and sometimes your heart is pounding hoping you draw a weapon card as you find yourself pinned in a corner with three guards closing in. It just seems like that is much less likely to happen the further you get in the game.

I am of a mixed mind when it comes to the length of the game. My initial response was that it was WAY too short. Then again, the more I think about it, there was nowhere else the game could really go. So much of this game is setup, and rightfully so, as it can be a beast getting into, but by the time you get to the end, you’ve kind of seen and done it all. Brief but gloriously fun.

Even if this game were on the DS, which (in my opinion) has so many quality titles, it would still be a must play. If you own a PSP, I am sorry. If you own a PSP and don’t have this game, I am really sorry.

-PickyPants 2/3/06

Metal Gear Acid – Review – harshly_von_smokenstein - PSP

There seems to be this trend lately of Picky and myself reviewing handheld games. This seems like a very interesting opening line for a review, but upon completion of typing it, I have realized that is all I have to say about that. On to the game!

Metal Gear Acid.

This is the type of game that I really wish I could have gotten more involved with. I play my handheld games primarily at work. My job involves waiting approximately an hour or two in the beginning of the shift for a call to waiting approximately 5 hours for the shift to end. Lots of free time in other words. So I got me a DS and PSP. I mostly play Gameboy Advance games on the DS as the line-up currently for the platform doesn't excite me. But the PSP is a different story.

Metal Gear Acid has been out for a while. Long enough to be difficult to find at the game store in the Mall (Game Stop) or Wal-Mart. I finally found it for sale Used at Game Stop. Lug it to work, plug it in.

Hmm. This game is pretty fucking hard. Well, difficult in that I cannot devote a lot of time at once into it. I wanted to be able to stealth my way through the game on the first try but with the new card based action built into the system of control...the learning curve does not lend itself to immediate greatness. I fucking respect this. If you want to master a game within 5 minutes, buy any one of the Gauntlet Legends games.

I found myself wanting to slam a child's hand in a car door on many occassions from the sheer frustration of -knowing- that it was possible to sneak by that guard, but everytime I restart I still end up shooting him in the face as a last resort. Its like my mind can subconsciously see the solution, but it refuses to share this intelligence with the part of my brain pushing the buttons.

But this sort of masochistic frustration does not lend itself well to the work environment whose emphasis lies in customer service.

So, honestly, I didn't get as far as I would have liked.

"But Harsh, why didn't you just play it during free time?".

"Well, Curious George, I am addicted to MMOs and a Warcraft III mod called Defense of the Ancients. Crippling addiction.".


The gameplay itself does become instinctual. The menus are fairly easy to navigate once you play that one mission with the mine field three times in a row only to die at the end because, for the third time in a row, you forgot there WAS A FUCKING MINE! I really enjoyed the fact that packs of cards are scattered about, making your decisions even more ludicrous. For example.

"Hmm. I could easily sneak by this lone guard, but I can see 3 cards that may or may not be an improvement to my deck over there underneath no less than 3 cameras and 4 patrols. Oh, sweet, there is also a robotic patrol that is nearly impervious to normal fire. Fuck, I switched my Otto card out for another Box. Fuck it. Lets go Snake. Knock on that fuckin' wall!".

One thing I did not enjoy was the constant barrage of "helpful intermission advise" everytime I loaded the main screen. Perhaps the average gamer needs to be reminded how to access and operate the Deck Editor program five times in a row despite the fact that your deck consists of exactly 30 cards.

One guess as to the amount of cards you take into the early missions.

I can't comment too much on the sound as I'm not allowed to operate my handhelds with any audio at work. The only place I play them. I did catch a bit of it during breaks when I turn the fucker up. But I don't know enough about it to really state an opinion on it.

By the way, as a sidenote of no importance to Metal Gear Acid, some of my text gets sandwiched together likethis when Picky posts it. I want to assure you that I'm not some fuckin' moron who doesn't know how to use the space bar. Its because he probably just cuts and pastes the shit from the email I send without proof reading it for format errors like that. (He’s right – PickyPants)

Anyway, back to the game. My final opinion of Acid is a suggestion. Only
purchase this game if you are prepared to invest some solid time into it. This isn't going to be your "casual play on the bus to work" type game. This will require real effort, real thought.

Finally, I would like to make a formal request to those that might have some sway in game development:

Please make a PSP title that is based solely on the card game featured in Final Fantasy VIII. That shit was some of the most addictive gaming I've encountered off the PC. Thanks.

-Harshly_Von_Smokenstein 2/1/2006

Friday, January 06, 2006

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Review

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attourney: Review : Nintendo DS : PickyPants

Phoenix Wright is unique. It’s literally what the title states, a game where you play an attorney. This is no platformer where you look for “clues” or “evidence” on the map in the form of "evidence coins" or “clue bottles”, this is an honest to God, turn based, graphic adventure of law. For a company to try something new in this day in age is balsy, for that company to be Capcom, is surprising.

Harkening back to the days of Lucas Arts’ wonderful graphic adventures such as Monkey Island, Fate of Atlantis, and the excellent, The Dig, Phoenix Wright doesn’t as much innovate as it brings us back in contact with something we used to game with. A brain.

Recently, problem solving in videogames has become as rare as a good movie licensed game. The closest we have come in a while is the occasional brainless puzzle in the Resident Evil series (blue gem, round hole). So it came with glee to me that the Capcom and others are using the DS to stick it to the f’ing zeitgeist.

Phoenix Wright is a game that utilizes three primary play modes and puts them together in chapters to tell a story. The three modes are as follows: gathering evidence by investigating crime scenes, asking suspects and witnesses questions, and (the best part) an all out court battle. Any time you receive a useful piece of information, or notice something odd (like a downed tree near the crime scene) that little piece of info is saved in your inventory. You use these little pieces of information to prove your points in court, or to prove the lying, evil prosecutor’s witnesses wrong.

Thank God Capcom made this game. It is so over the top with fighting game style bravado and posing you would think you were playing Street Fighter 2. For example, when you bring up a piece of evidence that directly contradicts one of the prosecutor’s witnesses’ testimony, Phoenix will slam his hand on the table, (cueing the fighting music) deliver his coup de grace, and the prosecutor will clutch his chest in pain and topple over like he just got a dragon punch in the gut. It never gets old.

Outside of the court battles, the intel gathering parts of the game range from interesting to incredibly tedious. In typical adventure game faire, you will find yourself trying to combine every item with every person in order to get some elusive “clue” before you go to court. I suppose this is a curse of the adventure genre, but it would have been nice to have these sections move as cleanly and as fun as the court battles.

The characterization of the game is excellent. Some of the most memorable characters I have seen in a game since Baldur’s Gate. Phoenix Wright, for example, is equal parts bumbling idiot and total badass. He really makes you root for him through the game by being so awkward, and so awesome at the same time. The evil prosecuting attorney is also a total badass, but in a roguish rebel kind of way. He actually has the line, “I can’t tell who is guilty or innocent, so I make sure all charged citizens go to jail.” Rad. What is NOT rad, however, is the (seemingly obligatory) 12 year old girl who follows you everywhere and annoys the shit out of you. I thought when I first met her, she would grow on me, but I can say now after many hours with this title, that she does not. She is the weak link in this cast, and she is unfortunately in the game most of the time. Ugh.. she sucks.

Another problem I had with the game is its relative ease. While its great to follow the (often very long and detailed) cases with as little interruption as possible, the game essentially holds your hand for every part of the game except the court hearing. You literally cannot go on until you have uncovered everything you will need in court. Other adventure games combated this monotony by allowing the character to die (I must’ve died 1,000 times in Kings Quest 4). Not so in Phoenix Wright. You keep playing until you find what you need. It gets aggravating to say the least.

That’s a pretty small problem though, for a game with some of the best dialogue, story telling, and brain teasing problem solving goodness you will find in stores. If you have a road trip, or are about to take a fruitless winter Holliday, pick this game up, you’ll be glad you did.

11/10/2005 - Pickypants

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Review - DS - Harshly_Von_Smokenstein

I think I must have really pissed off Pickypants. Heseems to be taking a ghoulish delight in forcing me toplay shitty DS games lately. That being said, here is my review for Crapnix Crap: Crappy Craptourney.

Who came up with this idea? With the internet at my fingertips, I'm sure I could find out.

Tempting as that is, I think I'll stick with my imagination: A crazy Japanese guy who wears a lot of turtlenecks.

How can I enjoy a game when the concept makes me want to choke myself with horse semen? Seriously. The idea of playing a lawyer and gathering clues only taps into one part of my person.

Its not the inner child. Not even the inner-cynic. No, its the inner Hulk. I want to smash my DS into dozens of unrecognizable pieces, then carefully hide them beneath Picky's sheets.

"Lets make a game where you pretend to be an attorney! Yeah! We can give him a snappy name and for "action", we can let the player gather clues and search scenes of crime!".

I'm not going to go into control, sound, graphics, or anything else with this review. That would suggest I actually participated in the exploration of this game beyond dry heaving at the opening scenes and violently scrambling for a bottle of Jack to make me forget whatI was doing.

If you want to play this game, punch yourself in the neck. Really hard. If you liked this game, let me punch you in the neck. Really hard. If you buy this game for a loved one for a birthday or holiday, let them slap you. I'm serious.

Maybe I'm not getting my point across: I hate this game. I'd rather play Nintendogs for 12 hours straight. That is how much I hate this game.

Goddamn, I really hate this game.

To end this review on a positive note, I must say that playing this game will make you appreciate every other title you own for any console. If you must, absolutely must, have a reason to play Craptourney...there it is.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Dawn of War - Review

Dawn of War – Review – PC – PickyPants

I like RTS games, but I would never normally play one from a company that isn’t Blizzard. I have forced Harshly to play DS games for me, so this one is his pick. It’s really tough to review any RTS without thinking of the originals. The Crafts, and the Conquers. From just looking at the box, I was filled with memories of late night StarCraft matches against Noobs on Big Game Hunters, (or BGH for the l33t) Begging me to draw matches so they didn’t lose another point. I would argue that having 5 wins and 284 losses didn’t look any better than 5 wins and 283 losses, but that’s beside the point.

Dawn of War is a futuristic RTS set after the Warhammer 40,000 universe from Games Workshop. My only experience with Warhammer 40k was losing miserably to Harshly in college on a small card table with cups upturned on the map for “cover.” From what I gather, life in 40,000 AD sucks ass and everyone hates each other. And they fight a lot.

For me, an RTS needs to have an engaging single-player campaign as well as a balanced and engaging multiplayer experience. Dawn of War has both. Kind of…

Like I said earlier, it’s really hard to get the taste of Blizzard out of your mouth when playing a new RTS. Especially StarCraft. This game “looks” like a graphical update to StarCraft. The races look similar, the tech tree looks the same, and just like StarCraft, you start with a human campaign. I know technically StarCraft stole everything from Warhammer 40k, (as well as Aliens, Starship Troopers, Predator, and so on.) but that does not negate the fact that StarCraft the RTS has been around longer, and has (in most opinions) solidified itself as the most playable RTS on the market.

The single player campaign opens with a really, really manly general and his really, really manly friend, the Librarian (snicker). You learn the ropes of the game, and have a great time. The units are really nice and varied, and after playing for about an hour, you totally lose the feeling that you are playing a StarCraft clone. The single player game is so fun, in fact, you get slapped in the face with the realization that the other races do not have their own single player campaign. That’s really tough. By introducing new units slowly but surely throughout a campaign, you really get to know when certain things are useful, and when you need to “tech up” to produce different units. If you were to play as another of the races, you would just get a bunch of units you don’t know anything about.

Some people won’t care about that. After all, most RTS fans don’t even play the single player campaign. I do, so I would have liked to see more.

The game is played in typical RTS style. You must gather resources, build units, build buildings, upgrade buildings, upgrade units, explore and expand, and, of course, fight battles. What makes Dawn of War different are a few things. You gather resources by capturing nodes on the map. Like a control map, you must capture and hold resource nodes. No workers going in and out. It’s actually very refreshing, and adds to the “wartime” feeling of it all.

Your units also have more importance to you. You can spend so much time and money upgrading only one squad of Space Marines, for example. You can increase their numbers, (while moving or fighting even) upgrade their weapons to one of four different (and effective in their own way) types, assign commanders or librarians (snicker), and give them optional abilities on timers. This reduces the amount of “zerging” in the game, and allows awesome firefights to take place without a screen full of crap.

There are also special capture points on the map called “Relics.” By capturing and holding relics you gain no increase in resources, but they allow you to tech up to each race’s ultimate super units. Which are impressive to behold.

The multiplayer version of Dawn of War should have a separate subtitle. It should read: Dawn of War: Getting your Ass Kicked 101. Reviewing a game that has been out for a year is hard. The people who play this game are really, really good. And unfortunately, there is no way to start out slowly. (unless you skirmish against a computer, which has really bad AI) This coupled with the lack of single-player modes for the other races can make getting online a frustrating endeavor.

When it’s all said and done though, this game manages to accomplish something great. To innovate an incredibly rigid and often tired genre with fresh, new ideas. If you can get past the multiplayer thrashing arena for long enough, you might get some really solid enjoyment out of this title. For die-hard RTS fans, get it. (if you haven’t already) For the rest of us, it’s the only option until StarCraft 2 and I, for one, am waiting.

(Edit: Harshly's review is so much better than mine. Make sure you read it)

-PickyPants 11/16/2005

Dawn of War - Review - PC - Harshly_Von_Smokenstein

Finally, I got to choose a game. Maybe I can pawn off my DS and buy cigarettes. Decided to dip into a genre that we haven't covered yet in our exhaustive store of reviews. The Real Time Strategy.

Dawn of War, exclusive to the PC at the moment, is based on the Warhammer 40K universe made popular by the tabletop game produced by Games Workshop. No longer do fat 40 year old military geeks have to hunch over a TV tray and paint figurines. They can hunch over a keyboard and choose color schemes.

At the time I'm writing this, I haven't purchased the expansion yet. The content of Winter isn't going to be covered, so keep that in mind. In the original, four armies are available for you to micromanage your way to victory with in Multi-Player. Chaos Marines, Space Marines, Eldar, and Orks.

A quick note about RTS games in general. They are made for multi-player. There is always some staple single player mission type gameplay available, but all this serves to do is familiarize yourself with control and the trees of one or more armies. That said, I was pissed that you could only start a single-player mission as Space Marines. Warcraft III allowed the various armies to be unlocked as you progress.

Granted, I didn't complete all the missions, so it is very well possible that the other armies become available, but I did put about 20 man hours into the single player SM missions and didn't see a lick of experience offered concerning the other races.

I'm not being paid to do this. No favors. If I were, I would be one of those jerk-face reviewers that gets paid to game. But I believe it is in our mission statement here at 2Gamers...We are average folks. Run of the mill gamers. Not everyone has a perk to our job headed by "Mountain Dew and Dorito Budget".

So I learn a few hotkeys, generic control mechanisms such as troop movement and attack. Shit that is the same for each race. Then I dive into multiplayer. Yesss.

This is where the game shines. There are a variety of RTS games out there. You'll have your Civ-esque themed games where you herd a bunch of hide wearing, spear chucking mouth-breathers to take out some Egyptians or some shit. You'll have your Command and Conquer strategists who get sneaky with engineers.

Then you have StarCraft. Perhaps the best RTS ever. Carefully balanced, a variety of play styles to take advantage of. Zerg rush? Cannon raid? Zealot drop? Air assault? Tank bunkers...the list goes on and on. StarCraft made micro management a viable skill to make money on. If you live in Korea. Hotkeys were mandatory. You had to be PRECISE.

Dawn of War differs from all of these. Its just plain brutal. That is what I love about it.

Somehow, it seems to capture the essence of futuristic warfare. You can plan a variety of strategies but they can come apart in a second.

I can't claim it is more "real". I don't know what fucking warfare will be like in the year 40,000.

But when you read historical texts of past wars, watch footage on the History Channel, you always hear the old adage that the best laid plan can, and probably will, fall around your ears.

Stay on your toes.

This plays out in spades with Dawn of War. When it comes down to it, most battles will be pitched with both sides feverishly throwing all they have into a choke point. Constantly clicking upgrades, adding units, arming them with a flamer if shit gets too close. Vehicles roll in and totally change the conflict. You toss your vehicles into the fray.

Its intense.

Now, the graphics and sound. They only add to this bloody melee feeling. Weapons have tracers so during a conflict both sides are flinging barrages of noticeable firepower. Missiles careen past targets or explode. Bodies are tossed in the air. Troops scream war cries and death rallies as they muster back together. Ambient sounds constantly whisper harsh gunfire in the background, explosions.

Play in the dark, and you'll be glancing around. Its fantastic.

Then there are those units, those last tier units that cost a fortune in resources and will rarely appear on the field of battle. But when they do...fuck man. The Avatar for War for Eldar. The Demon Prince for Chaos. The Squiggadon for Ork. Planetary strikes and Terminator squads for Space Marines. Each are perhaps hard to avoid, hard to kill, and can wreak massive destruction before they fall. Individual one-shot kill graphics will make you stop what you are doing just to watch.

Now, what is wrong with the game. Probably everything I've mentioned. A more clinical RTS fan will detest this game. Its difficult to really rush someone and catch them with their pants down. Shock troops aren't that shocking. (Troops that can bypass difficult terrain) The skill lays in reacting to the unpredictable. Not in being the most efficient in hitting a series of hotkeys.

A few words about the races.

The Eldar are basically space elves. Their troop and vehicles are more streamlined, hover around, and the troop sets are tailored to specifically counter or offer various threats. The most surgical of the races, playing the Eldar requires a lot of patience as sometimes you'll find yourself unable to counter a threat simply because you didn't anticipate it. These situations cripple the Eldar the most. On the other hand, should you guess or plan'll obliterate that threat.

The Orks are the opposite. Vast numbers are the key to Ork armies. They can have an assload of troops in a single detachment, have an assload of variousupgrades. This army is for that player who wants to swarm the battlefield with screaming grunts and rely on mass firepower.
Not too much specialization offered, some, but not much.

The Chaos Marines have solid troop selection. The marines themselves can learn to cloak, which can be pretty irritating for your opponent. They have goodweapon selection and the Sorcerer’s abilities when upgraded make him a good threat. Vehicle selection is better than ork or Eldar, in my opinion. Defiler long range assaults are very fun.

The Space Marines somewhat mirror their chaotic counterparts. I would say their vehicle selection is a touch better because they don't have any late gamewinner troops like the Avatar or Demon. What they do have is a planetary assault feature your commander can utilize that will fuck up any choke point or base you can target with it. Expensive, but squeal worthy destruction. Marines are more defensive than any other army, but I hear that changes with the introduction of Imperial Guard in the expansion.

Background sounds might confuse you into thinking some shit is going down when its not. All the tracers, missiles, laser fire, screaming, and general cock chaos going on might intimidate the more clinical gamer.

In conclusion, if you seek a game that is bloody, chaotic, and'll enjoy the shit out of this game.

If you seek an RTS where you can micromanage without too much distraction and know that your plans will probably devastate your opponent 3 minutes, 42 seconds into the game before it even starts...You may not like it.

The expansion is definitely on my "To Purchase" list.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow - Review

Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow - Review - DS - PickyPants

First things first. As a serious gamer there is really only one question to be asked about Dawn of Sorrow. Is it the next Symphony of the Night? The only two memorable Castlevania’s in most gamer’s minds are Castlevania II (NES) and Symphony of the Night. (PSX)

I am afraid to say no, this is not the next Symphony of the Night. But it’s the closest we have come so far. That’s all I wanted to know, but feel free to read on if you need more information. And of course, don’t miss Harshly_Von_Smokenstein’s review.

Castlevania has evolved from the a deviously hard platform action game, to an action RPG that is closer in style to a Metroid than a Mega Man. Like so many games of this generation, Castlevania has become a game of exploration, rather than challenge. This is not a bad thing in the case of this franchise. Symphony of the Night, as fan boys will tell you, was a beautifully painted 2D game that came out in the midst of the PSone 3D games onslaught. With all those sub-par 3D games, few people paid attention to SotN until it was pulled from shelves. It had depth, wonderful visuals, amazing bosses, excellent music, and original gameplay. Instead of being a chore, exploring became a reward. Every time a new ability was learned, different parts of Dracula’s massive castle became open to you. Certain items could be paired with each other, creating a customizable equipment and spell system. And the endings, Oh the endings. I can’t spoil it, but there were many late game rewards for the hard core player.

The first thing you will realize when playing DoS is the story. Every Castlevania since the first has moved closer and closer to story and farther and farther from action. I like me some storyline from time to time, but in an action game, I want it PART of the action, not directly before and after. I want Doom 3, Half-Life, or Metroid Prime story. What I get is a bunch of anime frames of people talking to people. Talking about how much ass they will kick, rather than kicking it. It’s a small gripe, but with every cutscene I feel a little part of myself die.

As in Symphony of the Night, Dawn of Sorrow is an action RPG. You get experience, and gold and items from kills. I am so glad this leveling system is still in this series. There is something so much more gratifying about hacking armies upon armies of the same things apart when you know you are getting something for it. You seek out enemies and kill them, rather than sigh and try to fly around them. Also in keeping with the best of this series is the Weps/Armor equipment system. Nothing like a random rare drop to pimp out your (rather gay looking) hero. The drop rate seem right on, just when I notice my wep underperforming, I get a little love from the “drop Gods.” Also money comes in handy again, as you have a shop to buy things at. Furthermore, it’s the best action game economy I have ever seen. Gold is everywhere, and you always need more. Not in a frustrating way. I found myself killing certain monsters just for the loot they dropped. I haven’t done that since Chrono Trigger.

Also, like the GBA Castlevanias, if you kill enough of the same enemy, you get their soul. Those souls can be equipped to do nifty things (from passive increases in ability scores, to copying enemy abilities, to changing the game physics). And on top of that, you can collect up to 9 souls per monster. Each soul makes the ability more effective. Each monster in the game can drop a soul. Since souls are a relatively rare drop, you are looking at slaying a lot of the same guys for these souls to stock up. This is a really good thing, in addition to getting xp/lewt per kill, you are getting a chance to increase the effectivity of your abilities. That makes killing enemies even more fun! Awesome, Awesome, Awesome!

And what makes this even better, is you can visit your blonde haired, Arian girlfriend, (inexplicably named “Yoko”) who can pair souls to your weps. Once they are bound to a wep, you can’t use them as an ability. The choices quickly become numerous. Do I use this badass ability, or put it into my sword to give me lifestealing? It’s just great! Its reminiscent of Final Fantasy VIII (am I the only person who loved that game?) where tweaking your spells/abilities (Do I put “Double” or “Firaga” on my STR score?) could take hours, but eventually you would find the perfect combination. (at least, until you looted more souls)

I hate commenting on “graphics,” because I think they are meaningless in the grand scheme of things. In a game like DoS, however, with a lot of running back and forth, jumping around and killing similarly looking enemies, the visual impact of the game is more important. Keeping that in mind, I would have to say DoS is the best looking Castlevania game so far. Even better than that goddawful PS2 version. There are so many minute details from character animation, to background effects, it’s easy to get lost in the eye candy.

Then there’s the question of the DS’s capabilities. Does it effectively use the touch options and the other screen? Yes and No. Personally I am getting tired of developers being “forced” to use the touch screen aspect of the DS. I love it when games use it well, but most non-Nintendo titles seem pressured to use it “because it’s there.” Nevertheless, DoS prods clumsily into the touch aspect of the game. You use the touch screen maybe 10 times in the whole game. Every time you need to use it, you find yourself scrambling for the stylus and trying to balance moving and touching at the same time. It’s a total train wreck.

On the plus side, the second screen is a Godsend. One annoying thing about the later Castlevania games is taking breaks in the action to equip stuff or check the map. The second screen can either display the castle map, or show your stats, as well as displaying a bestiary. The bestiary is particularly nice, as it shows every enemy as you kill it, its name, hp, weaknesses, drops you’ve received from it so far, and its portrait. So many RPG’s have bestiaries outside of the action, which are used more for reflection than information. This is the first time one has ever been useful “in game.” And all of these second screen options can be toggled without breaking the action. An excellent use of the DS.

Dawn of Sorrow has a lot of options. A whole lotta options. So many options, in fact, you start to wonder if the developers were thinking, “This would be cool,” rather than “This would be useful.” With 100 souls, and every one “doing” something for you, you find many of them sit in your menu, awaiting use that will never come. Now I am all about catering to play styles, I am definitely more of a “run-and-gunner” than a “stealthy Sam,” but there are some seriously useless abilities in this game. And of course the best souls are the ones you need to assign to your weps. That’s annoying too.

Ultimately, DoS succeeds at what it tries to be, an engrossing platformer with RPG elements. That it doesn’t live up to the simplicity and elegance of Symphony of the Night is unfortunate, but it gets really damn close. If you are looking for a truly engrossing experience that doesn’t feel gimmicky or “good in small doses,” Dawn of Sorrow is the game for you. Just to warn you, however, if you take more than a few days off from this game, your memory of the map will fade, and you will find yourself revisiting areas with dead ends over and over again.

PickyPants – 10/17/05

Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow - Review - Nintendo DS - Harshly_von_smokenstein

For some reason Picky Pants likes to make me review games that I would never, ever play of my own volition.

See, I'm a multiplayer gamer. I'm not into single player games, console or PC, because the social aspect of multiplayer is a drug. So when he suggested a review on DoS for the DS, it was with reluctance. It should be noted that I always haven't been a strict multiplayer gamer. When you move away from all your friends, sitting in front ofthe TV or Computer playing some single player game loses its appeal.

Fortunately, the Castlevania franchise has been fairly successful at making engaging games.

They are challenging, beautiful, and massive. Lets see that Asian kid beat Castlevania for NES in 11 minutes. Symphony of the Night was an exceptional game. The flavor of backtrack exploration made popular byMetroid (JUSTIN BAILEY!) breathed a whole new life into the genre of the 2D platformer. Gothic soundtracks, intense boss encounters, numerous weapon/skill strategies for both movement and killin'...add up to fun.

DoS reaches like a fat kid reaches for a bearclaw at these ideals...but like that fat kid, has trouble. I wasn't impressed with the soundtracks, the control was responsive but not intuitive.

The former is because it is rehashed shit. The latter more than likely the result of the console itself. I have massive hands. Portable consoles have always been a problem with me. But, this isn't a review of the DS.

For some reason though, the designers decided that abunch of useless, uninformative, action slaying cutscenes were necessary. I have no fucking idea why. An action game should have...action. Not some anime faces sputtering dialogue back and forth for what seems like an eternity,


I think the whole single player adventure game simply isn't for me for another reason. I'm 25 years old. Back when I was 12, I could hunker down over some fine cafeteria food with my friends and they would respect the fact that I had found the hidden missile pack in Metroid.

They would ooo and ahh when I told themabout hitting lvl 99 with several characters in FinalFantasy VI. Remember Nintendo Power Challenges? I loved those as a kid. Beating one of them was a status symbol among my peers.

But if I were to go up to a co-worker that plays games and state that I found the shitty ring in DoS after just getting a way better one from a boss...they would think I was some virgin nerd asshole.

See, when you succeed in scratching your way through puberty...those Nintendo Power Challenge moments lose their magic. No one gives a shit anymore. And that sums up my opinion of the game. I don't givea shit about it. The only thing I can attain from mastering DoS is personal gratification. I'd ratherachieve that through some carefully chosen porn clips, my masturbation rag, and some lotion.

Its cheaper, faster, and I never scream "FOR THE LOVE OF CHRIST,COME ON!" at my penis.

So, to sum up...if you are 12 years old, this game would be great. You can master it while your parents are at work late, again, and tell all your friends at school to a series of high fives. If you are over theage of 13, don't bother. It'll just leave you wishing you had saved that money for something else.

Harshly_von_smokenstein 9/21/05

Friday, October 07, 2005

World of Warcraft - Review

World of Warcraft – Review PC – PickyPants

I have to apologize for reviewing a game so old, but as you might be aware, there hasn’t been much to review over the last three weeks. Burnout Legends for the PSP looked cool, but gamers have made up their mind whether or not to purchase that game, and another review of it would be silly. Dawn of Sorrow would also be promising, but my colleague, Harshly_von_Smokenstein, hasn’t picked up his DS since I made him review Nintendogs. I am looking forward to a flurry of winter releases, but right now, we are in a desert.

So here we are. This is a brief history of my experience with MMOs. I think it's necessary to give some back-story before reviewing this massive title. If you wish, just scroll down to the first World of Warcraft picture to get right to the review.

When I first heard Blizzard was making an MMO my first thought was,


As most people who attended "Higher Education" during the years I did, Blizzard was king of the dorm rooms. From the hardcore matches of Starcraft, to the even more hardcore matches of Warcraft 2, (hardcore, or old computer?) to those delightful casual games of Diablo 2, Blizzard had a game for whatever mood and whatever timeframe you happened to have.

These were also the first days of Everquest, where you would kill "mobs," get "phat lewt" (non-level capped "lewt" that is) and never know how many experience points you were getting per kill.

Speculation was the name of the game for older MMO's, and while terribly fun, (and term paper shattering-ly addictive) these games never quite made sense. You can still hear the arguments between players about what the level spread for effective powerleveling was, what the "calculated" dps was of certain damage/delay weapon combos were, whether Shaman sow was faster than Druid sow. 2-man vs. 6-man group xp relativity, pets that pull group xp. The questions that later, after about 100 patches, became only slightly clearer.

MMO's were in the Wild West. People were finding new ways of making in game money, and getting people to group with them. Random killable NPC's wandered around holding quest items giving you no idea what to do with them. I sold real life cookies in game for platinum. It was excellent, exciting, and new!

But then, things went downhill. The popularity of the series increased exponentially. More players = stupider players. Shouts of ,

"Can ne1 give me 2 gp at orc lift plz?"

were heard throughout Greater Faydark and soon spread to zones beyond.

As the game became more popular, the idiots started to outnumber the regular Joe's. Everquest was always a game of persistence, not skill. He or she who puts the most time in becomes the best. But with this new breed of players, people seemed to think their success was tied to their skill. This arrogance lead them to making declarations of their intelligence, a sort of "I know best" philosophy that they felt necessary to shout as often as humanly possible. We were treated to such pearls of wisdom as,

"If you are playing a Dwarf Warrior, you have to reroll before 60," and
"That gear is crap, you HAVE to get the Etched Ivory Hauberk at that level!," and
"WTF? Y would u make a shaman? There dots suck az!"

All of the sudden, playing became about choosing the class that everyone else agreed had the best abilities. People played shamans so they could get good buffs post-50 for their guild mates. They played monks because they had better combat stats at level 55. (with the right gear) Everyone had the "end-game" in mind so much, that no one was enjoying the beginning or middle. I give the Wurmslayer quest as an example. One of the last things my Warrior did before I quit playing was quested for the Wurmslayer. It was a long, incredibly satisfying quest for an item that I really loved using. Soon after it was implemented, the Wurmslayer was deemed obsolete. And there were no shortage of players telling me so. The in game quests quickly became obsolete. Tradeskilling was only useful to the highest levels. And so many different zones were created, that most of them became empty, and alone. Certain zones became only a place to key a character for access to another zone.

This reckless addition of the EQ world got incredibly out of hand, and there was far too much ground to cover. Once the developers decided to include the Plane of Knowledge, they put the final nail in the EQ coffin. By giving every class unfettered access to many, many zones of the world, entire zones were forgotten. The only new players were twinks. The Bazaar sold every item imaginable, (including FREE LAG!) and the days of a pick-up 20-something group were long in the past.

Everquest became so big it ate itself. But still it grew. More and more expansions offering more and more empty zones. 99% of the EQ population was in 10% of the zones. There was no reason to try new things, no reason to go new places and explore. Everything you ever wanted to do was done, and there were a plethora of players ready to tell you so. Any rare drop you found was already farmed and selling to the lowest bidder.

The only way to innovate or find new experiences was to raid. The dreaded late game raid. As if the leveling process wasn't boring enough, Sony wanted to get players together in a huge group, and wait. And wait and wait and wait. And then die.

Or to be victorious! To get that one piece of "ub3r" gear to show your friends. The pay-off between time spent, and fun had was shrinking. That shrinking to some people became "hard core." After all, waiting around for 3 hours, followed by a 4 hour raid (with 1 or 2 wipes) to get a chance at a better helmet for your character is a hardcore way to play games. For those "hardcore," there was raid content. For the rest of us gamers, who remembered a day when games were fun to play, there was only console gaming, and the occasional PC FPS shooter.

Then something happened. More and more MMOs came out egged on by Sony's successful Everquest. Ultima Online II, Asheron's Call, Final Fantasy XI, ShadowBane, Lineage, Guild Wars. All these new MMOs all with new promises. New challenges. PvP combat, no downtime leveling, quest logs, better economy.

So many interesting new ideas, but why take another chance? To potentially get sucked in by another game that would end up being plagued by the same late-game problems in EQ? Not a chance, said I. I kept my PC clear of subscription costs. Unreal Tournament, Counter Strike, Battlefield, Warcraft III. These all gave me the rewarding gameplay I wanted desperately in Everquest. And for a time I was happy.

Until that damned Harshly_Von_Smokenstein changed my mind for me.

Harshly was raving about this new MMO called Dark Age of Camelot. It had three separate nations at war with each other. There was permission based PvP, which meant when I was in an area that I could be killed, I knew it. Ganking was still around, but I had more control over it. We played. It was excellent.

It revitalized my interest in the genre. All of my problems with EQ were satiated. The game was unique, fun, and ultimately had late game purpose in the form of giant realm vs. realm castle sieges with catapults and ballista firing over Braveheart like battles raging in valleys and forests.

BA-ZING! This is where I wanted to be!

With my Troll healer Daiquiri, I raced into battle and forged a name for myself in the world.

For a time.

And then, it started to do downhill. The grind became more important. The gear, difficult to get. In the interest of stirring up trouble, Mythic put dungeons that all three realms could enter and meet up in. Routine gankings happened often. Griefers, and dude speakers came in drones. Fun was waning.

I never gave DaoC the time I really wanted to. I wanted to be capped, with uber gear. I wanted to be as amazing as my guild-mates. But the more I played it, the less exciting the "endgame" became. The castle battles were not that useful to the realms outside of bragging rights. The catapults, less than effective. The massive Braveheart style battles changed to massive AE damage spells and cheap shots by scouts. The game became a place to be bullied, not to have fun. I gave up on DaoC, and went back to my consoles again.

This is when I heard about Blizzard making World of Warcraft. I was initially annoyed. I wanted Starcraft 2! I wanted more expansions for Warcraft III! I didn't want Blizzard to be spending its time on an MMO. I knew first hand what happens to good ideas in that genre, they are exploited and then removed. I couldn't stand the thought of Blizzard being homogenized by MMO players. Blizzard was fearless and bold, but I knew that couldn't transfer over to the MMO genre. I just knew it!

I played Everquest 2 in the meantime. I didn't want to start another MMO up, but my college friends (now living all over the country) wanted something we could all do together. I wanted to see them, talk to them, hang out with them, but they were too far away. We all had (relatively) grown up lives now. They weren't two doors down anymore. So we played. And we had a good time. EQ2 definitely made some strides over EQ1. We enjoyed each other's company, and we all agreed that there were some parts of this game that were not perfect, in fact, far from perfect.

I couldn't stand the complicated and top-heavy tradeskill system. The economy seemed out of whack. The add mobs were so brutal. The exp debt ensured players wouldn't group unless they had to. The spell upgrade system was awful. The loot, almost worthless. But still we played on. For a few months anyway. We played one night a week, and it got so (around level 30) we could only get a few bubs of xp for playing all night. Weeks would pass, and no one would level. Except that asshole Harshly_Von_Smokenstein, but he was playing when we weren't around. What a jerk.

I didn't want to stop though. I loved teamspeaking with my friends, and I didn't want that to end. We could have played Battlefield 2, but FPS games allow for so much less conversation outside of "DUDE BEHIND YOU!"

Then came the email from Harshly. It started like this,

"Well, it happened. WoW blew my socks off."

He had been "double-dipping" as it were with EQ2 and World of Warcraft. (hereafter noted as WoW) Once he went over, the rest of us stopped playing EQ2.

For a while, I had no MMO to play. I was fed up with them. The grind, the item-game, the arrogance of the other MMOers. I went back to a peaceful existence of Super Smash Bros. Melee, Metal Gear Solid 3 and Defense of the Ancients.

But Harshly was persistent. He kept telling me how different WoW was, and how I should really give it a try. I missed Harshly, I missed chatting and laughing with him, so eventually, again, I caved to his wishes and bought WoW. By the end of the first day of playing, I was hooked.

I know that was a long preposition, but I felt it necessary to say before I wrote this review, that I have experience with MMOs, and this one indeed, blew me away.

World of Warcraft. Oh man. Where do I begin?

Blizzard must have read every message board thread, and checked all the feedback on Everquest before making this game. It seems built from the ground up to cater to a variety of gamers. From casual to "hard core" players, WoW has something to offer on every level of play. The quests give a lot of xp and lewt, but so does grinding. Everything moves at an incredibly fast pace. As if EQ2 was sped up by about 75%.

In WoW you get to SEE the amount of xp you get. How novel! You mean we get the same privilege given to us in Final Fantasy 1?

In addition to seeing your xp, you see your xp bar move. On every kill, every time. I am currently level 39, and I have seen that bar move every time I have killed something. Its beautiful. If you have an hour on your own, you can solo half a level by just grinding at level 32. WoW allows you to level up at an extremely fast pace.

So why am I not higher than 39 you might ask?

Because the game is so goddamned fun, you don't want to level. You want to just enjoy it.

Running around doing PvP, engaging in CTF style combat against opposing players, and exploring. Exploring like the day you first set foot in Kunark back in EQ1 and saw such amazing things. That exploration is not only possible, but necessary. You can grind and get xp to level, or you could quest, letting you see the world and gain xp for it. Gone are the days where getting to the next level isn't rewarding. Not only do you make choices that shape your character to your own play style, but if you decide a character is not for you, WoW makes it easy to start over with a new character and start fresh.

I have gotten to level 39 almost exclusively soloing. And I am a warrior. And I HATE soloing. Let me tell you how rad that is.


I have SOLOED 38 levels.

The whole point of me playing MMOs is to connect with my friends that I miss. And when they come on, its great! We chat and kill like old times. The difference between WoW and other MMOs is that it makes it enjoyable to play on your own. The levels come fast, the lewt drops all the time, and the PvP is amazing and on your own terms.

I hate soloing, I am a social person, but the game makes it so easy and fun to solo, you can't say no! The best part is, if you get a group, it gets even easier and even more fun! There is no stop to the ease and fun of this game.

And tradeskilling? Oh man. After the abominations of Tskilling in EQ2 (Fossil Tempers anyone?) I vowed never to attempt it again. But in no time at all in WoW, I have maxed out my tradeskills. MAXED. I have spent no more than 4 minutes outside the field working on it, and a lot of time while resting and I have maxed potion making and herbalism.

That means when I am wandering around (which happens a lot) I see little dots on my minimap (YOU GET A MINIMAP!) that are herbs to gather. You see them on the map. Since you have to choose a secondary profession ( i.e. mining, herbalism) chances are you are the only one in the area who can get it. No retards can train up all their skills and take every static drop on the map. No sir. Those herbs are mine.

Once I have those herbs, oh the things I can make. I can make buffs that last an hour (for STR, AGIL, armor class, magic resistance, damage resistance) Buffs that last 30 seconds (Giant Growth, Invis. Potions. I am an invisible warrior, SURPRISE! ) and my personal favorite. The speed potion. This thing is unbearably easy to make, you can farm the ingredients from 11-20 areas (even horde safe so no chance of gankers) and make these sweet babies all day long. They sell incredibly well, and are simple to make. I also can make healing and mana potions, so I am basically a juggernaught with a built in healer (albeit a crappy healer) This allows me so much freedom while soloing, as well as gives me the upper hand in PvP one on one battles (something that happens a lot more often then you would think)

So enough about the mechanics, let me share a story.

My First PvP.

So there I was at the tender level of 17. I had probably 75% of my warrior skills, the best of which start coming between 20 and 30. Harshly came in with one of his friends and told me we were going a-hunting in a place called "The Wetlands." Now "The Wetlands" are WAY the hell on the other side of the world, and I had not even begun to scratch the surface of that continent. The only place I have been to on that side of the globe was the undead city, The Undercity. Coolest city ever.

While wandering the globe, you meet people called Flight Masters who give you flight paths to the location you just arrived at, so basically, once you walk somewhere once, you can then fly there for the rest of the game. Its sort of like the Griffin towers in EQ2, but so much more convenient. (You will notice that so many things in WoW are LIKE EQ2, but SO much more convenient)

So Harshly decided to come to meet me and walk me to the Wetlands so I could get there more easily next time. He came out to get me, and we started walking, through forests and mountains, great walls, castles you name it. Unbelievable scenery. Truly amazing stuff. Until we run into an ally. An enemy PvPer.

Allies and Hordelings cannot speak with each other, alla Dark Age of Camelot. The lack of communication between the two factions is something that breaks down the humanity of the other faction. You look like a bad guy, they look like a bad guy.

There he was, A big red name across my screen. He was killing a mob, he was level 23. Harshly stops and watches him patiently. I shit my pants.

An ally.

They look so different! It was surreal watching him kill that mob, knowing he was another person. He finished off his mob, and Harshly waved at him. The guy charged, he was a warrior like me, unlike me, however, he used his charge ability on a person 30 levels higher than him.

Harshly lept into action and destroyed him, while I lost all control and stared. All of my hotbars perfectly aligned for PvP, my brand new weps and armor waiting to taste Ally blood, and I stood there, frozen. I couldn't even touch my keyboard. It took all of 4 seconds for Harshly to work this guy over, and I didn't do a thing. After the battle I apologized to Harshly.

"Haha! Don't worry man, intense isn't it?"

Intense didn't begin to describe it.

The Wetlands, as it turned out, was a contested zone with a lot of ally towns and guards in it. This typically meant hordelings stayed out of here. It was possible to get xp in here, but it would be damn foolish. It was a 20-30 level zone, and allies were everywhere. As we ran around, our death squad killed every thing that moved. It was glorious.

While running, we saw some dead mob corpses. You see in WoW the mob corpses stay around for a while after they are looted. Like for 15 mins. This makes it very easy to find the person who has killed those mobs,

"We follow the mob corpses like bread crumbs."

Harshly said as we killed each and every person trying to get some quest xp. I felt bad for them, they were just out there trying to get xp. And here was a group of high level fatties ganking them.

"Just wait until the allies gank you, then you will feel nothing for them."

Harshly told me, although at the time I didn't really buy it. I mean, ALL the allies can't be the same can they? Its not like every single ally on the server could be a shitty, griefing little scumbag just waiting to taunt your dead body and corpse camp you over and over and over again with no reward for themselves other than to annoy the living piss out of you. They can't all be like that can they?

They most certainly can. Every ally, every ally I met was a total douche bag. After getting ganked by them over and over again, I felt nothing, nothing but rage. It's almost as if all of those d00d speakers who ruined Everquest 1 for me played on the Alliance side of World of Warcraft. Finally, I had my revenge. Their uppance had come.

When you have a few of these experiences, you start thinking about WoW at work, where you should go to level, what class/race combinations (along with specialty talent lines) would be the best for a crushing PvP victory. What items to farm in an instance.

But the best part is, WoW is not made for hardcore 8 hour sessions. Ideally you xp for an hour or two (at the most) and if you aren't satiated, go find some allies to destroy, go to the auction house (best economy ever!) or get more quests. Any number of wonderful things, but the point being, that WoW can be enjoyed in small increments. Which is why it doesn't have to take over your life.

WoW is one of the most amazing games around, MMO or otherwise. I highly suggest you try it out if you haven't yet. Before I get into any negative issues with the game, Here is a quick list of little things in the game that are so helpful, and make so much sense, it makes you think,

"Why hasn't anyone done this before?"

When you die, you can either corpse run or revive with 10 mins of rez sickness, and nothing else happens, no xp penalty, no xp debt.

When you mouseover a wep in the auction house (or armor) another window pops up to show you what you have. A direct comparison.

You see the exp you get for everything (I know I already said this, but it is so refreshing)

No downtime after combat

Every class can be good in PvP

Every class has more than 20 abilities.

Every class can be specialized along three trees. (think Diablo 2)

You can rearrange all of your skill points for a fee.

Tradeskills are fun and easy.

Rest xp gives you double your xp the longer you stay offline.

Meeting stones at every dungeon allow you to quickly meet others for grouping.

All major dungeons are instances. Nothing respawns in these instances. They are also hard.

Elite mobs. They have 3x the HP and give shit tons of xp, and items.

Capture the flag. The closest thing to Team Fortress (original) CTF I have seen. Level capped at 30, which is one of the reasons I stayed at level 30 for 3 weeks. Every time your team wins, you not only get honor, but you get a stone that can be turned in for xp. Oh god how I love Warsong Gulch.

No zone loading.

Guarded outposts everywhere making visiting contested territory fun and easier.

Amazing visuals. Some of these locations will blow your mind.

Easy to run. My computer barely ran EQ2, and it hums along in WoW.

Easy to make money. Really! I am the laziest MMOer I know and I have so much money. And money is really needed. Not like Dark Age of Camelot.

PVP, PVP, PVP… I can't stress it enough. It is so rad.

With every game though, you can't help but think of the things that might make it better. One of the best parts, and most difficult to swallow, are the talent trees. There are just some abilities that don't make sense. Some abilities that would only be good if you had your character's path in mind all the way up to 60.

Some people plan like that, but I like a game where I choose the best skill for what I am about to face, not what I will face in 15 levels.

A lot of the best loot is in instances, which are really, really fun, but they have a pretty abysmal drop rate. If I am level 35, and I want a good axe, realistically it will only last me around 3-6 levels no matter how amazing it is. Taking that into account, I shouldn't have to run through an entire instance (which can take up to three hours for a full group) over 10 times to get that item. Especially since a lot of the best items are non-tradeable, you would think they could "spread the love" a little more liberally.

There are a lot of d00d speaking morons, still. This is an aspect of MMOs that I guess I will never get away from. I am not a strict RPer or anything, but there's only so much idiocy I can take before I have to log out.

There are neutral cities erected around the WoW world that open their doors to allies and horde members. They have guards that discourage ganking and PvP fighting inside the city walls. Unfortunately, those guards don't do very well. I have been ganked and killed several times in such "safe cities," and it's annoying and detracts from the experience. I really wish Blizzard would step up those guards, or give them better AI.

Other than that though, its game on. See you in Stranglethorn!

-Pickypants 10/3/2005

World of Warcraft – Review PC - Harshly_Von_Smokenstein

It’s difficult to review a game that you have put so much time into. Sounds like it would be easy, but in certain types of games where micro-management (SeeRTS, RPG, or MMORPG) is a major feature of gameplay, many elements that a first time or test player notice have become so ingrained into my subconscious that I don't rightly recall them.

It’s like trying to review the process of breathing or pissing. "I dunno, I just fucking do it."

Anyway, the game itself…Since most of you rat fuck gamers probably value graphics, I'll start there. That way you can read what you find important and then go back to being a jerk-face in real life.

One of the features of most last-generation MMOs were striving for realistic graphics. Everquest 2 is a prime example of this. Landscapes, city structure,and NPC/PC models were focused on realism. Yes, a Ratonga does not exist but you could easily see that the designers of the visuals had some rat pictures on hand.

World of Warcraft differentiates itself by embracing the same slightly cartoony character design that has been around since Warcraft. When I was one of those elitist fuckers in EQ2 saying that this style would make the game stupid in general chat in the Commonlands while running around looking for fucking animal dens, I truly had no idea what I was talking about.

Frustrations with EQ2 led to my eventual purchase of World of Warcraft. (Shitty Zoning times, Poor Exp management, Repetitive gameplay, Horrific Tradeskilling) When I saw the graphics for World of Warcraft, I was awed. In so many aspects, a more characterized feel gave the game more depth than realism. After all, these games are based on fake worlds. Not real life. It supported the idea of a fantastical world. It made it breathe. Animations are great, fluid, and environments are engaging.

Also, the emote system in World of Warcraft is far more developed. The /silly or /joke commands are great. World of Warcraft provides audio with emotes and reveals the sense of humor that Blizzard fans have come to love and more importantly, expect. Each race has its own dance. A subtle difference from the main competition, EQ2, but incredible.

I know, these things aren't important as far as being the best on a server, but they contribute to the overall success of the game. Blizzard decided to build atower from many different, and amazing, blocks rather than Sony's approach of building a tower on name alone it seems.

Control. The UI for WoW is excellent. You can punch up any variety of screens and close them without having to move the mouse. Not only that, but the UI is totally customizable. Like previous games, Blizzard allowed some freedom for modifications to be designed by private sources that change or alter the game slightly. To maintain balance, Blizzard allowed the UI to be customized by these mods.

Myself, I'm a purist. I haven't added anything to the game. Others have downloaded mods that add extra skill bars, coordinates to the mini-map, the ability to place markers on the map (Good for remembering where tradeskill mat nodes spawn), and other such things.

Control itself is standard. Most adopt a combination movement style that utilizes both keyboard and mouse. You can customize this extensively though.

Its fucking great. But then again, it is pretty hard to fuck up control in an MMO.

Tradeskilling is easy as hell and serves itself perfectly as an augmentation of the game, not a totally different purpose.

Pickypants hit upon a lot of the details, so I won't bore you with repetition.

I will offer you though, the things that WoW disappointed me with though. It should be noted though, that despite the following things, I'm stillgrossly addicted to the game.

First of all, I found the character customization lacking. I also didn't like the lack of true variety in character race/class combinations. This is attributed mainly do to a small pool of classes to choose from. The talent trees don't really providethe variety I look for because there are obviously superior trees that no one in their right mind would not use.

EQ2 did excel in this respect. I was hoping for a similar DAoC class scheme. Forcing choices of class distinction at various levels. In WoW, when you pick rogue, you are a rogue, for all 60 levels.

But...But, in the next expansion, it is rumored that Blizzard will introduce Hero Classes for a little switch up at level 60. Exciting rumor, but shitty because you have to be 60.

I guess that is my only real beef with the game. Fortunately, this can be remedied by expansion implementation or patch work. This isn't an issue with the core structure of the game.

Thats it. I want to play now, but I wrote this fucker up at work. Goddamnit.

Harshly_Von_Smokenstein 10/5/05