Game Review: Age of Empires (Online)

Age of Empires (Online)

Build an empire and conquer the world, or at least  your tiny plot you like to call your world.  This is Age of Empires and it is now online.  It is not quite the massive multiplayer everyone hopes it would be, but it is online [sort of ].  You setup a capital city and build it up and challenge other players online to see who is the best at this sim game.  Age of Empires is an old franchise in the RTS world.  Newer games have tried to steal AoE’s thunder, but they are still going strong.  Real time strategy and age of empires go hand in hand.  However, this is not the AoE you’ve come to know and love.  This is Age of Empires meets … Bambi?

Age of Empires Meets Bambi

I really wanted to like this game, but… in all fairness, something outside of the game makes the game unplayable.  That something is Windows Live.  Yes Microsoft has RUINED a perfectly good game.  You know, it is rare for me to like something.  It is rare for me to find something that isn’t tarnished and or thrown together and hope people just waste their money on it.  I feel it is my duty to tell you every dirty detail about something, in the hopes you’ll do the right thing and save your money.  Had you listend to me, by now, and not purchased any of the games I have reviewed, or movies too, you would have saved over $1,000.00.  That’s a pretty big hunk of pocket change eh?  At $60.00 for a game and $10.00 for a movie, that’s quite a bit of not being entertained rigth?  No, how about having a series of nice evening with someone you love.  That’s priceless, in my book.  Getting to know your kids.  Now that’s free.

ANYWAY, on to the review.

Any game that I have played that REQUIRED Windows Live, I have immediately uninstalled and thrown away.  If not, I have disabled my internet and played the game single player without any Windows Live gamer point updates.  Microsoft just has a horrible system.  Mind you AoE is still testing, but I don’t think Microsoft is going to suddenly NOT support the game and or let them distance themselves from them.  The game is connected through Windows Live and the connection is constantly lost.  In fact, calling my local cable provider I get a nice message saying, “XBOX Live is down nationwide and we have no idea when it will be back up, it is not an issue with our company.”  That message was on 3 days ago.

If you think I am being harsh, let’s compare other games.  Oh, I don’t know, let’s pick another ONLINE game, like World of Warcraft.  I have never had issues with that game.  They may break stuff when they patch the game, but it’s fixed within hours.  Since, I am a programmer myself, I cannot imagine how they break something and then fix it within hours.  They must have about a thousand tiny mice going over the code to find the problems.  Heck I made a website once and forgot a semicolon.  I took all day finding that line of code.

Game Review:

Final Score: 0 [if the game can’t be played, who cares how it looks or plays]

Look: 8/10
Gameplay: 6/10
Learning Curve: 9/10
Story: 5/10
Sound: 8/10
Other: Connection – 0

Look – the graphics are a cross between settlers and warcraft.  They are very very VERY cute.  With the probable 99.999% of the players being male, I can only guess the graphics were made to be cute to attract 6 year old girls to the game.  That being said, world of warcraft, at full graphic settings blows this game away.  It is beyond me why developers keep going backwards in graphics instead of forward.  You can have the cartoony graphics, like world of warcraft, without it looking like something my dead kid brother could have drawn.  The graphics look like dragon quest, the old arcade game.  They are not terrible, they are just … not good.  And, I don’t understand the cuteness of it all.  They have bright colors, like a kindergarten playroom.  And the trees and people all sort of sway in the wind.  And, the deer bounce around like it is a Disney movie.  There is tremendous violence in the game, yet everything is very cute.  This is not something kids should be playing, because of the violence, but then, why is it so cute?  It makes no sense.  The latest age of empires was looking quite realistic.  Imagine my surprise at seeing AoE meets Bambi.

I gave it an 8/10 because, maybe I just don’t get it, but if you like cute graphics, these are definitely cute.  It’s like someone forcing you to watch the moon.  You might not be into the moon, but you can understand that they like the moon.  If you’re a grown man, over the age of 16, you probably will not like the graphics.  If you’re a 6 year old girl, you’ve looooooove the graphics.

So Cute and Cuddley

Gameplay – nothing to right home about.  Everything in the game is left click, right click.  Everything has an internal timer, i.e. ships launching ballista go as fast as their internal clock says.  The actual mechanics of the game are simple.  Learning what things do and how they are applied is an entirely different ball of wax.

I gave it a 6/10 because they are not doing anything new.  There is absolutely no pushing of the envelope by mouseclicking.  I mean, it’s on a computer.


Learning Curve – This is set high, is not a good thing.  While the instructions seem simple in the game, the application of things doesn’t start clicking until you’re nearly finished with the game.  I watched one guy play and when he saw someone else’s city they had an epiphany that he was doing it all wrong.  What’s sad is, there is no way around the steep learning curve.  Nothing hints at what is to be done.  The mechanics are explained to you perfectly, just not the how to and why.

I gave this a 9/10 and this really should not be a part of the grading because it is apples and oranges.

Story – you acheive progress with your home city, which noone can attack, via doing quests, which really are a tutorial to the game.  The quest givers are found in your own city.  As you do the quests you gain experience, which helps you go up levels and go up in historical ages.  There is really nothing more to the story than that.  You may challenge another player, but everything takes place in instance runs.  Your home city is basically only seen by you, or can be viewed by someone else, but that’s about it.  They cannot send troops there.  There is no massive map of the world.  And, should you want to challenge another player, you would simply type in their name and invite them, and the two of you are taken to an instance where you can build a little colony and challenge each other.

I gave this a 5/10 simply because while there is, technically, a story, it is nothing you would even care to mention.

Sound – The background music, the ambiance, the voice overs are all really nice in the game.  They add to the immersion into the game.  The citizens speak in Greek [I assume] and it adds a nice touch to it.  The background music is not annoying, nor is it repetitive.  It is constantly changing and it goes with whatever is on screen.  Fights are accompanied by fight music, etc.

I gave this an 8/10 because the sounds really add another level of depth to the game.  It is unfortunate that other aspects take away form the depth of it.

Other: Connection – As mention above

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Game Reivew: Dragon Age 2

Dragon Age 2

Dragon Age II is the second game in BioWare’s Dragon Age series of role-playing video games and was released on March 8, 2011 in North America and March 11, 2011 in Europe. Unlike its predecessor, Dragon Age: Origins, the main character’s race, family and background cannot be changed; however, the character’s appearance, gender, class and first name are all fully customizable. Hawke, the main character, is a Lothering refugee who rises to power and becomes the Champion of the Free Marches. Dragon Age II is set in the same world as Dragon Age: Origins, but takes place in the Free Marches.  It was announced for Playstation 3, PC and Xbox 360.

Overall Grade:  5/10

  • Visual 4/10
  • Sound 8/10
  • Gameplay 5/10
  • Mechanics 8/10
  • Fun 5/10
  • Replay 0/10

Visual 4/10

It is really difficult to say how to judge the visual impact of the game at this stage.  Do I compare it to other games out there?  Or, do I compare it to itself, i.e. Dragon Age: Origins. I settled on a happy medium and decided both scales should be used.  Compared to itself, there is nothing new, so it receives a 5/10 but, compared to games out there, it receives a 10/10.  They are using the same exact engine as Dragon Age: Origins, so there was no visual change to the game.  However, the extensive use of alleged cardboard cut outs to describe cut scenes and splash screens drops it down 3 notches.  The game engine itself is pretty stunning.  I get they did not want to pay for animating more cut scenes but then you suffer the consequences of people like me not liking it.

A very big criticism is that the same 3 maps were used over and over and over.  If you go into a “cave” they load up the cave map.  If you go into a “building” they load up the building map.  If you go into the “wilderness” they load up the wilderness map.  I swear.  It is 1980 all over again, only this time it’s 2011 and it’s the Dragon Age engine.

Sound 8/10

The Venerable Flemeth Returns

The same exact music was used in this game as the first.  The same sound was used in this game.  At $50 bucks a pop, customers want new stuff.  There was some additional music used.  It was modern world music.  I don’t mean good modern world music, as is used in Grammy award winning Civilization V, this was bad, piss poor, modern world music.  If nothing else, stick with your classical French Horn dominated music and we’ll call it a day.

The sound effects were the same, good.  Unlike some new games out there *cough*RIFT*cough* that used the worst possible sound effect for drawing a damn sword out of a scabbard for a walking sound [ honestly I have no clue what sound they were trying to make in that game ] Dragon Age 2 and probably Bioware in general, does sound effects right.  It’s a sad commentary when you have to applaud a game for actually using footsteps in sand to represent *gasp* footsteps in sand.  It’s just that there are so many bad games out there like *cough*RIFT*cough* that have no clue what they’re doing, so when something correct comes along you have to acknowledge it.

Gameplay 5/10

As mentioned in general description, you play a prechosen hero throughout the game.  This is actually classic Bioware.  Nearly 90% of their titles center around you playing a preselected hero, that stuff just happens to.  It’s not a bad concept when done right, however when it is the sequel to a game that gave you an overabundance of selection, story and looks, it is a total slap in the face that you’re paying for it.  You cannot even choose a different race.  You only select how your particular human looks.

As to the story.  What story?  There is no story.  The cutscenes keep calling you a hero.  I kept saying a “hero” of what?  Rat killing?

Another classic bioware feature was added / kept and that is party reaction to your decisions.  Only this time, it doesn’t quite matter which way they go with their opinion of you.  They get bonuses regardless of how they feel about you.  It’s not a love hate relationship, it’s a rival / friend relationship.  I know this complex human concept is foreign to most stupid Americans, but that’s actually how relationships are, you are either supportive of your friends, or you are in competition with your rivals.  The opposite of love is not hate, the opposite is indiference.  So someone that hates someone is their rival, not their non-friend.  It is only when backed up against a wall, do you kill your rival.  Otherwise you compete with your rival until they defeat themselves through their own actions.  It’s a sort of ying yang outlook on things, but it’s how humans ACTUALLY act, regardless of the idiotic passifistic hatred spewed by Christianity. *cough*crusades*cough* *cough*antisemetism*cough*

Through 80% of the game you’re walking around a city.  But wait, there’s more.  That city is divided into day and night versions of the same … CITY.  Oh my stars!  This pratically ruins the game for me.  I mean, I like the intrigue of a city, but the entire idea of being an adventurer is … going on adventures?  Sally’s basement, however quaint, is not an adventure.  Call me crazy.

Mechanics 8/10

Generic Hero to the Rescue

The pause system of real time fighting is still in effect during combat.  Otherwise, everything is exactly as it was in Dragon Age: Origins.  I onced watched a rather failure of a guy play Origins.  He never paused combat and tried to go from person to person to perform his idea of flawless combat.  He did not understand why he died so often.  Yes it’s real time, and if you want a flawless combat scene, fraps it, and then review it in fraps.  Otherwise the rest of us with brains will pause in between casts in combat, and issue whatever orders we want to issue.

Walking, running, talking, object interaction are all the same as Dragon Age: Origins.  No mechanics have changed at all from the original.  None except, ………. LOADING SCREENS.  I found the Dragon Age:Origins loading screens to be game breaking.  If I have to reboot my entire system every 30 minutes to get a game to play, then I give up.  There is no way in hell I would ever play that.  After patch after patch Bioware refused to admit it was something in the game.  And, even with patch after patch it was never adequatly fixed.  However, where Origins loading screens were horrible, Dragon Age 2 loading screens are a dream.  Everything loads up super fast and you’re off to the races.  That being said, nearly every 2 inches there’s a loading screen.

One addition was that mages, for the most part, now use their staves as magical weapons and melee weapons.  This is a slight departure from the original, because in the original mages cast way more spells qua spells.  Imagine my surprise when in the first cut scene my weakling mages bursts out ice shards spewing out of his staff like a mad banshee, killing everything in 3 hits.  If this is your cup of tea, then you’ve got it made.  It’s more of 3rd person shooter style, but if that’s your bag, have fun.  For those of us who actually have our brains ATTACHED to our spinal columns, this is the worst.

Fun 5/10

This is a mixed bag indeed.  Is the game fun compared to other games?  Is the game fun versus sitting at home alone?  Sure it will pass the time, but if you want something funner, how about replaying the original.  Which leads us to the last point.

Replay 0/10

Why a whopping zero for replay?  Because, if you didn’t catch the story the first time, then you just weren’t awake.  If you replay, then you will choose the same human, in the same family, doing the same exact things.  There is no replay.  Thanks for your $50 though.

Conclusion

If game developers want to have continued customers buying their products, they cannot continue to just put out junk to make a fast buck.  I’m sure everyone will disagree and side with the developer and say, making the fast buck pays for the epic games.  Well the sales of Dragon Age: Origins should have been able to fund yet another Dragon Age: Origins.  I mean, isn’t that the point of a wildly successful game?  Keep striking the iron while its hot.  You don’t turn around and piss on the people that bought your game for $120, including all addons.

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Game Review: Dungeons (2011)

Dungeons, Spiritual Successor to Dungeon Keeper or Flop?

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Realmforge Studios released its new strategy game Dungeons.  First off, the name is horrible.  It is completely un-unique and when you try to search for it, you come up with about 20 years of marketing for Dungeons AND DRAGONS.  For those thinking this is just like Dungeon Keeper, guess again.  It is exactly like Dungeon Keeper only, much much, very very, much much worse.  In fact, unless they are paying royalties to Bullfrog, I don’t see how they can’t be accused of completely lifting the game from Dungeon Keeper.  They tried their best to make it the spiritual successor to Dungeon Keeper, but it fails miserably.

The Premise

So the silly premise of this game is that you were a Dungeon Lord, in the deepest level of the dungeon pit.  Your girlfriend, a succubus, overthrows  you and exiles you from the lowest level of the dungeon.  Meanwhile your undead overlord boss is completely oblivious to this change of things, and does not assist you whatsoever in getting revenge, but sets about continuously requiring you to do tasks.  It is your duty now to somehow become just as powerful as you once were, 2 seconds ago?  No, I mean it, she literally just kicks you out of the throne room.  She doesn’t take your powers or strip you naked.  So in reality, there is no premise.   I don’t know, I’m just sayin.  You ask me for a premise, there it is.  Confusing, I know, but that’s their story.  And, they stick to it for 20 levels.

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Unlike Dungeon Keeper, you aren’t here to “just” attack heroes, you need to extract yet another resource from them, soul energy.  This soul energy is built up in each hero according to how satisfied they are with their experience in your dungeon they are.  You have to meet certain needs of the hero for their soul energy to go up, i.e. finding treasure, finding armor, finding ancient magical scrolls.  Once their bar fills up, you go and kill [knock them out] and imprison them, where you slowly extract the soul energy.  Also, through some weird change of physics, the heroes drop gold, but you have given them the gold and somehow it multiplies.  Gold and soul energy then are used to buy more items to put into your dungeon and none of it transfers over to the next dungeon.

One twist to the story is that your dungeon lord “levels” up.  However, this is done at the start of the level and not through anything that he does while in the dungeon, except for some minor points gained through 1 or two quests.  And, when it is all said and done, your dungeon lord is nowhere near as powerful as the most powerful hero in your dungeon.

So let’s get into it: 3.83 / 10

  • Visual: 6 / 10
  • Sound: 5 / 10
  • Gameplay: 5 / 10
  • Mechanics: 3 / 10
  • Fun: 3 / 10
  • Replay: 1 / 10

Visual: 6 / 10

So visually, for a game that is released in 2011 and is based on a game that was released in 1997, the visuals are completely underwhelming.  The graphics aren’t terrible, but in a word, they are terrible.  It is bad when the graphics actually help confuse the player more than help him.  Specifically, the color scheme of the entire game sort of blends in together so that, you cannot tell what is going on at a glance.  One of your tasks is to “decorate” your dungeon and the graphics are so horrible that you cannot tell where the decorations are.  Should you, for instance, be decorating in one section and then be suddenly called away to defend your dungeon heart, and then come back to decorating, it would take you a few seconds to understand where you were … by which time, you’ll be called away again.

There is nothing stunning about the graphics, to say the least.  While they may not be dated, they just aren’t good.  At this late stage in gaming, it is not too much to hope for that a game, as visually dependent as this, deliver somewhat good graphics.  Also, turning up the graphics adds to major resource issues, for little to no difference in visual change.  Turning the graphics all the way down does not diminish the graphics, while turning them up delivers a CPU churning experience.  when you have decorated a 150 room layout and have about 30 heroes languishing in your prisons, the game starts to sputter and die.

Sound: 5 / 10

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The biggest gripe anyone has with sound on this game is how annoying nearly everything is.  Top of the list has to be the voice acting.  Where Dungeon Keeper had a very deep voiced actor that sounded sinister, complete with stereotypical English accent, Dungeons opted for a high pitched, whiny goblin that is hair pullingly annoying.  I spent no less than 30 minutes trying to figure out how to shut him up.  As if that weren’t annoying, the heroes have a tendency to all be females, or have female voices?  I’m all for women’s lib, but a skinny girl walking through a dungeon crawling with were-rats?  Unfortunately, I decimated many thousands of chicks in my dungeons, without even being able to extract 1 point of soul energy from them, poor kids.  Finally, if those two things weren’t annoying, after about 10 minutes of starting a dungeon and you have your prison section hopping with heroes having their soul energy extracted, the soul energy sound is overwhelming.  It is a tingling sound that will not go away and it happens every single time a point of soul energy is extracted.

Let me pause for a second to point something out about the goblin “helper” in the game.  I cannot stand this about games like this.  And, developers need to take note.  When you have an NPC in a game that is supposedly trying to help you, but instead just insults you, the developers need to get it through their thick head that programming these sprites to dish out insults every time a task is NOT met, means a lot of times, the NPC is sitting there berating the player, non-stop for 4 hours.  This game is even worse, the criteria can spawn multiple streams of dialogue all at the same time.  Literally the goblin can say 3 things at once.  As the game progresses, the level of insults deepen.

I’m sure this all stemmed from some game in the 90s.  If I’m remembering correctly, it was a sim type game.  I can’t place my finger on the name of it.  But, if I recall correctly, the insulting NPC in that one was actually funny, while still being reverent to your character.  Developers picked up on the insulting part but did not balance it out with the reverence nor funny part.  Quite a few developers now setup these sprites to cast bitter insults out, but don’t realize it just comes off as nagging.  NOONE wants to be nagged while playing a game.  Husbands divorce wives for little more than nagging these days.  Do you think someone will pay for the bad experience?

The soundtrack is unremarkable and the sound effects for items is nothing to write home about.  In Dungeon Keeper, when you placed items in your dungeon, there was a very dramatic thud and the screen shook, as if you were some Titan reshaping the world, here there’s a weird chime click.

Gameplay: 5 / 10

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As mentioned before, you’re rebuilding your power base so that you might recapture your former glory as a dungeon lord.  You decorate your dungeon to both attract heroes and build up their satisfaction level, so that their soul energy fills up.  You then extract the soul energy and steal their gold.  And, as mentioned before, you actually give them gold, as part of your plan to attract and satisfy them, however somehow it is multiplied when you steal it back from the hero.

That would be great if it were that simple.  However, heroes are nearly never satisfied and get angry and go attack your dungeon heart.  To make matters worse, one hero who is unsatisfied can somehow convince 5 others that are satisfied, to become unsatisfied and go attack the dungeon heart with him.  These numbers of heroes is always completely overwhelming for your dungeon lord and it ends up in lots of death and frustration.

Leveling up your dungeon lord is nearly pointless, because there is some invisible scale that the heroes are on, that your dungeon lord is not on, i.e. his leveling up does not equal their leveling up.

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As if the above listed annoyances were not enough, one pet peeve I have and I feel it should be deleted from all games, is camera control.  While you are trying to build this dungeon to satisfy these heroes, camera control is arrested from you nearly every other minute.  The game takes the camera and travels to some other spot on the map and zooms in on some unremarkable item, or your undead overlord boss.  I think camera control is the worst possible thing you can do to a player.  In a game like the old MMO Everquest, when someone cast a spell on your character,  the camera control being taken away from you was specifically designed to make sure you were properly annoyed at them enough to kill them in retaliation, here no such satisfaction is available, because it’s the damn developer and not some npc creature.

One big no no in a sim game, like this, is that you have premade dungeons, and yet, Dungeons sets 50% of the dungeon layout already, when you start each level.  While you may make a fantastic maze that the heroes could walk through before they got to your dungeon heart, Realforge Studios has made a door that opens up and is staring right at your dungeon heart at the beginning of the level.  All design freedom is completely taken away from you.  And, there is no way to undig  a tunnel.

Finally, tedium!  The game has many “tasks” that it interjects while you’re accomplishing your main goal, or secondary goal for a level.  These tasks always are an annoyance, rarely convenient and nearly always potentially lethal, since if you don’t do them they send out super heroes after you.

Mechanics: 3 / 10

For the most part the mechanics of the game are point and click.  You can pop into your dungeon lord via first person, and walk around in WASD form, but you have an entire dungeon to decorate, so it’s pointless.  As mentioned before, decoration is done with mouse but the sound for decorating does not help, nor give the player any sort of satisfaction that he’s doing a good job.

Fun: 3 / 10

Not to beat a dead horse, but as you can see by the many nit picking I’ve done so far, I do not consider this game to be fun to play.  It is annoying as hell, and very frustrating, and I don’t mean frustrating as in “oh good one, you got me that time”.  I mean frustrating in the sense of, I’m a 4 year old running for a senate seat, how am i even expected to win exactly.

Replay: 1 / 10

There should be zero replay on this game, but noone gets a zero.  The story is linear.  Once you have played a level, nothing will change about it.   And, as I pointed out in gameplay, the developers have pre-designed 50% of the dungeon at the start of each level.  So while you might thing you have the freedom to make a cool design, differently on a level, the level is already pre-designed.

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Game Review: Star Trek Online

Another Ruined Franchise

In discussion with other reviewers and gamers of big franchises that go into game form, I often get the “well they can’t do that.” This is always in response to my saying that they have watered down and turned a completely story driven franchise into a flash, point and click game. If they can’t translate a story driven franchise even 50% of the way, why bother even naming it after the franchise.

Yes I am talking about the Cyptic’s Star Trek Online game. If you are even remotely a Star Trek fan, this game fails. You will be completely disappointed at the horror of this god awful game. One idiot tried to excuse it by saying “oh it’s in the future and they are at war, that’s why there’s all the shooting.” Hogwash! The developers fail at life and have zero brain activity going on. They ruined a perfectly good name that had a ridiculous amount of spin offs and lore.

Star Trek at its core is a preachy, social commentary franchise. Whether you like it or not, Star Trek has had some very ground breaking storylines. It has tackled issues that no one else dared touch. It broke racial barriers, along with that other ground breaking show “batman” and the Eartha Kit kiss. Who could forget the Lieutenant Uhuru kiss.

On to the game review:

Star Trek Online Review

Graphics: The graphics overall are actually pretty bad. You cannot go back in graphics, especially when you are trying to present a photorealistic view of the characters and world. In fact it is as if the design teams on graphics did not get together to decide and overall quality of graphics level. [more later]

– landscape: this is the worst part of the graphics. Where a game like Eve Online made you gasp at the panoramic views of space, this makes you gag. Not only are thew space views badly drawn, they are completely unrealistic. They have clouds in space? Really? They are just awful. There is not even a sense of 3 dimensions to it. You look like you’re on a cheesy star trek 1950 t.v. set. It is just ridiculous

– character: the characters are drawn photorealistically. There is nothing cartoon about them. However, you don’t see much of the character, that you spend 30 minutes playing barbie dress up. There are space stations you can walk around and landing party missions where you can see your character, but for the most part you are in your ship. A vast majority of all missions are in the ship. You are either fighting in the ship or exploring in the ship. In fact after the beginning of the character development unfolds you can just phone in your missions from the ship, no need to return to the space station.

Just a side note. There were so many horrible graphical bugs in the beta that after awhile I turned off all the graphical goodies, so everyone looked like water color paintings. It didn’t help by the way.

– hardware capability: Does this game test your hardware graphically. This is a catch 22. If I say yes, it might just be due to the tremendous amount of bugs. If I say no, that the graphics are so bad they shouldn’t strain anyone’s hardware, again it might just be due to the bad programing.

Gameplay: this is simply to cover how fun and easy the game is actually to play from the start and from day to day.

– chargen: character generation is the same as Champions Online or Heroes Online. It doesn’t have near the depth of the Heroes Online chargen though. There is really nothing to it. It is just barbie dress up. People were completely upset, however, when they found that their first piece of armor completely covered up their character. So, probably those that spent and hour matching the glove seems to the coat seem color, went over the top angry when they bought a +1 shirt that covered everything on the character. LOL! They were screaming in chat about it for some time.

– controls: awful. Simply awful. It is not even a case of a learning curve. They are just awful. Remember you are in a ship. The camera swivels in every direction but the direction you want it. This would be great if you were filming the game, but this is not what a gamer wants. By default, they have a chase-target-fixed camera. This would normally be a good thing, like if you were pvping in WOW. But, in a space battle with you controlling a ship and trying to maneuver your highest percentage shield to stay between you and the enemy, it is maddening. And, I bet you think taking off that stupid camera control would fix it? No. It then follows your ship and completely ignores the target.

Also, the controls to keep you targeted, maneuverable and alive are just god awful. It is as if the developer literally sat down and said, I want to show the grace and beauty of my ship, let the player be damned. That is exactly what we get.

Also, the controls and space flight is not 3d. There are no barrel rolls. There are no 90 degree dives. There are no loop de loops. Remember, you’re in a space ship with a gravity pull to the floor of the ship so that there is no outside reference of gravity. There should be no reason why the ship shouldn’t be able to barrel roll. Ok, forget barrel roll, it doesn’t point straight down into a dive position. Another, “my ship is gracefully descending,” moment.

– ui: what ui? You literally have to go into game options and open up a skills panel to retrieve skills to put on your bar. The bar is so tiny you have to expand it 3 times so you have enough room to put the orders to land the ship on the space station. I am all for a designer trying to be unique in his design, but this UI works against the player at every possible turn.

– story: ok this is where the story and “plot” of the game is supposed to go. I am not kidding. There is nothing to put here. Everyone who argued with me about the other points of the game all agreed there was no plot or story to the game. Wait! No plot to a Star Trek spinoff? How could that be? This must have literally just been made by game designers, and not a developer, i.e. someone with ideas. Oooooh ideas are dangerous.

– lore: meh, they throw around Star Trek like words. They have lore pop up in between loading zones on the splash screen. But as far as lore being part of a big picture and story… [see above]

Advancement: this is where the great telling feature of character progression goes. While in other games even minute progression is noticeable, in Star Trek online it is invisible.
– rpg: I guess I could say you get better clothes, armor, ships and officers, but it seems nearly pointless when it doesn’t really matter. The enemies get harder and so do you sorta. Honestly, I find the 3 round of public server counter strike more progressive than this game. Can you get into the story? What story? They fail at the entire RPG of this game.

– hacknslash: they definitely get the hack n slash aspect going in this game. If endlessly shooting a ship from your ship is your idea of fun, then this is the game for you. Half the time, you are so far away from your ship and the enemy ship is so far away that you barely see them. You can see the laser beam pew pew pew more than anything else on screen.

Overall: this is an excellent game, for someone that is brain dead and wants to spend money on this instead of 5 other games that blow this away.

– immersion: are you immersed in “star trek”ness in the game? No. And, I am being very honest. If you removed the name Star Trek from anything appearing in the game and sat 100 people in front of it and had them play for 4 hours, I bet 80 of them would never guess this was Star Trek. Given that scenario I bet 40 of them would think it was a new starship troopers game.

– must have: is this a must have just on the basis of it having the name Star Trek Online on it? No. Will this be a gamer nerd library must have? No. The gamer nerd is always a connoisseur of fine games. There is no way he would attach his good name to this trash.

Whoever owns the licensing for Star Trek were probably paid a lot of money to let their name go out on this. This is the only reason I could think of them attaching their name to this. Shame on Cryptic for doing this. And, before you start thinking I’m some crazed Treky, I am not. I have never been nor even heard of a Star Trek convention. LOL!

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Game Review: Champions Online – Another City of Heroes?

Champions Online Game Review

If you missed it, this past weekend there was an open beta for the soon to be released game Champions Online. Yes, if you recognize the name it is based off of the old table top, pen and paper game of the same name. Cryptic Studios bought the licensing rights and made an MMO [massive multi-player online] out of it. So at its core is it a super-heor online game.

I got a chance to take a peak at it and played it for the entire weekend. I first didn’t remember the game, but seeing a couple of videos about it, I do recall it at E3. Low and behold it was the same game. I recall at E3 I wasn’t that impressed by it, but it was still developing at that stage.

On to the review. Since this is my first review on my blog, unlike my YouTube reviews at Shakaama Live, I’ll make this as factual as possible and list the criteria for the review.

Graphics
– Overall style (4 out of 10): The overall style of the look of the game is very unpolished. In city of heroes, your heroes were very larger than life and you really got the sense that you were playing a super-hero. Although the graphics were in fact realistic and the cityscape was modern, it just did not give you a sense of anything unique and exciting. It was not impressive

– landscape (3 out of 10): The environment was well executed, but everything was just so tiny and the levels were so compact that you never got the sense you were in an actual city, an actual forest, an actual tundra. The zones made it clear that you were playing a game with snow, dirt, trees and not that you were in some actual area.

– character (4 out of 10): The graphics of the NPC’s and the PC’s were not impressive at all. Again they were not polished. The animation of the characters were all stiff as well. There was no sense of fluid real life motions, nor super-hero life motions as well.

– hardware capability (6 out of 10): This category is for if the game really tests your hardware. As you can see by the previous graphics categories, it isn’t a graphically impressive game. As such, I found no problem installing it and getting it to play smoothly. So for smoothness of playability graphic wise it gets a complete pass, but the lack of challenging hardware with impressive graphics it fails.

Gameplay
– chargen (2 our of 10): Character generation was a sticking point in City of Heroes. They constantly redeveloped the chargen. Champions Online completely just copied them. Chargen involves nothing more than making the rudimentary powers of your hero and overabundance of looks for your character. I say overabundance, because unless you are playing zoomed all the way into your character you will never see all the minor things you or anyone else did to their character. In the end chargen boils down to basic heights, colors and costuming. The hundreds of facial expressions you can put on your character or whether he has a cleft chin is unnecessary. Chargen therefore was not innovative at all. I’ve yet to see a super-hero chargen where you can plan out or plot out the path of powers he’s to go on or even remove the powers altogether and do an actual back story in game of developing the powers. Both City of Heroes and Champions missed the point of this. They both just lazily put a text editor on your character and let you write some mumbo jumbo about the origins of the hero. The fact that Champions chargen is exactly the same as City of Heroes smacks of plagiarism.

– controls (2 out of 10): the controls were clunky as hell. I heard that you could attach an xbox controller to your computer and have massive fun, unfortunately I don’t have one and didn’t think about it. I suffered through, what has to be the worst physics known to man. It’s as if my hero was 4 tons and didn’t have control of his own muscles. While the developer at E3 called the gameplay heroic, it is anything but. The worst thing were the travel powers. I tested them all. unless you chose superspeed and flight, you had zero precision of how your character moved. None of this stop on a dime. I also was disappointed with the flying disks that they put in: ice, electric etc… those travel powers used a disk, and when you stopped moving you floated to the ground. I just don’t get the point of that. Do you lose control of your disk in relation to gravity? I’m sure it’s to prevent some exploit, but for game play it sucks. Speaking of ice, I thought it was going to be like iceman. You know he cools the air under his feet and creates a path of ice. No, it’s a floating icy disk. How lazy are you that you can’t program an icy path that fades in 2 seconds behind him after 10 yards. Yet in the videos and the splash screens he has an icy path. Mind you it wasn’t even my power of choice, but I found it disappointing.

– ui (0 out of 10): User Interface! What can I say about their user interface. Oh one word comes to mind: HORRIBLE!!!! This was a pain in the butt. Man it was god awful. I just cannot say enough about it. There were these … and then these … also these… ugggg it was ridonkulous. Who thought it up? And, lastly, it wasn’t even something new, it was just a bad copy of other UI’s. uggggg!!

Story
– rpg ( 3 out of 10): Is there a story you can follow? Yes, and they do convey it. Yes you get a feel for what is going on in the game and it’s not just something boring. Ok, for there being a story Champions gets a pass. As for the actual merits of the story? Fail. They had the most unimaginative staff come up with the worst scenarios possible. I’ve seen more imagination in table top games from complete social rejects, than what i saw in this game. The story for a super hero… yes a SUPER HERO, should be epic. Literally the challenges in this game, a swat team could handle and be home by dinner. It was just so bleh.

– lore (6 out of 10): Was there background to the story and the world and the game? Yes, they have cut scenes and npcs that talked to you. The voice acting was well executed and gave you a sense of the character speaking. Not bad build up to it.

Advancement
– rpg (1 out of 10): Does your advancement in the game have a story like quality to it? No.

– hack n slash (1 out of 10): Is the game advanced by hack n slash? Yes

Overall
– Immersion: Did you feel immersed in this online game. No

– Must have: Is this a must have game for video game nerds. No. This is not going to be a classic and a “if you’re a nerd you must have this in your library”. This doesn’t advance any game style. In fact it doesn’t even advance the Champions franchise. I’m sorry to say that. I played champions only once, hell i spent a month making the character. This game is not impressive in the least bit.

I predict a lackluster launch and a lackluster following. This game just does not capture the imagination.

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