Saturday, November 29, 2008

Fable II review

So, after all the ultra negativity of the past couple posts, let's move onto an actually good experience! Fable II!

Well, I have to admit Fable II is awesome, it's far from perfect. I know, I dare blaspheme that the game is less than a perfect 10 score some places have given it. I at least have reasons why it's only an 8 or a 9 in my book.

First, the combat is largely unchanged. You can still mash the attack button and forget blocking or counter. There's no point, since I rarely, if ever, was hurt by melee strikes. The addition of guns was pretty damn sweet, and once you lay hands on one of the legendary blunderbuss (this game's shotgun), you can just mow enemies down with little effort. I will touch on the Will (magic) "improvements" in a bit.

Secondly, the game is riddle with bugs. Horrible, unforgivable bugs. Some are kind of funny, but most are horribly annoying. My least favorite is the "wife leaves you" bug. Randomly, even if you maintain good relations with your in-game spouse, they can just up and take off. Or your child in game can go all autistic and stop talking, which also prevented me from getting one quest for the longest damn time. Beating the game got rid of the bug, but still, not cool.

I've also had these weird loading errors with two copies of the game now. When opening the start-initiated menu, the game spins down and stops working altogether. Again, unforgivable bugs.

Thirdly, The Will system is horrible! Magic was marginally useful at best in Fable. Again, the combat system thrived on mindless sword striking. The only uses for Will in that game were Will-based puzzles, healing, and the occasional useful spell in a boss fight. Well now you can't heal yourself, there's no Will meter, and to cast higher level spells you need to charge them by holding the will button down.

Gone is the ability to equip sets of spells, you now have to choose which Will power goes in what level. Also annoying is that you can select AoE or single target, but only by using the controller stick. Point at a mob, single target. Leave it alone, AoE. Often I found myself teleporting instead of freezing time because I would tap the stick after releasing the button only to find out it counted the stick movement as targetting.

It's annoying, and really the only powers you will use ever are Raise Dead for evening odds, Time Control for slowing time and teleporting, and the fire-based one which works well in one fight.

Point number 4: Controls are sloppy! The game introduces this arc meter that you need to use on occasion to hold emotes or to do certain mini-games. However, the trick is that the game fails to keep pace with the controller's every command. There were times I know I hit the button in time, the meter would reflect that, but the game would say no, that was wrong. Same thing for combat as well.

Last negative: No more real boss fights. The boss fights were all jokes, if they could be called boss fights at all. The only difference between the boss and a regular mob was that the boss had more hit points and occasionally an on-screen life bar.

But now, with all those negatives out there, why did I like it?

For one, the story is awesome and as funny as the original. The world is well-made with NPCs again giving large amounts of entertainment by just being there. The quests are quirky and have original twists to them.

What's also awesome is that now almost every major quest has a good and evil decision. This makes being evil worthwhile and possible. Gone are the days of getting good guy points for destroying monsters in the field (however, killing citizens earns you massive evil points).

And while the ending is sort of lame in my opinion, it leaves the door open for a sequel or added content from Lionhead.

Overall the game was a great, addictive game, it just could have benefited from some more time in testing and perhaps with a better magic system.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Steam can blow me

For those who don't know what it is, Steam is a platform for game distribution, update, and most importantly, Digital Rights Management (DRM).

Now I'm not normally a fan of shooters, at all, but I bought the Orange Box for PC. I mainly got it for Portal. I played and completed the game without much incident. So, considering I had these other games I could play, I decided to try them out. I began to enjoy playing Half-Life 2. However, it's been a massive pain in my ass. Every other day, it says "The game is currently unavailable." I've run the gambit of fixes, and yet it keeps returning. Now, it just no longer plays at all.

Oddly enough, this is an OFFLINE game...

I've put in a ticket to their support team, demanding a fix or a refund.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Why I have grown to hate Spore

When I first started playing Spore, I have to admit I was addicted to it quickly. The game is one big toy for the most part. It starts by you evolving from a single cell organism and goes onward from there to being a creature, to a tribe of creatures, to a civilization, and finally to going into space.

At each stage, you see new challenges added. At first, it's a giant game of Pac-Man. Avoid the nasties, each food, and grow. As you grow, you get to build onto your creature, adding weapons and other items. Then, you make land fall, and redesign your critter into a land dwelling animal. Now you have new challenges. You need to eat to live, and you need to either befriend or conquer all the other races on the planet.

With that done, you move to tribe mode. Now you no longer control just one of your creatures but a whole tribe. You manage your resources, and again befriend or conquer the other tribes to be dominant.

The civilization mode is very similar to tribe mode, but now on a global scale. To this point, you micromanage less, macro-manage more. In the Creature stage, you need to manually get food, in Tribe, you can order others to do it, and in Civ mode, there's no need at all to do it. Simply claim a resource and move on.

Then the wheels fall off the game once you reach space.

In every other mode, you do not need to struggle for resources. If you are smart, and plan well, you can focus on the goal of the stage. The same is not true in space mode. In Civ mode, you begin using money as your "points" to purchase new items (in other stages, it's DNA and food). Now, you can max out your cash, which is only 999,999 Spore bucks, a very small amount in space where some items cost upwards of 3 million spore bucks... but it doesn't carry into the Space stage.

Strike 1.

Now, in order to make money, which is needed for everything you do in space mode, you need to manually run around to make it. You need to do missions, manually pick up and sell spice by locating the best price for it, or conquer other planets and collect the money dropped from space ships and destroyed cities.

Strike 2.

The final, and absolutely most annoying thing in space: Ultra-micromanagement. Often the game will throw "random" events at you. "Random" is in quotes because it's not really random. The game basically penalizes you for moving forward in the game. Spend enough time away from one part of your empire, you will find them crying out for your help. Wage war on someone, and suddenly they will attack you in the middle of you attacking them. And instead of being able to let you planet fight back or arm them to defend themselves, you often need to return to fight off the invaders.

Now, if that wasn't annoying enough, you have to remember the goal of the game is to reach the center of the universe. So you have to leave your home galaxy. You must move inward. So that means as you try to get closer to the center, you must repeatedly return home to manually care for disasters going on in your home system.

And, if THAT wasn't a big enough pain, the entire center of the galaxy is controlled by a hostile alien race known as the Grox, and if you do ONE THING wrong, they will go to war against you, making it virtually impossible to reach the center of the galaxy, since you need to conquer their vast empire to bypass them.

And, if THAT RIGHT THERE isn't horrible enough... the closer you get to the center, the slower it gets. Throughout space mode, you buy upgrades for how far you can fly. except... all of that gets taken away, so now you will eventually be unable to reach the center through certain routes, which winds up making you run even more to try to complete the game.