Friday, 29 June 2007

who saw this one coming?

Apparently Bioware, company involved in things I've both enjoyed and whined about, are now making a new RPG.

A new RPG about Sonic the Hedgehog.

For the Nintendo DS.

This is bizarre on so many levels. First, while I know that Sega has crashed and burned in that regard, I am old-school enough to feel weird about Sonic whizzing around on a Nintendo system. Sonic belongs on my Genesis. For one thing, he sucked pretty much everywhere else. Sonic cartoon? I can't take this seriously. Pointless 3d Sonic games because 3d is the hip thing nowadays? Tanked. Sonic is not about 3d. Sonic is about running REALLY REALLY FAST on a 2d platformer and whirring around loops and flying through the air not being entirely sure where you're going and getting there anyway. Because it's not that hard to charge blindly forward, in 2d. You're starting on the Left Side Of The Level. You want to get to the Right Side Of The Level. Those sides don't generally move around. In a complicated level you'll have to go left in order to go right, sometimes, but you know where you're headed in the end. You can't get lost. So you can GO GO GO! SUPER SONIC SPEED! And that just doesn't work in 3d.

So now we're going to have an RPG? Which may involve trying to take the plot involving a wisecracking hedgehog seriously (a tough call - although I suppose they could be trying to build a My First RPG for kidlets who think the cartoon is cool) and going really really slow, because whoever heard of a blazingly fast RPG?

This does not bode well.

On the other hand, if they did manage some divine synergy of game design and created an RPG in which you ricocheted through levelups so fast you could barely tell what skills you were gaining and yet came out triumphant in the end... that could be fun, I suppose.

an imbalance in the force

The trouble with counting down the top ten games of the month is that unless your month was abominably terrible, most of those games are going to have pretty good scores. Call me a cynic, but I like to see a thoroughly miserable review now and then. It reassures me that the reviewers aren't completely in the pockets of the people they're reviewing. I want a review, not an advertising blurb, you know?

Of course, while I'm posting that miserable review, I still want to take issue with it. The review goes on about how ugly the game is, right below a screenshot that doesn't look particularly ugly. (It does say the animations are particularly dire, and I can't tell that from a still screenshot, of course.) Worse, it commits the sin of timewarp - the review later says "The original Defender of the Crown was created in 1987, which was about the last time graphics like these looked current." Buh? What are they smoking? They're RIGHT THERE admitting that this is a REVAMP of a game from 1987, which would seem to imply that they've, you know, actually seen the 1987 game and what it looked like....

An image from back in the 1980s. We didn't have a lot of colors then.

Images from the modern version. Ugly? Sometimes. Looks just like it did in 1987? No.

So, GameSpot shows that they're not afraid to give something a savaging, but they also show that they hire kids who weren't alive in the 1980s to write their reviews...

when all you can say is RAAR

Maybe I would have liked Overlord .... if it would RUN ON MY COMPUTER.

(I install the demo. I run the demo. I get a black screen. I uninstall the demo. So much for that idea.)

Console Style

Also known as, what annoys me about Aveyond.

It's not a bad game really. It's a cute little anime-themed RPG with a female character and I like that sort of thing. There are some really great touches (the tiny teacup village of talking cats! KAWAII!) and while there really isn't that much story contrary to some opinions, there's enough to keep going.

What bugs me about it are the trappings of ancient console RPGs. Maybe it's just because that's the way RPG Maker works.

I hate party selection. If I've got all these friends with me, why are only a few of them able to fight at a time? Are the rest just standing there yawning while we all die? Why do I have to rotate them around to keep everyone's levels halfway balanced? Gaaah. Either join the party or don't.

I don't really like the endless 'buy a newer stronger weapon in a newer stronger town/area' but that goes with the RPG territory. I really don't like the 'learn a newer stronger skill in a newer stronger town/area'. They don't scale. Learn a magical skill early in the game? Great, it'll help you for a few fights, then it'll be useless and you have to learn a newer stronger skill. The worst part about this is that you can't get rid of the useless skills, so you have to scroll down past them every time you want to select the only halfway-worthwhile skill you have. See, other games have you learn better spells so that you PROBABLY don't want to use the old spells anymore, but they let you adjust your hotkeys and get that ugly old spell out of your way so that you can jump straight to the skills you actually want to use.

Also, the game doesn't tell you anything about what the skills DO... are they elementally based? do some have different effects than others on different kinds of monsters? You'll just have to guess from watching it in combat because even though you're "learned" the skill you don't know anything helpful about it... (or 'Why is this orb not doing anything? Am I the wrong kind of mage? Posts on the forum suggest that some kinds of mages use some kinds of orbs better but HEY WAIT SHOULDN'T THIS INFO BE IN THE GAME SOMEWHERE?')

Stupid monsters. The exact same monsters exist on each screen every single time you enter it. They always respawn, right where they were. And they always come right at you. Even if you are level one hundred and thirty billion, that five hit point spider will make a beeline for you and force you to set all your characters to attack something they could kill by sneezing. HUGE waste of time. Sure, near the very end of the game you finally get a magic item that lets you avoid monsters in these areas - right when you're about to leave those areas for good and head to the endgame. THANKS A LOT.

Oh, and the inability to surrender in combat is a pain when the monsters have put the whole party to sleep and there's nothing you can do but watch them very very slowly kill each of your characters.... an 'I give up, let me reload' button would have been much appreciated.

I don't hate the game, but I find the process of playing just mildly irritating and haven't actually finished it yet. I've gotten up to what I assume is the final stretch of it. I'm just not sure when I'm going to bother trying to complete it.

RPGs gone wrong

It all started so well... and then it all ended so badly.

Lionheart: Legacy of the Crusader

You may not have heard of this game, because it sank mostly without a trace after release. I couldn't understand it. It seemed so promising! An unusual setting, a divergent medieval Earth full of its own weird history, an unusual magic system, famous figures from history to interact with, multiple factions to align yourself with, associations with people who'd worked on really good RPGs in the past...

I saw terrible reviews for the game, so I picked it up from the bargain bin. And for the first several hours of play I had a great time and couldn't understand why the reviews were so harsh. Sure, the combat was trying to be Diablo and failing (when your combat is hack-and-slash you need to make sure the player can TARGET effectively) but the story was quirky and fun.

And then there comes a point where the writers apparently got sick of it, and there are suddenly no more characters, no more dialog, no more sidequests, just screen after screen of monsters all standing patiently waiting for you to come up and try to beat your way through them.

I tried. I attempted to hack the game to bypass this stuff. I even wrote some people I knew who worked for a company involved in the game to see if they could help. I obtained a high-level character file to blast through some of the combat. I STILL never finished the game. And I don't think I ever will.

I think it would have been better if they'd just cut the game off when they ran out of plot, called it Episode One, and sold it cheap. People wouldn't have hated it so much and might have been willing to buy another one. Now, I don't think anyone will ever want to admit having been involved in that project.

Seal of Evil

I wouldn't be surprised if you've never heard of this one either. Basically, it's an action-RPG in the Diablo vein (there's that word again!) only with more crafting and stuff. And it's Chinese. This is important. It's not just that the game is set in a sort of magical-ancient-China, but the game was also originally made in that language.

When I first found a demo of the English version of the game, the text had been translated, but the voice acting had been left in Chinese. Obviously I couldn't understand a word of it, but it made the whole thing seem exotic and interesting. The combat was simple and fun, the plot presented in the demo was just enough to make you curious... I was really looking forward to it and ordered a copy when it came out.

Unfortunately, they had by then managed to obtain english voice actors. REALLY REALLY BAD English voice actors. Dreadful hams that make you clutch your ears and whimper. Also, for some reason, the game story didn't appear to run like the demo had - introducing extra boring hiccups to the plot instead of getting ON with it like the demo version.

I gave up in frustration.

I have since heard that complaints about the voice acting were so severe that a later release of the game included an option to use the original Chinese voices instead of the English. But, as no free exchange was offered to us poor fools who bought the game early...

Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords

Now this one you've probably heard of. Great game. Good story. Lots of fun.

Until the ending, where they ran out of money and just plain didn't complete it.

Depending on what path you took to get there, the ending may not make ANY sense.

I'm not saying too much about this because there are whole web communities devoted to trying to untangle the clusterfuck of the KotOR 2 Ending and puzzle out the voice and movie fragments that are found floating around on the final disc unused and guess what the ending was supposed to be.

It's still a good game, because it doesn't go terribly wrong until really, really far into the story. But after a certain point, you're better off stopping and just making up the rest of it yourself.


Congratulations, you've found another web journal about video games.

First things first - I make no pretense of being an impartial journalist. I have my own tastes. My tastes are often weird. Stupid little things will annoy me. Stupid little things will please me to bits. I will bitch, whine, moan, and giggle as I please. Sometimes it will be ridiculously silly. And I hate FPSes so if you came here looking for discussion of Halo, Doom, and the like, shove off. They're not even worth whining about them.

I am capricious and fickle and mercenary and yes, when I link to things, sometimes I will be linking to things with affiliate codes so that I benefit from the experience. There's even a chance that someone might pay me to post about their game (hah! unlikely!) and if they do I will post - but I don't promise to be NICE about it!

What I post is simply my opinion. And my opinion can be pretty damn whiny.