Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Role Playing

The last week has been pretty simple in terms of gaming. I played WoW, and when I wasn't playing WoW, I was playing Mass Effect.

Lonesteban and I took our alts (me on my Mage, Orene) to level 16 and then got online together to run the earliest available Horde instance, Ragefire Chasm. We wouldn't have been able to do much as a duo, so we recruited some folks and then managed to clear the whole instance. I won a ton of good items, including a nice blue (rare) robe. Since, I've been working on leveling up to about 20 so we can try Wailing Caverns next. It's fun to plot out how I'm going to spend my talent points in the Frost tree. I want to focus on soloability and PvP, primarily. That means a lot of defensive and control-oriented talents, which are the Frost tree's specialty.

The urge to play Mass Effect finally overcame me last week, and I caved and bought the game on Steam for 20 bucks. It's pretty sweet so far; the only bad thing was when I lost a couple of hours of running around the Citadel getting quests and absorbing the lore and atmosphere. That was more or less all made up in about 20 or 30 minutes the next day, though. I started out as a male Shepard, a soldier, but then I read that the female lead's voice acting is really good, so I started over, replaying about an hour and 45 minutes of stuff. Caroline Shepard is an Infiltrator, focusing on combat and tech skills, heavy on the pistol skill, so far. I've yet to finish the main stuff on the Citadel and take off for other parts of the galaxy, but the plot is pretty good, so far, and I like the characters.

I'm also reading the two Mass Effect novels as I play the game, for maximal enjoyment of the universe.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Heights To Which I Don't Even Bother Aspiring

In the XBLA release of Ikaruga you can download replays of any score on the leaderboards. The no.1 playthrough is truly something to behold. There is a lot to be learned there, but in my first several attempts at mimicry, the only thing I managed to do any more quickly and efficiently was get myself killed. In my own bumbling way of playing the game, I was able to get much farther, albeit racking up a much smaller score.

I'll never be a super hardcore endgame WoW player, and I have no delusions about this. All I hope for is to hit the cap and still be entertained there by PVP, and to be able to get cool items through that with which to own the opposing faction. Especially the Death Knights. Especially the Death Knights.

I played a bunch more WoW, in what has become my weekend (and weeknight) routine as of late. I finally blew off all of my Azeroth quests and leapt head-first through the Dark Portal, and man, am I glad. After a remarkably short time questing, I already have gear that is on a whole new level compared to what I had up to this point. The greens I'm wearing from Hellfire Peninsula quests are probably comparable to blues and purples from Oldworld. There were also a couple of really cool quests where I went on bombing runs from the back of a wyvern. The only bad thing about Outland so far is the much higher frequency of being ganked. I hate to think about Northrend. I suppose I will have to pick up Wrath soonish, though.

I also spent a couple of hours leveling my Mage alt with Lonesteban's own, a Rogue. For the time being we are both of a level. A mistake in quest reward choice left me with an offhand item and not being able to wield staff, so I trained sword and dagger skills and did my best to find a one-handed main weapon with a stat I could use. In the end I bought a sword with 2 stamina for 1 gold on the auction house.

Otherwise, I played some Wrecking Crew mode in RFG. I'm going for a couple of acheivements in that along with the ones for multiplayer. I don't know if I'll ever get all of the single player ones, though, unless a patch addresses some of the issues with a couple of them. I'm debating picking up the upcoming single player DLC pack, as well, but 10 bucks is kind of a lot in digitally distributed gaming these days.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Playlog 7/6 -7/15

I got a bunch of Red Faction: Guerilla multiplayer action in over the past week, and man, that's a blast. I hope it continues to have a solid playerbase, because it's pretty unique, and it's got a great experience system with character model unlocks. The game modes end up pretty varied as well, because not only do they switch up the objectives and have 21 maps to play on, but there are tons of awesome weapons in the game (everything from the single player and more) around 10 backpacks with crazy abilities like jetpacking around, vertical superthrusting, rhino demolition charging through walls, x-ray vision, stealth, concussive blasts, super speed, healing, firepower enhancements, and tremor inducing. Combinations of the backpacks and weapons lead to insane and chaotic action. As far as competitive console multiplayer, it's more fun than Gears in my eyes, and right up there with Halo in terms of playability. Buy this game!

Another one you can buy, and real cheap, too: Drop7 for iPhone/touch. It's a puzzle game on a 7x7 grid of blocks where billiard balls numbered 1-7 are placed one at a time (with no time limit per move) in rows and columns. They disappear when their number is equal to the number of consecutive, touching balls in their row of column. Fill a row up, and all 7s in that row will explode. If that leaves 4 balls, and one or more of those is a 4, then those will also explode. Not only are there the numbered balls, but there are solid color balls that once caught beside an exploding ball, have their shells cracked and become regular number balls. Over time the whole playfield is shifted up by a new row of solid balls, and if any column is shifted up out of the playfield, the game ends. Like most puzzle games, it's hard to explain but simple to grasp if you try it. Drop7, however, isinsanely addictive--once it clicks. Go try the lite version and give it about 5 minutes so you get over the impulse to just match numbered balls and expect them to explode (because they won't).

So, apart from those, I've been playing a ton of WoW. Not only did I finally get my Warrior to level 60, and begin tying up loose ends in Azeroth before heading to Outland, but I also went and created an alt. People who knew me from my time in FFXI won't be super surpised to find out she's a mage, a blood elf, specifically. Currently level 11, I plan to level her up using the Frost spec, which is more or less universally considered best for solo PvE and PvP, too. The thought occurred to me to give her the name Nascia, that's not Nascia. Her name is Orene, on the Jubei'Thos server. Not on Blackrock with Ropvanks, so for the moment I can't twink her, though I may transfer Rop over at some point in the future. He needs all his own gold for mounts and stuff on the way to 80, anyway.

So, Rop is through Winterspring and messing around in Eastern/Western Plaguelands a bit before heading through the Dark Portal, and Orene is still just getting started in Eversong Woods. Man, WoW is addictive. I fully intend to check out 2-3 other upcoming MMOs, but I can easily see myself coming back to WoW time and again. I still may let me subscription lapse in August, though, if for no other reason than to hit Mass Effect or Shivering Isles in Oblivion.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Mid-Year Progress Report and Forecast

At the beginning of the year I set my goal at having a list of games completed as long as my list of games bought. I may have to amend that with the advent of copious amounts of cheap, bite-sized iPhone games. Then again, I have bought considerably less high-dollar games over the last six months, and almost nothing at full, new-at-release price. The closest I've come to doing so would be Red Faction, which I got for about $45 new, and Burnout Paradise, which I paid the whole $30 for over PSN. I've passed over things I wanted this year, such as Killzone 2, Halo Wars, Wrath of the Lich King, and numerous PC titles, opting to finish stuff I have and/or wait for awesome sale prices. So, all in all, I'm not doing too bad.

The 6-months of WoW I paid for might have something to do with that, but that game remains half or less of my gaming focus overall, which is right where I like it. I'm paid up for another six weeks or so, and I'm undecided what I'll do after that. I may try EVE Online or another MMO, or I may pick up Wrath and continue on to 80. I probably won't buy another 6-month chunk of time, though; I like more flexibility than that.

I'm pretty happy with the list of games I've completed (or sections of games completed in some cases). My main goals for the rest of the year should be to finish all remaining Starcraft/Brood War campaigns, and to hit, hard, my Wii, DS, and remaining PS2 libraries of games.

I'm almost batting 1000 on 360. I've beaten every retail release I can, leaving only Forza 2 and Rockband 2 that need more playtime, aside from a few XBLA games, of course. On PS3, I'm building a great library of games I hope to one day play: Uncharted, Resistance, Ryu Ga Gotoku 3, and the copy of Infamous I should be receiving in the mail sometime. PC is a new platform for me, so somewhat understandably, I'm building a large library of games, and a lot of those need a lot more time in the rotation--Far Cry 2 (which I'm loving), Crysis, World of Goo, Half-Life 2 series, TF2, L4D, Freedom Force series, and more...

With all this gaming, my reading time has really suffered. It's traditionally been off-topic here, but I want to redouble my efforts on that front, as well. Movies and TV-wise, I've been doing great. I've even managed to work pretty regular exercise into my free time (3-ish times a week). Now if only I didn't have a long-ass commute to and from work every day!

I like to shoot stuff.

I've played a bunch of shooters on XBLA this week. I jumped back into the original Geometry Wars trying to best my high score there--only managing to get approximately halfway there. I also booted up Rez again for the first time in forever to chill out to some techno and shoot some things all at once. I even played a game of Ikaruga. Some of the most satisfying games are purely mechanical, divorcing narrative and lore entriely from the experience.

Others garnish the main dish with it, like the other two games I spent a lot of time with over the last week. Red Faction: Guerilla serves it up merely as a raison de demolishment, and it works just fine. I completed that game's story campaign this week, and tried a single match of the multiplayer just to check it out and see the experience system. I'm still going to be playing RF:G for a while, because it's so damned awesome. I still have several achievements within reach in the single-player game (and Wrecking Crew), and I want to get a bunch of xp and unlock stuff in multiplayer, too. This is the Game Of The First Half Of My Year, which is based on the games I played in the time period, rather than what was released therein.

I also played a whole bunch of WoW. I'm level 58 now, working on quests all over Kalimdor, but mainly in Winterspring, Un'Goro Crater, and Silithus. I got the achievement for completing 500 quests yesterday. The new guild I joined, The Blood Knights, is working out pretty well. I joined after receiving a blind invite, having nothing to lose, but it seems like a good fit, actually. It seems to be made up of more casual, non-raiding types who level lots of alts and don't mind fielding my noobish questions about whether I should wear Pants A or Pants B. My WoW plan right now is to power on to 60, get my epic mount, complete the exploration achivements for Kalimdor and Eastern Kingdoms, and then probably jump into The Burning Crusade content and be on my way to 70.