Monday, August 24, 2009

Don't Stop Till You Get Enough

I've been going absolutely nuts for role-playing games recently. Almost every game I played over the past week has been one sort of stat grinder.

The first couple of nights last week I spent finishing up Mass Effect. I went through this whole huge rigmarole required to download the Bring Down The Sky DLC, and then off-handedly decided to forgo actually playing it and instead returned to the main storyline and followed that to it's conclusion. I stayed in character as much as possible, finishing up as a truly ruthless renegade. Overall, I thought it was a fantastic game, a solid A in my book.

I'm now faced with the choice of going back and trying to get more achievements and finish more side stuff on the same character, or playing through fresh on another character, presumably with the benefits afforded by the achievements I got on my first playthrough. I may have already bungled the Ally achievements applicable to this playthrough (Liara and Ashley), so maybe I should let go and start my paragon playthrough next, though I kind of want to go tooling around some uncharted worlds without sitting through 2-3 hours of citadel stuff first.

For a long, long while I've had a couple of little sticks stuck in the mud of my mind, both games I purchased a long, long time ago, and was either never able to get into or never able to make run on the weak laptop that I had before my current gaming PC. They are Icewind Dale and The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. I dug out the discs for both of them this week, and got them both installed and got a bunch of characters rolled up and introductory bits completed, so that now I sit with fresh characters and open roads ahead of me on both games. The two coalesce in my mind into the gaping entrance to a cavern where many, many hours can be lost, and I hesitate to put my foot forward into it, but feel drawn in all the same.

These two games, along with Diablo II, have put me in a spot where I'm playing a lot of old-looking PC games, and knowing what sort of stuff there is out there, I got to looking, and I found mods for Morrowind and Diablo II that let me up the resolution of both games and play them in widescreen. I'm running D2 (single player, not on, which doesn't allow the mod) in 720p widescreen, which I found to be the best in terms of looks and visibility. If you take it to 1080p, items and text are just too tiny for comfort. It's a damned gorgeous game in 720p, though. The 2D art holds up really well. Morrowind mainly just benefits from being in widescreen and taking up the entirety of my 22" monitor, being a 3D game. I'm running it in some crazy thing like 20xx by 1xxx, I don't even know what, but it looks good.

Getting D2 up in such a good-looking fashion prompted me to start another character, since I didn't have any offline previously, and so I did a redux on my Paladin, centering him around the skill Zeal for maximum lethality. I finished the first act of the game last night at level 16. I've got some awesome synchronicity going between Zeal (2 mana for 5 successive hits on whatever is nearby) and a ring that grants 1 mana for every kill. I could, theoretically, spend 2 mana to kill a bunch of guys, and make 5 back, given the right circumstances. It's great.

Last, and least, I bought a couple of iphone games on the cheap and put just a little time into both--Doom Resurrection and Zenonia. The former is a rail-shooter with in a Doom motif where aiming is done by tilting the device. It's not bad, being nothing more than an arcade-like diversion good for a few minutes of shooty shooty here and there. Zenonia, though, appears to be much more. At first brush, it comes off as some sort of western/eastern action-rpg hybrid, some witches' brew of Zelda/16-bit JRPG/Diablo tropes. I've only barely started it, but I've heard good remarks from multiple sources that comment on this type of thing.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Lust for Power

This is the common theme to the games I've been playing over the past week.

I mentioned a $5 deal on EVE Online last post, and I bit on that one, which includes 30 days of play time. EVE is a giant galactic MMO all on one server, and where players start out as a random spacer and must choose a career path of either industry, business, military, politics, or some melange of all. It's ridiculously deep and amazingly hardcore, but remains fairly accessible and user-friendly through great design and thorough tutorials. It's also a gorgeous game, running at some obscene resolution on my PC, and has a great soundtrack of atmospheric orchestral music.

I began as a Caldari, a member of a super capitalist society controlled by huge mega-corporations that lend it a strong economy and much military might. My character is an Achur, described as "intensely spiritual, the material world holds little interest to the average Achur." Regardless, I've gone through a few tutorial missions, and started down the path to making money through mining and doing missions for agents at various space stations around the galaxy. One of the coolest things about EVE is the skill training queue. Your skills are trained in real time, even when you are offline, so it's possible to queue up skills (as long as they're start time is within the next 24 hours) to begin training even when you are offline. As long as you check in before your queue runs out and can update it, you're constantly making progress.

At some point last week a thought came to me: I should play a Paladin in Diablo II. I went home and started one up, playing on for a couple of nights, and progressing to level 10, but I was haphazard with my stat and skill points, and ended up dissatisfied with my character development. Rather than start over, I've just left him in limbo for now and started a Sorceress, this time doing some research for a nice skill build to adapt and pursue as I level up. She's level 8 or 9 now. I'm going a Frost/Fire route, aiming for Frozen Orb, Fire Ball, and Meteor to be my main spells. I've been dipping my toes into D2 periodically for a while now, but this is the first time in a while I've really wanted to delve deep. This is probably due to WoW scratching that particular itch most of the time. I'll never finish off my Pile of Shame if I keep this up...

On the progress front, I spent almost all day yesterday playing Mass Effect, so that I finished off all of Noveria and Virmire, did the Luna mission, and visited another uncharted world or two. I'm at the point now where Saren's goals have come to light, and the Council is refusing to listen to Shepard about striking him preemptively on the planet Ilos. On Luna, I unlocked a class specialization, so I'm apparently now an Operative, a sub-class of Infiltrator. I've also been a relentless renegade, meting out justice in the most cold and pragmatic way I can manage, wanting to see how hardline cynical and unforgiving Shepard can be. Mass Effect is the first game I've been able to be "evil" in, and it feels good at times. I really enjoyed being able to browbeat Wrex down from the proverbial ledge he was about to jump. A commander has to keep their subordinates in line.

Monday, August 10, 2009

WoW/Mass Effect round 3!

I really need to play some new stuff! That shouldn't be a problem for a few weeks, because my WoW sub ended this weekend, after I grabbed some gear and a level on my warrior, and ran a couple of instances on my mage.

Lonesteban and I rustled up some people and plowed through Shadowfang Keep and Blackfathom Deeps, getting a bunch of sweet loot and a couple of levels in the process. I'm now at 25 on my mage. My warrior is at 63, and I've been grinding out pvp dailies for gear and other dailies for a special mount. WoW is really good, but I'm going to take this opportunity for a short break from the game so I can concentrate on a few others.

I've been playing Mass Effect, of course, and according to one estimate I am around 65% of the way through, already! It feels like I'm just getting started! I've only been to a couple of story-related worlds once out from the Citadel, and only two or three uncharted worlds, though I do have over 14 hours on the clock. This is a great game, and I really like the gunplay, even if it's not quite as visceral and responsive as something like Gears of War.

Since my Shepard is an Infiltrator (guns/tech mix), I'm using Ashley (heavy guns) and Liara (heavy biotics) to fill out my squad. It seems to be working alright so far, since I haven't had a full party wipe yet, though I have come close once. I have the difficulty on easy, though, I think.
I'll have to up it some for my next playthrough, since I plan to go paragon/male at some point. Being a renegade is tough; sometimes you come off like a real jerk. I even ended up executing this one person. Specters are given those rights by the Council, though, so anything goes in pursuit of the mission.

EVE Online is 5 bucks on Steam this week, and Jumpgate Evolution has a beta going on that it looks like is open for anyone. I plan to check one or both of these out.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

WoW/Mass Effect week 2

That's all this week has been about. It seems like I haven't played all that much, but I guess I have. It's all a blur, between reading more and doing other stuff in my free time, like car maintenance and social stuff.

I'm about 2/3 through the first Mass Effect book, and it's pretty good, actually. As for the game itself, I finally got off the Citadel and started hopping around the galaxy. My first destination was the planet where Liara, the Asari party member, was trapped. There was a Mako (planetside vehicle) section where I kept accidentally dying due to some odd texture bug of me not being able to see what part of the ground was lethal lava or acid or w/e it was. Upon freeing her, I had a boss fight of sorts against a Krogan merc and some geth, which I just narrowly managed to win. We finished that and got back to orbit, and I'm scouting some other uncharted worlds at the moment. I've heard it's best to ignore all the side stuff in ME, but I figure I'll do a little just to get a taste of it and stop before it becomes too mundane.

WoW-wise, I levelled my mage up to 20 before doing Wailing Caverns over the course of a long night, and am at 22 now. It was a pain getting a competent group together, and then once we did, half of them left midway through the instance. Luckily a higher level guy in our guild came and ran us through the rest of the instance, netting us some pretty sweet gear. The 3.2 patch hit yesterday, and so I was able to pick up my epic ground mount and my initial flyer on my warrior, and get my initial ground mound on my mage. I'd thought the patch was a little farther out and that I might take a break from the game (my subscription ends this week), but I'm not so sure now. I also have a server transfer (for my warrior) and the purchase of Wrath to contemplate, once I'm nearer to 70, at least.

Maybe I'll do a 3 month re-sub and see if there's a FFXIV beta by the end of that time to jump into. I can see myself sticking to WoW, at least on and off, for a long time.