Category Archives: Uncategorized

Warlocked (Gameboy Color)

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In a world of elves, orcs, and high magic humanity is on its last legs as they face off against the hordes of th Orc Chief Zog. You play as either Chief Zog’s forces, ready to wipe the humans out or as Queen Azarel, desperately taking the fight to Zog’s fortress — It’s just about as Warcraftian as you can get — or is that Tolkienian. Gather resources, build buildings, train units, summon mighty wizards, and train a dragon or two in Warlocked.

History

Warlocked was created by Bits Studio, a development group I was surprised to find had a pretty big catalog of games. Games including the INFAMOUSLY bad Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves for the Nintendo, Last Action Hero (SNES), and Terminator 2: Judgement Day. The Last Action Hero has level timers so short that unless you played as clean as possible you time out and have to restart the level. That’s how bad it is.. I guess a broken clock is still right twice a day.

Warlocked was released on July 24th, 2000. It’s competition was Diablo II (PC), Strider 2 (PS1), and Chrono Cross (PS1).

Experiences

A handheld RTS game might be the craziest idea that ever popped into a designer’s head. Battery life demands that missions be short and memory limitations must have been a nightmare. Not to mention the Game Boy only had two buttons, A and B. It creates a binary system, you can choose yes or no. And it makes any attempt at finer controls difficult. But on long trips the adventure was actually well appreciated and the before-mission briefings did a good job of presenting an overall story to the game. I can’t believe I’m saying this but when I played through the intro a few days ago I got actual chills.

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And then I started laughing uncontrollably at this frame of cloned knights.

Gameplay

Warlocked is basically the simplest version of Warcraft 2 you’ve ever played. Your stronghold trains peasants who chop trees to get fuel, and mine gold mines to get gold. Then they spend those resources on barracks to train elven archers and knights or Orcish grunts and skeleton archers. You move units around and they explore the map through the fog of war in a series of missions, each of which with unique objectives.

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Complete with idyllic forests and peasants with sacks of gold.

Things begin to differ on the magical side of things. Some wizards are shared between the factions while others are faction exclusive. Each wizard is vulnerable to physical attack but can cast valuable and deadly spells with the proper support to keep them alive. Wizards such as Stealthwiz, who can render any unit invisible until they attack a unit — great for resource gathering peasants who never attack. A player can only have two wizards active at a time so they need to choose them wisely.

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Chief Zog and Queen Azarel can take to the field themselves as well.

The game also has a multiplayer mode which requires a link cable between two Gameboys. It seems like Bit Games put a lot of effort into the maps and multiplayer systems. Which is a shame because I sincerely doubt two human beings ever actually played this game against each other.

The Gush

DRAGONS! If you find a dragon egg in your travels then it will be taken back to your stronghold for safe keeping. In a few minutes it will hatch into a majestic dragon-thing which will utterly destroy your enemies. It can fly over most obstacles and, though vulnerable to arrow fire, can take a lot of punishment.

The music is actually shockingly good, especially for the Gameboy’s limited sound card. Some songs aren’t great but the main theme was pretty striking.

When you’ve finished both campaigns there’s still a lot of game left to play… well sort of. There’s a video poker mode to the game where you can bet your gold and try to win big. You can then use this gold in the multiplayer in some way I never figured out because I never met another human being with this game. Oh yeah, and slider puzzles.

The Kvetch

RTS games were made for the keyboard and mouse. Starcraft 64 taught us that messing with this established control scheme is tricky business. Selecting units, ordering units, and choosing which building to construct becomes this sort of cumbersome mess. Worse yet, melee units become nearly useless because it’s so difficult to maneuver them in combat.

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And sometimes it’s vitally important to attack enemies en masse.

Like most RTS games the units have barks when selected and dispatched but the Gameboy’s hardware can’t really support that. Instead what we get is a bit-crushed mess that’s nearly impossible to understand. It serves more as hindrance and noise rather than interesting flavor.

Like Netstorm’s The Noose, I got totally stuck in the middle of Zog’s campaign — strangely enough, I was able to play through Azarel’s campaign without much issue. The mission is a pitched battle in which you’re given control of the mighty Plaguewiz who can infect enemies with Blobby Pox which causes them to explode and infect nearby units… not enemies, any unit. The clunky controls make it nearly impossible to keep your men out of the blast radius. And because Plaguewiz is quite fragile — he’s wracked with pneumonia and basically everything after all — he needs a constant escort. This all wouldn’t be so bad but the mission stipulations means there’s no base or reinforcements.

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No no no, not Toxicwiz. They’re totally different.

The Verdict

If you ever wanted to play Warcraft II on the go and live in the year 2000 then this game is a great deal. If not then… I don’t really know why someone would play it. This was sort of supposed to be a trip down memory lane for me and the more I played it the more I felt like it was just sort of obsolete. It used to be a gem, but it’s such a product of its time that it’s sort of a relic now. Make no mistake, if you happen to have this game or find it in the five dollar bin of your local game shop it’s definitely worth a purchase. But in terms of Gameboy games it’s almost as fun as Tetris. And as we all know Tetris was the best thing that happened to the Gameboy since… well… Tetris.

Next Week: Unholy Heights

I Have No Mouth, and Must I Scream (PC)

Trigger Warning: Lots. Violence, animal abuse, sexual abuse, domestic violence, cannibalism, and the holocaust.

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On the blasted wreckage of a planet someone would have called Earth about two hundred nuclear detonations ago there are five remaining humans… and one fuming sentient supercomputer. When war on Earth became too much for the mortal minds of its commanders to understand they created computers that would do the commanding for them. One of these computers, the Allied Master Computer (AM for short), became self aware and grew to hate its creators. Existence was one of the most painful things it had experienced since coming to live. It exercised its power and found five humans, each of whom he could torment in unique ways. Having found the perfect specimens to toy with he exterminated all other sentient life on the planet. Despite being a mastermind computer with near limitless power and control, AM was a little shortsighted. It took 109 years of constant torturebut AM has finally grown bored. AM has one final game in store for the poor unfortunate souls and maybe this latest game offers them a chance to escape.

History

I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream (Or IHNMAIMS for short, Or maim-game as I call it — just kidding, I’m the kind of insufferable prick who says the title as much as possible. Going as far as restructering my sentences to say it more in conversation.) was created by The Dreamer’s Guild. You might remember them as the creators of The Legend of Kyrandia adventure game series. And if you do, that’s great because I’ve never heard of that series or any other game they’ve made. They used their proprietary S.A.G.A. engine to run the game.

The game is based on the short story of the same name by Harlan Ellison. Dreamer’s Guild came to him with the intention of creating a work of interactive literature together. Ellison considered I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream to be the perfect work to use in such a manner. Game co-writer, David Sears, asked Ellison why AM chose these individuals and it is this question that spearheaded the story of the game. Ellison was pretty hands on during the development and went as far as to lend his voice to AM itself.

Fun Fact: Ellison fought tooth and nail for there to be no good ending to the game, fitting with the story’s themes. They eventually found a compromise for this demand.

Funner Fact: Nimdok and his scenario is unavailable in the German release of the game because of its holocaust themes. Without him the player cannot get the best ending.

I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream was released October 31st, 1995 (Spoopy release). It’s competition was Twisted Metal (Sony Playstation), Phantasmagoria (PC), and Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness (PC).

Experiences

I once got into a debate with one of my coworkers about what a game was. One of the things he was adamant about was that games had to be fun, it was their purpose to entertain. This was the game that I used to counter that. I Have No Mouth and I Must Screm is entertaining, in a fashion, but it is certainly not fun. It’s dark, depressing, oppressive, and I finished the experience more weary than I had begun it. It was supremely unpleasant and even when I had thwarted AM’s plans I felt like I had done so by the skin of my teeth. Which is not to say that I didn’t find the game to be a fruitful experience, just that it was definitely not one I would describe as fun in any conventional manner. In short, this game is ugly in all the right ways.

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Yes, those are animals in the cages. Yes, their deaths push the story forward.

Gameplay

Maim game is a point and click adventure about five humans who have been put through 109 years of torturous hell finally putting the screws to their task master. I’m just kidding, they’re just getting jerked around for the final time. AM has prepared a series of ‘psycho-dramas’ for each of them, employing more power than he ever has to put them into disturbing scenarios of discovery, truth, and pain. This however, makes him somewhat vulnerable. He may have over-extended himself too much on this one, opened up some vulnerabilities in his code or something.

The player takes turns playing each of the characters in their own bizarre and terrifying scenario. Helping them explore their surroundings and solve puzzles by figuring out which items in their inventory to rub on which items in the environment. Each character has a very different outlook and very different challenges to tackle so it’s kind of like 5 mini-adventures in one. Each character doesn’t have any health but they do have a ‘spiritual barometer’ which is basically like karma. So the more totally messed up things you have them do the more bankrupt their spiritual barometer will be. Hopefully they won’t have any things in their future that require great expenditures of mental and moral fortitude to spend that karma on.

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At the very least they get to spend some time out of their cells.

The Gush

Each of the campaigns is visually astounding. They’re all put together like a nightmare, filled with vivid and bizarre settings. Twisted shapes give form to startling landscapes and and other strange settings. Some may call the old pixel art ugly but I think it suits the aesthetic well and holds up.

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From the helpless people on the hooks to the devilish shadow I love this screen.

This is a game that has to be played a couple of times. There are so many connections and references to itself that it’s impossible to see the big picture without every piece of the campaign. This is reinforced in the design of the hint system. Reading the character’s psyche profile will give a hint as what to do next but they’re spiritual barometer will take a hit from admitting that AM knows them better than they know themselves. Getting it just right though is such a joy.

I listen to the soundtrack when I write these and I didn’t notice how good it was when I was playing the game. It’s all moody, atmospheric, and foreboding. It disorients me in a most pleasing way. I feel completely unsafe and lost which, though unpleasant, compliments the game wonderfully.

The Kvetch

This game, like many adventure games from the 90s, commits the sin of making the player tediously hunt for pixels. There are content and progression vital items that are so miniscule that they’re damn near impossible to see. It got so bad that I eventually turned to guides ONLY to figure out WHAT I was looking for.

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Do you see those four orange pixels on the tip of the head? That’s a heart, go figure.

The voice acting is really hit or miss. Ellison and the other main cast members kill it. But the other bit characters don’t get the same treatment. Some of them are comically bad and kind of break me out of the reverie.

Alright, I’m just gonna say this. Benny, the ape man-thing, had a scene that got cut where he eats a baby. It was only as a shadow on the wall but it was going to be sickening and a sign of his total moral degradation. It could have been a fantastic dark ending to his story but is not in the final release.

The Verdict

If you’ve got the stomach for the viscerally and mentally grotesque and patience for an older game then this game will do you fine. As I said, it’s not really fun and it takes the right kind of person to draw entertainment from it. But if you’re ready to look into the saturnine heart of humanity then you can get it on Good Old Games or Steam for six dollars. I would say that Dreamer’s Guild did a fantastic job and created a short story you can play.

Next Week: Prison Architect

Days I Need Off

So… I work for a political organization and Election day has been coming up and I’ve been really busy. So… I’ll get back on this next week. I assure you, this is certainly not in part because I don’t know what to review after Lisa: The First. Not at all.

Au Sable (PC)

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Sable — at least I think that’s the character’s name, I don’t know for sure there’s no clarification — is um… adventuring. Well the story in the readme says that she looking for the lost city of Harmonia. Unarmed and unarmored but accompanied by the two eyes of a god, she will do anything to reach the sunken fortress.

History

Another Benjamin Braden game, another nightmare. You might remember him as the creator of All of Our Friends are Dead — my review in the link. Braden, known online as Amon26, has made several games based on his intense and vivid nightmares. Giving anyone the opportunity to take a walk through these sinister dreams and finally fight back against the monstrous beasts that haunt the dark corners of his mind.

Au Sable was released in November 2009. It’s competition was Braid (PSN), Left 4 Dead 2 (PC and XBox 360), and Assassin’s Creed 2 (PS3 and XBox 360).

Experiences

Now, it’s unfair to compare games… but I’m gonna do it anyway. And this is for October’s spookiness so which game is scarier? It’s a tough thing to judge because they’re so similar but AoOFaD has a much more terrifying and ineffable world. The rough animation of the bosses and uknowable nature of the situation is pretty frightening. That being said, Au Sable seems like there’s some sort of grand design. It’s not just a nightmare, it’s a nightmare with a story. There’s something to be lost, it’s not just a bizarre hellscape. The monsters of Au Sable seem to be connected to something instead of just monsters for monsters sake, and they look more purposefully designed. In the end I would say that AoOFaD is truly scarier but that Au Sable is the superior game.

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They’ve both got mysterious text but Sable has identifiable objects.

Gameplay

Au Sable is a pretty simple action platformer. You can move, jump, and eventually get the ability to fire weapons. There’s really not much to it. You just keep moving until you find the next place to go, sometimes it’s a little easy to get lost. The other main mechanic of the game is that Sable can use the eyes that follow her to activate switches and open doors — it’s quite bizarre that she can’t activate these switches without the assistance of a god.

The Gush

The monsters designs in this game are simply great . The Hunters and other various hellbeasts rival Splatterhouse in grotesqueness. There’s only one boss but their absence is supplemented by incredibly haunting god-like idols. And the enemy placement is superior than AoOFaD, much fewer enemies in places that will blind side you.

I don’t know what these god eyes are but I goddam love them. It’s interesting to be haunted by this greater power but I don’t know if I can trust their influence. I do wish though that I had gotten a greater idea of what they are and why they’ve been sent — I suppose because the deity wants me to continue.

The sound, music, and art do a marvelous job at creating a moody creepy atmosphere that builds a definite sense of dread. A few jump scares get thrown in there for good measure but they’re not so intense that they overwhelmed me.

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The tentacle pursuit scene scared the hell out of me.

The Kvetch

The shotgun and machine gun are pretty good weapons but what sucks is that the standard configuration of the game comes with no cross-hair. Braden did it to represent her unfamiliarity with the weapon. I think that’s a really interesting idea but it makes the game very difficult to play. Perhaps the cross-hair becoming more opaque the more monsters she defeats would create a gradual difficulty curve, and strike a good balance between themeing and gameplay ease. Thankfully the cross-hair can be enabled by pressing the backspace key.

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Seriously, shooting without the cross-hair is damn near impossible.

I heard something about multiple endings but I have no idea how to find anything but the one I keep getting. I’ve also heard that the most recent version of the game makes it impossible to unlock it… and that would suck. This is all hearsay because I couldn’t verify it myself but if this is the case then that’s a serious oversight.

The Verdict

Au Sable is a decently fun and compact game. I was able to beat it in a mere 30 minutes but I had a helluva time. Like all of the games in this series so far, Au Sable is totally free and available to download on the independent game wiki. It’s a nice way to spend 30 minutes getting absolutely spooked this Halloween season.

Next Week: Dungeon Defender

Bioshock 2: Minerva’s Den (PS3, Mac, PC, and XBox 360)

This review is going to assume that you’ve Played Bioshock 2 or read my review on it. So if you haven’t you can check it over here.

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Another day, another Alpha Series. You are Subject Sigma — totally different from Alpha. This one’s got a Sigma symbol on his hand and starts the game with telekinesis. Your mission, and you have no choice but to accept it, is to infiltrate Rapture Central Computing and retrieve the schematics of it’s great machine The Thinker. The Thinker is a marvel of Adam fueled machinery, complete with the power to predict future events and replicate the personality of other humans. It’s current owner however is not interested in letting you come near it. He’s insane and screaming something about The Thinker predicting disaster if Sigma get’s too near. Fight your way through hordes of pencil pushing splicers and Limited Edition Lancer Big Daddies as you get to the heart of Minerva’s Den.

History

Minerva’s Den was made by 2K Marin, a studio that’s worked on Bioshock 1, 2, and The Bureau: XCOM Declassified — so it’s not all great. They made the DLC with a team of about 40 people. It was released as the final DLC for the game and the only piece of non-multiplayer DLC content.

Fun Fact: The multiplayer DLC would only matchmake people into the new maps if all players going into the match owned them. So players who purchased these maps almost never got to see them because so few purchased the DLC overall.

Minerva’s Den was released on August 31st, 2010 for PS3 and XBox 360. And on May 31st, 2011 for PC.

Experiences

I played through this game blind for my youtube channel #shill. Playing through it like this gave me me the impression that Bioshock 2’s PC port is a slapdash mess. I had my suspicions with its ‘Press a clear picture of an XBox A button to confirm’ instead of ‘press enter’ or something. But running my recording software made this game crash, stutter, drop frames, and basically shit itself if I had certain Windows Microsoft Word updates installed, the graphics settings were not just so, I sneezed, or sat too still. These interruptions and hindrances definitely negatively impacted my experience and tinged the whole experience with frustration.

Gameplay

Minerva’s Den is just DLC for Bioshock 2 and it’s built on the same engine so it plays exactly like Bioshock 2. I could copy past the gameplay section from my previous review but I won’t.

It’s got some new elements like the new plasmid, Gravity Well which creates a sort of gravity grenade that sucks enemies in and explodes them out. There’s a new Big Daddy that can flash-bang you with its laser gun. And there’s a new laser weapon which is cool, I guess, because it shoots lasers — my major complaint being that it’s a constant stream so I can’t whisper ‘pew pew’ at my computer screen.

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Sadly, you can’t blind enemies with your laser gun.

Otherwise it’s a condensed version of the standard fare. Run, jump, shoot, use techno-magic, rescue little sisters (or harvest them, you monster), and get bitched at by people over the radio. And when I say ‘condensed’ I mean that the whole experience gets jammed into 4 levels.

The Gush

Hey! Did you wonder what happened to Tenenbaum after we lost track of her in Bioshock 2? Well this DLC explains that. It’s time for the conclusion to the Tenenbaum story and an explanation as to how and whether she can cure Big Daddies of being golem slaves. It’s only a pity that we had to pay 10 dollars for it.

The bad guy, Wahl’s, interactions with The Thinker and musings on the nature of the predictive equation (the thing it uses to predict the future) are fascinating. He doesn’t understand if he has free will any more or if he’s just an extension of the equation. Does the Thinker control the equation or just read it? It’s really compelling to see this spliced up maniac fall apart in front of our eyes.

The Kvush

The Thinker is a legitimately interesting character. I wanted to hear how it saw itself or what it was like. I basically wanted to know ‘who’ The Thinker thought it was as an artificial being. But…  we don’t get any of that. The Thinker performs tasks with robotic precision as if it doesn’t have the personality we can clearly see that it possesses.

The Kvetch

Okay, so, because this is a Bioshock game there are locks to which the keys are plasmids. But the Gravity Well lock is just plain stupid. Actually, it’s more like the keyhole is dumb but I’ll just explain it. There are locked doors that can only be opened by using Gravity Well on these little diodes beyond the door. So, how do you get the Gravity Bomb to these diode things? Do you throw them in a vent? Nope. Do you use telekinesis to do something cool? Nope. Instead, each door is just seperated by a wall with a huge ass window you throw the poly through.

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And it’s a huge hole. This is a security system that could be thwarted by a fucking ladder.

Um… so, Wahl says that Lamb has no influence in Minerva’s Den. That’s cool, I can dig it, gotta keep ’em seperated. But then why does interacting with Little Sisters summon Big Sisters? Why are there even Little Sisters gathering here? I thought they were all meant to collect Adam to turn Eleanor into a Utopian? If that doesn’t make any sense to you then that’s okay because neither does most of this DLC.

Oh man, don’t you hate when you think of a twist more clever than the twist that you get? Yeah… I hate that too.

The Verdict

I’m not a big fan of Minerva’s Den. Apparently it’s got lots of good reviews but I will say that I didn’t like it. If you’re hungry for more Bioshock 2 action then go for it, it’s only 10 dollars and hitting glasses wearing, pollen sniffing, spider- splicers does have a certain satisfaction to it. But if you were totally done with Bioshock 2 then I wouldn’t press the issue.

Next Time: Crusader Kings II

Zoe’s (MMO)RPG Corner: Echo of Soul

13-EoS 1Echo of Soul (EoS) is a free-to-play fantasy MMORPG I like to call “less shitty Tera” because it’s basically the same thing except with a gender lock on classes, less sexualization of girl children (which is not to say none) and not as many little doodles that made it into the final product, so that’s nice I guess?

History and Development

Echo of Soul is from Korea. It was developed by Nvius and published by Aeria Games in the US (who also brought us such magical titles as Scarlet Blade, unarguably the worst piece of shit I have ever played in my entire life, which I will not be reviewing because it just shut down, ding dong, the witch is dead). So like, we immediately know not to trust this game.

I can’t really find much more on the development of this game. I’m pretty sure that it’s another one made to make money, but hey, I guess most games are.

What I do know is that I picked this one up for the blog, and also because I really am in the process of finding a new MMO to blow some time on. This one seemed interesting because of the buzz it was getting on the internet (that buzz being “It exists!”) Sometimes I just search “popular MMOs” and see what’s going on out there.

This one I liked purely because it seemed less muddled than a lot of them and because the graphics were pleasent.

You know, someday I’m going to get to write another long, labor of love saga here, but I’m pretty sure EoS isn’t one of those.

Character Creation

So the first thing I should note is the gender lock.

This is one of those things that might be a deal breaker for a lot of people, and it almost was for me as well. See, there are six classes. Warriors, Rogues, and Warlocks and locked to male. I love playing warriors, and I’m pretty insistent on playing ladytypes, so for me this was almost a reason not to play this game, but I was willing to give it a try.

Mostly because Guardians looked cool.

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Except for their wacky unnecessary boob physics.

The other two female classes, Sorceresses and Archers, were a little less interesting to me, and more traditionally “femme” classes, as both are long range.

The character creator, however, is pretty great. One thing that gets me about a lot of MMOs is how many little sliders there are. I know I’ve mentioned in a couple of reviews that I don’t like too many details, and EoS has just the right amount. Also you can be blue. So that’s epic.

Story

So here’s what’s going down. There was a big war between the gods and the giants. The gods won, but the blood of the giants fucked shit up and corrupted the land. The PCs job is to stop the shitty corrupted souls from…I dunno, be more corrupting?

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Giants are scary. All you really need to know.

Also there are larger souls with abstract concept names that need to get snagged from baddies.

Most of this I did admittedly learn from the opening cinematic because there’s a lot of writing in the story here, but some of it I did actually figure out as I played. I don’t know why games feel the need to include 150-300 words of exposition for each quest, but I wish they’d stop. If they were more concise, maybe I’d actually understand the story better.

But there are specifically marked main quests that guide you through the story, so at least you can grab some more information as you go. Not that it’s particularly interesting. The above information on story still holds true, basically throughout the game, but the main themes seem to be about purifying the land and returning it to pre-gross-giant-blood conditions.

Game Play

These are basic MMO controls. You have abilities, and you get more as you level up. It’s a TAB target system, you hit a button, you hit some other buttons, and then you kill things.

One of the more interesting parts of the game play is the soul system. This is what allows you a little customization when it comes to how to play the game. After you kill an enemy, you get a soul (or sometimes you get them from quests) which you can then purify and make into one of four types (it’s random, though, so you just get a bunch). Then you can use them for different buffs in battle, like a health increase or upping your attack speed. The cool down is long, but it’s a nice little detail.

Yes, there’s some customization in terms of play style built into class (each one has two specialties) but I found that I just stuck with one that fit me and didn’t try out the other very much. Actually, that kind of was how the whole thing went. I didn’t want to try other classes because, like many MMOs, it was really repetitive. I got through the tutorial with every class but then just stopped because god, who wants to kill four wolves again?

But again, that might just be a play style issue. I’m not sure.

Like story, I don’t have a lot to say here, because the game play is pretty basic. It’s not stellar. It’s not terrible. It does what it’s supposed to do and then just fades into the background. It happens to you, is the best way to put it. Not that that’s a bad thing, but the game play certainly isn’t something to write home about.

The Good

Even though I just said the game play was just there, I’m going on record that the combat is solid. Because it is. It’s kind of fun and it lets you do a lot with a little without really pushing anything on you. It’s intuitive, certainly–if you’ve played a video game before, you can play this one.

The designs aren’t bad–most of the time–and the maps are smaller and broken up so you’re not going to spend a lot of time getting lost on your way to a quest. This is something in this game’s favor to me. I don’t mind open world but I do tend to like linear games if it’s something this mindless. This is no Dragon Age: Inquisition where you want to see everything and something new and exciting awaits around every corner. This is just a slashfest and at least it knows it enough not to pretend it’s anything else.

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But really, the designs could have been way more over the top and I like the simplicity.

Also, dungeons. I didn’t get a chance to talk about this earlier, but there are these dungeons that are solo which is great for someone like me who actually doesn’t want to make online friends. The dungeons come at different skill levels and you can go back later. They also sometimes include puzzles, and the fights are way more interesting than they are in the open world. And they can be kind of hard! But I had a good time doing them and found them to be well designed and entertaining.

The Bad

The gender lock I guess, but really, I wasn’t that upset about it. I mean, someday I want to see a gender lock that’s got lady warriors and dude healers, but I’m not sure that’s ever going to happen. At least I got one femme DPS character, even though she was almost a little AoE support.

The Ugly

After playing this game, I’m going to take a long break from anything that wants me to read long paragraphs during games (which pretty much means all MMO’s, especially those produced in Asia). I don’t like the quests. It wears on me that everything was just like 500 words of “story” and then boiled down to “Kill ten bad guys”. I don’t care why I have to go commit snake woman genocide. I wish I did, but if you’re going to slow me down and make me read all that shit, my interest level is going to wane. A lot.

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I mean, honestly.

I know this is a weird thing to say, because I’m both a professional writer and a voracious reader, but I’m not expecting to spend my video game time reading. It’s just not what I want to do. It’s a visual medium and I expect you to find a better, visual (or aural) way to explain quests to me. I don’t mind cut scenes and I’m fine with spoken mission briefings, but I’m not squinting at my computer screen to figure out why it’s so important that I bring you a bunch of rocks.

Oh, and I guess armor’s not great. Too many titties. But it certainly could be worse.

From here…?

…Eh. This one I’d honestly say to give a miss. I would tell you to try it, but if you’ve tried one free, online MMO (with a few notable exceptions, looking at you here, DCUO) you’ve kind of tried them all. If you want one that’s decent, I’d give this a shot. I had a good time bingeing it for a few weeks, but then I stopped playing it and I’m not planning on ever going back. It’s a nice break from other games, but it’s nothing special.

But it’s maybe better than other stuff running around out there in the same catagory. So I’ll give it a solid “Meh.”

Next Month: Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn! Cat girls! Way too much cuteness! Nostalgic music! We get to talk about Final Fantasy AND character creation!

Zoe’s (MMO)RPG Corner: DC Universe Online

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DC Universe Online (DCUO) is a free-to-play superhero MMORPG that’s about superheroes where you work with established DC superheroes and fly around and are a superhero and is it obvious that I really love superheroes?

History and Development

 

DCUO was developed by Daybreak Games, which also produced Ever Quest and H1Z1, neither of which I’ve ever played. Maybe they’re good? Who knows. Not me. Point is, they do have games that I’ve heard of and the Ever Quest developers were involved in the creation of DCUO as well.

Developers said they wanted to make a “different kind of MMO” which is basically what everyone says. A lot of their inspiration came from The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, a game from 2005, in terms of game play. Which is funny because the Hulk is Marvel. I honestly don’t know what to think of the relationship between Marvel and DC; they’re like best friends who also hate each other.

The game was originally pay-to-play, but went free-to-play only a couple months after its first beta in 2010-11. It uses microtransations to fuel its economy.

Why did I pick up this game? Because it’s about superheroes. And I frakking love superheroes. I didn’t want a game that made me play as an established one (like most of the Marvel games) so DCUO seemed like the obvious choice. Yes, please allow me to make my own superhero. It was everything I wanted.

For a long time, I’ve been really into superheroes. I love the DC universe because, when done right, it’s really all about teamwork and hero interaction, while the Marvel universe is often more about the stories of individuals. Getting a game where the characters I loved were part of the actual game play was just a lot of fun, and getting to see/be part of that teamwork aspect gave me the warm fuzzies.

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This show WASN’T my childhood…I watched it in my twenties and it was awesome.

Additionally, I’d heard positive reviews on the game. In college, I knew a few people who played and meant to get into it, but never managed it. It’s only been in the last year or so that I’ve been playing.

Character Creation

 

I actually don’t like the character creator very much. It’s cumbersome and isn’t particularly intuitive. The options are nice and there are all sorts of cool things to chose from, but it’s a badly designed interface and it’s tricky to get through. Also whoever designed some of the hair styles should have gotten off the Dragon Ball Z.

There are some cool choices. You get to chose your superpower (which includes combat role, sorta), your weapon, and your movement method. Also your costume, though there are tons of other options later so that will probably change.

Also you can chose to either play a hero or a villain which is a ton of fun.

The creation process is pretty simple though. There’s not a whole heck of a lot of physical options but those that are there are kind of wild (snake skin and wings, that kind of stuff). It’s fun, or it would be if the interface wasn’t so finicky. They use a lot of scrolling menus that are way over-sensitive.

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Too much scrolling! Too much!

I guess it does what it needs to do, but it could do that a lot better.

 Story

Here’s some serious superhero shit:

Alternate Universe Lex Luthor comes to the DC universe and releases a lot of little nanobytes with superpowers into the air, because Braniac is coming and we’re basically all gonna be fucked up, so we need more superheroes.

That’s the story. How comic book bullshit is that?

As a comic fan, I just kind of rolled with it because honestly, that sounds about right. Comics are weird. Not like, Anime Logic weird, but really, really weird. Besides, it’s actually not a bad way to explain why there are so many new superheroes.

The rest of the story is given to you via either Oracle or Calculator, and through your mentor (Batman, Superman, or my girl Wonder Woman if your a good guy, Lex, Circe, or the Joker if you’re a bad guy). They just sort of pop up when you’re the right level and begin filling you in. It’s nice because it’s all voiced, which allows you to absorb the story without having to go looking for quests and also you can keep walking while you do.

The story also introduces you to a lot o established heroes so, if you’re like me, you can fangirl your pretty face off about Huntress and Zatana and stuff.

The writing is really solid too. Sometimes it’s a little goofy, but that’s always been okay with me, and honestly it’s better than games that try to take themselves seriously al the time. If one is working with characters like the Joker and Oracle, one has to have something of a sense of humor.

 

Gameplay

Game play is where this game really shines. They use something a lot more like a fighting game style for combat. You have abilities, but you mostly just punch and kick and flame and ice and combo your way through stuff. It’s really fun and bouncy and intuitive, actually. Also, while the graphics aren’t something I’d write home about, the movement is really natural and awesome. It gives you your own fighting style that can feel totally unique to your character.

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Also I mean, who doesn’t wanna punch Batman sometimes?

I’m playing a character with brawling as a fighting style/weapon and fire as a superpower. It’s a really interesting, fun time because not only can I punch people, I can also set them on fire. But then if you wanted to play someone with a ranged weapon, like a gun or a bow, but also have a fire superpower, your fighting style would be very different.

As mentioned before, questing is really easy, and they release new issues with little stories every once in a while to continue the game.

Movement is also a lot of fun because you can climb/fly up buildings and stuff. Also, zero fall damage. Really, the game play contributes to making this game actually feel the way superhero movies, shows, and comics look. It makes you feel invincible…which isn’t the same thing as being easy. I die all the time. But I feel cool right before I do it.

 

The Good

Game play. Top notch stuff. Really fun and bouncy and intuitive combat,lots of powers to chose from to create your own play style.

Also you’re a superhero. Did I mention that part?

But in all seriousness, that actually is part of the cool part of this game. Unlike a lot of the superhero bullshit people (mostly Zack Snyder) shit out these days, this game doesn’t take itself even a little bit seriously. The joker clowns are just as stupid and ridiculous as you expect them to be. The superheroes make stupid jokes, as superheroes should.

Right                                                       Wrong

Because they’re supposed to be fun. The problem with making superheroes gritty is you’ll never get away from the fact that Batman responded to trauma by dressing as a bat and fighting crime. You’re stuck with that. And that’s totally stupid. DCUO is aware of that stupidity. It doesn’t ask you to ignore it. It asks you to embrace it.

The Bad

The level scaling always seemed a little funny to me. Things that are supposed to be on my level kick my ass every time. The story quests seem to run a little ahead of where they shoud and yeah, maybe that’s part of the challenge, but it gets frustrating after you die for the third time doing a quest that’s supposed to be a level or two below you.

The Ugly

Inventory. How hard is it to get a decent inventory up in this place? Honesty, though, the interface of this entire time game is messed up. As soon as you start fighting and instead want to buy something or change your stupid boots, it gets really complicated. The designers really had a hard-on for scroll menus which I dislike on principal,and it makes it really frustrating to get anything done.

Also my inventory is a mess. Whoever invented “Inventory Sorting” should be crowned as the supreme ruler of the world because every time I play a game that doesn’t have it, I get really angry.

From here…?

Get this game. Especially if you like superheroes, but even if you just like well designed, fun games. It’s a lot of fun in a sort of dorky way. Also you can slam your fist into the ground and shoot fire out of it. I mean, who doesn’t love that shit? I don’t want to know people who don’t.

If you’re a fan of the DC universe, I really urge you to give this a try. It’s a fun look at some famous superheroes. The writing for Oracle as a quest giver is especially good and it’s always wonderful to see my girl Barbara getting some love. So yeah, if you have any knowledge of the DC universe, or you want to know about it, this game is a decent place to start.

Next Month: Echo of Soul. TERA Part Two But Not As Awful? A long discussion of gender locks and quest grinding. Korea, why do you produce so many MMOs?