Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Overlord! Ruler of all that is Evil, as well as...

So I just finished playing Overlord for Xbox 360, and I have to say I am surprisingly pleased with it. My initial reaction upon playing it for the first hour or so was kind of neutral, and I really wasn't too sure if it was a game I would like, but as I played more and more, it started to have faint similarities to the Fable series, which, while not exactly always great, is a series that I still enjoyed overall. The main similarities between Fable and Overlord is the humour and the sometimes over-the-top stereotypes used for the peasants, elves, and dwarves of the land. The peasants are somewhat idiotic, but not so much as to be annoying. The elves, on the other hand, were incredibly annoying with their pretentiousness, which in a way is fitting with the stereotype. Of course, the dwarves of the game are obsessed with, what else, beer and gold.

The Overlord himself is, in this case, the silent anti-hero/villain. You aren't really forced into make good or evil decisions, leaving it open to personal preference upon whether or not you want to be a badass Overlord who reigns through terror, or you can just sorta be a somewhat neutral/kinda good guy by just killing off the main enemies of the story, who, ironically enough, are fallen heroes who killed off your character's predecessor. So in a way, you are killing these guys for revenge of a sorts, but you are also doing the world a service by ridding the land of them. Hence why my title is as it is. And for the first time in a long time, I was actually satisfied with the ending of the game. I'll have to play it a couple of times to see if there are various endings depending upon how good or evil you are (I would actually be a bit surprised if there weren't).

The game play itself is rather straight-forward after the short tutorial, and it's relatively easy to remember the few spells that you get. There is an upgrade system in terms of your armor and weapons, but it's also fairly simple, giving you the option of using a sword, axe or mace as your weapon, along with being able to upgrade your weapon, armor and helmet to give various effects. Upgrading your items with effects does cost you, but it actually becomes fairly easy about halfway through the game to be able to come up with the cost to do multiple upgrades at once. The use of Minions, what amounts to a small army of what look like halfling-sized imps, makes combat fairly simple as well, especially once you learn how to use each of the four types of Minions to maximize their effects.

Overall, I thought the game was well done. It did feel a little low budget at times with the graphics and the fact that most of the characters are voiced by about 4-5 people in total, but that really didn't take away too much from the experience of playing the game itself. To summarize my thoughts on it, it has the Fable feel with a bit of tongue-in-cheek humour to it, with some elements of hack and slash games, mixed in with a touch of an RPG element. In the end, it was a fun game to play, and I would definitely recommend someone to play this if they wanted to play something that was easy to get in to and had good humour in it.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

PC vs. Console, who will win?

The answer to the title, in my opinion, is neither. As anyone reading this may have guessed, this post is all about the (sometimes heated) debate over which is better for gaming, PC or console. From a personal standpoint, I like both. Each one has their pros and cons when it comes to gaming. Usually my preference is determined by the kind of game that I'm playing. For FPS I usually prefer a PC, mainly because I prefer the accuracy that one can get from using a mouse. For Adventure/Action style games, I usually prefer to use a console. One of the reasons for that is the fact that with a console controller, you have every button within reach of one of your thumbs or one of your index fingers, making selecting items relatively easy. Now, I know that most, if not all, games on PC these days give you the ability to re-map your hot-keys to whatever you prefer, but considering that most games also use WASD keys for movement, I simply find it easier to not hassle with it and just go console. This point can be remedied by getting a controller for use on the PC, but frankly, I don't feel like spending an extra $30 U.S., give or take, just to get a controller that looks and functions exactly like the controller I already have... that happens to function just perfectly well with the console it came with. If you don't already have a console, then I would say that it could be a worthwhile investment

Graphically speaking, consoles are perhaps still lagging a little behind PCs, but when you take into consideration that the average PC bought at a store costs around $700 U.S.+ for even a moderately decent one, which usually comes with a graphics card that needs to be upgraded to something better, and compare that to the $200-400 U.S. (approximately and depending on the system) price that consoles are at these days, I would say consoles aren't doing all that bad. Add in the fact that you usually don't have to wait for anything to load onto a console to be able to play the game right out of the box, and consoles start looking just a little bit better.

Sound-wise, they are comparable. Both are dependent upon the quality of one thing or another, in the case of consoles, the TV the game is played on and how good of speakers it has, for the PC, it's how good of a sound card and speakers/headphones the user has. Either way, that particular bit is dependent upon how much a person is willing to spend on the quality of the product they're using.

In terms of variety, I would say there really isn't that much of a difference. These days many of the games being released onto consoles are also being released onto PC.

I would say that the only major advantage that a PC has over a console, is that a PC game will run in any computer that has the necessary specs for it, whereas a console game obviously needs to be played on a specific console. This can lead to someone needing to buy several types of consoles, which then runs up the cost of console gaming to about comparable to what a PC would be. However, if a person only wants games from just a single console, or even two, then it's still cheaper than getting a PC good enough to play games with graphics as good as a console.

In then end, it's really about preference. Many people will continue to argue which is better, but for myself, I will continue to enjoy playing games on my PC and the consoles that I have. For me, it's about the fun of playing games, and if people want to lose sight of that simple little concept, then there's really nothing anyone can do to stop them from doing it.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Ah, daylight savings... the ban of my punctuality. Now, I know some people may wonder why, of all things, I am making a post about daylight savings on a blog that's supposed to be about games. Well, in a way, it does deal with games. How, you may ask? Simple really. MMOs and MMORPGs. Most people probably wouldn't take this into consideration, but it actually can affect certain things about games such as Warcraft and other similar games. This is mostly due to the fact that Europe and pretty much the rest of the world, to my knowledge, does not have the same form of daylight savings time as the U.S. Not only that, but apparently Russia is always one hour ahead of the rest of the world during non-summer months, and two hours ahead during summertime, so that's an even bigger headache for anyone trying to coordinate an online event.

From my own experiences on various MMOs, this can cause a certain amount of confusion when the time switches occur, mostly dealing with in-game events that are recurring events, such as a weekly battle that starts at a specific time, or tournaments that happen on a regular basis. For most people this wouldn't seem to be a big deal, but for those who enjoy doing such things, it can range from being a slight annoyance to being a rather large hindrance, depending upon how many people are involved, the time-zones involved, and their personal schedules.

So far, the studies that have been made concerning the benefits of DLST has shown mixed results, most of them showing that the benefits are barely worth the headache of trying to synchronize all the varying time-zones with each other with their varying versions of DLST. Why the practice hasn't been eliminated is beyond me. From my own point of view, it seems rather ridiculous that anyone would think that changing a clock backwards or forwards is going to change human behaviour. If you like to rise with the sun, then you will rise with the sun, regardless of what your clock says. You may have to change the time when your alarm goes off, simply due to the rotation and tilt of the earth, but you'll still be up with the sun. Anyways, I'm finished ranting about the seemingly asinine practice of DLST, and I have new inspiration for a Minecraft creation that I want to build before I forget about it, so I'm off for today.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Gears of War 3

Well, I finished GoW3 a little while back actually, something like 2 months ago, give or take. I figured I'd still give it a jab though. Story-wise, it has it's good points and it's bad points. You finally find out why the Locust Horde attacked the humans, but you are still left hanging concerning the origins of the Locust. There are several things in the second and third game that seem to allude to a possible origin, but for some reason the good people at Epic Games decided not to develop it any further than that. Perhaps there were time or money constraints, or perhaps they simply got lazy. Who knows. I think the story that they did decide to go with has a lot of unexplored potential, but let's be honest, a lot of us probably didn't buy the game for the story as it is anyways. I will say that I was a little disappointed with some of the plot points near the end though.

What most of us probably did buy the game for was the fighting and the gore, which GoW3 gives plenty of. It still retains the same cover and run system as the second one as well as similar graphics, and adds some more enemies and weapons to the game, as well as adding in a few more characters to the story. I'll have to be honest, I would like to comment on the music, but I was too busy killing Locust to notice any. Maybe sometime later I'll play the game again and try to take note of it.

I think my favorite part of the game though, would be the new Beast mode. It's hilarious some of the things that can happen playing it with friends, and for once, you get to see things from the Locust point of view, even if that means all you really see is destruction and more destruction. The Horde mode now allows you to set up defenses such as turrets, razor wire, decoys, and a few others that I haven't unlocked yet. Each type of defense can be leveled up the more you build of that specific type of defense. For instance, the razor wire actually starts out as large caltrop-like spikes, and as you set them up more and more, you will upgrade to razor while, and eventually you will gain laser fences. The only set-back is that it takes a decent amount of cash to install and upgrade these defenses, and you only get so much cash in a round.

Overall, I enjoyed playing GoW3, but there are some points where they could have improved, most of it dealing with the story itself. As I stated earlier in this post, the story has potential, but for the most part it's left to the wayside.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Mistakes were made.

Alright, so after a bit more careful deliberation about the Zelda timeline bit, I have come to realize that it isn't quite as jumbled as I thought. However, I still stick to the opinion that, due to the fact that some of the games really can't be properly placed yet due to lack of connectivity to the rest of the games in the series, Nintendo should have waited before coming out with this timeline. At the very least until after other games came out that helped flesh out things better. So my rage is a little bit less after thinking this through a little bit harder.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Yay, Official Zelda Timeline! Wait...what?

For those who have not heard yet, The Legend of Zelda series of games by Nintendo has finally gotten an 'official' timeline, properly placing each game in their proper place. The reason I put official in quotations is due to the fact that the series' creator, Shigeru Miyamoto, doesn't appear to have had any hand in creating the timeline. As far as I can remember, Miyamoto has always maintained that there is no official timeline.

Now, I'm all for eventually having a coherent timeline of the Zelda series, but I have seen the timeline, and it is anything but coherent. The problem occurs when trying to tie together multiple games that, while they do have some small similarities here and there, don't have enough connecting points to really be able to pinpoint exactly where they should fall chronologically. Some of the games have very obvious connections, such as Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask. Some, such as the two Oracle games that came out (Oracle of Time and Oracle of Seasons), only have some characters and the Triforce in common with the rest of the games in the series, and are thus much harder to place. They may not even have a place as far as we know.

Even more problems arise when faced with the fact that it has long been theorized that there is a timeline split somewhere around the Ocarina of Time game. The 'official' timeline addresses this and shows three timelines. However, the placement of the games in each of those timelines seems questionable to me, such as the fact that A Link to the Past is placed in the timeline where the Hero of Time (your character in Ocarina of Time) is defeated by that game's antagonist. I would think that, considering the events of LttP, it would fall better in the 'Adult Hero of Time' line, and then perhaps Wind Waker. The reasoning behind that are the fact that LttP shows no signs of any major changes between OoT and LttP's time, such as the flood that occurs before the events of WW, thus we can safely say that WW comes sometime after both OoT and LttP. LttP makes mention of a war to seal away the series main antagonist, Ganon, using the power of the wise men.

 Now, I know that in OoT it has sages, of both genders that seal away Ganondorf after he turns into Ganon, but this discrepancy can be explained by the tale having been told so many times, and over such a long period of time, that some details become garbled. Phantom Hourglass is obviously linked to WW and thus should come next. However, there is nothing to show that WW falls into the same timeline as LttP, meaning it may or may not belong in the Adult Hero of Time timeline.

What I just did there is, of course, mostly opinion-based, but they are opinions made through having played and observed what has gone on during these games. You can't just look at the games, pick out a few details that are similar only in passing, and then make a coherent timeline out of it. You need to play the games, observe not only the dialogues that are in them, but also the legends that are told in them, as well as the architecture, the ruins... there are so many things that may be possible clues that need to be looked at. I really don't get the impression that the timeline's creators actually did that.

The more I look at the released timeline, the more tenuous and fragile the connections that the timeline's creators have made seem to become. As a gamer and a fan of the series, I think it would have been more prudent to continue to let the players theorize on their own as to how exactly things play out chronologically. That was part of the fun of the games. Each new one added another piece of the puzzle, but it was a piece that you still weren't quite sure where it should go. You had small, subtle clues, and sometimes you were practically handed the answer, as was the case with OoT and MM. I, personally, will not be considering this timeline as canonical. If anything, I will view it as a jumbled mess that some people at Nintendo decided to compile to temporarily appease some of their customers while at the same time making a little profit off of it. Call me pessimistic, but that's just how I see this. I would like to post my own theory as to what the Zelda timeline may look like, but I should save that for another post so as to not make this one into a giant essay.

Monday, March 5, 2012

I'll have a Mass Effect with a side of fried brain.

Yeah, the title of this post pretty much sums up how I felt last night just before going to bed, having finally completed playing Mass Effect for the first time. I know, I know, it's a little odd that I haven't played it until now, but until my friend Chris convinced me last week to play it, I had simply passed it up. I must say, it's a wonderfully detailed game, and I definitely enjoyed it overall, but my god, does it have a lot of information packed into it. Hence the title of this post. To be honest, I'm still not quite certain just how many of the missions and story lines are actually relevant to the final product itself, but at least you aren't required to do everything just to get an understanding of the plot in general. Doing the side missions can give you small additional details to sort of flesh out the story line, but it isn't necessary to understand what the game is about.

Game mechanics-wise, I would have to say that it's fairly well done. There were a few times where I found myself getting highly frustrated, such as the time where there were small cut scenes during what would equate to a boss battle (which, if your character had been knocked down just prior to said cut scene, would cause your character to glitch afterwards and not be able to do anything until killed), but overall there weren't too many issues.

One thing that definitely sticks with me, and is probably more of a pet peeve thing for me, is the lack of a consistent auto-save on Mass Effect. It does have an auto-save function, but the few times it actually saves for you are when you land on a planet, or during crucial parts of the storyline, which really don't happen as often as one might think they would. I would have liked if, at the very least, they had implemented an auto-save function that activated whenever you were on a load screen, because, considering how often you are flying between planets and star clusters or enter a building, which subsequently activates a load screen, it would make sense. Now, I know part of the mantra for a gamer is, 'Save often', but to have to stop and save every five minutes gets to be a little tedious, especially for a game that has as many things to do as Mass Effect.

Another thing that struck me was the nearly-useless thrusters on the Mako, basically the Mass Effect equivalent of a Bradley or other similar vehicle. Supposedly it's supposed to be used for getting over rough terrain, but there are a few problems with it. For starters, it doesn't last long enough. At most, I think you can get maybe 2 or 3 seconds of flight time with it, which, considering the type of terrain most of the planets end up having, isn't enough to really do much. Even the times when it is enough, there is the issue that the thrusters will push the vehicle in whatever direction the top of the vehicle is facing, since the thrusters only shoot straight down from the bottom of the vehicle. Meaning that if you are trying to go up a slope that is, say, 60 degrees, you won't go forward and upwards when activating the thrusters (even if you do have decent momentum prior to activation). You will end up flying backwards and upwards, because that is the direction the top of the vehicle is facing. Now, while this may follow real world physics (momentum not-withstanding...), it comes off as rather poor implementation of something that would otherwise be very useful. Hopefully this has been changed in the second game, which at the current moment I'm not sure when I'll have a chance to play.

Other than those two (well, I suppose three technically) points though, the game was quite enjoyable. The combat was easy to get into, the varying abilities you get are also easy to use and fun to play around with in different combinations. I do think that the cover system could have been different, which I believe I read somewhere has been addressed in the second game of the series. Story-wise, I think it was very well done. The people who made this game definitely wanted you to feel as though you were actually part of the story, and that every action and decision you make has an impact upon how things play out. You have this entire galactic community, with different species that actually have backgrounds, culture, even reasons behind how and why they act and think in the game's present day. You even have planets that, while you may not be able to land on them, sometimes have little tidbits in their descriptions that hint at a larger, hidden story. It makes you feel as if the story came first, and the game was built around the story, rather than the other way around. I, personally, am one of those people who does tend to like games that have a well thought out story, and I wish more games would come out like this. That's not to say that I don't enjoy my fair share of shooter games, or just straight up pure destruction, but every now and then it's nice to find a game that actually tries to give you more of that immersive experience.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

New Start

Alright then, so anyone viewing this may end up wondering to themselves, 'What is this? Why am I here?'. Well, I can answer the first question at least, and that would be: this is a blog I decided to start in order to post comments/reviews/rants (hopefully not too many of the last) dealing with video games that I have played/will play in the future. Part of the reason behind this is because

a.) I'm an avid gamer. I love playing video games, and often discuss with friends about my opinions on things such as gameplay elements, game mechanics, storyline, etc.

b.) My girlfriend is a little tired of hearing me go on rant tangents concerning certain things dealing with games.

c.) Well... C is mostly just the fact that I enjoy using tactics in games and may talk about such. Just because.

Hopefully I can make this an enjoyable experience for anyone that decides to take time out of their day to read this, and hopefully I will make some valid points dealing with whatever games I may end up posting about.