Archive - 2011/09/15

Diablo III Beta First Impressions (Preview)

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I was one of the lucky folks who was able to get to go to last year’s BlizzCon and see the information about Diablo III beginning to seep out.  Goosebumps shot across my flesh as I got to see the video on the giant screen of the new class: Demon Hunter.  Now fast forward to almost a year later and I am sitting at my home computer firing up the beta test.  I was surprised when word went around that there was no NDA on the game anymore but after a bit of play I got the point.  Having beta tested many games I have seen what a beta looks and behaves like and this game is more of an elongated demo.  Is that a bad thing?  Nope!  I would have been more than happy to help test environments and collision issues but this very polished game gives a good idea of what we can expect when the game comes out.  It was just enough of a taste to keep a person playing it over and over to see how the experience changes, even after hitting the level cap.

The game is incredible looking with excellent animations and rich environments.  Periodically I stopped and just looked at how nice thing were and how clean and crisp every single aspect of the game is.  It is a polished look that even in this demo mode looks better than a lot of games out there.  It was also nice seeing “the seed” system at work.  Every time you play when you walk through an area or into a dungeon there are a bunch of possibilities that can happen at the location, the spot has a seed for an event or dungeon to grow from and it will randomly do that.  This system with the seeds planted all over the game means the game should in theory never be the same twice, only the storyline will remain the same.

The storyline is already going along nicely to the point in the game it lets you go to.  Without spoiling it, familiar names make themselves known in this game that is a real treat if, like me, you played the last game for years online while at the same time being a fun play for new entries to the series.  This isn’t a surprise since a lot of the interface for the new game was borrowed from World of Warcraft to allow new players just there for the hack and slash or trying to get into the system for the first time can have some familiar controls.  Just about every change that is made in the gameplay is towards the WoW format with one odd exception which I am not sure how much I like.  In both WoW and Diablo II players had a bank/chest in which to store their favorite items or items they want to pass onto another character.  In the case of Diablo III the chest is shared between all of your characters which means no logging in and out to pass items from one character to another but limits the amount of storage you have.  More storage can be purchased with in game money but it isn’t cheap.

There are new character classes as well as a revamp of the old ones and in the current demo game they are all very over powered, my guess is so that players can experience the game without a lot of deaths getting in their way.  I talked to players who took magic classes and meleed with them doing massive amounts of damage, in some cases more than the melee classes themselves.  As I mentioned though it is probably so that you can experience all the classes and skills the game has to offer.  One of the skills that will be more familiar to WoW players is armor crafting which, until a player is able to start finding legendary gear for themselves, is a really good way to start getting decent and more class efficient armor.

Last Call:

This demo is definitely too polished to feel like the beta it is presented as, but is a terrific way to get a feeling for what we can expect in the future.  This game will feel a lot like Diablo II with a more WoW style interface that combined with its own innovations should make it a huge hit with a wide variety of players.  I look forward to the next piece of the game!

Warhammer 40k: Space Marine Review (OnLive/PC)

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Anyone who knows anything about the Warhammer world knows that the Ultramarines are the near immortal destroyers of Chaos.  When things get too nasty and platoons are getting wiped out you call in a handful of Space Marines and watch them even the odds or overpower the enemy.  So the idea of getting to play ultimate bad asses is exciting and has had me counting the days to release since I saw it at E3.  The only problem I saw offhand was how do you balance a near-unkillable killing machine and make it a challenge worth playing?

Before getting into the details of gameplay I have to write a bit about the beauty of the game itself.  The cinematics and actual gameplay have the same amazing detail, which creates wonderfully-seamless transitions back and forth between them.  When you add the fact I was playing it via OnLive so I could play with high detail it was almost like playing a movie that I controlled while having no tearing or lag issues.  The gore factor isn’t very high but there is even a certain flow to the blood splatters that not only implies great bodily devastation, but that the Ultramarines are artists when it comes to killing.  When Fury or Execution comes into play the slow motion kills again take on a beauty all their own and show the awesome power of the Space Marine.  The music is great and fits the action and backs the battle force that is tearing through the game.  Part of me wanted this to be a first person game rather than a third person, but watching Titus move and blood splattering his armor you find yourself just removed enough to root for him.  Also when using a scoped weapon you get a bit of first person play so it is the best of both worlds.

Gameplay-wise Warhammer 40k: Space Marine controls are pretty straight forward for the PC: WASD, weapons assigned to the numbers, and lots of mouse clicking.  That doesn’t mean the game is just a charge in button mashfest.  The Ultramarine is very, very tough but if you charge into battle without strategy and proper weapon choice you will find yourself dying time and time again.  Usually there is a weapons cache right before hitting a particularly rough sections allowing you to decide what would be the best way to approach each enemy onslaught.  Sometimes you had to learn this the hard way, by dying and revisiting the cache for a change up.  Another way of amping up the difficulty, and therefore increasing your need for strategy, is for you to face a difficult boss, then when you face the next boss he has two minions of the previous boss.  The weapons, shield strengths and health recovery increase for you Ultramarine as the game progresses giving you the tools to take down the new enemy challenges though it is still a game of strategy for weapon, technique and fight location.

To mix up the fighting style a bit there are a few times during the game that you get a jump pack and a mighty hammer and over the top killing really kicks in!  I almost didn’t want these sections to end though I know that after a while it would get boring from being too easy but while jumping and destroying I felt the true power of the Space Marine as all in his path was smote.  I would welcome an even larger section of jump pack usage in the next game because I just couldn’t get enough of it.  There is another change of fighting style that you can expect that I won’t spoil but is is fun and challenging in it’s own way.

Players can decide for themselves how much they want to commit to the storyline, cutscenes can be skipped and the collectable item in the game is a skull with a recording to push the storyline that can also be skipped.  Personally I highly recommend following the storyline, it is really well written and unfolds nicely to an ending I won’t ruin but definitely surprised me.  The gameplay is long enough that you begin to invest in the characters if you follow the story so when the ending is less Hollywood than the average game I was caught off-guard and really pleased.

Last Call:

If it hasn’t already come through I loved the game, I got caught up in it, lost hours of time and did the “just one more checkpoint” thing when it was time for me to do something not game related.  The developers managed to make a great, strong lead character that grows stronger to match the threat against him yet at the same time has a very humane sense to him, especially for a character that kills thousands of enemies over the course of the game.  If you just want to play the game to hack and slash that can be easily done, or if you just love finishing achievements that can be there for you too and worth your time.  I recommend taking the time to follow the story, invest in the game and get a very rich experience out of it.

Dead or Alive 5 Announced at TGS 2011

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While at the 2011 Tokyo Games Show, Tecmo Koei and Team NINJA have announced that they are indeed developing Dead or Alive 5. DOA5 is due out next year on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 platforms. The developers stated that they are marrying the traditional DOA fighting styles with new, MMA-based fighting styles for an interesting twist on the series gameplay. Additionally, they announced that the arenas in which these fights will take place are not only visual eye-candy but, also, interactive environments that fighters can take advantage of.

“It is exciting for us to officially let fans know that we’ve been working on DEAD OR ALIVE 5,” said Yosuke Hayashi, Team NINJA leader. “Our vision for this next installment is that of what we believe is the evolution of DEAD OR ALIVE which is to deliver a high quality, high energy action fighting experience that still keeps to its amazing spirit.”

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Take On Helicopters Release Date, Beta Info

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Bohemia Interactive has announced that its forthcoming helicopter simulator, Take On Helicopters, will be released on October 27th, 2011 for the Windows PC platform. Additionally, if customers pre-order the game from one of BI’s digital distribution partners, they will get access to the game’s beta release to see what the helo-sim has in store for them.

Tropico 4 Patch 1.03 Released

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Players of the new dictatorship-sim, Tropico 4, will be happy to note that a new patch (version 1.03) has been released for the game.

Patch Fix List

– Tutorial: Fixed game getting stuck in pause mode and accepting tasks
– Tutorial: Fixed a task auto-completing when accepting very quickly
– Fixed refresh rate selection in graphics options dialogue
– Fixed several infinite money exploits
– Fixed several localization errors
– Fixed bug with cancelling edicts preventing faction respect from dropping to zero
– Corrected salary for unemployed citizens when Social Security edict is active
– Character trait ‘Religious Zealot’ now properly decreases relations with Arab League
– Corrected fire station ‘Cat-in-tree’ work mode to properly boost housing quality in area of influence only
– Increased number of families living in shanties to two
– Restaurants now accept only citizens who can afford the service fee
– Fixed renaming a citizen when info panel is opened from Almanac
– Alternative building models can now be chosen with [ and ] during placement via keyboard shortcut
– Firing ministers and cancelling building prompts now pause the game to prevent instability
– Save/Load shortcuts to not work when there is an opened window which should not be closed
– Save/Load shortcuts now close some in-game UIs
– Fixed stuck UI when losing an election or island getting invaded
– When set to full screen mode, the game now minimizes when launching external challenge editor
– Fixed terrain error when buildings are constructed
– Fixed a foreign task incorrectly requiring Rum instead of Spiced Rum
– Fixed crash when building Aqua parks on high terrain
– Corrected free jobs display in Almanac, graph still shows year average values
– Corrected Mausoleum fee display in info panel
– Fixed problem with demolishing Customs Office
– Prevented faction disasters from starting simultaneously and never ending
– Fixed check for faction distaste end condition in two consecutive months
– Road construction and other in-game tools now close when activating construction via keyboard shortcut
– Removed industrial props from random map jungles
– Soldiers and Generals can now be hired during Street Riots (Nationalist faction disaster) or criminal shootouts
– Fixed tourists getting stuck in some buildings
– Fixed Presidente info panel text bugs
– Fixed crash after long terrain editing sessions
– Goods required by certain buildings will no longer be transported to the docks
– Improved docks info panel
– Removed save animation when saving player profile
– Fixed road cursor snapping problem resulting in overlapping roads
– Fixed building achievements unlocking by placing trees and decorations
– ‘Kill Juanito’ achievement does not trigger on special actions other than ‘Eliminate’ or ‘Arrange Accident’
– Population limit raised to 1500 (can your machine handle it?)
– Road element limit increased (extra budget for fixing potholes)
– Tropicans now enjoy long walks on the beach

Spider-Man: Edge of Time Ultimate Comic Costume Screens

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Activision has released some new screenshots from their upcoming Spider-Man: Edge of Time, showing off Peter Parker in the Ultimate Comics Spider-Man Costume. Spider-Man: Edge of Time is due out on October 4, 2011.

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Fallout New Vegas: Lonesome Road Trailer

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Bethesda Softworks has released a new trailer for the upcoming Lonesome Road DLC pack for its action-RPG, Fallout: New Vegas. The expansion pack is due out on September 20th for 800 Microsoft Points (or $9.99) on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Windows PC platforms.

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LOTRO: Rise of Isengard Legendary Weapons Screenshots

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Turbine has released some new screenshots from their upcoming Lord of the Rings Online expansion, Rise of Isengard, showing off some of the new legendary weapons and class gear available to players brave enough to quest for this. The expansion is due out on September 27, 2011.

Screenshots