Sunday, May 29, 2011

Monday Musings 30th May 2011

This week in gaming was mainly taken over by one game. Other things were played, and as always, there's plenty to talk about. Let's muse!

Portal 2

For about the past two weeks i've been stuck on a puzzle. I'm pretty sure it's near the end of the Cave Johnson segment (i've already heard the infamous lemons line), but try as i might i can't find a way out. I loaded up the game this week, played around for 10 minutes, and quit again. It would be a shame for the game to end here, but unlike the other times i've been stuck in Portal, the solution hasn't presented itself to me after a while of tinkering around. Truth is when i'm stuck, i tend not to feel like playing said game (notice the lack of FFXIII this week). It's a pity. When Portal 2 works (and it does this for the majority of my experience), it's a fantastic piece of gaming.

Civilization 5

This has been my obsession for the past week. It started last Monday evening starting a multiplayer game with my friend Cam. Since then i've thrown myself into everything Civ. I've been reading strategy on the civ fanatics forum, i've been watching Let's Plays on youtube, and i've been playing the game pretty much everyday (on Thursday, i even broke my 'no games during the day' rule to play a couple hours before work).

And that's the thing, i still haven't finished a game. I came damn close last night. I was the Japanese and was playing on the archipelago map type. I had covered a lot of islands, made peace for most of the game, and had become a powerhouse. Suddenly Germany decided to publicly denounce me and ridicule my lack of standing army (got to keep those upkeeps low), so i prepared for war and wiped him off the map (it was about 1930 when i went to war with Germany. Eerie). Suddenly everyone else started denouncing me, and after a failed war with India, i decided to call the game there.

I'm still very much an amateur when it comes to Civ but i haven't had a game grab like this in quite a while, and i really am loving the hell out of it. My multiplayer game is still going and we're in modern times now. Cam is Russia, and i am Persia. He's more of a warlord and science based player while i'm more gold and culture. It's been a good team. The only civ we haven't obliterated is the Iroquois.

I'll tell you this, it's amazing how much the combat changes once you open up modern units. It's really like two completely different battle games. A lot of the strategy i've been reading online doesn't cover much of modern era combat, mainly cause these guys are such good players, the game usually ends before then. I guess i'll get used to it. After all, i'm still learning every round i play!

The Witcher

The Witcher 2 was released last week. I have to say, from the Game Trailers review, it looks really good. So good in fact that i felt it was time to finally play the first game. After spending all week downloading it (go go ADSL connection 6km from the exchange), i finally sat down to experience the game Saturday night after work.

I've talked about this before, but sometimes the judge of a game worth playing is if what it does right can overstep what it does wrong. That there are more pros than cons on the game scale. The Witcher, at least early on is a case of this. The intro and prologue sets up the atmosphere and this is one huge thing the game does right. I am fully immersed in this world. Despite the graphical glitches and the ui getting in the way of combat, this game is holding my attention.

Let's discuss the combat, or more specifically, the camera in relation to the combat. It took me the prologue and an hour or two into chapter 1 to find out my preferred playstyle, that being isometric camera and mouse. Even with this, on some enemies, it's hard to extend your sword combos because either an object is obscuring your ability to click attack on the enemy, or you're not being precise enough. Even with these issues, i love the combat. The sword combos and the mixing up of stances give a feeling of strategy, timing, and fun. Throw magic into the mix, and i can see myself enjoying this my entire play length.

Another thing i am very impressed with so far is the amount of side activities so far. I've uncovered alchemy, dice, bare knuckled boxing, drinking, and collecting herbs. Plenty to keep a player occupied, and easy ways to make money (aside from the notice board quests). It's funny cause in an MMO, i'd consider something like gathering herbs a time sink, but in a single player game, it becomes a welcome addition.

The level up system is pretty neat too. You feel overwhelmed by choices initially, but aside from enticing you to level up as quick as possible, you can see where your points are going depending on your playstyle.

Final Thoughts

I've finally gotten around to reading the work of H.P. Lovecraft. I purchased a collection of his more famous stories for my kindle and have been enjoying them. It's not hard to see that a lot of game monster and atmosphere design could be inspired by his work. I was reading 'The Shadow Over Innsmouth', and i think some of you know where this is going. I'll try my best not to spoil too much for those who haven't read the story.

When the story describes the followers of Dagon as they emerge from the sea and begin their search of Innsmouth, and when the protagonist finally gets a close up look at them, and listens to their guttural cry? I had a gigantic smile on my face. Murlocs! Now one should never smile when they think of Murlocs, as any WoW player knows. They're annoying, they run, they bring back friends... and they're very annoying. The thing is, ever since the Wrath of the Lich King expansion, i can't help but smile.

It's that quest group in Borean Tundra up in the north east. To infiltrate a group of Murlocs, you dress up like them. In this gigantic floppy cloth Murloc suit. You can hear appropriate bassoon waddle music playing in your head as you walk around in the costume (well maybe that's just me). Since then, that's all i think about when i think of Murlocs, and it makes me smile. The realization that the Murloc design came from Lovecraft made me smile, but only momentarily. They are quite threatening in this story, and i recommend giving 'The Shadow Over Innsmouth' a read. It has some good tension and an... interesting ending.

Well till next week folks, Happy Gaming!

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