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Albion Online Alpha

Albion Online is a F2P sandbox MMO currently in alpha.  We received keys to participate in the alpha test that began this evening which ended up being so much fun that I had to jump on here and share my thoughts.  I would have had this post up yesterday evening shortly after playing, but my poor little laptop BSOD’d and I lost the whole thing. :(

Albion Online UI

UO meets Action RPG

Think of Ultima Online + a little bit of action RPG and you’ll start to form the foundation of Albion Online.  Played from an isometric perspective, Albion Online offers a completely sandbox experience on any device.  I was shocked to see that you can play cross-platform on iOS, Android devices, PC, etc.

 

Building

Players in Albion are able to build structures out in the world.  From what I can tell, there appear to be pre-designated spots close to the main city.  I haven’t explored far (the world is pretty dang big) enough to see if it opens up to more of a ‘place anywhere’ mechanic.  You can place storage buildings to help you store all of your heavy resources (there is a carry capacity), crafting stations, buildings to decorate, etc.  Like UO, you are safe in your building unless you built in the guild warfare areas.

Gathering and Skills

Albion Online Skills

This is about 5% of the skill menu

From the moment I started playing I realized how much time I could lose to this game.  The very first thing I had to do was gather wood, stone, and hides to craft myself some basic tools and armor.  I recommend making a shield and adding the Shield Wall spell — great survivability!  After crafting my tools I realized that everything in-game seems to be driven by the skill menu.  This skill menu is MASSIVE and makes Path of Exile look tame. [Read more...]

Flappy Bird. I hate you. You too Lumosity. You creep me out!

flappy-birdI work in an office of gamers.  That is to say, my coworkers play games on their iPhones.  Five days ago one of my coworkers recommended I play this “super addicting game” called Flappy Bird.  Apparently she gets into a lot of arguments with her casual gamer boyfriend.  After witnessing one of their spats, I decided to download it on my lunch break to see what was worth all of the fuss.

You play as a Cheep Cheep rip off who must be guided by your well-timed tapping.  By tapping the screen you bounce your big-lipped-ripped-off-art-asset through sets of Mario pipes — more ripped off assets.  Since the hit box around the bird is so horribly big, getting anywhere near a pipe kills you instantly.  That’s the entire game.  See the screenshot to the right?  Yep, you’ve seen the entirety of Flappy Bird.

I walked into the break room today during lunch, heard 6 people talking about Flappy Bird, then promptly turned around and walked the other way.  My high score is 4.  I made it through 4 sets of pipes.  How this game — essentially full of asset theft — makes $50,000 a day is beyond my ability to comprehend.  Then again, here I am spreading the word to many of you who as a result have already finished your downloads.  *Shakes his fist* Flappy Bird!

the-game

“It’s your turn. Play the game, Wesley.”

Then there’s this game or neuroscience thing called Lumosity.  Everyone plays it.  They love it. All around the office people creepily walk up to you and ask, “Have you tried this great game? You should really try it out.”  No! Get away from me!  I don’t want your brain sucking game!

Perhaps it’s not quite as addicting as the version which nearly crippled the crew of the Enterprise.  My boss is already tired of the mini-games because they never change.  If only he knew the depth of the parallels I could draw between his experience and my own deeper more involved gaming experiences.  Anyway, in Lumosity you basically keep your brain active by playing games.  I do the same thing but in my games I’m an assassin and I stab people; I prefer it over math.

The iPhone Gaming Generation

Nintendo 2DSI had an interesting conversation at work the other day. A few of us are really into video games so we occasionally slip into casual conversation about which console is our favorite or what old video games we wish we could play again.  I don’t know how we started, but the conversation turned to Pokemon and then to handheld gaming.

One of my co-workers, who is very open about not being knowledgeable at all about video games, asked, “Is the Gameboy still around?”  I gave him a 30 second history lesson on the evolution of Nintendo’s handheld systems — how Sega’s Gamegear  didn’t last, The Gameboy became the DS, etc.  He then asked, “Do people still buy handheld gaming consoles today?”  A question like that comes as a bit of a surprise because those us who game know that it’s still a huge market, albeit a struggling huge market in the last few years.

We then got talking about the iPhone (iOS 7 just came out) and the following statement was made:

“I don’t need a gaming console.  I would never buy one.  I have an iPhone.”    [Read more...]

STAR COMMAND – Set Phasers To Disappointment

Admittedly I didn’t know a whole lot about the game going in. I saw a trailer and skimmed over the Kickstarter page along with a few other articles. What I thought was going to be a deep and satisfyingly was instead shallow and broken. I honestly can’t believe I chocolate-rabbit’d myself so soon after writing that. I suppose I have to take partial blame for expecting too much. Wait… No, no I really don’t. They essentially promised as much in their Kickstarter campaign. Anybody who sunk any substantial money into Star Command must be fighting waves of nausea.

Star Command Review

Visually, the game is great. They did a fantastic job with the pixel art and the aliens and ships are fascinating to look at. They obviously went for a Star Trek feel and I think for the most part they nailed it. Unfortunately it just all goes downhill from here. The combat, ship, crew, and diplomacy (or lack thereof) mechanics are all bad. They really are. I probably shouldn’t make sweeping statements like that but I honestly can’t think of a single redeeming feature among them.

The entire game is based around tokens. Win a battle, get tokens, spend tokens on upgrades or crew. Good luck being able to afford anything, though, when you have to constantly replace your crew. Parts of your ship also use different types of tokens to dodge attacks and fire special weapons. The problem is that you not only need to wait for the rooms to charge up, but then you need to spend a token. Unfortunately you can only hold 2 tokens of each type at a time. After that you have to generate tokens, introducing an additional timer into the mix.  The same is true for shield regenerators, etc. It’s a completely stupid and broken system. I just don’t understand why they created, essentially, 2 different usage timers. It would have been great if they just let you buy and stock ammo, but there’s none of that.  Read on. [Read more...]

Hearthstone: Let it be the first of many

Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft Logo

I was about to tweet this, but I decided to blog it instead.  I really, really like the idea of game studios, who are entrenched in massive projects or well known for a particular type of game, stepping out of their comfort zone (as Chris Metzen calls it) to create even more games on the side.  Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is a great and recent example.  Blizzard is known for making amazing RTS, action-rpg, and MMO games.  They’re known for taking years and years to develop a game, sometimes announcing half a decade before release.  Blizzard has, in a way, gone stagnant over the years and become quite predictable.

When Hearthstone was announced, I was pleasantly surprised by the elegant simplicity.  Watching the video (viewable after the break), I think Blizzard wants to think of it more as ‘epic simplicity’ where it’s nothing but simple fun.  Bottom line, they’re using this really familiar, really rich property to fuel other creative ideas.  A card game isn’t necessarily unique or innovative, but for Blizzard and fans of their franchises it sounds like a cool game to pick up and simply enjoy without investing so much; quite a departure from their typical games.

Of course I want to see Blizzard continue their traditional grand releases, but I would love to see them turn this into a new tradition of small team projects releasing much quicker, smaller, and epically simple titles.  This direction is perfect for a fan like myself.  I may be tired of World of Warcraft, but I truly love the Warcraft universe.  I want to see more imagination and creativity from studios — many different studios (including Blizzard). I want to enjoy new and familiar games in entirely new ways.  Everyone wins if that can be accomplished.

[Read more...]