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Mage Knight Board Game: Our First Scenario

mage-knightMage Knight is another board game that I got for Christmas but I haven’t been able to play it until fairly recently. It’s definitely the most complicated board game I’ve ever played, which admittedly isn’t a giant selection but still. I spent some time pouring over the walk-through manual and instructions but every time I went to set the game up I ran into the same problem: trying to find enough space to play.

Keen and I usually play game on a rickety old fold-out card table but that thing was not accommodating at all. I think I was able to set up most of the game’s components but then I had virtually no room for player areas and I hadn’t even laid down the game tiles which increases the game’s size over time even more. Of course I could have just gone downstairs and played at our kitchen table but that thing is ancient and covered in marks and stains of dubious origin. I’m not about to drop down all of my nice new toys on that. Plus the kitchen chairs are wobbly and leave wicker imprint burns on my thighs.

So eventually we got a longer foldout table and we were finally able to set up and play the game. I had already spent time watching a youtube play-through  by this cool accented fellow named Ricky Royal so I had a decent idea of how to play the first scenario with Keen. We set up the game, which seemed to take forever, and began our recon mission to find the city–that being the primary goal of the first scenario. It’s framed pretty much a a tutorial and they tell you as much. You just advance forward and reveal new tiles until you encounter the city. Each tile reveals a new type of location or bad guy, etc. It’s pretty cool stuff.

Mage Knight

What I like about the game is how it seems to be less reliant on luck and more based on strategy. You generate movement, influence, combat, etc with the cards in your hand rather than random dice rolls. This gives you the opportunity to plan out all the different ways and combinations you can use your cards to get the most out of your turn, etc. The unfortunate downside is that it can make your turn take forever. I think Keen averaged 10 minutes or more per turn to decide what he wanted to do and when it finally came around to my turn it only took me a few moments to complete it since I had all that time planning and then it went back to him stroking his chin over various cards in his hand.

I made a series of bad decisions through the course of the game and by the end of it I was still stuck trying to traverse over hills and through deserts while Keen had cut a swath of destruction through the countryside. Orc Khans cowered before his might, Wizard Towers were conquered and even a few dungeons and monster lairs were delved. At the end of the scenario his Mage Knight was several levels above mine and had a ton more fame, which continued to pile on as he won most of the scoring rewards at the end. But the thing to remember is that I taught him everything he knows so really I should be getting most of the credit right? Right??

EQ Next Reveal Impressions

eqn-logoEverQuest Next was announced today, and I’m anxious to share my thoughts.  I’m not going to give you the information — you can read and watch all of that on your own.  I’m simply going to give you my reactions to a very, very early look with almost no information at all.  And that’s really the key: We have no information.  We saw a tech demo if that.  I can’t even begin to describe how little we know, so I’m hesitant to jump to any conclusions.

Visuals

I’m not a fan of the way Planetside 2 looks, and EQ Next uses the same engine.  I feel like PS2 has this high-gamma washed out look to it. The scenery and environments are pretty, but it looks muted.  I’ve tried to explain this to others, but I’m not a designer and I may be using the wrong terminology.  Does anyone know what I mean?

Animations in EQ Next look gorgeous.  I was amazed at the facial expressions, character movement, spell effects, etc.  I actually like the art style, which SoE is calling “heroic fantasy.”  I think this re-imagining of Norrath will be quite a sight to see.

Destructibility

This was absolutely mind boggling.  I’ll be honest with you, a lot of it sounds like hyperbole.  I think the idea of breaking everything, or falling through the world anywhere to discover a second, third, fourth, fifth layer of the world isn’t realistic.  I think it’s more likely that there will be areas of the world that can be broken, and perhaps these areas will move, but they won’t be Minecraft style of breaking through the floor.  Maybe I’m wrong, but it sounds like more than I can imagine possible in a MMORPG.

Combat

I am EXTREMELY bothered by the wading through mobs.  EverQuest, to me, is about fighting 1 difficult mob at a time.  Control is the keyword I would use.  What I saw in the videos today was Diablo style mob slaughtering.  That’s not EverQuest.  I think nothing but AoE attacks is a sloppy way of making combat feel interesting.  It’s a cheap trick that lacks finesse — it always feels loose, wonky, and uncomfortable to me.  I’m not sure what I think yet about the leaping and blinking.  This was, by far, the biggest turn off for me.

Changing the World

This is the coolest concept yet if it’s not more hyperbole.  The one line that gave me goosebumps was when David Georgeson was pretending to be an original EQ Next player years in the future referencing the world as it was before the civil war, before the dragon invasion, before Halas existed, etc.  If that’s truly how they plan to make the persistence and the change… sign me up right now.  That sounds glorious.  They also mentioned dynamic events and procedurally generated content.  I’m not a fan of public quests.  They always start out as “dynamic content” but end up being scripted events on a timer.  I’ll be a skeptic until I see this persistence, but man do I want to believe.

I’m going to be skeptical of everything.  I think these revelations introduced way more questions and doubt, and I’m worried it’s going to be TOO different.  I like tradition, but I’m open to change — change which improves gameplay.  I want the destructible environments to be more than a parlor trick.  I want the massive world to truly be molded by players and not ‘played’ through.  I don’t want instances.  I want what they accomplish to be done in zones like EverQuest. I fear there’s too much to

I have mixed feelings, but I also carry with me the scars from many burns, and a passion for the way EverQuest has always been.

Shin Megami Tensei IV

Shin Megami Tensei IV ReviewThis game marks my first foray into the main MegaTen series. My prior experiences being only with Persona 3 (P3P) and Persona 4 Golden. I think I even blogged about the latter a while back. I heard that the main series was pretty different compared to the Persona offshoots and their time management aspects. Having really enjoyed P3p and P4G I was a little concerned that SMTIV might not do it for me, but after 10 or so hours I’m already hooked.

The game takes place in, what I can only assume to be, some kind of post-apocalyptic Japan. Things have pretty much reverted to a more feudal era with stuff like kings, castles, nobility, and of course Samurai, which play a pretty large role in things. Every year or so all young men are called to attend a gauntlet ceremony to see if they will be chosen to join the Samurai, etc. Obviously you as the protagonist gets inducted and the game goes from there. It’s a pretty interesting narrative so far and I have the feeling that I’m just scratching at the surface so far. I can already tell there is going to be a lot of philosophical thinking about good and evil. I’m usually more for the lighthearted kind of stories but it is still interesting so far. Plus, supposedly you get to make more choices down the road and depending on who you side with you get a different ending. I’m looking forward to seeing the extent of that. [Read more…]

Marvel Heroes Early Impressions

Marvel Heroes Video Memory Fix

Crashes make GRAEV SMASH!

After only a few hours in Marvel Heroes, I find myself experiencing mixed emotions. On one hand I like how well Marvel fits the action rpg genre, similar to the Marvel Ultimate Alliance style.  On the other hand, Marvel Heroes is really unoptimized, and suffers from a ton of performance issues;  Graev is experiencing a ton of crashes, and we’re both getting a lot of lag when there are lots of players on the screen at once.

I’m also torn by the ‘MMO’ aspect of Marvel Heroes.  Imagine playing Diablo without joining different games.  Instead, the entire game is simply lobbied.  In fact, think about the way SWTOR handles their world, make it an isometric action rpg, and you have Marvel Heroes.  It works from a ‘hey cool I have people to play with’ point of view, and there’s a certain comfort I get from having other people playing around me, but I also hate seeing 30 Hawkeyes running around, or watching as it takes 50 heroes to take on Venom.  I think I would have preferred a traditional action RPG where I make a room and people can join.

Gameplay is fun.  I like the talent trees, unlocking abilities, and smashing tons of street thugs who explode with loot has always satisfied me.  We’re still so early in the game that it’s hard to comment much further.  I think I’ve played enough to know that there’s enough fun to keep exploring if any only if Graev can overcome these issues he’s having with the game running out of video memory. If anyone finds a Marvel Heroes video memory fix please let us know.

Neverwinter Impressions

Neverwinter officially entered public “open beta” yesterday.  It might as well be called launch because everyone can get in, and characters won’t be deleted.  I jumped in and began my foray into the Sword Coast as a Half-Elf Devoted Cleric.

Neverwinter Sword Coast

The world is traversed by clicking on a new location and instantly traveling there.

I’m disappointed by the gameplay.  Everything feels like it boils down to mass mob slaying.  Everywhere I go there are clusters of 3-5 mobs a level above me that I just nuke down in seconds.  AoE’ing packs of mobs and doing nothing but slaughtering bandits, rats people, skeletons, etc., eventually (read: quickly) gets old.

So far leveling has been a quest grind.  Kill 12 mobs, sample the sludge, go burn some crates, go to this sewer and slaughter your way through it mindlessly until you get to the end then come back for some experience and silver.  Killing the mobs is fun at times; I like the aiming mechanic, although I hate my cleric’s spear spam ability. Playing one of the 2-handed warrior guys was a lot of fun swinging my axe around.  There’s no auto attacking, and everything is ability/click activated. Combat feels solid. really connected, and smooth.  If you can find a class you like I can’t imagine there being many reasons to dislike combat.

Neverwinter MMO

Player-made content, group content, and events make Neverwinter a content-rich experience.

The world is really truncated/disconnected because of the instancing.  That’s not to say it visually looks bad, or that it doesn’t have a nice atmosphere.  All of the zones I’ve been in are really pretty, and the art style is pleasant.  I don’t like being in City 1 or 46, or clicking on a door and teleporting to a location that I wish I could walk to and see a world.

Battlegrounds are average.  I’m not a fan of them in any game, but I think WoW does a better job creating a ‘battleground-like’ experience. Neverwinter isn’t a game you play for PvP.

The cash shop is… well, a cash shop.  There are mounts, bags, potions, clothes, companions, progression items, and the typical F2P offerings.  I don’t have an opinion of the cash shop other than my own personal belief that with a cash shop no game can ever exceed the limitations imposed upon it by having one.

Neverwinter Keen

AoEing mobs on my Cleric.

One feature that I really, really like is the player-made content.  In a game like this, being able to run quests made by other players is a nice touch.  I ran a few quests earlier which had like 10,000+ reviews.  Players can rate the content and even leave a comment.  I think this makes perfect sense for a content-grind game.  The content integrates nicely with Neverwinter, and coming in at 20-30 minutes each (the ones I did) they were a really nice change from the 1-5 minute quests I grind from NPCs.

I can see some fun clearing dungeons with friends, and as I said before the combat is fun, but it feels more like an Action-RPG or a game that shouldn’t be called a MMO.  Suddenly when I think about Neverwinter as a game that isn’t a MMO, I can forgive the disconnected world.  After all, Neverwinter Nights is the same way.  Action-RPG’s are all about slaughtering massive waves of mobs.  But it’s not being marketed as an Action-RPG, and there is an extremely tedious and generic quest grind.

Neverwinter isn’t a horrible game, but I can’t see it being more than a short-term, generic jump-in for free and kill some time game.