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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.



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…]

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…]

Skylanders: Battlegrounds and Lost Islands

Skylanders Lost Islands

Skylanders: Lost Islands

We love all things Skylanders!  Skylanders: Giants came out recently, and already there are more games in the works.   Activision released Skylanders: Cloud Patrol earlier this year, and we found it to be a decent game for the iOS platform.  However, it lacked that special connection to the physical toys/figures that the other games enjoy — Even Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure on the 3DS had its own start pack and allowed players to utilize their collectibles.

That’s about to change, though, with Skylanders: Battlegrounds and Skylanders: Lost Islands.  These new iOS games will feature an optional bluetooth portal, and allow players to use their figures from all the previous games.  Not only does this increase the desirability of the iOS games, it introduces something quite unique to the iOS gaming market.  We haven’t played any other games developed solely for iOS devices that come with peripherals.  This could be the first of many entries into this type of dual market, and could very well cause several other popular iOS franchises to do the same. This may even be the beginning of controllers for mobile gaming.

Skylanders Battlegrounds

Skylanders: Battlegrounds will be an arena type fighting game.  The player can swap figures with the portal for free, or pay an in-game currency to select characters on-screen.  Clearly it’s better to have the portal.  The goal of the game will be to fight lots of enemies.  Activision has said that the graphics should be close to the Xbox 360 on an iPad.

Skylanders: Lost Islands will be one of those social multiplayer time-waster games.  Manage resources, build structures, and earn in-game currency to do it all faster.  These games are usually fun at the start, but often require a large investment to actually stay fun and not become a set of daily chores.

Despite being yet another investment ($49.99 for the starter pack and $5-7 for Battlegrounds),  it will be hard to resist more Skylanders.

Time-Waster “Games”

My fair in Snoopy’s Street Fair. I have those kids working 24/7 to make me my millions.

I’ve been inundated with time-waster “games” lately.  They come in all shapes and sizes, on all platforms, from all settings, for children and adults alike. The iOS and mobile device markets are flooded with these games, and they make oodles of money.

For the past couple of months I’ve been managing  Snoopy’s Street Fair.  I would have quit forever ago but my mom will call me up and talk me into “playing Snoopy” with her.  I tell her that we’re not playing together, that she has her fair and I have mine, and we just ‘visit’ each other and give gifts, but it doesn’t matter.  Now I’m level 18 and my fair has earned millions of dollars.  I even checked up on my village during my Managerial Economics class because I felt like I was learning more selling pancakes to virtual children with over-sized heads.  She also wants me to play Smurfs’ Village with her, planting crops and baking delicious confections, because if I keep giving her gifts she’ll max out her level and get her beach front property land expansion.  I regret asking her how much money she’s spent on these time-wasters because she just grins wickedly and declares she’s lost track.  I cringe.

My Smurf village sucks. I always let my crops die. I gave up planting them.

Last week I downloaded Shrek’s Fairytale Kingdom on my iPad.  I’m a sucker for fantasy; Castles, knights, and magic are my Achilles heel.  I’m decorating my swamp, placing puddles, stumps, and Donkey’s Waffle House.  I’m sending Lord Farquaad, Donkey, and Shrek on quests.  I’m picking earwax out of Shrek’s ears, decorating Duloc with shops and sidewalks, and realizing that the longer I play the more ‘they’ trap me and make me feel like I’ve dedicated so much time getting to this point that I can’t simply stop now — I must keep going and buy that $20 bag of magical wishes to buy the Three Little Pigs’ stuff! Before you know what’s happened, they own you.

I’ve come to the conclusion that these aren’t “games” at all!  They’re insidious traps; Horribly cute, addicting, and oft full of nothing but watching, poking, and waiting.  Rarely, if ever, does one do anything that resembles “playing” in a time-waster game.   Is it horrible of me to want in on a piece of that action?  I’ve already come up with a way to introduce gameplay into them that actually resembles “playing”, all the while maintaining the lure.  I’m adding it to my list of games to make one day.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think Shrek is ready for his Noon spa treatment.