Thursday, May 31, 2012

Review - Diablo 3, Part 2; The Bad

You'd think that based on part 1 of my D3 review, that this section would be rather small.  If that's the case, you thought horribly wrong.  Prepare yourself, because for everything Blizzard did right, they did a half-dozen more things wrong.

First off, let me say they had more then ample time to develop Diablo 3.  They had the better part of a decade.  Sure, they were busy doing other stuff, and it's obvious that development on this game stopped, and started again multiple times during that effort.  That lack of programmatic consistency shows.  When you have multiple teams of developers working on a project through a piecemeal timeline, you get garbage software - which I attribute to the majority of the problems Blizzard is having right now with the auction house and servers.

 The Bad:

- Launch day was a nightmare.  As was most of Launch week, and to an extent launch month.  I find it very hard to believe that they didn't expect a certain # of people to slam those servers the moment the game went life.  Even Blizzard isn't that retarded.  They knew EXACTLY how many people pre-ordered the game, and how many people patched it and installed it when it was unlocked two days prior to the go live date.  The data was out there and available - they chose to not care, or ignore it.  6 million people, assume they're all there spamming the log in button.  Be prepared.

- Security problems galore.  From the session theft problem (rumor) in public games, to accounts being hacked, this is something Blizzard games are notorious for - people hack the motherless shit out of them and steal your stuff, just to turn around and sell it for real $.  I say rumor because Blizzard denies everything and refuses to comment on security breaches.  Just this week I was hacked through an authenticated account and haven't received anything other then the standard "We can roll back your character" cut and paste reply.  I'm going to step out of what little professionalism I have left when it comes to journalism here and say Fuck You Blizzard.  That's right, you read that correctly.  Eat shit.  I hate you, and will never support one of your games again.  Ever.

It's not because I lost progress, because I didn't.  Thankfully if I told them to roll back my character, it was from a point after which I had stopped playing.  I didn't make any progress since then.  But the support team handling my 'ticket' cuts and pastes the same garbage and ignores my real problem - an account that is persistently hacked through authentication.  This has been happening for years.  No more.  There is not a virus of any kind on my computer, it's not my fault, it's yours, figure it out before someone like me figures out a way to slam you for a lawsuit and take you for everything you've got.

Moving on.

- The game length is appropriate, as I noted in part 1 of my review.  However, you're only about level 32 when you complete normal.  You'll be in the low 50's at the end of Nightmare (your second play through, 40+ hours for a casual person) and finally level 60 by the time you complete the game on Hell difficulty, probably more than 60 hours into the game.  By then, you'll probably have spent the majority of the past 10 hours in-game rolling through content as fast as you can without much of a challenge.  You'll finally have all your character abilities unlocked.  90% of those abilities suck and are useless after the Nightmare difficulty.  That's a big problem in and of itself.

Then comes Inferno, the level 60 only difficulty, where your enemies slaughter you endlessly with little to no hope of survival.  Blizzard blew their trumpets in glory of what they accomplished with Inferno.  Hey, cool job guys, you multiplied enemy hit points and damage, and gave bosses one more random ability.  That probably took you about five minutes and a fresh deployment of the code to actually accomplish.

The problem isn't the challenge, I LOVE a good challenge.  I love getting my face smashed in over and over until I figure out what I'm doing wrong and correct it.  Inferno doesn't provide that.  Inferno provides a massive time vampire for which you're expected to spend hundreds of hours running the exact same few quests in an act in order to either find gear that significantly enhances your power, or find enough gold to buy said gear off the auction house. 

- Getting back to abilities, there's a lot of combinations.  All but 2-3 for each class are worthless wastes of time.  Just like in Diablo 2, and every video game in creation, there's a good way to do things, and there's a good way to waste your time.  Inferno's good in this sense, it punches you in the throat for having stupid abilities selected and then spits in your face and asserts; "No.  You can not use Zombie Dogs here."

Yeah, there's actually builds that let you use Zombie Dogs.  It requires you to give up your damage in order to have your shitty pets survive long enough to do some shitty damage, and maybe, eventually, kill some enemies.  Cool story, totally worth millions of gold in equipment to accomplish - a slower way to maybe kill enemies, eventually.

- The voice acting.  If you don't mind a spoiler, go to youtube and watch a few videos of the last quest.  Listen to what the boss says.  It doesn't even sound like the same actor, aside from it being a random quote that has almost no place in the story or situation in which it's delivered.  7 people does not = a legion.  (You'll get it when you watch/play it). 

- Not very random dungeons.  I dreaded parts of Diablo 2.  The jungle in Act 3, as an example, will make anyone who's played that game cringe in the horror of endlessly searching for the Gidbinn or Travencal.  There's a few places like that in D3, but not very many.  Honestly, I don't even notice the randomizer throughout all but one part of the game (again, in act 3).

- The auction house is a fucking nightmare.  Thank god they limited people to only 10 auctions at a time, otherwise it'd be full of even more useless gear then it's already got - and that would crash the internet.  This is of course under the understanding that the auction house is even available.  It's offline often because 10 years to work on a game wasn't long enough, and Blizzard has absolutely no money for more servers.

- I wish I could record my own voice-overs for this game.  Instead of the usual banter, every vendor would just make a fart noise when I clicked on him and allow me to immediately sell all the uselsss shit from my inventory.  No more "Check out my wares!"  or "I found some useless shit on my latest dig!"  Nothing but a wet fart, a repair screen, and the option to "Sell all" or buy back a sold item.  That's it.  The shit they sell is second only to . . .

- The random loot you find is unrelenting.  You go out on a quest, you come back, you sell everything.  You go out, you come back, you sell everything.  This is how the game operates from level 40 on.  Your only hope of finding an upgrade is the auction house, which you'll have plenty of gold for thanks to the retarded amounts of useless shit you've sold throughout your adventures.

To clarify:  It's bad for two reasons.  The first is that there's a fuckload of it.  You can't be out for more then 15 minutes and not fill up on blue items to vendor.  All of which will be useless to you because of the second reason - the loot is RANDOM.

Items which only one class can equip, that have stats that one class would never use or consider stacking.  You're not only fighting demons from hell, you're fighting the odds.  And the odds happen to have brought the lube - because for every 1000 pieces of shit you find, you might get one that's useful to you.  That number isn't an exaggeration, if anything, it's an understatement.

- Party size limited to 4.  Stupid.

- You need to play with people that are about the same level as you.  Otherwise you get less xp, and you level just as fast as they do, keeping you levels apart and rendering you useless against enemies simply because you aren't high enough level.  Cool idea.  So I either play my character exclusively with my friends at the same time, or don't play it at all.  Or I can play alone and get ahead, and make them follow me around forever, getting nothing done, making the game take longer, and getting them killed over and over and over and over and over.  More stupid Bullshit from Blizzard.

- Performance is HORRIBLE.  Diablo 3 is dead in the middle when it comes to graphics.  It's nothing new, its nothing old, it's how games should look.  5/10.  There is nothing special, and it's not very pretty or well defined in any particular part.  Yet it's the first game to make my graphics card overheat and actually cause Kernel loss/recovery.  This is a relic from programming practices and optimizations that were probably developed over the course of the past decade.  NOTHING I've played taxes my CPU/GPU like D3.  Not Skyrim, not heavy video/graphical editing, nothing.  It runs fine on my computer, mind you.  No lag, no stuttering, just massive resource consumption for a game that honestly is barely at par for expectations these days.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Review - Diablo 3, Part 1; The Good

I'm 70 hours into Diablo 3 as of this writing.  The majority of it spent as a Witch Doctor, however I've dabbled with the other classes and spent a good chunk of those 70 hours with friends that chose to play a different class at release.  I've seen just about everything every character has to offer, and I've done it all, so to speak. 

With that, here's part 1 of my Diablo 3 review - The Good

- The game stays true to what Diablo was over a decade ago, a smash and grab equipment grind that features multiple enemies in an number of environments, all tied in together with a decent story line.  Game play wise - there's nothing someone who played the first two Diablo installments should be surprised by.  

- The Normal difficulty is exactly what I expect from a baseline game experience.  Blizzard got the entry level difficulty, game length, and challenge spot on.  I try, and fail, to think of a game that has done such a good job in this endeavor.  I had to think, but not too much.  I got to sit back and annihilate countless waves of enemies, and even had to re-specialize my character a few times to take on the more challenging bosses and scenario's presented to me.  

- The character classes seem well thought out, and fit right into the Diablo universe.  It's expected that every build for a character won't be viable on harder difficulties, and this is especially evident in Hell and Inferno settings (more on that in another review), but the sheer number of options seem both useful and potentially deadly.  I love the skill system, the ability to augment my skills as I wish, not having to pay to re-specialize over and over, and the overall feel and style of each character.

- The story keeps me intrigued.  And while it was super-obvious where it was going after a point, I was honestly riveted and had many questions for at least 80% of the game. The first play through of the game took me ~23 hours, which is WAY more than most games these days.  Subsequent play-through attempts on harder difficulties left me still hovering around 20 hours each without absolutely rushing to get from one place to another and never taking a break to shop or craft.

- Boss abilities are challenging and make you re-think your tactics and abilities constantly.  Fitting in with what I said above, the randomization of rare boss abilities and enchantments keeps you on your toes.  You never know what you're going to come across, and when you find out its often too late - its adapt or die, and I love that.

- Your stash, gold, and crafting progress are global.  All your characters share your gold and crafting level, as well as access to your stash.  All your characters, save hard core ones, which is 100% right - you shouldn't be able to buff a hard core character, which only gets one life, because of your progress on a regular character.

- You get your own loot in multiplayer.  Thank god.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

30 Day Video Game Challenge: Day 15

Day 15: A screenshot from the game I'm playing right now.

This would've been Diablo 3 - but since my account has been hacked through double authentication more than once a week since the game has come out, I'm more or less boycotting Blizzard products forever.  I highly suggest you do the same if you value your personal information.  They are completely incapable of securing an account.

Anyway, this shot is from TERA, and features my character - a Popori Mystic, riding his war horse (which you get for free rather early on.)

You can see a few other characters around, as well as some NPC's.

Thus far, I'm having a lot of fun with the game.  And while its over all design is undeniably a near ripoff of World of Warcraft, the similarities stop when combat starts.

It's still a cooldown based, ability combat system.  But its completely absent of targeting.  One thing that you don't see in this shot is the little targeting circle.  Abilities need to be aimed, missing a fast moving target, or a good player using evade skills, is common.  It really adds another level of depth and skill to the game - which is probably why the PVP servers are the most popular, by far.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

30 Day Video Game Challenge: Day 14

Day 14:  Current (or most recent) gaming wallpaper. Favorite Non-pro/antagonist.

Yes, I made my own topic, because I don't think I've ever had a gaming wallpaper.  Even though I've taken nearly a month off of my blog due to a move and Diablo 3, mostly, this is actually a topic I've thought a lot about.

Not only because the character I picked is from a game with one of the most frustrating features ever (FFVIII and the piece of motherless shit junction system for magic), but because I'm almost positive there's at least ten other candidates that I could've easily written about instead.  Garrus from Mass Effect, or Paula from Earthbound.  Or even fuckface Fi from Skyward Sword.  So many good choices, such little time.

Zell Dincht - Easily my favorite non-protagonist character in the FF series

I literally took the bit below from the FFVII wiki - you can read the original article as well as some other additional tidbits here. 

Honorable and spirited, Zell is a consummate martial artist and his skills are unsurpassed by anyone in Garden. Not being one to think things through, Zell will not back down from any challenge or confrontation and will always stand up for what he believes is right. Another important feature of Zell's is that, in a military academy where most people use a certain weapon, Zell chooses to use only his hands and feet.

Zell is energetic, loud, overconfident in his abilities and possesses a tendency to overreact when teased. He attempts to make friends with everyone he meets. He is short in build (a fact that aggravates him somewhat) and has uniquely styled spiky blond hair, bright blue eyes, and is the complete opposite of the game's main character, Squall Leonhart, personality-wise.

Zell wears a black vest with red designing along the zipper, black beater, baggy jean shorts, and black and red tennis shoes. He has been shown wearing his SeeD uniform and the SeeD cadet uniform, though he wears it with the sleeves rolled up and the jacket halfway unzipped, revealing a white t-shirt underneath. He is distinguishable by a large black tribal tattoo on the left side of his face.

He is usually in some kind of trouble with either the Disciplinary Committee or the Garden Faculty for breaking the rules due to his energetic nature: running through the halls, riding T-Boards on Balamb Garden premises, etc. It is these characteristics that provide most of the game's comic relief, with some of the other characters mocking Zell's strength and abilities, most specifically Seifer Almasy, who insults him with the nickname "Chicken-Wuss".

An important factor in Zell's life is his adoptive (although he is unaware he is adopted) family. He seems to have a close and loving relationship with his mother and is a prominent figure among Balamb Town, as pretty much everyone there knows him. Zell expresses a deep respect and admiration for his (adoptive) grandfather, who used to be a soldier, and aspires to become just like him (it is hinted this is his main motivation for him wanting to become a SeeD). He even keeps his grandfather's old rifles in his neatly-ordered room.

Another trait of Zell's is his undying love for hot dogs from Balamb Garden's cafeteria. It is a running joke, however, reminiscent of many high school themed anime and manga series, that the demand for them is extreme, and there are never any left for Zell by the time he shows up. He does manage to finally get a surplus of them at the end of the game, and immediately starts choking on them from eating too quickly.

Contrary to what most believe, Zell is actually a model cadet and has a deep interest in history and factual events. When arriving at a key location, Zell will offer a quick explanation of the place's history.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

30 Day Video Game Challenge: Day 13

Day 13: A Game You've Played More Than 5 Times - Final Fantasy Tactics

It's not just the game play and story that had me hooked on FFT since day one - but the possibilities for character development and builds that really kept my interest over the years.  Even now, over 15 years since it's release, I still find myself thinking what it'd be like to try out a new character.

Also, with the more recent remake of the game, and the extra Easter eggs included, it's become more an adventure within an adventure in trying to discover all the fun things and side quests that are hidden away.

Sure, there's lots of game's I've probably played 5 times.  FFVII, Eve Online, every game Blizzard entertainment and Bioware have ever made, but there's rarely a game I've played five times a year.  And while it's not happened recently, just writing this I can feel that itch surfacing again.  Time to dig out my PSP and give Ramza and his friends another go!