Saturday, June 25, 2005

Better Late Than Never

I goofed up and didn't actually upload this week's post. It's below, original date and time intact. Sorry about that.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

A Change Of Pace

The cause may be that I simply didn't have enough time to play anything new this week, or just that I felt like it but, whatever the reason - today's post is once again about Anarchy Online. To tell the truth, once I got my hands on my Yalmaha and hit level 60, I hit a wall of sorts when it comes to leveling. Not that it's difficult, I just haven't found myself doing it much. I spend more time just cruising the Yalm around, trying to find "dyna-bosses", as they're called, and killing them. That, along with a few missions, has gotten me up to level 65, but I was still itching for a change of pace.

What did I do? Well, I started a new character. I've tried this a few times before, but none of them ever got higher than level 5 before I'd just go back to using old faithful. This time, I tried a Trader, and it's been pretty damn fun getting him up to level 15, even if it did come at the price of being in a few bad subway teams. The differences between playing an Adventurer and a Trader are nearly night and day when it comes playing the classes. I've got to admit, as an Adventurer I got pretty used to being able to solo pretty much anything that came my way with little effort. A Trader's capability for soloing is nothing to sneeze at, it just takes a different approach.

I wouldn't recommend Trader as a first character to someone new to the game, since there's a bit of finesse required to make the class shine. Traders get nano-formulas called drains, which hinder an opponent's offensive skills while improving yours, which is cool right off the bat. It gets cooler when you realize that drains boost nano-skills which are used to get better drains, and said drains stack. Draining to be able to cast better drains has a ladder effect that soon lets you equip a much better weapon than you should be able to. As long as you keep your drains up high enough that your weapon doesn't become less effective, you've just turned yourself into quite a badass.

Traders also get a nice line of roots (which render an opponent unable to move) and calms (which, well, calm) that make blitzing missions for easy cash a breeze. Needless to say, it's quite a bit easier making money than it was when I started my Adventurer. If you read the description linked above, you'd already know that making money is more or less what a Trader does. The name gives a slight clue. Once I get him up to level 25 I get access to the Trader Shop, to which you can sell items for a much higher price than your normal shops. Pretty soon I'll be wiping my ass with credits, if that's possible in any way.

One last note to those of you who already play Anarchy Online, before I wrap this up. Somewhere in the options is a little check mark to use "Offscreen Surface Technology". I'm not sure what types of videocards can use it, but I'd suggest trying to turn it on as it basically amounts to a "Make Water Way More Pretty" button.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

All Frosting And No Cake

I've been hearing a lot about Nexuiz lately, so I decided to download it last week (still trying to get rid of the weird feeling that accompanied last week's post), and gave it a try. I'm all for the idea of a GPL first person shooter (you may be thinking Cube, but that's under the zlib license as far as I know) but, having played this game, I can't really understand why everyone is so excited about it.

The title of this post says it all, when it comes to Nexuiz. Sure, it's got realtime lights and way too much bloom, but the gameplay is nothing more than the standard deathmatch we've all been playing for years. Additionally, the graphics aren't even that good. Normally, screenshots pale in comparison to the actual game in action - here it's a case of the exact opposite. The screenshots look nice, but the first thing you notice running the game is the janky animation of the character models.

For it's engine, Nexuiz uses a customized version of the Darkplaces engine (edit: it was pointed out to me in the comments that it's actually just the stock Darkplaces engine). Hey, for something based on the Quake (not Quake II) engine, it looks pretty good. That being said, there isn't much that can be done to improve the actual level geometry so, even with new particle effects and textures, it's just not as impressive as it wants to be. The Nexuiz web site makes a big deal how some of the features can only be used by fairly recently released high end computer hardware, but who the fuck cares when games with lesser system requirements end up looking and running better?

I haven't even gotten to the sounds yet - they're not good. At least on my system (on which every game sounds fine) firing a weapon sounded suspiciously like throwing pebbles at a tin roof. Weapon models and tracer effects are unimpressive, some character models (animation aside) are just plain ugly. You want my opinion? Go play Cube. Don't care about open source? Go play Enemy Territory. Don't even care if it's free? Go play any game in the Unreal Tournament series. Any of the aforementioned games are infinitely more enjoyable than Nexuiz. How the fuck are you supposed to pronounce that name anyway? To me it seems like it would be "Neez-weez"...

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Now 100% More Disturbing

I doubt that many people think of me as a strictly blood and guts type of gamer - after all, my favorite genre is RPGs, so that goes out the window right there. Still, I'm a little bit frightened to be as far away from familiar territory as I am with the Hanihani -Operation Sanctuary- demo.

In the Linux Game Tome entry (the link is back there), the game is described as being "A typical japanese 'choose a phrase' adventure based on a famous anime." I've watched some anime in my time, I'm not averse to it. You can hardly be a fan of the RPG genre and not have had your share of anime at some point. So, I decided to give it a go, although I'll admit I had second thoughts when I realized the download (torrent only, by the way) was ~150MB.

To try to put this as nicely as possible: This is not so much a game per se, but more of an interactive visual novel. I think that's what they call them, anyway. You can actually throw the whole thing into auto mode and just kick back while the story advances. You'll sit through the demo for a long while before you actually get to the point where you can make a choice, and I do mean a long while.

As far as I can tell, the story is mostly about a young man who goes to school and has a very short teacher. There are also some bizarrely uncomfortable moments of apparent sexual tension between this guy and the school nurse, among others. What I saw would be allowed in a PG-13 movie, but was still quite embarrassing to watch. One note, on the download page is does say that you must be 18 or over to purchase the full game - apparently it's a bit racier than the demo. It's also in Japanese, only the demo is translated as far as I know.

If really slow moving anime/manga or those creepy (sorry, but they are) dating sims are your thing, check out the demo - I'm sure you could do worse. Anybody who's interested in a game for the sake of a game, stay far away.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Vega Strikes Out

Vega Strike has been out for quite a while now, but during the Vendetta Online beta, there never really seemed to be a good reason to download it. Vendetta has been in the commercial realm for quite a while now, so I can't play that anymore. It started to seem like a good time to give Vega Strike a try. At around 200MB the download is pretty hefty, albeit still dialup-able for someone with the time and patience. Is it worth it? Read on.

I'll be honest, I find myself trying to like Vega Strike more than I do actually liking it. Hey, it's got promise. Decent 3D engine, space - you know, the prerequisites for a modern-style space flight simulator are all in place. What isn't in place is the controls. I like to use the WASD keys for control, not the arrow keys. I'm sure there are better buttons to use for speeding up and slowing down than the + and - keys. Why the hell did they make the secondary fire button the enter key when the primary fire is the space bar? I find myself hitting the wrong keys constantly, and there is (as far as I know) no way to remap them.

The controls are my main aggravation, but there are other nuances of the game's design that I just don't like. I know space is big, and that stars don't fly by you super quickly, especially in a small spacecraft. I'm sure most people know that. You know what, though? That hasn't stopped every other space sim in the fucking world from flinging them at you with vigor. You know why? It gives you a sense of movement. In Vega Strike, there is no sense of movement at all until you get to some of the highest speeds available with your SPEC drive, and it's annoying.

There are things that I do like about Vega Strike. The open-ended gameplay is nice, no missions crammed down your throat when all you want to do is fly around for a while - maybe trade some cargo. Um, wait a sec. There's more. Like, um... space?