Thursday, November 16, 2006

ActionCube or ExcitementSphere?

This week you get a brief reprieve from my exploits in the world of Rappelz. The reason? A Cube mod (who thought that we'd ever see another one of those?) that's recently come out: ActionCube.

As the name suggests, ActionCube is inspired by ActionQuake (as are most of the various Action* mods floating around). More realistic environments and weaponry meet the fast gameplay Cube is known for. ActionCube takes a more team-oriented approach to the world of Cube, something I've been waiting to see for quite a while.

The release I'm playing is the most recent - before that the Linux package apparently had some problems. The problem with this is that either the master server is still showing the older version, or compiling ActionCube themselves. Every time I've tried to get online, the servers in the server browser simply say "[unknown]" under the "players" tab.

Luckily for me, ActionCube has bots. Not like the monsters in Cube which just run towards you while shooting either - I'm talking actual bots. At the moment, the only single player game type is straight out deathmatch, but that's enough to get used to the weapons and maps before taking it online.

The five maps included are all pretty well designed, and they definitely play very well in the deathmatch mode. How well-balanced they are is something I can't yet comment on since I haven't had a chance to try out the game's team modes. I'll have to get back to you on this aspect (as well as a whole lot more) of the game.

It's easy to wonder why we're seeing a mod for Cube so late in the proverbial game. It seems that Sauerbraten would have been a better choice, although there could be some engine maturity issues I'm not taking in to account. Either way, ActionCube still looks pretty good - there's still life in the Cube engine yet.

So far, I'm enjoying ActionCube, and I'm most definitely looking forward to the chance to actually play it online. I'll report back here either later today in the form of an update, or next week in the form of a whole (or at least half) post. For now, the best way to find out more is to play it for yourself. Keep in mind, this does not need the original Cube. Just download and enjoy.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Yep, Like A Soft Drink

Well, it's been a week since I last touched base (as usual), and Rappelz is still interesting. I guess that's not a bad sign.

My main character on the Tortus server, an Asura Strider, has only made it to level 21 since last week. I mentioned last week that leveling wasn't too fast in this game - I wasn't kidding. I suppose I'd be a bit higher level-wise if I hadn't started a new character: A level 13 Gaia Kahuna.

Yeah, it's a silly name, Kahuna, but it's a fun class to play so far. Unlike the Strider which, in either the melee or ranged variety (I chose ranged), is basically a straightforward class, a Kahuna is a little bit of everything. You've got damage over time spells, direct damage spells, you even get some heals later on. Don't feel like wasting your mana? Well, you're pretty handy with a mace as well.

Still, I've been playing the Strider more, as my Kahuna hasn't even made it off of the Trainee Island yet. Although the leveling is slow, the game hasn't lost its Diablo-esqe reward system. If you're not about to level up, your pet probably is. If you're not about to finish a quest, you're probably on the virge of affording that new weapon or armor upgrade. I've yet to feel the "grind", though at my low level I suppose that's not uncommon. Still, from what I can tell, it seems that even at higher levels the game still maintains its fine pacing.

One thing I neglected to mention last week was the music. Usually in an MMO the music is either annoying or nonexistent. It's almost never likable. I've spent more than a week hearing the music in Rappelz, and I've got to say: not only has it not started to annoy me yet, it's by far the best music I've encountered in an MMO. Epic symphonic swells definitely do a much better job at instilling a sense of purpose or accomplishment than the off-the-rack J-Pop that accompanies your adventures is either other GPotato game.

I've been playing it strictly solo, as is my style, but I hear that around level 30 partying (not that kind of partying) is pretty much required. Actually, I don't mind one bit. I'm sort of looking forward to the prospect of it, especially since I'm not a Cleric. Strange for antisocial me, I'll admit, but I can't deny that I'm waiting to see how my own skills match up against other's. I doubt I'll have information on that by next week, but I won't say that next week's post won't be Rappelz-related.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Rappelz Sounds Like A Soft Drink Company

It's always a good sign when I have to tear myself away from playing the game of the week so I can actually write about it, and that's exactly what happened this week. The culprit is Rappelz, the latest MMO from GPotato, which officially comes out tomorrow.

I've got to say that GPotato seems to have a keen eye for highly addictive games, a statement their latest entry supports. It's another straightforward "kill everything in sight to upgrade your character so you can kill everything in sight" MMORPG, but as with their other games, the magic of Rappelz lies in its pacing.

Leveling is actually slower in Rappelz than it is in either Flyff or Space Cowboy Online, but this issue is resolved by adding other methods of character advancement. Not only do you get experience from fighting monsters, you also earn Job Points. These go towards new skills, upgrading existing skills, or raising your Job Level, which is necessary for unlocking higher level skills.

A big point of Rappelz is taming and summoning creatures, and this is something you can start doing fairly early in the game. My character is only level 13, and I've had a pet Pantera (no, not the metal band) since I was level 11. Like you, your pet also gains both experience and Job Points. Unlike you, your creature doesn't need to worry about Job Levels. There are also ridable creatures which you can't own, but you can rent for 6 hour (in game time) periods. These make getting around a lot faster and easier.

Personal shops are implemented - something I think no MMORPG should be without anymore. I love being able to walk away from the computer for a few hours and return to find my character much richer. One issue arises in the form of "stamina", which doesn't effect you character's performance, but the rate at which you gain experience points and job points. The fastest way to regain stamina (besides potions) is to log out of the game, so you may find yourself torn between raising your stamina levels or your cash flow.

There are three different races to choose from: Asura, Deva, and Gaia, each with their own home city. When I first left the Trainee island and arrived in the Asuran home city of Kahlan, I was breifly awestruck. Towering statues spouting flames, huge stone walls rising on all sides around me, this looked like the home city of the race which represents everything dark should look. I've since taken a brief sightseeing tour of both of the other cities (by teleporter, walking or riding at my level would be impossible) and they're both nice looking, but not as impressive.

PVP is possible, but I find it surprising that there is no storyline set-up for it. Sure there are other races, but you're not at war. You just live in different areas. I suppose I've been a spoiled in this area by my time playing Space Cowboy and Anarchy Online, but PVP, especially large scale PVP, is what keeps long time players coming back, in my experience. There just doesn't seem to be much motivation for it at the moment in Rappelz.

The game officially launches tomorrow, so if you want to join in on the chaos that usually ensues on the first day of games like this, I suggest you start downloading soon. The download is 1GB (as in one gigabyte - ie. big) so depending on your connection, it may take a while.