Thursday, March 27, 2008

Penalty: Overuse Of Colons

I remember being intrigued by Dark Horizons: Lore, when it first came out. I also remember being somewhat intimidated. An mech-based FPS taking place in a sort of persistent world seemed like a good idea, but not being able to try out the gameplay mechanics against bots didn't. Long story short: I didn't buy the game. Now, the game has been renamed Dark Horizons: Lore: Invasion and made free-to-play. Plus, what do you know - now it has bots. These two things combined were enough for me to give it another look.

The first thing I noticed is that the Torque engine doesn't seem to have aged well since my days playing Legends. I mean, it still looks alright - it definitely doesn't look bad, but I can't believe I used to be so impressed by it. Anyway, most folks (like me) will happily play a slightly dated looking game if everything clicks in the gameplay department, so that leads us to the question: does it? Yeah, it does.

Dark Horizons uses a class system, like many other games out there, but it also allows some stats to be customized before you take your MAV (that's your mech-like thing) into the game. You can prioritize speed or armor, or go for a middle ground between the two if you like. Once you've adjusted your MAV to your liking, it's off into the game world.

I really like the way movement is implemented in Dark Horizons. Your mech feels as if you're kind of fighting it for control - you don't stop immediately after letting go instead of a movement key, instead your MAV slows to a stop - but it never feels like you're out of control altogether. They've gone a long way towards making you feel as if you're controlling a giant walking machine without overcomplicating the controls.

If there's one problem with Dark Horizons, it's that there just aren't enough people playing it. I'll be honest: small communities bother me - I'm afraid that people will actually get to know me. I much prefer the relative anonymity of a large community. If this isn't a problem for you, I'm sure you'll find much to enjoy with DH:L:I.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Linux Free MMO Roundup Week Five: Regnum Online

The last week of the round-up is one I've been fearing since the start of the whole process. I knew I'd have to mention Regnum Online, and really didn't want to have to play it again to do so. So, what the hell - I didn't. I know this is a cop-out, but I'm just going to direct you to the previous entry regarding Regnum, and leave it at that.

OK, that's not entirely true. I downloaded Regnum again a few weeks ago, shortly after the start of the roundup. I I figured, naively, that the game might have improved somewhat in the months since I'd last tried it. It hadn't, so I uninstalled it within minutes.

That I can only stand to play the game for minutes at a time (this is, of course, not taking into account the many initial minutes of loading) really says something about Regnum's lack of, well, any redeeming qualities. I'm seeing myself type these words and feel as if I'm being harsh, but in my heart I know that it would only take a few minutes of playing Regnum again before I start to wonder why I'm being so easy on the game.

If you absolutely must play a free-to-play MMO on Linux and for some reason can't play any of the others previously mentioned in the roundup, well, even then I have a hard time recommending Regnum. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Linux Free MMO Roundup Week Four: Eternal Lands

Anyone who's been reading Avert Your Eyes through it's entire run should be no stranger to this week's game. Eternal Lands has been the subject of a good number of posts, and has the honor of being the first MMO I ever really enjoyed. EL has just recently had a sound-related update, so I figured it was an appropriate time to mention it in the roundup.

I'll be honest, I can't really tell what's different in this update. Except for sound, which I never bothered to use before, I can't detect any major changes. I will say that trying to enable music made the game extremely buggy feeling - the inventory window wouldn't open, trying to get the options window open to turn off music took a few tries - and it stayed buggy after turning music off. A client restart fixed this.

I was able to turn the sound effects on with no problem. After watching my character go silently through all his actions for so long it's very strange to hear footsteps and other sounds. When you attack a creature, there is now strong audio evidence that these creatures aren't, in fact, very fond of being attacked. Who knew?

Eternal Lands is not for everyone. It takes a while to get used to the slow pace - combat is slow compared with other modern MMOs, your character walks everywhere. Of course, when I first played Eternal Lands I didn't notice these things because I didn't have enough experience with other MMOs to know the genre's conventions.

After spending a great deal of time with other MMOs, coming back to Eternal Lands felt awkward at first, but that feeling didn't last very long. I actually find the slower pace relaxing compared to a lot of the other free-to-play MMOs out there. I've got to say, there's still a certain charm there that keeps me playing, if only sporadically, after all these years.

Eternal Lands is only a 43 meg download, so if you've got broadband it's quick enough to try it out. The sound package is seperate, and another 40 meg download. If you enjoy the game I recommend it, but it's far from necessary.