Sunday, January 27, 2013

My Week In Gaming - 1-27-13


This is definitely one of the more creative puzzle platformers I've seen in a while, and I really dig it. It came up with a really interesting concept, and sticks to it, doing all sort of interesting things. I'm roughly a quarter of the way through it, and I've only played like an hour, maybe an hour and a half, so it seems short, but the puzzles are fairly challenging so far, so I kinda dig it.

Recettear: An Item Shop Tale

I really think this is a fun spin on the typical RPG ideas. For those who don't know, the spin is that instead of it being the typical RPG story, you're the person running the item shop, which makes it a sort of blending between a JRPG and a Tycoon game.

It's a bit unpolished, but I really like what I've played so far.

Super Hexagon


I've beaten the first two settings, Hexagon (Hard) and Hexagoner (Harder), and it's probably my favorite Android release to date. PLAY IT. NOW. THROW YOUR MONEY AT THE PERSON WHO MADE IT, HE ALSO MADE VVVVVV!

The Secret World

Finally an MMO which isn't just completely World of Warcraft, and is instead just mostly World of Warcraft. I kid, I kid. The comparisons are actually more apt to games like Champions Online than they are to WoW, and even then there's a lot of stuff that truly makes the game unique.

I picked it up for $10 on sale, since I've been wanting to try it ever since the abolished the monthly subscription, and I've played a little bit of it. I really like it! It's not perfect, but it's enough of a breath of fresh air that I'm willing to overlook it's shortcomings.

The first thing I really like about The Secret World which sets it apart from other MMO's I've tried (and I've tried a lot) is their "horizontal, not vertical" approach to character building. There are (technically) no character levels. Instead, after you gain so much XP you are awarded with either a skill or ability point which you can use to purchase abilities, or increase your skills. Due to the way this works, it doesn't take very long to max a skill out, but eventually you'll be able to max out everything (as best I can tell). That's a really interesting approach to take, and one which seems pretty well done.

The flip side to this though is probably the game's biggest weakness I've encountered so far. Because of the lack of a simple "level" system, it becomes a lot more difficult to figure out exactly where you should be, and how hard things around you are at a glance. In a game like WoW, for example, I can easily tell how much stronger than me a monster is simply looking at a number. That monster is level 26, I'm level 30, so I know I can kill it easily. That monster is level 50 and I'm level 13, so I should RUN AWAY. The Secret World indicates this with more... Abstract icons. Oh, so that monster is three blue dots. Well that doesn't help. That monster is one white skull. Does that mean I shouldn't fight it? There is an order to it, but it's kind of hard to figure out. I even looked at an FAQ about it, and I'm still confused. What missions are actually your level and when you're ready to do things like take on a new dungeon or go to a new area are equally difficult to decipher, especially since the recommended scale (missions will be labeled very easy, easy, normal, hard, very hard, or devastating  is based on both the skills you currently have equipped, and the gear you currently have equipped, which means that the scale just seems sort of wonky and unreliable. At some point I wonder if it wouldn't have been better suited to simply assign arbitrary level numbers based on how many skills you've acquired, similar to Skyrim.

A non-combat related thing which sets the game apart is that some of the missions are actually adventure-game style puzzles, and really difficult ones at that. Just the fact that they put something like that into the game to break up the monotony of combat (not that the combat is monotonous) makes the game a million times more interesting, in my opinion. That said, I'm kind of torn about their lack of inclusion of some sort of notebook into the user interface (especially when they already have an internet browser in it). On the one hand, it would be a great utility, and one which seems like a no-brainer to include. On the other hand, the game actually demands that you take notes yourself, and have a notebook on hand at all times, which is something I haven't seen a game do since Myst, and as far as I'm concerned, it's a pretty cool way to engage the player, and get them more into the conspiracy theory setting.

I really enjoy the tone of the game. The first area (which I'm, admittedly, not very far into) actually has a quite eerie atmosphere, and it's fun to see an MMO which isn't either medieval fantasy, or sci-fi. The writing seems pretty competent so far, though the main character being mute while others are talking to him makes me appreciate The Old Republic that much more. Their kitchen sink attitude of "EVERYTHING is true" makes for an interesting world, because it really does seem to mean that no kinds of monsters, from the typical zombies, to ancient golems, to Lovecraftian nightmares, are off limits.

With that said, I do find it kind of disappointing that the very first things you're fighting in the game with all these exotic monster in it is... Well, zombies. They're kind of interesting zombies, and eventually they're SEA MONSTER ZOMBIES, but when I first got to the zone, excited to see the cool creatures they had for me to fight, my initial response was... Oh. Great. And I say that as someone who likes zombies!

The game limits you to being able to use a certain number of skills at once (though you can swap them out on the fly when you're out of combat), so you need to think carefully about which ones you're actually slotting in at a given time. The game has recommended "decks" (builds) which give you some idea of how to build, but you don't need to follow them. Right now my guy is a blood mage with a shotgun and nothing to lose.

Oh and also, you get your powers because a magic bee flies into your mouth while you're sleeping. I'm not making that up, that's true and accurate.

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