Civilization Revolution

(Imported from old blog 2008-06-30)

I realized last week that the new Civilization game was about to hit the stores now, and was fairly excited. Slightly concerned regarding the "Civ for consoles"-concept, but, after playing through the demo available at the Xbox Live Marketplace, I figured it was worth the buy. And after a long week of mad shippingdisasters in general, I finally got the game this friday, and I've pretty much been playing it all weekend, so, figured I'd write an ickle review or some such here before heading off to sleep.

I've played the Civilization games a fair bit in my life, mainly Civilization 1 and 4, as I figured the others weren't quite as tasty as those two, but still entertaining, and Civilization 4 + its expansions has been played thoroughly with friends online as well - in the standard 16-18 hours gaming sessions with excessive amounts of fun!

I decided to read up a bit on the game before grabbing it, and read that mr Sid Meier had designed the game from scratch optimized for consoles, just using the familiar elements from the series as a reference, not as a "must follow" basis for the game, as well as trying to shorten the gameplay duration drastically compared to the standard Civ4 games, as ... I suspect console gamers aren't that fond of spending too much time in front of their TVs ... or some such!

The initial impressions were quite good when I started playing. The interface was intuitive and easy to navigate, a simple check on all the possible buttons on the controller and you knew where things were fairly quick. You could get around to the relevant places you'd like to go in no time, and it seemed to have the smooth wrapping for the actual gameplay intact at least!

The gameplay bits here I'll compare with the previous versions of the game, so, if you haven't played any of the previous ones, it might be a bit cryptic... But! You still have the city control, tiles around the city you grab resources from and all that. Not as many different tiles, but enough to make the world look tasty. Now, the first *real* difference comes with the majority of the buildings in the city improvement section. The concept of workers/engineers are out, you can't manipulate the tiles at all, instead, you build buildings to improve the resources gathered from them - for instance, a granary now adds +2 food to plains tiles, and that's all it does. If your city doesn't have any plains tiles, you won't be able to build a granary at all there, as it's not needed! The ways of gathering food/trade is fairly similar to the last Civilization game, with the exception that you can't "build" any of them now, you need to build units/buildings/wonders, and you can't set a global percentage either, each city needs to specify if it should produce gold or science from the trade it gathers. You have the option of connecting your cities with roads as well, you pay gold and they're instantly built between two of your cities. The benefit of these roads are instant travel, if you're on a road and run around on it, you don't spend any movement points! Although a great feature, it's slightly dangerous when you connect your 5 cities and the opponent invades and places their army on the road in the middle of all your cities, having instant travel-access to whichever town has the least defense... :|

The basic setup on the standard singleplayer game is you vs 4 AI opponents spread around in a fairly small world from a "Civilization" perspective, this is most likely done be as they want the games to be shorter. You roam around exploring, fighting and trading with the others to win. There are now four ways to win the game, either by domination - capturing all the opposing capitals, economic - gathering 20k gold and creating a world bank wonder, culture - getting 20 wonders/great people/converted cities and creating the U.N. wonder or technology - winning the space race. Interactions with the opponents has been simplified slightly, you no longer have any treaties, it's either war or not, trading technology is still in, and buying/selling technology is in. One of the most interesting things they did there in my view is not letting people have "walk through my area" deals, meaning you can use an opponents area as a shield if he's between you and the person you're at war with. Also, creating cities in the small tight areas really seals off enemies in one place, as the sea travel isn't as dominant as it used to be.

Exploration has an interesting part in the game, as it seems all the maps have 2+ artifacts you can find, where all but one are located on islands requiring you to roam around with galleys to find. These reward you with anything from gold to an instantly built wonder in your main city. The last wonder is a "deep sea" wonder, Atlantis, which upon discovery, rewards you with three random technologies from the list you can research. This makes a huge difference when you're on the harder difficulties, and hunting these is something you should get used to as soon as possible.

Unit combat is fairly interesting, they've made an interesting change where you can group together three of your units and form an army of that unit. It will effectively be merged into one unit which has three times the stats of a single unit, and pretty much be annihilating its single counterparts fairly well. As such, early on you can do different strategies by either banding up your troops or spreading them over to cover more ground. An army of archers will most likely need an army of extremely much more advanced unittype to force them to leave a city they're defending. The use of nukes in the game has been changed a fair bit, the way it works now is that the person who builds the project gets one nuke to launch, and when that one is launched, you can't make any new ones. This makes all the SDI buildings fairly useless in my opinion.

I've been messing around on the different difficulties and finding the game to be quite enjoyable really. It had me awake till 5-6am both friday and saturday, and would've had me up till that point today as well had it not been for work in the morning.

What I'm missing in this game though, is a bit more customizability in the game-setup, so that if I wanted a long matchup or more opponents, I'd be able to specify that. As it stands, you're either doing a specific scenario-type, or you're doing the standard vs 4AI setup. I would've liked to set up team-maps and things like that in my games to get even more diversed games. Also, as someone who is really fond of the culture victories, I'm a bit saddened that they're in my view slightly harder to obtain than the other victories, especially in an even late-game matchup. The times I've won cultural victories were times I was way ahead in everything and held off winning the other ways to get a cultural win. I should also mention here that if you have insane amounts of buildings, the fact that you can't build science/culture/gold but need to build units/buildings/wonders makes you quite crazy after a while if you're ahead, waiting for space-race and all the cities are maxed out spamming tanks and battleships like there's no tomorrow... lots of buttonclicking to get through the last rounds.

All in all, I think it's a great game and would recommend it as long as people don't expect "Civilization 5", and I'm looking forward to trying the multiplayer portion of the game now that I'm at least slightly familiar with all the different mechanics!

As far as the achievements go, I've been grabbing 37 out of them so far, I found one to be fairly amusing, the "Curse of the Drinking Class" achievement is in my view only really attainable playing as Americans, with a Communism government... the irony!

 

Age of Conan

(Imported from old blog 2008-06-23)

I've been considering writing stuff about Conan and how I feel it's doing for quite some time now, but, found another review which would be fairly similar to what I'd write, except he's a bit more cheerful at times. :)

http://www.mmorpg.com/blogs/AshGUTZ/062008/1916_Age-of-Conan-My-L1L80-Review

Canceled my subscription today, might reopen it at one point, but... so long, poor 66 Priest of Mitra!

 

Rock Band!

(Imported from old blog 2008-05-04)

After reading an article in the newspaper about how the USD is really low at present - as well as checking that they still didn't have a local release date for Rock Band here yet, I decided it was time to do the import thing! I already have a copy of Rock Band imported for the Xbox 360 mainly to see if it would work due to region differences, figuring I'd just use the Xbox Live headset for mic and my two Guitar Hero guitars for the guitars and grab the drums by itself when it's released here. But, that didn't quite work out, apparently it's "incorrect format" for my poor Xbox360, so, that's a no go!

However, people have mentioned how region free the PS3 is, so I figured I'd give it a shot really - especially since I don't have any PS3 games (except some random car-game I never really played which I got with the PS3). And 230USD (incl. shipping) later, it was in the mail!

FYI, the box is quite quite huge and fairly heavy, utter insanity really - glad that UPS decided to deliver it to me at my doorstep!

I should note that my initial interest in the game wasn't really the drums like I see most people rushing when it comes to the game. I wanted to try the guitar and see how guitar works here compared to Guitar Hero, as such, it was straight to the guitar and assembly right away. One interesting detail here is that they decided to put a tiny screw that keeps the batteries locked down, I suspect they didn't feel the easy design which has been used in oh... every other guitar controller and/or regular wireless controller was quite up to the Rock Band standard! I spent 15 minutes running around trying to find my tiny screwdriver as a result... I feel they should've at least warned me in advance that I'd need something like this! :)

The guitar is looking quite neat really, with the regular 5 buttons as normal, then 5 added buttons near the strum-bar to be used for solos. I found this to be a fairly cool thing in theory when I heard about it - and it was only slightly different from that in reality... the drawback was that the buttons are placed so close to each other that you're pretty much screwed when you just finally managed to perfect memorizing and feeling the 5-button spacing and switching properly to play all 5 buttons from the GH-deal, they mess you up so bad by doing this! The way it works is pretty much just like the normal 5 buttons in the normal gameplay, however, when you get into an area of the song labeled a Guitar Solo, you can use those new buttons to play without strumming at all, hitting one of those is an implicit strum as well - which means you mess up even more as you're most likely used to pressing the buttons a bit before so you're ready to strum - but oh no, that's a hit! :) They also added different settings on your guitar which makes the guitar sound during solos and starpower change into various other sounds, while it has no real effect on gameplay, it makes it sound a lot more spiffy! :)

The actual guitar used in the game is quite interesting, as they've completely removed the sound it makes when you strum, which makes it... odd really, but to compensate they added the most insane clicking noises when you click the fret-buttons for some odd reason, but after a bit of playing, it felt quite nice to use really, want to use this one for Guitar Hero as well!

The game in itself is quite awesome really! To use the regular Guitar Hero as comparison initially and go into details on solo mode, you have the regular guitar which works just like Guitar Hero, with the exception that you enter certain defined Guitar Solo parts where you get a percentage indicator which tracks your hit rate, and you get a score bonus at the end based on the amount of notes hit. The bass seems to work similar as well, although, as it doesn't have any guitar solo parts to score extra points, they've added the score multiplier to add up to 6x instead of 4x like the other instruments have.

The singing is reportedly like Singstar, which I haven't tried (yet!) - but I most likely will I fear ...

It got strangely addictive when I managed to figure out just how to sing along! I only struggled with some of the songs where you have to sing where the pitch is supposed to go really low, as I tend to mess that up and make the mic stop recognizing my voice as I get too low. :( The difference in difficulties here comes from the "size" of the "you-should-be-in-this-pitch" bar that roams around. I did a few songs on Easy/Medium before trying Expert, and found that to work out relatively well really, so... a few hours later I was done with all the songs! Next! :)

I didn't really look forward to playing drums, never did, and after trying, I'm glad that most others seem fond of playing that evil ... thing! The kit is basically 4 different circles you hit, and a pedal you step on at times... It's all good fun till someone figures out that the pedal should differ in rhytm from the other circles you need to hit, at that point it becomes impossible to play and you usually end up crying and hoping someone else saves you. It's a LOT of fun when you actually get things going, and the freestyle segments are pretty cool, especially when mixed with the throw-sticks-in-the-air-and-hope-you-catch-them trick. Should note that when you don't catch them you can still play on using your hand instead of the stick, but it's painful if done over longer periods of time, so I'd advice against trying this at the beginning of the songs.

Then you have he band mode which is awesome really! The gameplay differences from Guitar Hero Coop seems to be that each instrument has its own failure meter, and if an instrument fails, the others have a bit of time where they can use starpower to bring them back into the game. It's quite fun to activate starpower as the singer to save the crappy drummer who messed up *again*, especially with the chat afterwards about how you really carry the whole band and they couldn't make it without you...

The only semi-bad thing I found with the game so far is that it's very hard to make all the instruments "enjoyable" in all of the songs you have available, namely the bass tends to end up with utterly boring repetetive songs, as well as there being certain songs which have less than 40% of actual singing, so being on the mic isn't all that fun. Though, I guess they need to have it done like that, and I complain now, but when my playlist shows up as songs ingame and basically all instruments will be utterly easy, I'll most likely be full of praise of the immersiveness of all the instruments!

Another slightly worrying part is that I've played through the guitar and mic now on hard and expert respectively. Yet, I want to play more, but feel it's nowhere near as fun as it would've been on the Xbox360 due to the fact that I'd be working towards achievements there as I'm having my share of fun, and here I'm just ... doing "nothing"! This was one of the reasons why I wanted the game for my Xbox, yet, didn't think I'd feel it as strong as I do now really...

So, thank you for my Gamercard, Microsoft!

*Waiting for Xbox360 EU Release, hoping USB-Drums will work on Xbox as well*

 

 

WoW - Warlockleveling

(Imported from old blog 2007-09-26)

Just want to post this somewhere, might as well be here! A fluffy way to reach 70 as a Warlock, ending up with a tasty Afflicitiontalented warlock in what I suspect to be the quickest road really.

Talents

  • 10-14 Improved Corruption (5/5)
  • 15-19 Demonic Embrace (5/5)
  • 20-22 Improved Voidwalker (3/3)
  • 23-24 Improved Healthstone (2/2) (anything really...)
  • 25-27 Fel Stamina (3/3)
  • 28-29 Demoic Aegis (2/3)
  • 30 *RESPEC!*
  • - Improved Corruption (5/5)
  • - Suppression (1/5)
  • - Improved Life Tap (2/2)
  • - Soul Siphon (2/2)
  • - Fel Concentration (5/5)
  • - Amplify Curse (1/1)
  • - Grim Reach (2/2)
  • - Nightfall (2/2)
  • - Siphon Life (1/1)
  • 31-31 Shadow Embrace (1/5)
  • 32-34 Suppression (4/5)
  • 35-39 Shadow Mastery (5/5)
  • 40-40 Dark Pact (1/1)
  • 41-44 Contagion (4/5)
  • 45-46 Improved Howl of Terror (2/2)
  • 47-47 Contagion (5/5)
  • 48-48 Suppression (5/5)
  • 49-49 Improved Curse of Agony (1/2)
  • 50-50 Unstable Affliction (1/1)
  • 51-51 Improved Curse of Agony (2/2)
  • 52-56 Demonic Embrace (5/5)
  • 57-59 Empowered Corruption (3/3)
  • 60-62 Improved Imp (3/3)
  • 63-64 Improved Healthstone (2/2)
  • 65-67 Demonic Aegis (3/3)
  • 68-70 Fel Stamina/Intellect (Stamina) (3/3)

Stats/Gear

  • Stamina > whatever up till 30 - stats fairly irrelevant though, don't buy non-wand items!
  • Stamina > Shadow/Spelldamage > whatever from 30-50.
  • Shadow/Spelldamage > Stamina > whatever from 50 -> 70.
  • Pre-30 - Any decent wand you can get your hands on, crafted ones are tasty.
  • Post-60 - Netherweave Armor Set, quite tailored for Warlocks.
  • Other levels, anything with stamina/damage

Quick pointers

  • Void&Agony+Corruption+Wand till 30.
  • Agony+Corruption+(Optional Life Siphon)+Drain&Void 30-39, switch to Succubus at any time here if you feel it's better.
  • Unstable(at50)+Agony+Corruption+(Optional Life Siphon)+Drain&Succubus 40-Outland (58/60)
  • Unstable+Agony+Corruption+(Optional Life Siphon)+Drain+Void Outland-70 (for adds, mobs hit hard here)

Lord of the Rings Online

 

(Imported from old blog 2007-06-13)

Lately I was messing around a bit in the Lord of the Rings Online "Open Beta" or "World Tour" and figured I'd spam about what that's all about in my view!

I tried this game first "way back" in closed beta and wasn't too impressed really, sure it had some fun stuff and all, but it just seemed a bit too far off and nothing new really, so I figured I'd just put it on hold. Now though, they released a "final" version of it, capped the level at 15 ("live" cap will be 50), invited everyone to join and offering all preorders to carry their character into live at April 24th! As such, I decided to give it another shot...

"Initial" impressions this time around were much better than they were the first time I tried. I decided to make a Minstrel character, and was dared by my friend, who I was going to play with, to make a male character... something I'm usually not quite fond of, especially when the class played seems quite fruity to begin with! However, after a short round of thinking, messing around with character creation and figuring "it's only beta!" Chrishero the Minstrel was born! People would of course notice the obvious fruitiness of the male Minstrel, but hopefully accept that he has a "non-Tolkien" name and just shrug instead of pointing and laughing.

 

Started running through the opening quests! It's all good really, having fun spamming my songattacks, humming along and just having the "first few levels"-fun that most mmo's have today ... and it just comes off as nicely rounded, well polished, and rather nice to look at too! (The game, not my character)

A basic overview of the not-so-standard features, compared to the "generic mmo" would be something like...

  • chrisherolotroThe basic concepts of health/mana has been replaced with morale/power, and  as such, the Minstrel - providing moraleboosting songs - is the primary healer of any group, or "fellowship" as they like to call it.
  • Classes in general seem to be fairly heavily melee oriented, with only one caster class in addition to the Minstrel with their shouts and songs.
  • There's an effect named Dread or Hope which affects your total morale, damage done, damage dealt and so on. All the "epic" encounters inflict heavy amounts of dread, making such encounters harder. Hope is as an example given nearby friendly "epic" characters and gives the opposite effects.
  • The "Epic" storyline has a nice mix of videos and narration in it, with a fairly direct link to the events in the movies.
  • Titles are bestowed upon completing certain given tasks, killing a set amount of a specific mob-type, exploring all of an area or for reaching a certain level without dying (I made 15 without dying, yay!)
  • Titles, or advanced versions of the titles can translate into "abilities" (traits) giving you statboosts or other nice effects. Only a given amount of these traits can be active at any time, meaning characters will try to achieve as many of these as possible for versatility in different situations.
  • Death penalty is low in terms of a fairly weak "res-sickness", but high as it screws over durability on all your items - not all of which are cheap to repair...
  • PvP is done through "Monster Play" - where you transform into a monster to take on other characters... (!)

All in all, apart from the fact that I felt I was lacking a bit in the healing department (it was mainly spamming the one sane heal I had all the time hoping people didn't die), I figured the game was "rather ok", this being right smack in the middle on a scale from "sigh... next game..." and "I'll have 5 pre-orders! NOW!".

Here's where my main grief with the "game" comes. Mentioning game in that sense, as it's not really an issue with the game itself, but the way things are being handled in the distribution...

I decided that I'd probably give it a shot, and went online to find the pre-order. Note here that I'm a hard-working european gamer with a love for US servers. For those of you who are relatively new to mmorpgs and the US/EU server concept, a quick lesson would be that EU servers exist so that the frenchies and germans (and to a certain extent the UK-kids) won't ruin the gaming experience of those of us who actually don't mind reading and writing English! As such, it's all about the US servers here really, not like latency is an issue in mmorpgs nowadays, and it's already all downloaded, so how hard can it be?

Long story short, I won't be playing Lord of the Rings Online initially, as they don't have the "digital download pre-order" option available for the US servers, however, Codemasters has managed to put this up for the EU version in their EU online store, but the products are non-existant in the US section. Seeing as they allow the "digital download" for EU, I see no reason as to why they wouldn't do this in the US, and this just happened to tip the scale in favor of "not playing". Granted, had the game been the best thing since FF7 - I would've given it much more effort and maybe tried one of the sketchy online "key-resellers", or try to get some of my US friends to grab me a key and a game. In comparison I recently gave Vanguard a shot without having tried it at all, just because it's so easy and convenient to buy a digital download and get started right away, compared to possibly importing and paying excessive amounts of tax on this as the product ships in a few weeks later. (Granted, the digital download is the only good thing I have to say about Vanguard, but that's another story...)

All in all, fairly decent PvE game - will most likely not steal all WoW players, but will probably have a fair few LotRO fans roaming around exploring for titles the next few years...

 

 

 

 

Live Writer

Small test here using Windows Live Writer with Subtext! Seems the new version doesn’t want to install on my lovely XP64 Windows, so, trying the one I installed a while back which seemingly complains about having expired…

Guitar Hero 2 - Finally!

 

(Imported from old blog 2008-06-23)

After discovering that I've improved greatly after playing Rock Band, I made it past the previous GH2-blockers Crazy On You and Freya and made it past most of the remaining songs. Hangar 18 proved to be fairly difficult, and needed quite a few runs to get it sorted, but it was nothing compared to the insanity of Free bird.

I'm nowhere near the insane people 5starring the last few songs on Expert and the main goal was just to make it past the song to be able to say I "beat the game", and it wasn't going to be easy, I've spent quite a few evenings while "watching" the euro soccer on my TV while playing Free bird on my monitor next to it.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the song, it's almost 10 minutes long and consits of a fairly slow paced 5minutes intro and moves over into insane guitar solos in the last part. The game divides the song into different parts, and for a comparison, Hangar 18 had 9 Guitar Solo sections while Free bird has 19, plus an outro which has some pain in it.

For the people who have actually made it to this song, I suspect a fair bit of the guitar solos should be relatively easy, but there are two sections which really causes trouble. First off the Guitar Solos C and D followed by some madness which looks to be easy, but really isn't - then the killer at solos I and J - both of which are bound to drag your meter down, and you'll most likely spend the time between them trying to work your meter back up while hoping for a full starpowerbar for the I and J. I found that for some parts I really had to shift my fingers out of the normal patterns you tend to use to get the stronger fingers to take care of the quick buttonmashing.

When I finally managed to make it past the last part, I have to admit to having a pulse slightly higher than average, and my arms were freezing up in nervousness, was quite quite hectic! But, managed to pull off the last segments without messing up properly for the 4star finish, and as such, I'm as free as a bird now, and this bird you cannot change!

 

gh2expert

First! Subtext madness

Right! My server decided to start rebooting randomly recently, as such, I decided to move all kinds of blog-related madness to a non-home-server-type hostingplatform, where hopefully uptime and performance will be slightly better...

I'll see if I can grab some of the more useful posts from my old blog and repost them here, slightly different formats that I'm not too familiar with, so not attempting a larger export, as I wanted to check out the differences between the old Community Server package and this SubText deal.

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