Fable 2 Ending

I’ll try to avoid spoiling too much while still talking about it here … I finally sat down to play through Fable 2 this weekend, and can only say that I’m slightly worried about the decisions I assume they made towards the end of the game related to the “final boss fight”.

I guess with the “we still want you to play, even though you finished the game!”-mentality, I can to a certain extent understand why they decided against making it the end-all battle, but seriously!

Even though you don’t get the proper satisfaction there, the humor involved in the Castle-quest available to you after you “beat” the game makes up for it though, the reward there is a fun feature that made me laugh a fair bit. :)

All in all, Fable 2 is a good fun game, it’s no fallout/oblivion sandbox-game though.

Guitar Hero World Tour

I've been having a fair bit of fun with these two games the last month, as they were released pretty much at the same time here - making me have to choose which one to play.

The initial choice was which of the packages I was going for in terms of new instruments. I had tried the Rock Band 2 guitar before, and wasn't too fond of that - despite it being a lot better than the Rock Band one. I checked some reviews online and figured that they'd most likely work out nicely, so, I got the GH:WT Full Instrument package, with a pre-order deal which gave included another guitar free of charge.

Turns out the guitar in itself is quite nice, and has taken over from my previous favored guitar (Xbox/PC GH2), as the buttons are just nice and "working", the strum-bar isn't screwed up like the Rock Band ones. It even has a very large accessible select button to help you pull starpower whenever! This latest feature was one I was quite fond of, but, after playing a bit I found myself not using this button at all, as this guitar has a rock solid motion sensor which has activated starpower 100% of the times I wanted it to, whereas the previous one could have you waving the guitar for quite some time before this would go off.

The drum-kit is quite nice looking really, with 5 drumpads, 2 of them elevated and the pedal. The pads seem to be covered with something quite squishylooking - resulting in you being able to play much more quietly than the Rock Band drums. Still, if you smash fairly hard, you'll make a lot of noise regardless, but, there's the option at least.

The game is quite standard-ish as far as these games go now, you play songs through different stages, unlock more songs, play these, do battles with famous characters and live happily ever after!

To list a few differences from the old GH-series (apart from the inclusion of drums/mic), you no longer do battles where you try to sabotage the other guy, instead these are pretty much regular songs where you feel like you're trying to outperform each other it seems.

The new guitar has a new touchpad-like set of buttons just below the regular buttons which you can use during solos, in these sections, you have the option of simply sliding your fingers between the notes to connect them, there's even a "string" visualized on the screen which connects these. This in itself worked out surprisingly well in my view, however, when you're supposed to switch back to the normal buttons after a solo, you're most likely never going to hit the first few ones at least, which results in you usually just using the regular buttons for solos anyway.

An interesting fact regarding this, as I saw others complaining about this as well, after I had played through my single career - I did a quick run through the tutorial to unlock an achievement there, and found that you could actually use the touchpad as a strum-bar, which would make it a whole lot easier to survive when you go back to non-solo sections. If only I had done that...

The songs in World Tour are a bit so-so really, as far as singing goes, they should really be a bit more careful throwing in non-english songs into the mix. I decided to start the vocals career to see how that worked out, and found myself jumping back to the main menu quite quick - not sure Beastie Boys and Motorhead are the best "introduction to vocals"-bands out there. I did a quickplay list and managed to find a total of 5 songs of the whole list which I'd feel slightly comfortable singing - and - that's not a lot.

Don't get me wrong, it has some decent songs, I really like the live version of Sweet Home Alabama and other songs like Pull Me Under and Livin' on a Prayer add to it, but, if you were to pick a random song, there's a good 90% chance that you'll end up with something either completely screwed up, or just plain horrible in my view.

The difficulty level is quite decent as far as the guitar goes, there are a total of 4 songs I haven't been able to finish on Expert yet, which should be somewhat similar to GH3 really, placing it slightly above Rock Band in that regard.

All in all, I'd say this is a decent product, but, the first thing I'd get after shopping this game with its full instrument package would be Rock Band 1 and 2...

 

... also, I think I like Paramore ...

 

WoW Tradeskills

As Paladin hit 80 and things turned out to be fairly stable, I decided that now would be a good time to get tradeskills up and get some of that fluffy stuff I've been waiting for so long!

Turns out, things weren't really that cheap... with the Death Knights coming out in numbers grabbing pretty much all of the raw materials available, prices were somewhere inbetween "extreme" and "insane".

Finally got my Paladin up to 450 Mining and 440 Blacksmithing though, and my Priest up to 440 Enchanting - as well as hooking my Paladin up with the good epic crafted gear in addition to the 440 skill.

The Enchanting is seriously insane when it comes to how much it costs, I cringed everytime I crafted as the points were quite expensive!

All in all, it was a crappy week for my overall bank balance in WoW...

tradeskills

But, now that I'm done with this, I was thinking there wouldn't be any more extreme expenses left in the expansion... that is, till I saw that I really wanted the Nobles Deck... :(

Warhammer Online - Review and Thoughts

Right! I’ve been meaning to write something down about Warhammer Online for quite some time now, and figure I’ve played it enough to write an ickle bit about it.

As I managed to recommend Age of Conan a fair bit early on, as I had only played the first portion of it, that being the portion which was polished… as soon as you left that part of the game, the unfinishedness would kick in. As such, I’ve leveled a fair bit to experience a fair bit of the various aspects of the game this time around! :)

My initial “open beta” impressions weren’t all that, as I’ve written in another post. So, my mindset going into the game probably wasn’t as favorable as it could’ve/should’ve been.

First off, character creation isn’t really too hot, I think both the graphics and customization on character creation is really horrible. I really think more people should try out the City of Heroes character creator to get inspiration. Not saying every game should have something like that, but having more than 5-6 different looks would really help. Then again, with the low quality graphics in there – you’ll just spent a bit of time figuring out which face looks the least silly. :)

The concept of the game here is pretty much faction vs faction warfare in the old Dark Age of Camelot fashion. Each side has 4 different races, each race having 3-4 different classes archetyped into tank, healer, melee damage and ranged damage. Endgame is supposed to be a constant struggle between the two factions where the main goal is to annihilate the opponents city and then live happily ever after!

Upon entering the game and hanging out in the starter area, the game looks fairly much better than you’d expect from the login/creation screen. Characters and mobs look decent and movement is nice and fluid.

It has a standard skill system similar to other such games where you gain skills from a trainer as you level up, there are no ranks on the various skills, as they increase in power as you level. Same goes for the “talent trees”, where you invest points in trees to improve the skills related to that tree, as well as unlocking skills as you go along. An interesting point here is that once you reach a certain skill in the tree, you have to invest a point in actually acquiring the skill – which instead could be used for investing further in the tree right away, creating a nice little tradeoff-situation where you can either choose the skills right away, at the expense of getting another skill a level later.

The combat aspect is fairly standard as far as mmos go, it’s actually most similar to the Lord of the Rings system, and feels in general a lot slower than WoW. I’d like to note that I feel that they’ve managed to implement quite an interesting mechanic in the game when it comes to healing. You have an ‘action point’-pool and a ‘mana-point’-pool, which are used for attacks and heals respectively. The action-points regenerate automatically, whereas the mana only regenerates outside of combat, and is nowhere near full enough to last more than a few seconds. So, they’ve decided that when you spend X points performing an action, it regenerates X points of mana for you to use, meaning if you want to heal as much as possible, you’d need to get some offensive skills into your rotation. This worked out very well for my main character early on, as she was a Melee/Healer hybrid (Disciple), and had similar damage output as the pure melee damage classes, making it one of the more attractive solo classes the game has to offer.

The core concept of the game revolves around the faction warfare, realm vs realm, with the ultimate endgame being sacking the opponents main city. In addition to this there’s Scenarios you can join at any time, that function like a small battleground separated into different level ranges. You’re able to join these scenarios from anywhere in the world, getting a notice when it’s up, jumping right in, fighting, and warping back out to where you were. A very interesting deal here is that all players are leveled up (stat/hp-wise) to a relatively high level upon entering the battleground, so you can pretty much always be useful in a battleground, only thing you’d be lacking are the skills that you would’ve gained in those levels.

The Scenarios are in general fairly fun, and there are quite a few different types you can play, the ones I recall off the top of my head involve capture the flag, bombing runs, item retrieval, holding bases and item carrier. All of these are contested with a 15minute time limit, so it’ll never be a long epic battle, but, rather, just short bursts of fun really!

The other main PvP aspect is the one leading into the endgame, namely World PvP. The world is divided into different zones, where some are designated as PvP battlefields, and include keeps that needs to be captured to progress into the endgame involving the opponents city.

Keeps and keep siege is (surprisingly) quite similar to the way they’re implemented in DAoC with the New Frontier ruleset. Siege engines are needed to get in, and an evil person with the trigger on the burning oil above the door is good fun when you need to keep people out! Speaking of, they’ve added some fun parts when it comes to different siege engines, you can operate different arrow-shooting siege engines in addition to the standard “bash the door”-type.

The PvE/leveling in Warhammer is fairly straightforward and standard, you go from level 1 to 40, killing mobs, doing quests and living the good life. An interesting twist to this is that you get an extreme amount of experience from actually killing players as well, most noticeable while done solo. What Warhammer brings to the table that’s relatively new here, is the existance of “Public Quests”, which involve a short small storyline being played through several stages – in which all players in the area can participate, with different goals at the different stages. At the end of the final stage, if you succeed, all players participating will do a loot-roll and a few people will be fairly happy! Furthermore, participating in these will grant you points which will let you redeem fairly decent prizes, letting even solo players get their share of decent loot.

In addition, there are a *lot* of “Renown Levels”, which basically translates into PvP-levels for your character, as you gain renown experience upon killing other players, participating in scenarios, or helping out with battlefield objectives such as capturing keeps and other strategic locations. These renown levels will unlock better equipment available at Renown Merchants, typically PvP-centered. In the end, these levels remind me of the old Honor system in WoW, apart from the fact that it doesn’t have points-decay.

One of the most awesome and fun parts of the game in my view is the fact that they’ve added a nifty little thing called the Tome of Knowledge! It displays a LOT of information and statistics, such as how many kills you have of every kind of NPC, kills/deaths of/to every class you have. In addition, it tracks all your achievements, which in turn gives you an awesome amount of titles you can have displayed with your character. This alone was making the game so much fun, as the designers have really been QUITE creative to be honest. As an example, I got my title (The Reclusive) which I used for the majority of the game after ignoring 40 people! For a sample of what I’m talking about, have a look at http://warhammeronline.wikia.com/wiki/List_of_achievements

Then, the not-so-good portions! After a while, the scenarios tend to get fairly similar-ish and close to boring. World PvP is fairly situational, not always easy to find some place to fight there, and the contrast to the fast-paced action of the scenarios seem to make it slightly less attractive, even if it’s supposed to be the “main attraction”. The sides are obviously not equally balanced as players can choose whichever side they want, and thus, the larger side will have the advantage in world pvp, but for the renown-gain, the smaller side will have the advantage in scenarios due to shorter load times. And, for me personally, I think I have realized that the Arena format in WoW is what I really want from PvP in a game, more players than the 2v2 and 3v3 setups makes things a bit too much of a “who-can-assist-and-click-the-most-damage-buttons-best” type scenario that the endgame fights turned out to be.

All in all, fun, and worth trying for the experience of at least a bit of difference in the mmo-genre, and the option to jump in to scenario-pvp moments for a rush of fun! However, I don’t see this as much of a WoW-contender in terms of how long people will stay interested.

*Waits for Bioware …*

Warhammer Online Open Beta - EU

(Imported from old blog 2008-09-11)

After a fair few of my friends had decided on actually playing Warhammer Online, I figured I might as well give it a shot, and decided to pre-order this last sunday to play a bit of open beta this week, oh what fun!

First off, I want to point out that I told everyone I talked to that they really should play on US servers instead of EU ones, as Mythic once again has partnered with GOA and have them handling their european version of things. Based on my DAoC experience with GOA, I really didn't feel comfortable with this - as they were basically screwing up at every turn. One of the best "features" they had was that content patches/fixes and so on were released in USA, then 2-3 months later they were released in the EU. This delay was justified by GOA due to the fact that they needed to translate the patch into German and French before they could apply it here.

Little did I know that the translation-team most likely got a new job now, handling the authentication system for pre-orders...

At launch of open beta, the keys were sent out, and all was well, that is, until someone actually tried to enter a key to activate their account, at which point things just stopped working. Now, the registration of accounts and keys are handled in the innovative and oh so userfriendly thingy called "Flash", and for some reason, when you have a large amount of people trying to access this flashy stuff on a webserver where scaling to more than the 2 people who tested it wasn't an issue, things really go bad.

Skip ahead a bit, and we're at monday, I've just received my warhammer online preorder beta key - spent some time downloading (and re-downloading) the client, and I really want to register my account and enter the beta! But no, registrationpage just redirects to the main page, which states that they need all available resources to handle the authentication process, and as such, they've taken down the account creation!

Oh well, no WAR that day, wait one more day, and finally account creation is back up! For some reason, I'm having an issue registering my account, as both email and username is in use, turns out I signed up there ages past, most likely to sign up for the beta myself! Alright, I figure I can probably use that one if I remember my password... time to enter the key and start the WAR! I enter the key, and I'm once again eagerly anticipating the WAR, key validation request has been submitted it says.

I still can't sign in, and this time I read around a bit and find out that they're doing something "smart" for the validation. As it says in the QA...

Q: I put my details in, now what?
A: All you need to do now is to wait for an email from us. This email will either confirm that your validation is complete (in which case you can log in and play) or that there was a problem with your details (in which case you need to go back and resubmit your information).

Q: Why are you doing it this way?
A: To reduce the load on the database server we have an asynchronous system. What this means is that when you put your details in, the system will store it, another system will then check it and confirm the details to you. This means the whole system is much smoother.

Q: How long before the confirmation emails arrive?
A: This will depend but the current turn around seems to vary between 1 and 2 hours, it is possible that some people will be waiting for longer whilst others will get a reply sooner. If you haven't received an email yet, be sure to check your junkmail folders or spam filters.

Alright, I go back to other things for the time being and wait for an email...

Late that evening, about 7 hours after I submitted my key, I got no less than 7 confirmation mails, all saying the same thing, there was an error with my request, seemingly my password didn't quite match what I had entered in ages past back in the day, it told me to doublecheck my details before trying again. Of course, what I'd usually do is just find the login form and try a few times till I find which password I used, but, seeing how they had decided to disable login on the main page, this wasn't possible - and I don't think the 7hours per attempt way is going to fly really.

So, new account, I remember password now, and while waiting - EA has decided to send me another open beta key for some reason, who am I to complain... register my account, and enter the other key now, just in case. Then it's all about the waiting again...

14 hours later, I get 8 confirmation mails telling me that I've entered a key, and need to verify that I actually entered that, click on a link and that's all done! Now, the mail claims "Once you have confirmed your registration by clicking on the button, you can log onto the portal with your login and password, and access the Subscription section to set up your account. You can also log onto the game. The login and password are the same for both the portal and the game." - which really can't be too true, as it's now over 24 hours since I verified my account, and I'm still not able to log onto the game!

I have now registered yet another account for use with my other key, and hoping one of them magically will work at one point, preferably before the game goes live next week...

Now, I'd like to just clarify that this is really only related to the GOA handling of Warhammer Online. There have been no reports of anything even remotely resembling this madness on the US servers. If nothing else, I'm having a great time going "I told you so" to all my friends who didn't belive me regarding GOAs inability to do things right. Only thing so far I'm upset with Mythic for, is the fact that they have the same issue with the patcher that they had with the DAoC login, when you open it, it doesn't have focus - which really makes it annoying for people who just want to type in their login details.

In closing, this really makes me wonder what the non-smooth option GOA had envisioned would look like, and had I known this before I placed my despair order, I would've most likely grabbed the http://www.despair.com/effort.html poster as well... :)

 

Guitar Hero: Aerosmith

(Imported from old blog 2008-07-27)

After a bit of thinking and deciding I wasn't going to grab this "new" Guitar Hero game, I arrived at the store and saw the game selling for a fair bit less than it should, so, figured that was the sign I needed to give Aerosmith a shot!

I'm not really into Aerosmith at all, all I can tell you about them is that they did that theme for Armageddon and... they had the utterly annoying song Same Old Song and Dance in Guitar Hero 3, which blocked me from progressing on Expert a while back, so, not fond thoughts in general.

The game isn't much different at all from Guitar Hero 3 really, though, I wasn't expecting it to be either. The main difference that I see is that every tier of songs has two non-Aerosmith songs initially, and then you "play as Aerosmith" with two more songs, before there's an Aerosmith encore. Furthermore, there's only one guitar battle, against mr Joe Perry towards the end (on the final tier before the last three Aerosmith songs), and beating him seems to be optional, as you can progress to the later ones without beating him.

The difficulty of this game is seriously reduced from Guitar Hero 3. I'd actually place it as the easiest Guitar Hero to date, on the point that it has no songs even near as hard as the last tier on GH2, and none as hard as the last two tiers on GH3.

When I played this game, I decided to set out and start at Hard and just keep playing till I failed a song. Shortly after, I was through Hard and had started Expert... this went on till the guitar battle, at which point me playing at 2x Hyperspeed was a bit rough when the screen is split into two and you get twice the Expert speed to react on, so had to run off out and turn off hyperspeed, and then finished the boss battle. I managed to fail again at the last song, though, chalked that up to hyperspeed not being re-enabled! :) Too used to playing with it makes it a fair bit harder when I all of a sudden am playing without it.

The Guitar Battle is a complete joke for anyone who's played them in Guitar Hero 3. First off, they let *you* start with the first powerup chance, and then you alternate, which in practice means that you can just hit your notes and powerup as he's trying to get his starpower to keep him permanently locked out. Furthermore, they've decided to remove the lefty-flip it seems, meaning most of the powerups you get against you are relatively harmless (save maybe double at Expert).

Overall difficulty in the songs seem to have shifted from making it hard to complete a song to making it hard to maintain a high streak. There's a fair amount of long hammeron/pulloff-sequences that for no apparent reason just adds a little note you need to strum to keep the streak going, my favorite version of this was one particular section where you'd play it once, and when you played it again a second time, you needed to strum something in the middle of the sequence, despite the two segments sounding *exactly* the same. Another issue here is the "play as Aerosmith" songs, when you play as your character, you get the "character-specific" background, this changes when you do Aerosmith though, and they've managed to make their background interfere with the yellow notes if the timing is just right, so you can miss notes by either not noticing them at all, or way too late.

The "final" song chosen is Train Kept a Rollin, which is fair enough... it's a decent semi-hard song, but, it's also a song in Rock Band! Which makes it slightly less special in my opinion. Furthermore, it's following the GH3 tradition of unlocking a song when you beat career mode, like Through the Fire and the Flames. I was expecting something similar to that, however, it's unlocking the song Kings and Queens, which by NO means can compare to anything harder than a tier 1 song, huge disappointment there in my view.

There are some positives in the game though, the only worrying part of this is that all the positives are the non-Aerosmith songs. I find Joan Jetts song to be strangely addictive, and Ted Nugents' Cat Scratch Fever to be one of the more fun songs to play at Guitar Hero.

All in all though, I think they should've picked another band! :) The next version in this scheme seems to be Metallica, releasing in 2009. Based on what I've seen from the Rock Band Metallica downloads, there'll at least be a fair bit of challenging songs to pick from there. I'm just hoping Metallica will pick a background that doesn't screw up the yellow notes...

 

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*