The State of the Game

Just thought I’d take a time out from gaming to go over what I’ve been doing.

I am finding that as of the past few years that I am doing more jumping around between games rather than finishing them. Contrast this from a few years back when I was exclusively playing MMOs (and only one at a time), and it seems that my playing habits have changed. I used to get a new game and play it until I completed it. Sometimes I would take a bit of a break, and then go back and try to beat it again to get trophies or anything else I may have missed. I suppose that the free to play market has changed things up a bit, along with the advent of services like Playstation Plus that give out free games. Basically, I have had game overload for about the last year, and I think that is what has been keeping me distracted. Throw in real-life with work, school and what little social life I have, and there you have it. A huge backlog of games that need to be “finished” (be it just completing the game, or attempting to get a platinum trophy).

I have also strayed away from being a “trophy whore.” For a couple of years I was obsessed with getting as many trophies as I could when playing PS3 games, and that has pretty much died down. I do still enjoy the concept of earning trophies for playing games, but some of the trophies take far too much time to earn. At this point it is hard enough for me to fully complete a game without worrying about trophies, let alone going for Platinums. Games I paid full price for are collecting dust while I play the free ones. There really isn’t enough time in the day to play everything.

I had a good run around this time last year, where I picked a game, completed it and then moved on to another. At some point I lost focus, and these days I am just playing whatever feels right at the time, and sometimes playing multiple games in the same day. A little here, a little there. For example, I might play a couple of games of League just to get my first win of the day, and then move on to Path of Exile where I’ll earn some XP and complete a quest or two. Then I’ll play a PS3 game or watch some TV. I have far too many interests and not enough time. I guess this is growing up.

So in my last post I mentioned that the sales for Plus members were pretty lacking. I still stand by that, but what I neglected to check out prior to writing that post was the fact that there were other sale items that weren’t part of Plus. I believe that the sales are still going right now, probably for the month of August. There ended up being some games I did find appealing, and I spent a whopping $15 for three of them, which is really quite a steal. First was a bundle of “Soldner-X: Himmelssturmer” and “Soldner-X 2: Final Prototype”, two games created by EastAsiaSoft. I knew the company already from having purchased their more recent release, “Rainbow Moon,” which is a turn-based strategy RPG along the lines of FFTactics or Shining Force. They are working to develop a sequel called “Rainbow Skies” due out next year. The Soldner games are reminiscent of old school shoot-em-ups like “Life Force”, “Gradius” and Raiden. I have only played the first, and have yet to beat it, but it’s definitely worth the sale price for two games.

I also picked up another older game, “Castle Crashers.” Not only was this game on sale, but it sounded quite a bit like the new game Dragon’s Crown that I mentioned last week. I love the art direction, the animation and gameplay is crisp and smooth, and the bits of humor break up the frantic button mashing. Having RPG elements such as magic, upgrade-able characters, different weapons to be had and of course a fantasy setting was right up my alley. It’s the best of my childhood with up-to-date improvements. I would recommend all 3 games to people are old enough to remember the glory days of the NES, SNES and Genesis, it will take you back but actually look pretty while doing so.

Today the next wave of August’s IGC dropped, and with it was the release of Runner 2 (I’m not typing out the full title again!). I’m finding myself more attracted to Indie games like this, and the aforementioned titles. The simple delivery, the depth of gameplay, the interesting art direction and the ability to play for short spans of time are all very appealing. Runner 2 is apparently the newest addition to a long list of games in the Bit.Trip series, though it’s the first that I had heard of, and only because of the free factor. In my past commentary I wrote it off as a Jetpack Joyride clone, and it is far from it. The game is similar in that both involve your character moving forward and you having to dodge various obstacles, but where JJ is infinite and the goal is to see how long you can go, Runner 2 is broken into levels, and becomes progressively more difficult as you go on. New controls are added as you go, such as gliding, sliding and kicking, and there are collectibles that you need to grab before the level ends to achieve a perfect rating for the level. My favorite part is the fact that the music is dynamic, and certain tones are played as you jump, collect, dodge, slide and progress, creating a beat that is catchy and interesting. It’s the little things that these indie developers pay attention to, and I for one appreciate it. There’s more to the game but check it out for yourself!

I’m still playing League of Legends of course, and have been getting away from ARAM and more into Classic again. I have also made some new friends through this blog, and other sources, one of which has been playing Duo Queue Ranked matches with me. So far so good, I’m about ready to promote into the Silver League, despite feeling like I should have started out there. My goal for this season was to be in at least Silver, and it appears to be within reach. Who knows, maybe I’ll get further along than that. There’s some PBE stuff I want to discuss further, but I’m saving that for a later post.

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Finally, I have been delving into Path of Exile, and I really cannot recommend the game enough. Again, I haven’t played Diablo III (though I might pick it up when it releases for PS3) so I can’t really make comparisons, but for a free to play version of that type of game, how can you go wrong? Torchlight is a decent competitor, but I really feel that the depth of the item system and the passive skill tree makes for a better experience. I have entered into the 2nd Act with my Witch (spell casting Intelligence based class) and have enjoyed her immensely. I’ve always been the type that plays tanks or rogue-like classes, so this is a departure from my usual. From things I have read, playing a ranged class in this game is the best way to go, so maybe I’m on “easy-mode,” but I haven’t had as much fun with an action-RPG in a long time. The Witch is level 22 at this point, and I’m not sure if I’m ahead/behind the curve, but I have yet to die, which leads me to believe I’m ahead.

I did decide to try out some of the other classes. I wanted to see if melee was really that much harder so I created a Marauder, the straight tank/warrior. I couldn’t get into it. I do like being able to hold shift and fire away. I set my Witch up with wands and have been specializing in Frost spells/damage so she’s always ranged, and slowing her enemies so she takes little damage. So the tank class just felt boring. Sticking with the ranged classes, my only other option was a Ranger, so I rolled one up. I was instantly in love, all over again. In her tree, the starting point puts you right next to a shitload of great options, and I am definitely focusing on a combo of ranged damage, attack speed and accuracy to start off. We’ll see how things pan out later, as she’s only level 5 thus far. If you haven’t yet checked out this game, I encourage you to do so.

That’s all for now. Have some other posts in the works. Until then.

Walking the Path of Exile

I’ve only written about Path of Exile once before (a quick search of my posts revealed as much) and the last time I had mentioned opting in for the closed beta, back in late 2011. At that point in time, I had only read little bits about the game, and hadn’t even played it yet. I never did get selected for that beta. Later in 2012 Grinding Gear Games had a “founder” option or a sort-of “kickstarter” type deal, where if you paid a particular price you would get access to the closed beta along with other perks. I opted to pay $10 and received the equivalent amount in “points” (the currency used for microtransactions in the store). I don’t remember what the other options gave, but I just wanted to see the game in action without having to wait for open beta. I actually just went and checked, and I have 100 points which is 4 more points than you can buy for $10 right now.

I tried out the game, and I liked what I had seen, but being closed beta, the character I was playing would be wiped when they prepared for the open beta, and I didn’t want to get too far along just to have to start over again. I started out as a Duelist, and only played for a few short hours before I shelved the game. Just the other day I was reading about the game, and realized that it is now in open beta, and there will be no more server wipes. So I decided it was time to get back into, starting last night. This time around, I decided that I wanted to play something a little different. In most fantasy-based games, I typically play a tank or a rogue-like class. I rarely play healers or casters, and since there isn’t a true healer class in this game, I went with the glass cannon “Witch.” Keeping with the glass cannon theme, I am building her with light armor a wand, and elemental spells. But I’m getting ahead of myself. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the game at all, here’s the Open Beta Trailer:

It shows a bit of what the Passive Skill Tree looks like, and man it’s huge. Definitely the largest I’ve seen in an action RPG, and allows for some deep customization. Being the Witch, I am starting off from the Intelligence postion, and branching upwards. Until you see it, it really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, so I can’t really describe to you the path in which I am taking. The other part of the game that allows for some awesome customization is the way the gems that socket into your items are actually the spells/abilities that you can cast/use. If you ever played Final Fantasy VII, it works much like materia. Socket a gem, get the ability, and as long as the gem is socketed, it gains experience as you do. There is a lot more to it than that, but I’m just throwing out some of the info in layman’s terms. Take a look at the skill tree here.

The game is completely free to play, and from what I’ve seen there is absolutely no “pay to win” scenario. Everything in the store is something you can go without. The developers even said that they are strictly against microtransactions becoming pay to win. But because it is free to play and open to anyone right now, that means if you’re interested, you can check it out right now. I’m pretty cheap, so when it comes to free games, why not?

Graphically, PoE stands up to its competitors. I can’t speak about Diablo III, because I have yet to play it. I have played Torchlight II however, and it’s cheesy graphics pale in comparison. I don’t have a top end machine, but it runs just fine, and looks pretty to boot. I imagine on a better rig it would look downright beautiful. I prefer the darker tone to the story line and how that is represented graphically. The lore, the systems, everything just makes games like Torchlight seem as if they were made for children. The devs said it best:

We’re sick of the recent trend towards bright, cartoony RPGs. The art style we chose for Path of Exile is dark, gritty and realistic. Wraeclast is terrifying, and we’ve tried hard to do it justice.

I haven’t gotten too far into the game thus far, but already I can tell it’s one that will suck me in. The level of depth still amazes me. More on this game to come in the near future.