Stropp's World

Games And Gamery

Secret World At One Month

Posted by Stropp on August 5, 2012

On Thursday evening after a little bit of soul searching I decided to create a free Secret World account and join Funcom and the other inhabitants of The Secret World for a couple of days of one month celebratory gaming. I downloaded the game and patched up nearly 15GB of game data overnight and Friday morning. (I ended up needing to buy another few gig of data since this got me to within a gigabyte of my data plan cap.)

Rather than just add a few pets to the game for subscribed players, Funcom in their wisdom decided to open up the game to anyone with an account, and provided everyone with the opportunity to make an account for free. In an age of free to play, I reckon this is a great way for a upfront-salesubscription game to attract players who may just be on the fence about the game.

After just a few hours in The Secret World I can hardly review it, but I can say at this point I am having fun with it. There are a few problems though.

  1. It requires a fair bit of computer power. I started the game at my usual 1900×1200 resolution (I have a 27 inch monitor) and the game performed badly. The cut scenes were stuttered, and movement and control of my character were poor. Dropping down to 1024×768 made the game playable and the cutscenes viewable, but obviously didn’t look as good. To be fair my PC is a 4.5 year old device with a quad core and 4GB RAM, so it is not exactly cutting edge (and I do need a new one) but on the other hand it played the SWTOR beta at max resolution. Funcom do have a habit of pushing computer capabilities.
  2. Playing in low rez is okay. But it would be nice if there was a low res setting for widescreen. All the low res aspect ratios are 1.3, my monitor is 1.6. A 1280×800 setting would be good.
  3. The user interface is a little flaky. It barely worked at high res, especially button clicks and scrollbars. At low res it is much better, but even then it can take a couple of clicks and careful mouse positioning to register a click and close a window.
  4. I can figure out how to drag some windows. It’s not a bit deal, but I’d like to make my UI layout a bit more like I’m used to.

Having said that, and I think those issues may all be PC performance issues, I do like the game.

I went out to a friends house last night and when I got back at 11:30 I decided to spend a few minutes more playing. At 2:30am I finally got to bed. At least it’s Sunday today and I could sleep in!

The game is addictive, it’s fun. I love the setting and the imagination behind the Secret World. Because it is set in the modern day world it can add humorous pop culture references without seeming out of place (which I know a lot of players hate… Haris Pilton anyone?)

The missions are imaginative and not just the KTR variety. I did get a couple of missions to kill x number of zombies but those were for testing explosives, and made sense in context.

The graphics are excellent, if you’re playing in high rez. However the game still looks decent at 1024×768.

Anyway it Sunday morning and I want to play some more. I’ll write more up later.

Can Bioware Tell A Story, Or What?

Posted by Stropp on November 6, 2009

After going through the preload decrypting and installation process on Thursday evening my time (which took longer than I’d hoped unfortunately) I fired up Dragon Age: Origins, created my first character and started playing.

I didn’t create a Bioware social network account yet, nor have I registered the game. I really just wanted to hop in and get playing. That was probably a good move since I’ve since heard that Bioware experienced the release day blues with their site, and players have had a tough time getting it all to work properly.

I’ll probably do that tonight, especially since I need to register to get the downloadable content and rewards from buying the digital deluxe edition on Steam.

Since this isn’t a review, more a first impressions, I won’t rate the various parts of the game like the graphics (which are excellent and smooth by the way.) Instead, I want to rave about the story.

Dragon Age Origins provides six character origins to choose from. Each of these relates to race and class.

Humans can be warriors, mages, or rogues, and have a single noble origin.

Elves have the same class choices, and have the city elf, or country elf origins.

Dwarves can only be warriors or rogues, and have a choice of noble or commoner origin.

Mages only have one origin as they are effectively imprisoned, a gilded cage of sorts.

Each origin provides a different story, and so far I have played four characters, a human noble warrior, human mage, city elf warrior, and a dwarf noble. Each of these stories has been told excellently, which is one of the reasons I’ve done all four to date.

Each of the characters, except for the first; the human noble, has taken me a little over an hour to complete. At that point you are taken into the main storyline, which is the same for all character types. However, there are apparently still differences here, and your race and origin affect how NPCs treat you. I’m also wondering if  those choices affect how the game progresses.

So far my favorite is the Dwarf noble warrior. I really enjoyed the quests leading up to… hmmm, perhaps I should say any more, eh?

Hopefully I’m not speaking too soon, but I think once again Bioware has shown themselves to be masters of storytelling in games. They’ve drawn me into their plotlines to the point where I’ve felt some pretty strong emotions in some scenes, and towards some characters.

And that King I met. I’m really not too sure what to make of him yet. I’ll have to watch him closely…

My Fallen Earth Open Beta Thoughts

Posted by Stropp on September 17, 2009

A couple of weeks ago I decided to download the Fallen Earth Open Beta and have a look at the game. I was pretty late in doing so, and ended up trying out several characters over the Friday night, Saturday and Sunday of the final weekend.

Fallen Earth is not a game for fast leveling. I managed to get three of my characters to level 3, and one to level 6 before I stopped  early Sunday evening. (I’m not exactly a fast leveler at the best of times anyway.) So, fair warning, this post isn’t a review, or even a preview, it’s more of my first impressions on the final days of the open beta.

Fallen Earth has since gone into pre-release too, and there have been a couple of patches, so some of the things I say might have been changed in the meantime.

I reckon it’s also fair to say, at the start, that this game will not be for everyone. It’s definitely targeting the niche market, and it is not World of Warcraft or Everquest 2 or Champions Online in a post-apocalyptic setting. The developers, Fallen Earth LLC, have only set up for one server for release, so it’s probably fair to say they weren’t intending to create a WoW-Killer.

First, I’ll list a few things that I like about Fallen Earth.

  1. The music is awesome. I’m not much of a music person in games. I’ll leave it on (I have friends who turn off music as the first thing they do in a game.) but generally lower the volume, and I tend not to actively notice it and it can become repetitive. The music in Fallen Earth struck me the moment it came on. It’s very atmospheric and completely appropriate to the genre and setting.
  2. The setting in and around the Grand Canyon. It’s an interesting setting that I didn’t think much of when I first heard about it. But it’s completely appropriate to the way the games feels. The game feels a bit like a Western at times with a bit of that Mad Max 2 and 3 vibe (without Tina Turner thankfully.) It also allows a lot of growth for the game. The Grand Canyon covers a huge area. A lot can happen here.
  3. The combat system. There’s no target locking and auto attack here. You have to actively aim and make sure the opponent is in your cross-hairs. This was a bit frustrating at times, I was sure I had the NPC in my sights and still missed, but that might be more lag related on my end. I’m not the twitch gamer I used to be, being a krusty old fart, but I still appreciate the style and quite liked having to line my enemies up.
  4. Crafting, while not really what I’d like to see in a crafting system, is well implemented. It’s easy to set a crafting process in motion and go do something else — either log off and read a book, or go out and explore the canyon. If a developer is going to implement a crafting system where it’s a case of hitting the craft button and wait, then it’s preferable to be able to do something and not sit staring at a progress bar.
  5. The post-apocalyptic setting. Finally, it seems that the SciFi drought is breaking for the humble MMORPG. There is Eve Online of course, but Fallen Earth looks to be the first of the new batch of MMORPGs that aren’t going the tried and true (or should that be tired and true?) route.
  6. There are a few more lesser points, but I’ll post about them later, this is becoming a huge article.

A couple of things I’m not sold on:

  1. Only four character slots. For an alt-a-holic like me this could be either a blessing or a curse. It may force me to stick with just a few characters, or I might find myself deleting lower level toons in order to try something new. However, the saving grace might be something else that I’m not sure is a good thing. See the next point…
  2. A minute number of combat skills. There are in fact only three real combat skills. (I’m not counting the whole mutations set because I didn’t touch that in the beta.) These are Melee, Pistols, and Rifles. So in fact three alts could cover the entire combat repertoire. I guess I was hoping for more of the range that Fallout provides, Energy Weapons, Heavy Weapons, Demolitions in addition.
  3. No fast travel. I’m not a big fan of having mechanisms in games to draw out the time needed to do things without having a reason for the mechanism in the first place. A good reason for long travel (for me) might be to implement a trading system where goods have to be shipped from one place to another. A not so good reason is to have a mechanism simply because it was once considered hardcore. So far, I haven’t seen a good reason to have slow travel in Fallen Earth, and in fact it makes it far harder for guilds to actually do anything together. Who wants to leave a quest and travel for half an hour just to help a guildmate with a ten minute activity, and then have to do the return trip?

Before I popped into the Fallen Earth open beta I had heard the criticisms, and that’s been the case since. However, it seems to me that most of the criticisms are more about expectations and gamer choices, fast versus slow travel for example, and that not of the criticisms are particularly deal breaking for me.

Perhaps the biggest criticism is that the game is still a bit rough around the edges. I’m in two minds about this. I’ve been somewhat vocal when MMORPGs have been released in an unpolished and unfinished state, but those have been developed by companies with the funding, resources, and knowledge to do better. Fallen Earth LLC is an indie developer without all that backing so I’m more inclined to give them a bit of slack.

From what I’ve seen on the official forums (which don’t seem to be a wretched hive of scum and villainy but a more friendly place at least at this stage) the developers are fairly prompt in getting bugs fixed. I don’t doubt that once they start making some real profits from Fallen Earth, the polishing will be kicked up a notch or two.

So the outcome?

I like the game, and I think it has a bright future. I’d also recommend buying a copy, if for no other reason than to support the developers. It might not be your cup of tea, and if you hate SciFi/Post Apoc by all means stay away, but on the other hand you might find yourself pleasantly surprised by a very different game.

In fact, when I logged off on the Sunday evening, I was a hair’s breadth away from hitting up the preorder page but didn’t.

What stopped me?

Firstly, I wanted to sleep on it for a week or so to see if I felt the same way after a bit of time had passed. In some ways, I feel more confident about Fallen Earth now than I did on that Sunday night.

I also wanted to give Champions Online a go and ended up buying the six month preorder for that one before I committed to Fallen Earth.

Well, (there’s a first thoughts post coming for Champions btw) I’m glad I did buy Champions Online, it certainly is a lot of fun, especially the character creator, but last night I did buy Fallen Earth. It’s a game with a lot to like, and the good points certainly outweigh the bad.

Overall, a upcoming great game. I reckon that Fallen Earth is going to be the surprise hit of 2009/10.

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