Monday, September 26, 2011

Games That Cause Pain!

I feel that while I enjoy talking about good games (and who doesn't like talking about anything good?) there are some REAL stinkers that get past my better judgement as well. Either it was at a deep discount cause it showed up during a launch of a higher profile AAA title or it jut recieved no press at all or it was a gift from somebody...I have endured my fair share of craptastic games.

"Games That Cause Pain!"  will highlight the lowlights of my gaming experience. From videogames to tabletop and beyond if it was crap it'll be here. And to kick off this new topic let's start with a game I loath playing and wish it would die. But, dammit I'm going to eventually finish it.

Oh dear god this sucks! And shame on Bethesda for publishing this game. Hunted is supposed to be a medieval dark fantasy version of Gears of War. And a 'stop & pop' style action game with some minor RPG elements sound like it could have been fun. I like action. I like RPGs. I like cover based ranged combat with brutal melee combat.

Sounds like fun but its shit. No, really. Its total shit. I hate this game so much I'm basing this off of just slogging through the tutorial level and 1st chapters only. Its THAT bad! Hell its so bad I'm not going to bother to talk about the confusing story or the half-baked protagonists you play as. Its SOOO bad I'll never discuss the multiplayer and co-op gameplay cause I can't find anyone to play it on Xbox Live.

I will start by saying that it apes the Gears controls at the barest sense. It has the general idea for cover based action but then for some reason the developers decided that it was enough to have an idea and not to work on it so its playable. The controls are almost non responsive at times, especially when trying to get in & out of cover. Targeting is slow as molasses and melee combat just doesn't work well at all. When your enemies practically dance around your attacks yet smack the crap out of you constantly with no effort it gets frustrating really fast. I'm talking 'rage quit' fast. 'Hurling your controller through your wall into your neighbors condo unit' fast.

The graphics are atrocious too. The man human fighter/melee combatant looks like a bald version of Mr. Bean with more muscles than a Conan-esque warrior. There are times during the 'story cut scenes' I swear to god he has a lazy eye as it looks like he's staring at two things at once. The female elf ranged specialist is no better either. I suppose to someone in their art department she looks 'hot' but she is done up to look like a regular person with 4 leather band-aids holding up her boobs. Oh and depending on the graphical clipping and breakage she may or may not have elf ears at any given time.

The environments are all dull, drab and grey. Once in a great while something looks passible for a current gen game but for the most part it all looks early PS2 graphics. And with bad graphics comes worse collision detection. I shot at their version of a goblin/orc thingy at point blank range, the reticule was red, and still missed. Its not possible. I've had swords swing through the enemies without damaging them but every enemy is a crack shot, doing critical hits all the friggin' time.

Story is just confusing and bland. Voice acting blows. Menu layout is practically non-functional when trying to 'level' the character. Control scheme on the controller just isn't intuitive and you will waste your resources hitting the wrong buttons alot.

I've actually depressed myself writing about this game. And I'm depressing myself more with the realization I will finish this crap fest just out of spite before I remove this game from my library. And how will I remove said offending game?

I'm going to kill it with fire! Its the only way. It needs to die. Its like the upcoming remake/prequel for John Carpenter's The have to burn it to death lest the terror never ends.

Stay away. For the love of Cthulhu stay away!

Shadowrunning in the neon-lights of Neo Tokyo and other stuff.

On saturday we got our monthly game in so I'll just give my thoughts on it and what we did. But first lets start with a recap of the party.

Jess - Aki (female elf physical adept/ ronin samurai / elemental fire spirit slayer)
Brian - Grey (human shaman/party band aid (healer) / master of the stun-ball spell)
Evil Brian - Sanzo (male elf ranged adept/gun slinger/ has warrants out for him in Japan)
Jack - Jumpstart (orc rigger/wheel man / has alot of drones)
Thya - Dot (ogre brawler/fashion diva / super bodyguard)
Me - 8-Bit (human technomancer/squatter with no I.D. in the system / apparently the man with the plans)
Matt - GM (guy behind the screen making our lives difficult/alpha Shadowrun weenie/ hater of the stun-ball)

So our favorite Johnson contacted us for a 'apology' mission. He apparently recognized our talent and that we are valuable assets to have around and to keep 'happy'. After the screw jobs we've been doing he offered up a trip to Japan as his bodyguards. Our job descriptions were to enjoy ourselves, drink, have fun, and stay at a 5 star hotel while he is at a conference. Upon arrival and check in we split up to do what ever. Aki went shopping, Sanzo went to the movies to watch anime (though some other players were claiming it was wasn't but that didn't stop the tentacle jokes for the evening), Jumpstart went drinking, Grey went to a meta human bathhouse for a traditional bath (happy ending jokes abound), Dot did something (Thya couldn't make it so she was off doing stuff), and I disappeared into the orgasmic bliss of Akihabara district to play video games. This was like letting Charlie Sheen into a Colombian cocaine field. And I stayed there for a few days. I blew off offers to hang out with the Johnson at nice restaurants so I could hang with the otakus, eat real ramen, play games and party in the digital bliss.

Naturally as a player (and to some degree as 8-Bit) I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. Where is the danger part of this mission. That came on day 5 when Mr. Johnson got a call from a friend who needed help for another friend and we got recommended. Dot stayed behind to guard Mr. J while we set the meeting with the new client.

A holo-feed displayed a woman asking us to track down a person broadcasting into the web as a long departed friend of hers. Jokingly I blurted out "Who are we looking for? Captain Chaos?" and the new Ms. Johnson replied 'Yes'. Captain Chaos is a legend in the Shadowrun universe. A unbelievable hacker (possibly better than FastJack). He died during Crash 2.0 and is buried yet someone has been going onto Jackpoint and other boards as him. He's also a personal hero to people of the hacking persuasion including 8-Bit.

Then another realization happened. We were getting a job from NetCat. Another hacker of renown (and fellow technomancer). So with these two parts of the equation now out in the open I definitely wanted to take this detective work. Hell I told NetCat (via private message) to keep the fee. If Captain Chaos was alive I get to meet a personal hero. If someone is pretending to be him though.....then I'm going to dumpshock that frakking jackhole into being permanently brain dead. NetCat sent us the last known location of the most recent transmission and a dead drop for us to keep her posted through.
We rented some vehicles (a van and 2 motorcycles....damn elves and their need to look fashionable) and off we went on the trek. The town we needed to hit was a suburb of Neo-Tokyo so it was easy to get there and after some net scans we determined a strange RV was parked outside of a warehouse for a while before going on its way. Good as any place to start.

When we got there the place was now inhabited by some gangers that belonged to a very notorious gang. Psycho thrill kill addicts is a good way to describe them. So we came up with a plan to take them on, incapacitate them, question one, trash their rides so they can't follow and go about our way. That was the plan until Aki decided to use some kind of magical sensing on one of the bikes and saw a vision of all kinds of atrocities the gangers have done....especially to elves.

Now on the count of 3, Grey lobbed a stun-ball and knocked out 4 of the 6 gangers and then put down the other 2 on his next turn. They were searched, bound up, and then while Aki & Sanzo still had their full bike helmets on they woke one up and the 'questioning' began. I was outside with Jumpstart watching his Doberman drone tear the bikes apart.

Aki finds out that they chased off the RV with a bunch of kids in it two days back and they were heading to the next town. Dammit! It was poseurs after all! Dumpshock ahoy in their futures. As Aki was leaving the building she tells Sanzo what she saw in her vision and lets him know to do what he has to. Sanzo puts down all the gangers in a fit of cold rage (he's a Japanese elf) then leaves. Off to the next town where we find out that they already drove through but were heading 'that-a-way'. Following a few more clues we tracked the RV to a fleabag motel. We rented some rooms to make it look like we were passing through then set up surveillance. I hacked into the security cameras and focused on seeing who was coming & going out of the van. Saving the pics I sent them to NetCat via the dead drop. And then while in the motel's network I noticed another hacker within. And he didn't notice me.

So I snuck up on him and asked "What are you doing?" and scared the crap out of him. I also checked him out and noticed he also was a child of the Resonance like myself. And the conversation with this kid began. I plainly laid out what was going on. I'm looking for Captain Chaos. Good friends of his hired myself and my associates to track them down and see if its the real deal or they are pretending. And if its pretend those same people are coming to stomp them out. It seemed to rattle the kid a bit but I was giving him time to explain before I reacted. Then he asked " want to meet him?". Wait....HIM? Captain Chaos? Who is dead?!?!?? I think I said Yes faster than Matt was expecting and so off I followed this kid back to the node he came from to find a total of 7 others just like me and a graphical overlay waiting to be accessed. That changed the scene into a idyllic meditation garden and at its center, surrounded by the 7, was him.
Captain Chaos is alive.....only on the Matrix though. When talking to him he kinda explained that he got left behind from his body somehow and his students are children he helped liberate from MCT corps 'experiments' with Technomancers. Some real deranged things. And he tells me to let his friends know its about time he makes himself known and he'll be contacting them shortly.

I give him my contact info & tell the Captain to get in contact with me if he needs my help. Anytime. Then he sighs and says that MCT is sending a clean-up crew to apprehend them now. They are about 20 minutes away and they need to escape. I say we'll do it and to get going. The Captain asks if I want to go with them but I decline for now as my comrades may need me for this. And before I go I ask if I should call him Captain or (because we're in Japan) Sensei? Chaos bursts out laughing and tells me he likes me and will be in touch. I say goodbye to my 7 resonence brothers and jack out of the matrix.

Now I prep the team for an assault. I give them the skinny via private messaging and start to formulate an ambush to stop this squad from going further. I say that these corp assassins just need to be put down. No captives. No one lives. We're stopping them and leaving. And with that I jack back into the matrix and loop the security camera feeds so this fight wont be recoreded and then go onto overwatch looking for matrix signals to access and disable/hack.

Aki & Sanzo take up hiding spots outside, Jumpstart stays in his room (as do I) and has some drones to airial surveillence. Grey gets ready to stun people. And then a hitch in the play happens. Two summoned fire spirits show up first. Aki sees them on the magical plane with her special sensing sight and enters the fray with her sword. She battles both spirits while two vehicles pull into range. Grey releases a stun ball at them and knocks out both drivers causing the cars to crash. The lead car all the passangers got knocked out & Sanzo advanced and triple tapped each in the skull. When going to the second car the passangers in the back opend up with assault rifles. Sanzo fought back guns blazing, Jumpstart coded his drones to group fire and started spraying the car with lead. After a few more seconds the second car was a smoking wreck, Sanzo was hurt pretty damn bad, and Aki was finishing off the last of the spirits with Grey's help.

I was in my room. Unable to do anything as I didn't get time to before the death and carnage ended. We then disabled their comlinks, took anything we could that we could sell, yelled at the motel owner that he saw nothing (when he stepped outside after the firefight and freaked out). I think he browned his shorts after Sanzo bellowed at him while waving his gun in his direction.

And we raced back to Tokyo. Told Mr. J what went down and that we need to leave now....for safety's sake. He agreed and we were winging it back to Seattle the next morning. I also send NetCat a  message saying it IS HIM! And we need to meet cause I got a message for them. (I also found out earlier in the game that the 'smiley icon' who harrasses me online was NetCat's husband/father of her uber child Slamm-O!...and he's a total a-hole that just harasses people for shits and grins)

And thats where we ended. I can't wait to see how this wraps up as Matt needs to prep this meeting and conversation with 8-Bit and some well know JackPoint all-stars. I also want to see where this will go in the future. And now I want to see what he has in store for the other PC's as it was apparent that while Sanzo's story is deeply connected with Japan.....this was for 8-Bit. Arcades, Otakus, Captain Chaos the deus ex machina.

I also want to say this was needed too. I had a major family emergency involving my grandfather on friday. He's in the ICU at a very good hospital near where he lives and there wasn't a whole lot I could do for him while he was inabated and recooperating. I did ask my folks if they wanted me there on saturday and they said no (cause we would be sitting around doing nothing). So I was on stand-by if they needed me for anything. And this was a good stress reliever for me. On a brighter note, as of this writing he is awake and talking but he's got a long way to go before he's out of the woods. Its a day by day thing. If I vanish for awhile you'll at least know why.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Unleash the COGs of WAR!

So one of the biggest and most anticipated sequels has finally released to good sales and critical praise. But does it live up to my expectations of being fun and giving me a single player experience that I actually give a crap about?

Let's discuss.

Gears of War 3 is the conclusion to a rather muddled and poorly written story involving a race of subterranean creatures known as the Locust invading the surface world with the sole purpose of wiping out man kind off the face of the fictitious 'not earth' world. Over the past two games you follow the adventure of Marcus Fenix (the player) and Dominic Santiago (your co-op or computer controlled ally) as they kill lots of Locust in various settings (usually in perpetual shades of grey or brown). From the 1st game where you're dealing with the shock of Emergence Day and dropping a light bomb at the end down into the Locust hive (sunlight kills them) to the 2nd game where we are losing more of our cities (and now the Locust are engaging us in the daylight.....I may have missed the story reason why but if not major plot hole) so the COGs take the fight underground to the Locust themselves. Where we discover the super fuel we harvest (known as Emulsion) has other side effects like mutating the Locusts into horrible creatures called Lambient.

Now in the 3rd game mankind is on its last legs. And so is my patience with the story. Fortunately Epic brought on the author of the Gears novels to help bridge the in storytelling and successfully smoothed it out. They also managed to *actually* flesh out the personalities of the walking meat slabs you control and make you want to see them live to the end.

For example: Cole Train. I HATED Cole in the first two games. He was an obnoxiously and unnecessarily loud and brain dead character that yelled 'WHOOOO!' alot (Rick Flair should sue). In Gears 3 you will actually care for him as you play a chunk of the first act as Cole on a mission for supplies in his former hometown where he was a Thrashball champion (think football on Gears of War steroids). There is a particular scene in the stadium where you see Cole remembering his glory days only to have him realize that they are past. I believe the quote was "Did you ever feel like you were dead and nobody told you?".

So in conclusion the story for the campaign is pretty decent. Its not particularly memorable but it does tie up the loose ends from the series and it feels cool playing through this desperate last act. But we don't care about story do we? How does it play?

It plays perfectly. After three games Epic Games has perfected the controls for this cover based shooter. Its totally smooth and responsive. I had no problems just picking up and playing. Everything felt second nature and I was leveling the Lambient and Locust hordes with ease.

Graphically the Unreal 3 engine has never looked better. I'm amazed just how much they can push out of this graphic engine. And the best part of the look of this game is that it takes place outdoors alot and Epic decided to use more colors than brown and grey. And the look is stunning. Everything thing feels alive and its vibrant in its post-world war look. There are some occasions where there is some minor graphical tearing but its a minor nuisance. I've seen it mostly in tighter quarters (like inside buildings) and it only happens briefly.

The AI for the baddies isn't bad but I've ran into numerous occasions where you can actually walk right around them, in their line of sight, and start shooting them and they don't react. I wasn't playing this on casual either. I played on the normal setting and sometimes the enemies just stand there and derp. I wanted to not shoot them but give each of them a padded helmet to wear so they wouldn't hurt themselves (poor things). Alas I had no helmets so it was Lancer chainsaw assassination  to them.

I also for a change decided to try out the multi player aspect of this game. Yeah it has the staples like team death match, king of the hill, etc. But my favorites are Horde (where you play as COG soldiers against waves of enemies) and Beast mode (its like Horde but you play as the Locust going against the COGs). And they are awesome! I could play these modes all the damn time. All I need is more people to friend me on Xbox Live so we can get together and do this instead of playing with strangers all the time.

My only bitch about online play is that Live kept dropping out at points. And it pissed me off as it usually happened during a very intense match. But lag issues really were not present (even with my lovely broadband connection....blah). But I still enjoyed playing.

So is it "Game of the Year"? Well to some folk it will be. It is an achievement in production and scope. I wanted to finish the trilogy to see where the hell it would end up and if it would be better than Gears 2 which I loathed. I'm happy with the purchase. And I want to stress I didn't pay full price for it either (God bless my $20 Best Buy Rewards coupon). It was worth playing. Its fun.

Now....bring on my picks for Game of the Year: Dark Souls, Uncharted 3 and Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim.

Monday, September 19, 2011

In honor of the Castle season premiere....

 A fictitious author from an ABC TV series that 'writes' successful novels such as Heat Wave and Naked Heat that are also shown on the show now has an adaptation of one of his first big faux novels. And its just a totally fun ride from ABC & (Disney's) Marvel Comics.

Co-written by comics guru Brian Michael Bendis and Kelly Sue Deconnick and illustrated by artist Lan Medina. It captures the feel that the TV series writer projects, has all the wit, sarcasm, action and fun of the show as well. And I would have liked this even if I wasn't a Castle fan.

STOP. LAUGHING. PLEASE. I'm a fan of Castle. So what. Its excellent TV and the best thing on Monday nights.

This is the origin story of the titular hero Derrick Storm the private investigator who stumbles upon a missing CIA operative wanted for going rogue. Afterwards he is contacted by the CIA to assist in tracking down others in an ongoing investigation of rogue agents. This journey spans from the New Jersey-esque trailer parks to New York City and then out into Nicaragua for the tense and bloody finale. People die, lives get irrevocably altered, and opportunities appear in a pseudo-pulp fashion. All with a knowing wink & smile to the reader that says 'just enjoy the ride'.

The artwork is good too. All the characters are well defined in their looks, the action is well drawn out and the facial expressions given really help sell the mood and tone of voice for the dialogue. Like I said, good stuff. I only had a problem or two with how some of the comic panels were displayed. There was a time
that I jumped to the wrong panel and lost my spot but found it quickly and in the correct order. A nitpick for comic lay outs but it didn't diminish my enjoyment at all.

So for a Castle fan such as I and others I know its a definite buy. For others just testing the waters of the show and its universe I still recommend it heartily. For those with no idea what I'm talking about but like espionage and cheesy dialogue borrow it and if you like it.....start watching Castle and then buy your own copy of Deadly Storm.

Carrion Crown or The Newest Adventures of Scooby Dooby Doo!

 And since I'm still wide flipping awake now I'll go ahead and introduce the party to the sunday PFRPG game. Also as the title suggests that this game plays more like Scooby Doo than a horror game that it was designed to be....and we wouldn't have it any other way. Too much fun to be had here.

The Players

Matt - Thredorik Trapspringer (male dwarven rogue 6 / uncouth / carries the party's goods a-la Nodwick)
Jess  -  Nisha  (female tiefling fighter(weapon master kit) 6 / combat monster....literally / gruff / kicks alot of ass with her great axe)
Charles - Zuri (male aasimar wizard 6 / varisian wanderer/ harrow reader / captain charisma & diplomacy)
Charles - Dragos ( Zuri's raven familiar / smart ass / likes shiny things and pastries)
Me - Julian Du Marc ( male human cleric of Pharasma 6 / NPC/PC / stoic / diplomatic / slayer of the undead and defender of the living / VERY droll sense of humor)
Me again - DM (DM / rules dude / story mover-along-er / still bribed by pie or hot cocoa)

Now look at our classes. Now our races. We are the most unorthodox basic party set up I've seen in quite some time. And its awesome. Our relatively unique natures, either by race or character backgrounds, has made this batch of heroes outsiders just because we're weirder than what we've so far faced off against. And that has just drove the party together tighter and we have gone from strangers who met at a funeral to a common friend to friends ourselves standing up to the darkness. And boy do we bump back.

Now we're not as far along as the Runelords group but we're cooking along at a nice pace. The Carrion Crown Adventure Path is a horror adventure set in the haunted countryside of Ustalav. Its supposed to be scary and tense, which it has been at times, but with the first book of the AP the game mutated into a dynamic of Scooby Doo and with regards to the first book.....Ghostbusters. The first book had us exorcising a haunted prison while fulfilling a last request we received from a friends last will & testament.

 More recently in book 2 we found evidence that the Beast of Lepistad (a Frankenstein like golem) was actually innocent of the crimes it was accused of during a 3 day trial. Lots of role play there kids. And it was good too. Law & Order eat your hearts out. Now we're en route to visit the creator of The Beast to see why he was loose and to get there before the angry mob of townies burns down his abode. They didn't like the fact we proved their scape goat for all their problems was innocent and actually a kind soul. Almost childlike in nature. Nope, those tea townies don't like logic and facts and still want to get their pitchforks and torches on.


And I seriously can't wait to see which sunday we're all available again so the adventure continues on. Unlike the Runelords game where I'm the constant DM, in Carrion Crown I also play. Something I miss doing alot. And while I do play Shadowrun monthly ( and love it) I miss the fantasy setting. I have alot of characters just waiting for me to put onto paper and for me to play. Julian was one of them & I'm happy to get to play him.
Kirris Xar'cha (drow cleric of Arawai from my Eberron game which this blog is named after) was another. Bart Fatima (cleric of Isis in Mike's home brew Morituria campaign) was and is my favorite PC of all time.
(Sorry Rolf...but you're a very close second place).

I can't wait until I finally get a bit of rest behind the screen again and get to be on the players side. And this time I'm NOT playing any more clerics.....for now.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Rise of the Runelords aka Welcome to Infighting Central!

And its beautiful infighting too. Like watching a train wreck in slow motion every session. And not in a bad way either but I'll touch on that in a bit. First lets introduce the cast of characters and a brief synopsis of what the 'Heroes of Sandpoint' have been up to.

The Players

Bruce - Marcellus (Human fighter 10 / damage sink / constantly hungry / Aerodus older brother)
Mike  - Seoni (human wizard 1/ cleric of Calistria 9 / Marcellus' girlfriend / scary lady)
Jim     - Aerodus (human sorcerer - destiny bloodline 10 / too willing to commit murder for his own profit)
Matt  - Nicholai ( half-elf bard 10 / wanna-be playboy / skill whore / Wren's....boy toy)
Jess   - Wren (human rogue 10 / pie thief of Sandpoint / linguistics master / Nicholai's lord & mistress)
Brian - Zatara ( half-elf barbarian 10 / damage monster / the party's conscious / afraid of Seoni)
Me  - DM (awesome DM lvl Infinity / storyteller / easily bribed with pie or hot cocoa with marshmallows)

So far the party has stopped a goblin invasion of their home of Sandpoint, cleansed a haunted house, thwarted a supernatural serial killer, beat the banjo out of a family of inbred cannibal hillbilly ogre-kin, rescued a mountain fortress from an ogre army and defeated their stone giant leader only to find out that the stone giant tribes on the plateaus are going to war against mankind. All the while the taint and influence of centuries old wizard rulers that used rune magic based off the seven sins permeate everything they have encountered so far. As of now the party is deep into book 4 of 6.

As of last game the party is now deep in the stone giants fortress of Jorgenfist and they are dispatching guards and underlings, making contacts and finally discovered approximately where the leader of the giants, a wizard named Mokmurian, dwells. For progressions sake they are coming along swimmingly. For inadvertently role-playing their characters so well as people they have fueled me with so much ammo to use against them in the following 2 books provided they survive the encounter with Mokmurian at the end. You see I've been tracking which of the seven sins each exemplifies since game 1 and boy oh boy they have ramped up some to epic levels.....without really even knowing it. And in books 5 & 6 those very sins get used against them. And I can't wait to do that cause it'll be so much fun for me and they'll also enjoy the challenge as well. I hope.

Once we get into book 5 I'll go over which sins the PCs most represent and why. Its actually kinda cool seeing how the personal flaws of the PC's become more of a threat than some monster encounter or trap.

But that's only if they survive Mokmurian. I mean it. I'm not being smug here but he's a beast. This adventure path was originally for 3.5 D&D rules and I have been converting them to PFRPG and when I recreated Mokmurian he jumped from a CR14 to a CR17 encounter with the PFRPG rules. And the party *should* be approx 12-13 when they meet him.....they are at 10th. Oopsie.

So I'm at a dilemma: do I throw in more encounters to level the characters up to a 13 or so to help ease the fight ahead, or do I let them go ahead into a 6 against 1 fight that may kill over 1/2 the players if things go  badly. It is just 1 wizard VS the party. They have fought tough challenges before. But this could be too much even for them.

But I still have time cause at the minimum they are at least 2 sessions away from going head - to - head with Mokmurian so I can do some DM magic and see what works out best without being a cop out. All I really want is for the players to keep having fun.

Having fun is *that* important.

And sometime I'll tell you about how I met with Keith Baker (creator of Eberron and awesome guy) at GenCon with Jess and Matt and we discussed this very topic about how important 'fun' is in gaming. That was THE highlight of GenCon for me.

Oh and the infighting! I almost forgot. Its so damn high school. People are scared and don't trust the cleric because she channels negative energy. The sorcerer was the most charismatic member.....until the bard showed up and then started to out shine him. The fighter and sorcerer fight because they are siblings. The rogue has trust issues with some of the party. The bard is a man whore and makes the sorcerer jealous at all his l33t skillz. And it goes on. Its Varisia 90210 in this game! And most are playing teenagers. And they have managed to grasp the feeling of teens dealing with a very adult situation so you see the frustration from not having the answers or experience to handle whats at hand. And it causes come catty behavior. Its my once a month soap opera without Susan Lucci hamming it up.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Just an Above Average Joe

Yes, lets talk Resistance 3 for PS3. Easily one of the best games Insomniac Games has ever produced.
No really, I'm not you here. The game is really well done. And fun to play. And gorgeous to look at and appreciate in surround sound.

A brief synopsis is in order here for those not familiar with this PS3 exclusive franchise. Resistance is the story of an alien virus that arrives on earth in Russia during 1908 that when people are exposed to it they mutate into a new life form called The Chimera. Well we have been trying to fight this menace off and to put it bluntly we are losing badly. They are reproducing faster, has better tech and are tough to kill. When during the US assault on Britain to assist them in repelling the chimeran threat, US soldier Nathan Hale got infected with the virus and, surprise, didn't mutate. Well...its a slower process for him but that's jumping ahead. Now armed with speed, strength and the regenerative chimerian cell structure, Nathan Hale sets off to stop the British invasion.
And he succeeds, to a point, only to be captured by a US government agency who wants to use someone like him in an elite unit of soldiers just like him (Resistance 2) where you meet Joe Capelli who is another like Nathan Hale. Joe is also the lead in Resistance 3.....wanna guess why?

Cause he kills Nathan Hale at the end of Resistance 2. Well he has to. Nathan finally was going bad by the end of the 2nd game and Joe had to put him down. But Nathan gave mankind one last parting gift. His immune system. From blood samples they created a anti-virus and started to save who they could. It only helps if you are immunized before being infected though. Anywho, Joe gets dishonorably discharged from the Army, moves to Oklahoma, gets a purty wife and has a son all while the Chimera are systematically conquering the US. And then Joe's past catches up with him and he's off on a one man mission to save the world and wrap up the storyline.

So the nuts & bolts of this game are spectacular. Graphically its on par with any big budget CGI animated blockbuster. Its unreal how lifelike the world of Resistance 3 looks and feels. And the musical score & sound effects heighten the mood perfectly. I still cringe a bit when I hear the distinct sound of a Goliath class Chimeran walker in the background.

The controls are tight and very responsive which is standard for damn near every game Insomniac Games has ever made. Other developers need to see how they do this. Right NOW. Control is important people and this was buttery smooth in performance.

But the most recognizable watermark for Insomniac Games are the outrageous weapons they craft and how well they work. Standards like the Bullseye and Auger return with new support in tow. I really like the Mutator gun and the Wildfire rocket launcher. And we can't forget about the alternate fire modes all the weapons have are equally as fun to use and abuse chimera with. My favorite has to be the alt fire for the Rossmore shotgun. When maxed out the concussive projectile it fires not only blast people away in a spectacular fashion but also sets them aflame as well. Now there are multiple baddies running around on fire that were knocked safely away from where you are at.

I need something like that for dealing with traffic on the highway I drive to work.

So as my tiredness begins to take hold, I highly recommend Resistance 3. While the story finale does get a but hokey and implausible by the end (and that's even suspending disbelief for the fictitious world its set it) every other note its perfect and where it counts the most.

Its damn fun. You'll enjoy it.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Adventure Path-ing on the weekends.

In addition to the Shadowrun game I play in once a month, I run two separate monthly games with two very different groups. Both games use the Pathfinder RPG rules (boo all you want grognards) and both games I'm using the Adventure Paths just because its simpler and faster than me trying to write up a whole world from scratch again like I did when I ran my 2nd Ed D&D game back in the mid-90's.

Group 1 is currently deep into book 4 or 6 in the Rise of the Runelords AP. I have 6 players and its going along swimmingly from what I can tell and people are having fun.

Group 2 is at the last act of book 2 of 6 of The Carrion Crown AP. There are 3 players and myself running the NPC/PC cleric. Group 2 meets on sunday and this past sunday was alot of fun (more on that in another post).

As games happen I'll start blathering on a bit about the sessions and whatnot mostly just to share the stupidity that I enjoy with the rest of the interweb. I'll post up the adventuring party rosters and give an overview of what they did from the DM's perspective. In the event that a TPK occurred you'll probably won't hear from me again as one of the players may try to kill me for letting their beloved PC bite the big one. Of course I let the dice fall where they may and *never* fudge rolls.......

Stop laughing.

So prepare yourselves. I'm going even further full-on geek when I decide to update this blog again and its not 1235am and I have to get some sleep before work in the morning.

Join the Patrol!

A few of my friends know that I am what one might call an avid gamer. I like tabletop RPG's for not just enjoyable stories that you can help craft with your actions (and dice that betray you constantly...) but also for the social aspect of spending an afternoon with friends or with people that you meet for the first time that at least share a common love.

I also love Sci-Fi. Especially if its the almost pulpy-retro era sci-fi from the 40's and 50's. In fact one of the better Christmas gifts I received last year was from my friend Matt: The TSR Buck Rodgers RPG box set (out of print and it was in perfect condition). I've been wanting to play Buck for sometime with a certain group of metal heads that I know that dwell to the south of where I live. But a major stumbling block for me was the rule set used. Its based off the 2nd Ed D&D rules that I cannot wrap my head around anymore.

Enter Cosmic Patrol from Catalyst Game Labs. Which, I will add, I completely MISSED at GenCon 2011 when there. I swear to Cthulhu that it looked like a sci-fi novel rather than a rule book. But it is. Its a really REALLY simple story-based gaming system where there isn't a dedicated GM but everyone gets a turn to lead the team of intrepid Patrolmen on an exploration mission onto the polar caps of Mars, or a rescue mission to save the President of Lunar Colony 1 from the evil clutches of the bio droid robot menace. Yes, that was all off the top of my head. And yes its almost that simple to play from what I understand.

Hell the rules remind me more of Toon or the Viscount's perennial favorite rules fore IOU. Its fast, simple, still you roll dice but its storytelling. And storytelling in a way that White Wolf couldn't figure out how to do correctly. I like what I've seen. I will read my little book of 135 pages in paperback book size. I will love it because it has sparked some interesting stories to tell about space patrolmen with laser pistols and glass domed space helmets saving a red skinned amazon princess from the clutches of some evil mad scientist from the 3rd moon of Jupiter.

I also like that you can buy the PDF format for about $5 bucks from places like Drive Thru RPG or even Catalysts own store (Battleshop). And for the REALLY cheap bastards its done under creative commons license. Which means if you obtain it for free somehow online they won't try to sue you but ask politely to purchase it if you like it.

Which brings me back to my copy of the book. Apparently Jess wanted to show me this (because she KNEW I would adore this) at GenCon and she never got my attention away from the other stuff at Catalyst to show me. So when I found out it was a game and went looking it was out of print from the con with only a PDF available. I can't read PDF's for long periods. I stare at a computer screen at work all day and I just can't do it at home.  So she tracked one down through Ebay for the list price from the con. She is such a wonderful wife for doing this. Because when they do re-issue the physical won't be as cool as mine. Cause my baby tracked mine down for me and mine says 'GenCon 2011 Special Edition'.

 Buck I come!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Deus Ex, hurricanes, leaking ceilings and lay offs.

Yeah, yeah, yeah...its been a few days but alot has gone to hell recently so forgive my tardiness in posting another riveting blog for the 3 that read this drivel.

And you can stop laughing now. I know nobody actually reads this.

First, due to the heavy driving rainfall brought on by Hurricane Irene (who I blame Steve Salomonsen for bringing back with him from the Outer Banks) our room has a new decorative waterfall in it every time it rains thanks to the leaky roof. The bitch of it all is its not our landlords responsibility to repair this. Its the condo associations. And we've been told that we're "on the list" but "not high priority". I'll make sure to remind the condo association that when they call me at work to report a bug problem and demand day before problem occurs time travel service.

Bunch of jerks.

So in between emptying buckets in the bedroom when it rains (and some of my colleagues have so eloquently stated "that's the most action that room has ever seen") I've kept busy with playing one of the best and most enjoyable games I've played in years......but its still not better than EDF.

                                 Deus Ex: Human Revolution (X360 version not PC one)

Anyways its the prequel to the cult classic and critically adored Deus Ex and Deus Ex: Invisible War. And, well, it sure lives up to the linage it was birthed from. Its a first person action/RPG/shooter that bends preconceived notions on just how to tell a good story but also how you PLAY the game itself. There is no right or wrong way to approach the challenges this presents to you as you lead Adam Jensen as he searches for the answers to who attacked the corp he worked for and who murdered his ex-girlfriend during the attack (also scientist). Guns blazing, complete stealth, hacking computers, taking bribes, being the very best humanity can offer or giving into becoming a slave to the machine through your augments.

Control wise its pretty standard shooter load out. And at first those who do play more shooters will see where things (like targeting and jumping) could have been tuned up and made more responsive. Graphics are really well done and atmospheric using a primary black and gold color scheme to give the whole game a very noir look. And it looks amazing. Just wait until you see what Detroit looks like with all the tall buildings, advertisements, slums, can see where they took the look of Blade Runner as inspiration. Then when you get to gets better. Eidos manages to make the environment both open and welcoming as well as oppressive simultaneously.

Voice acting could have been better but that's just a nit pick from me. There was just times Adam sounded like Christian Bale doing the Batman voice from The Dark Knight. And the story is the real gem here. Its engaging, compelling and has enough plot twists to keep you guessing all the way to the very end and the 4 possible outcomes that occur. I invested about 20-25 hours and I could have kept going for another 80+.
I'm also into my 2nd play through this time bend more on all stealth and computer skills to get the job done. 3rd play through is all guns blazing. Its sublime folks. Go play and love it.

Finally its official that I'm getting furloughed again for the fall/winter (read: layoff). I'm out from October 1st through January 3rd 2012. It sucks but on the bright side I can clean up more in the townhouse and pack stuff back up as Jess & I are on the formal house hunt, Oh and I will have more time to keep up with this and keep spreading my juvenile opinion into the great information mesh.

And play Resistance 3.....which is the best game Insomniac has EVER MADE. I'll review it in depth but to give a small idea of just how much I'm enjoying it.....its *almost* beats out EDF for most fun playing games this year (so far).

In closing I do want to thank the folk that occasionally stop in to read my stream of consciousness of Internet babble. And please share your thoughts too. I always like explaining how people are love reading others opinions to cause healthy debate.