Murder, Mayhem and the Matching of Colored Spheres

July 16, 2012


Couple things to talk about today:

1.  I think I’m done with Diablo 3.  Haven’t touched it in over a week.  It’s basically come down to this choice:  I can either keep re-running Act 3/4 of Hell difficulty until I scrounge up enough gold to buy the equipment I’d need to survive Inferno, or I can just move on with my life.  Starting over with new characters is not really all that appealing to me, either; I’ve played every level so many goddamned times now, and being a wizard or a witch doctor instead of a monk won’t make left-clicking any more interesting.  Ultimately, I definitely got my money’s worth, even if I’m still unsure about how much I actually enjoyed the experience.

2.  My shift from the PC back to the couch meant that I got to play (and finish) Spec Ops: The Line over the weekend.  I wasn’t really planning on playing it;  I only rented after listening to a bunch of Giant Bombcasts.  It’s a hard game to recommend based purely on its gameplay – it’s a third-person action shooter in a military setting, and it’s not like that’s an empty genre that needs filling.  That being said, it takes some very bold moves with its storytelling, and it asks you to do some pretty unsavory things, the repercussions of which are somewhat hard to swallow.  It’s an ambitious game, even if it doesn’t really appear to be at first glance.  It’s also gruesomely, spectacularly violent, and if it makes you feel guilty about all the murdering you’re doing, it also makes sure you see it in slow-motion, where a well-placed head shot literally makes your target’s head explode.  Also, Nolan North says “fuck” a lot and gradually goes insane, which is in many ways the proper response after killing hundreds and hundreds of people (unlike, say, Nathan Drake, who manages to stay calm, cool and collected after killing hundreds and hundreds of people).   As usual, I highly recommend checking out Tom Bissell’s piece in Grantland for further, better-written insight.  (And I’ll probably do a more spoiler-heavy write-up later this week; while the game’s story is based on Heart of Darkness, and while it wears its Apocalypse Now influence proudly on its sleeves (perhaps too proudly – the 60’s soundtrack feels downright anachronistic), there’s another movie whose influence on the story – particularly the ending – is perhaps even more obvious, but to say it basically gives it away.)

3.  Speaking of incredibly dark videogames, I am now fully caught up with The Walking Dead.  I don’t watch the TV show, but my wife is a big fan, and so we’re playing the game together – I drive, she makes the decisions.  Both episodes thus far are quite good – great writing, great voice acting, great art direction.  Tough choices.  And I love the touch at the end, where the game shows you how your decisions compare with everyone else who’s played.   It seems that Episode 1 was pretty even-handed, with the general public mostly split around 50/50 – Episode 2’s results, on the other hand, seemed to be pretty one-sided.  Curious to see how that’ll affect Episode 3’s beats.

4.  All this grisly murder requires an occasional cleansing of the palate, and to that end I am profoundly grateful for last week’s XBLA release of Zuma’s Revenge.  Nothing feels so refreshing after slaughtering thousands of virtual people quite like the matching of brightly colored spheres.  Similarly, I am very much looking forward to this week’s release of Tony Hawk Pro Skater HD.

5.  I’m not the Achievement Whore that I used to be, but I guess it’s worth noting that at some point last week I crossed 80,000.

6.  Finally, I just want to give Valve’s Steam Summer Sale a hearty “fuck you.”  I’ve bought too much already, and we’re not even a week into this thing:

  • SOL: Exodus
  • Legend of Grimrock
  • Saints Row the Third (which I’ve already finished on the 360 – but how could I pass it up for 75% off?)
  • Indie Bundle 2 (Botanicula, EYE, Universe Sandbox, Oil Rush, Splice)
  • Anno 2770

 

 

 

 

Fall 2012 preview

July 5, 2012


2012 is shaping up to be pretty underwhelming, all things considered.  Yes, it’s the end of a console cycle; yes, most of the good stuff we were told to look forward to has been delayed to Spring 2013.  Still, though, there’s not of a hell of a lot to get excited about.  What follows is the current state of my GameFly Q, which is my rough way of keeping track of what to pay attention to:

August:

  • Darksiders 2
  • Sleeping Dogs

September:

  • Borderlands 2

October:

  • Resident Evil 6
  • XCOM: Enemy Unknown
  • Dishonored
  • James Bond 007 Legends
  • Forza: Horizon
  • Need for Speed: Most Wanted
  • Assassin’s Creed III
  • Lego Lord of the Rings

November:

  • Halo 4
  • CODBLOPS II

December:

  • Far Cry 3

That’s pretty goddamned sad.  Of those games, the only ones I truly give a shit about are Darksiders 2, Borderlands 2, NFS:MW (because Criterion is developing it), and maybe that XCOM game, because Firaxis are making it and I’m trying to get into turn-based strategy (even though I anticipate it being a very, very difficult experience).   Dishonored sounds really intriguing but I’m not holding my breath; nor am I  holding my breath for AC3 – as much as I loved Brotherhood, Revelations put a horrible, horrible taste in my mouth and nothing I’ve seen of the new location/era has been in any way intriguing to me.  Halo 4 will probably be OK, though I won’t do much with the multiplayer; similarly, I have no idea why CODBLOPS2 is even on my list (I suppose I want to be able to say I played it).  I don’t know that I’ll play Far Cry 3, either – my feelings about that franchise could be generously described as “ambivalent.”

What are you looking forward to, if anything?

inferno and beyond

July 5, 2012


Is it OK that I’m dwelling solely on Diablo 3 these days?  I don’t know whether it’s worse to be repetitive, or to simply not post at all.

I beat Hell last night and got about 10 minutes into Inferno before going to bed.  I’m tempted to replay Hell’s Act 4 again, though, because I’d inadvertently signed off literally one checkpoint before going into the final boss the previous night, and so when I killed Diablo the loot was, to put it kindly, underwhelming.  The quality of stuff you get when you’ve got 5 stacks of Nephalem Valor (heretofore “5NV”) can’t be denied, even if the vast majority of it remains unusable – but I’d also replay Act 4 with 5NV if only to scrounge up more gold, which can add up pretty goddamned quickly.

I’ve softened my stance on the Auction House.  I was previously angered that the AH was more or less a necessity in order to make any significant progress; instead, now I’m thinking of it as a different kind of in-game vendor.  Which is basically what it is.  I think my total playtime is around 64 hours  – I think the last time I picked up an in-game loot drop that was worth holding onto was about 30 hours ago.   The stuff I’ve found on the AH is profoundly more powerful, and can be very reasonably priced.  All I do now during runs is sell, sell, salvage, sell.  And I’ve more or less given up on making anything with the Blacksmith – he’s been far more miss than hit when it comes to making something with Monk-appropriate stats, and it’s too expensive to experiment.   (Likewise, I’d love to craft more of the super-high-end gems, but those require so much gold that it’s possibly more cost efficient to look for them on the AH.)

Once I finish Inferno, I’m not entirely sure I’ll keep playing.  Blizzard themselves have admitted that the end-game is, in its current state, a bit underwhelming:

We recognize that the item hunt is just not enough for a long-term sustainable end-game. There are still tons of people playing every day and week, and playing a lot, but eventually they’re going to run out of stuff to do (if they haven’t already). Killing enemies and finding items is a lot of fun, and we think we have a lot of the systems surrounding that right, or at least on the right path with a few corrections and tweaks. But honestly Diablo III is not World of Warcraft. We aren’t going to be able to pump out tons of new systems and content every couple months. There needs to be something else that keeps people engaged, and we know it’s not there right now.

We’re working toward 1.0.4, which we’re really trying to pack with as many fixes and changes we can to help you guys out (and we’ll have a bunch of articles posted with all the details as we get closer), and we’re of course working on 1.1 with PvP arenas. I think both those patches will do a lot to give people things to do, and get them excited about playing, but they’re not going to be a real end-game solution, at least not what we would expect out of a proper end-game. We have some ideas for progression systems, but honestly it’s a huge feature if we want to try to do it right, and not something we could envision being possible until well after 1.1 which it itself still a ways out.

(That’s as far as I read in the thread, by the way – the Diablo 3 forums are filled with perhaps the most horrible, vile people on Earth.)

 

idiocy in action

July 2, 2012


Let me explain.

I’ve said repeatedly that my normal approach to playing RPGs is to play as a Barbarian/Tank/melee fighter.  When I started Diablo 3, however, I decided to switch it up and try the Monk class – it seemed to be an interesting mix of melee combat with support magic.  And for a long time – probably right up to beating the game on Nightmare difficulty – everything was going fine.

Sort of.  Towards the beginning of the Nightmare run, I – for reasons yet unknown – switched from fist weapons to two-handed staffs and daibos.  I was hitting much harder, but also a bit slower, but I felt the trade-off was worth it.

And then I started playing Hell difficulty, and was getting the shit kicked out of me by elite mobs.  It got to the point where, like I said in the last post, I started up two new characters just to avoid having to go back and deal with what I clearly couldn’t deal with.  And then I bought a legendary two-handed weapon (and some better armor) in the auction house and decided to replay Act 1 of Hell, and things started to go a little better – not much, but I wasn’t dying all the time.

My 2nd run of Act 1 of Hell was a goddamned cakewalk compared to Act II, though – I was still getting crushed left and right, and I couldn’t understand what I was doing wrong.

And then I suddenly remembered that I was playing my Monk like a Barbarian.

I quickly bought some insanely powerful one-handed weapons in the auction house, switched up my skills (more specifically, I got rid of Mystic Ally and put Seven-Sided Strike back in) and started ripping the shit out of everything.  I basically re-ran Act II and got through the first third of Act III dying only once, hitting Level 60 in the process.

Fuck and yes.

* * *

Now, here’s the thing.  I didn’t even open up the Auction House until I started Hell difficulty, but there was absolutely no way I could survive more than 10 minutes of Act 1 of Hell without going to the Auction House.  I’ve forgotten how many hours I’ve put into the game, but I’m sure it’s somewhere between 60-80 hours, and in that time, I’ve had to throw away (or salvage) about 98% of all the loot I’ve picked up.  I’ve taken the Forge guy and the Gem guy up to their maximum levels, but the Forge guy is wildly inconsistent with the stuff he makes for me – I almost always have to junk it because it’s got the wrong specs.  (The Gem guy, on the other hand, is absurdly cheap – until the last three levels of construction, where it costs 30K + Tomes of Secrets (which I’ve only found on the Auction House) just to make 1 gem.)

I kinda think that’s insane.  That in 60-80+ hours, I’ve only been able to use maybe 2% of the stuff I’ve picked up.   That the only possible way I could continue to succeed in the game is to use the Auction House, where I’m seeing stuff that is so absurdly better than the stuff I’d seen in-game that I wonder if I’m playing a different game entirely.  I mean, I don’t mind spending the gold – it would’ve gone to an in-game vendor (although the stuff they sell is pretty terrible, too), but it’s just a little bit nuts that the usable drop rates are so stingy.

(Of course, now that I’ve hit level 60 and had my first experience with the Nephalem Valor buff – and picked up some serious loot in the process – maybe now I’m seeing where all the stuff in the auction house comes from.  I still haven’t had a need for any of the loot I’ve picked up, but at least I can get some decent resale value for it – or, alternately, I can salvage it for my Forge guy.  I might just alternate runs going forward – I’ll fill up my inventory once to sell, and then fill it up again to salvage.  And if I find something useful, well, hooray for me.)

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