A thoughtful and personal exploration of games

In Progress

Splinter Cell: Conviction – In Progress/Impression

Here’s my first In Progress/Impression combo piece! I was fortunate today to have an opportunity to play some of the new Splinter Cell game on PC. I must say that I’m very impressed (with a few caveats, of course). I don’t know if I’ll get back to playing it, but I’m still at my friend’s house and he’s finishing the ridiculously hard mission that I had to stop playing for a bit because I’ve been playing for hours and I really needed a break. Er… hence, the following text is very current to my play experience.

First of all, the story is really cool and the gameplay is very fluid. The game seems to reward cautious gameplay, which I do exceedingly well at because in some games I’m a very timid player. Especially in Splinter Cell.

Some points about the game are as follows:

  • Sometimes when I right click to roll while I’m moving, Sam will instead go for the nearest cover and stick to it. It’s awkward sometimes but you get used to it, complain a bit, and move on.
  • The guards and such are REALLY talkative. Extremely so. It gets annoying fast, unless you start responding to them, in which case it can be hilarious. (I do miss the classic “Who turned out the lights?” from Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory.)
  • Speaking of guards, they’re really freaking skittish in this game. The slightest thing tips them off and they start talking A LOT. On the plus side, that makes them easy to predict because they try to figure out two things: 1) what just happened and 2) where did the problem come from. If you’re not careful, that group of guys clustering around where the light just went out will look to see if there’s a muzzle flare from your next attempt to take out a light. Smart, but annoying too. Understandable.
  • When you’re in stealth mode, the screen goes black and white. After a while of this black and white, staring down at my shirt is actually a relief. *laughs* It’s green right now. Enemies remain in color and so do certain interactive objects.
  • The mark-and-execute mechanic is a lot of fun but you have to be aware of the scenery. Plus, it’s a good idea to watch the patrol routes of the enemies to see if they’ll come across some obstructing scenery that will foul up your M&E. It’s really satisfying when you get to pull one off successfully. I enjoy the death-from-above move followed by a four kill M&E. Really cool.
  • This game requires a lot of patience, tempered with occasional aggression. By that I mean, take your time, but don’t be a pansy when you need to get rid of some threats. Sam can take some hits (on the easiest difficulty level) and sometimes it’s preferable to take a hit or two rather than stop to fight (like for the latter half of the Lincoln Memorial stage). Other times it’s more important to stop, think, and then tackle the enemies (like for the latter half of the National Mall stage). Then you get the opportunity to just stand and fight off a bunch of bad guys (like at the end of the White Box stage… lots of bad guys there).
  • The game operates on a checkpoint system. Thus, no more quick saves. This sucks because I’m such a save monkey.
  • The guards use the F-word a lot. A LOT. I think this game is rated M, but I don’t recall because it was purchased on Steam by my friend.
  • Never has there been a game series that has emphasized the destruction of light sources more than Splinter Cell. Just putting that out there.

So anyways, my overall impression of the game is that it’s really fun. The parking garage in the basement of some place I won’t mention is a real pain to get through. I managed to do the first little bit of it, but then I HAD to take a break or I was bound to get frustrated. My friend is currently trying to get through it, but keeps getting found. Who knew that shooting out lights in a parking garage was so frowned upon by security agents with shotguns? Every time he reloads from the last checkpoint, the lights come back and he’s forced to shoot them out again. His response: The janitors are really quick.

Yeah, lots of fun, good graphics and engaging gameplay with only a few hangups here and there.

Until next time, keep to the shadows.

– Elorfin

P.S. For the record, I managed to write this whole thing while my friend was busy working on getting past that insanely hard parking garage level. He’s still working on it as of the time of this submission.

Final Fantasy XIII – In Progress, Part 1

Pardon me while I gush about the latest installment in the Final Fantasy series…

Dear God, this is an incredible game! I’m really enjoying the experience overall and I have complained very little and in only the most appropriate points (typically when I die, I grumble, but that’s not uncommon).

I love the cutscenes, the character development, the graphics, the epic music, the character designs (stereotypically Japanese RPG style, but I’m cool with it), the battle system, and how much I’m actually connecting with the characters. I can sympathize with Snow, I understand what Hope’s going through, I feel terrible for the situation that Sazh is in and I’m rooting for him (he’s like Lando Calrissian and I love that… and yes, that’s an awesome and adorable chocobo chick in his ‘fro), I think Fang is a really cool character, Vanille is a much deeper character than I thought she was initially (and that was a very pleasant surprise) and Lightning is my favorite heroine in a video game (because she’s freaking cool!).

Combat flows smoothly with an “Auto” function that is far smarter than I originally expected. What happens is it collects information as the combat proceeds and if certain attacks are resisted or more damaging, it adjusts accordingly. The auto-hinder function for the Saboteur combat role doesn’t keep trying to poison something that’s immune to poison. The auto-heal function defaults to healing the most critical of targets. The friendly AI is actually clever in this game (it was in FFXII as well).

The game is linear thus far (I’m in chapter 10 after 23 hours and 20 minutes of game play and 108 saves) but it’s starting to open up now that I can finally pick my own party members out of the six available.

I’m LOVING my experience. For the record, I’m playing the XBox 360 version of the game on a high-def tv at a friend’s house with surround sound and a comfy chair. Many thanks to one of the best damn friends in the world for putting up with my gaming in his basement!

The strategy guide is very well written (which I appreciate after the FFVII PC strategy guide burned me oh so bad back then). Yes, I use a strategy guide, but only because I’m mildly obsessive about getting all the treasure as I go… and most FF games are devoid of a New Game + mode (which keeps me coming back to Chrono Trigger) so I’d like to be a near-completionist the first time through. The guide keeps the spoilers to a bare minimum with world class advice (like which Paradigms I should prepare so that I don’t get owned in fights) and when I should bother to grind CP (effectively experience points) so that I get the biggest bang for my time spent. I appreciate all the work that went into such a tome and I look forward to plumbing its depths as I approach the conclusion of the game.

Overall, I’m thrilled to be finally playing Final Fantasy XIII. 13’s my lucky number and this has definitely been an amazing ride for the last week. It plays like an interactive movie and the music combined with the story keeps me emotionally invested in the characters plight. I WANT to help them with their task and THAT is what a good role playing game is all about: a desire to BE invested.

To all my close friends who’ve been suffering this last week thanks to my obsession with this shiny new game: thanks for putting up with me, but according to the guide, I’m definitely not done yet! Hang in there folks!

I’ll resume the regularly scheduled programming this week sometime (I hope). Don’t forget to be awesome!

– Elorfin

Fantasy Earth Zero – Initial Impression

Okay, I gave a whack at Fantasy Earth Zero (hereafter referred to as FEZ). After a couple of hours, I was still in the tutorial. The game is currently in Open Beta in the US and as a result, if you manage to FINISH the tutorial, you start play at level 20. Yeah. This is purportedly so you can try things out and see if anything’s broken.

Apparently this is an old game that is just now getting released here in the US for Free-2-Play. It’s not bad… it’s just… well, the graphics are very dated, in my opinion. Also, the combat is a little too sensitive to which way you’re facing. You can’t just hold down your mouse button to swing, you have to click every time you want to shoot/swing your weapon. Targeting is important. A bit too important for me.

I don’t have any screens to share, mostly because this is kind of an “In Progress” slash “Impression” piece. By that I mean, I don’t intend to continue playing this right now, so this is all you’re going to hear from me on this for at least a week or so. The reason? Well, Final Fantasy XIII comes out tomorrow and I’m really really excited about that. I have a feeling that the next post or two here may in fact be me gushing over how cool the game is. What I intend to do with it is actually discuss the game mechanics in much the same way as I have been for the other games I’ve poked at… only I don’t think I’ll be able to secure screens from the XBox for use here on my post… well, I guess I could take pictures with  my phone during gameplay…

We’ll see. Anyways, I recommend FEZ if you’re into massive PvP battles and old school gaming. FEZ has anything from 5v5 to 50v50 fights and it has complex battlefield mechanics like throwing down buildings to expand your teams territory and the like. There are three classes which act like rock paper scissors in combat (the warrior is good versus scouts who are good versus sorcerers who are good versus warriors) and there’s an equipment system that is at once very basic yet very streamlined. Oh, and skills for which way you’d like your character to develop. You have (for the warrior) basic skills like a ranged attack with a big swing and you have specialized skills for using a sword and a shield or a 2-handed weapon (exclusively). Likewise, the scout gets to choose between daggers and the bow and the sorcerer gets to choose between Fire, Lightning, and Ice. There’s also a complicated background story defining each country you can side with on the battlefield (there are several countries).

The game still has its bugs to work out, but it seems to be working decently well. I recommend going through the tutorial because it actually is kind of interesting (if absurdly long to finish). Also, pay attention when you’re doing the tutorial. I accidentally quit the tutorial at level 11 and I have no idea how to get back in, so, don’t hit the Exit button in the lower right in order to get back to town faster… it won’t work that way. As it is, I’ll have to delete my character and start the tutorial over in order to get back in (ugh, all that work for nothing!).

I may drop a post here before my Final Fantasy binging in order to discuss some more terms and such as well as some concepts I can share for those of you who have no clue what I’m talking about half (or more) of the time. Hey, knowing is half the… wait… um… yeah.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

ACE Online – In Progress

Hey all, today I installed and ran ACE Online and managed to burn several hours on it before I realized what I’d done.

This is a rather unique MMO. You pick a plane (there are four different craft) and a character (there’s a bunch of those too) and you shoot down flying things (and sometimes you shoot down AT things on the ground). You get machine guns and missiles to shoot, your plane has shields and hit points, you have an afterburner, you can barrel roll to the left and the right, there’s a quick bar at the bottom of the screen for items and skills you acquire as you play, and there are a lot of quests to keep you going.

Overall, this game is pretty darn good. The only issues I really have with it stem from the part where you run around a town as your pilot. The movement is click-to-go, with the right mouse button for moving your camera. Pretty much the only reason there is a town for you to be in is so you can take a breather between missions and buy/sell stuff at NPC or player shops. The town and pilot stuff feel kind of tacked onto the game. The flying is so fluid that when you land, you’re left wondering how to move around nicely.

I like this game, mostly because it’s nothing like anything I’ve played online and it’s very active. I like it.

Until next time, here’s hoping I’m not that sick!

– Elorfin

9Dragons – In Progress, Part 2

Really quickly, before I forget this stuff, I just wanted to mention a few cool things in 9Dragons.

Essentially the game is set up so that when you finish a quest and don’t know what to do, go kill stuff. When you level, invariably you can grab a new quest. The game is very vocal when you get a new quest by telling you in a system message at pretty much eye level on the screen that there’s a new quest for you and also, on the map there’s an exclamation point where the quest is. Makes guessing who to talk to a thing of the past.

Further, the method of healing in this game isn’t by potions (yet, I think). It’s meditation. You just plop down and take a few seconds to heal and regenerate your chi. It’s pretty cool.

Also, you can tell if things are going to be difficult or easy to kill by looking at their name. If it’s Red, stay away because it might just kill you for looking at it weird. If it’s Orange, it’ll be tough, but it’s kill-able. If it’s Yellow, it’s not so tough and it’s okay to give it a shot. White is on par with your level, Green is weaker than you and Blue is the weakest. These colors change as you gain levels to display your capabilities. For example, you encounter a Fox with it’s name in Green. You kill a bunch and level up and suddenly, the Foxes all have Blue names. Time to go kill some hardier stuff. I’ll show some of this in screenshots later.

For now, DFTBA!

– Elorfin

9Dragons – In Progress, Part 1

This game is another Acclaim free-to-play with micropayments. For some reason, the constant rotating of the camera with the right mouse button is less annoying here than in 2Moons.  There’s no WASD movement in this game. It’s completely controlled by left-clicking where you want to go. W switches your weapon, A is for auto-attacking your target, and S opens your skills screen.

I prefer the graphics in this game to the graphics in 2Moons, but that’s probably due to the bloom levels in this one. The bloom smoothes out all the edges. The music sounds a bit more environmentally appropriate and the tutorials have actual voice actors with accents to help you understand how to equip your weapons and how to use them.

After playing for about 40 minutes, I came across this player who asked me to be his disciple. Apparently when you’re on while your master is on, you gain a serious bonus to your hit points and chi. Great system. Oh, also, the skill training system is actually a short mini-game with a sliding ball and you have to click when it’s in the red zone. This is for combat skills like using a sword, though, and I’m not sure if it applies to all of the skills in the game yet.

I’m still playing with it and I’m actually enjoying myself. I encountered a bug that is remedied only by quitting the game and loading it back up again where you can’t do combat at all while you’re under the effects of this bug. Irritating, but I looked it up and yeah, restarting the game fixes it.

I’ll get down to playing it some more in the near future.

Until next time, DFTBA!

– Elorfin

2Moons – In Progress, Part 2

I’m going to start off by saying that this time around I started playing WHILE irritated with things.

Already after a few seconds of moving around, I’m irritated with the camera and the movement controls. Further, I find it very extraneous to have a run/walk toggle in the R key when it actually serves no purpose whatsoever to walk in this game. You move FAR too slowly when you walk and it takes a long time to get anywhere even while running.

Also, I’m of the opinion that music really sets the atmosphere and I find that the TWO tracks that alternate in town get old rather fast (however decent they are).

I wish there was an in-game control listing so I could… ah, found it. Okay, hitting the spacebar picks stuff up, great, good to know! Of course, like in Diablo 2, holding ALT shows the stuff on the ground.

Okay… yeah… I think I’ve gleaned enough from general game play to give my overall (admittedly sparse) impression. Look for that in the next post.

– Elorfin