Revisiting Tyria

I began playing Guild Wars 2 a couple months before release. I participated in a couple of the beta events and played for a solid couple months after it was released. I loved the game, couldn't get enough of it and I played almost every chance I could get. The honeymoon wore off a couple months after release and by late October and I was back into WoW and ignoring my Guild Wars 2 launch icon like it had the plague. Nothing could get be back in game because I had felt like I experienced most of the game and now that I was level 80 I didn't really have much to do. It wasn't until a couple days ago when I got the idea to revisit Tyria and see what was new and if anything that has happened since my departure could bring me back.

My first act of business after logging back into the game was getting my bearings. My entire guild had up and quit the game so I found a new group of adventures on the Blackgate server and immediately began conversing about the changes. Apparently some events have come and gone, Christmas was a blast, and this thing called the Fractals kept coming up. It was nice to see NCSoft have spent the time since release pushing out content. I decided to play my level 80 Ranger and was amazed at just how much I remembered from my last time playing. The world is still the same but I found a new appreciation for the game. It was as if the time away made me grow fonder for the lack of exclamation points over people's head and the cinematic events that you could just stumble into. It seemed I picked a great time to come back to Guild Wars 2.

Since returning, I've had a pretty good time getting re-acquainted with the world. The game still has a lot of room for improvements (namely a looking for group feature) but the world seems to be going strong. If this game were a subscription based game, there is no way it would be as successful as it is today. The buy to play mentality the developers stuck with works great and being able to just log back in whenever I please is a great feeling. I don't have to worry about my lack of playing costing me $15 a month. I already paid for the game, there's no sub, no problem.

In the coming days I plan on playing my new character (a Norn Engineer if you're interested) and experiencing the personal story of another race/profession to see how things are different. Guild Wars 2 is a special game and I'm really glad I decided to give it another shot.

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The Death and Possible Re-Birth of the Action RPG

2012 has been an odd year for action RPG fans. One of the most anticipated games of the last few years is released to mainstream excitement only to underwhelm and disappoint about as much as it pleased and met expectations. I'm talking about Diablo 3 of course, and in most cases the general consensus was that the game was extremely underwhelming. That's neither here nor there though since my main gripe with the game was the auction house. In my eyes, this brought about the death of the action RPG (a dramatic term, I know, but it serves for a blog post title) and instead replaced the fun and excitement of loot driven gameplay with an almost stock market like thrill of the buy. People weren't excited about completing sets of armor as much as they were about making million gold sales or $250 real life money sales. At first this novel idea turned my stomach sour and I lost all interest in the game before it was even 2 months old.

But, today is a pivotal day in the life of an Action RPG fan. Torchlight 2 hits (digital) store shelves today and with it a chance to redeem the genre. Torchlight 1 was a game that stood for everything that was pure and good in the action RPG genre with it's dungeon crawling, loot, and overall general aesthetic that hearkened back to the days of Diablo 1. There is no auction house to hawk wares at in the hopes of making a quick buck. If you decide to level your character, you will be doing so for the thrill of leveling your character, not to make money in the real world. I have extremely high hopes for this game but the highest of them all rest on the fact that I want my action RPGs to go back in time, not forward. I'm ok with the game bringing nothing new to the table, because at this point, bringing nothing new is bringing everything in the world to me.

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Battlefield 3 vs. Modern Warfare 3 - What's with all the hate?

BF3

As a gamer in my late twenties (ugh, I hate saying that) and with a well paying job, I can afford to pick up most games that come out. As such, I don't have to choose a side in the ongoing MW3 vs. Battlefield 3 war without ever picking up one of the titles like it seems so many people are doing. "My game of choice is better than yours!" "No, mine is better!" These are all too familiar words the interwebs have been spitting out for the past few weeks as the war of the games has been going on. After putting in some time with both games I really can't fathom why there is so much hate from each side directed at the other, the games are nothing alike. When I play Battlefield 3, I'm looking for that big, open, battlefield where my exploits pale in comparison to my team as a wholes exploits. It's not so much what I do vs. what I am doing for the team. "Play the objective" is a fan favorite way of summing up what Battlefield 3 is all about. Sure, you have your deathmatch and your team deathmatch, but it's not like it's anywhere near as personal as MW3. The main focus of the game is on objective based gameplay where you pick a role and do your best to help out your team.

MW3

On the flipside, we have MW3. This game focuses more on the soldier and his gun. It doesn't really matter what you do for you team since mostly everyone is playing for themselves and the almighty k/d ratio. Sure, you have team based games where you capture control points or pick up dog tags, but the one on one kill is king in this game. You aren't jumping in a plane and airdropping your buddies behind enemy lines to capture a point while you battle with a ground to air assault engineer. Instead you are building up one hell of a gun and going on a killing spree looking for enemies to mow down. Again, this is nothing like Battlefield.

After playing both, I realized something that I already hit on. The games aren't the same. I love them both equally but they both satisfy a different need. Sometimes I want that big battle experience. When that happens, I boot up some BF3 and go to town. Usually these play sessions are longer and involve more of an investment, namely weekend play. On weekdays when I might not have as much time or don't feel the need for the large scale battles, I'll hop into MW3 and have a blast with a more simplified battle, kill or be killed without worrying about much else.

Maybe it's just me, but I don't see where all this rivalry comes from. I know people are fiercely loyal to their brands but this is like the Mass Effect crowd fighting with the Final Fantasy crowd. It's two different genres that technically have things in common but in the end, just serve two totally different purposes.

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First Impressions: The Lord of the Rings - War in the North

The Lord of the Rings: War in the North

As a Lord of the Rings fan, I pretty much assumed that most games would be movie spin off rubbish or past it's prime MMO games. So, I was a little hesitant about picking up LOTR: War in the North. After spending a solid night playing the game, the following are my initial impressions on the game.

For starters, the game is mature in nature, which is awesome. You hack and slash enemies arms off their bodies and blood is spilling everywhere. You can turn this off, but in a universe that this rarely occurs in, I love it. This isn't a movie rehash where everything is toned down to get a certain rating, you'll see blood in your travels, and that's a good thing in a world that is certainly violent by design.

At the onset of the game, you'll be tasked with picking one of three characters. A human Ranger, Elf caster, and a dwarf axe wielder. Each class is similar in that they can do melee and range but they all have their own specialties. I chose to go with the ranger. While the game gives you a default look for your character, you can change it early in the game when you are in Bree. I really liked this addition to the game since you can make the character your own. My ranger has jet black hair and a square jaw. Kind of reminds me Madmartigan from Willow (props if you remember that classic movie.)

The gameplay in War in the North is typical hack and slash. On medium difficulty, enemies take a good deal to bring down early in the game but after each level you will be putting points into stats that will help you bring down enemies faster (or to complement whatever play style you have.) The gameplay is indeed fun but by the end of the night I was getting a little tired of it. There wasn't much in the way of variety to change things up. But, I'm still very early in the game and this shouldn't be a huge criticism against it since the world is still being fleshed out and the characters introduced.

If you are a Lord of the Rings fan, you'll really enjoy this game. Being able to play as someone besides the main characters from the books/movies is a welcome way to enjoy the universe and you'll see things happening in the world from a different perspective. New enemies I've never heard of pop up and all are involved in the story we all know and love in same way. If you aren't too hot on the LOTR series though, your mileage may vary with this game. Hack and slash fans will enjoy it but there are certainly better games out there to play. Being a fan of LOTR gives the game the extra "oomph" needed to push the player along in the world.

So, final though - Lord of the Rings: War in the North really good game that can get tiring if you aren't a LOTR fan. Hack and Slash fans will enjoy the game, but their mileage will vary depending on interest in this beloved series.

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Deus Ex: Human Revolution - First Impressions

PC Box shot

Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a game that I have been looking forward to for quite some time. I was a fairly big fan of the original, and even though the second was hated by most PC gamers, I actually quite liked it. Prior to it's release, you heard nothing but good things about the newest Deus Ex and one such story told that the PC version wasn't just a direct port. With that in mind, I pre-ordered the game on Steam and began playing two nights ago. After putting over 10 hours or so into the game, I feel that I can give an honest impression on how it's gone so far. So, without further adieu, my thoughts on Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

If you have played any of the previous Deus Ex games, you know what to expect. There's a lot of heavily modified humans which gives them an almost superhero like powers along with big corporations and shadowy corporate agendas. The game actually takes place about 25 years prior to the first Deus Ex, so the world is a little more chaotic. Human modification with bionic arms and other such devices is a bit of a hot button issue. On one side, you have scientists and corporations citing the life saving ability while on the other side you have purists who claim it's against human nature. Throw in some socio-economic issues and the world is rife for chaos.

You play as Adam Jensen, head of security for a company call Sarif Infustries. This company is one of the forerunners in human mechanical augmentation and as a result suffers an attack on the eve of a big announcement the company was going to make. In the scuffle, you are nearly killed only to be brought back with an insane amount of modifications. From here on out, you are equipped to find out who called the hit in on your company (and as a result caused some personal strife for Adam) and bring those people to justice.

As in other Deus Ex games, you are given a lot of choice in how you want to complete a mission. Do you run through the front door guns blazing or do you sneak in through the back? You can also play the social game and try to talk your way into places. All are an option thanks to the mechanical augmentations you have built into your body. Every level you will gain a point to put into these augmentations improving some and opening up others for the first time. The way that the developers built this system is seamless. You acquire the points at specific XP intervals as well as through buying them (although in limited supply) from stores. Early in the game you may feel a little under powered, but thankfully you get points to place soon enough and the badassery begins. Hacking was something I found I needed early on to complete some of the early side quests, so a little protip is to invest in 2 or 3 of hacking as soon as you can. From there the choices are yours and they really are plentiful. I always find myself anxiously looking forward to the next point I'm going to receive to try out a new power or improve upon one. It's very addictive and you can see your character becoming better and better as time goes on.

In Deus Ex, you can focus on Stealth or Gunplay or also a mixture of the two. I'm going for the mixture. I'm finding that stealth is amazing and really fun. On the PC, holding the right mouse button sticks you to a wall in third person perspective giving you a wide view of the area. I'll take people out in the shadows as much as I can, but I also carry some weapons for when things inevitably go hairy. Stealth is so fun because of the tools that are given to you. You can approach someone from behind and perfom a quick stun or kill move to silently remove the enemy from combat. Be careful though, because if you only stun his buddies can wake him up and they will be alerted to your presence. Pull the body aside to avoid this and hide it well, just like you would in a Metal Gear Solid game.

Gunplay in DE:HR is nothing to scoff at either. It can be just as fun running from cover to cover mowing down enemies with your weapons. Weapon mods and augs that improve gunplay are a plenty so you can always tweak what you want to do or become. The mix of stealth and gunplay has been a blast so far and I'm really enjoying it.

The graphics in Deus Ex: HR are fantastic. The world has a very golden glow to it which sort of reminds me of a Blade Runner type world. There are some long load times between areas but they don't happen that often and I did find myself forgetting about the issue as time went on. I played this game on the PC with max settings and it was amazing. I haven't seen the console versions so I can't really speak to them.

One thing I typically don't touch on in first impressions is music but in this case, I think I have to. The music is hauntingly wonderful with a touch of despair. When the action gets heavy, the music reacts and really blends into the background while at the same time being ever present in your mind. The music reflects the mood and at times even caused some anxiety about what's around the corner. They did a great job with the music and a soundtrack wouldn't be a bore to listen to.

One final note about the game that really impressed me - the level of detail with the story. Everywhere I go there are emails, PDAs, eBooks, etc. waiting to be picking up/hacked and read. If you are a story nut like I am, you are going to have a field day. The story is very throught out and doesn't treat you like a dumb consumer. You will have no idea what some of the story items being referred to are at first, but remember them and it will pay out.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution can easily be categorized as a candidate for Game of the Year. Not many games pay so much attention to detail, show so much polish, and keep you as invested in the story as Deus Ex: Human Revolution has. I'm looking forward to completing the game to find out exactly what's going on in this world and give the game another playthrough with a different loadout of augmentations. I hope this first impressions proved helpful to you and if you have any questions about anything in the game, feel free to post a comment and I'll respond ASAP. Thanks for reading.

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3DS Price Drop - Wise move, slap in the face of fans, or both?

I can't say that I was too pleased to learn about the sudden drop in the Nintendo 3DS price. On one hand, I'm a little peeved that I had to shell out $250 bucks and it's not being dropped to $170 only six months after it first hit shelves. This not only shows that Nintendo is full aware of their flub on pricing, but that they may have suspected it to be too high in the beginning. But, the loyal and the early adopters like myself went out and picked it up nonetheless.

When I first heard the news, I wasn't aware of anything being done to right the wrongs that loyal fans no doubt feel. Since, I've learned that Nintendo is going to offer 20 games to the early adopters for free via the downloadable network. Before you get excited, it's not current games, it's virtual console. First, we'll get 10 NES games including Super Mario Bros., original Zelda, and some others. Later on, we'll get some Gameboy Advanced games with the Mario Kart one being the only one that sounds decent at the moment. While this is a nice gesture, it still doesn't make me regret buying the DS. But, from a company that could have just threw up their hands and said sorry, the gesture is much appreciated.

Now, why is Nintendo dropping the price on the 3DS all of a sudden without a lot of press around this? Probably because sales haven't been so hot. The games for the system have been few and far between and to be honest, the 3DS was released way too early. Half the features mentioned and games promised didn't come out until months later (with some games still waiting to be released). This seems like a solid point but I think there's another reason, the Playstation Vita.

The Vita looks fantastic for a handheld and if it's going to be priced comparable to the 3DS, it would make it obsolete overnight. The tech in the Vita, the games, the graphics, etc. all look fantastic and blow the 3DS away. How can Nintendo fight that? Make it an uneven playing ground. Sure, if they were both the same price, you can pit them against each other, but if one drops the price and becomes a "more affordable" system, then all bets are off. The Vita remains the powerhouse while the 3DS is the cheaper platform with less impressive tech.

To be honest the only thing I fault Nintendo for is for not doing this sooner. If the 3DS would have released at this price I bet a whole hell of a lot more gamers would have traded in their DSi's for the 3DS. As for now, we just have to wait and see how the handheld market turns out. In the meantime, at least we have some old NES games to play with. *grumble*

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Hacking and Gaming Sites

Another day another gaming companies site is hacked. It's no longer surprising anymore. It began with Sony, then came Codemasters, then Epic, and finally Bethesda over this past weekend. The group responsible, LulzSec, are already making demands which include things like requiring Bethesda to put a hat into Skyrim that is labeled LulzSec. Seriously? This powerful organization that can bring company websites down just for the hell of it make childish demands? It's getting old and the notion of fighting the good fight against corrupt governments and such is completely out the window. It frustrates me to see people do this just because they can. They release personal information on innocent people causing all sorts of headaches, why? Just because they can...for the lulz. I really can't wait until they are prosecuted, you know, for the lulz.

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Infamous 2 - First Impressions

The first Infamous game was one that I hold very near and dear. I spent countless hours just scouring the city for any collectible I could find and loved every minute of it. So, it was a no brainer when the time came to pick up Infamous 2. I had been waiting quite a while for the release and I couldn't have been more excited. The following are some initial impressions I have of the game after putting in a solid 8 hours or so across a few days. If you're interested in the game or just want to see how it's being received by people, read on.

Cole has a new look and voice in the sequel

The first thing I noticed about the game was the fact that it felt a lot like the first (which is a good thing). Depending on how much of the first game you completed, your trophy data will unlock different features in the sequel. The game begins shortly after the first game and the Beast has come to wreak havoc on the world. It is your destiny as Cole to end this creatures existence, but in your first attempt you fail. Badly beaten by the Beast, you flee with your entourage to New Marais, a city that closely resembles New Orleans. It is here that your special agent contact has told you meet with a scientist who can increase your powers, making you able to confront the Beast and actually have a chance to defeat him. Over the course of the game, you will meet new characters and join forces with either the evil or good side of the spectrum and work towards your ultimate goal of defeating the Beast.

The story really does a nice job of giving you a goal to complete in the game. You always know that the Beast is hot on your trail because the map of the US in the pause menu specifically tells you where he is and how far from New Marais he currently is. But time is a strange beast in New Marais. Don't feel like you have to do everything at once. Hell, for the first couple hours of the game I collected blast shards to upgrade my character. Just as addictive as it was in the first game, collecting blast shards and upgrading your powers almost becomes a sort of meta-game in and of itself. You'll have to fight your "just one more" instincts to pry yourself from the tv to go to bed at night. I don't know what crack feels like, but I'm sure it's similar to the feelings I get while searching for these shards.

Since Infamous 2 is a sequel and the first Infamous was an origin story for Cole as a superhero, they had to get around the power aspect. Cole was a wimp in the beginning of Infamous 1 but by the end, he was pretty badass. They had two options to go with the second. Either do a God of War and strip him of his powers or make him crazy powerful in the sequel. Thankfully, they went with the latter. You begin the game with most of the powers from the first game. Over the course of the game you will continue to unlock more and more powers almost making Cole a super super hero with some of his abilities. It's an awesome feeling to truly feel crazy powerful in a game and then watch as you just become more and more powerful over the course of the game.

Cole and Lucy

The story was always a major selling point for me in Infamous 1. Origin stories are always fun and give you a sense of wonder as you learn about how the characters grow and evolve into the hero (or villain) they are to become. In the sequel, Cole gets some friends to help him along the way. There's both a good character and a sudo evil character for both sides of the spectrum. This adds a lot of depth to the story and I found myself caring for them a lot more than Cole's actual story. You get a feeling of relief when they show up on the field of battle to help you, just like I assume a superhero would when his side kick enters the fray. The story never really gets dry (up to the point I played) and you are always pushing forward to see what will happen next. The tyrant of the town, an old man named Bertrand who controls a militia, is a fitting enemy who seems to have a lot of secrets around his motives. I'm looking forward to playing more to find out where the story goes.

The major draw of the game is most definitely the gameplay though. Being able to climb walls, shoot electricity from your fingertips, and stalk enemies from the rooftops never looses it's appeal and you'll have plenty of time to mix things up. The way to complete a mission is never set in stone and you are left with a variety of ways to go about your mission. If you are going good, you need to always worry about pedestrians getting hurt in the line of fire while evil characters would revel in such an act. The choice is yours and you truly do feel powerful after making it.

Shockwave

If you played the first and enjoyed the game, it's a no brainer that you should pick up the second. If you were on the fence about the first though, you might not find anything new here to change your mind. People new to the series should pick up the first game first though since the second assumes that you have played it. There's some recap, but in all honesty, you'd be missing a lot. Infamous 2 is one of the best games of the year so far and you owe it to yourself to pick it up if you enjoy these types of games. I hope this first impression has helped clear up any questions you may have and if there are any others, post in the comments section below.

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Bringing me back into shooters (Crysis 2)

I'm typically not the type of person who likes FPS games.  I'll play them, sure, but I usually look for some sort of story or amazing gameplay mechanic to keep me interested.  The CoD or Battlefields of today just don't do it for me.  They are so run down and run of the mill that I get bored after finishing the campaign and toss it aside.  It's rare that I play a multiplayer game for longer than a couple hours because of the same thing - tedious, repetitive, gameplay.  So, when I picked up Crysis 2, I wasn't expecting too much from it because it is a shooter and it does have similar level progression multiplayer.  I was afraid the game was going to try so hard to be like everything else that it would lose the cool features it did spout out in press releases - namely the suit powers. 
 
So, color me surprised when I find out that the game is actually amazing.  I'm playing the game on the PC on the highest settings and I was at first blown away by the visuals.  When that died down, the suit powers and strategy gameplay elements really started to shine.  Stealthing to get a better vantage point only to backstab and then retreat into the shadows again before taking out an enemy garrison never gets old.  While it's not as open world as other games (namely it's predecessor)  the game still gives you ample opportunity to spread your wings and do as you please.  Where has this type of gameplay been?  I love it.   
 
And this love for Crysis' gameplay doesn't end with the single player.  The multiplayer portion of the game, while similar to others in design, is inherently different due to the suit powers.  Stealthing, armor, speed, etc. all add a level of strategy that I'm not used to in multiplayer games.  Can it be that I've found a solid shooter to finally devote my time to that I won't get bored of?  God I hope so.   I guess only time will tell. 
 
If you're interested, check out my first impressions of Crysis 2 to see how I feel after about 4 hours with single player and another 90 with mutlplayer here:  http://www.giantbomb.com/crysis-2/61-26754/user-reviews/?review_id=18945

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Trinity: Souls of Zill O'll Impressions



Trinity: Souls of Zill O'll is a game that I've had my eye on, but didn't know if I would actually purchase it. When it was released, it was during a dry patch in my gaming so I figured why not. After spending a good 10 hours or so playing it over the past couple days, I've finally been able to make a decent first impression on the game and the pro's and con's that may help you decide if you're interested in getting it. Keep reading to find out. 

 Combat is varied and certain enemies require specific skills to take down.
Trinity: Souls of Zill O'll (Trinity from here on out) is an action RPG from Koei, the team behind the Dynasty Warriors series. You can see this in some of the gameplay elements but besides that this is a completely different game. The game starts with a nice cutscene describing the story. You play as Areus, a half elf who is destined to kill the emperor, your grandfather. When the evil emperor finds out about his fate, he has his pregnant daughter killed and your father murdered. Your mother manages to escape with you on a boat but his men are in hot pursuit. Fast forward many years and you're an adventurer who fights in the arena in a major city. To avenge your father, you need to get stronger to be able to take on the emperor. By doing quests and going on missions, your character knows that the experience will come which ultimately will lead up to the final confrontation with the emperor. 

The story is fairly decent for an RPG game. Don't expect anything out of the ordinary though. It's told through nice cutscenes and text dialog between two static pictures (a very popular Japanese RPG style). Along your travels, you'll meet two new characters who will join your party who each have their own story and secrets about them. Finding that out and having them trust you isn't as easy as it seems though. While they'll divulge the knowledge over time, you are left hanging for long periods of time when the story does feel to get a little stale. It does pick up though and it seems it's right before it gets overly tiresome. 

The gameplay in Trinity is similar to a Dynasty Warriors game in theory only. You control one of three characters and each button on your controller does something different. X jumps, while square, triangle, and circle all have skills mapped to them. You can change the skills at any time and they can even be upgraded with orbs you collect by killing enemies. When you get really good at fighting, you can even combine attacks from multiple characters and have one character kick someone in the air while the others jump up and beat them down. These attacks take skill and patience, but it comes easy enough through some trial and error. 

 Conversations take place via text between two portraits.
The RPG elements in the game are light compared to others on the market but they are still pretty decent. You'll be able to find items, sell them to stores, and pick up new armor and weapons to equip. You can talk to people at the tavern or find quests at the adventurers guild. This game is really for the hardcore RPG fans only though, and the reason I say this is because of the way the non combat gameplay, especially in cities, was created. Everything is done from a menu and when people interact, a dialog pops up between two images. The artwork is good, but some people may be put off by this decision. 

The game costs 60 bucks at launch and I'm sure it will come down over time. I am really enjoying playing it, but looking back, knowing what I know now...I don't know if I would have paid full price for admission. The game feels like a decent full priced game, but a great bargain priced game. So, who should play this? If you're starving for an RPG, give it a try. If you have other games you're currently working on and don't care too much for the RPG genre, this is a definite skip.    
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