Playing With My Weiner

Gaming at the mercy of miniature daschunds.

Geneforge 5 Now Available For Mac December 8, 2008

Filed under: Games,Mac,Other Folks,Previews — Gwyddia @ 8:50 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Welcome to the world of Geneforge.

Welcome to the world of Geneforge.

Just a quick heads-up as I begin playing this for review. The latest in Spiderweb Software’s low-res high-sci fi series Geneforge has been released for the Mac. I’ll confess my standing sense of goodwill toward Spiderweb reaching all the way back to 1997 when a high-school boyfriend showed me a little game called Exile on his “Macintrash” (how little I knew). Despite looking like something from the NES, Exile was one of the first truly branching RPGs I had ever played, and certainly the first one I’d ever experienced where your actions actually changed the way people acted toward you.

 

The Exile Trilogy was followed by the Avernum series, which was basically a higher-tech remake of Spiderweb’s fantasy RPG. Geneforge came later, casting you as a Shaper with the power to create, control and destroy creatures who may or may not have native intelligence.

 

As I said, I’ve yet to play Geneforge 5, but I look forward to doing it.  If you don’t want to wait and you’re a Mac user, check out Spiderweb’s truly epic demo. PC users, you’ll have to hang on until March.

 

Preview: Hands On With Mirror’s Edge November 7, 2008

Filed under: Games,Previews,PS3,XBox 360 — Gwyddia @ 7:58 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

mirror-s-edge-first-gameplay-footage-1With only a week remaining until its North American release on the XBox 360 and PS3, it is time to delve into Mirror’s Edge.  We’ve been playing the demo here at the Weiner and we’ve got some pretty interesting stuff to report.

 

Mirror’s Edge is a new twist on an old genre – it is a first person parkour game.  As per Wikipedia:

Parkour (sometimes abbreviated to PK) or l’art du déplacement (Englishthe art of movement) is an activity with the aim of moving from one point to another as efficiently and quickly as possible, using principally the abilities of the human body.  It is meant to help one overcome obstacles, which can be anything in the surrounding environment—from branches and rocks to rails and concrete walls—and can be practiced in both rural and urban areas. Parkour practitioners are referred to as traceurs, or traceuses for females.

Founded by David Belle in France, parkour focuses on practicing efficient movements to develop one’s body and mind to be able to overcome obstacles in an emergency.

 

I may not kick your ass, but I'll run like Hell.

I may not kick your ass, but I can run like hell.

The protagonist is a courier named Faith who takes to to the rooftops to deliver important packages in a world where information on the ground is locked up tight. Faith’s world is detailed in shining white with spare primary colors, notably red, indicating your path.  That isn’t to say that the game is linear, but instead the bright accents give you a sense of direction when your body is hurling through space.

 

There is some fighting in Mirror’s Edge, but the action centers on Faith’s movement through the levels.  Weapons are generally used to get out of a jam and then tossed, because combat will slow you down too much.

 

The demo feels solid.  The jump buttons are on the shoulders, which gives your motion a more organic feel as you maneuver through the sky. They offer a couple different configurations, but the default has (Jump/Duck-Slide) mapped to the LB/LT and (Punch/Kick) to RB/RT. (Although RB will also do quick turns.)  It takes a moment or two of getting used to, and then it really feels smooth.

 

There is a definite sense of urgency to the missions, which makes it feel even better when you hit your jumps and turns and swings just right.  In that way it feels like a well-designed platformer, and the pleasure you derive from play is oddly similar to what you might feel when flawlessly completing a level in a Mario game.

 

 

Falling to your death never looked this good.

Falling to your death never looked this good.

The checkpoint system is reasonable, which is good.  You’re going to plummet to your death 20 or 30 times while getting the hang of this thing.  The time trials are not nearly as forgiving – the demo’s “qualifying time” of 2:00 will take more than a few tries.

 

All in all, Mirror’s Edge looks like it has come together well, and shaped up quite a bit from when we saw it at PAX.  Check out the launch trailer here and enjoy the game when it comes out next week.

 

Preview: The New XBox Live Experience November 4, 2008

ss-games_540x303

Are you experienced?  As Jimi rock and rolls in his grave, Microsoft prepares to roll out their “New XBox Live Experience” on November 19th.  First announced and shown at E3, the NXLE is essentially a giant Dashboard update, which means that ready or not, it is coming to your system in two weeks. In response to a “can I keep my old system?” FAQ, Microsoft replies, in near-Orwellian fashion:

 

“Why would you want to? The New Xbox Experience is the same experience you had before and so much more! As a matter fact, the blades that people have come to know and love are integrated directly in to the guide button so that every aspect of the Xbox experience is always only one button click away. The new Xbox experience is built with community as its foundation and requires everyone to upgrade.”

 

Microsoft is touting NXLE as the “ultimate social entertainment experience”.  Apparently concerts, clubs, coffeeshops, and the like are done for good.  But enough of slagging on the change for change’s sake. What’s new?

 

633608089139281317First up, move over Miis.  Avatars are here.  Immediately after downloading the new interface you will be asked to create an avatar, which will take the place of your gamerpic and will be used in games ranging from Scene It! to . . . Scene It! 2.  

 

Next comes Themes 2.0. This PS3 Home-esque feature gives you your own little piece of virtual real estate. Each graphic you see in a theme ties into the overall effect, and there are rumors of purchaseable theme items for that “special touch”. People with friends can invite them into the Friends Channel to host an avatar party, complete with dressup dolls and pudgy unicorns. Ok, I made that last part up. Still love your Penny Arcade blades theme? Microsoft assures us that we won’t lose our old gamerpics and themes, but as of this writing, they “haven’t given out specifics about how your Gamerpics and Themes will be used when the update launches”.

 

One of the biggest new features, both in terms of impact and hard disk space, is the new Netflix on Demand feature. If this works like the PC version, XBox Live users will be able to watch any of thousands of movies on their large shiny TVs without having to wait for a disc to arrive in the mail. This feature requires membership in the Netflix unlimited subscription plan and, I’d imagine, sufficient hard disk space to store the data. This should become interesting to Comcast subscribers, who have a shiny new bandwidth cap.

 

But they were both the streets of shame...

But they were both the streets of shame...

Where does this leave “Arcade” and “Core System” users? Microsoft states that “to download the update, Xbox LIVE members will need to have at least 128MB of memory available. However, we recommend having a hard drive for the best experience.” Right. So upgrade now, folks, lest ye be judged.

 

All in all, I think that some of these changes are decent. The streamlined interface will be nice after the learning curve, and avatars look fun, if useless. The big draw is really Netflix, and we won’t know how well that actually works after launch. Here’s hoping they can keep the system up longer than Sony has of late with Little Big Planet.

 

Preview: Mother 3 Translation Project October 18, 2008

Are you my mommy?

Are you my mommy?

The Mother series of games is a big deal to RPGers.  Known as the Earthbound series in the United States, these role-playing games are not another thud-and-blunder series, but instead are set in the West, albeit from a Japanese point of view.  Enemies range from aliens to hippies, your weapon is more like to be a Star Tropic-al yo-yo than a sword.  The series started in 1989 with the Japan only release of Mother for the Famicom. The second game in the series was released in the U.S. as EarthBound for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System in 1995.

 

Mother 3 was in development for 12 years before it was released in Japan in April 2006 for the GBA. Ostensibly the most popular title of the series, it is similar to Dragon Quest IV in that it divides the tale up into several chapters. Each chapter features different characters whose stories all tie together in the end. The original game received a 35/40 from Famitsu Magazineand sold 205,914 copies in its first 3 days on sale.

 

Hello, World!

Hello, World!

Earthbound 3 was announced as an N64 title, but was scrapped.  Ever since, fans have been clamoring for an English version.  As of today, they need clamor no more. A group of talented fan programmers known as Starmen.Net have translated and patched the entire game.  After two years of work, the translation patch was finally released today, October 17, 2008. Any fan with the ROM can run the patch and enjoy Mother 3’s humor in English. I intend to do just that this weekend and give a full review on Monday.

 

Preview: The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom September 26, 2008

Filed under: Other Folks,Previews — Gwyddia @ 7:27 am
Tags: , , , , ,

 

 “I say, old chap, might you have a bit of pie? “

 “Alas, dear friend, I had some, but I finished it not a moment ago with a spot of tea!”

 “Not to worry, dear sir.  *pop*  *pop*  Pie for all!”

 

Welcome to the world of P.B. Winterbottom, time exploiter and pie enthusiast.  The  game comes from students in USC’s Interactive Media Unit, and is similar to Braid  with a twist of Edward Gorey.

 

Life was simple for our silent film antagonist until he chanced to purloin a  Cherry Chronoberry pie.  Instantly, Winterbottom’s world turned upside-down.  And inside-out.  And a sort of side-by-side through thing he hasn’t quite worked out yet.  Not content with Braid-like “shadows” and time reversal, these (now graduated) USC students have designed a game where you can play both the hero and the villain, and be in up to six places at once besides.  

 

The art style is a nod to both Victoriana and silent films, with, as I mentioned, an Edward Gorey cartoon twist.  The music follows suit, so prepare to fire up the old Victrola and go to town as you listen to ragtime piano and read 1920’s-era title screens to narrate the action.  The score is dynamic, sort of like Rez, where the soundscape changes and broadens bas the story unfolds.

 

IGN somehow lists The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom as both released and unreleased, so I can’t say when everyone will get the chance to play.   For more information as it is available you can visit the game website at Winterbottomgame.com. In the meantime, enjoy the trailers and “making of” video below.


Trailer #1.


Trailer #2.


The Making of Winterbottom.

 

Preview: Dragon Age: Origins September 19, 2008

Filed under: BioWare,Games,PC,Previews — Gwyddia @ 8:18 am
Tags: , ,

Gee, I wonder what those KOTOR guys have been up to lately. Sure, they’re developing a Sonic RPG for the DS, but that seems pretty small potatoes in comparison to say, Baldur’s Gate.  Yeah, Baldur’s Gate.  I miss that.  I wish they’d do another one.

Huzzah!  The spiritual successor to Baldur’s Gate is Dragon Age: Origins, and BioWare recently confirmed that PC players will have it before April 2009, and consoleans soon after.

 

Originally just titled “Dragon Age” the ‘Origins’ in the title refers to how your origin and the decisions you make affect the way your story unfolds. This is nothing new for BioWare. KOTOR, Jade Empire, and Mass Effect all had “light side/dark side” decision trees. BioWare considers this sort of character development its particular idiom, and they seem determined to keep honing the technique until every player feels that each of their characters is an entirely unique entity shaped by the player’s own hand.

 

Unlike in Mass Effect, however, your main character does not have a voice. BioWare told Joystiq at PAX that this was due to the great variability in gender and race for your character. The demo makes it clear that, at least in town, race does matter. In the town we saw, Human Wardens were treated with great honor and respect, but their Elven brethren were far less revered. Humans might experience the reverse in an Elven town, and it remains to be seen how the Orc PCs fit into the whole mess. The specifics of character creation are still under wraps.

Elves Pay Moar.

Elves Pay Moar.

 

As far as the game world is concerned, the forces shaping the characters in Dragon Age are not your typical D&D high thud and blunder. BioWare has taken a darker tone, complete with real blood and real violence. You play as the Grey Wardens, elite warriors called to task to put down the forces of a risen Old God.

A beheading from the PAX demo.

A beheading from the PAX demo.

 

Combat is classic BioWare pause-and-play, with a decent mix of action and roleplaying every combat. The fight in the 45-minute PAX demo felt solid, and gave the player several options to finish the fight, including butchery and trickery. It is possible that even these choices can affect your character development, but BioWare has yet to confirm this.

 

As of PAX, the game looks good. BioWare has developed a new game engine for DA that they are calling Eclipse. The game will come with a toolset for user-created content, and one can only expect that with a subtitle like Origins, expansion packs will be on the way. 

 

If Dragon Age: Origins is this promising eight months before its release, I look forward to seeing the depth and polish BioWare puts on the final product.

 

New Gears of War 2 Trailer not for the faint of stomach September 15, 2008

Filed under: Games,Industry,Other Folks,Previews — Gwyddia @ 7:57 am
Tags: , ,

From TechEblog.com, the 4:20 trailer that Cliff B showed at the GameStop manager’s Conference last week.

 

This is new gameplay footage.  It’s looking really good, though the motion and the gore factor may make this not-for-breakfast viewing.

 

Preview: Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen September 12, 2008

Filed under: Previews,Square Enix — Gwyddia @ 7:15 am
Tags: , ,

There aren’t enough colons in that title.


I love role-playing games.  The first RPG I ever played was Dragon Warrior – the American version of Enix’s (no Square merger yet) Dragon Quest. From the moment I saw my first blue slime, I was hooked. My folks couldn’t afford to get me Dragon Quests II and III, but on Christmas morning 1992, I opened my shiny new Dragon Warrior IV.

Mr. Brando welcomes you to the game.

Mr. Brando welcomes you to the game.

Best Christmas Ever.

My Christmas Morning.

This game was amazing! It came with a detailed strategy guide full of art and pictures of how my magical weapons and armor really looked. It featured chapters, 5 of them, each with different characters! Some of these characters, sisters Mara and Nara, were girls, and they weren’t in another castle, they were right in front of me! (My mother nearly had a cow when she saw me “fan fighting” the dog one day with a cheap Chinese paper fan.)

 

Even then I knew the game wasn’t perfect. There were level grinds, particularly in the chapter where you play as the merchant (7 swords and 7 suits of armor to be farmed via random encounters, ugh!), but it was all worth it when I took control of my first ever airship.

I SWORE this was what I looked like.

I SWORE this was what I looked like.

So yeah, I’m excited about Dragon Quest IV’s DS re-release.

 

SquareEnix has given DQIV the Final Fantasy treatment. They’ve updated the graphics to 3D while keeping most of the goofy charm.

The king slime approacheth!

The king slime approacheth!

The storyline is the same, but Squeenix has reverted to the original character names from the Japanese version. There are no touchscreen controls, but the shoulder buttons will adjust your camera angle if you wish and the Y button will bring up a “hand drawn” map in towns, ala DQ VII.

 

The starting town.

The starting town.

All in all, if you loved the original, or just loved JRPGs, you need to have this one. If you hate turn-based, sprite-y games, keep on moving, nothing to see here.

 

Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen, will be released on September 16, 2008. The price is USD$39.99

 

WotLK: Howling Fjords September 11, 2008

Filed under: Previews,World of Warcraft — Gwyddia @ 6:11 pm
Tags: , , ,

[Note: This refers to Beta Build 8926, the current build as of this writing.  Due to the pre-release nature of a beta, some or all of this is subject to change.]

 

For the Horde! Yes, that’s right, your Prime Gnome has gone to the dark side, at least to test out some of the Howling Fjords content. I took a 70 orc warrior into the fray in the Howling Fjords starting area. Alliance and Horde both have bases in both WotLK starting areas, but I wanted to try something new.

 

The Horde can access HF via a zeppelin tower just outside of the Undercity. This will bring you to Vengeance Landing, a city of the Kirin Tor (last seen in Netherstorm).  There are over 140 quests in HF, so get busy.

Welcome to Vengeance Landing!

Welcome to Vengeance Landing!

 

Vengeance Landing is run by the Forsaken, and has most of the amenities you expect in a WoW town – inn, repair guy, inscription trainer.  Yes, WotLK wastes no time getting their latest profession underway. Stock up your Peaceblom and Silverleaf now, because they are the ingredients in your starting inks. You’ll begin by making silver and pearl ink and inscribing basic Scrolls of Stamina, Intellect, etc. It should be an easy skillup if you’ve stockpiled, but will be pricy in the Auction House if you haven’t.

 

In terms of battle, the order of the day in HF is Vikings, I mean, Vrykul. These larger-than-you bearded warriors are fighting the Alliance and the Horde tooth and nail for the HF.

Thorvald of the Vrykul.

Thorvald of the Vrykul.

 

The Vrykul questline will eventually take you into Utgarde Keep, a Hellfire-type structure with two instances packed within. Utgarde Keep itself, which is a level 70-72 5-man, and Utgarde Pinnacle, a level 80 5-man.

No welcome mat?

No welcome mat?

 

Just because there are new enemies doesn’t mean you won’t attack each other. The other starter questline for the Horde involves protecting the Forsaken fleet from Alliance marines, soldiers, medics, and scavengers. This questline involves all your favorite quest types – collection, kill 15 of X, and of course, escort! The escort quest is especially tough, as there are marksmen around who can take 1/4 of a plated warrior’s health at a shot. Make your way through this and you’ll get to New Agamand, the main Horde base in HF. New Agamand is a beautifully detailed area that comes as a bit of a relief after slogging through the dreariness of the starting area.

Hi Hordies, we're home!

New Agamand

 

Loot is not spectacular so far. This is not Burning Crusade, where green was the new purple. Instead, quest rewards tend to be greens that are minor upgrades for a Karazhan-plus geared toon, and fodder for a T5 or T6 character. I’d like to see this tweaked a bit before release, as BC has been out for a while, and I think most people made it at least to Kara.

 

As far as talents go, I’ve only just played the warrior, but for the first time on ANY toon, I find myself dumping all of my points into one tree. For now that is Fury, for leveling purposes, though my warriors are ultimately for tanking. It makes for a powerful character, but I feel that I am missing the balance that I have in my regular game. I really dislike the new deep talent, Heroic Leap. It pulls you up, leaps you over your foes, usually makes you aggro other foes, and doesn’t do much damage. This might be nice as an alternative to Charge, but as an in-combat ability, it is terrible.

 

I would love to hear other comments on warrior builds or any other builds in Lich King.  Look for more updates in the weeks to come.

 

Preview: DeathSpank September 8, 2008

Filed under: Previews — Gwyddia @ 8:30 am
Tags: ,

What happens when you breed Escape from Monkey Island with Penny Arcade Adventures: On The Rain Slick Precipice of Darkness?  You give unholy birth to  DeathSpank, an action-puzzle clickerdoodle (my word, not theirs).

What is it?  Good question.  Hothead’s Joel DeYoung attempted to explain it to 1Up.com as “. . . a multi-tiered game that seems like Diablo on the surface. You can choose to play it straightforward and enjoy it. But if you play again and take time to explore, it opens up and reveals new depth and story.”  The art style seems to be classic Hothead – animation similar to Penny Arcade Adventures, but not in Gabe’s signature style.  For anything further, we need to look at the tales of the tape.

The first teaser shows fighting, but I don’t think it shows gameplay. It’s 54 seconds of amusement and cartoon slaughter with a panoply of weapons.

The second teaser trailer backs up those “Diablo-esque” assertions, but also gives hints as to the importance of the puzzle-solving aspects of the game. The first piece of armor shown is the Helmet of Intimidation, boasting +1 to puzzle solving (and +3 to height – go gnomes!). The next item is a little more tongue-in-er . . .cheek – the Nippley Manglebrak, which gives a +7 to sexy.

The final teaser trainer deals with crafting, featuring delicious ice cream and a cocktail lemon worthy of Kingdom Of Loathing. WoW and its brethren do not escape poking, either – one item is a torn map piece bearing the legend “only eight more to go!”

The DeathSpank website is just a splash for now, bearing the legend “Coming Soonerish”. If the combat system and plot match the humor they’ve shown us already, it may not be soonerish enough.