Monday, October 18, 2010

Heaven, Hell, and Everything in Between

Ah what a week it has been. This post will be a little less journalistic than my others and more of covering what I’ve been playing lately. This post was supposed to be up last week but one of the topics here will explain why it’s up today instead.

Firstly, I started playing Darksiders about two weeks ago. This game came out in January for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 but didn’t release for the PC until the end of September. I like it so far. The gameplay is really a mix between The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and God of War/Dante’s Inferno/Devil May Cry, with a bit of Portal tossed in towards the end. That may seem like a weird combination but it works. The game plays on the idea of the end of the world and who will take part in it. You play as War, one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, who serves the Charred Council, a mediator between the Kingdom of Heaven, the Kingdom of Hell, and the Kingdom of Man. In the Darksiders universe, the apocalypse is a war between all three kingdoms. However, because the Kingdom of Man is not yet strong enough, the Charred Council uses the four horsemen to enforce the truce between Heaven and Hell until the Kingdom of Man is able to take part. Well, someone starts the apocalypse a little too early, and the Kingdom of Man is wiped out. War is sent to Earth as the war between angels and demons has already begun. He finds out that the other horseman have not been summoned he is being framed for kick-starting the apocalypse. War sets out on a quest clear his name and restore balance, or face the Charred Council’s punishment of death.

You might not be able to get your head around of weird combination of gameplay mechanics, but THQ and developer Vigil Games really devoted time to getting the gameplay and mechanics down pat. In a game that relies so heavily on ideas we’ve seen in past games, it’s necessary for the foundation to be polished and shine, and that’s what it does. You’ll use a variety of items, including variants of a boomerang, hook-shot, and ocarina (in the form of a demon horn). You’ll also be fighting horrific demons and monstrous bosses in the vein of God of War. Not quite as epic, but the combo system and the various magical abilites and powers you can use feel satisfying nonetheless.

The second topic I want to talk about and the reason this post was delayed until today, is the new World of Warcraft patch. I’m not one to normally spend a substantial amount of time talking about WoW on here, but it’s a fairly significant patch. Basically, the 4.0.1 patch lays down all the framework and system changes needed for when the newest expansion, Cataclysm, launches on December 7. This includes talent changes, existing spell and ability changes, implementation of the new glyph system, introduction of reforging and the mastery stat, along with other significant changes and additions. It took me about a day of downloading and installing the new patch before I was actually able to log in to the game servers (which is normal for a patch of this magnitude). After that, I spent the next two to three days downloading and updating add-ons until the game back to normal for me. As a Warrior I’m finding it very hard to change my play-style. Before, tanking any size instance meant rapidly hitting the Heroic Strike ability to bleed off any excess rage as threat. Now I find myself resisting the urge to use the ability when not even near a rage cap. Its definitely something I’ll have to learn to adjust to and with Cataclysm not releasing for at least another month, I’ll have plenty of time to do it.

Now to real reason I wanted to post this. Last week an anonymous blogger by the name of EA Louse wrote a diatribe of supposed insider information about why the MMORPG Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning failed, and even went into Star Wars: The Old Republic. If you want to read the blog, you can go here, but honestly, it really is a waste of time.

There are two schools of thought. Either a, EA Louse is not an employee or Mythic or EA, but is instead Warhammer player who feels wronged by the companies, and is spouting what is already public knowledge in a the form of a rant under the veil of anonymity. Or b, he is an employee of Mythic or EA, and is upset the he will be losing his job in the next few weeks (more likely days), and therefore recycling what is already public knowledge in the form of an angry rant to cause some headlines. If I knew I was losing my job at the end of the week, I too would feel angry at my employer, through I’m not sure I would burn such bridges. I’d also be thinking in my head, “If I post this anonymously, no one is going to believe it; I need to put something in here that people will think is real.” Hence the shot at Star Wars: The Old Republic. However, there are a few tidbits in here that really show imaginary this whole thing seems to be.

We’ve already known for some time that The Old Republic is going to be EA’s greatest investment. From a numbers standpoint, we know EA invested $100 million in APB, so for EA to invest $300 million in The Old Republic, believable, not really far from what I would guess. He then talks about how Bioware is most proud of the voice-over work being done in the game. I hate to break it to you, but Bioware should be proud of their voice-over work. It is a game changer. Think of it on the level of World of Warcraft’s solo-bility in its leveling up. Voice-over in an MMO game will be an industry standard after The Old Republic. Imagine playing a game where the entire story is told through conversations between characters, and then try playing that same type of game where you have to read paragraphs of text to understand the story. You will not want to go back to quest text after playing with voice-over. You simply will not.

I think this was the best part of the whole post, and the point where I knew that this was either someone trying to pass off as a Mythic/EA employee or someone who was and had no idea what was going on. He talks about how The Old Republic will be a joke. “EA knows it and so does George Lucas, they’re panicking, and so most of Mythic has already been cannibalized to work in Austin on it because they can’t keep pushing back launch.” Really? Do you think that George Lucas has any idea of what The Old Republic is, let alone what an MMORPG is? Let me fill you in on something, unless it’s a movie, the animated television series, or work on the live-action series, Lucas doesn’t touch it. Lucas Licensing handles everything else, the books and the toys. Lucasarts handles the games, and Lucasarts is publishing The Old Republic. Paul Meegan is currently the President of Lucasarts, which means he has controls what goes on in The Old Republic. If George Lucas really wanted to dig his fingers into The Old Republic, he would have final say of course, but do you think he has that much interest, let alone time?

Here was the kicker of the entire thing. He calls The Old Republic, “one of the greatest failures in the history of MMOs from EA.” I think he forgets the power of the IP. Star Wars has been around for more than 30 years and is one of the most recognizable brands in the market. Despite what many think, the appeal ranges from toddlers to seniors. It is one of the greatest film sagas of our generation and will continue to permeate for the next 100 years. If I’m starting to sound a bit fanboy-ish, it’s because I am. But it doesn’t change the facts. Time will only tell on how long The Old Republic ranks among other great MMO games, but I can tell you, I will be there on launch day, waiting for the servers to come online, along with the rest of my friends and other Star Wars fans.

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