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... and more clichéd Borg-related puns. The reason being that Star Trek Online has just celebrated it's 2 year anniversary with heavy promotion of it's newly released free-to-play side and anniversary content such as Borg invasion events and a special mission to acquire a limited edition ship.

Star Trek Online

STO had a troubled development history, having begun life as a project of now-bankrupt Perpetual Entertainment and getting shelved when it all went south. Luckily, Cryptic Studios picked it up and began developing it again, with much fanfare and hype and even getting on board Leonard Nimoy for voice acting and promotions. I followed it's development with interest because Star Trek was something I grew up around (I knew my Andorians from my Betazoid), and I even applied for the Beta. Needless to say, with my old rustbucket of a computer back then I didn't get a lookin.

However, what I heard coming out of the betas was disappointing. Spaceflight was primitive and like Freelancer but sluggish, ground combat was basic and never really got anywhere. Even though it looked good and there was a lot of effort on matching up lore and keeping star trek aesthetics, themes and sounds, my enthusiasm drained away and I barely gave it any thought. The game is set a while after the Voyager series finished: the Klingons are at war with the Federation, the denizens of the Gamma Quadrant are gearing up for an invasion, the Borg are ever-present, the Undine (species 8472) are plotting to wipe everyone out and the shattered remains of the Romulan Star Empire are causing trouble. Plenty of scope for activity but from all I heard it just never lived up to it's potential.

Fast forward a year and a half and while I investigate Champions Online, I end up hearing more about STO as its sister product at Cryptic. The item shop microtransaction model had kept me away, I had Eve Online for my spaceship pewpew needs and Anarchy Online for my ground based sci fi. It wasn't until this second anniversary celebration when a couple of friends jumped into the game that I decided I'd give it a go.

With Perfect World International's acquisition of Cryptic, there's been a big push to amalgamate accounts into a single PWI entity. I have reservations about this, particularly since I have a PWI account already because of the couple of days I faffed about with Forsaken World, but as yet it's still possible to use an existing Cryptic account to play STO/CO. The fun part about that is that a Cryptic account spans both games to the point where you can be logged in as one character on one account in one game and chat to yourself, in-game, to another character on the same account in the other game. Quite nifty for keeping track of friends I feel. It also meant I had accounts existing ready for STO so I could log in, roll up a Starfleet officer and get going with a minimum of fuss.

First impressions

Free to play means restrictions all round. My experience with CO meant I knew what sort of thing to expect with STO: limited character selection, limited costumes, missing out on customisation and so on. I wasn't expecting only ONE character on an account though, which is a bit stingy. Would it have hurt to allow 2? Still once technical hiccups had been resolved (running the first time defaulting to 800x600 fullscreen whilst at the same time the character creation auto-started in the middle of the client's Gamma test: hilarity ensued), I got mucking about creating a character. Science, Engineering or Tactical officer and then picking a species or creating your own custom alien. The usual suspects were available to play, such as Human, Vulcan, Andorian etc, as well as some less popular choices like the Pakled. No Klingons until you have a character at 25 (they're an entirely seperate faction) and therefore none at all to free players unless they buy more character slots.

In my usual style, I went with a custom alien Engineering Officer. A weird looking tall thin thing with bone plates and spikes, dreads, infra red vision and a thoughtful composure. Recognisable themes from the various series and films play during character creation and once you're done you jump right into the tutorial.

Having played through the CO tutorial plenty of times I was hoping for something similar: open world with much to explore, mobs to pewpew for XP and items, extra quests lurking around and achivements/perks (called Accolades in STO). Sadly, it's not like that at all. The experience is very linear, eases you in slowly with how to best use your phasers, movement controls, scanning for anomalies, explaining bridge officers and absolutely nothing of interest. You are a lowly ensign beamed aboard a ship under borg attack to help them fend off the invaders, who are acting very oddly. Upon your victory, you find that the Borg killed all the command crew of your own ship. In the ensuing spaceflight battles you prove yourself to be a worthy acting-captain and you rescue some personnel from various less lucky Federation ships before getting together with other ships (other tutorial newbies or NPCs) to kick some Borg butt. Then it's home in time for tea and medals and a promotion to Lieutenent. That is, level 1 and entrance into the main star trek galaxy playfields - a single server with instancing used for all locations. All in all it was more of a cinematic cut scene with little else, and absolutely no replay value.

Exploration and Boldly Going

Spaceflight and combat is very Freelancer, much more so than it is Eve Online, though it's using similar 'clearly defined up and down' space as opposed to true 3D space. That said your ships are big and slow so steering them is a tedious and fiddly prospect, especially given your weapons don't autofire so you end up having to mash the spacebar for your phasers and the number keys for your photon torpedos. I really wish I had the option to double-click in space move rather than hold down all mouse buttons and slowly drag the cursor, or WASD. Having only a distance to your object with no other spatial information in a pseudo-3D environment is a real pain as well, and overall it feels primitive. There's a lot of manual flying around 'sector space' which is basically warp space which you use to fly through sectors and quadrants, dropping out of to arrive in various systems. The autopilot can only fly you in a straight line. If a zone boundary appears within that line, you go into that zone regardless of whether that was where you'd plotted a course to or not. It then leaves you there, scratching your head and wondring what your navigation console was smoking.

You can scan for anomalies and those lead either to mission objectives or, more often than not, objects you can play a wave-matching minigame with to win loot that's used for crafting. This occurs in both space and on the ground. It's a bit fiddly at first but once you're familiar with the increment size of each click of the arrow when matching a wave, it gets to be rather easy and you win lots more loot.

Ground combat I actually found to be rather fun. I had a very nice sniper phaser that could 1-shot just about anything if I dropped into Aim mode, and early on found a hand phaser with an AoE setting to swap to once multiple hostiles were in range. The NPC-controlled security officers and bridge officers that comprised the rest of my away team were rather erratic and often rather stupid, not moving out of the radius of a photon grenade thrown at us, or just charging right into the middle and getting shot up. The movement animations looked bad though; my body hovers through the air with my erratic limb waving having no tangible effect on anything. I jump like an idiot. There's equipment like armour, kits for a special move/attack, 2 weapons you can switch between and 4 slots for consumables such as shield rechargers and medical stims *.

Customising your Bridge Crew is a nice touch. The specialisations, race and gender are fixed but you can alter any other aspect of their appearance, and it's up to you what equipment you want to give them. They each have one special Ground skill and one Ship skill. As an example the Andorian Female Tactical Officer everyone is issued with in the tutorial can use Photon Grenades on the ground, and can supercharge a double Photon Torpedo attack in space. As you do things in the game and gain officer ranks (levels), you gain points to spend in your own skills and points for your bridge crew.

As with CO, once you're at the main earth space station after you finish the tutorial, there's a bunch of runaround missions to talk to people and get the hang of things like the tailor, shipyard, medical bay and so on, then you're sent off on some story related basic missions (escort a Vulcan ambassador, add a dash of Klingons and leave to simmer with an Undine - it gets messy). Eventually you're given the obligatory runaround in how to craft and a lesson why getting involved in Ferengi money-making schemes behind the Federation's back is ultimately a headache. Then you're given free reign on what you want to do next. At this point I found the game to get slow in terms of progression.

Odessy Class Ship

Q gives freebies?!

The spangly Odessy-class ship mission for the anniversary celebration can only begin at Lieutenant (5) (which is only level 5, sounds easy enough). It's simple enough to do: chat to Q on the earth station and after sitting through his attempts at humour and exasperation at human's obsession with phat loots, he tells you to get your arse to Mars where you can test fly this new super-secret uber class ship on some deactivated Borg. A Klingon shows up in an uber battleship pursued by other Federation vessels, you blow it the hell up and then it's home in time for more tea and more medals.

The trouble was that I found it surprisingly long and awkward to make up the levels to go and do the mission. So much so that I ran out of time trying to get it on another character. Grinding the Delta Voranis anomaly missions was what the game strongly suggested I do by giving me lots of repeatable missions there and all it really did was build up a big pile of crafting materials I didn't have the currency to make use of. The main currency is Energy Credits and at lower levels at least, it's hard to come by. But I persevered and the ship was big, majestic, powerful and slow as molasses. Sadly you can only actually pilot the thing for real at max level, which I didn't realise at the start.

All in all

I spent much of the weekend playing STO and it was overall a fun blast. It's shared programming and game design roots with CO are very obvious all over the game, though I wonder why they made ground movement so different when CO's works well and STO's doesn't...
I'm not sure if I'll play it any more than maybe a random hour here and there as whilst character creation is fun (Female Ferengi Tactical Officer you say? That'll get all the RPers knickers in a twist if I go RP with it...) and they've captured the feel of Star Trek nicely, I can see ground combat getting samey and space combat isn't all that entertaining. Still, it's free so chances are I'll give it a look back now and then. It's not engaged me particularly and I see much of it's wasted potential, but I don't hate it and haven't uninstalled it so it's doing better than many other MMOs...

* The best ones I found were Tribbles. They had monosyllable names, if you idled your away team would take them out and stroke them complete with tribble sound effects, and when you got shot you could eat them to regain HP...
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Over recent years, the dissemination of game content has shifted from a single complete and finished product in a cartridge or on a disk, to a first release version that then has updates added at various later points. This is even becoming true of consoles, such as XBox Live and PSN games. Whilst there are debates about whether it means paying players are the new beta testers, rushing releases and suchlike, one thing that has caught on this year especially is the idea of seasonal updates.

In short: christmas has come to a video game near you.


MMOs have had this sort of content for years, with plenty of titles adding in bits and pieces ranging from encounters to phat lootz to social costumes. Halloween and Christmas seem to be the most popular and this year is no exception with just about everything on the market going for it. Even EVE Online gets in on the act, though these days they have restricted it to gifting each account with some sort of present item such as a ship or an implant.

Trion Worlds Holiday Greeting

The MMOs I have dealings with all have Christmas festivities in some form or another. Anarchy Online has present-dropping leets in tower fields, big christmas trees in the main cities and a series of minigame encounters around a tongue-in-cheek storyline about aliens (lead by the commander Grin'Cha) infiltrating Santaleet's workshop to spread throughout the planet... Rift has had a three phase Fae Yule event going on for the last month or so and and the final phase is due to being any day now, revolving around the newly-freed Fae going overboard in celebrating the rites of Grandfather Frost with gifts, special footholds and costumes. Champions Online has costumes and perks associated with defeating armies of misfit toys, and the final part of an adventure pack series with a wintry theme.


But it's not just MMOs. Game all across Steam have popped up free DLCs with christmas content ranging from decorations for the Tavern in Dungeon Defenders to a new map with its own achivement and music in Sanctum*. Killing Floor has christmas-skinned zombies, to follow up their Halloween themed DLC. Bunch of Heroes also has a holiday pack... You get the idea.

It's even becoming present in mobile gaming: Alchemy Classic just updated with a christmas addition set, chaging the backgrounds to be festive and adding some 50 new combinations for christmas and yule related items, like Coniferous trees.


Of course with a fixed theme such as Christmas/Yule, there's only so much you can do based on the same hashed-out old tropes (trees, presents, candy canes, snow etc) and it is all a bit jarring with the setting of each game unless it's based in the real world and the here and now. Ultimately it's why Eve Online moved it's christmas celebrations out of game, so to speak (although it was fun pelting the devs with snowballs in my destroyer). It's all just some silly fun, though, and it can make a change in the scenery from the rest of the year.

*For the record, Sanctum devs can't sing. It is funny though.
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Would you believe I arrived back home with enough time to try out this week's archetype?

In the continuing saga of the Champions Online Premium Archetype rotation program, this week offered up The Tempest. Described as electrical ranged firepower, I was hoping it'd play out like The Inferno with bits on. I rolled myself up a new character and skipped the tutorial because I'm already quite familiar with the Inferno class. No real loss in doing that either as I'm given some equipment, perks and money that I'd have got off the tutorial anyway. Makes me wonder why I didn't try that out sooner...

So level 6 right off the bat. My basic powers are an energy builder that has a chance to put a stack of Negative Ions on the target, an energy consumer that deals more damage to targets with Negative Ion stacks with a chance to arc to others nearby, and an AoE that knocks back targets with Negative Ions as well as having a chance to put a stack on the targets. So all in all it looks set to be a slow-building AoE damage specialist. Flight is, as ever, a no brainer for a ranged DD.

Off I go do the frozen wastes and start electrocuting like there's no tomorrow, alogn with everyon else in the entire world it seems. Of all the characters I see in the Canadian Crisis, it takes until about a third of the way through for me to spot anyone who isn't a Tempest. Having played around with it, it's not hard to see why as the whole deal really is quite a lot of fun and whilst it's great DD as promised, it doesn't play like The Inferno at all aside from having to DD them before they DD yo because you're pure offense. You're not going to alphastrike someone but over time your DD will be difficult to beat. When I pick up my slotted passive power of Electrical Form (oh my, how original) it adds to the glass cannon effect with little in the way of defences but plenty in the way of increased endurance and recovery, my superstats and the pool from whence my powers come...


The electro-shock animations from the targets as they get fried are funny to watch and whilst it's not described as having a stun-like ability, there's strong hints of that occurring anyway as I pump several thousand amperes at high voltage across their vitals. The character powerset isn't hard to work out - it's mostly luck whether Ionisation kicks off or not - and quite often just flying into the centre of the group and kicking off the AoE will end the fight pretty quickly. All in all it's an archetype I'd probably have a lot of fun with later on, although I'm not sure how it's survivability would allow for soloing in the later game. That's the thorn in the Inferno's side: an inability to deal with big tough boss mobs.

Next Week

The 6th and final archetype tester comes in a couple of days with The Devestator; big melee damage damage by hitting things with a very big stick. Seems simple enough.
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Busy week with my birthday, a LAN party and now coming up a week in Norway! Hasn't been too much time to squeeze in Champions Online but I've given it a shot. After a summer of nothing much going on, come the end of autumn it seems everything and everyone in the world has activities...

Flavour of the week for free players of Champions Online was The Inventor premium archetype; a support class that offers a variety of control effects such as knockbacks and debuffs, and makes use of robotic pets to heal, help the team and do some damage. I'd really been looking forward to playing it but haven't had the time to devote as much as I'd have liked, unfortunately.

Inventor Logo

This archetype demanded a new character: something fitting and fun. With the vast majority of mechanical costume options being paid only I was rather limited in my scope but with the aid of suggestions at the LAN party, Brother Nikola was created as an Ultramarine Tech Marine from the Warhammer 40k Universe. In retrospect I should've just skipped the tutorial but other folks wanted to see how it played out so I went ahead and join in the alien invasion starting area. The basic energy builder attack has a chance for a rather nifty knockback/knock over effect which is handy for interrupting an enemy mid-attack. The energy user can either be fully charged for a single big blast or else it can be tapped which has a chance of rifing off a second tap instantly for no power cost. All in all, very nice starting powers. Intelligence and Presence are the super-stats for this archetype, much like The Grimoire silver archetype although the order of the two is reversed.

I'd heard that there was a tiny chance of the Inventor's basic weapon attack turning the opponent into a pinkn teddy bear, effectively rendering them unable to do much more than run around. I got to see it first hand within 10 minutes of starting off and mid-mission as a Qularr felt the wrath of the Emperor!

Brother Nikola
Chaos mutant, show thy true form!

Running about pewpewing things was fairly standard, all in all. The random double shots/knockdowns/teddybearing was fun though. The slotted passive is a slow regeneration that can also help your teammates, which is jolly nice. The pets start off at level 11 with Attack Toys that can produce weaker short-lives clones of themselves and toss about frag grenades. Later on, the Inventor can pick up Support Drones that can either heal or pewpew depending on what you're after. Other tricks inlude a shrink ray and the use of an orbital cannon. Definitely something that strikes me as being a lot of fun.

All in all, the Inventor is an amusing archetype to play that is more powerful than the regular silvers, as one owuld expect, but that doesn't feel quite as overpowered at The Savage or The Master. Worth a look.

Next Week

Next in the lineup is The Tempest which touts itself as a lot of ranged electrical DD, like The Inferno on crack. I doubt I'll be back in time to give it a whirl, however.
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Whilst the Halloween celebrations are going on in game in Champions Online, such as the souped-up Blood Moon event, the one-a-week free trial rotation of Gold Archetypes continues. Last week I was unimpressed by The Void, this time it's the turn of the brand new The Master.

The Master

For the purposes of testing, I decided to dig up the now-unplayable Savage I'd created a couple of weeks back and take advantage of the free respec to The Master, picking up where the character had left off with a new set of powers to buy up. It even came with a set of 3 stat-appropriate primary equip items. Naturally as a melee archetype, Teleportation was the only sane choice of travel power and I took note of the basic skill tree, particularly the super stats which are Dexterity and Constitution. The passive power is a dodge increasing ability which is the central focus of this archetype's damage mitigation: not being hit in the first place.

Time to get on and beat up some no-good gangers in Millennium City downtown! But wait, what's this? It's halloween and there's some NPCs standing around in vampire, frankenstein and witch costumes. They offer Trick or Treat, and my luck is bad as they turn into Mummies and attack me. The Master, it seems, just can't be hit and proceeds to sock'n'pow them to death with respectable, though not spectacular, DD. Shame the halloween trick or treat loot I got off their slowly cooling corpses was rubbish. When fighting multiple opponents at once, The Master is much like The Blade with leaping kicks to the face, very fast strikes that have limbs swinging and spinning wildly and then on to the next target but this time with the added bonus of being hit maybe once a fortnight, and you pile on stacking buff after stacking buff simply for smacking the bad guys in the chops. I have to admit that it's actually more fun than I thought it would be.

As I was pursuing the extorting New Purple Gang through the sewers under the park on my own, I decided to hell with it and waded in willy-nilly with little heed for my own HP. The Blade-like damage output continued with much less incoming damage to the point where once again I understood why Gold Archetypes are locked - they're overpowered compared to the free ones. Ranged types aren't a problem, just try the basic power builder from where you stand and, like the Savage, it taunts the mob: forcing it to stop shooting you at range and run right up into your oncoming roundhouse. With a spin-kick here, and fist smash there; here a corpse, there a corpse, everywhere it's corpses...

Tigron The Master

After a solid and fun session with The Master, I've come to the conclusion that the standard Silver Archetypes must've been quite a feat to put together, combining very classic powersets with absolutely terrible power progression and massive weaknesses (The Mind being the exception). Freeform players that mimic the concept fo the silver archetypes tell me they are amazed at how poor the choices the Devs made for the archetypes are and now I can see it for myself. I knew Cryptic was locking the best stuff behind a pay wall of course, I just didn't realise how far out of the way they'd had to go to make the free characters so weak...

Next Week

Next up is The Inventor, which I am looking forwards to a great deal being a big fan of playing inventor/engineer types with big robots, big guns and unusual ideas. Perhaps now I'll get the chance to play with pets, and I'll most likely roll up someone completely new for the task.
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Another week, another sampler for the cash shop archetypes in Champions Online. This time it's The Void; a mage type that uses and abuses dark energies to channel fear and suck health from it's opponents, aided by pets.

Week 2: The Void

Void Image

I've played alongside a Void before; a friend of mine splashed out on purchasing the archetype when he played CO as a Silver. I had a bit of an idea of what to expect: something akin to the unholy lovechild of an Inferno and a Glacier archetypes that combines resiliance and limited control with plenty of ranged damage. The pets part was something I wasn't sure about, none of the Silver archetypes having any of their own.

I decided I'd roll up a new character entirely for this venture, and created La Masque D'Argent as an elegant lady with a dark secret before setting off into the MCPD vs the Qularr tutorial scenario. The basic two starting powers are your standard energy builder (with added Fear effects) and a harder hitting energy consumer (with added Fear effects). Already I began to sense the control and the ranged damage themes. With Constitution and Endurance as super stats, echoing the Glacier but with the priority swapped around, the tanking and sustained combat roles were immediately apparent.

As expected, it seemed to be a bit more powerful than either of it's Silver archetypal counterparts initially. Inferno damage with Glacier control and toughness. Fear effects reduce the damage output of whatever it is that's feared, and of course Con means hitpoints and Endu means a higher max power. With the usual runaround of the tutorial area it was fun and powerful, though perhaps not quite as silly as The Savage had been last week. Minimal effort for maximum reward on the open mission to fire Ironclad up the spout of the alien mothership, and Black Talon seemed to forget it was his job to try and kill me when it came to the final confrontation. It was all very straightforwards to play: keep a bit of a distance, powerbuild for a bit, powerspend for megaDD, rinse and repeat.

Once in the Ren Cen, a good recearch specialisation was tricky to come up with; Mysticism fits the concept but Arms suits the superstats. In the end I went for mysticism for variety. Flight is a no-brainer travel power for ranged characters and I set myself up to hit Canada as I'd done previously with The Savage.

Once in Canada I found that the Void's damage dried up somewhat, dropping down to Glacier levels and I found myself hoping that it'd pick up again soon. Luckily the slotted passive power, Shadow Form, seemed to be rather good as a defensive boost. Sadly I noticed that the pet is level 17 and I wasn't really planning to play this character long enough to get that far. With low DD I decided to take the boss encounter carefully and pick off the wandering ice zombie shamans and their minions first. The nice thing about Shadow Form is that the more youg et hit, the faster you generate energy (and also heal a bit). The boss fight wasn't worth writing home about.

Void Argent

Overall it was a slow burner to begin with and perhaps it might pick up at later levels but initially at least, there isn't really any reason to spend money on this archetype over the free Glacier.

Next Week

From the 27th, it's the turn of The Master - a new unarmed combat archetype that's somewhere between a defensive brawler and a kung fu king.
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In the run up to (and including) Halloween, there's a lot going on in various MMOs. I'll be looking at what Anarchy Online will have going on for Halloween, what Rift is currently doing with its Ashes of History event and how Champions Online is doing with its current promotion. My time is currently focused on several things and I will be away for a chunk of next month so these won't be extensive and in depth analyses.

Champions Online has just kicked off a Free Archetype Rotation scheme whereby anyone can play a given premium (Gold) character Archetype for a week, with the Archetype in question rotating on a weekly basis. As a free (Silver) player, I'm interested in how the other side lives - and yes, I'm well aware that Golds mostly play the much more powerful Freeform characters not the limited Archetypes. Gold Archetypes are meant to be more powerful than Silver, as an incentive to shell out for access, and so I want to experience for myself first hand how this works out *.

Champions Logo

First of all, everyone can claim an extra character slot per account free. This is rather nice for Silvers who are limited to 2. Second, Cryptic claims that when the time for a given archetype is up you are given the option to retrain that character, either to the new tester Archetype or to one you ordinarily have access to. As yet I haven't decided if I'll do that or roll afresh to get a handle on things from the ground up.

Week 1: The Savage

One of the earliest Gold Archetypes, released shortly after the introduction of the Free For All model, The Savage was lauded as being very powerful for an Archetype. Good damage coupled with good survival, it was claimed, and made for a nice solo character. Strength and Constitution are the super stats and it fights at melee range (which suggests to me that Arms ought to be a good R&D field).

So, I rolled up an alien bioengineered tiger warrior (I don't do capes) and hit the Millenium City Crisis tutorial to really get my claws into things. Turns out, that's exactly what happened. For those first 5 levels until you reach the end and take down Black Talon, The Savage was DD on a stick. Serious amounts thereof. Even the crappy begining energy-builder claw attack was good damage let alone the bigger energy-consumer claw attack. I joined in the open mission at the end last of all and still came out at the top in terms of participation simply because of my DD. Black Talon fell before a whirlwind of claws that'd make the Tazmanian Devil blush and I wondered just how silly it'd get once I had my regeneration powers...

After the usual buzz about the Renaissance Centre pinging buildings, setting up some Arms-based Alien Metabolism research, getting a cone-AoE claw frenzy power (uh-oh) and Teleportation (a melee's best friend), it was time to hit up the Canadian Crisis. Plenty of the mobs here are ranged so I began to appreciate the mid-range 'come and say that to my face!' taunt, which cause them to stop shooting and run up right into my melee range that my basic energy builder claw attack has. When I got my passive regeneration power, things got really silly. The only time I wasn't overpowering everything in sight was when a flying ranged Freeform would swoop in as I was about to Frenzy and AoE oneshot my quest mobs from under me (it's the internet, people are dicks).

It was time for the final boss sequence and I figured I'd be cocky and just charge into the boss with no prior planning nor clearing out of adds. I still wiped the floor with everything simultaneously. Now some of the regular Silver Archetypes are great for this sort of situaiton too, but this was just silly. No wonder people complain the game is too easy if they're used to playing Freeform characters that are even more powerful than this Gold archetype...

Tigron - The Savage
The Savage: Tigron in his Battle Armour outfit after saving canada (level 10 power layout shown)

Overall it was a good laugh and I quite liked The Savage, though melee tends to irritate me in many games because of range issues that stem from desychning from the server. It was a lot more fun and less tedious than the low DD tank/brawler The Behemoth with a lot more survivability than the fast glass canon The Blade.

Next week

From October 20th, the free archetype trial switched over to The Void, which is billed as a vampiric/necromantic/tank/ranged/pet user thing. Hrm...
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... on my PC and on my Android.

First of all, it goes without saying that I hop onto Champions Online now and then, usually to faff about with the character creator. Cryptic recently had a birthday event to celebrate 2 years of the game, and there were presents and suchlike which I had a blast pewpewing for.

Champions Online logo

Pity the costume items were random from presents but so it goes.

For the Commute

Recently I have discovered the nifty little Android Game called Alchemy (see prior entry). My first real foray into Mobile gaming and it's not even a Gamer's Game: no flashy graphics, no kill count, no online play etc. It's simple, fun, quite the battery hog and keeps me entertained when I'm not busy.

In summary: start with Fire, Water, Earth & Air. Combine them up into new items such as Metal, Sand, Sea and Life. Continue on until you invent Locomotive, Werewolf, The Beatles and Borscht. There's a current total of 380 of them to uncover and there's a free version of the app that works well enough.

Alchemy/Android image

For a detailed look at the game, read my previous journal entry.

For the Horde Telara!

On the PC, I have recently got back into the Trion Worlds MMO Rift in a big way. I was out of the game on anything like a regular or serious basis for some time, keeping only a vague ear to the ground on what was developing. With pretty much everyone I played with having moved on for a variety of reasons, it got dull and difficult to keep my characters in good equipment on my own (and one thing I can't stand is allowing my characters to become gimped and a burden).

Rift logo

The recent months have seen a fair number of updates to the game; redesigned graphics for some models, lots of new NPCs and quests, some very nifty UI tweaks (my favourite of which is the new Quest Item bag that saves on your very limited inventory space in a massive way), new encounters and dungeons, redesigned encounters and dungeons and a lot of tweaking of the various souls. All of this comes as part of the world event-driven storyline expansions that are released every month or two. Version 1.4 was released recently and in honour of the game's 6 month anniversary (half-birthday they call it, cheesy but there we are) there was a round of free game time and various ingame freebies available including the obligatory references to the cake not being a lie, which coincided with Champions Online's 2nd birthday, as mentioned above, that also proved the cake was real.

Whilst there is always argument and debate about the changes that are made, and they're not always for the best, overall I think Trion Worlds is getting it right in terms of the optimisation, bugsquashing and playability. Best of all, there still isn't a sodding cash shop for power items: it's still a sub-based game that isn't pay-to-win. To me, this is a HUGE point in its favour.

A couple of current niggles include throwing so much XP at the characters over the recent half-birthday celebrations that everyone overlevels much too fast and you end up fighting grey mobs in sub-par gear with the zone quests only half finished (yeah, I make a lousy powerleveler). The other is the removal of the soul quests because apparently newbies found it too confusing to have to quest for other souls or something. Now you just buy them from a trainer and in the process lose a chunk of the darker side of the characters' stories: where do you think those souls stuffed inside of you came from in the first place? They could have left both options in IMO.

Rift Bahmi on a Tartagon
Do not mock the turtle.

I'm currently splitting my playtime primarily between lowbie Defiants on Argent and highbie Guardians on Icewatch. Still not hit 50 yet for the raiding but I'm keeping my main characters in Artisan Mark-made blues and Zone-Puzzle Purples as much as possible so as to be solo/duo capable and not a gimp.

If anyone is interested in giving the game a free trial, let me know. I can Ascend a Friend, which is a cheesy way of saying I can get you a free copy of the game + 7 day trial. For that I can get a hat and you get to put up with me popping up at random intervals.
achtungexplosiv: (Default)
Some months ago, Atari announced it was getting rid of it's Cryptic Studios subsidiary, the company currently responsible for Champions Online and Star Trek Online, and the upcoming D&D Neverwinter game.
Naturally there were concerns throughout both playerbases about what the future would hold for the two games. As a part-time Champions Online player, I too was keeping an eye on these developments. At the end of May it was announced that Perfect World Entertainment would be purchasing Cryptic Studios as a wholly-owned subsidiary. PWE has many other MMOs; predominantly produced and operated by it's Beijing and Shanghai arms such as Forsaken World and Perfect World International. It's also the company behind the Torchlight series. The deal was completed mid-august and information is now starting to filter through about how this will affect their products.
Whilst the company itself began in America, its growth and rise to a position of major player in the asian MMO markets has been thanks to its Chinese operations and the tailoring the PWE's products to its primary audience this is reflected heavily within the MMOs themselves. As an example, within Forsaken World the english translations are hit and miss and quite often the text in english fits very poorly within an UI that was clearly developed around Chinese or Korean scripts. All of this has, of course, brought speculation on whether the CO and STO games will have their development and progression influenced by the models used by the existing PWE games. They are, for the most part, your standard free-to-play, pay-to-win model that dominates the asian MMO scene.

My experience with STO is limited but I do know that like CO, it already has a cash shop and there has been controversy over core parts of the promised game play during development being held back and then released in said cash shop only if you pay extra even as a subscriber. Given that such things are the reason for PWE's financial success, there is something of a consensus through the various playerbases that more of the same is incoming.

CO would be somewhat buffered by virtue of the fact it already operates a dual subscription system with a choice of paying a fee and getting most things thrown in with it, or else playing a basic version for free with that you can then pay to gain access to the restricted content. Even so, a shortcut to power items with $$$ is not too popular particularly among its paying customers. There is better news, however. The FAQs about the deal have indicated that the development teams aren't going to be changed or reduced in size and at present it looks as though Cryptic still has control over those two products. Cryptic are finishing off the switch over from Atari-branded logos, items and cash shop, and it looks as if there's minimal disruption for players for the foreseeable future (yes, lifetime accounts are being upheld).

Ultimately, only time will tell if the directions of the two games will be influenced by the asian MMO position of their new parent company and it is something I shall be observing with interest.
achtungexplosiv: (Default)
First off, this is about games I have tried at various points and for some reason have not stuck around in. They are in no particular order.

Secondly, it's a bit long. You have been warned...

Tidied behind a cut for legibility (click here) )

Future MMOS:
Everyone's going nuts over the upcoming WoW-a-like with the Starwars IP (Star Wars: The Old Republic). I know it's Bioware but I'm not convinced the gameplay will appeal to me, not being an obsessive over the Star Wars franchise. The Secret World could be interesting too with it's mostly-modern-day conspiracy and supernatural themes but it's FUncom. CCP Games may or may not survive to see the release of their World of Darkness MMO. If they do I'll be mildly curious about it, given that they've decided to revisit the old WoD rather than the new one, but I don't hold much hope. Dark Millennium Online (the Warhammer 40K MMO) might be interesting but I have only a passing interest in the setting so I won't be rushing out to pre-order it any time soon. Guild Wars 2, likewise.


achtungexplosiv: (Default)

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