achtungexplosiv: (BARCODE)
Whoops, got a bit sidetracked over the week and didn't get around to putting up my final installment of the Templar's crusade in Kingsmouth in The Secret World open beta weekend.



Teamwork: worth it? )

Parting Thought

I spent more time fighting the game's UI than I do fighting the game's mobs. FC have a lot of QoL work to do. Also, it would be nice to test some other part of the game now, like the Illuminati or Dragon startups, or any other zone that isn't Kingsmouth. Repeating the same missions in such a short time span doesn't allow for the forgetting of details which would otherwise prompt rediscovery of clues all over again and therefore replay value. I sincerely hope the final Beta Weekend (June 1st - 3rd) lets us get an updated client and something new to do. FC needs to demonstrate that they are squashing bugs.
achtungexplosiv: (BARCODE)
It's the second Weekend Beta for The Secret World and we pick up where our intrepid Templars left off: neck-deep in lovecraftian mystery in the New England. Same characters, different server - this time one with the rest of the Kingsmouth quests unlocked. Perhaps even the 'dungeon' that's been hinted at.


GIANT SPOILER WARNING - oh you know the drill by now, a random assortment of gameplay explanations with some circumspect mission bits.

This one's a little shorter: more playing, less typing. )

Funny quotes of the day: anything said by the Orochi duo at the northern bridge in Kingsmouth. They're utterly socially inept to hilarious effect, and the rest of Kingsmouth is pretty sparse on humour. Not a surprise given all that the small handful of survivors have gone through.
achtungexplosiv: (BARCODE)
This is the third and final installment of my experiences in the first Beta weekend for The Secret World. I've focused principally on the Missions aspect of the PvE experience, given that it's the primary PvE activity available in the beta weekends and the game trades heavily on the strength of the immersion, investigation and puzzles presented. Our Templars are in over their heads with the ragtag survivours of Kingsmouth but we can't quit now, there's too much at stake!

Kingsmouth Zombies

GIANT SPOILER WARNING - lots of gameplay spoilers and a fair few plot giveaways.

Part Three: The eye of the storm is a bit foggy )

Amusing lines seen in the game today:

"You successfully used the Sprinting."
"Ladies and Gentlemen, the sky is falling. Not quickly - that would be ridiculous."
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This post follows on from my previous post about my first evening playing the Weekend Beta of The Secret World, with my experiences of the first main area of the game: Kingsmouth.* Today, our brave and confused Templar foot soldiers are hurriedly packed off to Solomon Island off the coast of new England, via the mysterious Agartha, to figure out just what the hell is going on over in that god-forsaken hole...


GIANT SPOILER WARNING - I go into plenty of detail about the mechanics, character progression system and mission basics in Kingsmouth so there will be plot spoilers.

Part Two: in which I get my pewpew on. )

Funniest game quote of the day:

"This underground realm, like the great British railway system, is the very model of efficiency."

* Yes, that is an actual URL to an actual website FunCom made for the purposes of the game. The information it contains will come in handy when solving the various puzzles and investigations presented...
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5pm BST on Friday 11th of May marked the start of the first of three open beta weekends for The Secret World. Thanks to my sterling efforts for the Dragon faction in The Secret War minigame, I had been given access to these beta weekends and in anticipation I'd even downloaded and patched up the beta client well ahead of time.

Secret World Logo

These are my experiences of this first weekend, as a newbie Templar going through the startup. I was there at 5pm BST, albeit remotely.

GIANT SPOILER ALERT - I don't give too much away about plot, but I give a great deal away about the gameplay.

I shall tuck the entry away behind an LJ cut for this reason.

Part one: wherein I find my feet )

Favourite quotes so far include:
"WARNING: Holy radiation poisoning imminent."
"Initiate the Nietzsche syntax."
"We usually lose them to Elder Gods with a name like a mouth full of cornflakes."
"Dragon prefer the medium of Interpretative Terrorism. I hear it's the next biggest thing."
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The FunCom hypemachine is in full swing in preparation for the release of The Secret World, the upcoming modern-day conspiracy theory and supernatural MMO. The open Beta phases are coming Soon™ and the culmination of the viral internet marketing has hit with full force, spamming a social network near you.

The Secret War


The Secret War is a small and simple mini-game played in your browser (well, most browsers) and you can earn freebies for the MMO including access to the open Betas, and if you're really good/lucky there's a trip to Montreal and the FC studios in it as well. Warning: requires a FaceBook account.** Also required is a FunCom account for TSW so that you have something to tie any in-game winnings to, should you go ahead and buy the MMO at some point. At least it's not as invasive as an EA account...

The idea is that you pick which of the three main factions to throw your lot in with and you assume the role of an operative for that faction. You spread propaganda in the form of exclusive screenshots and trailers, recruit people to your cause and send agents out to bring various countries (and each individual US state, presumably because FC has aimed primarily at the US market) under your faction's control. The control updates are in real time, you can deploy agents every hour and spread propaganda every 6 hours. It's all pretty straight forwards.


The three factions are as follows:-

Illuminati   The Illuminati

The US-based hypercapitalist masters of influence and control who seek to dominate the world from the shadows and drive out the competing supernatural forces that lurk behind the scenes. Not as new to the scene as their modern paradigm suggests, the Illuminati are masters of subtlety and misdirection. The colour blue, pyramids with eyes and the assault rifle are their trademarks.

Templars   The Templars

An ancient european secret society thought to be long dead but in fact still holding vast swathes of power throughout the old world and africa. Ditching their old religious dogmas, they're moving with the times to bring back the old days of glory and sanctity, and do battle with the evil forces that terrorise humanity so the world can truly be called safe. The colour red, twin pistols and the Templar Cross are the Templar calling cards.

Dragon   The Dragon

Not so much an ancient order as a collection of groups and networks from the far east that simply share a common goal: to expose the corruption and darkness and to throw off the blanket of lies and secrecy and show humanity the world as it truly is. From the change this will bring, humanity can move forward. Dragons show the colour green and are associated with the katana, and take a stylised dragon dancer mask as their sign.

The three factions are old enemies and whilst from time to time some of their number may ally with others, this never lasts long. Once you've picked a faction for The Secret War, you cannot go back, although I don't think this has any impact on what you can do in the MMO once released. Facebook friends who've picked the same faction as you become Agents you can deploy, and you do get a basic starter agent as well. Those who picked different factions become Rivals, but I haven't found that this has any impact beyond knowing who to boo at down the pub.


The contributions you make to your faction in a country you click on will help determine what proportion of a country's influence your faction holds. You can direct propaganda at a country by having people click on the screenies and video links on your Facebook Wall posted from the country interaction screen. This counts as sending a one-shot agent off to that country to do your faction's bidding. The most direct method of gaining control over a country is to deploy agents once an hour.

You can see realtime faction control updates, and it's interesting to note just how far each faction can rise and fall, from dominating over 50% to scraping under 20% of the world in the space of a single day. The over-arcing reason to ensure your faction maintains a high degree of control is to unlock exclusives for your faction. Currently the race to unlock a new trailer is underway and as of writing this the three factions are very close in terms of progress.

World Map

In-game phats, you say

As you accumulate points from agent deployments and propaganda-spreading, you gain points. Once you reach a certain number of points, you unlock in-game items and advance in Rank. Items include costume bits, XP-boosting consumables and unique weapons. I didn't see anything particularly game breaking, thankfully, and there does appear to be something for everyone in terms of a wide variety of magic and weapon items. The higher the rank you attain, the more freebies you accumulate.

The ranks follow a progression from your basic unranked nobody, through Initiate, Loyalist, Operator, Infiltrator, Agent and finally Secret Agent. There's weekly leaderboards and achivements and so on, of course.

The main prize is access to the open Betas in May and you need to hit the final rank of Secret Agent to unlock that. Depending on whether you make a throwaway FB account and hook up with the relevant Facebook groups to mass-add and be mass-added by, or carefully hand-pick friends you think might actually enjoy hitting it up, it might take you a day to hit Secret Agent, or you might run it close to the wire when the game 'finishes'. There is no finishing date given, incidentally, and whilst the beta access will eventually become redundant, the game and the rest of the freebies might continue after the MMO launch.

And if I want to sign up?

Then have a shufty here (links to my recruitment portal):

** This part was initially a big put-off for me because I loathe forced social network linking (Massively, I'm looking at you too). What I didn't realise was that it links directly into a FB Game app. You know, the kind that clogs up your news feed... The fact I didn't realise this until after the game had started spamming my wall with app updates hacked me off rather a lot. I was trying to post screenshots and a video to my news feed because I thought some people might be interested, but those were restricted by the app to my own wall. Instead, the other annoying updates on my progress was what ended up going out to everyone. Nice way to piss off my friends and to hamper their own marketing strategy. Oh FunCom, don't you ever change...
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There's a few games and updates heading our way that have caught my attention, and so I've kept an eye on how things have been developing.

Big Game Roundup
Mass Effect 3 logo Guild Wars 2 logoThe Secret World logo

Aside from the fact Mass Effect 3 is launching on the 9th of March, which is all over the internets along with the GAME/Gamestation debacle, the hypemachine is on overdrive for Guild Wars 2 now that Star Wars: the Old Republic has lost its new and shiny edge, and FunCom's upcoming The Secret World is still generating a lot of interest.


A recent interview with the BioWare studio founders conducted by Penny Arcade mentioned that the possibility of a Mass Effect MMO is an interesting one. There's some mixed feelings about it, given the mixed reception SWTOR got, but back before SWTOR details were known there was a good deal of interest in an MMO set in the Mass Effect universe. I have to admit that now I'm not so sure either. A single-player focused MMOFPS isn't something I'm looking for in an MMO.

My last post looked at awful customer service in the game industry, and whilst I did eventually have my Star Trek Online character restored*, my experience was very bad. The news that Blizzard has just laid off over 10% of its workforce, primarily those in support roles as it turns out, is not an encouraging sign that the industry-wide situation will improve any time soon.


The buzz surrounding Borderlands 2 had been quiet for the last few months until a few days ago, a video coupled with an official release date annoucement brought peoples' attention back. September 18th, as it happens.

There's been plenty of new information about the game, from the overhaul of itemisation to what powers the new Siren (Maya) will have. Spoiler: it's called Phaselock and translates as support/crowd control with damage on that affects mobs rather than the Siren herself. The latest infodump relates to the new Assassin named Zer0, a cyborg ninja that displays numbers and emoticons on it's featureless helmet. Previous articles detail the Commando going by the name of Axton, Maya the adventuring Siren and the first character that whet folks' whistles: the gunzerking dwarf Salvador. IGN has plenty of articles that go into further detail.

Dark Horse

One game that has been overlooked is Otherland, based on the Tad Williams novel series of the same name set in a cyberpunk-genre future. It's likely to be a small, niche game and hard details about it are scarce but there is a video demonstrating themes, ideas, areas and combat. I'm definitely keeping an eye on this because that city looks fantastic and I'm a sucker for cyberpunk and Sci-Fi.

In some ways it's a game within a game: the game itself appears to show both the real world in the setting, and the various virtual Otherlands. I'm most interested in seeing how this will pan out in terms of gameplay. Speculation time: I wonder if it will combine large elements of both worlds rather than the real world existing as little more than a background affair, as it did in the old Matrix Online game?
It's pitched as being Free to Play, but there's no hard details about what is being sold for cash to fund it, be it vanity items only or power items. No surprise there, everyone's jumping on the Pay to Win bandwagon.

I'll continue to keep an eye on what's what, and might even find some interest in TSW again. FunCom has done a great deal as a company to turn me off their products and kill any enthusiasm I once had...

* After repeated support tickets and emails I eventually had an actual human email me back. He started off snarking at me and I pointed out in detail exactly why I was unable to do the things he suggested I ought to have done, such as use the ingame GM system when the whole problem was that the character could notg et in game... Eventually it was passed to a GM who took one look at the character, rolled it back to the last time it'd successfully logged in and voilá.
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Following on from my last post regarding Star Trek Online, I've hit a snag with one of my characters being completely broken and unable to log into the game. I've attempted to contact customer support with PWE/Cryptic and the frustrating experience I'm currently going through have left me wondering why CS has to be so shockingly bad across the industry.

Poor Service

When something goes wrong for me in a game, I see if I can fix the problem myself first of all. Was I being daft? Was it a minor glitch or bug? Does zoning/relogging/unequipping and so on help? Does it randomly go away on its own* ? If that fails, I ask friends and check for solutions online. If it turns out that it's a problem I shouldn't be having ('shouldn't' defined as something rare or unusual as opposed to yet another well-known bug introduced with the latest patch) and there really is nothing I can do about it but it's putting a serious cramp in my style, then as a last resort I will turn to Support. For games I have fleeting dalliances with, it never usually gets to this point: either I haven't delved in deep enough to get hit by a bad issue, or else I'm not impressed enough with the game to bother.

My experiences with various game companies over time has run the gamut from fast, efficient problem resolution to outright being called a liar. Sadly, I've tended to find the whole spectrum within each game or game company. I can't honestly say that any one company has all-round great customer service.

It leads me to the question: how many customers are these companies losing because of awful CS experiences, rather than because the customer does not like the game itself? In other words, how much is a player going to put up with before they take their time and money elsewhere? I've been thinking about this for myself the last couple of days.

For that matter, have I just had duff experiences? Are there game companies out there that provide better service?

Cool stories, Bro

Everyone's experiences will vary, and my own have been to the extremes of the curve. The best CS experiences I've had have been when a petition/ticket I've submitted is picked up quickly and a knowledgable representative has contacted me, having read the detail I've given and either being able to resolve it there and then in a few minutes or else works with me to find a solution. The worst have involved long waits, petitions vanishing or being closed without explanation, getting into arguments and being insulted.

I'm a fan of putting plenty of detail into the petition in the first place, laying out everything that's wrong and what I was doing etc. If it's a bug I've come across before or otherwise understand how it can be fixed, I'll include that as well. A good example of this is the old 'vanishing twinking pillows' bug that struck with depressing regularity in Anarchy Online. If you were trading an Explosif's Polychromatic Pillow to another character, it sometimes vanished in the trade. It's happened enough times to me that I've had GMs explain exactly the logging bug that causes it to glitch and to go invisibly into a forced extra inventory slot, and nothing can be done about it except for a GM to delete it and spawn a new one. There's more techspeak involved but when it happens to me I just blurb it all into the petition so that the first person who reads it (most likely a volunteer in the ARK program) knows to pass it up to a GM and that it'll only take a couple of minutes to fix.

On the other side of the coin, it gets to be rather depressing when the response one (eventually) receives to a detailed petition indicates that the CS rep hasn't actually read it. Maybe you're fobbed off with 'have you tried turning it off and on again?' or sometimes even find that your petition has been closed and marked off as Resolved without anything happening at all.

So far with PWE/Cryptic I'm on my third support ticket. The first one got me the standard automated reply to let me know I'll hear from them within 24 hours. The ticket promptly vanished from my account support page. After 2 days of nothing I sent another one referencing the first. The same automated response, the same vanishing act in my account page. The Support sections of the forums proved to be of no help, and today almost a week later I received another automated reply email asking in a long winded way if I'd turned it off and on again, and then marking the whole episode as Solved. I received an identical reponse to my second ticket. Clearly no one had looked at either of them and the stock responses were generated because the petitions had been classified as 'Technical Issue'. So, a third ticket referencing the first two has been sent. Considering I put the effort into acquiring an Odessy-class limited edition ship on the broken character in question, I'm not keen to just delete it and re-roll from scratch.

I've hit that point where whether I stay or go in STO comes down to how their Customer Service treats this support issue, and me. If they continue to ignore me until I go away, then I most certainly shall.

* You'd be surprised how often that works.
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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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In a fit of serendipitous timing, the day after I wrote my last post regarding Mobile Apps as a complement to PC gaming, a new indie Humble Bundle has surfaced specifically aimed at Android Phones*.

It's a small bundle this time with only 4 games on offer, some of which are quite old now to boot, but the idea is that whilst there's versions for Windows, Mac and Linux in there as well as Android, the point of it is as an introduction to Humble Bundles for mobile platforms. The games included in it are available directly from the Android Market as well.

Humble Bundle for Android logo

The games one gets with this particular bundle are:-

World of Goo - a physics puzzler that's become a well-known classic over the last few years
Edge - another physics puzzler of a completely different sort
Osmos - yet another physics puzzler of yet another different type with a lovely soundtrack
Anomaly - a tactical squad strategy/tower attack game that plays in realtime

World of Goo App   Edge EX App   Osmose HD App   Anomaly HD App

World of Goo is the bonus game for paying over the average and whilst it's old hat now, it's a game that suits a mobile platform very well. You control balls of black goo that buzz around a framework you pull and stretch into shape from said balls of goo, the aim being to get some of them from the starting point to an end point to progress to the next level. Think standard bridge builder with a squishy theme.

Edge comes in two varieties, regular and EX (extended). The extended version is more like Edge 1.5 with additions to the gameplay, levels and a graphics engine update. The aim is to flip a cube around a puzzle-maze, collecting flashing blocks ont he way and not falling off the edges. It's a cute game but I found the controls to be very inconsistent: moving your finger 2 millimetres on screen might make the cube barely wobble, or it might send it screaming off at top speed to plung over the edge in a blur.

Osmos comes in HD format and is another older game, this time with the focus being on patience and attempting to be a relaxing game. You're an amoeba-like lifeform whose main goal is to absorb smaller amoebas to grow whilst not being absorbed by bigger amoebas. There's all sorts of obstacles such as evil amoebas that hunt you, 'food' that is harmful, currents in the medium you're floating through and so on.

Anomaly is also in HD format and runs with the age-old theme of alien incursions on Earth (in this case in Baghdad, which is an... interesting choice of city, especially given your rescue squad is British). Aliens towers have sprouted up and you're assigned resources to purchase vehicles that will follow a course you plot beforehand to blow them up. Meanwhile you use various special effects to help them, hinder the towers and grab power replenishments before the next threat looms.


I've found the games are good to while away time when travelling, and Anomaly looks like it could give Ghost Recon on the 3DS a run for it's money in terms of hours of gameplay, though it burns battery fast. Osmose is a bit jumpy on the difficulty curve, with some later stages being significantly easier than some of the early ones. Edge's control issues are proving to be awkward to get over for me, and World of Goo is OK but I never got into it on the PC and it doesn't look like that will change any time soon.

On a technical note, once the bundle is purchased you pick which versions of the games to download where, such as the windows versions to a Windows PC then the android APKs to your phone, either directly or through another device with internet. My phone's native browser had issues with the download of the APK from the Humble Bundle site and in the end I grabbed them on my PC and Dropboxed over. Your mileage may vary.

* As a note, the games can be found seperately for iDevices as well.
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It's been a while since I last posted: life has been busy and my gaming has been predominantly Rift and Alchemy Genetics based, with a bit of Borderlands and Champions Online here and there, which gets boring to read about after a while. I failed to get interested in Star Wars: The Old Republic in any way despite the behemoth PR engine and the obsessiveness of many of my friends (some of whom were barely gamers before it hit). I failed to get Skyrim too, though I plan on checking it out eventually once the price is down and I'm over my Rift phase.

Mobile apps for games and gaming networks aren't new by any means, however it's only in the last year or so that official apps from the producers of various games have started to surface. From Authenticator programs to add an extra layer of account security, to linked chat systems and replication of some in-game playable features; the companies behind the move to integrate the mobile market have been playing catchup to the enterprising third party app developers who've been offering addon support for years now.

Android Market iPhone Store

As an example of such a third party app: those who've played Eve Online with any degree of seriousness will know of Aura, an API-using app that monitors skills, manufacturing, market orders and so on. When I was playing Eve, it was invaluable as it'd let me see at a glance exactly what order on which character had been filled by whom, if I was about to superceede my current clone and also when my next skill was due to pop. It's been around for a good long while (in mobile app terms) and is quite the success story. It's not the only one of course, there's a ton of apps for Eve and the same goes for pretty much every game out there with a following. People like the functionality; they like to be able to stay connected. Games companies have taken heed and have started to produce their own versions.

Playing catchup

The earliest 'Official' apps were the account Authenticators for games such as World of Warcraft. In games with a high profile, and thus sporting a large target for unscrupulous account-breaching activities, keyloggers grabbing passwords are commonplace, as is account sharing and plenty of other means to gain access to an account from the user's end. Authenticators add another layer of security by requiring a code generated by the app to be entered when you login. It's a unique key attached to your account and changes frequently (usually a 30 second window) when synched up with the server. The idea there is that unless someone has your mobile phone as well as your username and password, it's no use trying to keylog the code as it'll be invalid shortly after use.

Now, gaming companies have introduced apps that do more, often linking into game servers' API to allow for communications such as reading in-game mail or chatting in channels, or more. An example of this is the official Rift mobile app, currently in Beta, for the iPhone and Android platforms. It allows you to log in as many of your own characters as you like in order to chat to friends and guildmates, keep track of world events and play minigames to earn small in-game rewards. Whilst the latter is opening a can of worms regarding paying subscribers not have equal access to content and loot unless they own smartphones, the functions offered have proved to be extremely popular (even if it is buggy as all ungodly hell in it's current Beta incarnation). It's not alone: World of Warcraft has had a similar app for some time, as have other games. Some of them are even paid apps that require an initial purchase fee, or else cost a little extra on top of the game's subscription fee in those games that have them, such as WoW's Remote Services app that allows the use of the auction house from a phone, among other things.

Social Networking?

It's not just online games that could benefit greatly from associated apps. Gaming networks, notably Steam, have been bugged for years about releasing apps, or at the very least allowing the API to become available for third parties to develop apps in their stead. It took a while but Valve finally pulled their collective finger out and the Steam Mobile App is now available on iPhone and Android markets. It's a beta test at the moment, and once you've logged in it'll take that as registering interest in beta participation. If you do that, keep an eye out on your Beta notifications (Setting menu in the main Steam client) for an invite and once you've got that accepted and sorted out you can get stuck in. They're being a little slow to send out beta invites but as I understand it everyone who registers interest (i.e. downloads it and logs in) will eventually get one.

Steam Mobile App

I've been using it for the last few days. So far, so good. You can't access your game library sadly, but you can do most other things such as chat to friends and see the friends list, view the store, make purchases and so on. It's also pretty stable so far, which is a plus in my book.

The haves and the have-nots

Clearly there is a future in mobile apps associated with online gaming. There will always be third party apps, some paid and some free, and any online game company that sees itself as a major player will want to have its own suite of official apps. But there are lines being drawn over what constitutes convenience, and what becomes an unfair in-game advantage. Checking a mail message versus winning rewards. Favoring owners of some devices and not others.

My personal line in the sand is at direct manipulation of in game content. Chatting to a friend is one thing, acquiring free loot and manipulating auctions is quite different. Particularly because not every player of a game will own a supported smart device. Computer-aimed software with the same functionality would be an equiliser, because one would presume that if your machine is capable of running the game in question, it's capable of running a small associated applet too. However, I have yet to see such a thing implemented and I do wonder why that might be. It can't be a question of losing money because many of these smart device apps are free, and even if they're not you can charge for applets like any other piece of software.

Finally, let's not forget security issues, and what might happen if your phone goes walkabout. Saved login information and account details could be a problem. Authenticators might end up locking you out of your own account unless you spend hours on expensive support phonecalls and post ID halfway accross the world to prove you're the real account owner, as happened to a friend of mine when her phone was stolen.

All in all, if you have a smart device then there's much on offer by way of expanding your online game experience through apps with varying degrees of integration. I'm riding this wave with interest and looking to see where it might go.
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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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As I've mentioned previously, I've been playing about with the Alchemy games on my Android phone over the last few months. It's the sort of thing I do when stuck on the tube, rather than in lieu of some other activity, and it keeps me sane enough through the rush hour commute.

I've checked out the three following games: Alchemy (no other name, just that), Alchemy Classic and Alchemy - Genetics.
I already reviewed the first Alchemy back here and I enjoyed it a lot. As I have now played it extensively and found all 380 elements, I feel that it serves as an appropriate benchmark. A quick recap: It has compact but distinct icons and reasonable responsiveness if a bit laggy with a lot of icons on screen at once and prone to overheating. There are plenty of methods to create many items including logical progression, figures of speech and pop culture references. Being able to see how you produced an element is very handy and the autolink to an element's wikipedia article is a nice touch. Hints are behind the paywall but given the many routes you can take for many elements, the fairly logical sequence things follow and the fact it's always 2 elements that combine (sometimes the same one duplicated), it's not a headache. If all else fails, there's cheat apps and websites that list how to make everything.

Alchemy Genetics Screenies

So the first one to compare is Alchemy - Genetics. The premise is the same except that the focus is on creating animals. As of writing this, 525 of them to be precise. The freeware version has adverts but beyond that I didn't spot any other loss of functionality, which is a rarity these days as more and more of an app's features get moved to the other side of the pay wall *. It's got more of a cutesy interface along the lines of the kids' TV show interpretations of a mad science laboratory, and whilst it's clearer which animals are being combined to form what, it also imposes limitations on the interface and how it is manipulated. It's also missing some rather key preferences, such as being able to disable the buzz if you're creating something via a pathway you have already discovered. This gets to be very irritating very quickly because all you can do is disable the notifications entirely. Combinations can run both ways as well, so Dove + Pig [fat] = Dodo, but Pig [fat] + Dove != Dodo. If you have an animal earmarked in the first or the second spot for combination, you can't easily switch spots around either.

Other annoyances include combinations being extremely random (rodent + Tweety (Pie) = Hamster? but of course, everyone knows that!) although there is a random hint button that will let you know about an animal you can create with what you already have. In addition, large chunks of the top and bottom of the screen taken up by oversized buttons and the 'view screen' interface. Whilst my HTC Sensation has a large screen, I can see anyone playing on an HTC Wildfire getting very irritated.

In the end I stopped playing it after about an hour and haven't picked it up since, though perhaps I should give it another go soon. Certainly, I can appreciate the slight UI improvements it does have over the next game.

Alchemy Classic Screenies

With comments claiming this game is the original and 'way better', I was wary but at the same time intrigued about Alchemy Classic. My first impressions were that yes, it certainly looks nice where Alchemy is plain, and it has little swirly animations when you successfully combine elements. Another feature I noticed immediately is that successful combinations give you points, which you can then spend on hints on the next combinations. Added to this is the fact that the game lists all the new elements you can create with the elements you already have, I thought that perhaps I was onto a casual game winner here. The free version of the game has ads (of course) and also locks out a number of elements (complete with a little padlock icon).

Unfortunately, playing it for a while brought several major issues to light. The icons, while lovely, are very large and erratically sized with bounding boxes that far exceed the image size. This makes them unwieldy and awkward to position because even the tiniest bit of overlap is ready by the game as an attempted combine and regardless of whatever other elements you have overlapping any of the partaking elements, the game reads the whole combination rather than allowing for sub-combinations. For example, if you combine Carbon and Hydrogen, you get Hydrocarbons, except if a bit of Hydrogen was overlapping with, say, Fog. The game then reads Carbon + Hydrogen + Fog which produces nothing. Add this to the fact that the UI responsiveness is very poor, some icons are so huge you can only fit two of them in a row and if you try to stack a few in a pile to test one by one, the whole thing slows down immensely. If the bounding box of an icon touches the top bar of the screen, it's deleted, which doesn't end well with the poor touchscreen responsiveness. The bottom of the screen is completely unresponsive half the time and I've lost elements because I can't move them once they're there. (No, my phone is fine and I have no trouble with anything else in that location.) You can't easily and readily see how you created an element without having to faff with options in the Information screen either, which is an annoyance if you accidentally created something and didn't spot what the other component was.

Ignoring the technical aspects of playing, the game itself isn't that much fun because there is only ever one way to produce an element: no multiple routes here. There are occasional nonsensical combinations that even when discovered still make absolutely no logical sense, for example the only way to make a Container is to combine Metal - ok - with an Active Robot - WAT? I quickly discovered the reason the game is so generous with telling you what it's possible to find with your current open elements, and why you can buy hints with points. Unlike the other 2 games, combinations are not limited to 2 elements only. Some of them have up to 8 (EIGHT) elements that have to stack up. When you consider that there are currently 389 Elements to be discovered and you have to combine up as many as 8 seperate items, that's a truly staggering number of possibilities with that tiny remote chance of hitting one of your 389. I think there is a slight majority of the combinations only involving 2 but there's a whole ton of 3s and a not inconsiderable number of 4s and more. If you didn't spend points on hints and know what end result you're trying to come up with, you'd never find those needles in the haystack.

Despite all of this I have soldiered on through gritted teeth, determined not to let the game beat me but I suspect that come the 3/4/5 etc combinations, I'll have run out of points and then I'll give up because like hell am I going to try and sit there for hours taking a tiny handful of elements and combining them in every possible combination of up to 7 at a time, then cross over each tiny handful.

tl;dr - Alchemy Classic turns a game into a massive numbercrunching exercise one normally employs a supercomputer to do.


Of the three Alchemy games, the first one is far and away the best of the bunch. Yes it's the least pretty looking but it has the most appropriate functionality and the tightest interface. I didn't like the other two much after playing that one because it exposed their weaknesses without suffering from lacking their strengths. Still now I am done with Alchemy (at least until an update adds new stuff), I am exploring the others more.

*This moving the goalposts rubbish is a major beef I have with free Android apps at the moment and I have a little rantette about it relating to a soul-builder app for RIFT I used to like very much (before a major update took away all the features instead of actually updating the souls which had been recently changed by a game patch...)
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In between jetting off to chilly climes, going through the Champions Online archetype rotation, popping into Anarchy Online for it's halloween activities and hitting up Rift now I'm starting to approach end game, I've been playing bits and pieces of other games.


First up is Zelda: Four Swords, DSiware released for the 3DS and free to all with a 3DS, DSi or DSi XL as part of the 25th anniversary celebrations. It's a limited time release and will be vanishing mid-february.

4 swords logo

It's primarily meant to be played multiplayer with up to 4 people playing differently coloured Links, workign together to complete each area of the game. It can be played singleplayer as well, with two Links both controlled by you. This is a little tricky at first: you can switch between them with the R shoulder button and you can set one to follow behind the other, or stand around wherever you left it. The trick is to get the hang of issuing these orders and swapping between them smoothly and quickly. Each Link can hold only the 1 special item beside a sword, and using the right item (and thus the right link) for a particular part becomes critical. In addition, each Link is measured on how many coins it collects, damage it inflicts etc. These all give a score at the end of each area. (Beyond that, I've not yet discovered a use for coins beyond a fee to raise you á la Fairy if you die.)

The emulation for the 3DS is basic. It's not 3D and doesn't suspend properly either, as it was directly ported from the original 2002 DSi version. It's got a tutorial area that explains how the game works and what items can do, which is helpful. Some of the items are funny, like the magnet and many of them are ye olde staples from almost any Zelda game you care to name. It held my attention for a while but ultimately as there's no real story or point to any of it beyond progressing through areas because they're there, I got bored.


Bunch of Heroes is an indie-ish PC game available on Steam. It's very simple: pick a character, team upw ith a friend or two, pewpew enemies and complete objectives in each area. The graphics are cartoony, it's filled with ridiculous puns and there's action to be had all round.

Bunch of Heroes logo

As a co-operative game, it's something of a twin-stick shooter but in an Alien Swarm style more than anything else, mechanically-speaking. WASD to move, mouse to aim and fire. The primary enemy here is zombies (inifinite numbers thereof), you have limited ammunition though there are crates to bust for drops. Nothing groundbreaking here and in fact I got fairly bored of it after the first area.


For the daily commute, I have been at the mobile gaming again on my Android. Minecraft Pocket was finally released for all Android platforms (an iOS version is out now as well) after it's Xperia Play exclusive offer finished and I picked it up as my first paid app.

Minecraft Pocket logo

It's a very pared down version of Minecraft (now officially released) - Minecraft classic essentially. it's purely creative mode with no monsters, health, equipment or resource gathering. You simply select what blocks you want to build with, run around the world you create and build things. The size of the world is also very much reduced, though you have forest, water, mountains, trees and so on.

You can multiplay over wifi or bluetooth, with one phone hosting a server that others can join. As a note, by default your map will be a publically available server unless you turn that off! I've not given the multiplayer part a go as yet.

It runs my HTC Sensation somewhat hot, I have to say, and the graphics start to glitch after a while though that is rectified by pausing the game, switching back to the home screens, then hopping back into the game. It's quite the battery drain as well. I also don't like the D-Pad controls too much, though as these things go they're fairly good. I haven't yet fully adapted to the complete loss of tactile feedback from a capacitive touchscreen when using controls that used to be physically pushed (moreso for the analogue controllers of the later consoles).

Overall I've found it to be fun now and then for building something silly but it really ought to have a flight mode enabled so that it can be a pure building simulator, given all the other aspects of Minecraft's gameplay are gone (adventuring, circuitry, combat etc).

Next up:

I've been playing more of the Alchemy games on my 'droid and I'll be giving those a go-over soon.
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This week it is the final round of premium archetype free weeks for Champions Online. The archetype in questions is The Devastator: a melee combatant that's all about wreaking death and destruction via the applicaiton of a bloody great weapon such as a giant sword or 2-handed axe. Sounds a simple enough premise, and I'd expect it to combine heavy hitting single target abilities with wide weapon sweeps to knock several opponents of their feet. Perhaps more like the way The Behemoth plays than The Blade but with the focus on DD instead of tanking.
The Devastator

Though good fortune, I found a free giveaway key for the Viking costume unlock, the Devastator Archetype and the Serpent Lantern adventure pack via Alienware (see the details here - sign up with a throwaway spam email addy, profit). This meant I could happily build my fantasy cliche warrioress concept and also wouldn't have any time restrictions. However, inkeeping with the spirit of things I decided I'd stick to the free play time limitation. The one downside was that I didn't have any axe unlocks that looked good enough*.

So, the archetype's superstats are Strength (no surprise there) and Recovery (quite unexpected). This leads me to suspect that the moves are going to be powerful and high on the energy costs. The first few powers are about stuns and slow, very hard knocks in an arc in front of my character, which is along the lines of what I'd anticipated for the concept. The Devastator quickly mows through anything in its path and whilst the slowness of the moves does leave plenty of room for the enemy to prepare defences or simply run away, if you do land a blow they aint going too far. Your own defences can best be summed up as: stack Con after your superstants and hope your HP will see you through. For most cases you'll destroy everything before they can pick you apart but I can see that soloing anything like a boss of your own level is going to be tough without some decent Devices to call upon. The slotted passive power helps to reduce incoming melee damage but really, it's there to boost your own output.

I didn't have any trouble with the lowbie content, certainly. But I can see the lack of defences, heals and crowd-control giving me a headache come the Desert and in particular the bosses in the instances there. I'm sure I'll get the chance to test that part out sometime though, given the free Devastator unlock from Alienware.
Sigurd Helsdottir


Now the 6 week rotation schedule is done, there are no more testers to be had for free players like myself. It's been a blast having a quick runabout with each archetype, and if I'd had more time I'd have played each one more thoroughly. Some of them were more fun for me to play than others and whilst the play experience of a character will vary with situation, level, encounter and suchlike I've given it some thought and ordered the 6 in terms of how much I enjoyed my time playing each one. (It was trickier than you might think...)
  1. There's really very little between my 2 favorites but I found The Tempest pipped The Inventor to the post ever so slightly in terms of fun playstyle. Lots of damage, especially to groups of mobs. Given the glass cannon nature, it's still got more survivability than it's free counterpart The Inferno.
  2. Of course, this means The Inventor is nominally in second place. I enjoy supporting roles and this is a great one, but my playtime in CO is spent solo these days where The Inventor lags behind a little.
  3. I noticed The Savage was always a much more popular choice than The Specialist when the first two premium archetypes were released, and after playing it I came to understand why. Powerful and fun, if rather simple to grasp. Ideal for soloing because of the regeneration passive.
  4. The Master was an awful lot of fun and there wasn't much to call it between it, The Savage and The Devastator, truth be told. The Savage has higher DD output with passive healing which means in longer fights it has the edge unless there is a healer to keep The Master topped up given it's a buffer tank through evasion, though the mad whirling torrent of spinning kicks and punches put out by The Master never got old and I imagine with some support The Master would make the better tank.
  5. As yet I'm unsure about how the Devastator will fare with the tougher content, in a similar manner to The Master. The reason I ranked this one lower is because of the slowness of the attacks, giving a lot of opening for unpleasent incoming without being able to switch to block easily. That said, there's not a lot in it and setting stuff on fire with my axe is just funny.
  6. I'm afraid the booby prize is awarded to The Void. The novelty of the archetype wore off quickly and it lost power, becoming somewhat dull. If it was a free archetype then I'd play it now and then but otherwise it's not worth the money to unlock it. Definitely the bottom of the pile for me.

* Note to self: poke around crafting recipies that give costume unlocks. It's about all that crafting is good for until you get to endgame...
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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.
achtungexplosiv: (Default)
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.
achtungexplosiv: (Default)
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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May 2012

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