Tuesday, April 17, 2012

An Old Friend Returns

Way back in the day (something like 1998) PC games really seemed to take off. The rise of 3D graphics add-on cards was in full swing and games were taking advantage of the technology. 28.8k modems were all over the place, opening up new worlds of online gaming for the masses. Yes, 28.8k modems. Broadband was still a few years away.

I was playing the likes of Half-Life and Unreal, immersed in rich worlds the likes of which I had never experienced. Half-Life would go on to spawn Team Fortress, Half-Life 2, Team Fortress 2, and my beloved Portal and even more beloved Portal 2. Unreal? Well, I swept that game under the rug and moved on.

But there was another game--a third little gem in the triumvirate that provided me joy for years. It was spawned from another franchise that started with promise but didn't do nearly so well. But this game got it right.

Starsiege: Tribes still holds a place as one of my favorite games--well, franchises. I played the living hell out of Tribes. And when its successor, Tribes 2, came along, I was once again immersed in the large scale battles with jet packs propelling soldiers across the battlefield while they fired their spinfusor discs wildly and with reckless abandon.

I skipped Tribes: Vengeance. It looked like a huge bundle of failure and, apparently, lived up to that assessment. But now...

Now Tribes: Ascend has dropped onto the gaming community like a um...wait, I've got something for this...um...two-ton...er...heavy thing!

Skeptical but hopeful, I downloaded it and fired it up. I had nothing to lose because, well, it's Free 2 Play. Free is good. Even if it is worse than a zombie clown hiding under my bed, it's free so I lost nothing except a little bit of time.

But if it's good...oh man, if it's good...

Is it good? Yes, I say. It was as if I'd never left. I strapped on my jetpack, armed myself, and was immediately flying through the air majestically like an eagle...piloting a blimp! Okay, yeah, I had a few manuevering problems at first but, well, I had those problems in the past. So nothing had changed. Perfect!

There are still some mechanics I am getting used to--vehicles are "bought" with credits (if I remember correctly) which are earned in-game. And many of my weapons are still locked. I assume I can unlock them by leveling--yes, Hi-Rez has added a certain roleplaying element to the game--but only a touch. You won't be assigning stat points to your character but I did see special abilities that you could apparently acquire.

Honestly, I'm fine with just flying through the air, running into stuff, and shooting things. Again--FREE! As far as I'm concerned, I've already gotten my money's worth out of the game. But, yes, I will continue playing. I do not plan on spending any money on the game so we'll see just how "free 2 play" it is.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


So there has been quite a bit happening. Most of it has to do with family members passing, rifts with friends I've had since college, and pet issues but it's enough to keep one's mind constantly turning like wheels on a train...that has pushed up against a wall but doesn't know it--not really going anywhere but working hard nonetheless. This has all kept me quite busy and not in a creative mood at all. Hell, there hasn't even been a Syfy movie worth making fun of. I thought there were only three guarantees in life: Death, taxes, and Syfy movies. I guess we'll just go with the first two, then.

I recently bought Mass Effect 2. Every fiber in my body told me not to do it for a couple of reasons. First, I hated the first Mass Effect with all my determination. It sits on my shelf, collecting dust and crying quietly to itself while I sometimes glare at it, quietly mouthing threats. Second, EA is a bunch of evil bastards who market buggy, crappy games (not all, but many) and practice shady business.

But Mass Effect 2 was only $10. So if it sucks, I'm only out 10 bones. Also, I only really paid EA $10 so I barely gave them any money. But enough of that.

Mass Effect 2 is decently fun thus far. The inventory system is much improved from the first...but that is sort of like saying "Oh yes, this car is much improved--it explodes %10 less often than the original!" Seriously, the inventory system and leveling system in the first Mass Effect was horrible. So I am glad to see them both improved. The plot is also somewhat better thus far.

But my main issue with Mass Effect was its constant "Talk to this person for 40 minutes, get quest, run across a starport, talk to several people for another hour, fight maybe once, then talk to the end person and turn in the quest...then talk for another 30 minutes." Seriously, it was like playing "Soap Opera: The Game". It was a snooze fest of the epic variety. If there was a "Triangle Hero" game, chances are it would be more fun than Mass Effect.

Honestly, I should've just written an entire blog on "Why I Think Mass Effect is a Steaming Pile of Poopy." But, anyway, Mass Effect 2 improves on a lot of the shortcomings of the first. It is not my ideal game but it seems to be worth $10 so far, a statement I cannot make about its predecessor (which I got used for $10, and want my money back).

Also, I started up another D&D group. I am quite happy about this. I am having trouble finding time to actually write the game and we have only met for one session but, so far, it looks very promising. I think we will have a good time. Sadly, it has been so long since I played D&D that there is a ton of common rules and such that I no longer even remember. It took us all quite a while just to make the characters. But roleplaying for me has always been 50% playing and 50% socializing so I find it difficult to complain. And since the gaming group sort of fell into my lap unexpectedly, I figure it's a good thing.

In addition to a time crunch, my creative juices seem to have either dried up or simply clotted. Regardless, it has been very difficult lately for me to do anything creative. If you consider building retaining walls or cutting the grass to fall under the "creative" category, then I am doing spectacular. Personally, I do not. Hopefullly it will pass. If it doesn't, my D&D group may just end up facing nondescript, unidentified monsters named Bob.