Alright, I’m only going to mention this, this and this. Please vote for the Eye of Sauron desk lamp and Star Wars trench toss. I don’t even know if those links will work after today.

So a bit of news this week! The game portion of the MMO/TV show experiment Defiance launches today. As I mentioned last week, reviews have been positive and I’m looking forward to the Syfy series debut later this month. Also this week, Company of Heroes 2 will launch the closed beta for folks who preordered. I never got a chance to try out the alpha a few months back, but I know it wasn’t getting the most positive reviews. I’m looking forward to going hands on with it myself.

Finally, it’s my 30th birthday this week. (I don’t care that this isn’t gaming related: I write the section, it’s my news) The Great Gifting of 2013 has already begun! My sister has sent me Bioshock Infinite and the season pass – of course, I’m still playing through my first early birthday gift, Tomb Raider, courtesy of Albert, much to the chagrin of Preezie.

Friday, 3:08 pm – Ricky

While we still haven’t seen or heard anything about Microsoft’s new console, that isn’t stopping Microsoft Studios’ Creative Director Adam Orth from sharing his thoughts on a rumor about the console needing to always be connected to the internet.

You can catch the whole story in this thread on NeoGAF, and it’ll help explain the awesome gif seen here.

Friday, 7:54 am – Ricky

For the uninformed, BioShock Infinite has a 1999 mode, which is basically hard mode. It’s unlocked by beating the game, OR by using the Konami code matt provided. Pretty cool Easter Egg, but not something I’m interested in doing on my first run. I don’t want to lose out on story beats because I’m frustrated by overly difficult gameplay.

Company of Heroes 2 beta stress test launched today for folks with a pre-order! Can’t wait to give that a shot!

Thursday, 6:17 pm – matt

up up down down left right left right b a start

Thursday, 2:17 pm – Ricky

We have a decision! Over the past few days, I polled each of the members of this fine website to see what game I should play after I wrap-up Tomb Raider (which should be shortly!). The options were:

  • Dishonored
  • Halo 4
  • BioShock Infinite

These were the choices because I said so, and for no real reason other than that. The results tricked in, and ended in a deadlock: 2 votes for Dishonored, 2 votes for BioShock Infinite. When explaining my predicament to Gavin over IM, he dropped THE TWIST OF THE DAY, changing his vote from Dishonored – a game he gifted me for the holidays last year – to BioShock Infinite, breaking the tie!    MNIGHTSHYAMALAN’D

So there you have it: I’ll be diving into Ken Levine’s latest epic in the next couple of weeks. The online hype and critical acclaim has been through the roof, so I’m looking forward to it!

Thursday, 11:08 am – Gavin

I feel bad for the people who worked at LucasArts who are now unemployed, and it’s always a bit sad to see a fabled developer go down, but LucasArts wasn’t much of a developer recently.  Think of the great games you used to love that were actually developed by LucasArts.  Not published, but developed.  Publishing a game is a lot easier than developing – it just takes money.  Developing is where the actual talent is, where the real heavy lifting is done.

In the last ten years, LucasArts has developed six games.  Can you name them all?  I bet you can’t without looking it up.

  1. Gladius (2003)
  2. RTX Red Rock (2003)
  3. Star Wars: Republic Commando (2005)
  4. Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (2008)
  5. Lucidity (2009)
  6. Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (2010)

That’s not exactly a murderer’s row of amazing games they made.  All of the Star Wars games over the last ten years, with the exception of the three listed in this list, were developed by a third party.  That’s all of the Clone Wars games, all of the Lego Star Wars games, KOTOR, TOR, Kinect Star Wars, Angry Birds Star Wars, Battlefront II, all developed externally.  We may weep for LucasArts, but that weeping should have been done a long time ago.  The company that made Day of the Tentacle, Sam & Max, Grim Fandango, the Monkey Island games, that company has been dead since the turn of the new century.

Disney loves money, so here’s to hoping that some strong developers can pick up the torch, get the licenses for their IP, including the Indiana Jones IP, and release some good games in the future.

Wednesday, 1:34 pm – Ricky

Well, Disney clears house and closes up LucasArts. They’re moving the games to a licensing model instead of a developer model, which means other companies can now make Star Wars games. Not a bad thing, but with the layoffs, it’s shitty to see the studio go down like this. I was also super hyped for Star Wars 1313, shown at last year’s E3, and I’m hoping it sticks around in some form or fashion.

Some of my earliest gaming memories come from LucasArts titles, but most notably X-Wing, a flight and fight simulator that I spent HOURS playing. Here’s hoping that gets revived.

Tuesday, 2:42 pm – Gavin

Happy early birthday, Ricky!  May you never grow tired of raiding tombs, nor building cities, nor boning prostitutes and then beating the crap out of them in order to get your money back.

I outsourced my last gaming decision to Ricky, who urged that I finally start the lumbering behemoth in my account, Skyrim.  So, this past Friday, I loaded it up and got started.  What can I say that hasn’t been said already?  The world is big (not Morrowind big, but big nonetheless) and the environments are logical and feel organic (except for the bridge occupied by the bandits – Valtheim Towers.  THE BRIDGE GOES NOWHERE.  YOU GET TO THE OTHER SIDE AND YOU CAN’T GO ANYWHERE.  For such a well-designed game, that seems like a glaring oversight.  You have to just jump into the river and swim up/downstream to go anywhere from there).

Bethesda did a phenomenal job creating a world that feels like an actual world, rather than a collection of loose sites and some free-roam areas.  Grand Theft Auto feels a bit like a fish bowl, and Just Cause 2 feels a bit like the developers just hit CTRL+C, CTRL+V a bunch of times.  But Skyrim actually feels like a country that wasn’t planned out on paper, but developed organically.  Kudos to the developers on that one.

However, I’m not as enchanted with the game as I thought I would be.  Not to say that it’s not a phenomenal game, because it very obviously is – it has insane depth and even though I’ve only put in 13 hours, I can see that it has crazy replayability.  I think part of the problem is that the game has been out for a year and a half now, so I’ve definitely read some things about it.  Did I set my expectations too high?  It’s entirely possible.  I knew too much about the game.  Not in the way of spoilers, just in the way of some of the charm being lost.  So much of the enjoyment of Skyrim, I’ve heard/read, is the newness of it all.  Perhaps it’s because I just finished another adventuring/questing game, Fable 2 (yes, again), but the game just seems familiar.  Perhaps that will change as I move on, but the dungeons/caves seem a bit linear now.  Entry-corridor-corridor-large room-corridor-corridor-large room-corridor-corridor-large room with dungeon boss.  Repeat for each dungeon I’ve been to so far, and I’ve been to at least half-a-dozen.  Obviously miniscule in terms of the overall game, but is it a coincidence that this is how it’s been so far?  I suppose I’m hearkening back to an old theme, but maybe I should have tempered my own personal expectations for the game.

The other concern I have is the graphics.  The animation is spectacular, yes, and the distant scenic shots are gorgeous, but up close, this 2011 PC game would not look out of place in 2009 on the Xbox. I have my settings up on high (no mods), and there is a fair bit of texture painting and an awful lot of disturbingly straight lines in places where straight lines don’t exist – nature.  Good from afar, but far from good.  Compare that to the other large quest-based game with hub cities that came out in 2011 – Deus Ex: Human Revolution.  DEHR, in my opinion, looked nicer than this game.  Perhaps it was easier to make it look nice because the environments were synthetic – man-made structures, shorter draw distances, and a predetermined colour scheme, but from environments to NPC facial structuring, I found DEHR to be a prettier game.

The worst is the voice acting.  Oh Bethesda, what were you thinking?  Those voices are terrible.  Like Devil May Cry, “I SHOULD HAVE BEEN THE ONE TO FILL YOUR DARK SOUL WITH LIGHT” terrible.  In open-world adventure games, I tend to interact with every NPC just to see if there’s something I’m missing.  But with this one?  I talk to people once to see if they have any quests to offer me.  If not, I close out of the conversation as quickly as possible because the voice acting is that bad.

So, what’s the takeaway from my first impression of the game?  It’s a fantastic, strongly immersive and incredibly deep game with enough variety to satisfy every type of action-RPGer, but enough flaws that it would have some work to do in my (admittedly extensive) remaining time with the game to crack the top 3 of my “best of 2011” games list, currently occupied in descending order by Deus Ex: Human Revolution, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, and Portal 2.  Despite any criticism though, I actively look forward to exploring the world they’ve built up and to discovering new caves, settlements, structures, and outposts.  I love walking between towns, rather than fast traveling.  It really puts me right into the moment and gives me a better sense of the world.  The developers worked their asses off to create a unique and interesting world, so it is incument upon me, the gamer, to try to explore it as much as possible.

So what have I done with my character so far?  I’m a female Breton, mostly focused on two-handed attacks, but I’m realizing my mistakes in not diversifying my portfolio, so I’ve been upping my destruction magic attacks.  I joked with Ricky that I approach every single battle the same way – two headshots with the bow and arrow, then dual fire attacks, then one two-handed power attack, and if I whiff on that one, then I switch over to dual-wielded swords, where I have an Orcish sword of absorption, and a honed ancient Nord sword of frost.  With that approach, I can usually take down a single giant before he gets a chance to swing at me.  Don’t get greedy with the bow and arrow attacks though – those giants move very, very quickly.  I also can’t block to save my life, and the only reason my heavy armour has leveled up the way it has is because I keep on getting hit.

The biggest mistake I make is forgetting to save when I leave a dungeon/cave.  I’ll die in the middle of the woods, only to realize that my last save point was a cave on the other side of the map.  I must have lost two hours at least just in those deaths and restarts.  I guess at this point in my gaming life, I really do appreciate the constant auto-saves in big games like this.  Between Max Payne 3 and Spec Ops: The Line, both of which autosaved every ten minutes, and Fable 2, where I simply never die, I guess I got used to the notion of a safety net.  But then, in Half-Life 2: Episode Two, I didn’t have that, and instead resorted to quick-saves, just like in Deus Ex, so it’s not like I need a game to hold my hand.  I guess I just got so wrapped up in the game that I forgot some of the basics.  Isn’t that a compliment more than anything else?

At 13 hours in the game, I feel like I’ve accomplished nothing.  I don’t know what to make of that.  I beat Max Payne 3 and Spec Ops: The Line in 11.2 and 8.5 hours respectively.  It’s daunting when I think about it – there’s still so much game left to enjoy, but I want to make sure I can still enjoy other games I have (what a first world problem this must sound like).  I don’t know how many hours I’ll put into this game, but at this rate, I suspect it will be an awful lot.  My current winner on Steam is DEHR at 43 hours, and no doubt I’ll explode past this.  I’m doing a ton of extraneous stuff right now, so I’ll probably tone it down and just do the main quest for a bit, just feel like I’ve actually done something worthwhile in the game.

Tuesday, 1:20 pm – Albert

Defiance has completely flown under my radar. My understanding is that it’s from a TV show and the game play is similar to Borderlands with loot drops but with thousands of people instead of just a team of four. Seems pretty interesting and Metacritic has given it a 8.6 which is pretty awesome. I am not an MMO guy. I played Everquest a LONG time ago and I got bored of it pretty quickly. And I believe that was the last one I played. I think it’s not that I don’t like the genre – it’s that its overly time consuming and you have to interact with people all the time e.g. raids, trading, etc. As I’ve grown older, i notice with my schedule and commitments that it’s easier to play a single player game on my time without having to depend on someone else.

Check out a one hour look at Defiance below

Tuesday, 10:33 am – Ricky

Defiance release day! Some reviews are trickling in, mostly from smaller sites, and things seem generally positive so far. Most notably is the game works on launch day – not something we could say about the most recent “MMO” launch.

Monday, 3:33 pm – Albert

Courtesy of Dorkly.com

EDIT: Check out the Steam Gauge which checks the price/size of your Steam account.

Monday, 2:15 pm – Albert

I feel as if I should have sent the cover of Tomb Raider and then a little note inside it that said April Fools which would have taken waaayyy too much work but would have gotten Ricky good.. That being said, what are the best April Fools pranks that the gaming industry has pulled on consumers? Probably the most notable in my mind would be the HL3 from Valve last year.

Why Gabe, Why?

That’s the most recent memorable for me…

This weekend I played some LoL, SimCity, Deadlight, Cart Life, and Gratuitous Space Battles. Really a majority of the first 2 and maybe a combination of an 1.5 hours for the last three. LoL is always challenging and I’ve been experimenting with multiple characters. I’m getting into the middle levels where players usually know what to do and are quite keen on making sure you do what you’re supposed to. That’s always fun when you’re feeding enemy heroes… You get lots of … encouragement.

SimCity has been almost like a mindless time sink. I keep running into the same problem where I need major buildings i.e. power plant,  but there is no space… so I create another city with all the essentials and create a power plant to support other cities and then I run out of space there… and so on. I am feeling fatigued already.

The other games I played are all interesting and I was just trying a couple to see which one I wanted to spend some time in. Deadlight is a fun zombie sidescroller and has a very engaging environment. It’s not one of those “I’m Jesus and I can destroy any zombie easily”  it’s more like “Shit swinging this axe at one zombie is pretty tiring” type of games. Two attacks and you’re gassed so it’s best to run away than fight. Cart Life was mentioned on a podcast I listen to and it follows the lives of cart vendors. Haven’t played it enough to warrant any substantial feedback;. Gratuitous Space Battles – ahhh – this game is dear to Ricky. Preezie and I made fun of Ricky a lot for playing this game (just to get a reaction) and I tried it last night. It seems like there is quite a bit to learn so i’ll have to wait for my mindset to get around to that. Other than that the graphics, sounds and game play seem interesting enough to warrant a second play through.

On the mobile front – Ninja Village (available only on Android at the moment) should be played by everyone. Made by the one and only Kairosoft. This game can be quite addictive. The “oh shit it’s 2am I am just going to play one more battle” type of game. Opps, sorry. Spoiler alert.

Monday, 8:46 am – Ricky

Played some more Tomb Raider this weekend actually. Man, this game is incredible. I’m really in to the single player campaign, and after trying multiplayer with matt, I’m ready to declare it the complete video game package.

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