Self Similar self similar’s personal gaming nonsense blog

18Jun/110

Mortal Komments!

I have some fond memories of the Mortal Kombat franchise starting from running into the arcade cabinet at a local grocery store of all places and admiring its cutting edge digitalized graphics and fantastic gore, quickly followed up by the obsessive, glowing buzz it gained from most of my then-8th grade compatriots. Soon after there was a lot of hanging out at local arcades as well as tracking down the various home console releases of the first two games with my friends. By the time Mortal Kombat 3 was released I had already developed a solid aversion to fighting games thanks largely to a mixture of the whole arcade/fighting game scene locally and my own lack of fighting game ability – really, most of my countless hours spent playing the console ports of MK 1 and 2 consisted of little more than me acting as a kind of moving punching bag for one of my much more skilled best friends. Great fun, that. (For the record I sucked at Street Fighter 2 as well. ;))

For a good time... don't call Mileena.
""For a good time... don't call Mileena."

Still, I wasn’t being sarcastic about the fond memories. That was more than 15 years ago and I view those years in particular with a ton of nostalgia. So yeah, even if the MK games weren’t some of my favorites I still have a soft spot for them. I picked up the N64 port of MK 4 at some point, and I dabbled with some of the later games including Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe. I can’t say I was greatly anticipating the 2011 Mortal Kombat but I was definitely intrigued by it. Fortunately unlike the last several MK releases this one had apparently actually lived up to its claims of returning to its roots and managed to become a better fighting game to boot by further diversifying and rebalancing its various characters.

I spent some quality time going through the story mode, some of the character ladders including the co-op ladders, and of course playing around in versus mode. Does it live up to the hype? Sure! If you never liked MK for its fighting system you might and I stress might be able to appreciate it a bit more now… but if it was the silly characters, over the top gore, dumb setting, or skimpy outfits you found objectionable then not much has changed – all of the stuff that appealed so strongly to my middle school peers and I is still intact if not even turned up a notch or two. The female character’s outfits are even more ridiculous, the gore… fatalities especially, even more gruesome. It’s the complete package. The biggest improvement there has got to be the story mode. I laughed along when I heard some of the podcasters I listened to scoffing at how many writers the game had credited well before its release but it actually does a surprising amount of fleshing out of the silly Mortal Kombat backstory. It essentially re-tells the plots of the first few games and the movie. It’s still dumb, sure, but unfair 2 vs. 1 matches and some annoying boss fights (suck it, Shao Kahn) aside it was great fun to play through.

My main character - an Inquisitor Cleric.
"My main character - an Inquisitor Cleric."

I’ve started winding down my WoW time lately for various reason and have instead started playing around with Rift. My brief synopsis: it has nice graphics, a cool class mechanic, and some other goodies but only really does one thing completely new to the genre: not suck. Well, let me explain... Rift’s mechanics are very much inspired by World of Warcraft (I’m being nice, guys) but unlike most of the MMOs that have come (and gone) since the success of WoW Rift actually not only barrows a ton of goodies from it but does so well. It’s very polished from the get go and the vast majority of little features and design tweaks that have helped WoW either become successful or stay successful over the years are already there. It’s so annoying to hop into a new MMO and come across problem after problem that have already been solved in other games. A lot of the time these are eventually patched out but… come on guys, why not just fix it from the fucking beginning? That’s Rift.

It’s about as good as you can expect from a WoW clone that aspires to be little more than a WoW clone. The setting and backstory are somewhat interesting but don’t appeal to me much personally but really, I’m almost totally done with this type of Everquest inspired theme-park MMORPG anyway, currently subscribing to the “if I want WoW, I’ll play WoW” mentality. I’ll still play around with Rift (and WoW) for a while but I doubt I’ll make any serious commitment to an MMORPG again until the release of Star Wars: The Old Republic… not that it is necessarily all that far off... nor may it do much to change the WoW formula itself, sadly. That said I’m very much interested in whatever Trion Worlds does next – they definitely seem to be an above average MMO developer so far.

It might look like I'm winning but there's about 500 more marines not in the shot...
"It might look like I'm winning but there's about 500 more marines not in the shot..."

I’ve also wrapped up the adventure mode of the Xbox 360 version of Peggle Nights – no surprise there, it’s still great, simplistic pick up and play fun. Finally, I’ve been playing some Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War: Dark Crusade again, just dabbling with the Necrons in skirmish battles since I’ve been considering returning to playing tabletop 40k again and am learning towards putting together a Necron army. Thank god the table top game and Dawn of War’s RTS mechanics are nothing alike because I’ve yet to win a single damn game as the Necrons. 😕

27Aug/090

Update

Again, as I mentioned in my last Game Log update, I've not had as much time for gaming or even blogging as usual. This is almost entirely thanks to my much more hectic work schedule as of late. This week is probably the quietest week I've had in several months and thanks to a cold my office mate so generously inflicted upon me I won't even be able to fully take advantage of it. That's not to say I haven't played games, however. Oh yes, I've played games.

First of all I finally finished Battlestations: Midway. Perhaps it finished me? As much as it shames me I actually put this one back on the shelf without finishing it off to the degree that I had planned. I breezed through the single player campaign fairly easily but once I got into the special "challenge" missions I hit several sheer walls of difficulty. After trying to beat the same challenge about 20 times without making much progress despite experimenting with various tactics and strategies I decided that I should be happy with beating the campaign and move on. This was confirmed by seeing that I already had above the average number of achievements for the title.

Not so much the Love Boat.
"Not so much the Love Boat."

I have a feeling that I would have a much easier time with these challenges, or at least some of them, on the PC version where I could have greater precision with my shots and the like. Since I own it too, plucked from the bargain bins for next to nothing, I may have to give it shot one day.

None of these difficulty issues really make me any less interested in Battlestations: Pacific though. I still enjoyed the game and its relatively unique gameplay. Regardless, I originally decided to place Battlestations: Midway where I did in my backlog because I thought it would be quick and easy to playthrough so spending weeks (of admittedly very little actual gametime) trying to beat one or two missions seemed counterproductive. On to the next game!

Next up in my 360 backlog is the first person shooter Prey. Another quick one, I hope. I didn't played Prey when it was first released though I remember a lot of my clan/guild buddies raving about the demo. I mentioned over a year ago here that a Toys R Us counter monkey had basically forced it on me one day, talking about how great it was, and at only 4 bucks news I couldn't really pass up the recommendation.

Every now and then the game gives you a hand.
"Every now and then the game gives you a hand."

Sure enough, the game seems to be worthy of the great reviews it got at launch. It's an oldschool FPS in some respects, the Duke Nukem 3D influence is obvious with the lead character quipping constantly, and it wears the fact that it's using the Doom 3 engine on its sleeve as well, yet the game also does some very interesting things involving portals, gravity, and puzzle solving and all well before the release of Portal to boot. There's a puzzle solving element involving exiting your body and entering the spirit realm which is pretty interesting. Speaking of the spirit realm, there's a very interesting, non-punishing death mechanic in Prey as well. I'm still less than half way through it so I don't want to say too much more until I know more but so far I'd say it's worth saving from your local bargain bin if such a thing sounds at all appealing to you.

I've also been playing Dawn of War 2 quite a bit in the last couple of months. I really enjoyed the first Dawn of War and its expansions. This is probably helped quite a bit by being a Warhammer 40,000 fan but regardless Relic has doing some interesting things with RTS conventions and yes, I loved Company of Heroes as well. Dawn of War 2 mixes things up a little bit by further changing the way single player works once again.

That's right - I defend my glowy things to the death!
"That's right - I defend my glowy things to the death!"

I've often heard the game described as Diablo-esque in that randomly loot of varying rarities drops off of enemies and is awarded for missions but that's is pretty much where the similarity ends. The player takes charge of a small force of Space Marines. Each squad or marines is similar to a hero unit (such as from Warcraft 3) in that they level up which can earn them specific skills, they can be equipped with new gear, etc. It still plays more or less like a RTS minus the base building and resource gathering aspects though. Of course, the combat part of the game is what Relic does so well with little touches like destructible buildings and unit cover mechanics.

The player equips and levels his squads while using a campaign map to select which missions to go on next. Some missions are plot related while others are purely side missions. The side missions appear to be mostly randomly generated but unfortunately they often recycle the same maps over and over again which makes grinding on them a lot less fun than it should be. Within the story itself players will find themselves battling all 3 of the game's other armies: Eldar, Space Orks, and Tyranids. Since the player's army is relatively small the battles are as well with few vehicles coming into the picture. Still, the constant equipment and skill upgrades are enough of to keep things interesting.

Orks iz strong!
"Orks iz strong!"

Anyway, the game is a blast. I'm close to the end at the moment but am still grinding on side missions. This is the first PC game I've played with a full Games for Windows Live implementation and it works quite well so far. I admit that I'm a tiny bit of an achievement whore so having PC game achievements combine with my Xbox Live achievement score is awesome. It does seem to confuse some of the Xbox 360 players on my Friends List when they can't invite me to a party or use some of the other Xbox 360 only features though. Who cares, points is points! 😉

12Jul/090

Pacific Vacation

I feel like a total slacker for neglecting my blog so much in the last few weeks. Apologies to the few of my friends who keep up with it. There's a variety of reasons why: As I mentioned previously I had been trying to put my nose to the grindstone and get through Ninja Gaiden 2. I'd also not been playing much Oblivion since I had a backlog of Garn entries to write. That's becoming a real bummer with the current format I'm using - I'm really excited to play but can only play so much before I need to stop and find time to write about what I've played. I've also been trying to get my America's Army 3 clan off of the ground which I'll write a lot more about soon. Probably my main excuse is that I usually write my blog entries during my downtime at work but due to changing positions and some new, major projects I've had very, very little useful downtime over the last few weeks.

Anyway, I did it! About two weeks ago now I managed to beat Ninja Gaiden 2 on warrior difficulty. Like the first game the difficulty kind of plateaued towards the middle - sure, they'd keep throwing new enemies at you but they didn't necessarily get any harder, just different and, thankfully, I never ended up getting anywhere close to as pissed off at the game as I did earlier on. I ended switching from using my trusty leveled up Dragon Sword to my even trustier leveled up Eclipse Scythe and never really looked back.

The most notable thing about the finale of the game had to be the 9 (yes, 9!) boss battles more or less back to back in the last 3 levels of the game. Luckily only one, the second to last one, gave me any real trouble. Like the first game I'm shamefully sort of proud to have struggled through and beaten a game so few others have. I almost immediately changed my XBL avatar to a NG2 one in celebration. I can't imagine playing it again any time soon through and hats off to the few, extremely hardcore players who continued upwards through the higher difficulty modes. No thanks!

I'm so glad Amazon.com doesn't have this problem.
"I'm so glad Amazon.com doesn't have this problem."

I moved on to the next game in my backlog queue, Battlestations: Midway for the Xbox 360, and man is it interesting. I don't think I'd call myself a huge military/war buff compared to a lot of people out there but I do have an above average appreciation for such things and this is an entirely different take on the World War II genre. It reminds me of some sort of twisted interpretation of what Battlefield: 1942 was originally promised to be back before it was released and a lot of people didn't think it'd ever work. "Wow man, you can run around on the ground, fly planes, drive tanks, even sail ships!" So yeah, Battlestations: Midway is like that, only as a real time strategy game instead of a first person shooter. Ok, that statement didn't make much sense but I was totally asleep when I originally wrote it. 😉

I feel that I'm being somewhat inaccurate calling it an RTS though. It definitely is an RTS though it doesn't have much in common by with the mainstream evolution of the genre. That is to say that there is no resource gathering and no base building. You simply have a bunch of different units, all vehicular, under your command. You also sometimes have units that can produce other units, most commonly aircraft carriers which can, of course, launch aircraft. Yes, given that his game focuses on the naval battles of the Pacific in World War II it mostly deals with ship (including submarine) and air combat.

You can direct your units' targets, behaviors, and all of that, to some degree, both in game and by using a real time tactical map. You can also hop into any of these vehicular units and either observe or take over the controls yourself. The first person controls are mostly fairly arcadey though their are occasional simmy features thrown in. For example, the menu to manage assigning crew to repair damage to your ship is unlike anything I'd seen outside of a sim for years. Still, it all works out easily enough as long as you spend more time managing your units than of playing them.

PT boat versus heavy cruiser, I wonder how this will turn out.
"PT boat versus heavy cruiser, I wonder how this will turn out."

Of course, like a lot of RTS games the single player campaign is far from the entire experience. Instead, you're thrown into very specific scenarios with very specific units and objectives. I'm over half way through the single player campaign and ever since I put it down I've been pining for more. Despite the short campaign there are a number of single player "challenges" to play through as well.

Online is where this game (apparently) shines though, letting you and potentially three partners duke it out with up to four other people in anything goes, all units on the table, massive battles in and over the Pacific. The online is what originally got me interested in this game in the first place after reading recounts of some of the awesome, epic battles people were having over Live. I'm sure hardly anyone is playing it these days (especially with it's sequel already out) and those who do are probably gods but I might end up giving it a try. I'm trying to burn through this one though, not making any special efforts for achievements or anything else before it's on to the next game. At the very least it seems that my experience so far has bumped Battlestations: Pacific into my wish list.