Tag Archives: Torchlight

Lightsabers and Labyrinths

I haven’t really sat down and attempted to complete anything new but I’ve definitely played some odds and ends on PC lately that I feel are worth a quick mention.

First, let me step back in time to something I forgot to mention several months ago which incidentally happens to me a lot with my blog – I randomly decide to pick something up for a few hours and put it back down without it ever earning a mention here. Anyway, I was feeling the MMORPG itch and since I hadn’t touched my old World of Warcraft account in quite a while I decided to make a brief incursion back into the galaxy of Star Wars: The Old Republic. You might recall when I mentioned the game originally that, despite being kind of a cookie cutter WoW clone in so many ways, I was actually quite fond of it and planned to go back. While I really wasn’t truly ready to return, having long since decided that this would be a game best played in all of its graphical glory after I build a new gaming rig, I still somehow ended up getting sucked back in.

The perks of dogfighting in an asteroid field.
“The perks of dogfighting in an asteroid field.”

I played my my Sith Inquisitor through a whole new planet and got my first taste of the on rails space combat which was surprisingly fun and appropriately Star Warsy. Most of all, the game is still mainly most satisfying because I like my character which is to say I like the way I imagine my character. Make no mistake, this is a twisted amalgamation of the imaginary image of him I have and my head the very wrote and scripted ways he behaves (no matter what choices I make) in his storyline dialogs and cut scenes. This is still very refreshing to me and gives me a much greater sense of attachment to my character than I’d normally have in an MMORPG, or even a lot of single player games.

I got so into it, in fact, that I ended up rolling some new characters in some other Sith Empire classes just to get an idea for the other characters and storylines at my disposal. I played a ruthless female bounty hunter pirate and a goodhearted but dutiful imperial agent somewhat based on the titular character from the Rogue Trooper comics and enjoyed the hell out of both. While I intend to stick it out with my Inquisitor (when I return to the game sometime later) I can definitely see why some people with far, faaarrrr more free time than I opt to level up each of the classes in the game.

An audience with Nem'ro the Hutt.
“An audience with Nem’ro the Hutt.”

Moving on, I got a bit of an itch to play a classic hack and slash action RPG. I’m not quite sure what inspired this but I decided to warm up the original Torchlight. Although I got fairly close to the end (or bottom of the dungeon, as it were) in my first playthrough as a Vanquisher I had never actually beaten the game. You may recall from a 2012 blog post that I was considering replaying it on Xbox Live Arcade and actually played around with an Alchemist at the time to do a little theory crafting, so this time I went through on Hard mode with a brand new Alchemist. It was fairly fun, though I more or less breezed through the first two thirds of the game until I reached somewhat of a difficulty spike in which my character switched from an iron cannon of doom to a wee delicate glass cannon and I suddenly found myself relying quite heavily on my potion stores. I started to feel a bit burnt out by the repetition and lack of good loot upgrade options but forced myself through to the end anyway. While I still standby my words of immense praise for the game I’m definitely curious about whether or not the team at Runic managed to fix these issues with Torchlight 2.

Ember Lightning and Ember Shield all day long!
“Ember Lightning and Ember Shield all day long!”

While the loot system (and the rest of the systems, really) are essentially refined versions of those from Diablo 2, I felt like I so rarely ever got loot that was actually better than what I had that it made the whole looting, identifying, and selling cycle more of a chore than anything else, and it isn’t like this was because I was already wading through the dungeon in some exceptionally awesome, epic gear or anything. One thing that isn’t lifted from Diablo 2 but rather Diablo is the mission and story structure. Torchlight takes place in one town, in one large, somewhat randomly generated dungeon, and has a simple main plot and even simpler side quests. Diablo made up for this by having an amazing and compelling atmosphere and while Torchlight’s isn’t bad by any means, it doesn’t really hold a candle to that of the Diablo series.

So, after beating Torchlight (the final boss was bullshit, by the way!) I dusted off my last playthrough of Diablo 2 which I had also started all the way over a year ago in 2012 in anticipation for Diablo 3. I have to say, the Paladin isn’t my favorite class and act 5 (the expansion act) isn’t my favorite act either, or perhaps the dreaded ARPG repetition is simply in full effect by then, who knows. Regardless, I flailed Baal to a fiery grave.

Flinging flaming flails at foe's frozen faces...
“Flinging flaming flails at foe’s frozen faces…”

While playing back through again my above statement about Diablo’s atmosphere was reinforced without question, and then some. I simply love the dark, serious, gritty feel of the world of Diablo and Diablo 2. The music and sound effects are particularly affecting – I ended up turning off the otherwise excellent music in Torchlight and listening to some podcasts and audiobooks while playing it but in Diablo 2? No chance! I’ve got to hear that eerie score and the those freaky ambient noises and sound effects! After this playthrough I’m now foaming at the mouth to finally load up Diablo 3, providing it stays true to those aspects of the series. My only hesitation besides the impending launch of the expansion pack is sending myself into some kind of horrible ARPG overdose but I don’t think I can resist, especially after the major pre-expansion pack patch that just dropped has renewed so much interest in the game again. Ugh!

Hacking, Slashing, and Blasting into Space

While still not gaming particularly heavily I’ve certainly had my nose in all kinds of different things lately.

First of all, I’ve been slowly blasting my way through Fallout 3 on PC. I knew I’d love this game from when it was first revealed, being a fan of both the original Fallout games and the Elder Scrolls series, and I was right. I was toying with the idea of doing some kind of a “Garn” like Let’s Play though probably scaled waaaayyyy back to quick journal entries or something but as my main inspiration for starting up Fallout 3 was to play something similar to Oblivion in between writing my blog updates I decided to forgo doing anything like that and just play the game at my own damn pace.

Charon doing what he does best.
“Charon doing what he does best.”

My character started life as a chaotic good (or some approximation thereof) energy weapons loving, grenade chucking hacker and medic and so far I’m not regretting the choice, despite hating the hacking mini-game and having an ungodly huge stash of Small Guns ammunition stockpiled thanks to some major early game ammo shortage scares. I’m having a ton of fun with it and will probably play it again on 360 at some point in the future. I also can’t wait to dive into New Vegas though I’ll almost definitely play that one on console to fix up my achievement sickness. 😉

All the ghouls love my Protectron's Gaze!
“All the ghouls love my Protectron’s Gaze!”

Hmm, what else? Inspired to do something more creative but not really having the time for an all out coding project I started playing around with the original Neverwinter Nights engine on my old laptop and eventually started to run back through the original campaign. It was hard for me to slog through this thing when it originally came out and I started hitting road bumps real early this time as well. I still think the old module creation toolset is pretty awesome but I more or less lost all inspiration to create something with it once I subjected myself to the campaign proper again.

I’m not sure what inspired it, other than maybe not having that much fun with NWN and having a copy of it lying around, but I then moved on to the original Dungeon Siege. So far it is part intriguing and part horrible. I like being able to lead my party around and have them fight automatically which feels kind of novel for this genre (somehow?) but not having any special abilities or much else to do other than navigating and popping potions me makes it a little boring after a while. Short play sessions have been mandatory so far. I’ll probably finish it one day since I had never played it before and I have definitely been getting some enjoyment out of it.

I was still feeling the hack and slash itch and with all of the Diablo 3 buzz going on in the last few months I figured I might purchase and run through the XBLA version of Torchlight. Theorycrafting with some build ideas I decided to simply try them out in Torchlight on PC since I already own it. Hours later and, yes, I still like the game quite a bit. I’ll probably still break down and buy the XBLA version of it soon. I wonder if Torchlight 2 will end up making it to console? The XBLA port of the first game was apparently ported quite masterfully.

Like an old glove...
“Like an old glove…”

After all of that I finally decided that, yeah, I really need to buy Diablo 3. I really wanted the collector’s edition but missed the original window and couldn’t find it anywhere on launch day so, feeling a bit defeated, I still haven’t go around to buying it. Instead I decided first to play through Diablo 2 once more to refresh myself on the story and whatnot. I honestly wanted to start with the first Diablo but I figured I’d save that for a review/retrospective sometime later.

Now, I’ve played through normal difficulty probably a dozen times with most classes and while never a crazy Diablo 2 addict I’ve certainly gone into higher difficulties and even played hardcore mode some. This time I picked a Paladin which I had played before but never gotten out of normal with. So far, despite having trouble adjusting to the brutal way 800×600 resolution looks on my flat panel, I’m enjoying the hell out of it. The creepy, dark tone and sense of isolation and despair the game sets is just perfect and, as influential as Diablo 2 was, still feels quite unique all these years later. Awesome. Now I’m absolutely salivating for Diablo 3.

The look on their faces says it all.
“The look on their faces says it all.”

Finally, after hearing the Rebel FM crew (and others) talk about it on podcasts I grabbed Kerbal Space Program. Hours of fun, this. There’s nothing quite like building your own rocket and then laughing hysterically as you struggle to get the thing off of the ground without some marvelously epic disaster. The real challenge starts after you finally manage to build a decent rocket and then find yourself having to actually learn a thing or two about the real life science of space travel as you attempt to actually orbit the planet, change orbits and orbit the moon, and then finally make a successful moon landing. If you’re real ambitious you can even try getting your little Kerbalnauts back home in one piece.

This is definitely a game I’ll be dusting off every now and then to check out new version enhancements and give a spin. I’m loving where indie game development is right now…

Duty Called

As I speculated I would in my last Game Log post I did wind up playing the 360 version of Call of Duty 4 Modern Warfare’s single player campaign although the results weren’t quite as great as I was hoping for.

COD4 is an excellent, highly polished game with great production value and developers who obviously know what they want out of the series. I, however, wouldn’t share their views on the direction the Call of Duty series has taken. I generally prefer slower, more tactical games – I preferred some of the more tactical multiplayer additions of United Offense to the original and I prefer playing Hardcore mode on Search & Destroy in COD4’s multiplayer (which I’ve played plenty on PC prior to this playthrough of the campaign) for instance.

That’s not really the issue though. There’s nothing too glaringly offensive about the way your character controls or the abilities you command over him. The fact that I sometimes have to expend half a magazine on an enemy to put him down or that my health somehow gets refilled after nearly dying doesn’t burn me up either. No, my biggest complaints about the game are about how the flow of the missions, including the checkpoint system, were handled.

It seemed like almost every level involved at least one point at which I’d get stuck in a seemingly endless loop of spawning, rushing off towards my objective, and eventually being killed by an overwhelming, infinitely spawning horde of enemies before managing to reach whatever magical location or predetermined time span triggered the next checkpoint. This was highly annoying as I often didn’t feel like I was playing bad, in fact there were times when I stayed alive for a long, long time and killed an unbelievable amount of enemies yet still didn’t make it to the right spot. No, it feels like the game’s attempts at hand-holding were fighting directly against the gaming instincts I’ve developed over many years of playing similar games. I’d much prefer a system where, even if there is a shit ton of them, there’s always a finite amount of enemies in an area. That alone would have gotten me around many of these areas.

Fact: Marines hate walls.
“Fact: Marines hate walls.”

A big part of the problem seems to be that you’re almost always being funneled from one spot to the next and stopping to waste some tangos isn’t necessarily one of your objectives unless you encounter a scripted section where that temporarily becomes the priority. There’s nothing wrong with that, I suppose. It is even fairly realistic. However there definitely were sections during which the game wasn’t clear about what I, as in the player rather than the character, was actually supposed to be doing – particularly whatever it would take to trigger the next checkpoint. Again, this caused some major frustration when it came to the sections where I kept dying due to overwhelming numbers of enemies before discovering the trigger.

I may have myself to blame a bit for playing on “hardened” difficulty as I hear normal and easy are quite a bit easier and won’t usually result in nearly as many of these road bumps. In fact I ran through some of the levels in easy after beating the campaign to grab some minor achievements I missed along the way and was amazed at how much better the levels seemed to flow. That being said I can’t imagine playing through the game on “veteran” difficulty if it is really as hard as I’ve heard.

Ultimately I suspect my preference to the open world style of tactical games has a lot to do with my feelings on Modern Warfare. In games like Operation Flashpoint, Ghost Recon, and the Rainbow Six games, you’re usually thrown into an environment, given an objective, and, to some extent, left to your own devices. Sure there can be scripted moments, but the most important scripting is that of the behavior of your enemies in how they react to whatever actions you might decide to perform. COD4 on the other hand attempts to be an extremely directed experience. There are probably differing reasons for why – from keeping the action and narrative moving at a steady pace to providing a more solid narrative that the player feels more a part of in general. In summary, they’re really different games with different priorities and goals.

All of that said the story was interesting, they did a good job mixing up the scenery for the most part, and the action was decently varied as well. As with most other people I’ve run across my favorite level is the AC-130 mission. It was pretty different and I’ve been intrigued by AC-130s since seeing them fly over my house from time to time as a kid, and besides… who doesn’t like to play god every now and then? I’m still very interested in Modern Warfare 2 and I suspect I’ll even play around in the online modes on Xbox Live a bit but I’m not nearly as hyped to play the campaign as I was before playing this.

Another successful, completely unnoticed assassination.
“Another successful, completely unnoticed assassination.”

Next I hit Assassin’s Creed up. Assassin’s Creed 2? Nope, the first one! I’m one of the seemingly few people who loved the first AC. Sure, it got repetitive – I don’t disagree with the critics there. However, I found the awesome setting, the feeling of being an assassin prowling the city streets looking for my next victim, the bizarre modern day Templar conspiracy plot, and even some of the mechanics to be compelling enough to take me all the way to the end of the game. I just got really into it.

Well, I’ve been hearing nothing but good things about the recently released Assassin’s Creed 2 and that lead me to reminisce a bit about the first game. I remembered that I had almost all of the achievements including most of the harder ones. I ended up pulling up my achievement list to verify that, actually, I only lacked 5 achievements and they were all relatively easy ones to get. Having never before “completed” a retail Xbox 360 game, getting a full 1000 achievement points, I decided to dust off the game and hop back into the Animus.

Although it took me a little while to remember some of the mechanics of the game I quickly remembered why I loved it so much. The engine still holds up brilliantly and stabbing guards in the face with my hidden blade never gets old. After running the rooftops of Acre one more time I’m even more stoked for AC2… and yes, I got my 1000/1000 achievement points!

Eat blue stuff, foul denizens of the deep! width=
“Eat blue stuff, foul denizens of the deep!”

Finally I picked up Runic Game’s much praised Torchlight. Torchlight is a Diablo clone put out by a combination of some of the original Blizzard guys who made the first two Diablo games, along with the guys who made Fate and Mythos. I loved Diablo 1 and 2 and can’t wait for the third game but I’ve had a hard time getting into many of its clones. Not for a lack of trying! My favorite is Titan Quest which I’ve mentioned in past Game Logs and still intend to finish sometime. Torchlight might just take that spot, however.

The game takes the one, extremely big, largely random dungeon and one town approach of Diablo 1 and adds in many of the refinements and additions of Diablo 2 and its successors along with a highly stylized and enjoyable, yet not too taxing (it’ll even run on netbooks!) graphical style similar to games like World of Warcraft and Dungeon Runners and adds in a more refined interface. Sure, there are some bugs here and there but the game feels quite polished, especially for being from a smaller studio and only costing 20 bones.

Crossing a bridge high above... 20 stories below ground?
“Crossing a bridge high above… 20 stories below ground?”

I suppose this says a lot about the guys who make up Runic Games – this Diablo style game is their bread and butter, it is what they’re good at and they’ve definitely proven that they still have what it takes. In fact one of the things that convinced me to get the game was a brilliant interview with Max Schaefer on Idle Thumbs in which he talked about the company and their approach of staying relatively small and attempting to exist in somewhat of a niche, being happy with making enough money to keep them all paid and in business rather than trying to develop the next mega-hit. That niche also allows them to make riskier games – the type of games that made PC gaming so special to many of us old bastards. Yes, they impressed the hell out of me. I’m even considering sending Runic my resume since I’m sure they’ll be doing some major hiring when they get ready to launch the Torchlight MMORPG. 😉