Archive for the ‘Computer Games’ Category

Fallout 4 – Building a post-nuclear society

November 16, 2015

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I’d intended to write up something about Fallout 4 a few days ago, but what free time I’ve had in the past week or so has been spent playing, well, Fallout 4.  In many respects Fallout 4 is similar to Fallout 3, and Fallout New Vegas: blasted wasteland, murderous mutants and raiders, cool weapons, scavenging, power armor, companions, etc.  But I’m not here to write about the usual Fallout features, which you can read about anywhere.   I want to tell you about the newest and, to me, most interesting feature: settlements.

F3 and NV gave you houses, which you could customize and use as a base and storage facility.  F4, on the other hand, lets you rebuild civilization by establishing settlements…over 30 of them, spread throughout the Commonwealth wasteland.  When many A-rated games offer at most a dozen hours of gameplay, Fallout 4’s settlement feature alone gives you potentially hundreds of hours of gameplay (let alone the main storyline, numerous side quests and random wasteland exploration).

settlementbuilding

The building blocks of civilization.

Within your settlements you can do almost anything: establish defenses, grow crops, construct infrastructure and power grids, and build unique buildings using modular blocks (like the picture above).   Your settlements require resources to grow, mainly wood and steel, but also things like cement, copper, cloth, circuitry, fiber optics, oil, gears, springs, screws and much, much more.  You can acquire these resources by scrapping salvage within the borders of your settlement, or by scavenging them from the wasteland and transferring them into your settlement’s workshop inventory (which automatically converts them to the necessary resources as needed).  Finally, there’s a use for all that random junk you find in the wasteland.

settlement 1

Someone’s custom home.

Settlements won’t amount to much without settlers.  You can build radio transmitters to attract new settlers, who’ll need food and water, a bed to sleep in and protection from raiders.  If you provide for them adequately, their happiness will increase (as will their productivity).  If you fail, their happiness can decrease and you might loose control of the settlement.  Fortunately it’s pretty easy to see what’s bothering your settlers and remedy the situation.  And then you can put your settlers to work.  At first they’ll be growing crops and standing guard against raiders, but eventually you can put them to work in shops (to make caps for you), scavenging, and to maintain the vital supply lines between your growing network of settlements.  You can also tell them to move to other settlements, distributing your population as needed.

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Build shops in your settlements to generate income.

Supply lines between settlements are worthy of a post all their own.  They allow you to share construction resources between connected settlements.  They also share excess food and water, enabling a synergism that allows the settlement system to really shine: specialization.  Instead of every settlement having to grow its own food and produce its own water (a logistics nightmare), using supply lines you can have specialized farms, water purification centers, scavenging centers, trade centers, logistical hubs, and even firebases (yes, you can eventually get artillery for your settlements).  Conceivably you could even have specialized “breeder” settlements, optimized for attracting new settlers, then relocate them to where their labor is needed most.

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Artillery goes BOOM!

On the downside, while the controls for building settlements can be a bit kludgy, the controls for managing your settlers is nearly anachronistic.   There is no central interface for managing settlers, so you have to track down each settler individually (they wander around, and some of the settlements are HUGE), give them a command and then run back across the settlement to tell them what you want them to interface with.  You can construct a bell to summon everyone in a settlement to one spot, but it can still be a hassle to figure out which settler is doing which job.  And re-routing your supply lines is a near Sisyphean task.  To cancel a supply line, you have to talk to the actual settler doing the supply run…and yes, they actually travel across the wasteland between settlements, in real time (well, real game time).  This usually entails waiting for them to show up at a settlement, which can take quite awhile.  This is perhaps “realistic,” in a sense, but it would have been nice to have a tool to centralize the management of workers and supply lines.  I imagine such features will be amongst the early mods to be released by the community.

Fallout also does a very poor job of explaining the settlement system to new players.  To be fair, much of the system is intuitive, and there is a help feature which adequately covers the basics, but you’ll still spend a lot of time and resources experimenting with different features (either that, or spend a lot of time researching what you need on the internet).  However, some players may feel this is a feature, rather than a flaw.

Finally, while supply lines share resources between all your connected settlements, there is no global resource tracker for all your settlements (at least, none that I’ve found so far).  So it’s not easy to see your total food and water production vis-à-vis your total population.  For me, this is a minor annoyance, and I’m sure the modding community will come to the rescue in due course.

So, if you’re a fan of Fallout and Civilization, Fallout 4 should be right up your alley.  Honestly, I cannot imagine playing Fallout without settlements now.  In terms of value, if you enjoy everything Fallout 4 has to offer, you should reap scores, if not hundreds, of hours of play time from this game.  Just be warned that settlement management can easily suck you in.

Cheers!

Edit:  So, the last couple of days I’ve noticed some glitches with settlement management.  When I’m at a settlement and check it’s status via the workbench interface, everything is fine.  Plenty of food, water and beds…everyone’s happy.

However, when I go do some missions or exploring, when I use the PipBoy to check on my settlements, it doesn’t always register all of the settlement’s resources.  Sometimes food is lacking, or it says there aren’t enough beds, and happiness declines significantly.

So I quick travel to the settlement to see what the heck is going on, and everything is just the way I left it before, except for the settlement’s happiness level (which is usually about 5 points lower).  I can’t pin the problem down, and it’s becoming very aggravating.

Edit:  Okay, a little research shows a lot of people are getting this bug.  The consensus is that it’s one of two things bugging the settlement:  1) powered TV’s, or 2) fast-traveling from within the build limits of a settlement.  My two most bugged settlements have powered TVs in them, so I will try deleting them and seeing what happens.  Besides, watching too much TV is bad for your eyes. 🙂

FTL: Faster Than Light

January 8, 2015

ftlgameJust a quick post to highlight a game I recently discovered: FTL.  FTL is a rogue-like game of space exploration.  You start with a basic ship and a small crew, and you’re trying to carry vital information to the Federation fleet, staying one step ahead of the rebel fleet.  As you explore the randomly generated galaxy, you encounter other ships to fight, space spiders, asteroid fields, pirates, rebels, ships in distress, solar flares, plasma storms, nebulas and more.  You’ll acquire resources which you can use to upgrade your ship, hire new crewmembers and install new weapons and ship systems.

In battles you manage power systems, assign crew members to various stations, fight off boarders (or launch boarding actions of your own), repair damage, put out fires, target specific enemy systems and play with fun toys like mind control, teleporters, drones and the like.

For a fairly simple game, you have a lot of options.  If your ship catches fire, you can send crew members to put the fire out, or open the ships doors to vent the oxygen to space.  For that matter, you can suffocate enemy boarders, too.  Want to minimize damage to your ship?  Try targeting enemy weapon controls first.  Does the enemy have a lot of shields?  Try targeting your missiles at their shield control (missiles bypass shields).  Running short of missiles?  Just divert power from your launchers and finish off the enemy with lasers.  It sounds like a complicated game, but the controls are actually fairly intuitive.  You can also pause the action and any time to consider your options and plan accordingly.

As a rogue-like game, there is a high degree of randomness to it, which contributes to the game’s difficulty.  In fact, sometimes it can just seem downright unfair.  And it is a very difficult game, even on easy mode.  I’ve only finished FTL once, on easy; when I tried “normal” difficulty, the game was downright murderous.  So, if you’re not a fan of rogue-like games, FTL probably isn’t for you.

If you’re interested the game is available on Steam (there’s also an Ipad version).  If you’re patient, it frequently goes on sale on Steam (up to 80% off sometimes) so keep your eyes peeled.

Borderlands Pre-Sequel

October 18, 2014

borderlandspresequelThe new Borderlands game has been my obsession the last week.  The game is set between the events of Borderlands 1 and 2, detailing the rise of Handsome Jack (the main villain in Borderlands 2).  It’s set on Pandora’s moon, Elpis, so it introduces a number of new game features, such as low gravity and oxygen requirements.

What I like:

  • New environment – not just ‘moon’ terrain and low gravity, but things like methane lakes and jet plumes of various gasses
  • New guns – LASERS! and cold-base weapons that freeze enemies (laser shotguns are particularly cool)
  • The Grinder – My favorite addition – instead of just selling all those crappy guns you don’t need, now you can ‘grind’ them up and get a better gun; a much needed addition to the series
  • The story is interesting so far; my take is it will tell the story of Handsome Jack’s transformation from a pretty decent chap into an insane master villain
  • The same sense of dark humor, though the Pre-Sequel doesn’t seem quite as funny as B2
  • CL4P-TP is now a playable class! (about time)

What I Don’t Like:

  • Quest lines that just go on forever, sending you this way that that; it makes it hard to just jump on for a few minutes and do a mission or two
  • Jumping puzzles – I really hate jumping puzzles in FPS’ (not least because I suck at them), and a big portion of the Pre-Sequel is built around exploiting the new low-G mechanics…which means lots of various jumping puzzles 😦
  • Return of most of the things I didn’t like from the first two games, such as being sent back to the same areas for new quests over and over again
  • CL4P-TP’s class abilities seem awfully random…too random for my tastes

If you liked the first two Borderlands games, you should like this one too.  If you hate Borderlands, there’s nothing in the Pre-Sequel that will change your mind.

Don’t Starve

November 8, 2013

DS_old01My latest addiction, between classes and homework, has been a little gem of a game called Don’t Starve.  It’s a sandbox survival game set in a weird, alternate world that mirrors our own in some ways, but is quite bizarre in others.

As you can probably guess from the title, the primary objective is to simply not starve, though there are plenty of other hazards in the world (monsters, winter, more monsters, burning up in a forest fire you started, and so on).  I believe there’s also an end-game objective to confront the villain of the game (Maxwell) and escape bizzaro-world…but I’m not 100% sure because I haven’t gotten anywhere close to that yet.

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Yes, you can set entire forests on fire.

At first glance it appears to be silly and cartoony, something for kids.  But there’s actually a considerable amount of depth to the game, allowing for a wide variety of survival strategies.  The game also features a fairly intricate crafting system where you use the items you gather to make things that help you survive.  Better weapons and armor, advanced structures for more food options, farms, science-y objects and even magic.  Oh, and perma-death.  It’s a game where you’ll die a lot, but hopefully learn a little more each game so you get a bit further along.

When you start, you wake up in the strange land with nothing but the clothes on your back.  However, by the end of the first day you should be able to gather enough food to get by for a few days, as well as materials to make axes and picks, and wood for a campfire.  And you’ll need that campfire…you don’t want to be wandering around at night without a light.  After a few days of scouting the world you should find a good location to build a base camp and get to work building the items and gathering the resources you’ll need to survive.

A well-established base camp.

A well-established base camp.

You basically have three stats: Hunger, Sanity and Health.  When Hunger reaches 0 you start losing Health, and when Health reaches 0, you’re dead.  Night gradually reduces your Sanity, as does eating certain foods, traveling through ‘worm tunnels’ and confronting the terrors of the dark.  As you lose Sanity, you start to see hallucinations and the world takes on a darker aspect.  If your Sanity goes low enough, you can actually fight and kill your hallucinations (and gather a resources from them, as well).  I assume when Sanity reaches 0, you lose, but I haven’t gotten to that point yet.  There are a variety of ways to replenish your stats, though the primary means is by eating more complex foods (using an item you craft, the Crockpot, to make them).

You’ve got about 20 days of Summer to gather resources, and then Winter sets in.  Food becomes much more scarce during Winter, and the days are shorter, so you have less time to gather and you lose more Sanity during the longer nights.  Farms stop working, so you have to rely mainly on food you stocked up during Summer and whatever you can hunt during Winter.  Oh, and keep an eye on that food…it’s perishable, so make sure you eat it before it spoils (eating spoiled food causes you to loose Sanity, too).

Though you’ll probably die frequently, the longer you last the more XP you get, allowing you to unlock new characters with different abilities.

As for myself, so far I haven’t starved to death.  Mostly I’ve been killed by various monsters, and I froze to death in one game.  I have yet to make it through a full Winter (my record is 30 days), but I’m still having fun experimenting and trying different things.

If you’re looking for a light computer game with some depth and a lot of re-playability, you may want to consider giving Don’t Starve a try.  It’s available on Steam for about $15, though if you’re patient it’ll probably go on sale sooner-or-later.  Cheers!

P.S.:  Here’s the Wiki, to give you an idea of how much there is to the game.

Update:  MY current record is 90+ days.  I’m in the middle of my third winter and have established a pretty good system for surviving.  Time to move on to bigger challenges, like exploring the underworld.

Neverwinter Online: Fury of the Feywild

August 23, 2013

Neverwinter Online released its first content expansion (they call them ‘Modules’), Fury of the Feywild, yesterday.  This is not intended as a full review, as a proper review would require weeks of gameplay.  Rather, this is more of a mini-rant.

Mind you, it’s not that FotFw isn’t fun to play.  What little of it I’ve been able to access has been about as good as anything else in Neverwinter Online (take that as you will).  No, the main problem is that I can’t play as much of the new content as I’d like.  And the reason I (or anybody) can’t play as much as we’d like is because Perfect World imposed ridiculous lock-out timers after completing a few quests.

Here’s how it works:  you do a short solo intro adventure then plop into Sharandar.  There you get three daily quests.  After completing your three daily quests, you’re unable to advance any further for the next 13 hours, after which you can then complete another 3 daily quests and then wait another 13 hours.  Do this three times to unlock the next area of the new zone where, presumably, you’ll repeat the process all over again.  It’s basically an entire zone made up of nothing but WoW-like daily quests.

On top of the timers, accessing much of the content seems to require the expenditure of gold and/or astral diamonds, plus special currencies earned only in the Feywild (granted, I haven’t been able to progress far enough to test this yet, so I might be wrong).  One wonders why PW didn’t just cut out the clutter and charge ZEN directly to access the additional content, though perhaps that would have been a bit too transparent.

I’m glad I didn’t have to pay for this expansion.  Sure, it looks gorgeous, but frankly the whole thing feels a bit half-assed, content-wise at least.

Okay, rant over.  Maybe I’ll be able to give a better assessment in a couple of weeks, after I’ve had a chance to (glacially) progress through each area.  Cheers.

Neverwinter is Live

June 21, 2013

For anyone interested, Neverwinter Online is now officially ‘live,’ not that there’s much of a distinction between ‘live’ and ‘open beta.’

Aside from bug fixes and tweaks, ‘live’ also introduces the Alchemy profession and the Gauntlgrym end-game content.

Alchemy seems like it has good earning potential and could be a lot of fun to play around with.  However, progression isn’t done through the normal XP grind.  Instead, you have to ‘experiment’ to advance, which is just a fancy way of saying that Alchemy progression is essentially random.  So, first you gather resources (10 minutes), then you make virtriols (another 10 mins) and then experiment (starts at 2 minutes but rapidly requires a greater and greater investment of time).  If you’re lucky you’ll acquire ‘Basic Alchemy Knowledge’ after the experiment (an object that looks like a scroll, which binds on pick-up, so you can’t buy or sell them).  The first experiment only requires 1 B.A.K., but the next requires 3, then 4 and I’m sure the requirements grow as you progress.  Add in the random nature of acquiring B.A.K.s and you can understand why my first reaction was “This sucks.”  But I was trying to advance the profession using only one apothecary…which of course will take forever.  Using multiple apothecaries on multiple open profession slots (you can have up to 9 in Neverwinter) would industrialize the process somewhat, making progress much faster.  It’ll just take time to acquire sufficient apothecary hirelings.

Gauntlgrym consists of a PvP element and a PvE element.  I have no idea what’s it like because you must join a guild to do anything in Gauntlgrym.  Basically, the guild master picks one of two (or maybe three, not sure) NPC factions competing with one another to exploit Gauntlgrym (an ancient Dwarven city recently re-discovered).  I’m not big on being in guilds, so I’ll probably never experience any of this content.

Neverwinter is free-to-play, using micro-transactions to pay the bills.  In my experience it is technically true that you can do everything in the game without spending a dime, but you’ll progress faster (especially in professions) if you spend a little money.

Cheers!

Neverwinter

May 9, 2013

Neverwinter is Cryptic’s new free-to-play MMO based on the Neverwinter D&D franchise.  Open beta began about a week ago, so anyone can download the game and give it a go (it’s about a 3.5 Gigs).

The game is loosely modeled on 4th Edition D&D, but heavily MMO-ized.  It’s an action-oriented game, having more in common with, say, Diablo, than World of Warcraft.  The beta launched with 7 standard D&D races and 5 basic classes, though they promise to gradually release more races and classes over time.

For classes, you’ve got your basic fighters, clerics, rogues and wizards.  However, Neverwinter classes are structured more like 4E class builds, rather than as customizable templates.  For example, the magic-user class is called a ‘control wizard’ and specializes in crowd control.  This implies that in the future they’ll release different wizard ‘build’ classes, perhaps one that specializes in nuking.  This idea is further reflected in the two fighter classes, one using two-handed weapons and the other using sword-n-board.  Over time there will probably be many variations of ‘build’ classes, several for each core class.  Rumor is, one of the next classes to be released will be a Ranger Archer class.  Max level is 60.

Every class gets its own set of ‘powers,’ broken down into the 4E model of At-Will, Encounter and Daily.  You can equip up to two At-Will powers (activated using left/right mouse buttons), 3 Encounter powers (activated using Q, E and R buttons) and 2 Daily powers (activated by hitting 1 or 2).  Each class has several of each power to choose from, so you can swap them to suit your needs and/or play-style.  At-Wills can be used anytime, just by clicking your mouse buttons; Encounter powers operated on a standard MMO cool-down timer (usually 10-20 seconds); and the Daily power can be activated once you’ve built up enough Action Points.  Different classes build up Action Points in different ways, but it usually involves violence of some sort.

Another thing about the classes, they are extremely gear restricted.  For example, Great Weapon Fighters can only use two-handed swords.  There are no two-handed axes or two-handed polearms.  And you can’t equip a GWF with a longsword or a dagger.  I know that in other games this kind of limitation would have bothered the hell out of me,  but with NWO I was so engrossed in the action I hardly even noticed it.  And for what it’s worth, the game is very generous with the loot drops, so it’s generally not difficult to equip your character.

As you progress in levels you earn points to buy new powers, or to enhance existing powers.  You also earn ‘feat’ points, which work more or less like standard MMO talent trees.  Every 10 levels you can boost your ability scores.

Along the way you can pick up companions, which work very similar to companions from Star Wars: The Old Republic.  However, as the companions are sort of generic and interchangeable, they don’t have any personality and no back-story of their own (unlike SWTOR companions).  You can get companions to heal you, or tank for you.  You can get pet companions (even a honey badger!) or even use IOUN stones as companions.  Companions level as you play and they have a few equipping options, though not nearly to the same extent as your PC.

NWO also has a crafting system they call ‘Professions,’ which is basically getting hirelings to do menial work for you while you go out and have fun killing stuff (and taking their loot).  Professions are leveled by having your hirelings work a profession and, as you progress, you gain the ability to perform more (and better) tasks.  Eventually you can have up to 9 profession tasks going at once.  In my experience, professions seem to take a great deal of time to advance.  Even at level 3 some of my profession tasks take 4+ hours to complete.  There are ways to reduce the time required (including a ‘buy out’ option) but so far I haven’t acquired any means of doing so.

In terms of content, there are plenty of single player quests to keep you going.  The game is divided into level-appropriate zones (fairly standard fair in MMO design now).  Each zone has enough quests that you can solo to progress to the next area.  But in addition, most zones have 5-player skirmishes and dungeons you can qeue up for.  There’s also PvP and many areas have periodic contests that are open to everyone in the zone.

And that brings me to what is probably the most revolutionary aspect of NWO: The Foundry.  Paying homage to the origins of Neverwinter Nights, the game provides an option for players to create their own adventures and release them to the rest of the community.  Unfortunately, I don’t have much experience with the Foundry yet, as I’ve been having so much fun with the rest of the game, but it’s high on my list of things to do next in the game.  Also, Foundry adventures can be rated by players, so you can weed out the lame ones.

Fair warning, NWO makes its money from micro-transactions, and they hit that aspect of the game up pretty hard.  Zen is Cryptic’s special currency for buying special items, like mounts, companions (the aforementioned honey badger, for instance), apparel, respec tokens, additional character slots and more.  However, from what I’ve seen so far, it is entirely possibly to play the game just fine without ever spending a dime, if that’s what you want (though I’m seriously thinking about picking up that honey badger 🙂 Honey badgers are bad-assed!).  There’s even a mechanism for selling astral diamonds (the game’s primary currency) for Zen, though I gather it’d take a LOT of astral diamonds to get a decent amount of Zen.

I’ve encountered a few bugs so far, but nothing game breaking.  And the game could do with more variety in gear itemization (like, why can’t the Great Weapon Fighter use two-handed axes/polearms in addition to two-handed swords?)  However, this ‘beta’ game seems far more complete to me than many ‘finished’ MMOs I’ve played recently (looking at you, Defiance).  There’s plenty to do with a solid ‘actiony’ combat system.

If you’re a fan of MMO’s, you should check it out.  However, if you’re looking for a more authentic D&D experience, this probably isn’t the game for you (D&D Online may be what you’re looking for, though).

Sword of the Stars – The Pit

April 13, 2013

pit_banner3

Some of you may be familiar with the Sword of the Stars franchise.  Sots I & II were 4X style strategy games.  I never really got into them, so I don’t know much about the background of the Sots-verse.

SOTS – The Pit, on the other hand, is an old school turn-based, rogue-style dungeon crawler.  Yes, it’s kind of a strange progression for the series, but it works.  The graphics aren’t much to look at, but the gameplay is very addictive.  Well, it is as long as you like rogue-type games.

The game is tough and you’ll die frequently, so the goal isn’t so much to get to the end (sub-level 30 of The Pit) in the first play through.  Rather, the goal is to see how far you can get before you die, hopefully going a little further each time.

Along the way there will be containers to search (for vital supplies), locks to pick, traps to disarm, equipment to repair and crafting stations to make stuff.  Oh, and monsters to fight.  Lots and lots of monsters.  You get experience and level up for doing all that stuff (which is part of the addictive nature of the gameplay).

Along with a health tracker, you also have food.  Food is sort of a timing mechanism, so you don’t sit around resting after every battle.  And while it can be frustrating to die just because you can’t find any food, it also forces you to make some strategic decisions, too.

Some of the loot you find are components which may be combined at crafting stations (either cookers, for food, or lab stations, for most other stuff).  You can make weapons, armor, better food, medicines, all kinds of things.  Unfortunately, you start off only knowing the recipe for a Sotswich, so you’ll have to experiment to discover valid recipes.  There are also data stations where you can decrypt messages for recipes, as well (or you can cheat, like me, and go to the forums to get them).  Fortunately, when you discover a recipe it stays in your database, so you can access it in future games.

Another nice thing about the game, it’s dirt cheap; $9.99 on Steam, a bargain compared to the $50-60 most games charge these days (and a steal considering all the time I’ve put into it).  You can click the link above to their website for more details.

StarMade

March 13, 2013

What is StarMade?  It’s a computer game that combines features of a space-shooter and sandbox block-builder (like Minecraft) into one massive universe.

In StarMade you can design and build your own ships, one block at a time.  Both the number of configuration of the blocks help determine your ship’s performance.  You can add cannons, harvesting beams, missiles, shields, cloaking technology…even AI modules that will control the ship (or parts of it, such as turrets) for you.

You can also design and build your own space stations, incorporating many of the features of starships (though they can’t move, of course).  You can mine/harvest resources and craft virtually every item in the game, setting up massive factories, if you’re so inclined.  You can claim planets, explore, do trade runs between NPC star shops, hunt NPC space pirates for loot and, of course, engage in full-blown space war with your friends.  The game has an amazing amount of functionality for being only in the alpha stage of development, and with only two developers working on it.

And the game is massive.  The star system you start in is large enough to support play for years, maybe forever.  But there are hundreds of star systems.  According to the devs, it would take 10,000 years (in real time) to travel the breadth of the StarMade universe.  Holy crap that’s huge!

In fact, perhaps too huge (though I can’t believe I’m saying that).  The biggest problem I’ve run into so far is finding your way around.  It’s easy to wander off and get lost if you haven’t carefully noted your space sector of origin (each star system has 16x16x16 sectors of space).  The devs are working on a proper star map, so hopefully that will make it easier to navigate through the game.

And related to this, the game is so big it’s almost pointless to play single-player.  You’d probably never leave the starting system in single-player, meaning 99.999+% of the game would go unexplored and unused.  It practically screams multiplayer, which fortunately the game allows you to do.  The developers have kindly set up an ‘official’ public server if your friends lack interest in total space pwnage (their loss 🙂 ).

For the time being the game is available for free (though you can purchase a copy for $30 to help fund development).  If you like sandbox games like Minecraft, you’ll probably enjoy StarMade.  Cheers.

Planetside 2

December 11, 2012

When I’m not studying for my last final of the semester (done tonight – yay!) I’m shootin’ fools in the F4S3 on Planetside 2.

Okay, actually other players are shooting me in the face…I die a lot.  But I’m still having fun.

For the uninitiated, Planetside 2 is a “free” massively multiplayer team-based shooter that only stops for server maintenance.

The Good

The game’s scale is truly epic.  Dozens upon dozens of players in a battle…on each side!  Armored columns rolling across the countryside, capping bases; aircraft flying overhead providing air support.

The game makes it easy to deploy to a battle quickly…just click on the big green ‘Deploy’ button on the map and BOOM, you’re dropped into the battle from orbit (it’s actually pretty cool dropping in).  And when you die, you have about a 10 second timer and then you can jump right back into the action.  No time wasted waiting for a match to start, no worries about a match falling apart when players drop because their side is loosing.  And when one battle is over, you can quickly move on to the next.

There are six classes (medic, engineer, heavy, light assault, infiltration and MAX/power armor), which you may switch between fairly easily.  Each class has a set of weapons and abilities that may be improved using certification points, earned by shootin’ fools in the face (you can also get points by capping or defending bases, healing team mates and repairing stuff).  You can also buy Station Cash with which to improve your weapons and abilities (if you’re too impatient to earn the certs through play).

Though it’s an MMO, there are none of the typical MMO mini-games.  No crafting, no resource gathering, no fishing, no auction house.  The game is all about big battles and blowing crap up, 24/7.

The Bad

However, all is not well in face-shooting land.  For one, the game controls feel slightly sluggish to me compared to other FPS games I’ve played recently (such as Borderlands 2).  But this may be because my system is running the minimum specs for the game.

Which leads me to the biggest problem: the minimum system specs is 4 Gigs of RAM; they recommend 8 Gigs, plus high end CPU and GPU.  I haven’t had any problems running other current games on my system, but on P2 I was crashing every 30 minutes until I twiddled with things a bit to enable Windows 7 to use up to 3 Gigs of RAM with applications (instead of the default 2G – solution documented here).  This problem almost killed the game for me.  They say they’re working on it, but this is SOE we’re talking about, so who knows if they’ll ever get more reasonable system specs.

And while the game is free to play, it’ll take forever to earn the certification points you need to buy new guns for your favorite class.  It probably doesn’t help that I suck and die a lot, and have limited playing time, but even so I think it’d take at least a week of solid play to upgrade just one infantry weapon for one class.  This is by design, no doubt, to encourage players to sign up for the premium membership ($15/mo.) or to buy Station Cash to get weapons and upgrades.  The starting weapons are adequate to play the game, but it may start to feel like ‘pay to win’ when you get killed by players with fancier guns than yours.

The Ugly

I should also mention that while there are video tutorials available online, there is no in-game tutorial.  When you first make a character you get a short blurb about your faction, then it drops you straight into the action.  In all likelihood you will be dead within seconds, even if you’re an experienced FPS gamer.  It’s very much a learn-as-you-go game.  A brief tutorial before being dropped into the thick of things would be nice.

Wrapping Up

If you like team-based FPS games, and have a system that can handle it, you should check out Planetside 2.  It’s free to play, so it’ll only cost you the time it takes to download it.


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