[MMO] I Tuned In.

I realized yesterday that at about 9pm my time (you lesser beings call it EDT/EST/ET) that The Republic show was going to be recorded live. Being a big fan, I tuned in for the live broadcast.

Wow.

It’s funny how they mostly just flip a switch and get down to business. Before the show they’re giggling at the chat  from chatroom, making jokes, then boom – on to the show. It was sort of fun to watch. Being me I had to heckle a little in my good natured way. After the show they were still streaming with Larry Everett and Ed Park talking about some PVP which was cool to hear, lots of good ideas rolling around in Ed’s head (there you go, a segment of the show for just some PVP talk from Ed, titled, “Ed’s Head”).

Lot of fun. It probably helped that I was into the rum.

[IRL] Am I Getting Old…

… or was Drake in the second intermission of the 2012 NHL All-Star game not so good? I’m hoping someone can tell me that the sound was bad and it’s just not me failing to understand current music? They know… what? I couldn’t tellwhat he was rapping about.

I mean, I like the Black Eyed Peas  but didn’t like the superbowl performance last year, I think that was due to the sound being bad over the TV.

Same deal?

[update] I dug up the song on YouTube and it sounds a lot better there, though it still makes me feel old.

[TV] Goodbye Chuck

I was a little startled this morning when TheWife mentioned to me that tonight was the finale for Chuck. I knew this was going to be the last season for it, but I didn’t expect the finale to come so soon. I eagerly ensured my PVR was set up to record it and I watched it part way in (LLO wanted to watch some iCarly meets Victorious show).

It was the same old Chuck that I’ve grown to love over the five years it has been on. Yes, it is silly and not to be taken overly serious. Buy More is direct shot at Best Buy and you’ve got Subway tossed in there a lot. The stories were simple enough to follow with just enough drama to not turn me off them entirely. The relationships between the characters was fantastic. Pop culture references. I don’t know how to describe it… it seemed sort of like the Get Smart of our generation, only with several steps up in seriousness. It was a fun show that left me in a good mood.

It was great. It was fun.

Good luck to the cast and writers of the show. Thanks for the five years of good times.

Posted in TV.

[TOR] Dead Raider?

Since hitting level 50 in SWTOR yesterday I’ve been thinking about what I want to do. I even went as far as asking Captain Internets what there is to do at level 50. Okay, so it wasn’t that far to IM UFTimmy and ask him if he has dug anything up yet. He did, of course. And here are the two links he provided me with.

Reddit

OwnedCore.com

I thanked him and excitedly began to read through the links, starting in the order provided. As I read, my excitement faded.

  • Daily quests to get Epic mods and tokens.
  • Daily hard mode flashpoint runs with some daily quest you can pick up as well as a weekly.
  • PVP grinding for tokens which can be traded in for other tokens to get gear and bags with random gear items in them than you might be able to use?

It was a big turn off, especially hearing most of the hard mode flashpoints appear to be in a bad state.

Granted, that is if I wish to continue playing Darth Tox Obliteration, my Sith Assassin. I do have the option to roll another class which excites me more than continuing this character. And that seems wrong to me.

SPOILERS INCOMING. I figured I’d be nice about it and actually warn before I spoil rather than after.

It seems wrong that I work my character up from slavery, into the harsh Sith training despite Overseer Harkun (who you never get to kill) being against me where I prove myself as the most powerful option for Lord Zash who selects me personally over Harkun’s little toy because she recognizes my awesomnity (it’s a new word, I’m petitioning the Oxford Dic. people).

She uses me to kill off one of her opponents, Darth Skotia, and takes on his mantle (after I did all the dirty work) and I later learn she might have plans to kill me? I discover that isn’t entirely true, the bitch wants my body and not in the fun way! The relics she has me going all over the universe for? Yeah, they’re part of a ritual that allows her to move her consciousness into my body, crushing my own and taking over! She wasn’t even really a hot blonde! I don’t mean curtains didn’t match the rug, I mean she was old and decrepit! I show up to give her the relics and sort her out and manage to defeat her though she still manages to get her ritual going. Khem Val bails me out by getting in the way and interrupting it. He suffers for it by having Zash invade his body and they struggle back and forth about who is going to be in charge.

Almost immediately after I’m done that, I get suckered by Darth Thanaton – Zash’s higher up – into retrieving a journal from a tomb, only that tomb’s ghostly inhabitant is prone to killing invaders. An ancestor intervenes (he popped up before and is the source of the original warnings against Zash), calls me a noob for not being prepared then suggests I go learn how to deal with ghosts in another tomb where the rituals for that are tucked away. I do so, I learn I can suck the ghosts into me gaining their power and knowledge. So I do that and deliver this journal to Thanatos. He isn’t pleased because he expected me to be dead so he kills me on the spot. Only I’m not dead. The ghosts in me interceded and took the brunt of the impact. Zash’s newer apprentices pull me out of there before my body can be incinerated.

I then learn I need to collect more ghosts to be able to defeat Thanaton because he’s looking to squash everything Zash previously had. So I go ghost busting. I think I pick up another two or three and confront Thanatos again, this time on Korriban in his meditation chambers. I explode with power but he gets away. New problem that no one warned me about… holding all that power is deteriorating my body and mind too. I’ve got to go looking for a fix. Thanaton has cleverly removed references to how to fix this by my clever minions (including Zash in Khem Val’s body) learn there are two means for this. First is an old alien device that is said to be able to cure or fix anyone. Second is a ritual that is supposed to fix my head and let me better control things. Off I go to deal with this while the threat of Thanaton looms over my head.

By the way, the whole way through all the levels I’ve visited numerous planet and was key to the Empire’s success on every one of them. Which was nice to seem to be so important. I think the main one that emphasizes it is Corelia where there is a cinematic of you being awesome there (awarded a medal).

Back on track, so I go to Belsavis where this alien tech is supposed to be, find it after blazing my way all over the planet dealing with stuff. It turns out it is a computer AI which is hooked up to a device that can deconstruct and reconstruct things on a molecular level. So I get rebuilt, no more deteriorating body. I just need to sort my head out – no shrinks in SWTOR.

Off to Voss where I have to actually play nice! Sort of. This was a cool change. The Empire and the Republic are battling (diplomatically) for the allegiance of a race called the Voss. They are powerful Force users, though use it in a different way from  both the Jedi and the Sith. The Gormak are also there, savage, hostile but clever and able to adapt and improve tech they get their hands on. These dudes want to get off planet but can’t because they don’t have spaceships yet and the Voss don’t seem to want them to have them either. Throughout questing on the planet, I learn that this wasn’t just discovered, Jedi and Sith had been here before. The Sith dismissed the Gormak while the Jedi didn’t. The Jedi altered the Gormak and used them to fight the Sith… they turned the Gormak into the Voss.

Dun dun daa!

Back to fixing my head. I run through a bunch of rituals to learn how to dream walk then learn I need a Gormak to help me with the ritual. I find one, we sleep together (you need to sleep to dream walk…), he uses some primitive holocron to force the ghosts in my head to manifest where I defeat them. This sorts my head out. They’re still there, but they don’t come out unless I want them to.

Sweet!

Now that I’m sorted out, I can go after Thanaton.

I’m skimming over a lot of things like picking up a young Jedi Padawan and corrupting her. Picking up an apprentice from Korriban. Another companion from Hoth who is into old stuff but is a wickedly good healer. I’m pretty sure there were side quests for the companions if you got their affection up high enough they’d gush. I could chase those down, but I didn’t short of killing Khem Val’s friend.

There is a bit of cat and mouse with Thanaton, he calls me out in some old traditional duel but tries to end me before I get there (while I’m doing the same thing). We meet on Corelia, he sicks a minion on me. I defeat it. He sicks two cyborg Sith guys on me, I defeat them too. He then fights me. I defeat him and he runs back to Korriban to the Dark Council. Oh, I forgot to mention that he gets promoted to the Dark Council so I’m basically dicking with a guy that is second in line of authority, right behind the Emperor.

I head to Korriban for the final show down. He’s got minions outside trying to prevent me from getting in. I defeat them and get in. We fight, I crush him again but before I get the chance to finish him off, we jump into a cinematic where he starts pulling out all the vicious Force powers he has and flings them at me.

I soak them up. Om nom nom. I then blast him. The Dark Council finishes him off and promotes me to fill his position. Yeah. Dark Councilman Tox, bitches! I have to go back to  Dromund Kaas and let them know at the Sith Palace there that I’m a new boss in town, so I go and there is this cinematic where Khem Val announces me as the new dude who you kneel to. It actually reminded me of the ending scene in Star Wars where Chewie roars and all the guards turn and stomp to attention. Pretty neat.

OKAY SPOILERS OVER

So after doing ALL that and having such an epic story to play through, I’m now supposed to do dailies on Belsavis and Illum? Run Flashpoints on hard mode over and over? Try to find a suitable guild for me to raid with?

Bleh.

It’s kinda like a bad sequel. I’ll likely play a Republic character for a bit because the leveling experience is better than the end game (IMO).

Maybe I’m just uninterested in raiding and chasing gear? Because it’s not nearly as fun as I thought it was.

[TOR] DING 50!

Now I can unsubscribe.

I kid. About the unsubscribing. I did just hit 50 with my Sith Assassin though I managed to complete the class story line last night (or this morning if you want to be precise).

I was a little surprised at how many abilities were available for purchase on the trainer – a ton of upgrades to abilities I use and some to abilities I don’t really use. I bought them anyway. Not much left for me to spend money on now and making money isn’t all that difficult.

What’s next?

Find a guild.

Start doing some of the hard mode Flashpoints.

I’m not entirely sure I’ll get into the Operations, I’m a little burned out from WoW still.

Maybe do some PVP. I expect I’ll get my ass handed to me because most of the 50s will have tons of PVP gear and I’ll just be starting out, mostly in Orange gear with some blues or greens.

I can also get cracking on the Republic alts and maybe catch up to my sister and BIL.

Still a bunch of things to do.

I recorded a video since I realized I was only 9k away from the cap (after having done my ship dailies) but I still have to sort it out and upload it. I also forgot to do a /played to figure out how long it took me (some of it was poking the pooch – I won’t lie).

[RPG] D&D 5.0!

Yes. It is coming. Did you have any doubt it would?

Here are some of my thoughts about what D&D Next should entail.

First let’s talk character classes. Step away from the power system and underlying mechanics for all character classes. While I felt this added options to classes that previously had little more to do in combat other than swing a weapon or fire a bow, it handcuffed creative thinking casters and in a game where imagination is the fun, stifling creativity is bad. It also really limited creativity all around as most classes were driven towards a really limited set of abilities or a very common feel of advancement.

So… shift the caster classes back to a spells per day system (Vancian) with spell lists that can easily be expanded on and grown. That’s going to be your money winner there.

For the hybrid casters types (Ranger and Paladin come to mind) either leave them with a short list of spells like it was in 3.5e (or as Pathfinder has) or switch those spells per day out into common abilities per day. I think this is one of the few places a ‘powers’ system would work – so long as every class isn’t painted with the same mechanics brush.

As an example? Take the Smite Evil ability of a Paladin and make it work like a 3-square effect. Did I mention I actually did like some of effects the powers had? Give them some choice of three squares in a straight line (or even two squares) but give them choice. Give a Ranger a Volley ability if they are going the ranged route or a sweeping strike ability for melee – both allowing them to hit multiple targets. Why not give Fighters and Barbarians a Cleave ability through level progression rather than make it a Feat anyone could pick up along the way? Or give Fighters, Rangers or Rogues some options for movement on the field of combat? Stuff like shifting targets or even moving if they are missed. Small things like that make the melee classes more interesting and provide them with more options.

I touched on this lightly above, but wanted to add emphasis: non-caster classes need more options than swinging a weapon multiple times. Give them interesting options and choices as part of their class and not just dump a heap of skill points or feats on them. The class should be interesting to play without Feats whiles Feats add spice to their existing abilities or extras outside of their class domain (within reason).

Consider how Feats impacted a caster in 3.5e – they add to the effectiveness of their class abilities. This should be the same for   non-casters, they shouldn’t have to pick up Combat Expertise to do advanced combat maneuvers, it’s what they do!

I’ll say Pathfinder took a good step forward in class design. Really, this is the direction 4e should have gone. However, I do still feel they lack in the department of mundane abilities affecting combat. Yes, they added in some ‘Re-position’ type abilities but those are buried deep into some Feat tree – shouldn’t an expert duelist be able to move his opponent into a corner? Or force him into a dangerous position? These are the things missing from mundane combat.

Also do something different with Skills, allowing learned classes to appear learned. I sort of like how Pathfinder and 4e changed skills, squishing similar ones in together and making it so you don’t need to spend a ridiculous number of skill points per level.  I don’t like the limitation on number of skill points though. I think I’d be happier with certain skills automatically increasing with a number of points left to dabble with rather than have some of the more learned classes get very few skill points. Maybe this doesn’t need to be the case for all classes since you do want some choice to be available.

A quick example would be having a Wizard pick two knowledge skills which would advance automatically on leveling and their Spellcraft as well. Then only giving them 2 points as a base wouldn’t seem as harsh. Same idea for a Cleric, knowledge Religion would go up automatically? For the other classes, I think automatic increases don’t make as much sense – maybe it doesn’t make sense for any class? Maybe you can choose to forgo the automatic skill increase for some other benefit? It’s a rough idea… I’ve always disliked how few skills classes other than Rogues and Bards get – even with most skills getting squished together.

Ditch multi-classing or do it in a way that doesn’t massively impact the character power. I’ve always had issue with multi-classing because it often didn’t work unless the rest of the group was doing it too. It reduces the character’s power (significantly if you’re a caster) for the sake of flexibility but that flexibility is often rendered useless if there is a pure class in the group.

Further, it makes it difficult for DMs to balance encounters because your pure Fighter type will be able to hit monster-X but your half level multi-class won’t simply because the advancement for attack bonuses is likely slowed. As I said, this is often worse for casters, especially healers where most encounters against a particular character level expect a healer (or caster) to have defenses (or cures) against certain types of attacks.

This was one other area I liked about 4e where you could spend a Feat to pick up a minor ability from another class with deeper Feats along the line getting some of higher abilities. I’m not sure how you’d do it outside of the ‘power’ system they had in place though I suppose if they had lesser versions of class abilities available as feats it could work. For example a (brute) Fighter and Barbarian have Cleave which lets them attack three squares consecutive squares adjacent to them where as the Cleave Feat would let others do the same but for two square. A Rogue that dabbles in magic might spend a feat to pick up Detect Magic or some minor illusion spell. Something to that effect.

This would require a lot more design but also present players with more options for customizing their characters without trying to mash two different classes together and hope it works for balance. It also has the added value of their being more options to publish.

D&D Next needs to free the imagination for casters (more so than melees), provide more options in combat for all types and provide more choices for classes to define themselves within the class mechanics (i.e. rely on Feats to enhance their choice, not define it). Make each class have its own set of abilities as it progresses through the levels and allow for choice and customization or even specialization!

[TOR] Sith Assassin Talent Guide

Since I’m closing on 50 I thought it would be a good time to drop my skill spec. I’ve gone through and decided on this as being the best options for the Deception Assassin. I haven’t run any tests, mainly looking at how I’ve been playing the class and which talents will increase damage output or increase availability of damage options.

Here is the tree: Deception Assassin

Details?

The main difference between Deception and Madness is that Madness appears to focus a little more on the caster aspects of the Inquisitor while Deception focuses more on melee abilities with the Force used as an enhancement to that. Darkness is the tank tree but it has some nice little options for damage increase.

Let me dig into the Deception tree selections first.

Tier 1

Dark Embrace 2/2 – this increases Force regeneration by 50% while in stealth mode and for 6 seconds after exiting stealth. This means when you open up from stealth your regen rate for Force will be quite good and lets you recover quickly from some costly opening attacks. It’s also a prerequisite for Darkswell.

Duplicity 3/3 – this grants your direct damage attacks a 30% chance to drop Exploit Weakness on the target. Exploit Weakness causes your next Maul to ignore 50% of your target’s armor and cost 50% less. It has an internal cooldown of 10 seconds, but it is a worthwhile bonus when DPSing in a group since Maul becomes a major source of damage.

Insulation 0/2 – skip it. It increases your armor rating which doesn’t nothing for your damage dealing.

Tier 2

Obfuscation 3/3 – increases your stealth level and movement speed by 15%. It isn’t a direct gain to DPS but it makes moving around while in stealth mode easier, you get detected less. Avoidance is a suitable alternative and I may switch to this at level cap.

Recirculation 2/2 – reduces the cooldown of Discharge by 3 seconds. While you have Surging Charge on, Discharge becomes a decent source of damage.

Avoidance 0/2 – lowers the cooldown of Jolt and Unbreakable Will. Jolt is useful for interrupts and Unbreakable Will is good for breaking out of CC. This is a good PVP ability or if you’re needed for interrupts or bosses use a lot of CC, this could easily become more valuable than Obfuscation since you won’t need to rely on Stealth as much at the end game.

Tier 3

Induction 2/2 – awesome skill, this increases the crit damage of Maul by 30% which is awesome on it’s own, but it also grants you a 100% chance to add a stack of Induction on the target hit by Thrash or Voltaic Slash up to 2 times. Induction reduces the cost of your next Shock by 25% so two stacks of this is a 50% reduction of Force cost to use Shock (good damage, instant cast which also stuns common mobs).

Surging Charge 1/1 – this is your DPS charge which adds a 25% chance to proc 229 internal damage on the target struck with a short internal cool down (1.5 seconds). While this Charge is active, Discharge will nuke a single target for a significant amount of damage.

Darkswell  1/1 – this allows you to use Blackout (this ability increases the difficulty of being spotted while in stealth mode) while outside of stealth mode which grants 6 seconds of Dark Embrace and restores Force (Dark Embrace being an increase in Force regen). This is pretty big for keeping Force up to chain Mauls at enemies – avoid firing it in combat after coming out of stealth because Dark Embrace will already be up. This also makes your Force Cloak ability (get out of combat – which can be used as an agro dump if others are engaged with the target) not reduce healing received.

Deceptive Power 1/1 – increases Force pool amount by 10. Not huge, but it gives you a little more to work with.

Tier 4

Entropic Field 2/2 – Another one that could be substituted for another option – this will reduce the damage taken by area effect attacks by 30% which is nice. It makes life on healers a little easier since the only damage you should be taking if you have a good tank with you is area effect damage. Otherwise, it adds little to damage but something to surviving a little longer.

Saber Conduit 3/3 – when your Surging Charge procs it has a 100% chance to restore 10 Force. Internal cooldown of 10 seconds so it’s a bit of a push. Still, it means you’re getting Force back every 10 seconds without really needing to try. This is a prerequisite for Static Charges which is good to have.

Fade 0/2 – this will reduce the cooldown on Blackout and Force Cloak. The amounts aren’t really significant enough to matter though having Blackout available more often means more Force regen. It’s up to you to decide if 15 seconds off a one minute cooldown ability is worth two points or not.

Static Cling 0/2 – Increases the duration of Force Slow while also reducing the cooldown. It doesn’t really increase DPS and I doubt it would work on raid bosses to any significant gain. I can see if having some value in PVP though I have yet to bother using Force Slow in PVE.

Tier 5

Resourcefulness 2/2 – reduces the case of Lacerate (our PBAE) and reduces the cooldown on Overcharge Saber (level 50 cooldown ability that increases damage of charge procs by 100%) to every 1.5 minutes. Win. I usually don’t get excited about reducing cooldowns, but this is a pure DPS cooldown good for some burst.

Static Charges 2/2 – when your Surging Charge does damage you build Static Charge on the target. Static Charge stacks up to 5 times and increases your next Surging Charge proc damage by 6% (30% at 5 stacks).

Low Slash 1/1 – new ability that I need to leverage more. It deals a good amount of damage and incapacitates the target for 4 seconds. Damage releases the target. Aside from being decent damage or another ‘stun’ effect (which opens up Tumult or getting behind for Maul) it as a prerequisite for Voltaic Slash which is the Tier 6 ability (and pretty awesome).

Tier 6

Voltaic Slash 1/1 – this will replace your Thrash ability because it can build two different stacks of a buff which impacts Shock. The first is Induction (from Tier 3) which stacks up to 2 times reducing the cost of Shock by 50% (at 2 stacks). The second comes from the attack itself which increases the damage dealt by Shock by 15% per stack. Using this ability twice means 50% Force cost reduction for a Shock that does 30% more damage – sweet! (Thrash will only reduce the cost of Shock and costs as much as Voltaic Slash)

You can see most of the Deception tree builds up on itself (Surging Charge), Maul, Force Regen and Maul though it also gives you an extra stun type or could be useful for mitigating CCs or increasing the frequency of interrupts.

You will have 2 points left over and I suggested some options or you may also want to drop Obfuscation or Entropic Field points in exchange for Avoidance (interrupt and CC break cooldown reductions) or Fade (Force regen and agro dump cooldown reductions). Weigh the trade off of convenience and ease on healers against the need for Force regen and CC breaks. (Example)

After climbing through that tree, you can dip into the other two trees though Darkness seems to suit us better than Madness. Here’s what I’d suggest:

Darkness: 8

Tier 1

Thrashing Blades 2/2 – increase damage dealt by Thrash (unimportant), Lacerate (our PBAE) and Voltaic Slash (win!) by 6%. Direct DPS gain.

Charge Mastery 3/3 – improved effects on all three Charge abilities but the one that matters to us is the Surging Charge impact which is that our attacks will ignore 9% of your target’s armor. Nice perk and we need the three points to dip into the second Tier.

The other option in this tier/tree isn’t worthwhile because it requires that we block, parry or shield an attack for a small % regen of Force – as DPS we shouldn’t be blocking, parrying or popping our shield generator (you don’t have one on, right?).

Tier 2

Electric Execution 3/3 – increases damage dealt by your lightsaber charges by 9%. That’s a passive damage increase to our Surging Charge proc.

Madness tree has a nice sounding ability in the second tier which would enhance our Shock nicely, but the abilities in the first Tier aren’t ideal for damage increases so it’s tough to pick.

Exploitive Strikes 3/3 – might be worthwhile but you use two Force abilities; Discharge and Shock so 9% increase in melee damage after using them could be good.

Crackling Charge 2/2 – sounds good as it is a 16% damage increase off of Discharge but seems limited to Lightning Charge which you shouldn’t be using.

That leaves picking up Sith Defiance 2/2 for 2% damage reduction just to get a 45% chance of a second Shock hitting for 50% of the damage – I’m not sure if that would only impact a second target or if it would work on the same one twice?

Seems too risky so it’s probably better to invest the 2 points back into Deception so 8/33/0.

[PC] Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning – Second First Impression

Okay, after sorting out some issues with my drivers and following Grimnir‘s suggestion, the demo worked. It’s not your traditional demo in the sense that you get a small portion of the game to play… well you do, but you also have a 45 minute time limit to it. I thought that was interesting.

I’ll prefix this with what I played; I played a female Elf (last option for races) that went Rogue. (For me regulars, yes you can remove her clothes but she has undergarments – pervs.)

Graphics

They seemed okay. They weren’t ground breaking or a push towards realism like you’d see in Skyrim, but they were good. Very vibrant, colorful though lacking extreme detail. I’m hoping that might be due to lower detailed textures with the higher detailed ones being available in the release version but since it’s shipping on console as well, I suspect that won’t be the case.

Overall there didn’t seem to be anything overly jarring. The game looked nice if you don’t mind games that focus less on trying to appear ‘real’.

I didn’t get too far into spell effects as I only had an lightning type ability. This looked pretty cool – nice little wind up and release (though I found targeting it was a little wonky).

Animations

I admit I was impressed by the animations, they’re pretty fluid and neat to watch. There is no dreaded jump animation short of jumping off specific points so that’s not a worry.

The animations change as depending on the weapon type you have so if you’re using two daggers the strikes look to be more about puncturing, tearing or precision. Firing the bow looks decent and when you charge up there is a bit of a glow but you also see the bowstring draw back a little further. The impact seems to stagger foes as well. With swords the attacks are more slashing and sweeping. The only other weapon I experienced was a fire staff which was interesting. Like the other weapons the attacks had follow ups and chained together in a manner that produced some pretty impressive effects.

That seems to be the way of the combat animations for your character, they chain together with one swing flowing into another. It’s really quite nice and reminds me a lot of the Batman Arkham Asylum/City games only with weapons.

There are sneak attack instant kill animations which are neat and another form of finishing move which is tied to another mechanic which involves separating yourself from reality… sort of… these finishers are interesting and have a ‘mash X really fast’ mechanic tied to them with the result being variant and looking pretty fantastic.

Creature animations are well suited to the creatures I saw. Other humanoids will attack you sort of like the way you do, with weapons where as some of less civilized creatures will use whatever weapons they have at hand or paw.  Some examples?

I tangled with some bears and they were very bear-like; standing tall and swiping with their big paws. When I switched to bow and moved away they dropped to all fours and lumbered at me like you’d expect a bear to.

Wolves actually fought more like you’d expect a wolf to fight; they do a lot of  hit and run attacking as a team. They were sweeping in from various directions to bite at me as they went by. Pretty impressive.

When I fought a troll its attacks were focused on its size so it would charge, smash and hurl stones. I quickly switched to using a bow on that thing and it worked well enough.

Sound

The sound was good, it reminded me of a Street Fighter type game where the sounds are tied very much to impacts or multiple impacts for combat.

The creatures make suitable noises and in some cases they’re a little humorous or cute too. Yes, I said cute. I’m looking at you brownies and boggarts.

I did find the initial sound of my toon grunting and groaning when she awoke in the pile of bodies sort of overdone. By the time she was done climbing down from the pile of corpses, I sorta wanted to put her out of her misery…

The quest givers have voice acting though much like Skyrim, your character doesn’t actually respond. I find this a little jarring now having played SWTOR for so long. I almost expect to hear my character respond in some fashion.

Cinematics

The cinematic sequences I saw were all in-game (short of the introduction one) and not bad. The first one where one of the gnomes is pushing a cart seemed a little off with his hand not quite holding the handle, not a big deal.

I did find the bit in the first town where a Fae was stabbed to be somewhat bad. Someone’s leg was blocking the view of the crime scene. I’d see the guard, this leg blocking view of the injured Fae then me until the camera panned to the guard talking.

I also noticed sometimes the mouths would not be moving while they were talking, but when the mouths were moving they’d be synchronized with the words. I think this is an area that needs some work in most games; I’ve noticed the same with SWTOR.

These sequences are used lightly throughout what I experienced, often as leading up to a quest or NPC interaction and don’t seem to be jarring.

Music

I didn’t notice the music. I either had it off, there was none or it wasn’t obnoxious enough to notice. That could be good or bad depending on whether the music is important to you or not. It is usually the first thing to get turned off when I play a game.

Interface

I commented on this briefly before mentioning I didn’t like the extra buttons being present when it wasn’t necessary. It seems like the game couldn’t settle on whether they wanted people to have a button to push or just highlight an option and click it which works too and looks much nicer.

The character screen is what you would expect, but I found the menus a little weird. Let me give you an example of equipping a sword.

  1. ESC to bring up the character/game menu
  2. Click Inventory
  3. Click Weapons
  4. Click Primary Weapon
  5. Click the weapon you want

Seems a bit much no? They definitely could have organized this more. It works, sort of. I found sometimes the mouse clicks were getting lost and I suspect there is a bit of an overlap of Inventory hotspot and some text that is just to the right of it so clicks near the end of the Inventory text are getting missed.

Another bit of confusion is that there were multiple ways to interact with the same thing in the inventory. You could click on them or right click and get a context menu. Seemed a little odd but I guess that would map to another button with consoles? Anyway, I’m just not sure why they did that instead of just having other buttons: select the item from the list and J would mark it as junk, E would equip it, C would compare it and X would examine it. Seems a little easier to for people to do and could easily map to console controllers.

I did like that when you equip things the character rag-doll (which isn’t really a rag-doll, it’s actually a preview of your character) reacts to it. For example when I finally put some clothes on the Elf, she looked at them as they appeared on her and she seemed delighted to have boots and gloves. I thought that was a neat little touch.

The rest of the GUI shows your level, portrait, health and mana bars, two bubbles for your primary and secondary weapons (which you can switch between with the mouse wheel) and ten bubbles for an action bar.

The action bar was a little odd, I couldn’t easily drag and drop items to it like potions. It seems to be limited to only actions which I didn’t have any (short of the lightning spell that I started with) so I couldn’t see if there was an easy way of doing that.

Back to the mention of potions, you have a radial menu that you can pop items onto for things like consumables and what not (I’m not sure what the other things are, but the tip text implied you could put more than consumables on there). You can access this by pressing TAB which them seems to pause what is going on and overlay a dark filter on top of what is there already and eight bubbles (I think it was eight) in the middle of the screen. You then click the one you want to use.

Functional, but not really pretty.

They also seem to lack a Favorites list sort of like what Skyrim had but I didn’t play far enough into it to determine whether that would be of use or not.

One new addition they had was the Junk concept. As you pick up items you can put them in the junk pile which gets them out of sight making the list of weapons or armor easier to deal with. Another added benefit to this junk pile is that when you get to a merchant you can just sell everything that is in the junk pile with one click. Win!

There is a mini-map which functions as most games do and a main map. There is also a quest journal though I didn’t really look into it much. It does provide you with map markers for locations to do your quests. It also can show hostile creatures or even secret areas.

I did have issue with how they handle ‘zoning’. One of the quests I had involved running down and around a ramp which didn’t seem to be easy to do with how the camera was panned out. When I did finish loading my character was stuck in run mode and I couldn’t seem to stop it. I’ve seen this happen in other games so it is possible I hit something on my keyboard that did it but it seemed to happen when I zoned into that area and when I left the Well of Souls area into the world too.

The camera is another oddity about the game. It isn’t the usual camera you might be used to in MMOs or games like Skyrim. I can’t remember if the Batman games had a camera like this. It seems your character’s actions can start heading off camera then the camera will change to focus on you again. It was rather odd – cool in some cases, not so cool in others.

Character Creation

There were four races to choose from; two Human and two Elven with male and female options available. Options were focused almost entirely on the head (exception being skin tone); hair, hair color, face, tattoos, color for most things. All on a slider though I didn’t find it awkward to use. No changes to body size such as height or weight.

You’re not going to be able to fine tune the settings to make your character look like someone specific.

It works but isn’t anything exceptional or new.

Gameplay

It’s hard to describe the gameplay of this game because it seems to be a mash up of a lot of different games. As I  mentioned it has combat that flows from one strike to another as you keep pressing the button (much like the Batman games), but there is also some special moves you can do with pauses or double tabs and you can perform multi-hit combos so it almost feels like a  Street Fighter-type game in places.

I’d definitely suggest using a controller with it instead of the mouse and keyboard as you gain no extra precision from using the mouse – using the bow auto-targets so you don’t have to actually aim. Oddly enough, that isn’t the case with spell casting which seems to fire off whichever way you are facing at the time you begin to cast the spell.

The game isn’t a far stretch from other games but it is difficult to label it as any other one game. It is like they took many cool aspects from other games and added it in. I suppose if I had to note one game it was similar to I’d have to go with Divinity II.

There is crate/barrel smashing, highly fluid and combat that varies depending on what weapon you use, magic, simplified ranged combat, stealth, lockpicking, secret treasure to find, exploring, quests and crafting. I must admit, it does seem to be quite complete in it’s offerings – there should be something for most types of players.

At first you feel like you’re on rails, unable to go exploring but that is just for the first part which introduces you to the game and sets up the story. Once you exit that area you appear to have more freedom to roam around.

There seems to be a number of quests as you explore, mostly gained from people with some sort of indicator. I didn’t have a lot of time so I couldn’t determine if there were any conversations that hinted towards quests like you had in Skyrim/Oblivion. I’m not sure if the NPCs were inactive quest dispensers or not – I was mostly focused on running around killing stuff and exploring a little.

Mechanics

Health and mana are the two main resources. There are potions tied to filling these bars back up again.

There is another resource, I think it is called “fate”,  which fills up as you defeat enemies. Once this is full you can press and hold X for a short time which seems to separate you from reality in that (aside from everything taking on a purple hue) you start moving faster, everyone else slows down and you get to whip around clobbering people with impunity. You don’t kill them while in this mode unless you hit F once they’re down to a sliver of health (they’ll slump over and you can’t do any further damage to them). Pressing F will start a mini-cinematic of you manifesting some weapon from light and clobbering the enemy with it. At this point you’ll be prompted to frantically mash a key or mouse button (again, ideal for consoles or controllers on a PC – be nice to your keyboard/mouse!) to gain bonus XP from it. Once you do that, you shift back into reality, the remaining enemies that you defeated collapse and you’re rewarded XP from defeating them. It’s a neat gimmick.

Gear seems to be tied to classes. Heavy armor means more protection, leather types increase critical chances and critical damage amounts while cloth/robe type armor increases mana regeneration rates. Shields can be used but do not appear in hand unless you hold SHIFT where it will suddenly appear and be held up in front of you. Gear does appear to have durability so there is a bit of a tax on item use.

There are experience points and leveling based off of that. When you level you are presented with three screens with the first being a skill selection screen. This has a range of abilities which you can drop a point into for some benefit. The skills are things like lockpicking (points here make it easier), perception (I don’t think it was called this, but it lets you see enemies on the mini-map with more points revealing secret treasures on the map, etc.), persuasion (increases your chance to have successful extra interactions with people) and some others which looked to be related to crafting or other abilities. I’m guessing the manual that comes with it will be large.

The second involving your ‘fate’. You get to pick which fate you wish to use and there seem to be some advanced ones that unlock through the levels.  An example would be a Rogue fate which gives you a passive bonus to critical hit chance and damage. This appears to impact the second screen which is a talent tree based on what you are (I’m not sure how this works if you pick multiple fates or even if you could pick multiple fates).

There are skill trees that appear to be tied to the ‘fate’ you chose. It seems that as you level you could pick other fates but I’m not sure how it all works – I only leveled twice and didn’t try switching my fate. I picked mostly passive boosts; increased number of arrows when using a bow+damage, increased dagger damage and unlocking a Charge-up effect for daggers (which was pretty cool because it gives you a bit of a speed burst too). There were a few active abilities available as well but I didn’t pick them.

I mentioned above that there was some crafting but I didn’t delve into it because I didn’t delve into it with the demo at all either. There appeared to be Alchemy (as well as gathering materials in the game),  Blacksmithing (I assume this is for weapons and armor) and Sagecraft (I have no idea what this is for – enchanting? Magic items?). There may have been more but I can’t remember them.

One other mechanic that was in game was lockpicking. This involved a view of the lock and a pick, somewhat like Skyrim. The interaction was adjusting the placement of the pick and holding D down to push something along the tumblers. If the pick rattled it was in danger of breaking and was indication that you didn’t have the pick angled correctly. Adjust slightly and try again – not all that different from Skyrim.

Summary

It does seem like a neat game with some depth to the character development though not a whole lot of depth to the combat short of it looking really cool and being pretty fluid.

It might be something I pick up but I’m definitely leaning towards it being something I play on the console. I realize I said that with Skyrim and regretted it, but in this case, I think the interactions with the game are far better suited to a controller built to take the button mashing.

[PC] Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning Demo First Impression

TL; DR version: Fail.

The gritty play by play.

Okay, people talking, black screen. I must be dead waiting to be raised and then I’ll start seeing stuff.

No?

Oh, I get to create my character. Alright, I’ll go with a slutty looking female Elf. Okay, now I must see my character.

No?

Weird. Okay, I’ll listen to the voices and wait for one to act all surprised that I’m actually still alive and THEN I’ll see stuff other than a black screen.

Still no?

Damn.

Okay, there is a ‘Skip Cinematic’ option.

*Click*

This looks promising, GUI appears… over top a black screen.

Ugh.

*ESC*

Menu comes up, character sheet.

Resume?

*Click*

Oh, the screen is still up. No, no it isn’t. The viewing area just isn’t getting updated.

Ugh.

I hear stuff when I click and hit the spacebar. I see the mini map and it looks like I am moving around. Maybe it’s just dark…

… still.

Exit game.

Oh look! A cinematic showing me what the game could look like if it actually worked on my system!

*ESC*

It’s still going…

*ESC* *SPACEBAR* *FACEROLL*

Ugh.

Little prompt to pre-order.

Where’s the “Hell No” button?

First impression is first impression. I admit, I’m not feeling well so that probably adds some spice to the moment.

I’ll muck around and see if I can’t get the video to display. FWIW I haven’t had issues with any of the games I play including SWTOR which I play with all the settings cranked up.

Maybe I should have taken the fact that it started in 1600×1200 instead of 1920×1200 resolution as a hint that video stuffs were going to be bad?

Maybe it’s my second monitor?

Off to fiddle.

UPDATE: Some other feedback after rebooting, trying again with no success. Downloading new drivers and hope that solves the issue (without screwing up my other functional games)…

BTW, the logo trailers worked as did the initial cinematic trailer. I panicked a little when I saw three armored guys who looked pretty much identical… it reminded me a little of Batman: Arkham Asylum where there was basically one model for the minions with different skins that got used over and over. I worried… a little, it is a cinematic after all.

Log into EA account? Why? DRM?

“Select” button unnecessary in the prompts and message boxes. Really…

“Short message”
OK (which highlights on mouseover so, yeah, click it)
[Select button]

Really? Who approved this UI?

Buttons make sense for when hitting ESC on a cinematic, but not in the other cases where people are going to click (or move the focus over the item and push a controller button on the console) .

Lots of little loading bits. Is the game not making use of my 16GB of RAM? Am I being limited by this also being released on console? (Don’t worry, Skyrim does it too and I still loved the game.)

UPDATE 2: New drivers and a BSOD later – still not working.

Uninstalled.

[ROT] SOPA/PIPA

Great ideas, bad implementation.

I’ve never stood behind piracy. I legitimately purchase my movies, music, books and software. I don’t torrent – aside from World of Warcraft’s patching system.

But I don’t like the idea of how loosely they’re defining this or the capabilities provided to the infringed; leave it to distribution of materials by sites in foreign countries.