Sherlock Holmes: Crimes And Punishments Review

Originally posted on Gamebreaker on Sept. 30, 2014.

As a long time fan of most adaptations of Sherlock Holmes, I was quite excited to play the newest game, Sherlock Holmes: Crimes And Punishments, by Ukrainian developer Frogware Games. They took inspiration from various incarnations of Sherlock Holmes and combined them all into one interesting package. Furthermore in this game the player doesn’t merely follow along as Sherlock solves the cases, rather the player is the driving force and makes all the investigative choices.

Gathering Information

The main goal in Crimes and Punishments to solve a series of six cases through investigation, deduction and the careful application of deduction; anything else really couldn’t be considered a Sherlock Holmes game. In most games things start off easy and get more difficult and complex, but Crimes and Punishments didn’t follow the formula. The first case is definitely not the simplest case, I’d actually place it about middle of the road in complexity. However, it did do a great job of introducing many of the mechanics involved in gathering information and coming to conclusions. Thinking back, it was nice to have a fairly complex case right upfront and getting the more simple cases later were a nice break after intense cases.

Interviews are one of the primary ways of gaining clues and finding insight into the cases. For every character who is interviewed Sherlock also builds a “Character Profile” in his Casebook. The player is given a slice of time slowed down to look over the interviewee and make observations. There is a blurred list at the start so it’s easy to know when all the clues have been found. To find these clues it’s a simple matter of mousing over the character, though as simple as it is there were a few times where I knew I had just one more clue to find but it took me a bit to find it.

Sometimes while questioning a subject there will be follow up questions, for instance when we know someone is lying. When this happens an extra option pops up, on PC it was press “Q”, then a list of clues to choose from appears. Often the correct clue is something gathered during the character profile, so doing those first is always a good idea. I was a bit disappointed to discover if the wrong clue is selected I was just told to try again. In most other aspects I was able to make wrong choices and deal with their consequences.

For the most part there is very little hand holding in this game. There are prompts to explain how a skill works or what might be useful, but how you work through the case is up to the player. Additionally there are many puzzles throughout the game to solve; from picking locks to mixing the correct solutions to testing something. Sadly, it is possible to just skip any of the puzzles or challenges and the game acts as if you had solved it. Which is good if a player were to really get stuck… but being able to skip all of that stuff really makes a large part of the gameplay pointless.

xbox news main playstation news main pc 2 features 2 Sherlock Holmes: Crimes And Punishments ReviewSolving Cases

It is quite possible to interpret the clues in a case and come to almost any conclusion, which truly let me feel like I had a really important role in how everything played out. For example in the first case Peter Carey is run through with a harpoon. Sherlock and Watson set-up an experiment to see how difficult it would be to harpoon someone into a wall. The result shows, quite obviously, it’s a fairly difficult task to accomplish. On the deductions page the two ways to interpret this information is either it was done by someone with strength and skill or someone got very lucky. Either way will change how all the evidence fits to conclude different people are innocent or guilty.

However, I was not able to come to illogical conclusions which makes sense for a game about Sherlock Holmes. Any deductions which conflict will be highlighted in red and won’t be used in forming a conclusion until the conflict is resolved. Additionally once a deduction is made it isn’t set in stone. I often went through and made every possible combination of deductions just to see what the different possibilities are. I found this particularly helpful for the hardest cases because it often boiled down to what scenario seemed the most likely to me.

After each case is solved the “punishments” part comes in and the player has to make a moral choice about the crime. Was it cold blooded murder or was extenuating circumstances? Does the murder deserve to hang or is some other arrangement possible? Not only did I get to pick which option I thought fit the crime best, but I got to see the outcomes of my choices and their consequences. This added another layer to the game which also opens areas for personal introspection. When it comes to making moral judgements many games would take the opportunity to preach about what the “right” choice was; Frogwares happily decided to avoid trying to push particular value system.

xbox news main playstation news main pc 2 features 2 Sherlock Holmes: Crimes And Punishments ReviewSide Theme

Concurrent with the main storyline there is a bit of a side story which comes to the fore near the end of the game. The side story deals with the concept of if people have a right, or even an obligation, to rebel against people in power if they perceive the people in power to be corrupt. I was not expecting the storyline to go there, but after I reached the end and thought back over the whole game I realized the hints had been there the whole time.

This is another area where Frogwares could have used Crimes and Punishments to push a certain agenda, but again there is no preaching. When the time comes the player is completely able to make whichever choice they want and live with the consequences. There is a ton of room for personal introspection into real issues which are actually relevant in the today’s world. Not many video games seem to be able to successfully delve into those areas, and this one manages it brilliantly because anyone not interested in that sort of experience wouldn’t be forced into it.

xbox news main playstation news main pc 2 features 2 Sherlock Holmes: Crimes And Punishments ReviewTechnical Aspects

The most impressive technical aspect of Crimes and Punishments was the quality of voice overs and animations during dialogue. Each character who was directly interacted with (about 4-5 per case) had a different voice with a bit of a different accent. Even Sherlock would have different accents when he disguised himself as someone else. It was really impressive, and all the conversations felt fluid and natural. The dialogue animation wasn’t perfect, corners of lips and eyebrow movement were often a bit off, but it was still very well done. Even on the close ups the characters skin looked like there was actual depth to it.

One downside to the flow of the game was that there are a lot of loading screens. Most aren’t very long, but some of them certainly didn’t feel necessary. There were, however, two nice consolations for the loading screens when moving between locations. The first is the loading screen is actually an animation of Sherlock (and anyone else traveling with him) in a carriage. Particularly entertaining about this, aside from it just feeling real to the story, Sherlock would often be reading either the Casebook or a copy of Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky. The second nice thing about the traveling loading screen is during them the casebook and deductions page are both available to be used, so the waiting doesn’t have to be empty time.

There is a lot of area in the game which is fully explorable, but there are also a great many invisible walls which diminish enjoyment just a bit. Most of the invisible walls make sense and are clearly there because this isn’t a fully open and explorable world. Others seem pretty random and pointless. For example in one area there is a little pond in the middle of a garden. I thought it seemed logical to be able to just walk across it, but sadly there was an invisible wall blocking the pond off. I could walk all the way around it, but I just couldn’t stick a single toe in.

I played the PC version through Steam and I didn’t have any real issues with graphics or sound. There was one minor glitch the first time I went to Scotland Yard, but it cleared up quickly and never happened again. Additionally, the music and environmental sounds worked really well together to set the mood and FPS was consistently smooth.

xbox news main playstation news main pc 2 features 2 Sherlock Holmes: Crimes And Punishments ReviewConclusions

Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments is a very strong and intriguing game with a lot to offer. It does have some minor drawbacks such as the load screens and invisible walls, but those inconveniences are really minor when compared to the strong storytelling and the important role of player choice. This game works well for someone just looking for a fun game of solving crimes and equally well for someone who is looking for more of an intellectual challenge and perhaps to delve into their own moral code a bit.

Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments will be available on September 30th on PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360 and PC.

Revolution 60 Review: The Next Evolution Of The Mobile Game

Originally posted on Gamebreaker July 25th, 2014.

When I first sat down to play through Revolution 60 I had some idea of what the game was like from previously playing a demo last Fall. I had been intrigued by it because Revolution 60 was trying to offer an experience in a mobile game which I have only ever experienced with PC and console games. A story driven game which is also challenging and fun. I wasn’t disappointed.

collage_lb_image_page2_2_1Story

Revolution 60 is set in a futuristic world where China and the US are competing for control of a space station weapons platform. The player mostly fills the role of Holiday, who is the assassin on a team of elite spies, though there are a few points where the player will also control Min and Amelia. Before too long, the mission starts to go sideways and it’s up to the player to prevent a major international incident from happening and to prevent a psychotic AI from getting free.

rev60_3All of the story scenes are done in a very interesting and compelling way, which flows naturally into gameplay. There are quite a few instances where what seems like a cut-scene will flow seamlessly into an action event. If you are slow on reacting to this it can have dire consequences.

Additionally, the choices made during gameplay affect how the story unfolds, and having a certain amount of reputation with Min or Amelia will open different dialogue options throughout the game. One of the best surprises in Revolution 60’s story was it’s possible to play through the entire game and still fail the mission. And it’s not all dependent on one choice which is made at the end of the game. How the story ends is completely dependent on choices made throughout the game.

Along with the story, the music and voice overs play an important part in emphasizing story points. This is definitely one game you’ll want to have all the sounds on for. The level of detail the environment and character animations also worked well in selling the authenticity of the setting. Revolution 60 is the the first mobile game where I legitimately got so wrapped up in the game I lost track of time.

Proficiency Points

Lack of story isn’t the only area most mobile games fall short on, complexity of gameplay is also a key area which is generally lacking. Revolution 60 uses a number of different mechanics to decide if an action in the story is successful or not.

rev60_1During the entire game depending on how well tasks are performed “Proficiency Points” are earned. Failing at a challenge will subtract points from your total, and succeeding but not as well as you could have will reward less than doing something perfectly. Dying also comes with a Proficiency Point charge.

At the end of the game depending on how many Proficiency Points have been accumulated success or failure of the mission will be determined. Having gameplay throughout the game be a determining factor and not just a single choice is huge and really makes the entire game feel important.

In Normal mode the player does get a couple of tries at succeeding, but like I mentioned previously those extra tries do come at a cost. Sometimes a combination of movements will need to be performed, other times things will need to be done in a certain amount of time, and some times it’s a combination of these things.

Combat

Combat is based on a grid system and as you fight the different enemies you’ll learn certain sounds indicate a certain types of attacks and each attack also has a different animation associated with it. Learning to recognize this information is important because it is possible to interrupt an attack if the you hit the enemy at the right moment, though the enemy can also interrupt you as well.

COM_Capture1-2048x1536-1302053214It’s also possible to chain together movement and attacks to quickly accomplish an attack or dodge. However, if you aren’t careful you might just move yourself into the line of attack. Learning when to go all out, and when to bide your time is a vital skill in getting through combat as efficiently as possible.

Every time a successful attack is made on an enemy a certain amount of energy is earned. When enough energy is obtained and the player is standing in the front row they gain access to a special more powerful attack. These special attacks require specific action events to be done and success depends on how well they are preformed. In most fights each special attack only requires two skill challenges, but later on there are ones which require three or four of these challenges. Also near the end of Revolution 60 every time a special attack is used in a fight it’ll ask for a different combination of action events.

What RPG would be complete without a talent tree system? The system in Revolution 60 is pretty simple, but it is also full of tough choices which all have a direct effect on combat.

There are 9 levels in the game and each time a level is gained one point can be put into the talent tree. In order to get to the most powerful abilities, you’ll only want to pick one thing in each level to put points in. It seems like any combination of skills is viable, but some combinations are clearly better than others.

Difficulty

rev60_2There are three difficulty levels Easy, Normal, and Girlfriend (Hardmode). Easy is designed for kids and people who aren’t really experienced gamers. Normal is where everyone else will start out and is challenging without being overly punishing. Only a successful completion in Normal Mode (meaning the mission doesn’t fail) will unlock the Girlfriend mode. People looking for a real challenge should definitely aim to unlock Girlfriend mode and spend most of their game time there.

My only real disappointment with Girlfriend mode is the tutorial still functions as a tutorial and since you have to get through normal to even play Girlfriend mode, it felt a bit redundant. However, the tutorial passes quickly and Girlfriend mode is a ton of fun if you are looking to be challenged.

Conclusion

My first “ah ha” moment in gaming was when I played Final Fantasy VIII, it was the first game I ever played in which I felt completely wrapped in a world and had a gaming experience which was more than just completing tasks. There was a story I felt part of and I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next.

ss-013Mobile gaming has existed in a state similar to what I experienced prior to playing FF8 for the first time. There are fun mobile games but they all have the barest story, if any at all. Revolution 60 is pushing mobile gaming to the next level and I can’t wait to see where we go from here.

Revolution 60 launched on on July 24th in the Apple App Store. It’s free to try, and $6 to unlock the entire game. Even if you only play through once it’s still multiple hours worth of content. Revolution 60 will also be released for PC and Mac later this year.

One last thing; Revolution 60 doesn’t end until after the end credits are done so don’t bug out early! Plus you get to listen to “2-Player Co-op (Player 2 Press Start)”which is a bonus.

Revisting SWTOR Part 2

Getting back to talking about SWTOR has been really difficult for me. My feelings about everything is extremely jumbled and teasing these things out is not straight foreword.

Let’s Start With The Good Things

Nothing has really changed with the level 1-50 storylines, and they are definitely still worth seeing. The best way to see all of the storylines is to level with three other friends, each playing a different class. This way you won’t have to go back through leveling again (which can get pretty tiresome) and you’ll still see all of the storylines which interweave with each other in interesting ways.

When it comes to the Rise of the Hutt Cartel there is only one story per faction, and both are worth going through once. My recommendation would be to do the Republic story first, but it doesn’t matter very much. Making the content from this expansion available to F2P people is one of the better changes BioWare has made as it encourages less stratification of the player base.

The best change which has been made recently is the addition of Galactic Starfighter. For anyone unfamiliar with this addition, it’s free-form space battlegrounds. I had more fun in these battlegrounds than I have had in a long time playing and characters can take part in battles at any level because it’s the quality of your ship and your skill which matters not the lvl of your character. Here’s a short video I made soon after this feature launch where I was playing with one of my friends.

 And Onto The Bad Things

My biggest issue with SWTOR for a long time has been how they chose to run their F2P system. This aspect has gotten a bit better over time but I still often feel like I am being strong armed into giving them money. Most things can be bought with credits, but it takes a lot to get enough, especially as a first time player. I had a bit of a leg up because I had Preferred status.

The biggest annoyance I have with the F2P model they went with is it stratifies their players. Remember how I said the best way to experience the class stories is playing with friends? Well you’ll want to make sure everyone is either subbed or is F2P together. When I first started playing again I accidentally aggro’ed  too many mobs and sadly I died. I was quite happy to see I had the option to rez right at my body. Naturally I thought to myself “oh cool, I guess they let you have a certain number of rezs at your body now.”

The next day I was working on clearing a four person Heroic with a friend. We unfortunately pulled a pack we were trying to avoid and died. Much to my chagrin I had no option to rez at my body. There was only the one time. Just once. Now for my friend and I, this wasn’t a huge deal because he was willing to run back with me. If I had been running with a group of strangers  it would have been a bigger deal. Especially since the area to rez was outside the instance and there were a few mobs which needed to be killed before zoning in which makes running back take even more time.

Another issue with playing with friends who are subbed when you aren’t is they will level twice as fast. To even this gap out the F2P player will have to spend a fair amount of time playing on their own to just stay even with their friends. Some of this discrepancy can be mitigated by buying the experience boosts in the Character Perks Menu. There are six lines and each line only affects one area. To fill out all the lines all the way would cost 150,000 to 275,000 credits depending on which lines you buy. Alternatively there is the “Ultimate Leveling Bundle” which contains all the XP unlocks for 5,125 cartel coins (4,100 sale right now) which would run $$39.99 with a few coins left over.

Another thing which really rubbed me wrong is some of the restrictions on what rewards can be selected after completing quests. I don’t in general have a big issue with not having some of the rewards available. Quests have two level of rewards, automatic and optional. Restricting optional rewards seems fine, not awesome but definitely livable. However there were a few quests where both of the automatic rewards weren’t available to me, which just really rubbed me the wrong way. I mean an automatic reward should be automatic.

So is playing F2P really worth it?

SWTOR is still a lot of fun and like I said even if nothing else interests you seeing the class stories is fun and interesting. Though my recommendation would be to sub for a month or two and see all the class stories you want and then unsub. Playing F2P isn’t really worthwhile and more than likely will just be a frustrating experience for most people. Which is just all around sad because overall I really enjoy playing SWTOR. Their current business model just makes me resent giving them money.

Let’s Talk About Guild Wars 2′s Living Story Season 2

Originally posted on Gamebreaker May 7th, 2014.

The first season of the Guild Wars 2 Living Story wrapped up back in the middle of March and the “Big Features” patch is done, so now seems like a good time to start thinking about what I’d like to see happen in the next season.

Mordremoth and the Sylvari

In the very last story instance to wrap up everything from Season 1 Taimi talked about how Scarlet has awoken Mordremoth. She sets the stage for what will likely be the first act of the next Living Story Season, Mordremoth awakening and becoming active.

We know he is starting to stir because of the tyriaquakes which have been happening ever since Scarlet set off her device. However, he’s clearly not fully awake since nothing catastrophic has happened just yet. When he does wake we should see some zone altering changes and an outpouring of plant minions.

On that note the fact this Elder Dragon will be obviously of a plant type, there should be some interesting implications for the Sylvari. I wouldn’t be surprised to be meet another group of Sylvari who represent what they would have become if the Pale Tree’s seed hadn’t been stolen. If no one else does the Priory should be able to connect the dots on it. Assuming the truth of the Sylvari isn’t just said outright, there might be some people questioning if any Sylvari can truly be trusted. Additionally it will be interesting to see how the Nightmare Court reacts to all of this. I’d expect the Sylvari to also have a lot of soul searching to do. If any of them suspect they are creations of Mordremoth’s then there would be a whole interesting moral dilemma for them to deal with. What matters more? Who created them and why or what happened to them which made them different than what they were intended to be?

seperator2Rebuilding Lion’s Arch

Currently Lion’s Arch is just a mere shadow of it’s former self, which it should be. Rebuilding this city should absolutely take a lot of time and we definitely should not get LA back to exactly how it had been before. Rebuilding too quickly or making it exactly the same again would just undermine the importance of it being destroyed.

At the same time it shouldn’t just be an NPC only rebuilding process. Instead of having the rebuilding be a small event which happens during this season Arenanet could make it longer one which spans the whole season or more. For example one part could be a collection of wood and metal to help the rebuilding. Every person who contributed could help the process along and once a certain number of materials were collected that stage would be done.

With the implementation of the megaserver Arenanet could even set to goals for the entire population of GW2 to work on together. And it doesn’t need to just be collecting materials, there’s all sorts of events which could be utilized to help players feel like they really had an important part to play in the rebuilding.

New Boss Fight

Currently in the new universal Boss Timers there is a spot for an TBD boss. Now first thing first, it is unlikely this fight will be Mordremoth himself. I’m not sure how Arenanet intends to implement Elder Dragon fights in the future but making them a reoccurring fight seems unlikely. The only way I could that working out is if we fought him until he was forced to retreat, and then after he was beaten a certain number of times the final fight would be triggered (which would probably be a different fight). After that the time slot would go back to being a held time-slot for when the other Elder Dragons are faced.

While all that is possible, I don’t think it is likely. All the other dragon fights on the timers are champions of other dragons so it probably makes sense for Arenanet to stick with this pattern. The only real issue with making the new boss fight be the Champion of Mordremoth’s is we might find ourself in a similar situation as we are with Teq. If the plan with Living Story content is truly to tell stories which have a real and tangible affect on Tyria, fighting the same bosses forever will need to be addressed at some point. The current issue of still having to fight Teq after Zaihtan has been defeated for people who have finished the Personal Story.

Pacing

I’m not too worried about this next season of the Living Story starting of as slow as the last one. Near the end Arenanet really seemed to get a handle on how to present the story in an engaging way and when to reveal important info.

What I am concerned about is better story progression overall. My biggest annoyance with Scarlet was how we were always trailing behind her and never actually prevented her from doing anything. Every time we faced her it was on her terms and while we might have accomplished little things (like destroying the nightmare tower) it was only after she had accomplished her goal for that particular endeavor.

We a absolutely should face technical failures when facing very formidable beings. But never having any real success is extremely discouraging. I’m not saying we should be given some simple tasks to get our successes and make us feel good, but we should be able to at least occasionally actually accomplish something.

guild wars 2 mmorpg features 2     Lets Talk About Guild Wars 2s Living Story Season 2The new icons

One big loose end still out there is Rox needs to go face Rytlock and wrap up the whole part about how she was supposed to help kill Scarlet to get into his warband. I was really disappointed to see there was no real personal growth and self awareness from her at the end of the last season. Braham could use some personal growth and self awareness as well.

Mr. E… Yea we still don’t know that is or really anything aside from whoever it is was trying to help Marjory. I really hope that side story is developed more.

Taimi and Zojja could really use some “on screen” time together. All of their interactions so far have happened somewhere else and the we just get a recounting of what happened from Taimi, which is just disappointing. I’d really like to see how those two affect each other over time.

All that boils down to…

A catastrophic awakening of Mordremoth, some interesting consequences for the Sylvari, a new dragon fight, new icon character development, and an engaging rebuilding of Lion’s Arch. For everything I am expecting to happen (and I am sure there will be other things I haven’t thought of) I would guess the next season will last either an entire year or maybe a bit more. What are you looking forward/hoping to see?

Let’s Talk About Wildstar’s Elder Game

Originally posted on Gamebreaker April 15th, 2014.

When it comes to max level content the Carbine team has been relatively quiet except to say there will be things for everyone to do. Some of these things are raids, events, PvP, dailies & events; and yes it’s called Elder Game not endgame. However, many of the specifics with these systems have been left undisclosed aside from superficial information (like the size of raids). Thankfully the Wildstar panel at PAX East was all about Elder Game content and I was able to talk with Stephan Frost, design producer, for a bit on Saturday and gleaned even more details from him.

Raids Are Hard

No really Carbine’s design philosophy when it comes to raiding is, raiding should be some of the most challenging content in the game. I have seen a number of people claim telegraphs make avoiding damage too easy. Unfortunately this perspective seems based on low level content which is easier because leveling is designed to teach players to deal with these mechanics throughout the process. When it comes to raiding Carbine is taking full advantage of the telegraphs to really challenge players.

Not only are there some pretty wickedly shaped telegraphs used, but when combined with other mechanics (like the floor dropping away) there is little room for error. With a limited amount of dodging allowed reacting at the wrong moment or in the wrong direction can seriously ruin a boss attempt.

One of the examples shown during the panel is a rotating weirdly shaped telegraph. Which doesn’t sound horrible, but with the rate the telegraph is rotating dodges have to be used. If a player happens to misjudge which direction they should go… well it’ll hurt a whole bunch. Or in Frost’s words “these telegraphs will melt your face.”

One of my favorite mechanics shown during the panel was a raid group fighting a boss on a bunch of interlocking platforms. There’s a mechanic where a player gets targeted with a “bomb” type effect. The way it seemed to be meant to work, is the player should jump off the platform… which in general is the last thing most people would think of doing. If done wrong however, well the guys in the stream wiped half their raid in one hit. Though it looked like there is potential if it’s done really wrong, a player could take out their entire raid team at once.

In addition the Carbine team is redefining trash mobs as “base population” and it’s not just a name change. Trash mobs will actually drop real loot and will have real mechanics to defeating them. As someone who generally hates trash mobs I am actually happy about this change. Most of the reason I hate trash, is because trash always seems pointless and just there to slow the group down. If the trash actually has some real mechanics and real loot it’ll be a huge improvement on the current state of things!

wildstar mmorpg features 2 featured     Lets Talk About Wildstars Elder GameImbuements

One thing I hadn’t heard the Carbine team talk about much before is some items will have an imbuement which is basically a quest or task the player will have to accomplish to unlock more power on a item. Examples of tasks are killing a particular boss, collecting a certain number of items, max reputation with some faction, and other things along these lines. The items will be pretty good without unlocking these imbuements, but for players who really want to get the full power out of their gear tackling any and all imbuement quests will be something they’ll want to do.

Now personally I love the concept of imbuements. For me it reminds me (and yes I realize it’s not a direct correlation) of  forging Quel’Serrar back in Vanilla WoW. For anyone who was a warrior back then obtaining that sword was an accomplishment, and one where players not only had to kill a specific boss but had to do specific things during the boss fight… clearly it’s a memory I have held on to. As soon as Joe Piepiora mentioned imbuements and started explaining the reasoning behind them, I knew we were getting the type of content which will spawn stories and memories for years to come.

Piepiora also mentioned artifact weapons, which is the top most tier weapons only obtainable from doing the hardest content in Wildstar. Pretty cool. The Artifact Sword he showed off had SIX imbuements on it. As an example of how crazy it does get, at the end of the line on the artifact weapons to unlock the the last power players will have to summon two special bosses (which the group will never have fought before because they only exist for this imbuement) and defeat them at the same time (this is the 80 man raid some people have been mentioning). Talk about having a story to share afterwards.

Additionally… say I get this nice shiny artifact sword, great and stuff but then a new raid tier comes out. Well time to toss the old sword in the bank right (or relegate it to only being a costume skin)? Nope. Because of how imbuements work there is the potential to keep adding new imbuements on so I could keep powering that sword up and use it for a long long time. Not only is this prospect exciting, it’s also a great motivation to do some of these super hard requirements.

wildstar mmorpg features 2 featured     Lets Talk About Wildstars Elder GameStory Instances

Story Instances are instances designed for a solo player to really delve into the deeper lore behind Wildstar. The player is guided through these encounters by A NPC everyone meets during the standard leveling quests named Drusera. Starting at level 35 the story instances will guide players to a deeper understanding of the history of the planet Nexus and what is currently going on.

Don’t be fooled into thinking you’ve seen this content because you’ve met Drusera. Story Instances have not made it into beta, and might not be there at all until launch. Which makes me sad, though I understand testing group content in beta is a higher priority for a multitude of reasons. Also, if these were already in beta some jerk probably would have written about it and spoiled all the mysteries for everyone else. /whistles innocently

Another aspect I really like about Story Instances is they can be leveraged to propel the story forward in the future. While there undoubtedly will be some story in the raids, most of the story will be told in these instances instead. As someone who is always unhappy to have to skip cut scenes because I don’t want to get left behind, I really appreciate this separation.

One part of Story Instances I am curious about, and unfortunately forgot to ask Stephan Frost about, is if Story Instances can be done in a group at all. I have friends who enjoy the story and lore in games as much as I do and it is nice to be able to go through the story parts with them when we can. Sure we can, and will, talk about what happened after but it’s not the same as experiencing it for the first time together.

wildstar mmorpg features 2 featured     Lets Talk About Wildstars Elder GameThe Takeaway

One thing Frost emphasized when I was talking with him is the Carbine team is focused like a laser on making sure there is plenty of Elder Game available not only at launch but also in the months following launch. As someone who watched SWTOR implode firsthand, knowing Wildstar isn’t just planning for the launch itself but what will happen immediately afterwards is reassuring. It’s also good to know they are planning for more than just raid content updates.

Now if I could just find out how exactly a group captures a raid boss to use on their Warplot…

What If Scarlet Doesn’t Die?

Quick word of caution, if you haven’t done the current Living Story story instance there will be some minor spoilers in this article.

The beginning of the end has started for the Living Story Season 1, and with it there have been some interesting developments. Our merry little band of NPC characters has now grown by one with the addition of Taimi, a precocious Asura who pretty quickly attaches herself to Braham despite his protests. Taimi’s ultimate goal seems to be to meet Scarlet and become her apprentice and eventually overthrow her. That’s a pretty big aspiration, even for an Asura. If we assume the speculation about this group of heroes basically being a Destiny’s Edge 2.0 is correct, then with the addition of Taimi we have one spot left to fill. And no Sylvari.

One of the more interesting conversations in the story instance happens between Rox and Rytlock. He finally tells Rox she can join the Stone Warband if she kills Scarlet. Now, I am pretty sure Rytlock isn’t saying Rox needs to go challenge Scarlet to a duel or anything, that would be a bit silly, but rather she just needs to be a big part of the effort to take Scarlet down. Similar to when Rox was hunting down Tequatl. Of course hearing this news upsets Braham because he still is dealing with his abandonment issues and there is a fight between them which is sadly reminiscent of Logan and Rytlock.

However, I don’t think the goal here really is to rip Rox away from this group. I’m expecting some character growth to happen with her where she realizes she already has a group she belongs with despite them not being Charr. Now this certainly could happen with Scarlet being killed and having Rox be offered membership and at that point realizing she doesn’t want to leave her friends behind… but feels a bit meh and formulaic. Now I am finding myself leaning more towards hoping there is some possible way to save Scarlet, and possibly even having Rox be the one to make the call not to kill her. Which is weird for me since I have been championing the idea of Scarlet dying one way or another.

Which leads me to an interview gamerzines posted with lead designer Mike Zadorojny in which he said something really interesting:

“This is the first time players get to see a little bit of the history behind Scarlet and tells the back story of how she looked into the eternal alchemy, and saw something looking back at her.This malevolent being out there was so powerful that it started taking over her mind and giving her suggestions in terms of what she should be doing and things like that. There is a big point here, in terms of the battle between Scarlet’s free will versus this creature’s and you’ll see her transformation.”

Now there are a few important things here. The first is this apparently is confirmation someone or something is controlling Scarlet. Now this is a really sad and almost perverse revelation for Scarlet personally. Right from the beginning she has always wanted to do her own thing and break free from any concept of what she was supposed to do. To know most of what she accomplished has only been under the influence of some other being is just sad. This fits nicely in with the bits from her journal in game which also indicate she was aware on some level of this thing trying to control her and her struggle against it.

The other important part is he mentions we will see her transformation. Which seems to possibly indicate we’ll somehow see the events when she was in the Asura contraption and see this thing take over her. Or possibly the events in the Edge of the Mists update will be a look into the pass and we might see the end of her struggle against this thing. Though it seems like an odd choice to at this point somehow go back in time and see things which have already happened. It’s possible but I’m not convinced that’s where this is going.

Instead, I am leaning towards in the next patch we will learn what is controlling Scarlet and we’ll either figure out how, or start working on figuring out how to free her from the control of whatever it is. Now there is some basis in the lore where Destiny’s Edge used magical tattoos to prevent the dragon champions and even Kralkatorrik from controlling their minds; it should also be possible to free someone of mind control using some sort of similar method. In this case the transformation we would be witnessing would be Scarlet going from this crazy, random, weird mess to a whole person who is possibly a bit horrified at some of the things she has done. If that’s how things play out then it is quite possible for Scarlet to then join up with our merry band of adventurers and work to try and rectify some of the damage she caused.

My only issue is while I could see things playing out like this and it makes sense, I have very mixed feelings about it all. I think it would be really cool if she died in a fiery ball of villainy; but if she is just some evil god’s pawn I’d rather she die under her own free will saving everything. I mean it would be cool to get to know her as a real character with a personality aside from brilliant insanity… Completely depends on how they play it out in game though. But I think it’s a very real possibility she might be the last member of the new icons group.

Wintersday, Guild Wars 2′s 2014 Update Schedule, And What It All Means

Originally posted on Gamebreaker January 18th, 2014.

After the many changes to this year’s Halloween event, I was a little anxious about what Wintersday would be like. Happily Wintersday arrived and it was nearly exactly the same as last year.

The Wintersday jumping puzzle received a similar makeover to the one Clocktower received. It’s now considered a PvP area, though players have no skills and cannot attack each other. However, unlike the new Clocktower, players were not transformed into wisps during the puzzle. Probably, the best change was the ability to pick which path you started from, whereas last year it was random and there was no way to change paths. Allowing us to pick a path was helpful because it allowed players to focus on learning one path which aids the jumping challenged among us.

Another positive change is, at the point where all three paths converged there is a fire to rest and regain health. Additionally players can talk to Tixx here and he’ll offer three options for finishing the puzzle. The first option is to take a gift he gives you and open it there and forgo the bonus gift at the end of the puzzle. The second option is to take the gift and deliver it to the children at the end for a greater reward. Lastly, players can forgo the extra gift completely and instead have a checkpoint at Tixx set-up so if the player falls before reaching the end they wouldn’t have to go all the way back to the beginning. As anyone who has watched the Wednesday night Gamebreaker Nation streams knows, I am jumping challenged and as such I found the option of having the checkpoint a huge help.

The only real downside to this year’s version of the puzzle was not being able to do it with friends. It never fails to amaze me when MMOs put in awesome content that players can’t tackle with friends if they choose too. At least last year players could group up to enter together. We wouldn’t always start at the same spot but when a player fell they would be able to see their friend going on and that was at least something. This year getting into the same one with a friend was a sad matter of RNG. I don’t think content should necessarily require grouping to complete, but the option to group up to do things shouldn’t be taken away.

The Bell Choir and Toypocalypse were essentially unchanged this year. One thing I wish Arenanet had added to Bell a Choir was some sort of reward for obtaining the highest score in an entire game of the Bell Choir. Players are rewarded for doing well by getting presents at the end of each round if they manage to not kill themselves, but aside from that there’s no real incentive to do well. Over the last few days some fought hotly for the top spot. It would be nice to have some recognition for that.

buildingDespite the good things about most events in Wintersday being the same there is a downside. We’ve now had the Wintersday patch for over a month, and I have recently realized this pause in the content patches has taught me something new about how I play MMOs; I really need the short content cycles to maintain my attention.

When Arenanet first announced they were entering into a 2 week content cycle I was a bit nervous. On the one hand my main issue with many MMOs has always been doing the same content for far too long. I have never been the sort of person who really enjoyed doing the same content over and over even if there was something cool and shiny in it for me. I want to see new things, maybe do them a few times, and then move on pretty quickly. On the other hand I do have limited amount of time I can play games each day so I was concerned with not being able to fully explore each patch and falling behind in terms of amount of content I had done.

Arenanet quickly fell into a pattern of each month the first patch was pretty big and would continue on after the second patch of the month hit which I enjoyed immensely. This pattern allows even people with sort of limited playtime to have a lot of opportunities to finish all the content added for that month. This cycle kept up the feeling of needing to get things done, but never made it feel really overwhelming.

Now I understand the stopping of the updates over the holidays, and I understand that they are trying to make sure each update is as polished as possible. However, I must confess that when they announced a bit of a break from the two week patch cycle I immediately felt less of an urge to play and was distracted by other games…so much so that I randomly realized last week I needed to get cracking to finish the meta achievements. Knowing I always had another patch right around the bend managed to help keep me focused.

This concerns me a bit because Colin Johanson recently indicated these breaks might be more common place this year than they were last year. In an interview with EuroGamer he said, “When [Living World Season One] ends [on 4th March], we’re going to take a break for a little bit and then we’re going to do one really big feature patch that is more akin to what people see from some of our [MMO] competitors, where they bundle a lot of features together into a really big patch every now and then.” While I am definitely looking forward to this large “features only” patch I am concerned about how long the break will be and how stagnant Guild Wars 2 might feel during it.

Let’s just say they’ll take a month break after the March 4th patch. That means the features patch won’t come until April 1st. I wonder if that means no there will be no new Super Adventure Box? Also if these four patches are just story content and the WvW changes are going to be part of the features patch that would mean the earliest we’d see Season 2 of WvW starting would be May 2nd. That’s a huge lag for people who mostly want to do WvW and for the people who mostly just play Living Story content… well we’d be looking at a potential two months of doing whatever the finale of Scarlet’s storyline is.

As itchy as I am for new content after just one month… a two month lull seems almost unbearable to me. It’s amazing how just a few months of constant content updates can really change a person’s perspective.