Shortening the Stack

I haven’t been doing much gaming over the past two weeks, but I did manage to remove two games from the “stack of games I bought and need to finish” pile. The first was Crysis: Warhead, the stand-alone expansion to Crysis. I actually whipped through the campaign fairly quickly, and quite enjoyed it. There was a far greater emphasis on the action this go around when compared with the original game; there wasn’t much time between fire-fights to catch your breath. Other than that, it was basically more of the same from the original campaign, and the game-play did start to wear a little thin towards the end. Still a very nice game though, and well worth the $9.99 that I paid for it off Steam.

The other game I finished, as the picture above may suggest, is StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty. I have to admit that I’ve never been a huge StarCraft fan; I much preferred Total Annihilation back in the day, and my progress on the StarCraft II campaign had stalled a while ago due to lack of interest. I ultimately decided to just get it over with however, and forced my way through the five missions that I had remaining. My initial enthusiasm for the game had taken a nosedive as I progressed through the campaign; each mission feeling pretty much the same despite varying little gimicks attempting to set each level apart. The story, of course, was very well done and was the game’s redeeming feature for me.

Gaming Update

Random thoughts on what I’ve been playing lately:

World of Warcraft
My Warrior is now level 43 and I’ve run into “the wall”, much like my previous characters. It’s typically around this level where my motivation to play begins to dip. There’s not much driving me forward at this point, especially with Cataclysm looming on the horizon. With my other characters it was around level 50 that my interest began picking up again, as I like the zones relevant to that level, plus knowing that I’d be just 8 levels away from Outland acts as a motivating factor as well. I’ll continue to play, it’d be nice to have a third character hit the level cap, but my pace will be slowing down for the foreseeable future. (Oh yeah, my second child is due to arrive within a month as well, so that may put a bit of a damper on any time I have to dedicate to gaming).

EverQuest II Extended
I have actually been reminiscing a bit about EQII for the past while, thinking it might be neat to subscribe again for a month just to check things out, and then lo and behold, the free to play version gets released.  Perfect!  Of course, I don’t have access to my previous characters but that’s fine, as I really just want to pop into the world to check it out.

I created an Inquisitor, a class I have never played before, and started in Halas, a zone I’d never seen before.  After an hour or two, I’m level 8 and the nostalgia factor has certainly kicked in, but like I say every time I return to EQII, the world graphics are just a wee bit too ugly for me to really enjoy the game.  It’s amazing to me how aged the game looks.  I used to be wowed by these graphics, but now they’re just kind of… meh.  With my new gaming rig I can even play at “Extreme Quality” too, and the graphics just don’t do it for me.  But hey, the game is ‘free’, so I’ll kick the tires a little longer.   I can see though, just how limited the free client is.  Two bag slots?  I was always running into space issues back when I had access to all my inventory slots.

StarCraft II
I’m still plodding along the single-player campaign; I believe I have about seven missions to go until the final one.   I’m still really enjoying the campaign and I’m having a lot of fun.  I did pop into a 1v1 multi-player match against a friend and was destroyed in less than three minutes.  I’ll definitely be sticking to the single-player in this game… I’ve never been good against human opponents in RTS games.

Those three games are the ones that I’m ‘actively’ playing lately.  I recently purchased a couple games off of Xbox Live that I have yet to get to.  I got Catan, Limbo, and Lara Croft: Guardian of Light.  I have actually played a few games of Catan, and it is what it is… a nice version of the board game.  The other two I’ve downloaded but have yet to play.  I plan on checking them out tonight.

Still looming on the horizon… Dragon Age: Origins (I promise I’ll get to you one day soon!), Torchlight (gotta get my $5 worth!), Left 4 Dead 2 (No idea why I bought you), and Dead Space (great game, just needed a break from it).

StarCraft II – First Impressions

I’ve now completed seven missions of the StarCraft II campaign and I’m impressed.

I’m not typically a fan of Real Time Strategy games, and I was even on the fence as to whether I’d get StarCraft II or not. The last RTS that I really enjoyed was Company of Heroes, but that was strictly multiplayer; I still have yet to play the campaign in that game. The last RTS that I played through to completion was the original Dawn of War. Prior to that, it was probably the original StarCraft, although I never played through Brood Wars. My favourite RTS of all time is probably Total Annihilation, but again, that was mostly multiplayer.

The main problem I had with RTS games was that they all felt more or less the same. Gather resources, build up your base, build your forces, and then send them out to get the bad guys. StarCraft II however, has shown enough variety in the few missions that I’ve played so far to make it feel different from all the games that came before it.

The first mission I came across that got my attention was Outbreak, where the Zerg would attack your base at night and then disappear during the day, at which point you could run out and destroy as many of their buildings as you could before night fell again and had to brace yourself for their attack.

The other mission that I’ve really enjoyed is The Great Train Robbery, which tasks you with stopping trains that travel across the map at different intervals. It kept me on my toes for sure.

The game has thus far lived up to its hype for me, and more importantly, has kept this RTS non-fan eager to keep going.

Free To Play

My daughter is away this week, visiting her grandparents at their cabin on the lake, and my wife will be away in Vancouver for a few days for work.  That means I’ll be home by myself, with just my dog to take care of, which subsequently means I’ll be free to play whatever games I want, and be as irresponsible with my time as I choose to be.  Of course I miss my wife and daughter, that goes without saying, but still… guilt-free gaming baby!

I’ll be spending some quality time with StarCraft II tonight, no doubt.  I played the first three missions of the campaign last night and I like it so far.  I’ll hopefully have some more impressions of it at a later date.

What I really meant to post about was the news that EverQuest II was going to introduce a free-to-play server.  You can read all the details at the official site, here: http://everquest2.com/news/read/current/3630.

I’ve said it many times before, that I loved EverQuest II back when I played it, and hopefully this move does something to introduce the game to new players.  It used to drive me nuts to hear people put the game down without having tried it.  I’ll definitely be trying it out again myself.  It’s too bad I won’t have access to my existing characters, but they’ve been dormant long enough that I probably wouldn’t know how to play them anyway.

My only concern is that this move may prove to be too little too late.   The last time I was in EQII (free period just before the release of Sentinel’s Fate) it really showed its age and it couldn’t hook me in.  I can’t see anything having changed since then.  It’ll be nice to have the option of poking my head in now and then though.

I’m actually a little surprised that EQII was the game that SOE decided to try the free-to-play model on (aside from Free Realms of course).  I was hoping Vanguard would be the first to go that route.  I would love to play that game some more, I just can’t justify paying for it.