Try-It Tuesday: Global Adventures

Every so often, I break out of my gaming routine to try something new and different. These turn into my Try-It Tuesday sessions, and they are a mixed bag indeed!

Global Adventures is a deeply weird game. And deeply flawed. But I will give it this: It has one of the coolest character selection screens I’ve ever seen. You get this crew of characters endlessly running from this giant animated stone guardian, and as you pick the characters, they turn around to fire at it.

Anyway, so what is this game? Global Adventures is what could charitably be described as “Indiana Jones and Lara Croft meet Diablo meet Chinese game design.” That’s probably making it sound way cooler than it is, but it did get my interest when I came across it a few months ago. It’s a different setting, and the more I thought about it, the more a treasure hunting Diablo clone with a contemporary setting (albeit one with magic and some high tech stuff) is pretty cool. I thought I’d check it out for this month’s MMO experiment, even though it’s still in early access.

I went with a Bio-Tech, one of three playable classes right now. I swear, this is as grown up as I could make her look. The teddy bear doesn’t help my case. She’s a dual pistol fighter who can occasionally summon a giant robot to do stuff, so obviously that had to be my pick. Decent but not great customization options, and then we were off!

Right away, I couldn’t decide if I was going to love or hate Global Adventures. That feeling continued pretty much the entire time I was playing it. For every positive I found, there was a cruddy drawback that sprang out at me.

For example, the tutorial starts right out in a wonderfully detailed Aztec temple, and the game’s cel-shading and graphic design is flat-out gorgeous. There were cool little animations, like climbing up walls and swinging across with vines, that made the little pocket zones feel far more 3D than they had any right to be. And combat was fairly fun, if simple.

Yet the framerate was completely inconsistent and right from the get-go, this game suffered from the “neurotic over-controlling mom teaching a teenager how to drive” syndrome. Like, the game would let you play for a maximum of two seconds before wresting control away from you to explain something else or do one of the numerous little pointless cutscenes.

And oh, these cutscenes are bad. Horribly bad. It’s like they didn’t even try with the voice acting and lip syncing, but grabbed the nearest intern, shoved him or her in front of a mic, and made sure that the character mouth would open and close. And very little of what they said or did made sense. This is a game that should have a lot of story and instead has a pile of gibberish involving a fat leach called Slim Jim, random temple robbing, you have an arrowhead you’re trying to hawk, there’s a Global Adventures company, and a random guy in the street sends you to the corners of the globe. I gave up on trying to follow it.

The thing is, there’s a good game somewhere in here that needs a lot of love, attention, refinement, and western localization. It’s just not getting it from what I see.

Don’t get me started on what this game thinks is “humor.” It just made me hate any character attempting it.

Use disorientation tactics! By this the game means “move somewhat to the left and right.”

I guess the whole product is serviceable, and if it ran more smoothly, I’d even be up for enjoying it now and then. I did like how my character would take out a bike when auto-pathing between missions, and the bonus goal of fully clearing out and exploring each area (for extra loots). But it’s in too rough of a state right now, so I’m going to tuck it away and wait to revisit it when and if it actually releases.

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KOTOR 2: Dantooine

(This is part of my journey going playing through Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

Before leaving Nar Shaddaa, I had to defeat Jedi Moustache up there, which was no easy task. The game is balanced around the idea that you’re using a lightsaber or some other melee weapon, so trying to pew-pew him with blasters is a rough go (especially with the whole blaster bolts-deflecting abilities that Jedi have). I had to save scum a lot and use my Kill power excessively, but in the end I conquered him and absorbed his force points into my own being. Didn’t get any loot, despite him using that lightsaber up there, though.

The good news is that with the completion of Nar Shaddaa and a few fights with HK units, I had enough spare parts to put together fan favorite HK-47! Man, I missed you, buddy. How’s it hanging? Still assassinating meatbags everywhere?

I also tried to pry into Atton’s mind with my Force powers, which he didn’t appreciate for some reason. Whatever. I’ve given up on the whining pup.

On to Dantooine! KOTOR 2 mixes it up between familiar locales (reusing maps) and new places, and this is definitely a regifting situation. Still, I now have a fully evil party as I took Hanharr and HK with me.

Truth be told, as much as I like HK-47, he wasn’t as good of a fighter as other characters. I’m debating whether or not to keep him for future planets. Oh geez, I probably will, just for the quips alone. Plus, he appreciates my villainous moves.

Dantooine is looking a bit different than in KOTOR 1, and none for the better. Between games, the Sith ended up razing the Jedi enclave here and the survivors ended up fleeing (which is why I’m chasing them down all over the galaxy). The locales aren’t too happy with the Jedi for abandoning them, although it does seem strange that there wasn’t a single bad word said about the Sith for, you know, the mass damage and all.

There’s a weird interlude on the Ebon Hawke where HK realizes that someone’s locked down the history settings for the navicomputer and then T3 zaps him. HK is completely fine, of course, and this is not spoken of again. What in Sam Hill was that about?

Dantooine is, essentially, two dungeons and a quest hub. There’s a small cave and the larger basement of the Jedi enclave, both crawling with oversized insects and other threats. It’s a great place to farm XP and get some loot. Plus, bonus, I killed a Jedi novice and took her lightsaber, my first in the game so far. Gave it to Visas, since she can do a lot more damage with it.

The planetary storyline convenes with a showdown between the settlers and the encroaching mercenaries. You can take either side, so naturally I’m all Team Mercs and got a talking to by the good guys. It was a fun battle, oh yes it was.

What wasn’t so fun was the showdown with the planet’s last remaining Jedi, Vrook. Baldy here is an absolute terror to fight, chopping right through shields and hit points while healing himself up any time he dips below half health. I didn’t have the best skills to defeat him, and the game makes you fight him one-on-one for some reason, so it took a long, long time to get past him — and only then on the sheerest of luck. I tell you, playing a bad guy in KOTOR 2 is actually harder than a good guy in some ways.

At least the planet is done and we are up by two lightsabers and a nice new armor set for myself!

RIFT Prime is an interesting idea, but will it get me back?

I wasn’t anticipating thinking about or even playing RIFT right now (I always am in a process of drifting away or toward the game, and right now am probably somewhere in the middle of that), but yesterday’s announcement of a new RIFT Prime server for this spring kind of caught my attention.

If you didn’t see it, the idea is to create a new type of subscription-only server that won’t have most of the F2P elements (like lockboxes) but will feature special achievements and rewards, accelerated progression, monthly milestones, zones scaling to characters’ level, level-appropriate loot in all dungeons, a cap on professions, and a trip back through the game — with a server conclusion at some point.

It’s not quite a vanilla server, but it is a definite change from the current server status quo: “We plan to present RIFT at its roots as much as is possible to do, and look forward to sharing details over the coming weeks. The Prime server will progress at a faster pace than the original launch and will eventually come to an end in spectacular fashion.”

So as a former RIFT player, the question in front of me is, “Is this something that raises my interest and will it be compelling enough to call me back to the game?” I would say that “yes” and “maybe” are my answers.

I think we’re seeing a small but noticeable revolution among MMOs to present classic, legacy, progression, and other alternate ruleset servers. The EverQuest games have been doing this for years, of course, but now we’ve seen how popular Old School RuneScape is and are drooling for World of Warcraft Classic. It’s a good idea for RIFT to look into this, because the general perception of this MMO is that it was incredibly fun in vanilla, suffered over the rollout of expansions, and was dragged down by the overly aggressive F2P business model practices. Now Trion can offer two versions of the game to players and see which appeals more.

I have reservations. I have questions. We obviously need a lot more specific details here, and I am wondering the most about the pace of progression (will it be a stressful race?) and the decision to give the Prime server a definite conclusion. Even with rewards porting over (to characters I don’t play at the moment), having a looming end date does sap enthusiasm. And housing! Why would I engage in dimensions if it is all going to end, unless I can take that dimension with me? Housing is one of the best parts of RIFT and it would be a shame not to partake in that because I was afraid of assured demolition.

But will there be a restart of a second prime server? That was the idea with the challenge servers that Trion presented last year, and if the studio can come up with a format that encourages subscribing players to reroll while keeping the interim experience fun and enjoyable, it could go a long way to taking the stale feeling out of the endgame.

I’m going to think on it, especially as more info comes in. I could very well see myself subbing up for a month to see how this goes, especially if there is a groundswell of community excitement over it. There are so many things that I love about RIFT, and I do miss it a lot sometimes — especially how it used to be in those first couple of years. What about you? Did this announcement have you mulling over a return to the game? Is this a good move to offer a lockbox-free, sub-only solution?

DDO: Adventures are better with friends

Don’t look now, but Syp is creepin’ and peepin’ at you from the rushes in Dungeons and Dragons Online. It’s just where I hang out most days. Probably why the hair on the back of your neck sticks up more often than not.

Last week’s theme in the game was “actually being social,” which is somewhat of a novelty for me. Actually, it didn’t used to be, especially in DDO. Back in the early days of the game, you HAD to group up pretty much all of the time. The whole game was built for it, which had its pluses and minuses. I loved having that social component and exploring dungeons with friends, but it could be very frustrating to try to arrange runs for specific instances you need. I found myself having to be more loosey-goosey, go-with-the-flow instead of goal-oriented.

I got a good taste of the old life — the classic DDO experience — this past week with a couple of runs with friends. Matt from DDOCentral took some time on Monday night to give me a tour around some interesting spots in the game and then fight with me through a minotaur-laden arena. If you have a highly knowledgeable DDO friend, I recommend toting one along as kind of a running commentary of Things You Don’t Know But Should.

Run #2 was televised to a worldwide audience. Sort of. OK, it was streamed on Twitch, as Massively OP’s MJ, a friend, and I teamed up to go through a pair of missions. If you’re really bored, you can watch the whole thing on MOP TV. We started out with a pretty uneventful graverobbing mission, but it was fun to have a party in which we all took roles. As an Artificer, I took up the duties of a rogue, scouting ahead for traps and then backwheeling mightily when bad guys poured out of the woodwork.

As an aside, I truly enjoyed driving everyone nuts with the pfft-pfft-pfft of my repeating crossbow.

Our second mission was much more challenging, probably because its design documents simply included the words “FIRE. FIRE EVERYWHERE. ALSO, LAVA.”

It was like descending into a little pocket of hell and trying to figure out what we should be doing while enemies kept respawning left and right. At one point, both of my teammates bit the dust, so on the fly I picked up their soul stones and then courageously ran away. I do running away very, very good. The good news is that we did survive and beat the dungeon without a full wipe, and I was left with the increasing desire to do more group activities in the future.

Project Gorgon: Coming soon?

One of the smaller resolutions that I have this year for Bio Break is to work on my posting balance a bit. I enjoy delivering “experience reports” of games that I’m currently playing, but I also want to get back to doing more topical posts on MMOs and posts on games I’m looking forward to playing. I used to do a lot of forward-looking posts back in the day, but then I started to tamp that down along the line, and now I feel like I am breaking some sort of weird oath to do it. Never mind that; talking about such things can be a joy in and of themselves.

So in that spirit, let’s talk Project Gorgon. The good news that we got last week from the creators is that this indie MMO is coming to Steam early access soon — within a month or so. And that is a Big Deal for me, since I’ve restrained myself for years from seriously playing this title until it got to this point. I’m a little leery on wipes and whatnot, even with some assurances to the contrary, but I think I heard it said that early access will mark the beginning of Gorgon’s next phase and a more stable run. Kind of like an early launch.

I’m going to wait and see what early access here entails, particularly if more details are going to be given about this build, the state of the game, and future plans. Project Gorgon is the type of game that I don’t want to have to restart over and over again — I just want to dive into it and explore it once without worrying about doing everything again. I’m also hoping to hear if playable fairies are coming soon. If they are, I’m willing to wait past early access to main one of those, but if not, well then, I think it’s high time to just game up and play already.

I’m totally going to be nerdy about it, too. I envision keeping a notepad file or a written notebook with clues and notes, and I’m trying not to spoil myself with the in-game hints or the out-of-game wiki for the first few weeks or months. PG is all about discovery, and since it’s an MMO, there’s always a way to circle back and get what you’ve missed. Probably going to play as an animal for a while too, because Death Armor Bovine was written on my birth certificate well before the doctors ever knew what it meant.

I hope that Gorgon is getting some more funds and will find this with early access. I worry about the financial state of this game, especially since it’s not really taking in any cash flow that I see and can only skate by on the rather meagre Kickstarter funds for so long. How the lead devs manage to eat and keep a house is beyond me. Maybe they moonlight on the Star Citizen team and come home with pockets full of cash. Who knows.

So Gorgon in a month… who’s with me? Anyone excited about this?

Battle Bards Episode 113: Anarchy Online

Alien, quiet, and weird — that’s the Anarchy Online soundtrack for you in a nutshell. For the first episode of 2018, the ever-contentious Battle Bards are back to quibble about, gush over, and nitpick the score to one of the older sci-fi MMOs on the market today.

Episode 113 show notes (show pagedirect download)

  • Intro (feat. “Seascape,” “Spiritual Elysium,” and “The Cup”)
  • “Main Theme”
  • “Majestic Omni”
  • “Omni-Tek Theme”
  • “Ancient Civilizations”
  • “Dungeon Dub”
  • “Shadowlands Battle Music”
  • “Amongst the Trees”
  • Which one did we like best?
  • Listener notes: Friendly Necromancer, Katriana, and Rafael
  • Jukebox picks: “Simmering Steeps” from Portal Knights, “I Am Justice” from Diablo III, and “First Light” from Aion
  • Outro (feat. “Open Plains”)

Try-It Tuesday: Tacoma

Every so often, I break out of my gaming routine to try something new and different. These turn into my Try-It Tuesday sessions, and they are a mixed bag indeed!

After devouring What Remains of Edith Finch the other week, I needed another injection of interactive “walking simulator” storytelling… which led me to Tacoma. Created by the Gone Home team, Tacoma doesn’t stray far from the template from the aforementioned games. You’re a female arriving in a deserted location who investigates her surroundings and pieces together a narrative of what happened prior to her arrival.

In this case, it’s a space station instead of a family house, but the concept doesn’t stray too far from the path. Something Has Happened to the station Tacoma and its six occupants (who are no longer aboard), and it’s up to you to find out what while recovering as much of the recorded data as possible.

The twist here is that in certain areas you can recover all or part of audio and video recordings of the crew in the past — sometimes hours, sometimes weeks, sometimes even months ago — and then play them back as they move about. You can’t see their actual bodies and faces, but rather color-coded humanoid blobs, but you can peek into their HUD computer displays and follow them as they go about various tasks and discussions. The only real choice you actually have in the game, in fact, is who to follow when, which only determines what order you get all of the story beats.

Between the crew logs, their computer messages (emails, texts, letters), and some minor environmental observation, the narrative gradually comes together. The game starts promisingly pretty much at the point of the crisis, and then delivers logs that go back and forward from that point to give you ever-widening context. And even though the people are blobs, you get to know them a bit and find out a few details about their backstories and relationships.

While I ended up not liking Gone Home very much, Tacoma was better — but only a little bit more. I loved the setting and the mechanics, but it is way, way too short of a game. It’s like a short story instead of a novella, and I ended up feeling robbed that we didn’t get more sections with more conversations and details. The characters don’t get as much time to be fleshed out, the mystery, so to speak, gets rushed in the end, and the sparse environmental details didn’t live up to Gone Home or Edith Finch.

It’s what I would consider a $5 game, max, for what you get. Definitely worth a quick two-hour playthrough, but once you’re done, there’s no reason to ever revisit it.