Impressions & Previews Category

Hands-on, first impressions, and preview coverage. [Follow this category’s RSS feed]

Hyperspace Beacon: Assessing SWTOR one week after the big server merges

Many people believe that server merges are innately bad because in games like ArcheAge (or even all the way back to Star Wars Galaxies), they were done completely wrong or the game itself wasn’t designed for its servers to ever consolidate. However, other MMOs – RIFT comes to mind – have nearly perfected server merges. And for the most part, server merges help the game and its population. Because many of the smaller servers combine together with larger servers, there are more people around, group-finder queues tend to pop faster, PvP is more dynamic, and roleplayers can reach the all-important critical mass.

If I were to just look at the Star Wars: The Old Republic server merges from the perspective of the overall benefits of combining different server communities, I would have zero issue with them. SWTOR is one of those games that has no innate issues with combining server save for players losing character names. It could be done without losing character names, and I will get into the flaws of that system in a bit.

Now, let’s talk about my specific perspective having experienced two server merges by BioWare, then we will get into the details of how this latest one affected those in my community.

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Flameseeker Chronicles: Unpacking more of Guild Wars 2’s Path of Fire story

As promised, Flameseeker Chronicles is back with a continuation of the Guild Wars 2 Path of Fire story deep-dive I’ve been crafting over the last few weeks. I’ll briefly recap you on where we left off and then will launch into covering the rest of Act II. The volume of story content that came with the latest expansion is appreciable and deserves to receive a thorough breakdown, and I can’t wait to share more of it with you while adding some thoughts as I go. Not everyone is as enthused with the story, of course, so I hope these unpacking articles also help anyone who doesn’t wish to dedicate time to more than the bare bones of the story: You can always use breakdowns such as these to fill any lore gaps that arise from you skipping content you don’t enjoy, after all! Note before you proceed that, just as was the case in the other story breakdown entries, this article will contain significant spoilers if you haven’t completed Act II of the story for yourself.

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Going clubbing with Trion in Trove’s new update

When you are invited to go to a club with Trove’s devs, you’d best get ready for fun time! Of course, I mean a Trove club: a place where you can design build your own special world with friends. And clubs are getting some serious attention in this week’s update. Earlier in November, I sat down with Trion Art Lead Robin Luera and Animation Lead Ted Sanger for a tour through the voxel’s games upcoming club-errific features. Here are some of the highlights!

One important and awesome change is that clubs will now have six different permission levels. And there are tons of permissions! This will allow leaders to customize who can do what in the club, which will really come in handy with the new building and adventure features. Leaderboards have been also changed up. The top 50 average power rank and level will be displayed (the PR will be calculated of each member’s highest pr character, not add them all together). Mechanics like using or destroying the most blocks, however, have been removed.

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Hands on: Having a blast in SMITE’s new adventure, Shadows Over Hercopolis

Although I have tried, the MOBA side of SMITE isn’t quite for me (yet). I’m just not terribly comfortable in the various lane modes like conquest, clash, and joust. But what is awesome about Hi-Rez’s title is that there’s more to do that can entice different types of gamers into the title — even MMOers like myself. I enjoy the arena mode, but I really fell in love with the first PvE challenge Xing Tian’s Mountain, and the subsequent Fafnir’s Wonderland. These special modes offered unique gameplay, which also allowed me to get more comfortable with gods and feel more confident venturing into other modes. So when SMITE adventures were announced at Hi-Rez Expo 2017, I was ecstatic! And I have not been disappointed by any adventure yet. But nothing has been as cool as the newest adventure that opened today, Shadows Over Hercopolis.

If you’d thought the past Trials of King Hercules gave SMITE a bit of MMO flavor before, the new Shadows Over Hercopolis does even more so! It’s an action RPG adventure with a number of new mechanics, and it is a blast! I got to play this adventure over the weekend with Hi-Rez’s Isiah Turner, community manager, and Gabe Mughelli, public relations manager. And I can’t wait to dive in again.

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The Survivalist: ARK Aberration has already been delayed, but here’s what to expect

Surprise! ARK: Aberration, the survival sandbox’s next expansion that was slated to launch this month, is delayed. Shocking, I know. Actually, if any fans were actually surprised, they obviously haven’t been following ARK: Survival Evolved very long. The delay, along with a other news, was announced during Twitch Con 2017; Studio WildCard showed off the expansion to a host of streamers who, in turn, showed the game off to the rest of us. Fans got to see hours of Aberration gameplay, learning little tidbits about the world and its unique flora and fauna as streamers experienced the malfunctioning ARK for the first time. And the world does look fascinating!

Besides the delay and the peek into the underground world, we learned that the Structures Plus mod will be officially integrated into the game. This is fabulous news for builders who’ve been waiting a long while for this feature to get some attention. And for those who want some real-world ARK goodies, the ability to purchase the The Collector’s Edition of ARK: Survival Evolved sans game and expansions was also announced. Also, ARK itself and the expansions are on sale this weekend only.

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EVE Evolved: EVE Online’s free-to-play upgrades are pretty damn generous

You’ve probably heard by now that EVE Online is giving its free-to-play alpha clone characters a massive boost in power in December about a month after the launch of the Lifeblood expansion. The news has been spreading through the gaming media since it was announced last week at EVE Vegas 2017 and the reception online has been generally positive. Some existing players are worried that the change might even be too generous, with fears that veteran players may let their subscriptions lapse and play for free, or that the new skills might be abused to create an endless army of ganking alts.

There’s no doubt that the changes will help to close the power gap between subscribers and free players and will open up new avenues of gameplay. Free players will finally be able to fly tech 1 battlecruisers and even battleships, and cross-training for multiple races will unlock multi-faction ships such as the Sisters of EVE exploration ships. Alpha clone players will also finally be able to use tech 2 weapons and fly many of the ship setups flown in massive nullsec wars, though the way that the new skill limit is being implemented may actually benefit old and returning players more than new ones.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I dig into the free-to-play changes, briefly examine the power gap between free and subscribed players, and look at who will benefit most from the change.

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Flameseeker Chronicles: One week into Guild Wars 2’s Path of Fire

I’ve had my hands on Guild Wars 2‘s second expansion for a week and some change now and have built up a more solid picture of Path of Fire in that time. I have to say that I’m still just as impressed as I was when I wrote my first launch diary entry: I’ve completed the main story at this point (though I’m getting ready to rerun it again to bank achievements I missed on the first run-through), and aside from my launch weekend issues and some niggly mechanics along the way, I’ve been blown away by the quality offered in terms of story content, mount mechanics, and the new elite specialisations.

In this edition of Flameseeker Chronicles, I’ll continue my launch coverage by discussing some more in-depth points that I’ve noted now that I’ve had a full week of play time (although it’s been over a week, the EU connection issues largely killed the first few days for me), and I’ll also look at some not-too-surprising but still greatly appreciated benefits the expansion has had on Central Tyria and Heart of Thorns zones. Please note that there will be some spoilers below, both through images used and inferences to story encounters, even though I’ll make an effort to avoid them for main story arcs.
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Guild Wars 2 Path of Fire launch diary: Initial impressions

My initial impressions on Guild Wars 2’s Path of Fire launch are rather late to the table, owing to some fairly significant connection issues since launch that ran up until yesterday, but I’m delighted to share my first thoughts on the second Guild Wars 2 expansion with you at long last. I really count yesterday as my first day of play since the instance creation issues prevented me from progressing my Path of Fire story chain until then, so although I’ve had all weekend, this first launch diary entry will simply detail the things that I noted within the first day of play.

Don’t worry about story spoilers being contained below: I’m not ready to share story details with you yet and wouldn’t even if I could! Expansions are a long time in the making and fans deserve to enjoy all that entails first-hand without it being spoiled. Anything at all problematic will be marked with spoiler tags just in case. Enjoy my list of the good, the bad, and the janky, and check out my screenshot gallery at the end of the article too (though skip this if you don’t want location spoilers).

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Happy 20th birthday, Ultima Online! Here’s how to get caught up on the OG MMORPG

Just about 20 years ago, my boyfriend and I were wandering through Media Play (heh) when he picked up this box for some new online subscription video game with a cheesy Hildebrandt cover. I was skeptical. He bought it anyway. The next morning, after I’d played all night and totally bogarted his new game, we figured we should probably get a second account. And so we did, in spite of being clueless teenagers who could barely afford one sub, let alone two.

That game was Ultima Online, and it’s the game that birthed the term MMORPG and quite literally dragged me into the realm of virtual worlds. Without it, I wouldn’t be right here where I am talking to you today, having married that dude in the interim. And as of yesterday, that game is 20 years old.

Last autumn, when the game was turning 19, I did a fairly in-depth video on the coolest parts of UO, the parts you can still play today, as I do frequently dive back in and am playing this month too! It’s Massively OP’s best-performing video to date, proving that the game is very much not dead and done. Pretty much everything in the video is still accurate, except for the part on the business model (spoiler: UO is kinda going free-to-play), so I’m going to include it below, but then I’ll recap some of the important bits from the last year and answer a few questions anybody reading is sure to have.

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PAX West 2017: Life and death in Digital Extremes’ new MMO Survived By

While there were plenty of established games on hand at PAX West 2017, there were also a few new ones offering players a taste of the future. Survived By by Digital Extremes is one of those new games. Announced just two days before PAX began, it had stations set up allowing players to dive right into a dungeon and experience the 2-D pixel game. And that’s exactly what I did while talking to Producer Ryan Jackson about permadeath, classes, crafting, and the story.

Jackson told me that the game is actually set in a cross section of the world tree. The tree is sick, however, and can’t seem to heal itself anymore, and it’s being invaded. He said that the mystery of what is happening is what DE wants players to unravel as they play in the first act of the game. Closed alpha will be starting soon, and folks can sign up for it on the official site. I actually can’t wait to get back in!

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PAX West 2017: Ashes of Creation’s combat, crowdfunding, characters, and the infamous hat

You don’t have to be a massive MMO studio to have a big showing at PAX West – Intrepid Studios proved that. The indie studio developing Ashes of Creation had a large booth with a giant TV broadcasting videos, hands-on demos for players to see what the game is about, a merchandise counter (which appeared to be doing good business), plenty of devs on hand to answer questions, and a full panel to discuss the game’s progress and plans to a large audience. And Founder and Creative Director Steven Sharif was on hand the whole time to talk about his game with everyone who came by. As he told me, “That’s our job here today, to expose more people to [AoC’s] potential.” He wants players to know that it isn’t about promises without delivery

Between a demo and a couple of interviews, I had the opportunity to chat with Sharif about the game a few different times. We talked about classes, crowdfunding, and character customization. I also got to team up with a group and run through a short PvE adventure narrated by a dev, testing out skills and exploring a few features. Then I delved into a PvP match. And yes, we also discussed the red hat controversy.

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PAX West 2017: Playing Kritika Online’s upcoming Psion class in Shattered Table

En Masse recently introduced the newest class coming to Kritika Online, and while visiting the studio’s offices during PAX West 2017, I was able to dive in and play it. This Psion class — a combination of swordsman and mage —  generates psychic swords to slice, dice, and generally Ginsu her enemies to pieces. One skill even allows her to throw her blades, which combined with her guns (bound to right click) gives her good ranged options during battle. As I am not the biggest fan of in-your-face combat, I appreciated having options to move me outside of melee range and keep attacking.

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PAX West 2017: Taking ‘control’ of TERA on console

It’s all about the controller: My En Masse Entertainment PAX West office visit last weekend included a hands-on with TERA on console.

Now, I have played TERA before, and it isn’t a game I have returned to with regularity, though I do still return and dabble. Interestingly enough, after this experience, I learned that things might have been different had I been playing the game on console.

As much as I didn’t really like and wasn’t used to movement (I didn’t get the hang of looking the direction I wanted to), I really enjoyed the combat with the controller during my demo. I discovered actually preferred TERA’s combat on the controller than on the keyboard, so I agree the dev’s words: “It’s TERA’s true action combat that makes it such a great fit for consoles and game pad controls.”

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