Impressions & Previews Category

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

Hands-on with En Masse action MMO Kritika Online ahead of closed beta

If you are a fan of action and anime, you might want to keep your eye on Kritika Online. Although this game has been out for years in Korea, it is just now making its way to the western market. En Masse, best known to MMO fans for its shepherding of the western version of TERA, is localizing and publishing this anime title, which will start letting players in to play the closed beta starting tomorrow, May 24th. In preparation of this closed beta launch, I had the opportunity to sit down and talk shop with Senior Product Manager Brian Knox. In between slicing and dicing bosses in a couple of dungeons, Knocks shared some tidbits of what players can expect in this new game. Along with that hands-on time with a mid-level character during the interview, I was able to log in and experience the game as a brand-new adventurer. Here’s how it all went down.

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Exploring TellTale’s Guardians of the Galaxy ‘crowd play’: A dual group dynamic

I have sort of an odd relationship with “story” in gaming. JRPGs really got me into gaming and inspired me to focus on my writing voice(s). Though the quality of narration in MMOs are just bad, some of my early experiences with the genre (particularly Asheron’s Call‘s GM driven story arcs that gave players a way to interact with lore as a group) opened up the possibility of group narratives, especially for those who roleplayed. In fact, as odd as it may sound, I think RP PvP in general showed me just how strong of a feature it can be for someone like me, from virtual Darkfall pirates trying to steal my boat to Star Wars: The Old Republic Jedi fighting for alignment while my bounty hunter simply struggles to make the most money while making the fewest enemies.

Still, sometimes we don’t want to go grind through 20 mobs to get to the next part of the story, or suffer through a raid dance to choose the fate of a character we’ve been interacting with solo. It’s one of the reasons I figure MJ and Larry’s Choose My Alignment is so popular: You still get that story vote without having to be a member of the actual group. It’s odd, being an older MMO player who still sometimes struggles with accepting solo play in MMOs, but the story aspect is the part I get. It’s actually the main thing that kept me in SWTOR.

But there are other options for this kind of play, primarily through TellTale Games and its Crowd Play feature and new game, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series. Don’t worry story fans, as I’ll keep this article spoiler free!

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Hyperspace Beacon: The three key problems with SWTOR’s War for Iokath

Unlike some gamers, I actually like Star Wars: The Old Republic’s Trooper storyline. In fact, one of the most meaningful choices in the whole game is made by the player in the Trooper’s arc. After spending several missions with an operative for the Republic, you are faced with a choice that will leave her dead or kill many Republic senators whom you have never met before. It’s a tough call for a character that is supposed to be loyal to the Republic and loyal to the crew. No other choice in any of the other class stories was as difficult for me.

Because of his proven ability to create meaningful moments like those in the Trooper story, I have been happy to see Charles Boyd at the helm of the creative side of the latest updates to the SWTOR experience. But I was disappointed by War for Iokath from a storytelling perspective. And I was especially disappointed by the less-than-meaningful choices players had to make in this update.

I’ve held off talking about Update 5.2 because I like to focus on the positive in the MMO genre, but I think it’s time to face what has to be one of worst updates I’ve seen for Star Wars: The Old Republic. Let’s examine why I felt so cheated, and let me know if you agree with my assessment in the comments.

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Working As Intended: Why classic Guild Wars matters, 12 years in

The spring season always sees a deluge of MMORPG birthday celebrations: Lord of the Rings Online, City of Heroes, Allods Online, Free Realms last week and TERA and EVE Online this week. Lost in the din, however, is Guild Wars — classic Guild Wars, ArenaNet’s original MMO, which released in 2005 against World of Warcraft, performed brilliantly, and let up only once Guild Wars 2 itself was underway. Even though it’s now clinging to life in a permanent sort of maintenance mode, I still consider it one of the best MMORPGs ever made, in spite of the fact that it’s missing several things I’d normally consider vital for an MMO. And in this week’s video edition of my Working As Intended column, I’m going to tell you why.

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Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind will not blow your mind, but it will tickle your nostalgia

Over the last week or so, ZeniMax Online Studios opened up parts of The Elder Scrolls Online’s Morrowind test servers to the press and public, allowing us to hop in and take a long and unfettered look at the developing expansion. In fact, that’s why I shied away from saying anything about the Elder Scrolls Online patch notes controversy — I’ve been buried in the real thing all week. Although I can now talk about the negative, I can also finally talk about the positive bits Morrowind has to offer.

I want to be fair about my analysis of ZOS’ depiction of the island of Vvardenfell and the Dark Elf culture, so I will have to put aside some of my nostalgic feels and take the experience for what it is: a solid entertaining MMORPG with a handful of flaws. I’m not going to pull any punches, but I should let you know that I really like this next chapter for ESO.

I’m not going to give everything away, but there is an interesting story involving a god, a priest, and a giant crab.

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Choose My Adventure: Grinding away in Black Desert

Let me talk to you, my friends, about grinding. Specifically, about how it gets a bad reputation that it doesn’t altogether deserve.

How does this connect to this week’s adventures in Black Desert? Well, because I wound up doing a fair bit of grinding. It wasn’t intentional or anything, since my designated goal this week was to just trek about and see the sights for a bit. But if you give me a camp full of goblins just sitting in my path, and you have me, a player who’s more than willing to give these things a shot on the basis that the worst possible outcome is that I die… well, I’m going to fight those goblins. I’m going to fight them a bunch.

And, I think, this was ultimately a good thing. Because while the game still has all of the problems that I’ve seen to bother me up to this point, the grinding of goblins was a notable island of things feeling fresh, crisp, and responsive. It’s almost as if I enjoy the game more when I’m away from the things of man.

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EVE Fanfest 2017: Hands-on with competitive VR sports game Sparc

At the end of February, CCP Games announced a new game that has nothing to do with EVE Online or even the EVE IP. Named Sparc, the new VR game is being pitched as a virtual sport environment with competitive online gameplay and an online social space. It has the aesthetic of the Tron-style cyberspace world that movies promised us throughout the 80s, and uses motion controls to deliver full-body VR gameplay. Even the social space will have a bit of an 80s arcade vibe, with players able to gather around and watch others compete and challenge the reigning champion to a match.

Anyone who’s been to EVE Fanfest in recent years will recognise Sparc immediately. The game made its public debut as Disc Arena in Fanfest 2015’s VR Labs demo section alongside three other VR experiments, and made a re-appearance the following year with motion controls as Project Arena. Just as Project Nemesis became the release title Gunjack, this game has now graduated into a full production title with its own development team and budget. Sparc is due for release at some point in 2017 on Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and PlayStation VR, and we managed to get some hands-on time with an early version at this year’s Fanfest.

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Hands-on with TERA’s new Valkyrie class

Last month, TERA’s community chose the name of its new class, and next week players will get to not only see that Valkyrie in action but play her when Honorbound launches on April 11th. Ahead of the launch, I got to get my hands on the class while joining the devs for a run through if the dungeon Vault of Kaprima. Michael Santora, product manager, acted as tour guide and shared interesting tidbits about the class as we warmed up for our run on the BAMS in the dungeon. With Scott Magner (writer) as tank and Robin MacPherson (associate product manager) as healer, what could go wrong?

One should really never ask that question and tempt fate! I might have suffered a death or three in the dungeon as I played this melee class for the very first time, but it was still fun to do — and I am not even a fan of melee. Here are my first impressions of the class, and don’t forget to tune in later today and tomorrow for official livestreams showing her off.

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EVE Evolved: EVE Online’s moon mining overhaul and the future of conflict

Just under four years ago at EVE Fanfest 2013EVE Online‘s Executive Producer Andie Nordgren took the stage and delivered an epic long-term vision for the game’s future in which players will one day explore deep space and colonise previously undiscovered star systems. Developers have been tackling this enormous vision one step at a time ever since, and today we have a versatile set of player-built Citadels and Engineering Complexes for corporations and alliances of all sizes. As we approach the four year mark, we’re now about to hit another major milestone in Nordgren’s plan with the release of Upwell Refinery structures and a total overhaul of EVE‘s resource-gathering gameplay.

CCP released a devblog last week revealing details of the new Upwell Refinery structures and a whole new gameplay system for moon mining that sounds pretty damn impressive. Rather than simply deploying a static structure that provides a permanent stream of moon minerals, new moon mining structures will physically rip a huge chunk of the moon’s surface away and drag it through space to a refinery for players to mine. The new mechanic will transform moon mining from a relatively secure source of passive income into entirely active gameplay, with far-reaching consequences for alliance warfare. This forms one part of the promised resource-gathering revolution, which we’re sure to hear more about at EVE Fanfest 2017 this week.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I drill down into the details of the new Upwell Refineries and moon mining mechanics, and ask what effect this will have on the rest of the game.

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The Elder Scrolls Online releases Morrowind PAX recap trailer

ZeniMax has put out a fresh Elder Scrolls Online Morrowind video this morning, this time showcasing the PAX East reception for its battleground content and new Warden class. “Lucky players went head-to-head in Battlegrounds, fighting for supremacy in 4v4v4 showdowns using devastating new ice spells, tossing enemies into the searing lava of Red Mountain, and battling massive War Bears, which tore apart anything and anyone who dared attack their Warden masters,” gushes the studio.

It’s a little cheesy, admittedly, with carefully cut clips of journalists and players, but there are a few familiar faces, including prominent Skyrim vlogger “Grandma” Shirley Curry, whom everyone should be watching.

Morrowind took home our “most anticipated” award at this year’s PAX, and our ESO columnist Larry Everett has since deep-dived the battlegrounds in particular, raising concerns about their impact on the future of the game’s PvP. Check out the new trailer below!

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Flameseeker Chronicles: Getting to grips with Guild Wars 2’s Bastion of the Penitent

ArenaNet launched a new standalone raid tier, dubbed Bastion of the Penitent, alongside The Head of the Snake Living World chapter, but I’ve not had a moment to discuss it since the launch last month until now. I realise that raiding doesn’t have the broad appeal of the Living World content, and that affects how I prioritise coverage of new Guild Wars 2 developments, but I always come back to raiding content since I personally get so much enjoyment out of it. This raid wing has been no exception: The encounters start off at an achievable level of difficulty and ramp up to pose more of a challenge fairly quickly, and even the easier encounters have clever mechanics that keep things fun.

In the first part of my Bastion of the Penitent coverage for Flameseeker Chronicles, I’ll talk you through the rough mechanics of each boss fight, ignoring for now the lore you’ll find locked behind the raid wing’s door until the next part and also refraining from giving very specific meta or group composition advice. I’ve decided to leave that for any requested in-depth boss encounter guides you require so that I don’t bore you with more raid coverage than you want to see! This edition is more of a what-to-expect rundown than a definitive guide to the encounters. As ever, let me know your thoughts on the raid in the comments and feel free to request detailed, phase-by-phase encounter breakdowns if a particular boss is giving you trouble. I haven’t yet attempted the bosses on challenge mode, but if you’d like me to do so and provide you with any successful strategies I employ, then I will – all in the name of gamer science!

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Hands-on: Digging deep into Crowfall’s pre-alpha crafting systems

Last weekend, Crowfall developer ArtCraft Entertainment held the last of its February playtest weekends, inviting the game’s Early Access backers to jump into the gameworld to play, test, and provide feedback on the game in its current state of development. As one of said Early Access backers (full disclosure there), I was among those invited to take part in the test, and having last played the game sometime early last year, I figured now would be a good time to pop in and see how the game’s coming along.

At present, the game build is a very early one that the devs have dubbed Pre-Alpha 2.0, so the features on display during the playtests are both limited and almost certain to undergo radical changes between now and Crowfall’s eventual launch. The game’s current, rather bare-bones incarnation includes the frameworks, in varying stages of completion and polish, for its basic gathering, crafting, and PvP combat features, though my playtime over the weekend was limited largely to the former two, with relatively little in the way of bloodshed. I don’t consider that to be altogether a bad thing, though; even this early implementation of Crowfall’s gathering and crafting systems is intricate enough that I reckon it deserves a column in and of itself, so let’s go ahead and dig in.

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The Soapbox: Pokemon Go Generation 2 still isn’t a real MMO

Pokemon GO Generation 2 is out now, and it feels a lot like an MMO expansion in a lot of ways: We have new features, we have new grinding mechanics, and (of course) the combat system’s been overhauled (twice, with the original change making dodging useless, the second possibly fixing the situation).

On the one hand, I’m excited as a Pokemon fan, especially since it’s a free update. On the other hand, I’m starting to think that Raph Koster’s famous comments on AR games being MMOs might be a bit off, at least in terms of POGO.
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