impressions

Deep-diving Gloria Victis’ swordplay and siege warfare

We’re in the midst of a sort of sandbox renaissance, with numerous sandbox titles under development and more seeming to scuttle out of the woodwork on a regular basis, all vying for the attention of the masses of gamers weary of the World-of-Warcraft-inspired theme park formula that has dominated the market for so long. Among these contenders is Gloria Victis from indie developer Black Eye Games, a medieval, low-fantasy title that aims to meld an open-world sandbox MMO with the frantic swordplay action popularized by games like Mount and Blade and Chivalry.

Gloria Victis, like many of its compatriots in this new wave of sandbox MMOs, is still in development, but players can get a look at the current state of the game through Steam’s Early Access program. But if you’re one of the many who are (justifiably) wary of dropping money on unreleased games, don’t fret: I’ve taken the plunge in your stead to take a look at how things are shaping up.

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Choose My Adventure: Finding my way in Shroud of the Avatar

Heading into Shroud of the Avatar for the first time was a bit of a strange experience for me, right from the start. Usually, when I start playing a new game, I start forming impressions and then spend the next few weeks refining those impressions in either direction. This time, I am utterly unsure of how I feel about the game, and I suspect that the next few weeks are going to make that more complex, not less.

And part of me can’t help but wonder if some of that is just a matter of missing vital reference points.

I don’t mean that in the sense of the game being actually impenetrable; it’s just that I find myself constantly asking if something that bugs me is, in fact, exactly the way it’s supposed to be for fans of the genre and Garriott’s prior work. Which is a trip, let me tell you that. I’m staggering through dark woods, getting my throat chewed on by a wolf, and I’m seized with the urge to ask the wolf if this is, in fact, an intended portion of design. You know, between bites of my trachea.

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The Elder Scrolls Online’s Horns of the Reach DLC is live

Horns of the Reach is live in The Elder Scrolls Online today as ZeniMax’s first major update since the Morrowind campaign/expansion rolled out in June. As planned, the paid DLC includes two new dungeons (Falkreath Hold and Bloodroot Forge) and plenty of new kit. And even if you don’t pay for the DLC, you’re getting Update 15 for free; it boasts the PvP battlegrounds mode Chaosball and the new Arcane University map.

“The Horns of the Reach two-dungeon pack is now available on PC and Mac, free for all ESO Plus Members, or for purchase via the in-game Crown Store for 1,500 Crowns. Update 15 general improvements are available free for all players, while Battlegrounds additions are free for owners of ESO: Morrowind (Battlegrounds requires ESO: Morrowind). Both will also release for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One adventurers on August 29.”

MOP’s Elder Scrolls columnist Larry Everett has posted his impressions of the Falkreath Hold dungeon following a streamed play session we ran alongside ZeniMax’s Rich Lambert; we’ve tucked that down below so you can decide whether to grab it. Stay tuned for more this week!

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Massively Overthinking: Is the popularity of small-scale co-op games hurting MMORPGs?

Gamasutra has an unusual piece from an Ubisoft developer this week arguing that co-op gameplay is the industry’s rising midcore trend, one that he believes will ultimately outstrip team competitive games. “It’s all about all the big data and stats that are finally available and can be mined,” author Andrii Goncharuk says, “and no surprise that it’s showing that players who played co-op mode have much more play hours, and players who played co-op with friends have even more play hours.”

He may be right, though first you’d have to believe co-op ever went anywhere to begin with (and console players would probably tell you nope!). But as I read the article, I couldn’t help but see MMOs in most of the arguments he’s making about what makes co-op games sticky, and yet MMOs are being edged out all the same. And while I don’t like to think of the MMO genre’s space in the industry as a zero-sum situation, the reality is that when people tire of MMORPG baggage but still want social play, co-op is exactly the sort of game they retreat to.

For this week’s Massively Overthinking, I asked our writers to reflect on the rise of co-op PvE games outside the MMO label. Do we play them? Do we prefer them, and when? How can we learn from them? Is the popularity of smaller-scale co-op hurting MMORPGs?

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Flameseeker Chronicles: Cautiously optimistic about Guild Wars 2’s Path of Fire expansion

ArenaNet chose to very cleverly stave off the post-season blues by teasing a long-awaited, much-anticipated, and very-spoiled Guild Wars 2 expansion announcement as a close to the living world’s third season. We didn’t have long to wait before August rolled in and the expansion announcement was upon us, and now I’m even more hyped for the beginning of Path of Fire. Putting the core Heart of Thorns and season 3 stories to bed is bittersweet since I am one of the rather uncommon creatures that largely enjoyed the direction the last expansion went in and I doubly enjoyed the last season’s breaking of the great content drought in such a spectacular, confidence-building fashion.

PoF will be upon us next month, and I don’t have much article space remaining before it drops in our laps, so I thought I should begin the lead-up to launch with an overview of my thoughts about the expansion announcement and the main features it highlighted for us. I know you’ll have been expecting the final edition of my look at season 3 instead, since I have only given you some Siren’s Landing impressions so far from the finale, but talking about the big news felt far more pressing, and I feel that it’ll give those who are currently revisiting the game due to the expansion hype time to catch up with the season before I spill the beans.

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LOTRO Legendarium: First steps into Mordor

Victory.

It’s a fascinating place to begin an expansion, really. Most games like to set up a new threat, pit players against impossible odds, and have them struggle toward a final boss in some distant raid somewhere. Lord of the Rings Online, however, enjoys bucking trends now and then, and no more so than with its new Mordor expansion.

The first few minutes revisit the conclusion of the Quest of the One Ring, with the surprising triumph of the Battle of the Black Gate, the eagle air-lift of Sam and Frodo, and the destruction of the Ring. Everyone is taken to a peaceful glade to lick their wounds, reconnect with friends, and savor the victory. Even the epic book, which we’ve been working on completing for 10 years now, has come to a conclusion. Shortest expansion ever, right?

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Elite Dangerous: A ground-pounding newbie’s perspective

Earlier this summer I wrote that Elite Dangerous community events were something the MMO community should watch. Watch. I never said play, and I never ended up pushing the “purchase” button when I saw it on sale. I’m not really a flight sim person. Heck, I’ve even mentioned several times that I prefer kart-racers to realistic racing games.

However, I recently snagged a review key for Elite Dangerous to try it out on the PlayStation 4. I even streamed my first experiences with the game. It was a rocky session to say the least, but I decided to stick with it for a few more hours after getting some support from viewers. I really wanted to be able to recommend the game as something to pick up, but honestly, I’m still in the “watch” category.

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Leaderboard: Did you go back to LOTRO for Mordor?

Before we begin, let’s just get the trailer thing out of our systems. It was bad. Really bad. OK? Good. That’s done.

Lord of the Rings Online launched Mordor yesterday, its first major expansion since the transfer of the game from Turbine to Standing Stone Games last year.

And while Justin’s busy diving in and cooking up some impressions of the expansion for us, I thought I’d open it up to the readers in a poll: Was Mordor enough to make you go back LOTRO or even pick it up for the first time?

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Tamriel Infinium: Impressions of Elder Scrolls Online’s Falkreath’s Hold dungeon, part of the Horns of the Reach DLC

Although the vast majority of my time in Elder Scrolls Online is spent solo, running through the single-player storylines, I raid and have done a lot of group activities in other MMORPGs. So when I was invited to run the newest dungeons with some of the developers, specifically Creative Director Rich Lambert and Dungeon Lead Mike Finnigan , I had to say yes. The actual run was livestreamed yesterday and since posted to YouTube. (I’ll post the video below.) But during that time, I didn’t really get a chance to give my impressions of what was happening, so perhaps now would be a good time to let you know what I thought.

Most of us here are PC players, so you will be glad to know that this dungeon releases on August 14th with the Horns of the Reach DLC for PC, but for those playing it on consoles, you will have to wait another couple of weeks until August 29th to actually play the dungeons. As for the whole DLC itself, it’s much like the Shadows of the Hist DLC: There are new achievements and meta-changes to classes, but for the most part, it revolves around two four-man dungeons. The one I ran was called Falkreath’s Hold.

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Global Chat: Dipping into Albion Online

Now that Albion Online has officially launched, what’s the verdict? It’s a little hard to get a feel for that, since I haven’t seen a huge crowd heading off to play it, but I do know that there are some that have been waiting for this colorful sandbox MMO.

Occasional Hero posted his launch impressions, saying, “Playing Albion feels a lot like going back to RuneScape. It’s an isometric, crafting-focused, click-to-move game where players have to compete for resources. Even the graphics are similar […] If I get to the endgame and everything I need is walled inside PvP zones controlled by massive, EVE-style guild conglomerates, I won’t be sticking around. Sadly, from a lot of the player feedback I’ve been hearing, it sounds like that’s what a lot of it is going to end up being.”

And SparkoMarkoGaming has done us all a service by blogging through his first few days in the game. “I knew what to expect from playing the beta and nothing seemed to have changed in the gameplay,” he noted.

Continue with us on our journey through MMO blog essays in this week’s Global Chat! On deck is a look at Star Citizen’s alpha, an evaluation of Secret World Legends, and a look at gamers’ “play personalities.”

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First Impressions: Splatoon 2 is a lobby shooter for socializers

After my hands-on at E3 and experience with the first Splatfest demo, I was a little concerned about Splatoon 2. I loved Splatoon 1but something about the E3 Salmon Run fell flat, and after having experienced the full version of Splat 1, I thought that the demo of Splat 2 without customization felt too shallow.

So I was provided a review copy of the game prior to launch, and something still didn’t feel right. While it was good to get in time with the single player mode and prepare me for launch, I figured out what was missing: the real Splatoon community. It’s what gives Splatoon more of an MMO-y feel than most of Nintendo’s other titles.

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Flameseeker Chronicles: Guild Wars 2 One Path Ends is live, plus first impressions of Siren’s Landing

I realise that you were probably expecting some rather excited ramblings that contained my first impressions of the Guild Wars 2 season 3 finale, One Path Ends, to drop the moment the episode became playable, but the structure of my coverage for this episode is a little different than the rest of this season’s articles. This time around, my pre-episode playthrough with the devs was very different: The episode itself remained locked for the playthrough hour and the press accounts were deactivated afterwards to ensure that the finale would be an absolute surprise for everyone involved with no spoilers. We instead had a guided group tour of Siren’s Landing, the new open world zone that holds the bulk of the action in this episode.

In this edition of Flameseeker Chronicles, I’ll share my thoughts on the new zone with you while also talking about the zone’s relative location and basic meta. My full thoughts on the actual episode will come in the next edition without the usual first impressions piece, so you won’t have to wait too long for that if you are not playing for yourself and are living this season vicariously through others! Please note that the article contains meta and zone content spoilers, so read on with caution if you prefer to see that for yourself first.

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Hyperspace Beacon: Star Wars The Old Republic’s mid-term report card

You would probably expect me to cover the new Star Wars: The Old Republic Manaan stronghold because it just released yesterday, and indeed, I will be covering that in my livestream with MJ this afternoon. But if you came here for my elevator-pitch impressions of the new stronghold, I can only say that it is mixed. There are some really great things about the new stronghold and some really bad things about the new stronghold; the base would have a bigger impact if there were visuals connected with it. I will lay that all out in the livestream with MJ.

Here, I would like to give my impressions of where Star Wars: The Old Republic sits in the middle of the year. As always, I like to use the Bartle Taxonomy to see how it appeals to different types of players. Bartle’s archetypes are Socializers, Achievers, Explorers, and Killers. I’ll get more into the details of what that all means in a bit. No one will fit any one of these archetypes 100%, but people will tend to lean heavily into one category or another.

Massively OP writers took a test based on Bartle’s Taxonomy a while back, and although it doesn’t cover everything that players are interested in, I believe it gives a good impression of what players of MMORPGs are looking for. Below, I have pulled apart the key features that each archetype is looking for in SWTOR and measured them with a letter grade scale.

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