SWTOR Early Access is well underway


It’s now Day Two of Early Access for SWTOR, giving the players who pre-ordered a copy of the game an early look at the world of The Old Republic as an MMO. I placed my pre-order the first day it was available, and though I cancelled that order after my beta experience, I still have access to the game (note: always pre-order early – you can always cancel it).

So far my impressions remain essentially what they were with the beta. It seems to me that the game was designed as a single-player experience, surrounded by the conventions of modern MMOs. The best thing about the game remains the IP on which it was based, but I was never one to find a world overrun by Jedi and Sith all that exciting. I prefer my lightsabers few and far between, not one-in-each-hand.

That’s not to say there aren’t good things. I think the Crew Skills system is pretty cool – a little bland at my level but I’m willing to bet it will improve as I level up.

There are a lot of people who love the game, and I’m sure some of you are among that group. What are your experiences so far? Are you playing with a group of friends or just running solo? What’s your favorite part of the game to this point?


Exploring Terraria


I’ve been in the market for a solid new game for some time now, something to keep me occupied while I wait for Diablo 3 or DotA 2. For whatever reason, I fired up Terraria a few days ago and have really been enjoying the game. I know it’s not new. I bought the game a while ago when it was on a $2.50 sale. I had played with it some, but never really got hooked.

I think a big part of my initially cool reaction was the huge barrier to entry on Terraria. The game has a lot of unfamiliar mechanics, a not-so-transparent progression path, not to mention the fact that you’re stepping back in time in terms of graphics.

Those same things can be endearing, though. Once I was able to upgrade my pickaxe, I had fun just trying out some different things without any clear goal. While it doesn’t quite have the same creative, open-world feel as Minecraft, it’s pretty close. Terraria also has the added benefit of a robust item progression and much more extensive crafting options.

If you’re in the same boat I am, check out Terraria. Be prepared for a frustrating first hour or two, but the game really picks up from there. If I could give you one tip, I’d say find iron ore and upgrade that pickaxe as early as possible.


How’s Skyrim treating you?


It’s 11/11/11, which for many of us means a day full of dragon-slaying and tomb-robbing. I thought it might be nice to take a break from all the MOBA talk and see how some RPGs are treating you these days.

I really thought I was going to take a pass on Skyrim. I do love me some dragons, but the gameplay looked essentially the same as Oblivion, and frankly, graphical improvements to a game do little to impress me. In the end, though, the dragons were enough, so I’m playing alongside all of you.

What do you think so far? Personally, I’m feeling a bit ambivalent. Parts of the game are certainly fun. There’s nothing quite like launching a bandit across the room with a well-placed arrow. I still find sneaking to be fairly thrilling, if a little too rewarding. But there are things about the game that I simply wish were more engaging, most notably the combat. Combat has always left a bit to be desired in The Elder Scrolls series, but I thought by number five we’d see some improvement. My biggest problem is that the combat system is pretty much just a spam of clicks or a one-shot sneak attack. Very rarely have I found myself in any sort of mortal danger (although my efforts to kill the friendly Nord who helped me out of Helgen proved futile).

With the shift to console-centric development there has been a noticeable decline in control and menu quality. It’s not that I can’t adapt to these things – I absolutely can – but more that the game takes no advantage of a PC’s particular strengths. Why can I only see a scrolling list of my items or my spells at a time, particularly when they expand from opposite sides of the screen? Why do we not have a better method for displaying some kind of summary of the things we should know about our character?

I do find the open world playstyle very appealing – it’s nice to not have to follow any one quest should I get bored or interested elsewhere. At the same time, it’s still difficult to ignore the ways the open-ended world hamstrings the story behind the game. [ Extremely Minor Spoiler Ahead ] In an early quest, I was tasked with looking for a dragon that had been spotted just outside the town I was in. I was to find it nearby and kill it – an epic task for an early quest, indeed. But I could have postponed the dragon’s demise indefinitely. I could have run off and tried to become a vampire and spent 400 days trying to infect the rest of Skyrim but on day 401 I could still return to my original quest and the dragon would still be there.

The end result of this sort of “pausing” of quest lines is that questing has no real urgency. Nothing is at stake. If I don’t feel ready for the task at hand, either because I’m not strong enough or not interested enough or just want to do some other things, I can spend all the time I need to get ready for the quest. It really trashes my immersion with the game to have that sort of external power of the story.

Nonetheless, I’m enjoying Skyrim. How are you finding it?


HoN is free this week

Heroes of Newerth splash.

This is just a heads up for all you MOBA fans. HoN is celebrating its one year anniversary by offering the game up as free-to-play for the week. If you’re interested in checking out the other mainstream modern MOBA, head over to the website and download the client.

I tried out a quick game this afternoon without much success. My team won, but I’m not entirely sure how or what exactly was going on during the match. I played a lot of Dota so I’ve always been surprised by my inability to make sense of HoN. I think there are a few issues. First, it’s totally unclear what skills do what in the game. One of the champions was puking black stuff all over the screen. Another was casting some sort of slow, which I only knew because I started moving more slowly, not because there was any sort of indicator, and another champion was somehow 3-shotting me at level 8. Remember, we were winning, so I’m not sure how that happened.

Then there’s the store. I had enough trouble with the Dota store, but this one is somehow worse. There’s more happening on the screen without any real explanation of how it works. The recommended items for the character I played didn’t make much sense, at least as far as skill synergy was concerned, and the icons for the items are as indistinguishable as the attributes those items provide.

Maybe I’m getting old, but I don’t want to work in order to learn a game, and I think that’s how HoN feels. I think I could probably come to enjoy the game – after all, I loved Dota – but it would take so much time just to get familiar with the items and champions again that it doesn’t feel worth it. Why a developer would make an exact clone of a game but change the names and styles of every item and character is totally beyond me.


How’s Portal 2 treating you?

Portal 2.

I know I don’t write much about games other than League of Legends or Minecraft, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t on my radar. I kept up with the development of Portal 2 for a while, but once I heard about the length of the game I lost interest. A pair of six hour campaigns is hardly enough to get me to spend $50 on a new game.

There are, of course, custom maps, and I’m curious to see how quickly custom map development will take off. I really loved the first Portal, and I can imagine how fun it would be to keep up with the best custom maps from the community. That’s something I’m willing to pass on for the time being, though. Portal really strikes me as a $20 game that will end up being supported by the community.

Did you snag Valve’s latest on release day? How’s it treating you? Find any cake?


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