Tag Archives: Diablo

Your Dungeon-Looting Preference: Part Two

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Over the last several months I’ve been trying Tom Clancy’s: The Division on and off, and with Destiny 2 coming along I guess I can talk about loot-oriented action RPGs again. I might have use for a new one, but I think I’m conflicted about The Division. Continue reading

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Video Game Anniversaries That Will Occur in 2016

Here it is — the list of what gaming-related anniversaries I found are taking place in 2016. This year is a big one too. A lot of major franchises are celebrating major anniversaries, to the point where some other websites have already taken notice. Red Bull in particular is totally on it. Many publishers of these major games have already begun to mark the anniversaries with new game releases too.

Part of this is because 2016 marks a major anniversary for at least two past console cycle transitions. This year it will have been 15 years since 2001, which was not only when the Gamecuube and original Xbox launched, but also when the PS2 received an absolutely monstrous lineup that included the beginnings of some franchises and major entries in others. 20 years ago was 1996 which was a transformative year in 3D video game design — three of the most influential 3D games came out that year. 1991, 1986, and 1981 also saw some major beginnings and landmarks a lot of people might not notice today. Continue reading

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The Much-Needed Parody in a Sea of Loot RPGs

Earlier this year I’d gotten myself into the mood for dungeon crawlers in anticipation for the PC release of Dark Souls. As I noted in previous posts, it’s also been a year for loot games. Under these circumstances I decided to finally install DeathSpank just to see what that game was all about.

I first tried the demo on Xbox Live Arcade back when it first came out a couple years ago. Back then my main thought was “oh, they finally figured out how to make a Diablo clone work on a controller – make it play like a brawler.” By the time I was prepared to buy the game it had showed up on a Steam sale for probably $8 or something like that. Knowing that this game would probably be buried in my Steam backlog as soon as I started Torchlight II, I decided to go ahead and install it a few weeks ago and at least play some of it.

I think DeathSpank was initially seen as the much-needed parody to put perspective on how ridiculously unrealistic western RPG quest systems are. DeathSpank is the game that actually tries to answer the question “what kind of person would go around willingly helping literally anyone who has a problem?” I try so hard not to be that guy in every other RPG I’ve played this gen, often to no avail. With DeathSpank it’s at least refreshing to not have to worry about the storyline’s believability. The writing is also indeed very good, but that was to be expected. When a well-written parody game actually has good gameplay underneath is what’s usually surprising.

Call it the western equivalent to 3D Dot Game Heroes if you will. DeathSpank is both a sound hack n’ slash as well as adventure game that asked a bit more of me as a player than I expected, even compared to, say, the first Torchlight.

When I installed this game on PC I expected the PC controls to pretty much be like Torchlight or Diablo – just click on everything while occasionally pressing space or something. DeathSpank’s console roots demand a bit more keyboard use than those games, with blocking (space bar) and quick item use (number keys) as core necessities of the game. That already makes the core combat system more involving for people who don’t like how Diablo is essentially “Click on Stuff: the Game.” I personally appreciate that kind of simplicity and intuitiveness in a game’s interface, but different strokes I guess.

Mechanically DeathSpank is otherwise a complete example of one of these kinds of games. What else caught me off guard early on though was how much the game plays around with its quests. A lot of it is indeed “go here, kill this thing, find this item, clear this dungeon,” but almost as much consists of real dialogue tree engagement and item negotiation. Having to buy a taco from a vendor with a specific set of ingredients you had to write down is the kind of mental challenge you just don’t see in video games anymore.

Lastly I’ll admit that I really like the visual style of DeathSpank. These dungeon-click games commonly have deliberately modest graphics to keep them accessible to a wide variety of computers, but DeathSpank plays this up in its art direction. The whole game kind of looks like a pop-up book, with almost everything other than character models rendered as flat objects standing on top of a world that rotates Animal Crossing-style.

Between Torchlight II, Diablo III, Borderlands 2, Path of Exile, and probably a lot more, not to mention what already came out before this year, this generation’s saturation of the loot RPG will probably leave something like DeathSpank and its sequel buried. That doesn’t really stop it from being a worthy game, and if nothing else, a necessary spin on the subgenre.

BULLETS:

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Why is There Not a Definitive Portable Loot RPG Yet?

Over the last few weeks a couple news stories have made the rounds that to me bring attention to a sorely underrepresented genre in portable gaming. Blizzard now admits that it had a Game Boy version of Diablo in the works around a decade ago, and Gearbox won’t rule out a PlayStation Vita version of Borderlands 2. My question is, why hasn’t there been a definitive portable loot-based RPG yet?

One of the main complaints against the Vita and the PSP before it is that every console game doesn’t work well in the handheld environment. For the most part, RPGs are an exception, and the genre has thrived on handhelds ever since Pokémon, but why not this particular style of RPG?

On top of RPGs, one of the things handhelds are good at providing is fast-paced, addictive gaming. Games like Diablo and Torchlight fit this to a tee. I’m not even just talking about Nintendo and Sony handhelds here either. I’m shocked there isn’t even a good Diablo rip-off available on iOS or anything.

What do we have so far? Heroes of Ruin for the 3DS (which I haven’t heard great things about), Soma Bringer for the DS which I don’t think ever came out in English, Heroe’s Call for iOS, and maybe a few other obscure mobile games. The only franchise that seems to be making any real effort at this is Phantasy Star, with multiple entries on the PSP and DS which have ranged from good to fantastic.

Sega has been making all the right moves with Phantasy Star Online 2 – not just making it free-to-play, but also developing free clients for the Vita and mobile devices. Even if the mobile version can’t take you online it’ll still be nice to have as a companion app to grind your character when you’re away from other machines. Why can’t Diablo or Torchlight have something like that?

The fact that touch screen interfaces are now the norm in handheld gaming makes them even better-suited to loot RPGs. Instead of a game where you constantly click on stuff you’d just tap on stuff all the time. With some adjustments I bet an original RPG like this would work fine.

The best reason I can think of for this void is the lack of attention the western developers who make most of these games give to traditional handhelds. For most kinds of games I could understand the weak hardware being an issue, but most loot RPGs, Diablo and Torchlight in particular, are already technically modest games made to run on a wide range of computers. At the very least they could easily make a portable game with graphics resembling Diablo II, and it would look just fine.

Maybe they only care about iOS and Android when it comes to portables now. Okay, the only roadblock I see there is the price ceiling. I’m sure if they could get away with a $40 or $60 iOS game someone like Blizzard would’ve tried this. A little lower and I don’t see why Runic games wouldn’t try it. I guess Sega really did have the right idea by going F2P with PSO2.

Maybe developers are just too risk-averse to try it, but I still don’t think there’s any reason to NOT try it. At this point I really hope PSO2 becomes a hit on the Vita and mobile so that just maybe it can spark a trend. It seems like a powder-keg of a genre really – all it’ll take is one breakout hit.

BULLETS:

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Your Dungeon-Looting Preference

In order to get my index finger in shape while deciding whether to buy Diablo III I’ve finally gotten started on Torchlight – two years (I think) after buying it on a Steam sale. I ended up waiting so long because I feel like I’m saddled with way too many games of its ilk.

For the last few years, the loot-driven game has become all the rage in RGPs – strangely on both the western and Japnaese sides. Y’know, games where nearly the entire driving force is the thrill you get upon finding a slick halberd or helmet and selling the rest of the crap. Those games are great, but I can only really devote myself to one at a time.

I don’t know if anyone else feels like this, but I think we hit a saturation point for this kind of game a while ago. Maybe that’s already tapering off, but it’s still left behind a pretty serious backlog for people like me.

At the time I got Torchlight I think I was already on or about to get on Phantasy Star Zero – which many proclaimed was the true successor to Phantasy Star Online. Personally I enjoyed it a lot – my favorite action RPG combat (before Demon’s Souls) was back, the loot drops were as compelling as ever, and it was all on a handheld now… until I picked up Phantasy Star Portable 2 on a half-off deal. That game felt like a proper advancement on top of the PSO design, but for some reason there’s still nothing like the original, which miraculously came back on homebrew servers. Even today I still log into PSO’s SCHTHACK servers every now and again, especially since they just released a massive client update. The price for that though is a line of abandoned dungeons and characters in my wake.

This is exactly the reason why I haven’t bought Borderlands, don’t plan to, and have passed up numerous Steam sales for the game. It’s probably a very good game, and a co-op loot-based shooter is something I’ve wanted to see for a while, but I don’t need one more of that kind of game.

Even now I’m deciding what to do after finishing this blog – log back into PSO, or boot up Torchlight. Just starting up Steam drew my attention to this new little game called Hack, Slash, Loot.

Finally getting into Torchlight, I can definitely feel the craftsmanship Runic put into this game. Having never played previous Diablo games, I can tell this is of some highly refined game design which I guess has been enough to draw me into Torchlight. If this is a hint of what I’ll find in the big DIII then I’ll definitely consider getting it.

On the other hand, for some reason I still can’t get over the sense of desire that Sonic Team still manages to illicit in Phantasy Star. With everything going on on-screen in Torchlight, each new drop you get just feels like a bunch of numbers to me. If I happen to finally find a red lightsaber in PSO though, it genuinely lights up my gameplay experience. It’s probably a less advanced game than what I might get from Runic or Blizzard, but everything in it feels more personal somehow.

Most people are probably gonna drop everything else when DIII hits. I still don’t know yet as I have a strange feeling I’d be stepping into something way out of my depth. If Sega can get us an English version of Phantasy Star Online 2 though, that will definitely be my game.

BULLETS:

  • I can’t be the only person who keeps having 240 Microsoft points in change left over. Somebody’s gonna tell me the best way to spend those points every time this happens. This is one thing that’s better about PlayStation Network: they tell you how much it actually costs and only transfer the exact required amount of money to your account.
  • “You won’t like me when I’m angry. Becase I always back up my rage with facts and documented sources.” – The Credible Hulk
  • Had no idea they were making another Total Recall.
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