Tag Archives: loot

Your Dungeon-Looting Preference: Part Two

the-division-gameplay-1024x576

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

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Late To The Party: Monster Hunter

1366582883252mh3

I actually tried out Monster Hunter 3 once when it first came out on the Wii, but the game ended up requiring a bit more dedication than I was willing to fit into my rental. After having fully bought the 3DS version through a deal I can give a legit try at a franchise that has transformed the Japanese game market and has probably been Capcom’s most successful throughout this past console generation.

First though I’m gonna bring attention to the apparently little-known pluses of Nintendo’s handling of digital distribution which allowed me to get this game basically for free.

I ended up taking advantage of Club Nintendo’s deal earlier this year which got me $30 in eShop credit for buying and registering copies of Shin Megami Tensei IV and Fire Emblem: Awakening, the latter of which I’d already bought and the former of which I was considering anyway. A few weeks later, if you don’t know, Capcom put the digital 3DS and Wii U versions of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate on sale for half-price. I had just enough of that free credit left to add to my pile of free Club Nintendo games what seems to be a seriously thick game that came out just this past spring.

The first time I tried MH3 out on the Wii, I stopped after realizing that I’d put six hours into the game and had not hunted a single monster — not performed the titular activity of the game. I guess you can’t really rent this game because it has a fairly long learning curve. After nine hours over the course of three days however, I think I’m starting to see the hooks that have caused some people to spend over 300 hours playing this game.

I type this after having spent an hour running around gathering herbs and mushrooms for potions to use while fighting dinosaurs so I can carve up their carcasses and then mine ore in order to forge new armor so I’ll have a better chance against even bigger dinosaurs. At a glance of that description you might want to call MH a sort of Diablo-a-like or a loot-gathering RPG but I think it goes a bit further than that.

My nickname for Monster Hunter would probably be “Resource Gathering: The Game.”

Basically, Capcom captivated a whole national market of gamers by figuring out how to make the act of gathering resources fun in and of itself. When you analyze it, it really gets down to the central appeal of almost all console gaming.

Again, at a glance, resource-gathering is usually the busywork part of a game, or at best represents the chains of addiction, but it’s almost never the focal point of a game’s feedback loop by itself. The core of console gaming is getting feedback from pressing buttons right? You press the A button to make Mario jump, or the right trigger to shoot your gun in Call of Duty. Well, in MH you press A to cut into the flesh of a fresh kill to get a little jingle representing the reptile hide or bone you just acquired. I mean, you are using those items for stuff somewhere down the line, but that stuff is just to let you kill more stuff and then press A to cut it up. That’s Monster Hunter from what I’ve deduced so far.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m also impressed with everything else Capcom has done to make MH a visibly balanced and polished game. I appreciate how each weapon has its own fighting style with its own animations you have to learn, how actions like eating or setting traps have specific animations you have to plan for when a Tyrannosaurus is chasing you down, and other mechanics like having to hunt and cook food on the field in order to maintain your stamina. That along with various strategies like baiting, trapping, and tracking monsters makes MH a truly deep game. I appreciate the presence of an actual challenging system I have to sit down and learn while it’s drawing me in with a tactile feedback loop.

And yeah, it does take a few hours to slide into MH. You spend those first few hours pretty much just grabbing up herbs and crap. Zero Punctuation’s review of the Wii version pretty much paints what the experience is like if you decide to quit before hunting an actual monster — probably a pretty accurate representation of what 99 percent of a fantasy adventurer’s life is actually like. You grab plants, cook food, fish — things that sound absolutely boring when described to you. It’s actually kind of funny how disappointing it is when you’re gathering shells at the bottom of a lake and a massive sea dragon shows up only for the game to calmly usher you away telling you that you gotta grab up way more crap before you’re ready to take that dude on. Eventually though the game does put you on a quest to kill an actual monster. I think things started to click for me when, after bringing in the haul from that kill, I realized I was one piece of iron ore away from building special armor out of that monster’s skin.

One of the things that’s impressed me the most about MH3 and helps bring the whole thing together is how it manages to maintain 60 frames per second most of the time on the 3DS. That helps the interface, including carving-up-animals part (PETA isn’t all over this game yet is it?), feel smooth and responsive. It also continues to reinforce my belief that 60fps DOES make things look better just from a simple fluidity standpoint.

If I bought a Wii U I would definitely make that version an eventual purchase (what with the cross-compatible save files and all). Partly it would be to have a right analog stick (I’ve been able to manage without it on the 3DS), partly it would be to play the game in 1080p, and partly it would be to have actual multiplayer.

That brings me to what continues to be the fatal flaw of Monster Hunter in countries that don’t have Japan’s population density — the impossibility of local multiplayer. I didn’t buy any of the PSP MH games because I knew I’d never be able to play multiplayer, only eventually trying out the Wii version because of online. At least I was able to get the 3DS version basically for free and at least I might one day transfer my data to the Wii U version and then play that online. For now MH3 is an engaging enough game played solo. I just hope I don’t get into any situations like Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker where a boss ends up being unreasonably hard without four players and you have no online co-op capability. At some point Japan needs to get the message that these handheld games built on local co-op that MH inspired don’t really work outside Japan.

Overall, I don’t know if MH3 is my favorite game ever or anything. It I let it, the game probably could suck up a serious amount of time from me. It’s just a matter of seeing if I continue to think about MH after I’ve gone back to other games.

BULLETS:

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

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:

Tagged , , , , ,

The Loot RPGs of 2012

A little while ago I talked about the saturation of loot RPGs over the last few years and actually suggested it was tapering off a bit. Not really, since we’ve got half a dozen either coming out or coming out of beta this year.

The problem I noted last time still stands – I can really only devote myself to one of these kinds of games at a time. Given that, it seems even more ludicrous that other developers are daring to release their loot RPGs in the same year as Diablo III.

How many fans of these games do they expect to really divert attention to Torchlight II, Borderlands 2, Path of Exile, Guild Wars 2, and Lineage Eternal this year? The first Torchlight seemed to have been made specifically to tide people over until DIII, and now Runic is in a bit of disarray because DIII is launching sooner than they expected it would.

I mean, I’m interested in these other games but only because I have no history with the Diablo franchise and want to wait until I can get a trial or something for DIII. I don’t have that loyalty to Blizzard (I haven’t played any of their games since 2000) so I’m at least willing to give the others a shot depending on timing.

The only one of these games that feels like it’s going to come out of beta during the summer drought (in North America) is Torchlight II, and finally looking at footage has actually got me genuinely interested in it. I’m surprised at how different it looks from the first game. I don’t know how I’ll stack up in multiplayer situations in this or DIII though.

Path of Exile looks like it might go into a more open beta this summer and it’s almost the only one of these games that’s free-to-play, so that one is at least easy to try out and looks interesting. The graphics are especially impressive compared to all the competitors that have gone for art over tech. I hear PoE is even still just as easy to run as Torghlight II.

The real outlier that actually seems like it has a chance is Borderlands 2. All the other ones look very similar, right down to the red and blue orbs at the bottom of the HUD. Borderlands 2 on the other hand is a loot-driven shooter that will actually launch with a console version. Whether or not I’ll play it depends on what else is coming out in September which right now is just Far Cry 3.

The other major outlier is Phantasy Star Online 2. It’s the one franchise here that commands the most personal loyalty from me, but it’s also the only one that’s not being released in English right now. I’m starting to think that Sega is focusing on Japan right now so their game won’t get squashed by all the other competition. Personally I would recommend they release a console version since that’s where PSO started, and only Borderlands is also doing a console version right now (DIII and Torchlight II probably eventually). There’s a lot less competition in that market for this kind of game. One big reason I’m especially attracted to PSO2 though is because it’s the only game here attempting a handheld version down the line.

Just beating the first Torchlight actually got me in the mood to start playing Mage Gauntlet on my iPhone again. Whenever I’m away from home and can’t play Torchlight, PSO, or Demon’s Souls, I tend to play Mage Gauntlet because that’s the closest equivalent I’ve been able to find for my phone. I hear that for hack n’ slash loot action, Dungeon Hunter 2 is basically it, and I think that’s a real problem.

The iOS version of PSO2 is going to be a kind of companion app – you’ll be able to bring your character down to a single player experience similar to the main game. It’s just something to do in the game while on-the-go, which would be awesome for Torchlight and Diablo. That’s not even mentioning the PlayStation Vita version of PSO2 that actually will have cross-play with the PC version.

The main factor influencing which of these games I decide to devote time to and when I play them however is how I view them as products in the grand scheme of things. I don’t know how many people dedicate hours at a time to Diablo but I mainly see all these games as really advanced time-wasters.

It was hard to play more than maybe 30 minutes of Torchlight at a time – it seemed more like a comfort-foot game with actual deep mechanics, and I already have plenty of those. DIII seems to me like the game you play every weekend instead of Team Fortress 2 or Modern Warfare. I don’t know if I can go back to the days of spending three hours trying to find one sword in PSO.

BULLETS:

  • So at some point the guys who made Super Crate Box made (or are still making) some kind of hip-hop inspired first person shooter in the style of DOOM, and I’m trying to figure out how to get my hands on it. Something to do with a kickstarter that’s already funded.
Tagged , , , , ,

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.
Tagged , , , , , , , ,