The Elder Scrolls Online is finally, officially, a thing (MMORPG)

Have a popular RPG franchise? Make it an MMORPG and keep making revenue past the initial purchase! Cynicism aside, I’m super excited for this. I’ve loved the Elder Scrolls games since Morrowind. I find the game world and setting to be the perfect blend between high and dark fantasy, hitting the sweet spot in my fantasy-nerd taste.

Game Informer had the exclusive details on this and revealed their cover for the June magazine. The Elder Scrolls online is being developed by ZeniMax Online Studios, a studio from Bethesda’s parent company, ZeniMax. Read the Game Informer link for more exclusive details.

Be sure to check out the Game Informer exclusive tomorrow, when a teaser trailer will be unveiled, along with the first screenshot of the game following in the afternoon. I’ll be sure to post them here, as well, as soon as I see them!

My Path of Exile / Diablo III Conundrum

With the Diablo III beta coming to a close earlier today, I felt it a fitting time as ever to give my thoughts on Diablo III (more specifically, the limited beta content) and how it relates to my recent-found fondness for Path of Exile.

For those out of the loop, Path of Exile is a free-to-play, isometric, action RPG by Grinding Gear Games that is currently in closed beta. I feel like I have to give that little “what is” spiel every time I mention Path of Exile because it seems PoE is being unfortunately overshadowed by the Diablo III launch hype. It’s a shame really, because I think the people who would enjoy PoE the most are the same people who played the Diablo II ladder for all these years leading up to Diablo III. PoE is a straight up, no holds barred, homage to the Diablo II era of isometric, hack’n’slash, role-playing games. There are times when I’m playing PoE that I have to seriously stop, do a double-take, and say to myself “yep, they just did that,” as I note something that is a whole-hog taken from Diablo II and implemented slickly into PoE. Some quick, off the top of my head examples are the UI, the inventory (item tetris…with no auto-arrange), and the overlay map (why did you change this Blizzard?!). At the same time, PoE isn’t just a rehash of Diablo II; there are plenty of new additions, innovations, and sharpening of mechanics that make PoE a worthy alternative to Diablo II or Diablo III. The combat feels super tight and the flow of enemies as you venture into unexplored areas seems endless at some points; you never really feel safe. The skill system is unique, in that your abilities/skills are encased in color-coded gems that you socket into your items at will. These gems level independently (as long as they’re in a socket and the item is equipped) from your character, and from what I’ve seen so far, are mainly retrieved through quest rewards. And of course, the thing that sticks out to me the most about PoE is the robust skill tree.

The skill tree in PoE is absolutely breathtaking. It is easy for people to dismiss the PoE skill tree as “just a bunch of boring passive stat gains,” but I think that’s sidestepping the point. If you’re an RPG gamer like me, you live off the stat changes, passive skills, and advancement of your character being dictated by player choice. I don’t care what the hype says, Diablo III has less choice than Diablo II had and drastically less than PoE has. I’m not saying this is an objectively bad or good thing, I’m just stating it and I think people should accept it like I have. The counter-argument is that the “choices you do make (in Diablo III) are more exciting and noticeable.” I’ll humor that argument, but it can’t be proven until May 15th. The Diablo III beta was just too small of a vertical-slice of content and levels to actually see any of the intricate skill/rune builds play out.  Maybe I’ll take back all I’m saying a month from now. Maybe I’m just a sucker for skill-trees and the visual representation of choice and advancement that Diablo III has removed.

I’ve been in both Diablo III and PoE closed betas for about equal time, and I have definitely put the majority of the time between them into PoE. Despite Diablo III having obviously less content unlocked, I still believe my time spent in PoE is telling of how I feel about the games. I’ve barely scratched the surface of PoE, having yet to dive into any of the advanced “Leagues” or get a character past the level 15-20 range, yet I’m already sold on this game. My first play-through of the Diablo III beta left me with the epitome of “meh” in my gut. There was nothing grossly wrong with it, but I think I was just expecting something more. I’m a strong believer of judging a game by what it is, not what it is not, and with that in mind, Diablo III should be a fantastic game and I’ll definitely be taking advantage of my WoW Annual Pass free copy of Diablo III come the 15th of May, but I’m extremely interested to see how I feel about it, especially next to PoE, after the “meh” taste it has left in my mouth.

JamesPlaysGames – Warhammer Online: Wrath of Heroes

I have a love/hate relationship with Wrath of Heroes. Some days I’ll hop in for a quick match and have a great time and see the potential in its “MOBA-meets-MMORPG” battlegrounds. Other days, or even the next match I play, can swing my mood to frustration as I focus on the simplicity and what seems like a lack of depth in this game. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve seen the game grow so much throughout the beta. My pride for what the developers have done in a little time is making me cheer for the game from the sidelines. The in-game UI has made leaps and bounds and the menu-art and layout is phenomenal in my opinion. Maybe it’s the fact that I really enjoyed Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning  that is making me want Wrath of Heroes to pick up where WAR left off. I want it to do well, so in some weird back-handed way it may help draw new players to its MMORPG counterpart.

Path of Exile Beta Key

I joined this beta very recently, and soon after got another code. I figured I would pass it on.

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It’s obviously a one-time use code, so if you used it successfully please comment or tell me on Twitter (@jamest1080). If you don’t know what Path of Exile is, I definitely recommend checking out the site and getting a feel for what PoE brings to the “diablo-clone”  genre.

EDIT: Key should be used and done now. Have fun!

Lineage Eternal (Lineage 3) is a thing, and I want to play it

Almost immediately after the announcement that Lineage 2 would be going from a monthly subscription model to free-to-play, NCsoft announces Lineage Eternal at a pre-G-Star press conference. Going back to the franchise’s roots, Lineage Eternal brings the camera back to a 3D isometric perspective (yes, Lineage started as an isometric MMORPG — before you call “Diablo 3 clone” foul) with an emphasis on more action oriented combat, as well as a rather ingenious addition of “skill-shot” abilities, pretty much straight from your favorite MOBA/DOTA genre game. These abilities are activated and unleashed via a real-time swipe or circular motion of your mouse cursor, making a 1:1 correlation to where and what your attack will do. I love how NCsoft has taken a nod from both touchscreen gaming and MOBA games, and without making it a forced gimmick, implemented it into another type of game, or another platform, in the case of “swipe gaming.” It’s always irked me how people bow to the gods of Apple for touch/swipe gaming, when the mouse has been doing this for years, despite most developers not capitalizing on it in a relevant way.

I highly advise you to take 14 minutes and watch the gameplay preview video of Lineage Eternal embedded above. I really just want to get my hands on this game and see how this beast controls, but based on the video alone, my long-standing (but hibernating) love with the Lineage franchise is definitely piqued, again.

Just Finished: Warhammer 40,000 – Space Marine

In the midst of my “what game do I play today” shuffling, I managed to beat Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine.  I enjoyed my time in it, mainly because the combat is just unadulterated gory fun, but I would be lying if I didn’t say that I was ready for it to be over before it was over. It kind of made me realize that I feel this way about most shooters and their single-player campaign. Without some sort of RPG or leveling mechanic in a game that is combat focused, it leaves you with basically all grind and no rewards. In single-player RPGs, I don’t mind the combat grinding, because I know it’s all going towards my character’s progression and will make the future combat more enjoyable with more abilities or items at my disposal. In Space Marine, I just kind of felt like I was going through combat rooms over and over, just to see the next one, and eventually the last boss.

The only reason I can look past the repetition and waves of mindless AI combatants is because Relic Entertainment completely nailed two aspects of the game: the graphics/art design and the combat. The graphical fidelity and art design is superb. Relic Entertainment knows a thing or two about making Warhammer 40,000 games and has become the master at expressing the table-top iconic units and world in video game form. Being Relic’s first foray out of RTS games since “The Outfit” in 2006, I think they completely knocked the combat out of the park. The feeling of picking off waves of Greenskins with your Bolter and slicing down Chaos with your Chain Sword is exhilarating.

The Good:

  • Combat is fun
  • Graphical fidelity and art design is excellent
  • They nail the ranged/melee hybrid combat
The Bad:
  • Level design is a bit dull, both in flow and art assets
  • Without any real character progression, combat gets repetitive as story drags on
The Other:
  • Enemies love to remind you who and what you are: “SPAAAAACE MARINNNESSSS!”
  • If you’re getting the sound-stuttering problem, alt+tab and set spacemarine.exe’s priority to “High” in the Task Manager. Fixed it right up, for me.