Tag Archives: Diablo II

My demon hunter Whisper in Diablo III is one to fear

Diablo3_demonHunter1

Here’s the thing: I’m a sucker for “complete package” versions of videogames, especially in this era of post-game DLC and pre-order bonus bull-doody items and unlocks. This gels well with my high patience stat, meaning I can wait the many months–and sometimes even up to a year or so later–for the games’ developers to realize they need another quick burst of cash-money, thus releasing some kind of Game of the Year edition which packs all the extra bits and bobs in with the main game for one, more often than not, easy-to-swallow price. That said, I’ve still not picked up the latest GOTY versions for Borderlands 2 and Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, but my heart rests easy knowing they are out there; truthfully, it’s all about preservation because, one day, you might not be able to purchase that slice of DLC separately off Xbox Live or PSN if–and I dearly hope not–they no longer exist.

All of those words were written so that I could totally tell you that I picked up Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition over the fine Labor Day weekend, and it was priced nicely at just under $40. Mmm mm good. This package includes the original Diablo III campaign, its expansion Reaper of Souls, and some other new goodies, all of which I’ve never touched up to this point. The PC mouse-driven action RPG has been updated for consoles and console controls, just like how Torchlight was, and I have to say, besides a bit of clumsiness when sifting through inventory menus, it all feels really good and intuitive. Especially the combat, where it matters most. But more on all that in a hot cooldown.

Before you can even begin killing and looting legendary gear in Diablo III, you have to pick from one of six available character classes: the witch doctor, the barbarian, the wizard, the monk, the demon hunter, and the crusader. What is appreciated is that you can play all of these classes as either a man or a woman. I went with a female demon hunter as I’m big on crossbows and rolling away from enemies in these kind of games, and the random name generator eventually came up with Whisper, which I think is the most badass name a demon hunter can claim. In truth, all the other classes seem like a lot of fun (the monk was a close second), but like with Borderlands 2 and Dead Island, I need to just pick one and focus on it all the way to the end.

Well, let’s quickly cover the weakest and easiest to ignore aspect of Diablo III: its story. The game takes place in Sanctuary about twenty years after the events of Diablo II, a game I played a bunch of, but never really got far in, though organizing your inventory was a masochistic joy. Deckard Cain and his niece Leah are in Tristram’s cathedral, investigating a bunch of loose pages from ancient texts regarding yet another ominous prophecy. Then, without warning, a mysterious star falls from the sky and crashes through the Cathedral, creating a deep crater and sucking Deckard Cain down. Evil monsters quickly reveal themselves, and your character is on his or her way to Tristram to see how you can help. It’s good versus evil and pretty generic at best, but at least the voice acting is enjoyable; I’m proud that I rightly recognized Jennifer Hale’s voice for Leah after a minute or two.

But one doesn’t play Diablo III for its novel stab at videogame literature, right? You play to click on things, lot of things. Well, in my case, hit the A button on things, lots of things. And the right trigger a lot, too. The left analog stick moves your character, and the right analog stick is a dodge move for whatever direction you push it in. The face buttons all relate to a skill move, and right now Whisper can drop a handful of caltrops to slow enemies, as well as get herself out of a mob of enemies with some swift gymnastic flips. Right trigger is for my favorite active skill so far–Rapid Fire. This uses up Hatred–regenerating mana for demon hunters, basically–but is able to take out a ton of enemies in one gulp, often revealing a yellow orb for killing at least ten of them and doubling Whisper’s damage for a short window of time. Even though she is using a bow for it, the attack sounds like she’s wielding a machine gun.

I’m still fairly early in Act I, and all I want to do is go home right now and play some more. Yeah, it’s that kind of game, where you’re always close to leveling up or you just found a new weapon or piece of gear and want to see it in action, and before you know what is what, you’re five levels deep in some dank crypt, killing zombies and ghosts and having a blast. Given that this is both Diablo III and its expansion, which offers up Adventure Mode and more, I’ve got plenty of road still to travel with Whisper. Also, I’m using followers, and unlike in Skyrim, I am not 100% hating them, though I still think they could be a bit more proactive in battle and a whole lot less whiny.

Stay tuned for further updates about Whisper and the many denizens of Hell that she’ll be slaughtering…

Hacking and slashing greatly outweigh looting in Hack, Slash, Loot

Don’t let the Skyrim picture above confuse you too much because I’m actually going to talk about a little unassuming game called Hack, Slash, Loot, which I got as part of a recent bundle from Indie Royal. Alas, that game doesn’t do well in terms of screenshots and me throwing stupid text over it, and so I typed in “loot” into Google and found the above. Such is the way the cogs turn behind Grinding Down.

But yeah. Hacking, slashing, and looting. The game promises all three actions, but really only delivers on two, and those two are technically interchangeable, which results in one out of three. I’m not a school teacher, but I know a few, and I can imagine the type of letter grade a score like that would translate into. Despite that and a few other major faults, there are parts that I really do like about David Williamson’s independently developed roguelike that skimps on graphics and strives for missed dice rolls. There’s just something really charming beneath its brutally difficult skin.

Hack, Slash, Loot begins with choices. You have to pick a class, and they range from a Human Saracen to a Woodland Elf Archer. I went with a wizard most of the time. Once you’ve decided who you are, you need to figure out what to do, and there are six different quests to pick from: Journey to the Kimon, Mask of the Boy King, They Dwell Beneath, Dark Hearts and Evil Minds, Battle for Stormrise, and Tower of the Magus. These differ in terms of conflict and goals, but you will ultimately end up in a dungeon, killing monsters and searching for stronger weapons and gear. And each dungeon is randomly generated, making every quest, every adventure, new and unpredictable. In fact, one dungeon spawned my character in a room with two monsters right next to me, which helped to earn me this Steam Achievement:


Wooden Spoon: Die in less than 20 turns

Sweet, delicious failure!

But randomness is good, and it’s one of the reasons that I can go back to Diablo II, Torchlight, Dark Cloud 2, and the grottos in Dragon Quest IX today, in 2012, and still have a fresh experience. The graphics are retro and not distracting, with sprites taking center stage, which makes exploring the grid-based map easy. There isn’t much on the map, just a few candles and coffins, but it all looks good and recognizable. Again, I’m a sucker for this kind of stuff, but gameplay will always trump graphics for me, as it has to be fun to play, otherwise I’m just wasting my days.

That said, there is little loot to look for and the difficulty of Hack, Slash, Loot is more than enough to put someone off–it’s pure frustration. Healing your character does not happen in a conventional way; there are no spells or potions to regain health; instead, you have to loot tombs for scrolls which, may or may not, heal your little hero. This makes taking on more than one enemy at once a very dangerous situations, and I swear my character misses more times than he hits. Same can be said with enemies. It is a lot of missed dice rolls, which does not make for exciting combat; it just then feels luck-based since stats are not as visible as they need to be.

I never really got far in Hack, Slash, Loot, but I had a good time clicking around and trying out different weapons. Ranged weapons like staffs and bows were better for staying alive longer, but it was only time before I ran out of health. It was something to do while hanging out in bed, dog-sitting and watching Frasier. I just might go back again and hope that the next random dungeon is better suited…

The Annals of Halgren slaughter goblins for an hour in Icewind Dale II

Well, now I can say I’ve played two Forgotten Realms videogames, and both turned out pretty uninspiring in my eyes. Which is strange, given the wide berth of fiction and fantasy they can draw from. I just don’t know. Maybe if I had played Icewind Dale II when it actually came out in 2002, back when I was eating up Diablo II and Commander & Conquer: Red Alert by the handful in my college dorm deep into early hours of the morning, I might have fallen madly in love with its high levels of customization and general openness. But it was not meant to be.

Anyways, click this very sentence to see how the first hour of Icewind Dale II panned out for me and my adventuring band.

At some point, I’ll be trying out The Temple of Elemental Evil, too…since it came free with my purchase of the game at hand. So long as there is less goblin-slaughtering in the first sixty minutes, I’ll be pleased.

Dungeons of Dredmor hides its death behind doors

A new type of article is slowly going to be popping up over at The First Hour, and it’s called Indie Impression. I’m sleepy and still need way more coffee in me, so instead of describing it in my own words, I’ll just use Greg Noe’s:

Welcome to Indie Impression, a brand new type of article for 2012. As the name implies, these articles will be impressions on some of the numerous indie games that have been rapidly appearing recently. We here have built ourselves very large collections through cheap package deals via Steam, Humble Bundle, Indie Royale, and more. Some have amazing production values, some don’t. Some are incredibly fun, some aren’t. But without question, these indie games generally offer creativity vastly beyond anything you’ll find in mainstream gaming and will likely be the main driver behind industry innovation for a long time.

And as our indie backlogs have grown exponentially, we’ve decided to start sorting through our games and trying them out to get a good impression of each. To add credibility to our impressions, we will try to have at least two people play each game until they feel they have a solid, concrete opinion for writing. Impressions may be from ten minutes of gaming to ten hours, but in this case, we feel like it’s important enough to have multiple strong opinions on each game. With that out of the way, let’s continue to our very first candidate, Dungeons of Dredmor.

Basically, all those countless indie games we’ve been acquiring over the years are going to get some coverage, but not simply first hour reviews. Quicker coverage. A lump sum of impressions and thoughts. Fine by me, as I’ve struggled lately to sit down and take notes for an hour as I play new games. This was more off-the-cuff writing, which is to my liking.

However, I was saddened to discover that, upon the purchase of the indie bundle that contained Dungeons of Dredmor, I was unable to play it on my flailing Macbook. I recently blew my Christmas bonus (keep it clean, kids) on a new Windows-based laptop, and can now run a ton of games I once could not. It’s exhilarating and also kind of funny to watch me get excited over the fact that I now have a computer that can run Diablo II at a decent clip. Yeah. Which is good, because if I’m going to play a dungeon-crawler, I’m probably gonna play one that doesn’t kill me immediately after I go through a door.

Just read my impressions on Dungeons of Dredmor.

It’s been suggested that I give the tutorial a spin, which I might…but not in the near future. I can see why many like this type of masochistic RPGing, but it’s not clicking with me.

Games Completed in 2011, #9 – Torchlight

Back in the day, ranging somewhere between my senior year of high school and my sophomore year of college, I played a lot of Diablo and Diablo II. However, I never beat either game, and constantly restarted new characters. My absolute favorite aspect of these now legendary dungeon-crawlers was organizing my inventory. See, Diablo and Diablo II strived for a more realistic inventory system, meaning if you couldn’t fit it in your bag with your dozen of other goodies, well…you’re not taking it with you. Simple as that. Here, let me show you:

Oh man. That image is beyond delicious. It’s like a puzzle minigame!

Anyways, I mention this because Torchlight, despite being heavily influenced by its Diablo big brothers, does not support this kind of inventory. At least not in the XBLA version. PC players get to enjoy this deliciousness:

Instead, us Xbox 360 doods get lists. Lists after lists after lists. Many of which are unreadable. And that makes it difficult to even determine if your character is fully armed. Oh boy.

What’s the story? Well, it all revolves around a mysterious ore called Ember, which is the essence of magic, as well as the keystone in alchemy. Deep below the small excuse for a town called Torchlight, miners dig, searching for the coveted ore. However, these miners quickly discover that there’s more below Torchlight than shiny, special rocks: a dangerous labyrinth of caverns and ruined civilizations, brimming with monstrous creatures. Evil begins to surface, and a champion is needed. Players can pick between three classes–Destroyer, Alchemist, or Vanquisher–and then begin slaughtering evil enemies, collecting loot, defeating bosses, and progressing further below the town. It’s a pretty typical storyline, with 100% shallow characters; in fact, the most creative character exists only to hand out sidequests, and yes, I’m talking about Trill-Bot 4000, that one-man band/aspiring bard/robot. Why can’t I have him as a pet?!

Like its Diablo brothers, Torchlight‘s greatest appeal is its loot. Killing special enemies drops a ton of gear, most of which will need identifying scrolls to truly get, and it’s an addicting thing. Grabbing loot, selling loot, grabbing loot, harboring unwearable loot for later–it’s truly what drove me forward, the promise of an even better staff for my Alchemist. What’s also nice is that, much like Dragon Quest IX, you can see everything your character is wearing or wielding, which gives reason for trying out a lot of odd gear. The graphics are colorful and cartoony, taking a page from World of Warcraft, and they seem right at place in Torchlight‘s less than serious world.

And now let’s discuss what I passionately disliked about Torchlight. We’ll start small. Whenever your pet loses all its health, it will flee from battle until it heals itself. You know this is happening because the voiceover dude goes, “Your pet is fleeing.” He says it even flatter than I’ve typed it. The problem is, sometimes your party is surrounded by enemies, meaning your pet is fleeing from one group to another, and the voiceover guy will just not shut up. “Your pet is fleeing,” he says, and then nine seconds later he says it again. Oh, is it? WELL, FLEE ALREADY THEN! GO AWAY! Sheesh.

I also discovered a sharp increase in difficulty from the Black Palace (levels 31-34) to when you have to fight the final boss in the Lair of Ordak (level 35). Playing on Normal difficulty, I have never died until then, and rarely had to use health potions as my Alchemist knew a Heal All spell which did the job just fine. However, towards the end, I found myself guzzling bottles of red faster than probably possible.

Lastly, my biggest gripe about Torchlight is its love for tiny text. Most of the dialogue between characters is readable, but when a weapon or special piece of gear comes jam-packed with abilities, the text drops to really tiny, making it hard to figure out what is what. Does that armor require my defense skill to be 27 or 29? It gets even worse if you try to compare it with another piece of armor in your inventory. I ended up selling most of my gear because I couldn’t read what it did. At the top left corner of all items is either a green dot, a red dot, or both. Green means it is greatly better than what you’re currently using; red is worse; and green plus red means it’s a mix of both. I used this as my guideline on what to wear, what to sell. A shame really, as I know I missed out on a lot of strong purple-colored loot.

Hate tiny text, too? Good news for you then! I’m working on an article about it for The First Hour. Stay tuned, fellow blind people.

So, is Torchlight worth getting on consoles? I’d say no. It’s a good game, but better suited for a mouse and keyboard, as well as a screen mere centimeters from your face.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Borderlands

After a short and lighthearted cutscene, Borderlands is off and running, having you pick your character class. There’s four of ’em, and each relates to typical archetypes a la Diablo II such as the assassin and rogue and tank. I, however, decided to pick Roland, the Soldier class. This is rather surprising and I’ll tell you why: I’m always, hands-down, 100% of the time attracted to stealthy characters. In BioShock, I quickly fell in love and never let go of the plasmid that turns you invisible when standing still. Also, in Fallout 3, one of the first things I did on my very first playthrough was acquire the ninja assassin suit that, more or less, turns you completely invisible. In Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, I would literally hide in the grass for up to twenty minutes, making sure I got enemy movement patterns down and taking extreme caution in every move I made. The boss battle against The End was simply a bowl full of sushi with extra bliss sauce on top.

Case in point: I like taking my time in a gunfight and planning accordingly so as to not ever actually engage with the enemy, but simply take it down hard and fast from a distance. You’d think then that I’d have picked the Siren, a woman all about sniper rifles and phasing in and out the world. But no, I went for the Soldier. Wanted to try playing a game differently for once, and I’m really pleased so far with how it’s turned out.

So, the first chunk of missions are more or less a tutorial, but they do well to teach you the mechanics of the game, and pretty soon the fights begin to intensify, the loot becomes better and plentiful, and the quest log starts to fill up. I played for about two hours last night, got up to level 7, and finished off the first boss, Nine-Toes (also, he has had three balls).

I think the game looks amazing. Rarely has a cel-shaded game ever let me down, and the way the background blurs as you zoom in with your fire-starting pistol is a beautiful touch. The thick outlines and bright character colors contrasting with the drab Fallout 3-like setting make for an eye-grabbing mix. The draw distance isn’t terribly great though like in the newest Prince of Persia where you can see far and wide and it all looks rock solid. And the menu presentation is slick and easy to navigate, which is pretty crucial when it’s all about looting.

My only hesitation so far is in figuring out which weapon is better, and whether or not I should hold on to it or sell it for money. Here’s a helpful tweet tip from fellow Borderlander Greg Noe: It’s good to know about weapon rareness: white > green > blue > purple > orange

Other than that, I just got to the point where I’ve taken on multiple quests at once and have the freedom to explore them at will. Love the challenge log, too, which are like mini Achievements that give you tasks and reward you with experience points. Makes sense to me. Anyways, can’t wait to head back to Pandora tonight!