Saturday, July 21, 2012

Time moves forward. Nothing changes

Anyone who knows me at all probably knows I don't play that many single player games. At least in the last couple of years anyway. I just cannot find the reasons to justify spending $40+ dollars on a game that will more than likely disappoint me, especially after the likes of Rage, Bulletstorm and Crysis 2. While Skyrim was the latest single player game I actively looked forward to, played (extensively) and actually enjoyed, occurrences like this are more the exception than the rule. Maybe I'm just a fussy bastard.

Or maybe I'm not. I don't really know anymore. I know there are people out there, like myself, that have become annoyed with a lot of the game play 'features' that stain modern single player experiences. To name a select few we have frequent cut-scenes (which I don't actually mind if they are done well), unnecessary and clumsy cover systems (e.g. F3AR) and my most hated of all ... quick-time events. Features like these have a time, place and even specific genres where they can work really well, but lately developers just seem to want to cram them in to every facet of every game they make. The results, at least in my opinion, are games that become less immersive, disengaging and often just stupid to play and observe. Take this scene from Bulletstorm for example:

Anyways, I've been playing Max Payne 3. Maybe I knew what to except, that being a movie which has playable sections. Maybe it's because I actually like the character that is Mr Payne, the sarcastic, masochistic drunk who has the magical ability to slow time and jump horizontally repeatedly. Maybe it was simply because the game doesn't have stupid fucking quick time events. Whatever it was, I quite enjoyed Max Payne 3, even with its insane amount of mostly unskippable cut scenes. They were good and added to the atmosphere of the game. It is a worthy successor to the previous two games and expands on the series by taking the game into some interesting and believable locales. The ending was also rather epic and satisfying. Most importantly, the bullet time is as good as ever and still a lot of fun even after this long. It was and still is the most enjoyable part of the game, and probably the only game that did, and still is, getting it right. Observe.

Friday, July 6, 2012


So yeah. I'm still playing Diablo 3. As I have been semi-busy with uni work lately, it is about the only game I have on my radar at the moment. That is of course unless you count the random moments when I feel like watching a movie and 'play' bits of Max Payne 3.

Inferno is tough. Although it was recently nerfed slightly so that the brick wall you smash your face into isn't as high/thick, it has a different kind of difficulty attached to it. This difficulty is simply the cost of items. Because more people are trying Inferno now, the price on gear needed to get through it (all resist, vitality, armor, life on hit etc) has sky rocketed. It is amusing reading about people who cleared Inferno in the first two weeks now complaining about how they cannot progress on their alts because they have spent their 40 million gold on 5 items. The rest of us (10 million gold or less) barely make an upgrade a week without going completely broke. That's not even mentioning any decent Life on Hit weapons, which cost 20 million gold or more, or the increased repair costs.

Facing this problem was difficult for me. I don't have the patience to farm Act 1 repeatedly for 50 million+ gold, which would take weeks if not months. I have never seen Diablo as a grind (at least in the WoW sense), and turning it into one was not preferable. So I did what many people are, at least in my opinion, afraid to do: admitting that your build/playstyle is not efficient and opting to change it. Long story short, I have come across a build and a style of playing that is not only efficient but incredibly fun as well. The problem is that it is slightly difficult to pull off.

My experience of Diablo is that, at least in Inferno (when the game actually gets hard), you are simply maintaining a balanced relationship between how much damage you do and how much damage you can take. Having a high effective health pool will keep you alive considerably longer, but if you are doing bugger all damage, elite packs will enrage and rape you. If you only do a lot of damage, elite packs will just rape you full stop. Generally speaking, the act of keeping your health up is a straightforward one, though conditionally difficult depending on your class and the situation. Often you will ignore your 'resource' as its generation and use become straightforward as well. You could probably just say that the game is easy to 'play', but the enemies (i.e. elites/champion packs) are what make it hard.

The build I am running now goes a step beyond this. Without bogging you down with names of abilities that mean nothing to you, I will simply say that an intense balance between how much life you have, how much life you are gaining, how much resource (fury) you have, how much resource you are gaining needs to be maintained. If not, you die horribly. This process requires perfect conditions that you need to create and control throughout a fight through both positioning and timing of abilities. Should you stuff up for even one second, you will run out of fury or life and get fucked up very quickly. There is a high risk vs reward element to the play style and it becomes very engaging. It also requires some very specific stats that I won't go into here.

As you can see, the build is incredibly strong, almost to the point where I am going to stop stacking hard defensive gear. The build is actually stronger the more things you are fighting as they provide a larger surface area for you to sprint/whirlwind into, assuming they don't hit you too hard. The hardest part of the build is fighting small packs of elites, if not a single elite by itself. This is because your ability to gain life on hit with the tornadoes that spawn depends entirely on the distance that you travel. The tornadoes come out slowly at a controlled rate (attack speed). Essentially you need to move to stay alive, but the target you are fighting is stationary, so you need to move just the right distance to and from the target to spawn the tornadoes right on top of them.

If you can maintain this intricate balance of dps/tank stats, managing your fury, damage intake, precision of movement and timing of abilities you can essentially become immortal.