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Saturday, 28 April 2012

Diablo III open beta – Give me back my Soul-stone!

This has been one freaky Sunday… It would have been one freaky weekend, but Blizzard did not allow me to wreck my Saturday playing Diablo III, due to the accursed error message 3003. Yep, for the whole day I could not log in to my account and enjoy the mayhem and slaughter of the open beta. Apparently, me and a couple of hundred thousands of others judging by the torrent of FUUUUU comments in the game’s forum. Finally I managed to fight my way in the servers and clocked almost 2 hours of game time with all five available characters, killing the Skeleton King a dozen times over.

 My favourite classes so far are in diminishing order: Wizard-Demon Hunter-Witch Doctor-Barbarian-Monk. The game – for those of you out there that live in a cave for the last 4 years – has 5 classes only, unlike the 7 from DII. Two classes are for long range attacks – Wizard and Demon hunter – two are for melee damage – Barbarian and Monk – and the last one is a hybrid class (see Necromancer) the Witch Doctor who’s doing ranged, melee and 3rd party damage (let’s put it this way… he’s a chicken-shit coward that hides behind a group of expendable cannon fodder minions).
Yes, there is no Shaman! For all you fur-loving gamers that are into “interspecies erotica”, you need to wait for the DLC to get your bow chica bow bow with mighty Shaman in “sheep form”…sorry, I meant bear form. I believe that in the DLC Blizzard will add a Druid-like class, I’m willing to bet that they’ll name it “Animagus” or “Allomorpher”, and another class like “Inquisitor” or “Catafract” – the ACTUALL Paladin class, not the half-breed curiosity we now call Monk.

Playing with each of them was a delight and a frustration at the same time. Take the Wizard for example. She – of course and it’s a she, what else did you expect? – is by far the fastest class in the game. The “mana” resource for this class, i.e. arcane power, is the fastest replenishing resource compared to all the others – Monk and Barbarian have the slowest, due to the fact that it’s “quid-pro-quo” (kill a monster=get more fury/focus). The wizard is therefore a moving machine gun on the battlefield. Instead of a staff, she should be carrying an MG4-SAW… Due to the fact that open beta allowed players to level a character only up to level 13, I did not get a chance to see some of the more diverse special attacks from each class. So, for the first low levels all classes have the same pattern of abilities. A single-target focused attack that requires low resources, a stronger, multi-target attack with a stun/slow effect and an AOE interrupt with a relatively long cooldown, that you need to use when you’re getting zerg-rushed.

Speaking of which, I never felt like that in the beta. Perhaps it’s the difficulty level, perhaps it’s the fact that this game is WAY more user-friendly than its predecessors, but I never felt like hitting the panic button and using all my CD’s. I may be mistaken on this, but the game looks much easier than D I+II. There was no “Butcher” moment from the original Diablo, the kind of feeling when you shit your pants and run around like a headless chicken trying to find the BFG around the corner to bring this huge mother down. The end boss of the beta – the Skeleton king, which I think was also in the original game – was nothing but a well-staged choreography, it felt fake and safe. I even killed him with only one more player in my party and me being level 8, the other player being level 13. There was no danger, everything was on auto pilot, like a roller-coaster ride in Disneyland – and not even the Space mountain, but Pirates of the Caribbean.

The differences between D II and D III extent also in the abilities tree, the gameplay, the stash, the configuration… It’s a long list, so let’s get cracking.
Here is the result from my open beta experience in two parts: What I liked and what I didn’t like and some suggestions for improvement for good measure.


I liked the fact that I can see another Diablo title on my PC after almost 5 years. I cannot stress that enough; it’s like unexpectedly meeting an old college buddy you haven’t seen in years. This, however, can also be a bad thing – especially if the said friend has changed so much, that you hardly recognise him/her.

I liked the new graphics of the game, the addition of physics with destructible environments and the close-up on your character when you access your inventory. Now I can admire in detail my battle-suited character in all his/her 3D glory. This was missing from the previous games, but WOW is now showing the way forward. WOW unfortunately will also have a saying with the size of the spaulders in this game, so prepare your selves for some ridiculous moments when you pick up your level 65 rare towering spaulders of the mammoth – in ACTUALL 1:1 mammoth size! 

I liked the fact you don’t have to destroy your mouse anymore, now the attacks can be done by holding down the mouse button continuously until you clear the room or run out of mana. This is also very useful for when you’re playing in the same room with someone that doesn’t see you directly, only hears your insane clicking and rushes to your aid, believing that you just had a stroke. No more need of that anymore...

I loved the new stash+gold system. Remember when you wanted to give that special bow to your Ama that your Barbarian character have found, but couldn’t do it, unless you had friends playing with you that would act as “mules” for the transfer? And all of the time you felt like: “What if I give this to him/her and he/she never gives it back to me? ÖHSHIT!!!”. Well, that is now a thing of the past. You will never need to have a mule for that. The stash and the gold of all your characters is unified in one single account. If one of your characters find a super-fantastic-kickass loot item that he/she can’t use – which is most of the time the case with Diablo – then you can simply put it in your stash, log off from that character and log in with the one that is able to use it. Presto, instant transfer. Also the gold pool being shared between all your characters is another great idea, since your lowbie characters can benefit from the hoarding of your main character. They can start off the journey clad in the finest armour money can buy.

I liked the new configuration that allows players to open a game from single player to a public game and go on a killing rampage with other like-minded loot hunters. This function is very simple to use, allowing pairing of players instantly – like the LFG function in WOW – and it gives you the impression that D III is a quasi-MMO game. It’s not of course, but it could have fooled me…


I hate the new visual presentation of the game, NOT the graphics, the whole visual feeling of the game. For Mephisto’s sake, it’s BRIGHT!!! Seriously Blizzard? A bright and happy dungeon-crawler?? Ok, I get it that most teens out there like to puke rainbows, but I do not want to see rainbows in a Diablo game! I want the game to be dark, bleak, ominous and claustrophobic even in the over ground levels. This is a devastated land that’s been scorched, ravaged and bombarded by demonic hordes, but from the levels I’ve seen in the beta, my impression of the game was more of a WOW-like environment, rather than the previous Diablo titles. I like WOW, it is – still, 7 years after its release – a visually stunning piece of code, but Diablo is a completely different beast. Please, for the love of Siddhartha, make the game more dark!!! (We’re gonna be up to our asses in fuzzy, furry, rainbow-puking cuteness with MOP for WOW, let us retain a last shred of decency with D III).

Like I mentioned earlier on, I hated the game’s difficulty curve – or better put, its lack of one. This however remains to be fully tested in the actual game, when I will have a chance to play the entire campaign and try the next difficulty level. My one objection: I am not 20+ any more, I have a job and –alas!- limited game time, so I would appreciate if the game would deliver its full potential in the initial run, not after a life-consuming 40hr+ grind. I will try to play all five classes to cap level, but I am seriously contemplating the idea of playing all the way to infernal difficulty. (To do that I’d probably have to break up with my girlfriend, lose my day job and not come out of the house until New Year.)

Another thing I did not like – and one that is a truly terrible omen – is the new save/load system. There is no save/load system. There is no corpse run anymore. There are however checkpoints…This means that if you die, you start again from the last checkpoint. This is almost the same as the previously used corpse-run mechanism, with the plus point that, it allows you to get back to the last fight with your character ready, and not trying to break up the gang-bang that takes place over your skeletal remains. The bad feeling I get from this is the dreaded new trend in gaming: cross-platform compatibility. IGN and Eurogamer feature the game being also available in console format…that alone makes my skin crawl. Now imagine something even worse, PC players playing together with console players. It will be like the equivalent of playing ARMA II with X-Box COD players. Yeah, that’s not gonna end up well…Please, say it isn’t so!!!

What I found most annoying, disturbing and aggravating were the players in the beta weekend. No one would even open the in-game chat and say a word to the other party members. When I engaged in conversation and asked my party what’s with all the cold shoulder treatment, their response was “rush is rush”. I understand that we had a limited amount of time to play the game, but the purpose of any beta test is to exchange opinions about the game, point out weaknesses and strong points and provide constructive feedback in order to improve the retail release version. HOW do you expect to do that when you’re rushing like a freegin bull in a china shop, not saying a single word to other players, with the single thing in your mind to make all the achievements of a beta run – achievements, which by all probability will get wiped when the final version will go live? This was one of the most hostile beta environments I have encountered and I sincerely hope that players will change their attitude after 15/05, otherwise the multiplayer part of this game will be a very harsh, unfriendly and ultimately useless addition to the game.

Speaking of achievements, there is one thing that made a great impression on me from this early point in a game which will include a real money AH. Players would offer gold in the THOUSANDS on the general chat channels, just so they would get a particulary difficult or rare achievement. EVEN in the beta, there are people who are willing to pay for a short-cut to the grind, or perhaps for a better set of gear. Imagine the possibilities with real money… (KA-CHING!!!!!)

Concluding this extended presentation of the D III open beta weekend I will leave you all with the following scenario:
Middle age WASP comes home from work in suburbia USA, goes up to his teen son and says: “Hey sport, wanna fire up the old X-Box 360 and go-a-demon killing with the old man in Diablo III? – YEEEAH dad, this is gonna be awesome!! We gonna pawn all them bitches and get all the cool achievement unlocks for my XBL account DeN00Bpwner13!” A universal facepalm the size of Azura’s wrath 1st boss isn’t enough to express my dismay for this…That is NOT the Diablo you want to play. Considering the current BBFC rating of 15 that I’m seeing in Eurogamer, Amazon and other websites, unfortunately my previous scenario is not looking so far-fetched.

I will play the game, I urge all who read this to buy the game and play it - with me if you like, my gamertag is Methos - this was not a bashing of a highly anticipated game. More like a desperate "PLEASE DON'T FUCK THIS ONE UP Activision!!" plea. See you all on the 15th. 

Friday, 27 April 2012

The Avengers – Dr. Banner and Mr Hyde

Just returned from watching the latest Marvel Comic movie “The Avengers” and since I still have the experience fresh I decided to share it with y’all.

Word of advice#1: Do not watch this in 3D, it’s completely useless and it does not add anything to the visual presentation.
Word of advice #2: Walk in the theatre AFTER the first 90 minutes of the film. It’s a BIG ASS film, almost 2 ½ hours, but the film we all wanted to see, the film that is awesome and mind blowing and makes you want to be a super hero, starts AFTER the 90th minute. 

Up until then the script is a complete waste of time, having the team stuck on the S.H.I.E.L.D.’s flying HQ-fortress playing with Loki and –mostly – with our patience. Nothing happens to advance the story, the protagonists have quarrels among them in an attempt to add depth to their characters – unnecessarily since we all know that this is a comic-based movie, not a Finnish social study from Aki Kaurismäki. We just wanted to see Hulk “smash” and Iron Man be as witty and bad-ass as usual.
Mercifully, they are. Hulk does smashes, Iron Man is bad-ass beyond badassery itself and Nick-“I-had-enough-with-this-motherfucking-snakes-on-this-motherfucking-plane”-Fury is…well he’s the usual Samuel Jackson. The great surprise is Hawkeye. For no apparent reason the character of Hawkeye has an extended part in the story, performing some of the most spectacular acrobatics in the movie, but also some of the most useless. He is saved only by the presence of Natalia Romanov, the sex-trap of the film. But seriously, for a film such as this, with all the geeks drooling over it for the last months, did the producers actually needed a hot chick to attract such an audience? Geeks would watch this movie even if it didn’t have a single shot of anything female in it, be it a woman or a cat!
And we didn’t go to the cinema for the script either. Let’s face it, with a god already in the team and an opponent that is also a god, the script writer had its hands full when trying to sneak in a team of 4 humans with no special powers while maintaining a plausible story. He failed. Black Widow, Hawkeye, Cap and-even-Iron Man are obsolete and useless. Thor is Loki’s brother, they’re both gods, they should fight this one out and leave the rest of them – especially Captain America, he looks completely out of his waters throughout the whole movie –out of this.
But hey, if that would be the case, there would be no movie. And then Hulk would never have said the epic line:
“Puny god”.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

In the beginning...

First of all let me get something straight.

I don't believe in blogging, video blogging, tweeting, posting, and liking, any of the social activities over the various social networks on the web. I don't believe that they may have any significant influence on any aspect of real life. Nobody gives a shit if you woke up today and you're moody/blue/happy/sick or whateverthefuckever and you tweeted that... Seriously, we do not care. If you want someone to actually care about you, tell him/her that in his/her face over coffee in a cafe.

Now, you will already have thought "But then, why the hell do you start writing a blog?"

Damn good question.... Simple answer, because every other yahoo out there is writing a blog and because I believe that mine will be more interesting than the rest. At least, that's the idea.

We all start something with the firm belief that whatever we do - from making a cup of coffee to building a particle accelerator - is better than anyone else's attempt. Funny thing is that this is not always the truth. It takes skill, knowledge, attention, determination and - most important in my opinion - a "thick hide" in order to start and continue with something that will eventually become a creative activity. I think personally that my creative skills are close to non-existent - can't paint shit, can't play any instrument, suck at team get the idea.

What I'm really good at is analyzing things. And this is the main function of a blog, all bloggers believe that they are the best in their field, their opinion is the One True Word for all humanity. I do not follow any other bloggers for the above mentioned reasons, I only have a few people I like to learn of their opinions/ideas/inspirations on my Twitter account and even those are there for the sole purpose of delivering information about my greatest passions: PC/console games - I hate the term "video games" - and Science Fiction. Sci-Fi encompasses everything from series, movies, and books, comic books to music and card games.

Through this blog I will try to deliver some form of "reviews" for movies, games and books - when and if I get the time to read a whole book again. I say form, because the review is something quite volatile and insubstantial. IMDB has viewer reviews that vary from a simple paragraph to half-size novels with plot, characters, scenario twists and surprise ending. IGN has reviews from its members that are either a complete praise of the title/movie/series/accessory or the exact opposite. Eurogamer has the most professional reviews, but professional does not mean interesting. Edge's reviews are by far the most objective, however they are mostly orientated towards readers that are part of the gaming industry, same as Gamasutra. RPS has - in my opinion - the best type of reviews, by NOT having actual reviews per say. The author is delivering a very personal opinion of the game beeing reviewed with a high level of humour, eloquent language and without having to grade the product with a constricting and most of the times inaccurate numerical grading scale. 

Having mentioned some of my favourite gaming websites helps you get an idea why Is started this blog. I want to add my voice to this farrago of information on the net. Hopefully I will get your attention - and keep it in the long run, which is the most important aspect of this endeavour.

I also need to inform you that I'm easily distracted. Kept watching Underworld's live performance in Loveparade 2008 for the last 40 minutes... This means that I will be updating this blog when my concentration span exceeds 20 minutes, a rare and exceptional thing indeed. For now...

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