Posts tagged ‘portal 2’

Looking Back at 2011

Xbox

Last January, I wan’t looking forward to much on the Xbox. In fact, there were just two games: Mass Effect 3 and Batman: Akham City. Unfortunately Mass Effect 3 was delayed, but Akham City more than made up for that. The game had everything I loved about the first Batman game but added improvements, and even though I’ve finished the game, I still pop it into my console occasionally to beat on some thugs.

Outside of Arkham City, my Xbox didn’t get much playtime, which I guess is why it decided to red-ring on me in December. I had hoped by waiting through the first few manufacturing runs and getting an Elite, that I had dogged all of the overheating problems with Microsoft’s console. I was wrong. The repair process was relatively painless: go online and submit a repair request, print out a label, box and ship it out. I just wish it hadn’t cost me $99.

PC

The PC had a few more titles I was excited about: Minecraft, Portal 2, Warhammer 40k: Dawn of War 2 – Retribution (could the title be any longer?), and Warhammer 40k: Space Marine. Well okay, Minecraft was a bit of a cheat since it was pretty much already released. Portal 2 was as good as I hoped it would be, and I got to have some extra fun by playing through the co-op version with MMOGamerChickDoW Retribution I’ve barely touched. I really really loved the original Dawn of War games, but the shift in focus from base building to boss battles has soured me a bit on the franchise. Space Marine made up for my disappointment in Retribution though, the game was over the top gory fun. Some people may try to tell you that using a chainsword on an Ork get’s old, but they’re lying to you.

Unlike with Xbox, this last year also had two big surprises for me on the PC platform. First there was the colossal disappointment of Deus Ex: Human Revolution. This was a game I was not anticipating in the slightest, but ended up buying because of the wave of good press and excitement from friends. Unfortunately, I only put five hours into it before running headlong into a boss battle geared for the exact opposite type of character that I was playing. I realize I’m in the minority opinion on this game, but I still strongly believe that you don’t build a game around choice and then take it away during the central moments of the game.

The second big surprise happened in exactly the same way, but with opposite results. Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim was another game that I wasn’t anticipating at all. Like DXHR, I hadn’t played any of the earlier games in the series, and even though the screenshots looked good and I thought I might like it, I was wary of letting myself get sucked along with the ground again. In the end, I did end up going ahead and getting it, and I’m so glad I did. Skyrim has been a Minecraft-like experience for me (which is ironic given the legal battle between the companies). Just like I got sucked completely into Minecraft last year and played nothing else for months, my gaming time was wholly subsumed by Skyrim. Today, I’ve put 117 hours into just one single-player game. One hundred and seventeen hours. That is incredible, considering a good single-player game usually lasts me no more than 40 (like Red Dead Redemption or Arkham City). But even more incredible is that after more than a hundred hours, I’m not even halfway through the main story line.

PC was much more exciting this year than I thought it would be. I’m not sure that 2012 will be though, but I’ll save that for later.

MMOs

Rift

Trion had the perfect situation this year. From January to November, they had the only new major MMO title. I think they capitalized in it very well too. They’ve been continually releasing new content and making tuning changes. Honestly if anything, I think Trion’s proved it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. They’ve been updating the game so much, that when I came back after a month away, it felt like I’d been gone for six months or more.

Star Wars: The Old Republic

BioWare ended up releasing much later in the year than I expected. This ended up being a good thing both because they had more time to get things right, but also because they managed to get through the hype backlash I was expecting before release (or even beta). There’s not too much more I can say about TOR as far as 2011 goes beyond I got in at launch, had no problems, have seen no queues, and am immensely enjoying the Jedi Knight story line.

Champions Online

Champions has been a fun game to hop into of f and on over the year, especially the few times I’ve gotten to play with Scott. The game had a successful F2P launch and has released some good story content with their first Comic Series and a third Adventure Pack. While I haven’t had that original love of the game rekindle, I’m sure I’ll continue to login anytime I get an urge to play superheroes.

Lord of the Rings Online

Last year, I was feeling pretty down on LotRO. The F2P conversion caused an explosion of gold store buttons in the interface that just got under my skin. My disinterest continued for most of the year, including well into the development cycle for Rise of Isengard. It wasn’t until I saw a developer diary with some video about the making of Orthanc for the game, that I had any interest in returning to Middle-Earth.

Once I got back in the game, I was motivated enough to finish Volume 2 of the Epic Quests, get caught up on Volume 3 in Enedwaith, and charge on towards Isengard. I didn’t make it to level cap before Skyrim started dominating my playtime, but I was really happy with the new work Turbine has done on the game and I’ve finally trained myself to not see the store buttons.

Star Trek Online

And lastly, we come to the MMO that I’ve had both the most and least fun with during 2011.

The game started out very well. We had an anniversary event, an excellent renovation of Earth Spacedock, and then a third Featured Episode Series, Cloaked Intentions. The Series 3 was the best one so far and featured great missions, fun voice work, and the music from Amok Time.

Unfortunately, that was the high point of the year. We did get the Foundry followed by a good revamp of ground combat in Season Four, but we also got Atari selling Cryptic, Dan Stahl leaving the Executive Producer role, Free-to-Pay announced, and no new story missions.

Whether it was Dan leaving, the change in ownership from Atari to Perfect World, or the announced F2P transition, the high level of communication and transparency that I loved in 2010 has vanished. The last Engineering Report was released in August, with no word about if or when it’s coming back. The last Ask Cryptic was in September. Granted, the temporary Executive Producer Stephen D’Angelo did write a lot of blogs during the F2P development, but I found them pretty thin on details.

Overall, it’s been a disappointing year for me in STO. I guess I have to have at least one MMO to be down on at the end of every year.

Partners in Science

When Portal 2′s co-op mode was originally announced, I didn’t expect to actually play it. But when I mentioned the game a few weeks ago, MMOGC pointed out the amazing deal Amazon was running and we ended up planning to do the co-op portion.

The co-op game took us about five or six hours to finish, across three nights. I ended up as Blue (naturally) and GC played Orange. Organized as five courses, with eight puzzles in each, there’s nearly as much humor and story in the co-op mode as there is in the single-player game. Check out GC’s review here.

I thought having a co-op review for a co-op game would be fun, and GC agreed to do a little question an answer with me (this section is on GC’s blog as well)…

BlueKae: I had expected the co-op game to be fun, but it turned out to be a lot more fun than I realized. Challenging in different ways than the single player, and somehow easier too. What surprised you about playing co-op?

MMOGamerChick: From the start, I knew co-op was going to be about playing together, but what I didn’t expect to see was how often we were put into situations where we had to work together…but separately. Initially, I think I was picturing something akin to a two-player platformer, where you and your partner would go everywhere together, do everything together. There were some puzzles like that, but I’d say most of them involved each person doing very different things, sometimes in different parts of the room. It made things more interesting, in my opinion. It’s still very much about the teamwork because our chances of success still depended on both people accomplishing their respective tasks, but that meant trust was also very important — especially when we couldn’t see what the other person was doing and had to rely on coordination and communication.

Okay, my turn to ask a question. What did you find was most challenging about co-op?

BK: Remembering that I was playing with someone. I mean we were chatting the whole time so I knew you were there and all, but after playing through on single player I was so used to running into a new puzzle and starting to throw portals around that it was an adjustment to remember I was playing with someone. I know there were a few times when I wiped a portal of yours out with one of mine because I wasn’t thinking.

I very much agree with your surprise about how the co-op worked. I assumed that our portals would link up instead of being separate. It was definitely more about communicating, coordinating, and trust. The spike maze comes to mind. :)

The best part was having a second person to help figure out how to solve the puzzles. I wasn’t tempted to go look at Youtube once. If/when there’s a Portal 3 are you looking forward more to single player or more co-op?

MMOGC: Both. I mean, obviously the co-op is a huge draw, but single player has its moments. And both portions were filled with humorous moments, GLaDOS doing her thing. That’s what made the whole game, I think. It would be difficult for me to say which I prefer or look forward to more.

And I totally agree with you about remembering that I was playing with someone. Though with regards to wiping out each other’s portals, I just like to think of it more as both of us being on the same page. Great minds think alike and all that!

BK: True! I think the single player had a bit more personality, maybe that’s because it stretched across two games. Did it seem to you like the single player was more about how to solve a puzzle and the co-op was more about actually doing the solution?

MMOGC: Oh yeah, definitely. I approached single-player and co-op very differently. In co-op (and I think you might have noticed this too), the first thing both of us did with a new puzzle was run in there and start exploring, playing with whatever buttons or stuff we found. I found myself “working backwards” in co-op more than I did in single-player. First find the exit, then “do” the solution.

BK: I wasn’t quite that organized about it. Mostly I was just trying to make sure that when we picked a solution that it was using all of the different parts in the puzzle.

MMOGC: Let me ask you another thing. Were you stressed at any point? ‘Cause I know I was. I kept thinking, “Oh crap oh crap oh crap, I’m going to let Blue Kae down and he’s going to think I’m an idiot.” I’m not the best when it comes to coordination and reflexes. There were several times that I botched a jump or a portal and I just felt terrible.

BK: A couple of times, definitely. I worried about getting you killed on a couple of puzzles where there was timing involved. But most of the time it was so easy to run back in, that I didn’t worry much. I can’t remember getting frustrated at all though.

MMOGC: Well, it was definitely much more enjoyable to play with a friend.

BK: I totally agree. The frustrating parts for me in the single player game were figuring out what to do next. Having someone to talk with and point out things I missed made the game much much more fun.

MMOGC: I totally carried you. Haha, just kidding.

BK: There were definitely puzzles that you just got right off that I didn’t and vice versa. There was only one puzzle, I remember, that stumped us both for a bit.

MMOGC: That part really was cool. I saw where my own weaknesses were, and was grateful when you figured stuff out that I couldn’t. I was really happy that we were able to figure everything out between us without going to outside help.

BK: Yeah, I ended up hitting Youtube twice for puzzles in the singleplayer game when it stopped being fun.

MMOGC: And fun is what it’s all about.

The Humor Makes the Game

No spoilers, I promise.

Portal came out as part of the Orange Box back in October 2007, nearly a year before I started this blog. I originally bought the Orange Box for the Half-Life 2, but I got so much more enjoyment from Portal than either that or Team Fortress 2. That’s especially surprising because I don’t like puzzle games or platformers. I’m not a fan of the Mario or Sonic games. I quit the first God of War (and the series) when I got to a wall of blades jumping puzzle.

The game was concise and fun. It had challenges but always prepared me in advance to solve them. These bits made for a very good game.

The humor made the game great.

So, four years later (roughly) Valve has released Portal 2. I’ve been looking forward to the game and yet avoiding nearly all of the marketing. Since it came out right as I was focused on Rift, I figured I’d wait until I was ready to play it then buy and download it (I’m trying to keep my mountain of unplayed games shorter than Everest). I was excited to play Portal 2 but wasn’t feeling and urgency to play.

Amazon forced my hand though by offering the PC version for $30. Even better, I apparently had $15 off promo for a game too which I found out when I checked out, so I ended up getting Portal 2 for $15. That’s a steal.

I feel bad though. I bought a physical disc and had it shipped to me, yet all I used was the license key. I literally opened the box and typed the key into Stream then started the download. The disc never left the box.

While not giving away anything whatsoever of the plot, let me just say that right from the first second of the game the humor is back and it’s amaaaaaazing! I had a great time making my way through the environments and enjoying the humor and personality in the game. It’s able to build on the history of the first game so there’s no ramp like in the first game where you don’t actually know there’s a story for the first half of the game (assuming I remember the pacing rightly).

As far as the pure mechanics of the game, puzzles are less about reflexes and more about understanding your environment. That can lead to some minor frustrations, but if I could figure it out then anyone could.

All in all, I think Portal 2 is an excellent sequel. I’m looking forward to trying the co-op when GC is ready.

And then I’ll go to bed…

I finished Portal 2 on Friday night. Well actually it was Saturday morning:

11:30 pm – I think I’ll play a little Portal 2 before I go to bed.

12:30 am – I think I’ll solve another one or two puzzles before I go to bed.

2 am – What time is it? Oh… One more puzzle then I’ll go to bed.

3:30 am – What the- ok, I really need to go to bed so I’m not a zombie at my son’s swimming lesson. I’ll just finish this puzzle and then go to bed.

5 am – That was a good game. It’s going to be a rough morning.

Looking Forward to 2011 – Console/PC

I debated just tacking this onto the end of my 2011 MMOs post, since it could be condensed down to:

Mass Effect 3! Mass Effect 3! Minecraft! Minecraft!

But that feels a bit lazy and January is way too early for me to give into laziness, that’s what March is for.

Console Games

There’s only two games I’m excited to play on the Xbox 360 this coming year:

  • Mass Effect 3
  • Batman: Arkham City

Do I really need to explain why? Fine.

Mass Effect 3

Bioware has shown marked improvement in the game-play from 1 to 2, I can only imagine 3 with be even better. Honestly, I’m not sure how though, the mining mini-game was really the only part that was below excellent.

The story, characters, and dialogue have been consistently good through out the first two games, despite my concerns based on the way Mass Effect 2 was marketed. It will be shocking if they somehow manage to drop the ball for the finale.

Batman: Arkham City

It’s the rare superhero game that really recreate the experience of being an iconic hero from the comics. Besides Batman: Arkham Asylum only Spider-man 2 and Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction come to mind. I’m very interested to see if Rocksteady Studios can pull off a sequel. Will they be able to improve on the combat and the detective mode issues without losing the magic from the first game?

PC Games

I’m sure I missed one or two, but this was all I had in my wish-lists on Steam and Amazon.

Minecraft

Obviously there’s going to be a lot happening with Minecraft this year. Notch’s company, Mojang, is up and running, he’s got developers and an artist helping out now, and he’s got big plans. While I’m excited to see Notch does this year with all the resources at his disposal, to be totally honest, I’ve already gotten more than my $14 worth.

Portal 2

I hate puzzle games and platformers, yes even Mario Bros. I loved Portal though. The game did an excellent job of training you on how to solve the puzzles in the game and the difficulty curve always managed to challenge me without causing my to break my keyboard. I’ve been on a complete media blackout regarding this game, all I know is that it’s scheduled for 2011 and I want it.

Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War 2 – Retribution & Warhammer 40k: Space Marine

An expansion for DoW2 and a 40k shooter are both due out this year. I loved the single player game for DoW2 but it took a while before I really started to like the multi-player mode, mostly I just missed the base building. Still, I’m very excited to get to play my favorite race from DoW1, the Imperial Guard.

The shooter, Space Marine, looks interesting and given Relic and THQ’s track record with DoW 1 and 2, I’m definitely going to give it a shot. I’m assuming I’ll get the PC version, but there is an Xbox 360 version scheduled as well.