Diablo II – Blizzard’s Undying Game

But why all the fuss? The original Diablo was an okay-ish RPG that offered a few good times but could hardly be called a classic, although it went on to sell zillions of copies. And whaddaya know, exactly the same description can be applied to its sequel.

Let’s get this straight from the start: describing Diablo II as an RPG is like saying Last of the Summer Wine is a comedy because it has a laugh track. Sure, all the trappings are there – your character develops skills gradually throughout the game, you can trade, repair and discover items, there are spells-a-plenty – but the actual gameplay is more like a shoot-em-up than, say, Planescape Torment.

First good point: the five character classes are genuinely different. Which is handy, because you don’t get to create or customise your starting character at all. The Necromancer, for instance, has a ton of spells for raising dead creatures, while the Barbarian is a full-on fighting machine who can swing two axes without breaking a sweat. In keeping with the rest of the game, character development in Diablo II is seriously simplified. Essentially, the more monsters you kill, the more experience you get, and when you level up, you get to choose a new skill from a predefined tree – or improve an existing one, if you like.

Skills can be physical attacks or more esoteric magical effects, though at the end of the day they’re involved in inflicting death one way or t’other. Handily, you can assign one skill to the left button and a secondary attack to the right, and switch between them whenever you like, though it’s not often easy in the heat of a battle.

You also have the prerequisite stats such as Dexterity, Strength and so on. Again, levelling up gives you a few points to spend on whichever area you choose. It’s hardly rocket science.

You’ll be doing a lot of killing in this game – nothing but, in fact. Diablo II is about the most arcadey RPG you’ll ever set eyes on, as 95% of the time you’re simply hacking, slashing, magicking and swooshing away at the legion upon legion of creatures who surround you at a rate of knots.

Although the game is split into four enormous acts, the levels themselves are – get this – randomly generated (though the quests aren’t). How odd is that? What’s more, when you die, you’re transported to the nearest town you began in sans all equipment, meaning you have to fight your way back to your corpse all over again through hordes of re-spawned monsters. There’s a system of ‘waypoints’ at certain places which helps, but all in all the approach is depressingly reminiscent of a console game.

Multiplayer mode, played on Blizzard’s rather troubled Battle.net, involves the same single-player quests, except in co-operative mode. You can ‘go hostile’ and attack other players too, but only if they consent first, which is a nice touch.

Graphically, Diablo II is a bit of a dud. After the absolutely stunning rendered intro you’ll be wondering whether Blizzard are still stuck in 1996. The isometric 3D view is a fixed res of 640 x 480, composed of pre-rendered elements – polygons? Texture mapping? Never heard of it. Still, some of the lighting effects are good, and the spells look, er, pretty…

There are a few other elements, such as buying and repairing items, talking (with a purely pre-determined script) to NPCs and so on, but all in all Diablo II is a surprisingly repetitive bash-em-up which consists largely of clicking on monsters. As an arcade game it’s decent enough, though like all such games the endless destruction is fun in short bursts only.

If it wasn’t a Blizzard title, Diablo II would be dismissed as the bimboesque bit of frippery it actually is, and gain no more than a passing interest from most folk. Be warned.

clash of lords 2

A Must Play Game: Clash of Lords 2

IGG’s classic, Clash of Lords 2, is back and it’s better than ever. Not content to merely dress up the graphics and release an updated version of the original, developers took the time to create an original and exciting game. Although there is very little customizability available in the interface, most of the preset functions are the very picture of efficiency. With a touch of a button you can shift around the battlefield, issuing orders while still remaining in the heart of an engrossing battle.

In fact, Clash of Lords 2 has emerged as one of the most addictive and approachable games to grace the mobile platform in a long while. The story is a bit far-fetched but extremely well portrayed and translates into a solid premise.

During the first few missions on the side, players are gradually eased into Clash of Lords’ seamless mix of real-time strategy and action, and from there, chances are you’ll be hooked. You begin with a bio-metal Recycler, which is the most basic of all the construction units, and from there you’ll build base defenses, scavenge scraps of bio-metal, and construct new vehicles.

The action is exceptionally easy to control from your tank’s cockpit, adhering to the basic principles of most first-person shooters. Clash of Lords 2 uses a combination of gestures and touch screen controls; the only problem is the lack of fully mapable keys. But once you’ve learned the default keys, you’ll be good to go. You may want to get free tips & tricks on Clash of Lords to on this site right here.

Your arsenal consists of a wide range of offensive vehicles that run the gambit from well-armored tanks to fast scout craft; the enemy’s vehicles run the same range. Using the simple interface, you can build a base, order your troops to hunt down enemies, or just hang out and look for targets to eradicate. The main things that separate Clash of Lords 2 tactics from those of most real-time strategy games are that you can’t have more than ten offensive and defensive vehicles under your command at once, and each vehicle requires a driver. When the vehicle is crushed, mauled, or just generally fubared, the pilot is ejected and must run back to your base. Needless to say, these pedestrians are ripe targets for enemy vehicles cruising for some violent entertainment.

The seamless integration of the action and strategy genres combined with a sleek interface and intense action make Clash of Lords 2 a must-have for any gaming fanatic. So what are you waiting for?


Nintendo’s President on Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire

A bi-weekly financial magazine for “top executives,” Zaikai (check the website here) recently conducted a lengthy interview with Hiroshi Yamauchi, president of Nintendo Japan and the man in charge of all things Nintendo.

Yamauchi has always believed that a game needs to focus on gameplay rather than graphics. He said in the answer to the first question, “There really are just an overwhelmingly huge number of people out there that know nothing about the business of games.” He went further by saying that venture capitalists “give money to people that really should be unemployed, and they in turn round up some friends, start a company and begin creating software.” Obviously he’s not a big fan of start-up companies.

But he might just have had a point when he said, “The more amazing graphics and sound you put into a game, the longer it takes to finish. Not just a year, but now, more like a year and a half or two years. So then your development costs balloon, and when you finally put it out you have zero guarantee of it selling. That’s what the game industry is today.” So many games today focus more on the beautiful graphics than the gameplay. Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire keep getting more and more gorgeous — but most of the basic gameplay is as old as the first game released for the 3ds.

Yamauchi had some predictions to go with this focus on glitz rather than quality: “I’ve been saying since last year that this industry will undergo a major shakeout between now and next year. The general public doesn’t realize it yet, but most people in the industry know it’s happening. I’ve just been saying that pretty soon, even the public will be forced to recognize what’s going on.” It’s already happening in the states — game websites like Gamecenter and Gamers.com are losing people (or just shutting down), and that’s just a symptom of the larger problem — the tech industry (which includes games) is suffering right now.

The killer thing about the game industry, though, is that it hinges purely on non-essential entertainment. Yamauchi said, “The thing with this industry is, no one actually needs what it produces.” As much as we’re all addicted to videogames, you have to admit — if we had to live without Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, we could. It’s not like we require games in order to survive (although it does feel that way sometimes). Yamauchi continued: “We produce entertainment — and there’s a million other kinds of entertainment out there. If the game industry went away, it’s not like people would keel over and die on the street. If it came to pass that people started saying ‘These games are all stupid, I gotta stop playing them all the time,’ then what do you think would happen? You don’t need games to live, after all, so the market could fall right out. It could even shrink to a tenth of what it was.”

That’s a scary thought, and not just because we’d all be out of a job. Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire have become a big part of our culture, and as much as we hate to admit it, it’s possible for that culture to pass by like the reign of the hippity-hop. But it won’t happen anytime soon. Check the latest updates on Pokemon ORAS roms if you haven’t yet at.

Yamauchi did show that as much as we might bash him for saying things that are out of control, he really does have a good head for the business. He said, “The average Pokemon gamer’s perspective has gradually shifted over the years. They’re getting sick of games that are nothing but graphics and force; they want something to play that’s actually fun. So why are companies still aiming for nothing but graphics and force?” That’s a very good point. Many people hammered the N64 because of its lack of FMV and its inability to produce games along the grandeur of games on the PSOne. But Super Mario 64 is still an all-time favorite of many. The Game Boy Color is based on a system that’s 12 years old, yet it still accounts for almost half of all consoles sold — nearly more than all other systems combined. And the graphics and sound are really not that great; it’s really the games (and its portable nature, of course) that make it popular.

Yamauchi also has some strong feelings about multiple platforms — that is, he thinks it’s a horrible idea because it means users don’t have to get a particular system; they can just get the cheapest one in order to play the game. He says, “In the game business, software is our lifeblood. If that software becomes the same everywhere then there’ll be zero difference between companies. The marketplace will just turn into a giant hardware war.” It’s already something of a hardware war, but many people forget that it’s also a software war. Which game is better — Metal Gear Solid 2 for PS2 or Shenmue for Dreamcast?

Yamauchi understands the reasoning for porting Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire to other platforms — to sell more copies and therefore recoup losses due to high production costs. But he has a grim outlook on the results. He said, “If the software was the same no matter which system you buy, then the only point we’d be able to sell on is price. This industry is based on producing fun, innovative games, but if that goes away then we’re all done for. That’s why, even though I understand where software houses are coming from, I think ultimately it could break apart the industry.”

Nintendo’s Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire only run on Nintendo’s consoles, and no one else’s. Our aim is to get people to think Nintendo’s games are the greatest, the best in the world. We’re devoting all of our effort to that right now, and we’ll be able to show our efforts to the world this year.

Xbox One for Cool Games

We cannot picture League of Legends or Dota 2 ever appearing on consoles. Possibly if Microsoft gets serious about its control to support for the Xbox One you might watch it take place, but the most famous MOBA games just may not be developed around the common home gaming console set-up. But that doesn’t mean the complete category has to remain PC-only, and this free-to-play effort works specifically well.

The genre started off as modern of real-time strategy games like StarCraft there’s plainly no reason why the basic set-up can’t work in other scenarios. The rather boring art design doesn’t make very as much usage of the concept as it might, yet it’s a good ground with over 60 various playable characters. In contrast to a more typical MOBA it’s instantly evident what’s going on and at a basic level the game controls and behaves such as a standard third person shooter. And that includes boss personalities and a typically more theatrical design of presentation.

Playing on an operator it’s far harder to land a shot with the form of precision the game looks to expect, and there really needed to be more compensation for this in relations to better auto targeting. Quantity rather quality has the tendency to be the order of the day when it pertains to regular strikes, as you simply maintain your hands plastered to the activate and expect the best. But while Smite may look like an action game it’s not truly, not in the Bayonetta or God Of War sense. Like any good MOBA the depth of the gameplay doesn’t originate from the action itself, yet the way you opt to improve your character and apply each new skill to the battlefield. As a result the second-to-second gameplay may be rather boring. However obtain a good team of gamers together, and begin to develop your techniques, and you commence to have some knowledge of what consoles have been missing out on since MOBAs came to be the most prominent genre on the planet.

Kiss: Psycho Circus – The Nightmare Child

Based upon Todd McFarlane’s Kiss: Psycho Circus comic books, The Nightmare Child is dark but always fun, with a ridiculously camp and mystic plot driven by the four characters of the fictional alter-ego band.

The band members of the comic books and game are four Elders, elementary representatives and defenders of good against the God of Evil. Unfortunately they have lost their way somewhat since last defeating the God of Evil and have become parted from their magic garments. They will need to re-clothe themselves if they are to abort the Nightmare Child, an evil foetus spawned by the big bad one before his demise. Luckily they have a mad blind Gypsy to guide them.

Action begins at a seedy Roadhouse gig (you can use the microphone and play Kiss tracks on the jukebox) where monster minions of Evil begin to spawn. The band is separated and the game is divided into four initial episodes, one for each character. These can be played in any order, but set progression is recommended and the first episode is far gentler in introducing steadily harder enemies and bigger weapons: almost a tutorial.

Unfortunately only two weapons differ between any of the four characters. Each has a unique default close combat tool and each eventually wields a different uber-spell. Otherwise there are variants on the grapple, shotgun, machine gun and rocket launcher for all. If it were not for the great variety of environments, grand architecture and swarming enemies between episodes, the first-person perspective would negate any point to the division of the game by character.

Progress through each four-level episode is very linear, but kept exciting with plenty of (switch and door-based) puzzles, spiced-up platform elements (traverse a broken spiral stair as a tower fills with water) and massive battles. All of these tried and tested elements make The Nightmare Child a refreshing dip into the retro pool, revitalising those memories of Doom that have been buried for so long under the experimental thinking elements of much recent FPS fare.

The proudly populated battles are The Nightmare Child’s overwhelming success. Hordes are back in town and mass carnage is the order of the day. The modified LithTech engine copes admirably with massive melees and an extremely customisable video interface will keep things pretty smooth even on lower end PCs. A good range of animation routines and an impressive scaling system mean that groups of units don’t look unrealistically similar en masse.

Many monsters come in small, medium and large sizes and location-based damage and dismemberment adds to a chaotic realism that skirts the problems of Doom’s line-dancing imp armies (step-forward-growl-fireball, step…). More nods to Doom include plenty of explosive barrels and tendencies for certain monster types to turn on one other. Regular mini-boss encounters and big boss endgames break up the big battles, where saves are denied to increase tension.

The Nightmare Child’s distinctive retrogression jumps back so far that it will probably seem innovative to the post-Doom gaming generation, but for those who have been secretly hankering for less thought and more slaughter, it’s still a welcome return to original form.