Crossing the Steams 11.24.12: Current Game Progress
Greetings, and welcome to another installment of Crossing the Steams. Last week I made mention of looking at Puzzle Quest 1, but that didn’t come to past. My save for it was missing and replaying the first 3 hours of the game isn’t the most fun process. Plus, once AC3 dropped, I have been knee deep with it, to the detriment of everything else on my schedule. So with this week’s column, I’m going to just give some thoughts about some of the games that I’ve messed with for the past week. These comments aren’t “reviews” as such, just my overall impressions of a few games. Hopefully next week I can get back to schedule.
Assassin’s Creed 3
The big one this week is Assassin’s Creed 3, and I am really enjoying my time with it so far, despite some unpredictability in the game’s AI. The game looks beautiful to start with, except for Desmond’s new facial redesign. Environments are nicely detailed, most characters look great, and the game never bogs down with how much stuff is happening on the screen. If your computer can max it out (like mine can), the game looks even more astounding, and blows the PS3/360 versions right out of the water.
The gameplay is improved upon from AC2 (and upwards) in interesting ways. Combat feels quicker, with there now being a slow-motion counter that gives you some time to figure out what to do. There’s a lot more weapon/item variety for you to enjoy, but the traditional Tomahawk/Hidden Blade, and Gun combination works throughout most of the game so far, I just hit Segment 8 in my game.
Story-wise, it’s kind of peripherally interesting. The neat twist about 2-3 hours in the game is still cool, but Connor, as a character isn’t that great. There are times when he’s good, but other times he comes off as a whiny idiot, like a Final Fantasy hero. The historical stuff is pretty interesting though and does provide a nice backdrop for the game, especially around the Thanksgiving holiday.
My biggest problem with it so far is that the game feels *highly* unpredictable at times. You never know what path a guard is going to use, or if they can spot you behind cover, or what Connor might jump onto. People complained about AC2 (and beyond) for Ezio occasionally grabbing the wrong thing at the wrong time, or hitting a jump incorrectly and falling to his death. They simplified the parkour mechanics in this game some, which adds to this problem. In the past AC games you had to hold the RT button to sprint and the A button to jump/climb stuff. In this game, they just made the RT button run/climb at the same time. The semi-obvious problem now is that there isn’t a dedicated sprint button. So if you just need to get around town quickly, you’re liable to start jumping on things when you don’t want to.
They also automated the climbing stuff a lot more which is again, good and bad. Good in that it feels quicker, with Connor being able to book up buildings, if he can. The bad is that he sometimes goes overboard with his movements. There are Synchronization points in trees that you can use. The first 12 times I tried to use one, I kept falling, because Connor kept going past where he needed to climb up, and the game thought it meant to go forward. So he would merrily jump to his death, because the game would misinterpret where I needed to actually go. I finally had to manually jump up the tree to solve it, but it felt kind of broken to do so.
The enemy behavior is where the game really falls apart at, at least in certain times. Most of the time it is solid enough where you can map out guard patterns and behavior so you can do your usual assassinating business. The few times it gets quirky though, it can really screw up your game. Here are two examples I noticed:
1. I was behind a tent and trying to lure a guard over to where I was. Two guards were at a campsite and when I would whistle, one of them would (usually) come by. Or not. Sometimes the guard on the left would come, sometimes the guard on the right, sometimes both, or sometimes neither of them. I failed the mission about 15 times trying to get the game to behave in a way I wanted (bring one guard, kill him, and then kill the next behind another tent). The game did not have any conditions for me to actually repeat this behavior, from level to level.
2. A different mission had me sneaking onto a boat and trying to stealth kill everyone on it. There were 6 guys on it, and I could do the first two every time with no problem. The next two I was supposed to kill them both at the same time, but the game would not recognize that I did so. You could dual-wield kill in AC2, ACB, and AC: Rev, but I just could *not* get it to trigger in this game. I tried it about 10 times, but each time Connor would only kill one then the other one would spot me and blow the 100% sync I was trying for.
That’s enough about this game. I’ll keep at it, and hopefully in a few weeks I can try and write up an actual review on it.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2
I spent a long time already talking about AC3, so I’ll only give a few brief thoughts on this game. I like all the future missions I’ve been on, and I don’t like the past missions. Old guns are kind of terrible, and it’s not fun to try and kill enemies with them. I really like having controller support in the game (like in Black Ops 1). The game feels more natural using a gamepad than with mouse and keyboard, at least to me. The multiplayer and zombies mode are interesting diversions, and good if you’re a huge fan of the style. I’m largely “not good” at the multiplayer in Call of Duty, but I was able to have some fun with it. The biggest failing so far is the “Strike Force” missions. I’ve done two, one where I had to capture some points on a map, and the other where I had to defend some equipment points. The capture mission went fine, because I was largely able to lone-wolf it, and do everything myself. The defense mission though is a pain to get through, because while your robot will move around & follow orders, your soldiers won’t. I would tell a soldier “Go defend point B” and he would stare at me. I was able to do it on my own (after failing the first time), but it was cutting it close. I don’t really understand why the missions are in the game? Like, they are interesting diversions, but they aren’t fun. Aside from that stuff though, the game seems solid and I’ve enjoyed it.
I was asked to take a look at Planetside 2 when it launched a few days ago. Basically, if you’re on a Windows 8 machine (like I am), “good luck” in trying to get the game to run. If you have a gamepad plugged in when you start the game, it will immediately fail to load. Every. Single. Time. I was reading that this bug has been made aware since 6 months ago, and they still haven’t bothered to fix it. Even with the gamepad unplugged, the game barely seems to work. The 6 times I tried to launch it, it got stuck at 27%, 18%, 18%, 18%, got to the main menu, and then hit 18% again. So of the 6 times I tried, I only hit the main menu once. When I did get into the game, it appeared ugly and sluggish. This was at launch though, so I’m assuming that was the reason. After the first time I got on, I had to quit out, and now the game freezes at the 18% again. It appears to have a problem with its patching process. It downloads a 40mb patch, then freezes when I get into the game. I tried to validate the install files, and it downloaded some 40mb worth of files to it. I clicked the game again, and it re-downloaded a 40mb patch. That’s about where I am in the game, with it refusing to get past 18%.
Guns of Icarus: Online
I’ll talk about this very quickly. It’s an online-only game with seemingly no one playing. The three times I logged on the game had, 56, 110, and 74 people playing. I wasn’t logging on at odd times; this was either mid-afternoon or night. The game is basically TF2 but in a Steampunk world with air ships. The mechanics felt super awkward and clunky though, with the tutorial providing no instruction. Even the tutorial screen has some odd text placement with “tool” being broken up into two lines, and the text suddenly ending on, “Keep hu”. So those are my thoughts on about playing it for a half hour.
The Walking Dead
And finally, the Walking Dead Episode 5 hits Steam, and broke my game. I’ve tried about 40 games on Windows 8, and Planetside 2 and Walking Dead are the only ones with any (real) issues. So…good on me, I guess. The problem with the Walking Dead is, if you have a gamepad plugged in when you launch the game (which I did….I played the first 4 episodes with a gamepad), the game corrupts the “Prefs.prop” file which houses your in-game preferences as well as your save system. I still have my 40+ saves, but the file to read them (the Prop file) is hosed, so the game refuses to do anything with them. The game simply asks if you want to start a new game and that is that. I did have an old Props file from a reformat months ago, but it was only on the end of episode 2. Oh also, gamepad support seems to be irrevocably broken in the game now. Even ignoring the huge issue of erasing game saves (which is the whole point of the goddamn game), I cannot get the game to load my gamepad at all. And this is after already playing the game for 10 hours on Windows 7 with me having no issues at all. Telltale’s response is “Well…we’re not supporting Windows 8 right now”, which isn’t a response, so much as a screw off. They really need to address this issue by pushing a patch out, or at least having some type of workaround to get around it. It’s utterly shameful behavior. Especially coming from a developer I respect, and from a game that I was waiting for months on.
Here’s a “Before Gamepad” picture:
Notice the 24kb “Pref.props” file. This is what happens After you plug the gamepad in:
The Props file goes down to 3K and isn’t recoverable. So that is a nice and lovely surprise when it hits you.
Other Steam News
The big thing right now is the Steam Autumn Sale going on. So buy all you can, if you see anything that you want. Due to this, new releases will have to wait till next week, since you can’t see them when the sale is going on. I’ll try and take a look at a game next week also, possibly Anno 2070, Law & Order: Legacies or something else. If anyone has any burning suggestions, throw it down in the comments and I might take a look. Or if this format is a big hit, I may do another type like this. Until then, have a good one.