Heads up, this post contains some spoilers towards the end. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Diablo III was a game that I was terribly excited for, but by all rights, I shouldn't have been. My previous Diablo experience consists of approximately one hour of Diablo II. Early this year, I managed to pick up a brand new, sealed copy (in the big box!) for £10. That's a tenner I'm perfectly happy to have spent, even if I didn't get much out of the game itself. I like having physical copies of games, and obtaining a nice collection of old, big-boxed PC games is something I want to achieve. So even if Diablo II hadn't grabbed me quite as much as it's successor has, it's no big deal to me, because I still got a perfectly conditioned copy of a classic PC game to add to my collection.

I'm not sure why I couldn't get into Diablo II. I think it's because, to me anyway, it feels distinctly dated, from a graphical perspective. Now, from my previous post, you'll know that 2D art is something I think generally ages pretty well. But Diablo II, in my opinion, falls into that category of 2D art that does age badly: pseudo-3D. Diablo II isn't a 3D game. But it almost looks like one. It's not polygonal, but it uses detailed and complex 2D sprites along with the fixed camera perspective to produce an image that looks 3D. And sure, at the time, the game looked pretty amazing, but like all early 3D games, it doesn't age anywhere near as well as more traditional 2D art. So, this fake 3D look, coupled with the 4:3 ratio and low resolutions typical of a game from 2000, it doesn't hold up as well 12 years later. In my opinion of course. Diablo II remains to this day an immensely popular title that many swear by. I just never had the pleasure of playing it in it's prime.

Diablo III however, is a different story. That game just came out. It's prime is now. Okay, maybe not right now, especially after the... spotty launch that Blizzard suffered through. But this is a game I'm very much able to play and enjoy during it's most active years. Hopefully, anyway. Whether or not I continue to play a game long after release usually depends on how many of my friends are also currently playing. Saying that however, I've had a lot more fun than I was expecting playing the game on my own. The gameplay is sufficiently addicting. The combat is great, and the notion that you might just get a totally sweet new piece of gear after you beat this big enemy does a great job of keeping you playing.

In regards to the gameplay, the major change they've made since Diablo II is the way that the skill system works. Previously, you dumped points into your various attributes (strength, dexterity, etc) and you had various abilities that you switched between with hotkeys and could also put points into to strengthen them. Now, the point-dumping is gone, which to me is a good thing. Having to micro-manage and spend points on abilities and attributes is, for me, one of my least favourite things about RPGs. In regards to character abilities, you now have a WoWesque hotbar on which you place abilities, each of which can be casted by consuming your classes' equivalent of mana and some of them also have a cooldown before you can use them again. The deeper customisation comes in the form of Runes, which are essentially modifiers, which change how your main ability works. As an example, one of the Barbarian's main attacks is Cleave, where he swings his weapon, hitting everything in front of him. The first Rune you unlock for this ability makes it so that each enemy killed by this attack explodes, dealing even more damage to enemies around it. Couple this with the unfortunately well-hidden Elective Mode, which allows you to pick and place your abilities as you choose, allows for a truly staggering amount of depth in the character customisation. The fears people had about customisation not being as deep as previous games due to the lack of allocating skill points are completely unfounded here.

Let's talk a little bit about the story though, as it's in my opinion the weakest area of the game. Granted, I don't have much experience with previous Diablo games, but even with that in mind, the general storytelling in the game was just pretty weak overall. Also, heads-up: Spoilers.

Read the rest of this entry »

So hey there, if you've been here before, you'll probably notice that everything looks a little different. I initially launched this blog using a pre-made WordPress theme. It'd been a number of years since I'd done any real coding of any kind, so I would've rather launched the blog and get some content out first, before worrying about making a theme a little more personal. Content is the most important thing about a blog, after all.

I started working on it weeks ago, but finally got my finger out and made it into a proper WordPress theme over the past couple nights. I'm reasonably happy with how it turned out. Doesn't have some of the more fancy WordPress features, like widgets, but I don't really need them for what I'm trying to do here. I'm also thinking of maybe adding an alternate, darker, colour scheme. My heavy usage of Giant Bomb has led to me to becoming accustomed to white-on-black, as opposed to the more traditional black-on-white. The former is better late at night as well, which is when I seem to spend the majority of my time reading online. Shouldn't be too hard to implement, with the exception of the subtle background pattern, there's no images to change, it's all CSS. An old blog I had a few years back had a style switcher as well, so I might even be able to just copypaste over some code.

If you find anything wrong, leave a comment on this post, shoot me an email, or hit me up on Twitter. I don't want to have to do too many short update posts on here, so normal service will be resumed shortly.

In other news, myself and three of my online-e-buddies made a podcast on Friday. We originally made one about a year or so ago that ran for about eight episodes, before it kind of fell by the wayside. We finally got our acts together and did something about it. So, check out the GAEMZCAST, hopefully every Friday/Saturday-ish. We haven't gotten a proper schedule sorted out yet. The idea was that the podcast would accompany GAEMZNET, a website myself and my e-mates were planning a while back. Articles, reviews, video content, that sort of thing. Obviously, that hasn't worked out yet, and isn't likely to anytime soon, so for now at least, the GAEMZCAST is it's own thing.

Here's a little something about me: I love point-and-click adventure games. However, I'm not particularly versed in the genre, so to speak. I'm like that kid who says he's a huge fan of a band, when in reality he's only actually heard a couple of tracks off of a greatest hits album. The first two Broken Sword games, Shadow of the Templars and The Smoking Mirror, respectively, are two games that defined my childhood. If I were to make one, they would both appear pretty high in a list of my favourite games of all time. They're two games that I know like the back of my hand, having played through them many, many times throughout the years. Anyone who has an interest in classic point-and-clicks who hasn't played them, should play them. My bias aside, they're generally considered to be among the best classic adventure games ever made, the first in particular often finding itself in best-of lists.

"Life went on around me, but the explosion was to change my life forever."

Point-and-click adventure games are among the few types of video games that, in my opinion, generally age pretty well. Good 2D art will always age better than bad 3D graphics, and there's not much room for improvement on the basic point-and-click gameplay of classic adventure games. And because the main focus of adventure games is the story, which obviously doesn't "age" in the same way that other aspects of a game would, means that adventure games are generally much easier to enjoy years down the line. With other types of games, playing them after they've aged isn't always easy, due to the lack of gameplay features and innovations that've come since and that we're used to and often can't look past. Not to mention the old-looking graphics in the case of 3D games (go back and look at some early 3D games from the mid-to-late-90s, that shit ain't pretty). Adventure games generally don't have that problem.

So, why haven't I played all that many adventure games? Truth is, I have no idea. Another thing about me: I love a game with a compelling story, which makes it all the more strange I have played all that many of these games, what with compelling stories being the main focus of them. This is something I plan to correct, with a reasonable number of point-and-click adventures sitting on my massive backlog of games.

In fact, I've already started. I played through Beneath a Steel Sky last week, a very highly revered game by Revolution, the same dudes who made those Broken Sword games I love so much. Because of that, I figured it would be a good place to start. That and the fact the game has been completely free since around 2004 or so. I would like to pick up a physical copy at some point, since I love having physical copies of games. The day gaming becomes purely digital will be a sad, sad day. But that's a story for another day.

The plot and setting are of BaSS is pretty different than that of Broken Sword, although Revolution's charm and humour are definitely there. Steel Sky is set somewhere in a dystopian future in Australia, where most of the NPCs have ridiculous British accents. The game is worth playing for that alone. Some of the voice acting is absolutely hilarious. While the scope of the game is pretty limited compared to their later offerings (Steel Sky only being Revolution's second release, after Lure of the Temptress, another game on my hit-list), the world is surprisingly well realised, even if the majority of the game only takes place in a handful of different areas.

The game isn't terribly long, but then again, most classic adventure games (to my knowledge) aren't particularly long. I can plough through Broken Sword in a couple of hours tops. The puzzles in BaSS are also pretty well done as well. Not super-easy, but not so hard that they make my primitive brain struggle and resort to a guide. The game, for the most part, does a decent job explaining what you need to do to continue, which is good because, in a story-focused game, more often than not the only thing I want to do is see more story. So, I guess I could call that a recommendation. If you have any sort of interest in adventure games and you haven't played Beneath a Steel Sky, you really owe it to yourself to play it. And it is free, after all. Hard to argue at that price.

As for other games on my adventure hit-list? There's certainly quite a few. I bought the remake of The Secret of Monkey Island off XBLA way back when, and got a couple of hours into it, though never finished it, so I probably owe it to myself to see that one through, as well as the second game which got a similar makeover. I plan to get around to playing the games that Tim Schafer is known for as well: Full Throttle and Grim Fandango. I'm actually eyeing up a copy of Full Throttle on eBay at the moment, and I've been trying to get an original big-box copy of Grim Fandango, though the past couple auctions have slipped me by, and the buy-it-now listings are a little more pricey than I'm willing to pay right now. One day though. One day.

As for more modern day games, I'm a couple of hours into Gemini Rue, which was on sale a little while ago on Steam, and I'm definitely enjoying that, even if it does have a pretty clunky combat mechanic. I've heard great things about the Blackwell series by the same guys as well, so I'd love to check them out. I also want to play some of the games by Pendulo Studios. Giant Bomb recently did a Quick Look of Yesterday and that definitely looked like something I wanted to play and I hear their back catalogue is of similar quality.

Having said all that, I currently have a fucktonne of other, non-adventure games on my backlog as well, which I would love to get through. I haven't been doing all that much gaming lately, even with the amount of free-time I generally have. I'm often plagued by lack of motivation, and sometimes it's almost as if I enjoy reading and talking about video games more than I enjoy playing them.

Maybe I'm just getting old.