Sunday, August 15, 2010

Questing for Dragons, Nine times.

Recently, I decided to pick up a new DS game in anticipation of having to spend a lot of down time during a long work weekend. To be honest, my job requires a lot of hurry up and wait. So, to keep my down time from being deliriously boring, I decided to pick up my first Dragon Quest game, Dragon Quest IX.

The game is a JRPG, not very different in style from any of the Final Fantasy or Zelda's series of games. Your main character starts off as an angel, who, because of circumstances beyond his or her control, gets cast out of the heavens only to find that they have landed on terra firma with no halo and no wings. From there you adventure out trying to understand what happened and how to get back to your home in the clouds. There is a lot of the starting story that I'm leaving out because I don't want to spoil the experience. I'm really impressed with the visuals and cut scenes in the game. They are just fantastic for a DS game. I've played a few JRPG's on the DS, but most of them, Chronos Trigger and Final Fantasy 3 are all ports of older games and can't produce the kind of quality I'm seeing in this title. It is just visually nice.

The game play is pretty simple. There is a main story line that pretty much pushes the main character forward, but there are lots of side quests that can be done for items and xp. After a certain period in the story the ability to recruit a party members will become unlocked. I, not being that smart, tried to venture out without a group and got spanked, so when you get to the part where you can form a party of adventurers, do it. lol Party members are very customizable. You can choose their sex, hair/eye color and choose their names or you can pick from any number of pre-generated classes.

There is a profession/job for each character, i.e healer, mage, warrior, thief, etc. As you level them up, you get points to advance their skills. There are 5 different skills to level up. When you place a certain number of points in a skill, it unlocks certain abilities for that class. The warriors can unlock different abilities with the sword, the healer can unlock spell protections, etc. You can change your profession when you reach a certain part in the story, but I've not gotten there yet, but I've heard that you can change your profession to some degree. You will lose some of the stuff you've learned but if a character has maxed out a skill, they get to keep it, so if you want your warrior who has maxed out his sword skill to now be a healer, with a different set of skills you can. Now I'm not a 100% sure about that, but that is what I've heard. lol

Another very cool aspect is tactics. If you want to run one of your party members on auto pilot, you can choose from a number of different presets and that preset dictates the actions of your party member. My cleric is on a setting called "Focus on Healing" which means that he'll attack until he notices a party member's health getting too low, then he will start with the heals. This way, I don't have to make those hard decisions and since I've had the healer in my party, I've not had any deaths. Lucky me. There are other tactics that prevent casters from running out of mana or to keep fighter's attacking relentlessly. My healers is the only one set to a tactic right now, which allows me to manually control the other three party members.

The fighting so far has been fun, but there is a lot of grinding. Why so much grinding? Because there is also crafting in the game and to craft you need certain items that either drop from specific mobs or you can pick them up off the ground. This crafting is where you get a majority of your cool magical items. You can craft armor, weapons, rings and potions. As you travel through the world you gather recipes by searching bookshelves in the houses. I've collected a few recipes so far. Some items need for crafting you'll have to buy from vendors. One recipe is an upgrade to a dagger, so you have to have a dagger of a certain quality in order to transform it into something greater.

I'm just scratching the surface of all you can do with this game. You can also set the game to TAG mode and if your near someone else that has their DS in TAG mode, they will visit your world and you can visit theirs. You can trade treasure maps that will help you find some of the more interesting magical items in the game. Apparently there are tons of these maps out there and not every game will be able to find them so being able to trade them is the key to unlocking all of the maps. It's a lot like Pokemon where if you want to capture all the pets in the game you need to do a lot of trading with people online. The game does have a multiplayer mode, but its only adhoc and not over internet, which is a shame. If you have a one to four friends with the game, you can play together, but the story will only advance for the person hosting the game. Everyone else will still be able to level up and get some of the loot, but they won't be able to go back to their game with the story updated.

Not only is the game fun to play, but it's very punny in its own right with monster cucumbers called Cruelcumbers and evil cat magician's called Meowgicians. I've put in over 10 hours so far and there is sooo much left to do. If your a fan of Japanese Role Playing Games, I'd recommend this game. Its a lot of fun, the animation is top notch and hey, there's crafting. Who doesn't want that? lol

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Summer of Arcade

Every summer, Microsoft does a promotion for their Xbox Live Arcade series of games. It usually consists of 4 or more titles that can be purchased for download and if you get all of them, they'll kick you back a little bit of credit at the end of the summer. This years releases come with a higher cost than last years. Last years titles were $10.00 each, this year, the cost has gone up to $15.00. I'm not entirely sure every title deserves that price tag, but since it seems to be the new pricing model for all their arcade releases, I guess there won't be a choice. This summer I decided to splurge a little and I ended up picking up a few, which is what I've been playing lately.

Limbo, the first to be released, is a dark, mysterious puzzle platformer similar to last years summer hit, Braid. I've played roughly about an hour and my main reason for purchasing it was because of the art style. The game is dark with shades of grey. Everything is in shadow as your character a little boy in search of his missing sister must traverse this strange world by over coming monsters, traps and difficult puzzles. The game has no music only the sound of your character as he runs through the world encountering obstacles in his path. I was certain I had made the right decision when my poor little character was running through the dark world and met his untimely death by stepping on a bear trap. It was so sudden that I actually jumped off the couch. lol That was when I saw the only color in the game, a dark blood red that squirted as my characters head was lopped off when the trap closed. Pretty gruesome, but that is was so fantastic about this game. Its filled with moments of certain calm greeted by moments of sheer horror and death. The other great thing is that you death is pretty fast, gross and you start not far from where you die, so when you do die, and you will, you don't have to travel back through a large portion of the world to get to the spot of your previous death. Which is nice. Not sure it was worth the price of $15.00, but if it goes on sale, I would certainly pick it up.

Hydro Thunder Hurricane was my second purchase. It happens to be a remake of a classic arcade game that had been previous ported to the Dreamcast. I don't actually remember seeing it in the arcade back in the day, but I was busy playing Pinbot and Gauntlet II. This game is an arcade style racer, but instead of cars, karts or motorcycles, its speed boats. Each track, or water course, is different with it's own set of obstacles. The trick to posting the best time and winning is to capture boost along the course and to find the short cuts that will propel you ahead of your opponents.

This game has me hooked and not in a good way. Why? Because I love competition and one of the wonderful things about this arcade racer is that as you race you can see the completion times of people on your friend's list that have the game even if your not racing against them. Your not only competing to win the race, but in my case, I'm racing to beat my friend's times. I can't tell you how often I've restarted a race because I already knew 5 secs into the game that it wasn't going to be my best time and that to keep going would be a waste. The game is fun, addictive and looks fantastic. You really get the feel of being on the water in a speed boat. The music isn't the best, but it's not as annoying as it could be and that's a plus. In my opinion it's worth the cost of admission.

The last title I picked up was Monday Night Combat. This is the four summer arcade release. I will mention that the fourth release was Castlevania: Harmony of Despair which I didn't pick up because I'm not that big a fan of the series and I had been hearing reports that it wasn't worth $15.00, so I skipped it. Maybe if the price comes down, I'll grab it, but for now, lets talk about my third purchase.

Monday Night Combat is Team Fortress 2 created using the unreal engine with a twist. There are 6 different classes to play Support, Tank, Assassin, Sniper, Assault, and Gunner. Each one is different with different skills that are completely upgradeable by spending the cash acquired by killing your opponents and their bot army. The game play is pretty simple, defend your base. Currently there are a few issues like not being able to cue up for matches as a premade group. I could get into plenty of matches if I soloed but if I was in a Live Party that wanted to join as a group, getting people to pug in was an issue, so we ended up playing against each other in a private game. The maps are pretty limited. Not sure exactly how many maps there are because they pretty much all looked the same. I do hope this gets upgraded with some DLC in the future otherwise the community for this game will die a quick and horrible death. However, if your wanting to play Team Fortress 2 on the console and don't have it, this is an inexpensive alternative and although I'm not sure as of yet if its worth the price of admission, I do like the game a lot.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

What I did on my vacation from WoW.

Since there apparently is an issue when I try to post my Star Trek Online screenshot pictures inside the body of my blog(... still not sure what the issue is...)I decided to upload them all to Google's Pisca.


Please fill my raid spot.

Wednesday night is normally 10 man Raid night in WoW. Tonight, I'm not gonna do it. Instead, I'm going to log in, beam on board my ship, give the order to power the impulse engines and cruise around the galaxies of Star Trek Online. I want to test out my new Science vessel that I picked up after reaching Lieutenant Commander last night. I was wrong in my previous post when I said it was every 10 levels. In fact, its every 11 levels.

After reaching my new level, I was asked to see the Admiral on Space Station Earth so he could promote me to the proper rank. Afterwards, I was told to head to the space stations conference area where I was saluted by everyone in the room and given my new set of officer bars. It was very formal and very nice. In most other MMO's when you reach a milestone you don't get any pomp and circumstance, you just get a very loud "Ding" and shimmering colors. In STO they make it a proper celebration. I can't wait till my next promotion and my next ship, but for now, I'll cruise the star systems with pride and the fortitude to seek out new life and new civilizations, to kill Gorn, Klingons and marauders alike.

One thing I do want to say before I end this post. The animation, at times, might not be the smoothest, but the space battles and massive explosions are fantastic in my book. Along with the music it gives you the proper feel of being part of the Star Trek IP.