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HAWKEN Beta impressions

So I've been trying out the Hawken Beta in the last week or so and mostly it just boils down to heavy disappointment. I've always been a fan of Mechs, even though Mechwarrior was cool, it was kinda slow for my taste. Most Mechs usually just attach two legs on tanks and then you feel really heavy and slow. Yeah that's the definition of a Mech, I know, a walking tank, but that's not really fun to play. The Mechs you see in anime were always more cool, like the ones you see in Zone Of Enders, the ones that can fly and engage in quick melee combat while also shooting lasers was always so much more thrilling and exciting.

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Then Hawken got announced several months back, they promised this game would take inspiration from the Mechs you usually see in anime, meaning Mechs would be much faster, agile and will also be able to fly, you can imagine this really made me excited, especially since they also claimed it will be a free to play game, with optional microtransactions attached ofc.

Hawken Cinematic Trailer

And so I tried it, and immediately came to a major disappointment. The trailer above really made the game look cool, but as soon as I started playing I realized that there is NO WAY to switch the camera to an outside third person perspective, the one that you can see in the trailer. What the hell is the point of customizing your Mech if you can't even see it in action? Now don't get me wrong, the inside interface looks really good, most of the stuff is directly shown in the panels and terminals located inside your cockpit, but it just gets old quick simply focusing on the reticle in the middle and not being able to actually see your own mech in the heat of battle.

The second issue that I have is that the starter Mech you get looks REALLY ugly. Imagine a TV with two legs walking around the map, yeah that's the thing you'll be playing as for weeks until you can finally earn some cash to buy another model. And no you can't really change any parts from the mechs. All of the cosmetic parts including the weapons are done with real cash. So far I played more than 10 rounds, and despite starting with 5000 credits, I still don't have enough to buy a new Mech model which cost about 6500, because you only get about 150 per match.

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Fortunately they let you test out other Mechs for a limited time, but apart from one having a grenade launcher and another one having a sniper rifle, everyone else has a basic machine gun and a basic rocket. There are no lasers or any other kind of interesting weapons in the game at all, it just boils down to rushing the enemy and spraying them with bullets or well placed rockets faster than they can spray you.

Gameplay Video

The game you get isn't the one shown in the first video, as that one is completely fake and made more cinematic with the purpose of selling you the idea how cool this might be, but instead you get the game shown in the second video. But regardless, I went on to see how everything else holds up. At the moment there only seems to be two maps, both of which are unattractive post-apocalyptic locations with pretty much nothing to do in them except for hunting down others. C'mon man, even Unreal Tournament and Quake had more elaborate levels and mechanics 15 years ago, at least there you had pick-ups and power-ups to search for and traps to activate and stuff like that. In Hawken, you just get an empty field in which you can run until you come across the enemy.

Another big issue I have with the game is that Mechs can level up by gaining exp after destroying others. Leveling up grants you new passive bonuses such as reduced bulled spread, reduced heating and faster rockets. Doesn't this just seem unfair to you? And most of the time the matchmaking pits you up against level 20+ people, there is no system in there now that prevents new players from playing with fully upgraded players, which is just stupid seeing as how the game is mostly about time spend farming exp instead of balanced skill play. As you level up you also earn some talents or traits or whatever which you can use to increase your walking speed, defense or offense, again simply unfair! Some kind of progression is good and all, but not when it clearly gives you straight out advantage over others that don't spend their time farming the two maps all day.

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Another really irritating thing is that every single time you die, before you can respawn, you are sent back to the garage. This can be cool if you want to take another Mech, but I DON'T want another Mech EVERY SINGLE TIME I respawn, this needs to be made optional asap. Also, there is NO music whatsoever, the atmosphere is completely dead and gets boring very fast after a few rounds.

The flying is also rather weak, it's bascially a simple 5-second jetpack which only makes your movements even more predictable and should only be used to climb buildings. Mech take damage as a whole, meaning even though you can equip different parts, those parts don't take individual damage and malfunction separately, instead it's exactly like every other online shooter, you shoot at them until their health drops, there are no targets to priorize and there are no interesting combinations for you to try out and strategies to utilize in order to bring different enemies down. Once you pick a Mech model you are stuck with the two weapons it has and you just repeat the same formula for every single encounter.

Game On

Been playing a bunch of cool stuff lately, most of which are from the awesome PS+.

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Motorstorm Apocalypse is just pure awesome, can't stop playing it, finished all races and found all collectibles, now I'm deep into online play. Already level 26 and close to another Platinum. I'll need to hurry though cause my PS+ ends in a week or so.

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Then there's LBP2, waited quite a while for this one to get under my paws. Already got the platinum, took me about two weeks, but boy was it fun, it's much more creative than the first one was. The only problem was the community, it basically consists of whiny brats that only play Mortal Kombat levels and want to slap each other all the time, seriously this slap mechanic should be removed from LBP. The trophy to spend 24 hours in create mode as well as the one to get people to play and/or heart your levels should have also been canned, it just results in a bunch of annoying and cheap levels.

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Also Starhawk Campaign mode was free to play. I expected it to be short, but it took me a whole day of playing to get it done. It was fun to say the least, I just might get into online one day.

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Machinarium took me by surprise, I wasn't expecting a point & click adventure game to be this good while also being so simple and charming. Yeah it might not have great funny and witty dialogue like Monkey Island, but overall I think it's much better simply because it does not have any dialogue whatsoever. Everyone can understand it and every area is a separate puzzle, every item you find on the screen is immediately used on that screen and there is no need to carry a large amount of items all the time just to get confused.

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Also finally got Uncharted 3. It's still sitting on my shelf though, haven't played it yet since I have other things that expire, once they do I'm jumping straight in.

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Last but not least, Guild Wars 2 of course. Many hours deep and so far level 66. World completion about 50% and there's still so much more for me to see, great fun.

Glitchspot strikes again + JC2 multi

What the hell is up with GS recently? Every time I visit I seem to be having some major issues, and it's really decreasing my will to visit, let alone write anything anymore.

Since I'm here I might as well talk about something, I don't usually write 1-2 sentence blogs and I don't plan to start now.

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You might remember me liking Just Cause 2 quite a bit, my only complaint was that it could have been so much more with some kind of online features. Recently there has been all kinds of nerdgasms about this one guy modding in a multiplayer feature for JC2 on PC. Apparently they are literaly having a blast (since destroying things is the only thing you can do in JC2), they managed to have 1200 players on one server, and theres also talk that it can support 20000 or even more players. That's all fine and dandy, but there's just one problem.

You see I already played GTA San Andreas with these kinds of mods where hundreds of players would gather to mess around. But that's just it, it's just messing around and it gets old quick. In JC2, all 20000 players will look exactly the same, as Rico because thats the only skin, and there won't really be any kind of structure or goals whatsoever. I don't even have to play this to know that it gets old fast, just how GTA did.

Since it's just an unnoficial and experimental patch/mod whatever, you can also expect quite a lack of polish, lag and other issues. People are wondering why other games (apart from MMOs) don't support 20000 players in a single city, GTA IV had 16 player limits (which was really too small of a number), and even games like Battlefield only have about 120 or so. But what these people don't seem to get is how polished these experiences are, yes JC2 can support 20000 players, but with what costs? Crashes, lag, ganking, etc. Fortunately unorganized chaos is in the spirit of JC2, but without any kind of goals or things to do apart from grappling and parachuting around all over agian (which I already did for 200 hours in single player) I really don't see any reason to ever touch this thing.

Having fun with Guild Wars 2

It's awesome to say the least. A very good and different take on mmorpgs, it's a lot more similar to WoW now that the original was. One of the most drastic changes were the skills. In the first GW skills were kinda like cards, and you could choose a couple to play with, and since there were thousands of them, and you could also play with two professions, the possible combinations were mind blowing. Apparently that was hard to balance so they simplified it a bit. In GW2 most of you skills are determined by the weapons you are holding in your hands, so if you have two-handed sword equipped, you will automatically have all 5 skills for that weapon type. It's kinda underwhelming when compared to the original GW, these 5 are good and all, but in the long run it's gonna get pretty repetitive if you only stick to one weapon type. I like to think of it as being like Devil May Cry or God of War for example, you only had a small amount of possible moves but each of them served a purpose for a specific spot or time to be used. But in the end, I managed to unlock every single weapon skill in my first day of playing the game (there are only about 20 or so ), so it's kinda depressing to know that after I invest a ton of hours in the game I wont ever have the opportunity to get a new attacking skill. The other 5 skills you can equip are a dedicated healing, 3 utility support skills and one elite skill, but these are also only few to choose from. Oh well at least the PvP will be more manageable.

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I'm a Charr Warrior level 20 at this point, fully completed the first 2 maps. There's a bunch of stuff to do, and there are dynamic events at almost every step of the way. I really like one of the cool new aspects they added, vista points. It's basically like the observation towers from Assassins Creed, you can find them all over the place, on top of houses, mountains and all over the environments, but getting to them actually takes some platforming. Yes that's right, platforming in an mmo, you need to scan around for possible ways to ascend, start jumping on rocks to make it across the gap and reach a destroyed wall from which you can then jump to another possible platform. Stuff like this was usually considered exploiting, but they really did carefully design these environments.

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There's a ton of players present, especially in the starting areas, and it's really cool how everyone can fluidly work together without the need to invite anyone to the group, because everything is shared people are quick to jump in and help you with whatever you are doing, instead of just avoiding you like in other mmos. Also I have to say it's pretty hard, once you go out solo you quickly get overwhelmed and die, so it's always a good idea to play in groups. There's a ton of really cool new features, like the fact that you can be in more than one guild at the same time, and that you can invite a friend from another server to join you. The personal story is also great, you can make choices in how you deal and approach stuff and everything is recorded in your diary. There's also a lot of npcs that talk to each other and interact with others, so everything really does feel alive and organic, I have already witnessed quite a few hilarious dialogues taking place around me.

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The most amazing addition to the game has to be the new pvp system. World VS World is simply crazy in scale, there are 4 huge battlegrounds taking place on a separate map, each of those with their towns, mines, resources, caravans, quests and stuff like that, so you can basically only ever play WvW and level up to maximum level, you don't even need to engage in combat with other players, you can help the fight by doing many other things, but I haven't explored all of that just yet. Back to playing I go!

EDIT: Oh yeah I forgot to mention that I'm actually playing with my wireless PS3 controller. I managed to set it up quite nicely, but it does take some concentration to get used to where the skills actually are. It wasn't easy to do since there are about 10 skills to use, plus jumping, evading, looting, switching targets, switching weapons, both mouse buttons so I can turn around and more. So yeah all of the buttons on the controller could have easily been used on just skills, but I set it up so that my healing and utility skills are activated with L2 + regular combat skill buttons. It's playable with my warrior, but I don't think other professions will be especially the elementalist since they have more skills to use because of elemental attunements. I just wish I could make the dpad work for extra skills somehow, but they become deactivated when my analog is used, because they are technically both used for movement so one negates the other, maybe if I used some different software... maybe I could try using voice commands, yeah that would actually be pretty cool.

XIII-2 and Shadow Era

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I finally got around to playing FF XIII-2 again and got up to what appears to be the final boss. I just can't seem to beat him so I need to go back and start doing some side quests and getting some more exp. I've been avoiding sidequests pretty much, mostly because they suck, all of them seem to be a case of "I'm looking for an item that doesn't exist in this time period, oh woe is me! What? You can travel in time to get it for me? Excellent, now off with you!" The story doesn't really do it for me, most of it makes no sense whatsoever, and it all just seems like a bunch of bullsh*t. I also don't like how there are only 2 characters and the third one is a monster, there is just a lack of personality here. At least in XIII you had 6 different characters interacting with each other, but here it's the same two personalities and issues everywhere you go. Also I can't really say that I also like the fact that all of the maps are recycled more than enough times for each time era, it just makes it seem so tedious to be exploring and traversing the maps I already did 5 times before.

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I started playing Shadow Era yesterday, a freemium online TCG. What's really cool is that it's cross platform from PC (browser), Iphone, Android and the bunch, so you can play a round or two on the go as well. It's very similar to MTG, the only major difference is in how combat works. When you attack in Shadow Era, you can choose your target, the enemy hero or any of his creature, so you can basically just swarm him and focus on the hero even though he has a ton of creatures. The rounds don't take long, a couple of minutes, and there seems to be quite a few different cards and classes, all of which you can buy with in game rewards. There's just one thing I don't like so far, and it's pretty trivial, you have to attack with one creature at a time. This can get a bit tedious if you have 5 creatures and the enemy only has a hero, so instead of sending all 5 in one go (like in MTG) you have to keep clicking and selecting attack then selecting the target for each one individually. What's cool is that it's really simple but still has depth, make a few wrong choices and you are digging your own grave. It's the kind of game I like, less choices with more importance are more interesting than spamming a ton of stuff that hardly matter.

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Enjoying Amalur, but something feels off

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So I started Kingdoms of Amalur recently and it's a pretty good game, I like the combat, the graphics, the music and the leveling up customization stuff, the only thing I didn't like was the amount of text and the tutorials they shove down your throat at the early hours. Instead of some good pacing, giving you more abilities and explaining all the new stuff a bit later when you master the old stuff, they just keep informing you of all the cool stuff you can do, but that just makes me pay less attention, skip some of it and eventually forget all about it later in the game. Apart from that little detail everything else is pretty smooth, however something feels terribly off now. The last quest I took (in the very first area) had me going around destroying 10 crates, at which point made me feel like I was playing an MMO, all alone in an empty world, and that's the thing that kinda turns me off when playing all these open world sandbox single player games. Since I started playing MMOS, it just never was the same, in MMOs I feel like I'm heading somewhere, everything I do counts for something, like I'm part of something bigger, a cog in a bigger machine, it's kinda hard to explain, but there is always this small factor present that something can be different.

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It's also one of the reason I really liked Demons Souls and Dark Souls so much, because of the online features, it made me feel like every single step I made, every single item I found or every single kill I made had some kind of impact on every other player playing, it could have meant victory or defeat at any time in the future coop battles, other people counted on me and I counted on others as well. What I really hate in MMOs is grinding though, I admit I don't like that, nobody likes grinding and farming, and that's the only thing that's keeping me from playing them at the moment (until GW2 comes out), but apart from that I really love the way everything can be connected in MMOs. Open world single player RPGs now just make me feel like I'm wasting my time instead of living in this imaginary cool world. Guess I just need to get hooked, Dragon Age got me hooked pretty early in the game thanks to it's compelling story and characters, but Amalur seems to be lacking all of that, it's just mindless forest hunting. To me it truly does feel like an MMO, an MMO with a population of only 1 player, wish there was at least some coop features...

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I do however realize that this is a good game, to me it just feels like I'm playing and killing all of these creatures in vain, the fact that the sense of something greater is completely missing makes me wanna turn off the game after 10 minute long sessions, but instead I keep pushing in hopes something might get me hooked. Dark Souls was really addicting, mostly because there was a ton of secrets, game changing choices (like the guy that kills your npcs if you're not careful), and because it felt just damn satisfying making and kind of progress in such a punishing environment, and of course the mysteries, everything was so mysterious you just had to keep on playing to see whats behind the next corner, but in Amalur it feels like most of the stuff is just handed down to me, I know in advance that in the forest there will just be more wolves, bandits or fairies or whatever, and that the next town will have me take more trivial chores... And all of this goes for Skyrim as well.

Tried Super Smash Bros. getting into Blaz Blue and some other scary stuff

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Instead of always playing 1on1 fighting games me and my 3 buddies wanted to finally try Super Smash Bros and see what all the rage is about. We played the very first one on the N64, and my impressions- gameplay wise- were not all that good. The roster of characters was very small, like about 8 or so, but the general gameplay was what was bugging me the most. It basically just boils down to pushing the other players into a hole, each of the stages is a floating platform so there are plenty of pits. Each of the characters only has three actions available, close ranged melee attack, long range projectiles and a move that can grab other players and throw them. There didn't seem to be any kind of health meter at all, instead when you keep hitting the others their percentage meter keeps rising, the higher it is the farther they fly, at least that's how I came to understand it. Overall it didn't really seem all that balanced and fun, each of the rounds boiled down to spamming the same tricks over and over.

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It was about time I got into Blaz Blue, all of my friends were into it for quite a while now, but 2D fighters never really appealed to me, the instant mashy mashy sprite attacks are always displayed in such a way that you cannot react to them, that is something why I always favored 3D fighting games over 2D. In 3D you can always catch a glimpse of how their limbs are moving so you might make a good call and react, not so much with 2D spriters (as I like to call them), you hit a button and in the very next instant his arm will be at full length reach. Anyhoo, I let all that slip this time just so that I could play with friends, all of the characters are kinda weird so picked someone that wouldn't be too complicated to play but also fairly strong and fast, since I'm having trouble with most of the slide inputs and shoryuken inputs, I even tend to ignore most of my available moves and combos for now. At first I played with Litchi, I was good for a while but then it turned out I couldn't really reach full potential with her so I switched to Jin now.

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Since horror genres are my favorite, I couldn't really skip a chance to play some of the weird new stuff I heard of recently, one of which is a game called SCP-087. It's first person, and it's not a shooter, you walk through the pitch black darkness in some creepy corridors and keep descending deeper and deeper. It's very spooky and atmospheric, but the scares are fairly cheap, however I won't go into more detail if by some chance anyone else wants to try it.

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Last but not least, there was no chance in hell I was gonna pass up on Slender, the uber popular new horror game. At first I thought it was kinda lame, but then....then it happens.... you see it... you thought it was just your imagination, then you take a closer look, and its really there. I hate to admit this, I have seen A LOT of truly scary movies and played a ton of horror games, but never have I sh*t my pants so many times in such rapid succession. It's kinda like Blair With Project, you run around in a creepy forest at night with only a flashlight while some weird thing chases you, however it doesn't actually move, and that's the scary part. Its just there, standing behind you and waiting you, only creeping towards you when you're not looking, but the trick is if you look at it then it takes you, so you better just turn around and start running! You mission is to find 8 pieces of paper containing some notes in a forest with some weird landmarks all over, but these notes seem to be at random places each time you play, so you have to keep looking around most of the time, and the moments when the thing turns up are truly bone chilling. I dare you to play this alone at night with headphones on.

Played Dear Esther

I played Dear Esther recently. It's one of those "art games" you might have heard about, though it certainly is debatable if it can be considered a game at all, more like a short visual interactive novel, and I say interactive very loosely here. It's very very short, there are only 4 locations, the whole thing can be finished in less than an hour, and there were quite a few things that bothered me. First of all, you should NOT get into it with a mindset of playing a game, like I did, cause you will be majorly disappointed with that you see.

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The point of the game is to explore the environment of an island as your character narrates and explains some plot elements. The lack of interactions kinda bothered me, the only thing you can do is walk, so it's not really interactive at all, you can only look at things, you can't touch or collect anything, so you're more like a spectator than a player actually. You can't even run, so when you see that you need to climb a mountain for a 4th time, or when you realize that at the end of a 15 minute stroll was a dead end, it makes you turn off the game because walking all the way in complete silence doesn't really scream excitement.

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Another problem I had was the actual story and the narration, the thing that actually mattered, was way too convoluted, at least for me, unless you're a master of English literature you will hardly understand what the guy is talking about. At least that's how it felt to me as I could barely follow him and his thoughts. Apparently he says different things every time you replay the game, but I don't really feel like hiking all the way again. Dear Esther is kind of an experiment, it's interesting to see in how many ways games or even movies or books might be headed in the future, but I really felt detached because of any lack of interaction. I do however think the soundtrack was amazing.

Finished Alan Wake

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It was pretty long, but I didn't enjoy it THAT much. The flashlight combat thing was interesting at first but quickly becomes boring because there are only 3 types of enemies that are recycled thousands of times. The biggest fault Alan Wake has is how repetitive predictable the gameplay is, it's always just go find and turn on a generator, then you get ambushed, after that you walk a bit in a forest then you find another generator and get ambushed again, repeat for 10 hours. The enemies were really boring because they are basically just random encounters that ambush you every single time, instead of being somewhere and doing something, they just keep spawning behind you. Also another thing that bothered me is that Alan Wake simple isn't scary, even though most of the game takes place at night it wasn't really all that dark at all, in it's core Alan Wake felt like a shooter, not a survival horror. I have a gun and a hunting rifle, with a couple of grenades, yet I should be afraid of a couple of hill billies with axes?

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What bothered me the most were the god awful levels, 80% of the game takes place in a bland forest, where every step of the way felt the same and lacked anything interesting to see or find. When you finally get into the town near the end of the game, it turns out it's only one street long... Fortunately for Alan Wake it excels in story, hence why I stuck around till the end, but the ending does't feel satisfying but instead feels more like a cliffhanger and a teaser for Alan Wake 2.