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Some Old Games

This past week I spent most of my time after work building a computer. I never touched the inssides of one before, and I installed a disk drive, wifi card, and graphics card. While the computer isn't the best, its nice to get my hands dirty with it. The thing is now I have a computer that runs Windows 7 although has a graphics card from about 2003. It's got an GeForce 8400 with 512 mb and 4 gb of DR2 RAM. So it's not the best, but it does it job. I'm looking to upgrade it soon I think. I want to buy a better graphics card and RAM.

This old computer though has left me playing old games like Rollercoaster Tycoon and Command and Conquer Generals. I can't say I'm upset about that, but it's not the Crysis machine I was hoping for. It's interesting to go back to these games years later and see how they hold up. Rollercoaster Tycoon is as perfect as ever, while Generals fairs a little worse. The AI is awful now. It's not even a comptetition. Maybe I'll try playing challenge mode on hard though. I never did that before. It's probably worth a try. Off to play some games...

Europa Universalis: After the War

I started my game as Russia in the late 18c. I was bored simply building up my colonies and provinces, so I declared war on the Ottoman Empire. I'm winning the war, but paying the price on the homefront. My once high manpower level has dropped to below 30,000 from its mighty 250,000 at the beginning. My provinces have also started revolting, and not just a thousand soldiers here and there. Armies 9,000 strong spring up overnight in any province. My forces are spread thin chasing down one revolutionary army after another.

I want to end this war although I don't know how. I thought I would get income from my occupied territory, although I can't. I have to win gain control of the provinces in a piece settlement. The Ottoman's won't give me all of them though. I can only take a certain number even though the war is long over. I'm slowly steamrolling them to defeat. I can't figure out how to fully annex a country. When I conquered a smaller country (that foolishly allied with the Ottomans), I had to leave it with one province. I'm not sure how to declare peace with them and keep all the provinces. That was a real bummer after investing in the war effort. 

In hindsight I probably should have read the manual, but I have a digital copy and I hate reading manuals on the computer. EU3 does an awful job of teaching you everything in the tutorials though. I learned by failing miserably a few times and then jumping in as a superpower. So I'm not sure where to go from here. I think I'll pursue peace and then build up my trade power. The problem is that I don't know how to really win the game. It's open ended so there's no goal for me. It's hard to determine what it is I should be striving for. Once I finish this game though maybe I'll jump in as someone better. Who knows...

Team Fortress 2? Goodbye sleep.

i own a simple 13 inch macbook pro. No extras, just an Intel 4000 integrated graphics and 4 gb of RAM. I had held off on gaming for a long time on it because I thought there were no games for mac, and because I thought there was no way I could play anything without a dedicated graphics card. Little did I know TF2 works only requires Intel HD 3000 and up. Woah. The download took forever, but eventually I was ready to try my hand against TF2's bots.

Those bots are so good on easy I can't imagine what they are like on normal. To give you some perspective about my PC gaming habits, the last time I played a PC shooter was 3 or 4 years ago and they were the multiplayer Halo: CE and Battlefield 2 demos. I'm a little rusty on the mouse and keyboard shooters and TF2 was hard to get the hang of. It ran pretty smoothly on my computer though. I think it was mainly the Internet connection more than my actual computer that was creating some lag. 

As far as the gameplay goes I'm finally getting the hang of some of the different classes. Heavy is easy to play as, and I've finally got the rocket soldier dude down, although the fast paced and close range classes I need to work on. The spy and recon classes are too close range for me and I can't keep the enemy in my sites. I don't do as well with a mouse and keyboard as I do with a joystick. I'm not sure if its my crappy mouse, or my computer that freezes up. I have no clue how the engineer works also. Something with turrets, but who knows. I'm having a blast with it though. If anyone wants to teach me or play my Steam ID is Tartarus11.

The tongue in cheek humor is also liberating after a long day at work. I loved the little snapshot moments after I get blown to pieces, and the losing team running around with their hands in the air waiting to be killed. It's little things like that which make the game infinitely better. 

Europa Universalis 3

I'd been hearing about Europa Universalis 3 for the past few years and always hoped to play it. The game was available in one of the IndieGala bundles earlier this year so I snatched it up. I just started playing this past week and I can't stop! It's incredible! The level of detail that goes into crafting this 16c world and the intricacies of gameplay make for the perfect experience! 

While its fun now though, I must confess it was awful when I started. I didn't read the manual (I only read physical manuals, not the digital versions) so I was a little lost and the tutorial did a poor job of acquainting me with everything. It took me a few false starts to figure out how to actually play. I tried playing as a small pacific island figuring it would be easiest to start with a one island country. The game progressed so slowly I gave up. Next I tried my hand as China in the late 1700s, although that ended within five minutes after numerous provinces revolted. Finally I decided to play as Russia in the late 1700s and I've been sticking with that ever since. 

I started out with small missions to build universities, while colonizing Alaska. After a few decades of that and amassing an unrivaled treasury I decided it was time to do something more. My relations with the Ottoman Empire were not that great, so why not invade? I built an army and crossed liberated province after province, although I was shocked to learn that conquering a province does not transfer ownership of it. You have to acquire it in a peace agreement. There goes my master plan. My war score grows every day though, and eventually it will be large enough to make peace and gain territories. That's assuming I can maintain my manpower. I'm falling behind and I might have to settle for a peace soon. I'll come out ahead though. 

The main problem I find is that there's not always that much to do in the game. I'm occupied with war so it's fun, but before that it was just waiting around for buildings to finish and then building something else, and the occasional colony to deal with. It was hardly edge of your seat action. The war changed that though. I was surprised none of my allies came to my aid though. Seriously Prussia? Where were you when I needed your armies?

Now I'm focusing on the end war; finding out how to get the provinces I want and maintain an advantage over the Ottomans. Russia once considered them a threat, but no longer. 

Estate Takedown

It's only a few years too late, but I finally completed Modern Warfare 2's Estate Takedown Spec Ops mission. The level mixed both some of Call of Duty's stengths with its weaknesses for a level that is merely ok. Estate Takedown boasts an unparalleled assortment of guns to choose from, while it mixing blind battles through the trees. It's always good to have your gun of choice, but what use is it really when you can't see enemies through the trees. Somehow they are capable of hitting me though. Can I get their scopes? After crawling through the house and clearing it floor by floor, I managed to gain a safe zone. Planting claymores by the entrances allowed me to bait the snipers into submission while the clock ticked on. It was a slow session and twenty minutes. Why are they so hard to see through the trees? To be clear, I have no problem with not being able to see them, it's just that they shouldn't be able to fire at me if that's the case. Is this something they'll fix on Xbox One? The processing power is there. Overall it wasn't too bad though; twenty minutes earned me a gold star. Now if only that gold star got me something...

Borderlands 2 Impressions

At first sight Borderlands 2 seems just like the first. Upon playing it for a few hours, it doesn't play that differently. It's still the same Borderlands I remember. This doesn't mean it's bad though. Borderlands is just as enjoyable as ever, although the main problems that I had with the original are still present. Because the game is an RPG, accuracy is defined based on your skill level and the gun's accuracy. The problem though is that I find the guns too innacurate. My assault rifle can't hit anything even with a scope. Perhaps this is because I'm used to a different distance scale from Call of Duty, but it doesn't feel natural. Additionally the guns move around too much making them hard to aim. I understand my character is breathing but does the gun really have to move THAT much? Can I hold my breath at least? My last main gripe is the enemies. At times it feels like never ending swarms of enemies without any purpose. Instead of pushing forward I'm forced to take cover and pick them off, only to wait for another horde to spawn in their place. There is too little forward progress in firefights. Perhaps this was due to the berzerker class I chose. 

My character had a sweet dual weilding ability, although it took until level 5 to unlock. As opposed to the singularity ability I had in the original game, I found dual weilding much less effective. Accuracy deminishes significantly and I don't play as an in your face character. I'm starting to think I chose the wrong character class, and now I have to make the best of it. The game is still incredibly fun though. It's always fun getting new weapons, even if the weapon variety hasn't exploded at this point yet. I basically have access to just shotguns, pistols, and rifles. I'm waiting for the snipers and heavy machineguns. I do have an incendiary pistol with a scope which is quite effective against everything. It's my go to weapon for the time being. I've gotten a few rocket pistols and assault rifles although the bullets travel too slowly to be effective.

The biggest improvement I spotted is the new Badass Points. You earn Badass Points for completing challenges like killing a certain number of enemies and so forth. You can redeem Badass Points to upgrade different traits like overall health, reload speed, and so forth. Virtually everything is upgradable, although a list of five choices is chosen at random each time. This further changes the gameplay and buffs your character. 

I enjoyed my brief stint with Borderlands 2 and I can't wait to get back to it. For anyone that hasn't picked it up yet, you really need to get on that.

Leave Call of Duty to Infinity Ward

The shocking news came yesterday that Halo Reach is now played online more than Halo 4. What's really going on underneath the surface? There are a number of factors leading to this, although there is no clear right answer.

The first factor is that Halo Reach sold better than Halo 4. Halo Reach raked in less money in first day sales although Halo 4's first day saled included global sales. This means that Halo Reach potentially sold more copies, which would lead to a bigger community. The game is also in bargain bins so people would rather spend less money on Reach than Halo 4.

Another factor is the gameplay style. Halo 4 strayed far from Halo:CE's roots. While the loadouts might make gameplay fun, its not Halo. Halo was everyone starting out with a pistol and running around the map trying to find the sniper. The gameplay tries so hard to mimic Call of Duty with killstreaks and all, although Call of Duty does it better. Why would gamers want to play Call of Duty: Halo Edition when they can just play Call of Duty: Black Ops II? The latter has perfected the CoD formula whereas the former has an identity crisis. 

The third option is simply that Bungie makes better games. No offense 343, but Bungie is a damn good studio. Everything that comes out of there is perfect. Perhaps they just create a better multiplayer expereince? I'm curious how Destiny does because that will show whehter people bought Halo all these years because of the Halo or the Bungie name on the box. Which has a better following?

It's always sad news when an online community dies, but Halo 4 is not even a year old and smaller than Reach. It's not dead, but perhaps this is a warning for 343. Pick it up and return to our Halo's roots.

Curiosity Worth the Clicks?

Peter Molyneux is famous for overhyping things. Thus it came as no surprise when he unveiled what was inside the cube today. The winner will make the rules in Godus, as well as receive a cut of all profits. This sounds like an amazing reward, although youd better hope the winner knows what hes doing. It appears he has the power to make or break the game at his will. Making a game that works take a huge amount of talent, and years of practice. For every game runaway success there are dozens of flops, and through all of those games designers learn what to do. How can a random person know what to do? I really hope Molyneux decides to give him some advice or else that game is going nowhere.

Halo 4 Campaign Thoughts: Plays like Call of Duty and induces a stream of tears

Imagine longing to play your favorite game. You love it so much that you just thinking about it makes you ecstatic. You play the game in your head, mumble cutscenes while spacing out in class, and review strategies for when you play. You finally get home, fire up the game, and then you notice it. Nothing is as it should be. The game plays differently than you remember, and the game isnt as good as before.

When I played the Halo 4 campaign I had that feeling. Halo 4 has changed drastically from the Halo I grew up with. The campaign is eerily reminiscent of Call of Duty. The first in game breaks in which Master Chief pushes a button seem out of place. In a way its glorifying a lackluster action that can be overlooked. The sole purpose of the first person actions is to make it more cinematic and Call of Duty-like.

The Call of Duty theme comes up time and time again. Halo 4 sports the same interactive gameplay elements that Call of Duty made popular. Remember climbing the glacier in Modern Warfare 2? Youll see those elements here. While its not bad, it just doesnt feel like Halo. I feel like Im playing a Call of Duty spinoff. This feeling is worsened by a change in the Needler inflicts damage. Every time a needle hits you, there is virtually no damage inflicted. The damage is only inflicted after the needles explode. While this seems trivial, it drastically impacts gameplay. I dont always realize when Im getting shot with a Needler and die seemingly randomly.

The story behind Halo 4 would have had me in tears had my roommate not been breaking my immersion every three seconds. I think it might very well be the most emotional game Ive ever played, at least the most emotional Halo game. Cortana has gone rampant, and the interaction between Master Chief and Cortana is incredibly well done. My only gripe is that it was too short. I miss Halo 2s long campaign. I completed Halo 4 in only about six hours. There was so much missed potential between Chief and Cortana due to the campaigns brevity. I would have loved to see their interactions play out for a longer period of time before the credits role. 

The story also ties in perfectly to the Forward Unto Dawn short films. The new characters have unique personalities, although Master Chief doesnt have long lasting relationships akin to his relationship with the Arbiter or Johnson. The new faces fade as soon as they come. One of the most interesting characters is a female O.D.S.T. although she only appears in two or three scenes. Shes the perfect candidate for a series long partner. The story however is a solemn tale of the struggles between two close friends, so I can understand why they didnt introduce that many new characters. The narrative focuses beautifully on Cortana and Chief.

While it feels a lot more like Call of Duty than Halo, Halo 4 is still not to be missed for its narrative alone.

Halo 4 Multiplayer thoughts

Multiplayer is far more robust with its leveling system than previous Halo games, although I can't help but feel like Halo is copying Call of Duty. What made Halo different was that there were no loadouts, you scavenged for guns on the map making it even to newcommers and veterans. I find with Halo 4 that ammo is much more scarce than ever before because not all enemies drop their weapons or grenades. It's a customisable experience which leaves me ill. I want the Halo that I know and love, not the Halo that is a Call of Duty spinnoff. I want the Halo I grew up with. Bungie always talked about the three golden rules of Halo; Melee, Grenades and Guns. Two of those things are missing though. While melee is present and better than ever, grenades are scarce, and guns are scarce as well. It's hard finding ammo on maps. On the Valhalla remake I searched for the guns I know and love at they don't exist at the bases. There are no Battle Rifles lying for me to snatch.

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While certain game modes are more traditional, I miss my Assault Rifle/ Battle Rifle combo, and I don't want to sacrifice other perks to get them. This is not to say there isn't fun to be had in Halo 4 multiplayer. The modes are still great, although the maps have little variety. In my hours of matchmaking I have only played a small handfull of maps as the only the popular ones get voted. 

Ordinance drops also feel like they are out of place. They are essentially killstreak rewards for Halo. I'm not sure I'm a fan yet, especially since I never really like the rewards. In a sense I feel like they take away the even playing field that Halo always enjoyed in favor of rewarding good play. While this isn't necessarily bad, its just not something I expect in a Halo game. In fact, none of the things Halo does that I don't like are bad, it's just not Halo to me. To me Halo 4 multiplayer is just another sci-fi shooter with the same distinct protagonists, although with alien gameplay. 

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The thing that bothered me most though is all the actions in Halo 4 multiplayer. Yes, the actions. Sprint, crouch, reload, special ability, switch grenade... there are too many actions to map comfortably to the controller. I find that either I can play bumper jumper and aim while im crouching or I can use default and look while I use my special ability although I can't do both (although I confess I haven't looked through all the controller setting yet). This really annoys me because I can't do what I'm used to. I can't jump and strafe and still use the shield equiptment thing. It's frustrating to see a game I love and grew up with change so much. When does Halo change so much that it's no longer Halo?