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Funcom, I Love You. No, I Hate You. Wait, I Love You Again.

Well, I finally managed to get a Second Sight review up last night. As I mentioned before, I had some initial misgivings about this title, particularly when its demanding controls annoyed the hell out of me in the first hours of gameplay. Once I got used to them, the sailing was a little smoother, particularly since the story is so involving, and the narrative style itself is pretty intriguing. Sadly, the story does too much of the work here, and the ease of psi-power control and polished implementation of the Havok physics engine are missing - and as high-minded Free Radical's intentions may have been, the result is decent but rough, so there is a little too much work to get to the fun.

I am also in the process of writing a review for Anarchy Online: Alien Invasion. I am a longtime player of Anarchy Online, and a dedicated fan of The Longest Journey, so the launch debacle of AO notwithstanding, I have a great deal of respect for Funcom's talent. Shadowlands, the previous AO addition, is an example of an expansion done right, with added professions, a whole new perks system, an entirely new realm to explore, and a ton of other content for both new and experienced players. Alien Invasion promised some exciting new enhancements, like player cities and large scale alien attacks, and I eagerly plunged into it upon release (and have been playing for about three weeks now), hoping for an infusion of new energy into my standby MMORPG. It appears as though AI is meant to be a love letter to experienced players, but it takes a tremendous amount of effort and teamwork to reap the benefits. When you finally are able to withstand an alien invasion of your very own, the result is tremendously powerful and exciting, but there is absolutely nothing that would draw in new players interested in exploring an MMO, nor is there anything of interest for those that like soloing (and in Anarchy Online, the first solo-friendly MMO, there are many). A full review will be up shortly, but whether Alien Invasion is a worthwhile purchase depends on your current status within Rubi-Ka. Lower-level players and those that want more depth to their solo experience will be sorely disappointed, but high-level players in guilds will be more than pleased. My reaction, understandably, is mixed.

Just where are MMO's headed, anyway? I'm admittedly a junkie, having played every retail MMO released thus far, and quite a few downloadable ones as well. This year (and last) delivered a number of disappointments, and actually, Horizons stands as my personal choice for failure of the year thus far. Last year, Shadowbane had carried away that dubious MMO honor, even in the wake of ambitious-but-empty entries like EVE. So far this year, City of Heroes has been the only entry in the genre with something new and fun to offer, yet eventually, it grew tiring, if only because the innovations were only skin deep. This isn't to say I require sweeping innovations for a game to be good; to the contrary, I highly enjoyed Doom 3, even though it brings relatively little to the table that hasn't been done before. However, MMO's need a shot of adrenaline, and World of Warcraft and Guild Wars both seem likely to deliver it, even though both take wildly different approaches to solving problems the genre has suffered from for years. And yes, for those ready to tear me up one side and down the other, I know that Guild Wars is not an MMO in ths strictest sense, but it's clearly related to the genre as a whole, and deserves attention within this context. Blizzard is hardly looking to evolutionize massively multiplayer games, but their title could define the pinnacle of MMORPG's in their current state, refining what makes them work, stripping away what hinders them, and forcing other developers to look at their games from a different angle if they wish to compete.

Early October brings reviews of Myst IV and Evil Genius, so keep your eyes peeled. I am just now starting Myst IV, so I will reserve comments until I have played further. Sadly, it seems unlikely that I will get to continue playing X-Men Legends any time soon, and both Dawn of War and Fable look lovely just sitting there on my desk, but I have yet to actually play a lick. Considering I have a week and a half or so between my early October reviews and the ones later in the month, I hope to take that time to game just for my enjoyment.