Monday, May 14, 2007

FIRST IMPRESSIONS LAST…

It’s funny how powerful first impressions are. I had two brand new games exposed to me over the last few days and they have both left first impressions. I’m going to be very interested over the next little while to see if the continued experience with the games changes my current feelings towards them.

Item the first: City of Heroes. Many of my friends and I have a regular Tuesday night online game. Lately we’ve been playing DDO. But we’ve reached a problem with it. The game is very much geared towards having six players and we currently only have five interested. For a few weeks we’ve been kicking around ideas for replacements or wondering if we should just try to slug it out with five.

We’ve reached an agreement to try CoH as a possible replacement game. Coyote had some invitations so we could all try it out for a 10 day free trial. I signed up downloaded the bajillion byte installer, got it installed and started it up.

The character creation process was a lot of fun. I made lots and lots of changes before settling on a character. I now regret what I decided on because it looks so bland in the game which is very vibrant and colorful – but I have heard that there are tailoring stores in the game where you can change your appearance so I’ll have to do that some time.

The next thing that happened is I was dumped into the training zone to learn some of the game basics. There was definitely some bewilderment while I was trying to figure out the menus and on screen displays and rather a bit more bewilderment when I couldn’t figure out how to walk and turn at the same time. Turns out that the key mappings are in the wrong place for turn actions and strafe actions.

The game itself was mildly interesting. I had a hard time not thinking of my Super powers as spells but that has more to do with me not really being a part of the super hero genre I suppose than anything else in the game. The final training mission had me teamed up with a CPU controlled buddy. I was exploring the rooms in this building when I entered a very small break room with a ruined candy machine. The CPU buddy stood in the doorway and when I tried to leave the room wouldn’t budge. I couldn’t push past her, I couldn’t jump over her. I spent twenty minutes trying to figure out some way out of this stupid little room. Finally I managed to jump up onto the candy machine apparently getting just far enough away to trigger her follow subroutine so that she moved a pace further into the room and I was able to get around her.

The mission finished uneventfully after that but I was also done. This first taste of the game left me feeling ho-hum and not really excited about playing any more of this. Now granted, this game is an MMO and solo play in MMOs is usually pretty lame – so the next test will come when I play with my friends. Hopefully the game will show its strengths then but my first exposure to the game has definitely left a bad taste in my mouth.

Item the Second: UFO: Extraterrestrials. I’m a huge fan of the old X:COM games. I played the Terror from the Deep one first so it’s my favorite but it’s basically the identical game to UFO Defense. They were delightful and spooky games. For a long time I’ve longed for an updated version of one of these with basically the same game play and better pictures. Well that day is finally here.

My first take on UFO:ET was wow this is pretty much exactly what I asked for. The game plays in to major segments the strategy based geo-scape view and the tactical based combat view. In the first you can see the whole world where you can build and manage your bases and detect and hopefully shoot down UFOs.

The strategy portion is fairly faithful to the old X:COM games. The major differences are that you can not hire technicians, scientists and soldiers. Squaddies are apparently assigned to you as you go along, techs and scientists seem to be a part of the lab or workshop facilities when you build them with each one giving you 10 additional people.

In addition some of the other base management actions have also been simplified. There doesn’t seem to be the equivalent of general stores and I don't know how many people I can cram together in that one living quarter. I guess I’ll find out. The research trees have all started well and I like some of the changes with the fighters you use in that you have cannon hard points and missile hard points not just generic weapon ports.

The tactical section is so far the highlight of the game for me. The transport ship you start with can only hold one vehicle and four squaddies so the squad size was much lower than I was used to in X:COM. The first time out the door of the transport within five rounds all my squaddies were dead. YEAH! This game rocks. The second time I tried a tactical mission I was much more careful.

The aliens use decent tactics and avoid closing into obvious kill zones – forcing my squaddies to come to them. Squaddies can level up in rank like in X:COM games and their skills will increase but in this game you get to pick which stats to raise for them when they achieve a new rank instead of the computer automatically raising some of them for you. My guys currently have projectile weapons still and the bad guys are shooting plasma beams (that I can’t research yet).

This game is much less spooky than X:COM was, perhaps, it’s because this is set on a fictional world instead of on earth so there is already some unreality built right into the premise of the game. The aliens are good looking though, and the ones I’ve met so far are very alien not clay-mation beasties like the X:COM Apocalypse ones. I really wish that there was a map function in the tactical view and it would be great if I could left click on an alien to switch to the targeting cursor instead of having to click on the gun in my selected squaddies hand but these quibbles are fairly minor.

All in all this game has left a favorable impression with me and I’m looking forward to the chance to play more of it. Hopefully, this trend will continue.

1 comment:

John O said...

So did spending time in a group alter the CoH perception at all? Our setup-and-test session seemed to have mixed results.

One person without Ventrilo set up, one unable to get Ventrilo working properly, one unable to stay connected to the game.

For those that avoided those issues, it seemed to go fairly well once we figured out what we were doing.

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