Sunday, January 8, 2006

Three games in one post

I haven't really mentioned any of the games I've played in a while. Heck, I haven't even mentioned World of Warcraft in a while, as far as I can recall. So, the last three games I played:

Neverwinter Nights: Shadows of Undrentide—Kinda boring and uninspired. Way too easy; I'm not sure what level this was designed for, but it's some number below what my character was already at. Story doesn't get interesting until the very end, and the whole thing seems like some fan-created module and not a game expansion pack. But, it sets up nicely for...

Neverwinter Nights: Hordes of the Underdark—I had a lot of fun with the second expansion to Neverwinter Nights. It's epic, it's interesting, and it has a story you can get interested in. The first hour or two actually sucks quite a bit, so I was really worried, but it picks up steam and doesn't let go. The story has interesting twists and turns, people die, people turn sides, and if you travel with the kobold bard Deekin, he slowly transforms into a dragon. Lots of interesting possibilities, not to mention that your character reaches "epic" levels that D&D-based games don't normally touch. I was a level 28 paladin by the end, and I could just tear through stuff with my +10 sword. My only real complaint is that it seems like you really need to switch over to a "prestige class" once you hit level 20 or so, because they haven't added enough high-level content for the base classes. Through both expansions and 10 level-ups I never learned a single extra spell. There was no real reason for me to remain a paladin; I should have picked a second class, but the game didn't really urge me into it, so I just stayed a paladin waiting for that next batch of spells to become available. Oh well. Lots of fun. Better than the original game.

Pariah—Kinda sucks. There's a lot to dislike about the game. It was hailed and hyped around its release, but apparently I should have paid more attention to the reviews. The story is boring and makes no sense, and is told through cutscenes recorded at some hideous 320x200 resolution. Why aren't they in-game cutscenes? Well, they are. They're in-game cutscenes that have been pre-recorded and then stretched to your screen, so they're blocky and awful. They're not even anti-aliased. Enough about them. You'll get to see them a lot because the game doesn't have savegames; it uses the same kind of idiotic checkpoint mechanism like Far Cry or pretty much every console game. The checkpoints are, for the most part, placed pretty well, but the bad part is that they're before cutscenes. You get to see the cutscene every time you die, and you can't skip it. The vehicles don't control well at all, and the only fun you'll have in one is when your sidekick is driving and you just shoot stuff. There are roughly three different enemies in the game, though some of them have accessories like a helmet or a riot shield. Some of the levels are repetitive, too. The whole game feels like some port of a mediocre console game. In fact, it feels quite a lot like Halo; amusing enough, but far from good.

The only upside to Pariah is the selection of weapons. All of the weapons are distinct and useful, though fairly stereotypical. I enjoy when starter weapons like your pistol do not become "obsolete" at the end of a game. In fact, I used nothing but my starter rifle against the second-to-last boss. The absolute best part about Pariah is its upgradeable weaponry. Throughout the game, you collect tokens that let you upgrade one of your weapons. The first upgrade costs one, the second costs two, and the third costs three. Each weapon does different things when you upgrade it. For example, the first upgrade to your sniper rifle adds heat-sensitive vision to the scope. The first upgrade to the grenade launcher gives you remote detonation capability. The starter rifle gets accuracy and damage upgrades. You can also upgrade your medkit, giving you faster heals and more health. You only spend the upgrades on the weapons you use most and think you'll get the most benefit out of. It's a very cool, light-RPGish system. But, one cool gimmick is not enough to make a fun game. Pass.

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