Two Worlds, One Cup day 2

The USA vs England game went as well as could be expected from the American point of view.  If you count both goals as being sort of flukes, it evens out a bit.  The US goal was on target and you just can’t expect every one of those to get picked up.  Howard for the US was nothing short of amazing during the middle of the second half: especially shaking off a kick to the ribs that left him sprawled on the pitch for a few minutes.  Rooney was again shut down by Howard, and I think he should just give up and not play in games that Howard is in.    Sensless let me know that England was ranked No 3 right now and I was really shocked– we can trust that as good as England looks on paper, they always choke in the big tournaments.  This is their curse for inventing the game.

The other games I saw showed a lot of mediocre play.  South Korea ran a clinic on Greece and France, known for squeaking by with sub-optimal play until the tournament portion, just didn’t have what it took to really even make Uruguay sweat as they should have defensively.

As much as I love soccer, I have been absolutely enthralled with this video of beatings called in a game I’d never even heard of: Australian Rules Football.

UFC 2010 Demo review

I spanned some time with the UFC 2010 demo on Xbox360, spending about about three hours delivering beatings.  The short version of this very short review is that I am hopeful that the price of the 2009 game will go down when this comes out as I see virtually no reason to get 2010 before thoroughly playing through 2009.

Graphics
Awesome but stodgy. The model’s skins, the blood, the sweat, the damage– it’s all beautifully rendered. However, the animations and especially how the fighters react to hits is very strange and remind me more of rock’em sock’em robots than a real life UFC match.  I guess the best word to describe the fighting physics as they relate to the models is: contrived.  Nothing looks natural, these are beautifully skinned robots fighting.

Gameplay
Slow, Methodical, technical.   The fighting engine is much slower than most, if not all, fighting games out there: there’s no other word for it, but it’s quite a change from Virtua Fighter 5 and especially the lightning fast 2D fighters I’m used to.  Positioning is key to get the opportunity for big hits– and when you do there is always a chance that one left hook will be the end  of the fight.  I spent most of the time played striking and kicking, but found the ground game very engaging though it probably has the biggest learning curve.

However, the game, at least against the AI in the demo, is extremely easy, on anything but the EXPERT setting (which I certainly am not). I was able to beat all the other fighters on the second highest AI setting using the following: Takedown from medium distance, move to side mount, punch face until opponent escaped, repeat.  After the opponent is semi-bloodied (end of round 1 or beginning of round 2, start punching when both are standing up and you will get a KO rather quickly.  That was every match.  Very little deviation was required unless the opponent got a reversal or moved in too close before the takedown.   Expert AI counters and combos a lot but it’s the only level that gives anywhere near a challenge (even to a n00b).  Compared, again, to Virtua Fighter 5’s incredible AI scaling, this is a disappointment.

It’s a demo
There are many features the game offers outside the actual fights and some of them actually matter I suppose,  like the graphics, extras are important but nothing could make up for a bad fighting engine– something I can’t tell without playing extensively with a human opponent.  It’s a tough call on this one at full price– but hopefully the 2009 version will drop 10-20$ due to this release.

Faster than I can finish them!

Shogun: Total War 2 just announced by Creative Assembly.  Sadly I haven’t been able to get through a full campaign of Empire Total War (though I’ve already fulfilled the victory conditions, you have to wait until 1799 to actually win).  With Rome Total War and Empire Total war being some of the high points of modern strategy PC games for the rest of us who find Civ a whole lot of zzzzzz…. Shogun 2 is awesome news and it shows that the developers are doing something right as with games and expansions popping out right and left the series must be maintaining sales.  With Napoleon Total War it was only a matter of time before Creative Assembly veered away from the looming late 1800’s where the game would have to change drastically due to rifled barrels and especially artillery.

And another one

As a follow up to last week’s post on the old school cRPG’s, Spiderweb Software has announced yet another title in their growing line of Ultimaesque RPG’s: Avadon:The Black Fortress.  Though the creator make a big deal of not wasting a lot of time on new graphics, the screenshots from this one look a good deal better than their predecessors.   Again, given the fact I have about 45 minutes per day to devote to playing any sort of game, and can’t even get through my borrowed copy of  such proletariat gruel as Dragon Age Origins, it will be decades before I am able to play, much less review any of these games, so again, I lean heavily on my single reader, who is also a contributor, to pen a review of this when it comes out, in the fullness of time.

Two Worlds, One Cup

Europe and South America, separated by a vast ocean coming together to see who is better at England’s game. Spain is looking good as usual from Europe, Argentina seems to be the favorite overall at the moment, but I have Spain/Brasil picked in the final on my bracket with the proponents of the beautiful game FTW (that would be Brazil). However, I love the current Spanish style of play and would love for them to go all the way. Teams that may shake up the standard teams in the final for in my humble opinion would be USA, South Korea, Ghana, Greece and because it’s home turf, South Africa cannot be discounted.

Shadowfisting, 1996, guilt

ouch time
Harbinger, bare-chested Hero of the week!

With pretty much everyone I know that plays Shadowfist moving to the four corners of the country and beyond, it’s been tough to keep the faith–even with my whirlwind of playing during Gencon every summer– it’s just not enough!  So thanks to everyone that got in on the 5 or so games we threw down this week.

That said, it’s still difficult to even discuss getting new players into a game like this except casually.  There has to be massive trepidation on anyone’s part who remembers the 90’s around getting into a CCG for any reason– even one as fun and accessible as Shadowfist.  Even if someone hands a new player a deck and a shoebox full of cards, if you want to really get into it, it’s still shockingly expensive compared to board-gaming and even miniature gaming.  New expansions cost around 120$ to get a full set (with the commons and uncommons you need to flesh it out) and the search for various rares can get both frustrating and expensive.

The advantage of Shadowfist is that, unlike Magic, cards have become more powerful as the years and expansions go on– most early cards that are difficult to get have either been eclipsed by new cards or have been reprinted: this is the exact opposite of Magic, where the most powerful cards are never reprinted.  Rares, typically, are cards that you only need one or two of unless you are building something really weird so though you may chase down Ting Ting (‘The’ chase card until her reprint in 2001)– you really only need 1-2 copies if you are building a single deck around her (which MANY people have).  I run out of cards while making decks a lot (mostly uncommons) but I have 20+ decks lying around, I can’t imagine playing the game focusing on just one faction, or just a couple of decks– but that’s what new players are faced with: it’s prohibitively expensive to collect to a level where you are focusing on multiple factions in relation to the current big deal: boardgames.

So every worm turns and eventually people will probably get back into the CCG’s a bit as a gaming culture, but probably long after we stop seeing Yugioh packs in Walmart. Magic, while I have no interest in the game itself, is keeping the faith by it’s tenacious continued existence.   Back in the day–well, 90’s, there were miniature gamers that had no qualms about dropping a shitload of cash (and time) on their armies and a lot of that attitude translated to the CCG’s when their time in the sun came.  The issue I see going forward with the board game crowd is that a gaming group collectively can amass a gigantic board game collection for fractions of the cost to truly get into a CCG.  A single boardgame may not get even near the play of a CCG, but since there are so many boardgames owned by a group, there’s a ton of variety.

However my favorite type of game– multiplayer asymmetrical strategy– is without a doubt represented best by CCG’s to the point where nothing else comes close to the richness and myriad of choices, situations and metagame.  Even my favorite asymmetrical board games feel like short, clipped experiences compared to the metagame analysis, deck building, tweaking and then (the best part) playing a muliplayer CCG.  Though boardgaming is the rage right now, and people poo poo even the very idea of a CCG due to the perception of predatory pricing and rare card modelling (especially in the case of Magic) I think it’s an amazing form of gaming that captured the gaming world’s attention for more than a decade right when the time of the computer and console game was coming into it’s own as a form of entertainment bigger than television.

Though I won’t sing a lament for games such as Rage, Blood Wars or Arcadia, there are a few CCG’s whose awesomeness as the ultimate experience  in multiplayer asymmetrical strategy games cannot be denied, Shadowfist being the hands down best but Jyhad, Doomtown and Legend of the Burning Sands /Legend of Five Rings are in the ranks of praise as well.

Ye olde school cRPG's anew

While I vehemently disagree with the pen and paper RPG resurgence these days that focuses on using antiquated and outdated rule sets from the 1970’s as if they were even mildly comprehensible, some of the best Computer RPG games came from the mid to late 1990’s when the technological constraints allowed developers and artists to get into a 2d groove before everything had to be 3D with explosions to sell to the public.  Two companies (that I know of) are still pushing these types of games out and while I’ve just touched on the demos of each, I found them far better than the “how could I have lost interest if it’s supposed to be so awesome” Dragon Age.

The first company is Basilisk Games, creators of the oddly named Eschalon and Eschalon 2 and who’s mission statement is: Our mission is to produce compelling old-school computer role-playing games for gamers who still rememberwhat great computer RPGs used to be about…

The second is Spiderweb Software, creators of both the Avernum and Geneforge series.  Being founded in 1994– this is a company that simply never stopped making the 2D cRPGs.

Since my single reader of this blog has a bit more time than I do for gaming, get going and get me a review to post!

AT-43 2nd Edition announced

Looks like around Xmas we’ll be looking down the barrel of an AT-Gauss gun at the next addition of AT-43, Rackham’s excellent futuristic miniatures game that has had a really rocky road so far what with the deluge of cheap miniatures on the market and a hap-hazard release schedule typical of Games Workshop back in their glory days.  Don’t have a link but I’m sure glad I didn’t spend a lot on the rule books/faction books as I assume all of those will get updates we get to pay for.