THE LAN THE LAN THE LAN 2017

Last weekend was a LAN weekend. Man it’s been awhile, some suspect a decade or more. We did it up in the basement of scooter’s abode and it was gibbing madness. Some of these games I hadn’t played in a looooong time so here’s a run down of my feels here in 2017.

FPS
We played a mess of FPS games, originally thinking we would run the gauntlet of Doom all the way to new Doom.  We almost did, but there were games we skipped (and one we shoulda skipped!).

L4D2

Always a great time, but not great when you have more than four players as the monsters aren’t fun to play as. Interesting? Yes, but you end up looking at the respawn screen a lot more than if you are one of the survivors.

Vermintide

We gave this a try at the LAN and got pretty confused by the maps and environment.  This is one that is likely better not at a LAN and just in normal internet play.

The Bad Place

Quake

While unbalanced weapon-wise Quake is an amazing death match game STILL in 2017. We used the RUNE mod which has runes lying around that you can pick up that give you X2 damage, damage resistance, rapid fire (not my favorite) and regeneration. I would argue that Quake still has some of the best Death match maps ever made.

DOOM
We tried to get BRUTAL DOOM up and running and it desynched constantly. While we didn’t deathmatch this, it was fun for the hour or so we were able to actually play. Brutal DOOM is something to check out for sure.

Quake 3

The penultimate death-match FPS. While many have tried, nothing has come close to how good this game is for straight up death match. With the weapon balance that Quake lacks and some really awesome DM levels, I think we played this the most out of any of the FPS games over the weekend. It just shows that it’s not the graphics that make a good DM game at all.

Insurgency
I didn’t get on this, but people said it was a good time. We played this because we could not get Battlefield Bad Company 2 working for everyone, which was too bad.

this is the screen you LOVE to see in newDoom because it’s over and you can go on to any other FPS!

New DOOM

Playing Quake, Quake 3, UT3 and OG Doom just before trying newDoom showed how awful the death match for the New Doom really is. Great single player, amazing graphics still makes newDoom a fantastic game, but don’t bother at all with the death match. It feels like you are inside a robot suit slowly moving and turning around. It’s not even worth trying out to see how bad it is.

UT3
I got a single round of Vehicle CTF with maurice!Bastard and it was great. While UT3 is not a very good Death match game compared to nearly all other games (it’s still better than NewDoom), I’ve always found it’s Vehicle CTF to be absolutely superb. Totally insane vehicles, very fast movement speed across large maps and the whole bevy of weapons that UT brings to the table makes me wish I had the chance to play this more.

RTS

We played three RTS games and all three were enjoyed, though one for very different reasons for the other two.

Planetary Annihilation

This is on the cusp of being a good game, and certainly it’s fun for a bit.  However there is just so much going on and you are spread out over so many areas (planets and strategic layers) with your units and buildings that it makes it an unmanageable mess.  We got in a few games of this vs the bots and after winning easily on normal, we tried it on hard and it was comedy.   The bots ended up nuking our commanders on a planet we had total control over.   Overall, fun but the game devolves into ALL orbital combat after awhile.  There’s minutia and counters here, but it is all just a unit-flood steamroll of some sort in the end.

Warcraft 3

The best RTS had to get busted out.  We played coop again vs the bots and I forget that this has a very steep learning curve to it with the heroes and creeping and total disregard for the base-defense that other RTS games rely on.  I also forgot nearly everything I had known about the game and played terribly, but still, really fun game– especially the battles.

Total Annihilation

People begged to bust this out and..was a total joke.  We jumped into the game with 5 players and two of the commanders were D-cannon’ed within the first minute.  RTS games have come a long, long way.  While Starcraft, due to updates, stands the test of time with it’s controls and UI, Total Annihilation does not at all.  As compelling as it was in the 90’s it just is not any more.  Frankly if you want the TA feels, Supreme Commander is the way to go these days.

CRPG

We got in some Torchlight 2 both Hardcore Elite and non-Hardcore Veteran.  While the chance of permadeath is fun, the MASS hitpoints the enemies have in Elite multiplayer makes it slower than I really like in my TL2 madness.

So yes, we should do it again but bring some candles or votives or something for the rump gasping.  There’s only so much bad air a basement can hold before spontaneous human combustion sets in.

Fallout 4 completed

I’m shit at finishing games! I start something, get about 20 hours in and then off to something entirely different. For example, I’ll be running a bunch of RPG’s and then boom I’ll think shit I haven’t played X game yet (like Witcher 3 or something) and then I’m down that rabbit hole. While there, I’ll think– shit, we haven’t played enough Warhammer Fantasy Battle recently and off I go.

So, like Dark Souls, this is a momentous occasion– finishing FO4. Now I’m going to write about it, and there will be pictures.

Though it doesn't work well for long in the game, I really liked this outfit.
Though it doesn’t work well for long in the game, I really liked this outfit.

Straight up, I think FO4 is an amazing game, but it did not grab me at first. Right out of the vault, I felt it was too much like FO3 and the initial NPC’s felt flat. However, the game grew on me immensely to the point where it’s up with Skyrim as one of the best open world RPG’s and true to Bethesda’s legacy with the series.

Let’s get to some gripes. The game is clunky in many ways from the combat to the interface. This still does not detract from the overall experience for me as like Skyrim and Morrowind, it’s like eating a side of beef, it’s an unimaginable volume of content to plow though, a shocking number of voices to hear and so much to destroy (and build).

The shooting is better than Fallout 3, but being an FPS-lite and more RPG heavy, if you come from Far Cry or any other full FPS, you will have some disappointment with the gunplay. However, for an ARPG, the gunplay is a great improvement over older games. VATS is not something you can ignore despite the tendency for PAUSE-PLAY that I will get into more below.  I have a buddy that plays it for the shooting only and he has not stopped playing since launch.

Inventory management, especially on the PC, was very awkward, much like Skyrim, it’s for the consoles, not for the GLORIOUS RACE of PC GAMERS. They made their choice and the developers know who is buttering their bread. It’s not PC gamers.  This sucks for us, but is manageable.

Unlike some of the other FPS/RPG hybrids like Far Cry, FO4 is a PAUSE-PLAY game similar to Skyrim. As you’re playing, you will constantly drop into ‘paused’ time: going in to inventory to switch weapons, take a healing potion or buff, or go into VATS mode. While a little better than Skyrim (especially since I was an Alchemist in that game and alchemy was the WORST offender for pause-play), I still feel that it destroys the FPS portions when you have to rattle through your inventory (or even CAN rattle through it) to change from a HAZMAT suit to the Mechanist armor in order to better take certain types of damage WHILE YOU ARE TAKING THAT DAMAGE. While I know there is a way for instant inventory and weapon switching to work (sort of like your belt of potions and stuff in Torchlight 2) I never really got the hang of, and resorted to hunting and pecking through my inventory like a chumpo.

Carnage is sometimes found, but oft times created.
Carnage is sometimes found, but oft times created.

Big fights (more than 10 on a side), just like FO3 and Skyrim, are still a problem. Any big fight in the game is a chaotic mess where you are just as likely to hit your allies who will then attack you so you have to reload from save than hit the enemy. In a big battle, the AI just stands point blank and shoots at you or each other, not taking cover or anything like that most of the time, but will do such things in smaller battles.  It’s a bit comedic, but then becomes maddening as you have to play through to make sure you don’t hit your own guys at all and also don’t get greased yourself. Grenades or area effect weapons are useless because if you hit your own guys, they will turn on you. If you do not use VATS, chances are your own guys will run in front of you laying down automatic fire (and then turn on you). Luckily, there are few of these fights in the game, so just suffer through them.

Now the good stuff.

Atmosphere at first was sort of ho hum, but as you get deeper into the wasteland and especially into Boston, the true madness of how much was built for this game becomes apparent. When I first saw the area map, I thought it looked small to me. However, after playing through the game, the area and density of STUFF is massive to the point of being incomprehensible how they got all of it in. Boston is crazy because of it’s verticality. You can traverse most of the city from above the streets and there are places you can’t get to except by massive backtracking to get UP first, then across (and sometimes then down). Gone are the annoying and samey subway tunnels that connected everything in FO3, replaced with an entire second story and above ecosystem. Many is the time you will get shot from high above, and have to fight through level after level of baddies to get at that sniper high in a building above it all. Then you can rain death down from above (WAY above in some cases).

The weapon modification system is nothing short of amazing. It’s very clunky at first, but once you learn how to do it, you can build weapons that do nearly exactly what you want. That said, if you are going to BUILD instead of FIND, you need to have a high INT score and SCIENCE to really make it worth while. I did not go this route during my play through.

Building shit is a huge part of FO4, and I will tell you that I was crap at it. My brother is the lego builder guy, and like me as a kid who built everything purely for FUNCTION with as little effort as possible into design or real efficient planning (or rework to remove MUDA), all my FO4 stuff looks and behaves like shit. I barely understand the electrical systems, which are not complicated, I never really had enough crap to build nice buildings or string wires logically. Even putting in a lightbulb most of the time was too much effort. Plus like I mentioned above, if you are going to really build stuff, you NEED Science.

The whole protect the settlements thing was quite fun, though it did get repetative.  Some of the settlements are built in terribly vulnerable areas, and the peoples are just asking to be killed outright by anything that wanders along.  Giving them a chance by building defenses and traps and stuff is rewarding when you see that stuff in action destroying raiders and mutants.  My favorite base was the old Drive in Theatre as it had enough space to really build a bunch of crazy shit.  Vault 88, when you find it, is quite cool as well, but you don’t need to defend it at all.

Dressing up your little dolls (settlers) was fairly fun too, though it ended up being a bunch of naked guys and dolls with a couple pieces of armor on them since MOST clothing is mutually exclusive with armor.  I admit, I had fun with that barbie doll stuff.

The wasteland, at times, gets a bit awkward.
The wasteland, at times, gets a bit awkward.

Now is the spoiler part about story. Stop reading.

Ok good. The main plot line is good enough for this sort of open world game and has a lot of the factionalization that Fallout 2 did. You have to make some hard choices about who to support and I think going back to the choice points and playing through to the end game, while long, may be worth it. In the end, I wanted to destroy them all and I will with the new NUKA World DLC.

During this play through, after sort of going the ‘bad guy’ route, decided to go with the good guys. While some of the factions are a bit shitty, none are outright evil, even the big bad guys (MIT), there’s one faction in the game that are total boy scouts (and they dress stupidly), so if they dislike a certain faction, you probably know that faction is ‘bad.’ I guess despite the murderhoboism, I ended up being a murderous boy scout. People familiar with FO1 and 2 will have feelings about certain factions they encounter based on historical interactions, and they wrote that in there.

One of the main themes of Fallout 4 is the idea that species Homo Sapiens is not suitable for the new destroyed world, and many replacement options exist that are more suitable for survival. Super Mutants, Robots, Synths… and the quests and tasks wrestle with that theme as you move through the plots. Overall though, the whole “war never changes” thing wasn’t addressed much, especially since you spend the game chasing down your long lost son.  There were some touching moments and I think the Female Lead voice actor did a great job with her lines.

In the end, I was simply a killing machine, that just happened to be pointed in the ‘right’ direction. Bethesda is smart, they know in a violent game that violence is the answer and redemption of the main character through violence is the ultimate goal. The dialog choices throughout the game give many ‘mad dog’ options to simply get the speaker to shut up and die already. The wasteland is a horrifying place with terrible people and creatures, yet Bethesda is able to lace in quite a bit of black humor, without it being fucking cheesy crap like Starcraft 2. The CHARGE CARD guy, if you ever find him, is hilarious in that regard, with a big fucking “KILL ME” painted throughout his dialog.

Trash.
Trash.

DLC

The first bit I want to mention was the hardcore survival mode.  This was an addon about 6 months ago that was basically FUCK YOU IMPOSSIBLE mod to dark souls up the game.  This is very different from playing the normal game, as you can be easily killed, weapons do TONS more damage (to enemies as well) and you can starve and get diseases and just have a really rough time of it.

While this official mod was very cool, some of the quests were really tough, as you could only save when you went to sleep and could never save during a quest itself, some of which being extremely long.  I would definitely finish the game REGULAR LIKE before playing in the hardcore mode.   Your goal will not be to ‘finish’ the game, but build an economy and settlements out so you don’t starve and die off so easy.  There’s also NO fast travel.  Very fun, very hard but you feel like you’ve grown a pair of balls just fighting off some raiders rather than mowing them down like leather grass.

I’ve only played through the Robot DLC so far and it was OK. The robot raider faction added to the main game that will show up wherever is a lot of fun to fight– quite unpredictable and with better weapons/armor. The Warbots from the original GAMMA WORLD are in full effect in FO4 and they show up a lot late game with the Robot DLC.

This DLC also adds Robot modification centers you can build and then craft your NPC robots. Again, you better have SCIENCE to really do it right. I made my robot, Ada, pink and gave her a different close combat weapon. That’s about all I had the patience for.

All in all, FO4 is a classic, monumental game.  It’s not as strikingly beautiful as Skyrim, and I daresay I liked Skyrim a spot more than FO4, but I need to go back to Skyrim to try it out again to really judge.

Next, on to Far Harbor and then… DOOM.

fo4-builder
shitty building…

Legacy Diablo 3 article

This has been long gone off the internet, but I wanted to keep it for posterity because it is a poignant run down of the failed design of Diablo 3 and its crippling interaction with the Real Money Auction House.  The article is a great nostalgic read and a grim reminder of how far a license can fall when in the hands of the wrong company, the wrong developers and the wrong game designers.

A lot of the problems this guy notes I never experienced, I wasn’t even able to get through act 1 before quitting.  Things have changed for Diablo 3 from what I hear since the above was written, but my issues with the game had little to do with the RMAH in the first place, rather the core ARPG gameplay itself, which is not good and the core character models, which are silly looking and all run funny. I’ve always thought of doing a review, but Diablo 3 is one of those special games that is so bad it’s not worth reviewing.  It gets the patented: unplayable/unreviewable rating a la the Onion.  unsatisfying-4

Rebel Galaxy!

A few of the core members of Runic went off and made this while we were all still playing Torchlight 2.  Bad audio I know, but it gives you the FEEL of the game despite the incoherent babble:

 

It’s a lot like Privateer and you have to wonder if this small team was able to pull something like this off quickly, what will happen to STAR CITIZEN?