Saturday, July 31, 2010

Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty Performance Report

I played through several missions of Starcraft II: Wings of LIberty's campaign mode and a couple of versus matches (in which I got totally pwned of course) and performance-wise, everything runs great on my Personal Computer. I am able to play the game at 1920 x 1080 with all of the settings maxed out and the graphics engine is able to maintain a constant 30 frames per second even during hectic moments with a large amount of units on screen.

The textures option is a lie.

The game doesn't recommend the "Ultra" textures setting for my 9800GTX but switching back and forth between "High" and "Ultra" revealed no performance impact whatsoever - not to mention that the differences in the actual graphics quality are very subtle - so I just left that option to "Ultra". Visually, the actual gameplay section of the game is similar to how things looked in Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II, only slightly more polished so if you could run that game well, SCII should not be a problem for you. Blizzard is not known to be a developer that pushes graphics technology to its limit and the same goes here for the most part. The real time cinematic however is a completely different story - these sections of the game definitely qualify as some of the best looking graphics I have seen across all gaming platforms.

The gameplay section looks nice but some of the special effects failed to impress.

As much as it looks like one, this screenshot is not from a full motion video. It's all real time.

Friday, July 30, 2010

New Games Alert: Quest 'n Craft Edition!

Some of you have sent personal messages asking me why I haven't own a copy of StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty for the Personal Computer yet. Well, I wasn't in that much of a hurry to get it. It's not like it's Diablo III but today, I did manage to get my copy of the game. StarCraft II is a science-fiction real time strategy game in case you are not sure what the game is all about. I was in the beta for quite some time though I didn't play the game that obsessively then. I am not that great at the player vs. player matches and I didn't take the time to really hone my skills at it. It's never too late to get that going though but I am more excited about the campaign than anything else. Beware! The game took such a long time to install so don't expect that you would be able to jump on it immediately when you pick it up! By the way, I almost got the ridiculously expensive Collector's Edition of the game but one of the extra contents really made me think twice about the purchase: the World of Warcraft pet. I don't think I will ever get to use that because I have considered that my WoW career had reached its end a long time ago so it feels like a waste to own that while having no ability to actually use it. I will surely miss the awesome CE box though.

Another game inducted into my Game Library today is Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies for the Nintendo DS. I was probably not the only person who got disappointed by the announcement that the newest installment to this legendary role playing game series would hit the technically challenged Nintendo DS after the last outing of it being on the PlayStation 2. Well, I was so shocked to see just how magnificent this game looks on the DS - if not for the simpler polygonal models and the occasional pixelation issues, this game could easily be mistaken for a PlayStation 2 game. So I think that in the end, Square Enix made the right decision releasing this for the DS because of its large pool of potential customers. If you ever doubted the DS' 3D graphics capabilities, this is the game you need to witness to change that perception.

The arrival of two eagerly anticipated sequels.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

LoL: A Chinese Love Story

I just discovered that the Chinese version of League of Legends for the Personal Computer has a superior set of champion artwork on the game's website compared to the English version. Though more exaggerated compared to the actual graphics found within the game, the level of imagination and beauty of these pieces are truly magnificent. I think that Riot Games should use these images for the in-game interfaces to further elevate the fantastical atmosphere of the matches. It makes me wonder if these new artwork were actually implemented into the Chinese version of the game client. Below are a couple of comparison shots. If you want to see more of the exquisite version of the champions, click here:

It's like night and day.

The in-game models should be upgraded to match the new champion artwork!

Defriender of the Earth

I was doing some friend list clean up the other day on my X-Box 360 and my PlayStation 3 which entails removing some people off the list. I do this rather often because I don't like carrying friendship badges around like they mean something to me. I get the occasional friend invites from video gaming message boards that I participate in as well as from brief interlude of online gameplay. One should not expect much from an "online friendship" that video gaming provide: I found that most people just like to accumulate friends rather than actually interacting with those friends and some only talk to you when they want something from you. I don't take it to heart thus the routine edits. I am even more restrictive about accepting friend requests on social sites such as Facebook - just because I know you, it doesn't mean that you can adopt me into your list of friends. If you actually do talk to me, well, that's a different story.

Today, I got a funny little message from one of those affected by the removal on the X-Box 360. This is actually the first time that this happened - Normally, I never hear back from these people because it's obvious that they didn't care to begin with. Not that the message I received is indicative that the person values my "friendship". Behold:

I sense much confusion in you.

The reason why I decided to remove this person off my friend's list was because he was non-responsive. He would tell me that he wanted to play a game together online but after I responded with a yes, he never gets back to me on it and when I invited him to play a game, he didn't respond to me. I don't mind being told "no" but the worse thing for me is when people completely ignore my message. There are those who would send game invitations without even asking if I wanted to play the game in question but I always ask first before I would send an invite. Apparently, the only time when I am worth his attention is when I am no longer on the friend's list. It's not like we were close so this shouldn't have been that much of a shocker. Oh, the joy of Internet friendship. How I miss my old World of Warcraft days...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Is It "Fun" to Gameplay Stream?

Ever since I picked up a new USB capture device for my Personal Computer sometime last week, I found myself doing a lot more gameplay streaming on because of the convenience. I have managed to improve the image quality of the console game videos that I have to view on the PC desktop as I am streaming them so I don't feel that I am sacrificing too much of the visual pleasures from my end to accomplish the task. It is evident from a past entry that I really enjoy watching live gameplay but how does it feel to be the one broadcasting it?

There is always something to watch on
There is always something you can offer the viewers as well.

I suppose the answer to that question may improve over time but at the moment, I would say that it's an interesting experiment because not many have stopped by to watch what I have been playing even after I made a departure from the whole Culdcept-centric focus of my channel. The main reason for me to actively participate in the community in the first place is to have live interaction with other gamers out there and perhaps eventually forge long-lasting friendships with some of them. Since my significant other loathes watching me play video games - don't worry, it's mutual for I loathe watching Oprah - in a sad way, streaming to somewhat fulfills that desire of wanting to be watched. Not that I couldn't have fun on my own playing these games but interacting with others while doing so made the entire experience less passive and it opens up an escalated level of shared subject matter appreciation.

I do my best to stream whenever I can.

One thing that surprises me about doing these streams is how I am encouraged to look into my catalogue of older games and start playing them again more vigorously. Since I could stream past generation console games with a good amount of clarity and detail, I tend to stick to streaming PlayStation 2 gameplay as of late. Of course, I am still that person who only play what I feel like playing at the moment but there is this urge for continuity whenever I stream a particular game to! This could prove to be very useful since I do still have games that I never get to complete and now I am strangely encouraged to go through that catalogue with ease. Since the process of setting up the stream is rather seamless, it now feels "incomplete" when I played these games "offline" because of the missing potential for fun interactivity. I am afraid that I am hooked on this thing for life.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Games Played 07/19/2010 - 07/25/2010

- 07/19/2010 -
Alien Swarm - PC
Champions of Norrath - PlayStation 2
Karaoke Revolution Party - PlayStation 2
Karaoke Revolution Volume 2 - PlayStation 2
Karaoke Revolution Volume 3 - PlayStation 2
Mana Khemia 2: Fall of Alchemy - PlayStation 2
Titan Quest - PC

- 07/20/2010 -
Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana - PlayStation 2
Champions of Norrath - PlayStation 2
Gyromancer - X-Box 360
Nights: Into Dreams... - SegaSaturn
Rez - PlayStation 2
Rez HD - X-Box 360
Rocket Knight - PC
Titan Quest - PC

- 07/21/2010 -
Nights: Into Dreams... - SegaSaturn
Titan Quest - PC

- 07/22/2010 -
Eye Toy: Kinetic - PlayStation 2
Mesmerize - PlayStation 3

- 07/23/2010 -
Eye Toy: Kinetic - PlayStation 2
Gyromancer - X-Box 360
League of Legends - PC
Rocket Knight - PC
Titan Quest - PC

- 07/24/2010 -
League of Legends - PC
Nights: Into Dreams... - SegaSaturn
Panzer Dragoon II Zwei - SegaSaturn
Rocket Knight - PC

- 07/25/2010 -
Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana - PlayStation 2
League of Legends - PC

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Gamer Fashion Perception

Whenever the people close to me decided to get me a gift of a t-shirt, they always seem manage to find me something video game related. The latest is this Sony Online Entertainment "Player" t-shirt I got from my significant other. Non-gamers seem to think that gamers like wearing anything that screams "I love video games" on it. I am more of the shirt and tie kind of guy and I only wear video game-branded pieces of clothing at home. This is not a matter of shame - for being an avid gamer is nothing to be ashamed of - but it's a matter of preference. I am obsessed enough with video games already and the last thing I want to do is to smell like video games in every single aspect of my existence. Video gaming is indeed a big part of my life but I don't need to have a blatant statement written on my forehead - or in this case, across my chest - to communicate that I am a gamer.

It's still a cute t-shirt though.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Review: Inception

Inception (2010)
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Format: Theatrical Release
Director: Christopher Nolan

It's great to see Christopher Nolan going back to his trippy roots. Sure, the Batman movies are great - with The Dark Knight being one of the best comic book movies ever - but they some degrees of predictabililty to them because of their source materials. Nolan's Memento and The Prestige are marvelous pieces of cinematic masterpieces when it comes to their rich narrative structures and originality. Inception is a throwback to those works with Nolan's writing this time being better than ever.

Inception is about a group of information thieves who go about doing their dirty work by invading people's dreams. You should discover the remainder of the storyline for yourself because knowing the details will take away the rewards of the deeply layered, mind-bending tale. The first part of the movie will familiarize you with the rules or rather, the artistry of dream sharing. After all the basics are covered, the movie becomes a nonstop, thrilling ride heavy in its psychological underpinnings realized into sequences of unforgettable action and delicious revelations. At the end of it all, you will discover that this movie had matured into something of a different beast and if you lose track of the little clues and subtle details found in the screening, you may get a little lost by the time the end credit rolls.

Don't go into the viewing expecting this movie to be a clone of The Matrix as the poster above suggested. That it surely isn't. It's far superior in both its conceptual textures and ideology. Inception, however is less about the special effects and more about the storytelling. Though there are some truly impressive and utterly convincing camera tricks found within, they are few and far between. This movie is definitely the best film I have seen so far this year and yes, it is Nolan's greatest accomplishment yet.

RATING: 5 out of 5

LoL Banhammer For the Win!

In between matches, I was catching up on the League of Legends news from the game client this morning and I stumbled into this marvelous little post in regards to player bans:


I myself have probably sent in around 8 to 10 reports of abusive players and it's great to see that Riot Games is taking things very seriously. Many of you may think that banning players on a free to play game may be a bit redundant because people can always open a new account. Well, you would be wrong to think that because you have to spend many hours (or a lot of money) to unlock champions and runes within the game so getting your account banned hurts... a lot! LoL encourages respectful behaviors between its players with its publication of "The Summoner's Code", which lists the following:

1) Support Your Team
2) Drive Constructive Feedback
3) Facilitate Civil Discussion
4) Enjoy Yourself, but Not at Anyone Else's Expense
5) Build Relationships
5) Show Humility in Victory, and Grace in Defeat
7) Be Resolute, Not Indignant
8) Leave No Newbie Behind!
9) Lead by Example

Detailed explanation on each of these important points can be found here. The great thing about The Summoner's Code is that you can apply this to any multiplayer game you play to avoid from becoming a total jerk. The Code resonates with me because I always value camaraderie and respect above all else when playing games with others online. I must say that last night, I did notice the absence of bad behaviors amongst the people that I played with. Usually, there's always one or two arrogant fools to be found per extended session of play. Well, I hope that Heroes of Newerth's recent "Report a Player" function will eventually yield the same result. I haven't been on that game for a while so who knows if the impact can finally be felt now within that game's community. Judging from the HoN streams on, it's probably going to take a little while longer to see that change.

LoL Alternate Costume Weirdness

While my significant other was hosting an all-girl's night downstairs, I was busy occupying my time with League of Legends on the Personal Computer. I haven't played the game with much frequency lately so I decided to jump back into it. I started playing the game around 6pm if I am not mistaken and by the time I looked at the clock, it was already 11:40pm! Time goes by so fast when you are playing LoL. I was browsing the game's store and saw a several new costumes for the champions. I must tell you, the guys at Riot Games must be smoking something when they come up with these alternate looks because they are just plain crazy. Since you can only unlock them using real money, I suppose they had to up the ante when it comes to the uniqueness of these alternate looks, bearing in mind that there are a lot of basic color swaps being sold as well. In the screenshots below, the image on the left is the champion's default look:

Poppy may be small but she has always been a figure of authority...
Until she is turned into a ditsy looking sugar-addict.

Warwick is one of the more evil characters in the game...
But let's make him a bit more adorable!

Ashe may be a bit cold but she exudes feminine beauty...
So let's turn her into a (sweet?) transvestite.

At this rate, I am sure that I will end buy buying one of these insane alternate costumes. None of the psychotic ones have been made available for my favorite characters yet. If you still don't have LoL installed on your PC, you are missing out on a great game! Sign up and download the game today: It's free!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Belly Fat, You Have Been Warned!

Throughout my youthful years, I never had to worry about gaining weight. What I ate never mattered - it seemed like my body was able to work itself out as it burnt out all the excess calories that I must have had with my usual diet of Asian food and sodas without having to do anything. Things started to change as I was approaching my late twenties. All of a sudden, I noticed an incremental weight gain whenever I stepped on the scale. At one point, I noticed a bulge on my stomach as I was sitting down. Sure, they always say the manliest of men carry a bit of a beer belly but I took the realist approach and saw it as a sign of diminishing health. It was then that I started using this wonderful exercise program effectively masked as a video game called Yourself!Fitness on the X-Box. Keeping up with the program was hard but the result from all the sweat and tears (yes, there were times when I almost cried at the end of a session - Maya can be a real b*%&^) was worth all of the pain and misery I had to endure.

You are not fooling anyone with that sweet face and calm yoga pose, Maya...

Not too long ago - well, it's been a while actually - I made a mention that I was going to start playing Yourself!Fitness again. I haven't done so to this day but whenever I looked at myself in the mirror, I was reminded that I really needed to. Not that I am obese, but I like looking toned and healthy. I am not looking for a six-pack but just enough to impress. I know Yourself!Fitness can do the job but perhaps my body knows the punishing amount of work involved so it's delaying me from starting it up. Miraculously, I was able to do something extraordinary this morning when I woke up. It was not Maya whom I saw on the screen but at least it's a promising start: I played EyeToy: Kinetic on the PlayStation 2. I originally planned to use Kinetic as a lite addition to my Yourself!Fitness routine. I never really used this program in the past and so far, I do like it a lot. With the amount of space I now have in my Game Room, I was able to properly set up the game. The room in my old apartment was too small so I could never get a good length of my entire body to show up on the screen. Kinetic offers a 12-week program that modifies itself throughout the course of that time frame to accommodate your physical improvement. I am going to set Yourself!Fitness aside for now and just continue using Kinetic to see if it works. Ironically, the workout found here is almost as brutal as the one found in Yourself!Fitness - though a lot more fun - but hey, I am just glad that I am working out again!

Here we go again! I hope to see results by the end of the 12 weeks of terror!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Nights... Into Widescreen?

Nights: Into Dreams... for the SegaSaturn in one of my top 10 favorite games of all time. I can still remember the excitement I felt when I purchased it on June 18th, 1996. The SegaSaturn system I own is the Japanese version - it's still functioning properly to this day - and the game was bundled with the analogue controller in a beautiful box. I no longer have that box unfortunately but at least I still have both the game and the controller. Back then, I was doing my undergraduate studies so I didn't have a fancy gaming setup. I played the game on one of those old CRT televisions and until today, I have forgotten that the game has a "Wide" TV screen mode deep inside its option screen! I can now recall toggling it on and off when I first got the game and seeing how the characters and environments get squashed by the "Wide" option. It's funny to think that only after about 14 years later, I can finally enjoy the game in its 16:9 glory.

Am I glad to see you again.

Though not implemented to perfection - the fact that all of the 2D menu screens and in-game interfaces are stretched out to fill up the expanded aspect ratio - the actual 3D engine is indeed presented in true 16:9. I am mighty impressed by this, the fact that widescreen televisions were not the norm in those days. Something is telling me that I am going to be playing my Nights frequently again due to this finding. Here are some comparison screenshots from the game:





Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Quest OCD and Titan Quest Online

I was really in the mood for some hefty grinding, role playing game style, today so I jumped on Titan Quest. When I looked at the co-op screen, there were around 190 people playing the game online. That really didn't surprise me though and I decided to level up my new character online while playing with others. The co-op in the game is fun but I didn't particularly have a good time during my online session because everyone just wanted to level up quickly and move from one location to the next without much pause. This is a new discovery for me because I have only played the game online with my friends. The problem that I have with this lightning quick pacing is that I am the type of person who would actually listen to the spoken quest-giver narrative again in the game even though I have listened to them twenty times in the past. This is the reason why I don't like long in-game cinematic in games because even if they can be skipped by a press of a button, I feel that doing so would take away the essence of what makes the game experience complete. I suppose it would be tolerable to not bother with the repeated quest details if I actually had completed the game many times over already. The other problem with my online session was the arrival of the high level players who just enjoy joining a public game to offer some "assistance" by wiping off an entire legion of enemies for you. Other players seem to like this because you still do get some good experience points from this. To me, if you take away the challenge and the hard work from a game, you also take away the fun and the involvement from it.

The action gets really hectic in multiplayer but not in a good way.

With Titan Quest, I usually get to the gameplay saturation point when my character hits level 20+. After that, I would stop playing the game for a while and when I finally return to it, I would create a new character to start the vicious cycle again. There was an improvement however on my part during the last cycle - I kept my previous characters when I would normally delete them because of the fear that I would be unable to get acclimated to them again. Maybe this time I will be able to get to the end.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Games Played 07/12/2010 - 07/18/2010

- 07/12/2010 -
Guild Wars - PC

- 07/13/2010 -
Deathsmiles - X-Box 360
Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce - PlayStation 3
Heroes of Newerth - PC
League of Legends - PC

- 07/14/2010 -
Deathspank Demo - PlayStation 3*
League of Legends - PC
SingStar - PlayStation 3

*It's an action adventure game that tries to simulate a hack-and-slash feel to it.
I didn't like it too much. Just seems too shallow.

- 07/15/2010 -
Gyromancer Demo - PC
League of Legends - PC
SingStar - PlayStation 3

- 07/16/2010 -
Beat Hazard - PC
Disciples III: Renaissance - PC
League of Legends - PC
Plants vs. Zombies - PC

- 07/17/2010 -
Atelier Iris 3: Grand Phantasm - PlayStation 2
Disciples III: Renaissance - PC
Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2 - X-Box 360
Guild Wars - PC
King's Bounty: Armored Princess - PC
League of Legends - PC
Mana Khemia 2: Fall of Alchemy - PlayStation 2
The Path - PC
Plants vs. Zombies - PC
Super Stardust HD - PlayStation 3
Titan Quest - PC

- 07/18/2010 -
Gyromancer - X-Box 360
League of Legends - PC
Mana Khemia 2: Fall of Alchemy - PlayStation 2
Rez - PlayStation 2
Rez HD - X-Box 360
Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection - PlayStation 3
Titan Quest - PC

Free Steam, Free Game

Another free game is hitting Steam today: Alien Swarm, a top down futuristic shooter from Valve themselves. This is a more generous offering than the previous "gift" of Portal because Swarm offers 4 player co-op play as well as the complete game code and mod tools. And yes, it does come with 64 Steam achievements to lure those achievement whores in. If you have never played games via Steam before on your Personal Computer, you would be crazy to not create your free account now and download this game. You never know, this game may be sold for a price in the future - do you actually want to risk that? Get the game when it's released later today!

This isn't a cheap freebie either... The graphics look incredible.

Titan Quest: Immortal Throne, Mortal Caravan

Titan Quest on the Personal Computer is a game that I play on and off. I usually go back to it whenever I have a strong craving for a dungeon crawler (which I do have that at the moment). Usually, after leaving the game for a long time, I would delete my old characters and start anew. The one thing I always keep though is the treasures I save in the caravan slots - a storage feature in the game that also provides a secondary space that acts as a device to transfer items between your characters. Well, something must have happened to my save file because all of the rare items I have saved up there are all gone! This probably a side-effect of the data transfers I did during my Windows XP "fix" in February this year. It was very disheartening to lose all the hard work but at least my two characters still have their gold intact. I am thinking of making a new character just to get back into the groove of things.

That caravan keeper is not a trustworthy guy...

He even downgraded my maxed out storage space!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

New Game Alert: Jewel Monsters Edition!

After my recent disappointment with the Puzzle Quest 2 demo on the X-Box 360 with it seemingly being a dumbed down version of the original, I had been thinking about PopCap Games' Gyromancer. I tested the Steam version yesterday but I didn't like the fact that it doesn't have any controller support and its slower pace just feels awkward with the mouse. Thus, I decided to get the 360 version. The game is basically a combination of Pokémon, Puzzle Quest, and Bejeweled and it is as addicting as all three of those games combined. The mechanics of the game is based off Bejeweled Twist where you rotate 4 jewels clock-wise to try and match 3 or more of the same color. I really prefer the jewel-matching action found here than the one in Puzzle Quest because there is no time limit involved when you are trying to decide what to do next and it is your action/inaction that would impact how fast the enemies attack you. I am really enjoying it so far. The game's simplistic graphical presentation for the maps and story scenes don't bother me much because at least the actual jewel board looks pretty, especially during the destruction of matched jewels. As for Puzzle Quest 2, I plan to give it another look once the PC version comes out but I may just stick with the first game and perhaps get Galactrix instead.

The monsters may be static but there are always something crazy happening between them.

The Lamest Reason Not to Play PC Games

It's the year 2010 and I still hear people tell me that they don't play video games on the personal computer because after a long day at work - which normally entails slaving away in front of a PC - the last thing they want to do is to sit in front of a PC. They want to just lounge in the living room and play consoles games on the big screen. When I heard this being explained to me again today during a friendly chat, I think I lost a little bit of faith in humanity. As I have explained it to my buddy, the PC can easily be hooked up to those beautiful big screen HDTVs and if you purchased one over the last five years, almost all of them are equipped with a PC input. To make things easier, modern graphics cards now have DVI/HDMI outputs so it's really okay to have the PC hooked up in that living room for gaming purposes. I myself have my gaming PC hooked up to my LCD and I like it so much that I pretty much use my big screen to do other things as well like browsing the Internet, writing, et cetera. I am sure that the next excuse would be the keyboard and mouse - they act as superior controllers and if one really hates them so much, one could always use a game controller on PC games these days. I think the next time I hear someone associate PC gaming with sitting in front of a small screen on a crowded desk (in which it could be) and use that as an excuse not to game on the PC, I am going to give that person a slap in the face.

A) Titan Quest - a PC game, yes - running at 1920 x 1080.
B) That game came from this PC, connected to the LCD via an HDMI cable.
C) No, you didn't get propelled accidentally by a space-time rift into the year 3000.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

A Forgotten Path

In last year's Yearly Gaming Analysis, I named Dragon Age: Origins as my favorite game for the Personal Computer. There was actually another game that was so close to winning that title, an indie game by Tale of Tales called The Path. It's a game inspired by Little Red Riding Hood where you must guide six young girls towards their grandmother's home. Of course, it is not as simple as it sounds... The problem with the game is that to "properly" play it means an incredibly disturbing, psychologically nasty experience that can be a bit hard to swallow and ever since I discovered that fact after so many hours of gameplay experimentation, I stopped playing the game. The Path is not bad by any means - it's just that it can be very draining, especially for someone like me who enjoys soaking in the entire essence of the games I played. I was testing out different games to stream on today and I decided to play The Path again. I lost my save file from last year so I started off from the beginning. I completed the game with one character and you can watch the gameplay by clicking here - but you should really play this game yourself. It is probably hard to "feel" the game by just watching it because this is one of those games that must be played to understand it fully. The game is available for purchase on popular direct download distribution channels and the developer's website for around $10 and I highly recommend it to anyone who believes that video games can become a form of sophisticated high art.

The Path's definition of "success" is questionable but necessary and bold.

Friday, July 16, 2010

New Game Alert: It Should Be Medieval Edition!

I received a Steam game gift today on my Personal Compute in the form of Disciples III: Renaissance. It's a strategy role playing game that plays very similarly to Heroes of Might & Magic V. This means that you get to explore an overhead map, one turn at a time, while building up your base and fighting tons of enemies using a grid-based battle system.I have heard that this game has gotten a lot of bad feedback from followers of the series because it deviates from the previous offerings due of the battle system. I have never played any of the prequels so I am not sure what I am missing. I do like HoMMV though so this game is pretty stellar to me. It's worth noting that the game has a startling, stark beauty to it with an exquisite art style that transcends the rather mediocre 3D engine. The illustrations look magnificent and I really like the fact that you can actually see visual changes when you equip different equipments to your hero. The game has been out for days everywhere else but this "Steam Special Edition" (it includes bonus maps + Steam achievements) that I received was just released today. I got it in a pre-order form yesterday and it was supposed to be downloadable in the afternoon today but apparently Valve had issues unlocking the game in a timely manner and that problem was only fixed earlier this evening. No apology messages were issued for the mishap.

The game feels like a shameless HoMMV clone...

...but with more beauty and imagination.

Almost an Avatar Pet Owner

That was very close. I almost bought a "Sphinx" from the new "Fantasy Pets" collection on the X-Box 360's Avatar Marketplace. There are two creatures that I was very interested in: the cocky Phoenix and the moody Sphinx. I almost didn't mind that these "pets" are just merely repetitious animation routines that intermittently show up on your avatar on the dashboard - I think it would be way cooler if the pet just stays with your avatar indefinitely. What made these new pets more exciting than the last offering is that they are substantially larger in size and the level of interaction your avatar has with them are just really entertaining. You almost got me Microsoft! I sure hope that you will never offer any price discounts on these ultra-cute pets!

That Egyptian dance is totally rad... Must... Buy... Pet... No! Don't do it, L.G.!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

More LOL in LoL

Here are a couple of more "creative" player names I came across while playing League of Legends. They seem to get better and better each time I stumble into them. I am not sure if I am ready to see what the future may bring:

I bet it feels pretty smooth too.

Winner of the Most Demanding Womanizer of the Century award.

Close Your Lips: SingStar Update 4.40

I received a friend invite on the PlayStation 3 a couple of days ago from someone who claimed to have found me via my online profile on SingStar. I kept forgetting to check out his/her SingStar profile - which is still undetermined because the person has no video/audio clips uploaded - until today and I was pleasantly surprised by the game when I was greeted by the update message below:

The game now supports online battle! Wow, what an incredible update. They could have easily get away with including this feature in a new SingStar title but Sony's dedication to continually improve this game on the PS3 is quite noteworthy. Previous to this, I was seriously considering getting Lips for the X-Box 360 because that game allows you to play against other players online. Another big improvement added to the game with this patch is the vibrato detection. Those who have played SingStar for a while know that singing with vibrato would oftentimes confuse the game into thinking that you are singing out of tune, even during notes that was sung with vibrato by the original artist. This addition has actually corrected the game's voice detection technology where it could now detect subtle pitch fluctuation while you are singing. Other smaller additions that came with the patch include a PlayStation Portable cross-functionality and increased amount of user created clubs that you can join. Now if only Sony could sell us better selections of songs from the SingStore...

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

LoL Season One Commences

After the excitement from the new official trailer yesterday, the "Season One" update has finally arrived on League of Legends. The pre-game interface now looks very sleek and modern, giving the game a more polished, expensive feel than before. Though everything looks suspiciously World of Warcraft in its design philosophy, overall Riot Games has done a tremendous job making the game a lot more attractive now than it used to be. There is no better time to join up and play this game - it is free, you have got nothing to lose. I thought it was also brilliant that they now made a new Kayle special skin where she is not wearing her helmet! I am sure that Riot Games is going to get a lot of money for that - a reminder, the only way the developer makes money from this game is the sale of alternate skins for the champions. As for the ranked matches, I am not even going to attempt them anytime soon. I want to get my summoner to level 30 before I would even consider going into the more competitive aspect of the game.

The new login screen is animated... and hot!

A sleek champion select screen before the battle commences.
Notice the lively, empowering chat and one interesting user name.

A character profile from the WoW website, just to throw you off.

No, this screenshot is not from the WoW website. Hmmm...

Monday, July 12, 2010

LoL Getting Serious

The League of Legends fans are treated with an amazing new trailer for the game to celebrate the soon-to-be-released "Season One" update, which is basically a major overhaul to the pre-game user interface and the introduction of ranked matches. The trailer looks quite amazing and it really highlights the major components of the gameplay, like the destruction of a defense tower and the importance of good teamwork. The most talked about part of the trailer however is the "unmasking" of Kayle, a female character whose face was kept hidden underneath her metal helmet until now. You can check out the trailer by clicking here and if it convinces you to play this free to play game, click here to sign up!

An epic reveal moment in that Samus of Metroid kind of way.

The only bad thing about the trailer? It makes you wish that the game looks this good.

Games Played 07/05/2010 - 07/11/2010

- 07/05/2010 -
Aquaria - PC
Bioshock - X-Box 360
Bioshock 2 - PC
Deathsmiles - X-Box 360
Heroes of Newerth - PC
Loki - PC
Phantasy Star 0 - NDS
Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords - X-Box 360
Sacred 2: Fallen Angels - PC

- 07/06/2010 -
.hack//G.U. Vol. 1: Rebirth - PlayStation 2
Champions of Norrath - PlayStation 2
Loki - PC
Sacred 2: Fallen Angels - PC
Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love - PlayStation 2
Torchlight - PC

- 07/07/2010 -
.hack//G.U. Vol. 1: Rebirth - PlayStation 2
Champions of Norrath - PlayStation 2
Deathsmiles - X-Box 360
Sacred 2: Fallen Angels - PC

- 07/08/2010 -
Heroes of Newerth - PC

- 07/09/2010 -
Ape Escape 3 - PlayStation 2
Champions of Norrath - PlayStation 2
Deathsmiles - X-Box 360
Legend of Kay - PlayStation 2
Sega Genesis Collection - PlayStation 2
Söldner-X 2: Final Prototype - PlayStation 3

- 07/10/2010 -
Deathsmiles - X-Box 360
Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce - PlayStation 3
Heroes of Newerth - PC
Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords - X-Box 360

- 07/11/2010 -
Bioshock - X-Box 360
Deathsmiles - X-Box 360
Guild Wars - PC
Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords - X-Box 360

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Striking Gold with Strikeforce

As a fan of the Dynasty Warriors series, I always hope that the next entry in will be bigger and better. For the most part, the latest releases always tend to be disappointing (though highly playable) because they don't do much to further push the basic gameplay formula - which is to tell grand stories whether historical or not via nonstop battles that pit your choice of heroes into the fray against armies of millions. Well, those who have been very patient with Koei should be happy to know that Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce is definitely different and it is also the best game in the series thus far.

It's a small town but you can do a lot in it.

I have only played the game for 3-4 hours and I must say that it is quite addicting. What makes Strikeforce special is the game's structure: There is now a hub  that frame the game's standard battle sequences where you can shop and accept quests. It's basically still the same DW game but the sublime changes truly elevate it into something unique. There are many ways to customize your character's statistics and the quests are short in length but they reward you with a lot of items that varies in rarity. It's like Phantasy Star Online, but with your favorite Romance of the Three Kingdoms characters and settings! Playing an online game is easy and you can continue questing alone and building up your character while waiting for others to join your game. Item and character trading are also possible, further strengthening the game's online element. Sadly, there are not a lot of people playing this game when I was looking to co-op earlier. If you have been a DW fan, this game is a must. Those who like dungeon crawlers should find plenty to do with this game as well.


Guild Wars: A New Outlook

I got into a conversation with a fellow League of Legend player recently about our massively multiplayer online role playing game experiences and we discussed our previous obsession with titles like World of Warcraft and EverQuest II. When the conversation shifted into Guild Wars, I expressed my disappointment in regards to the game's ability/skill system where you can only customize and use only 8 of them every time you head out into battle. The guy mentioned how he would spam the same skills over and over again while playing WoW so for him, the skill limitation in GW is not that big of a deal. I remember playing my Undead Priest in WoW and I can still recall clearly that to be successful, it's not a matter of spamming the same spells but knowing what to cast from a big selection of them to match the current situation. Then, it happened: a stunning revelation thanks to the hours upon hours that I have spent playing LoL and more recently, Heroes of Newerth. In both LoL and HoN, you only gain access to up to 4 character abilities at a time and some characters have passive skills which make their actions limited. Still, there are a lot of depth to playing the characters because it's all about knowing when to use the abilities and how to combine them for the deadliest of attacks. Things should be the same in GW and I have decided to once again jump back into the game and continue playing the 3 repeatedly abandoned characters still waiting for me there. I don't know why I was too focused on the whole limited skill thing through all these years while I was on and off the game and it seems rather silly when I think about it now. Thank the galaxy that the game is still quite pretty and is still populated with players.

You just can't go wrong with playing a ninja.

Friday, July 9, 2010

New Games Alert: Double Return Edition!

I know things have been somewhat quiet here on the site this week. It's just that life catches up with me and I had to take care of other things outside of gaming. Hopefully, everything will be back in full force now and that things have gotten back to normal: life is remarkable as it is unpredictable, is it not? Two new games are inducted into my Game Library today: Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce and Darksiders, both for the PlayStation 3. Since Strikeforce offers a true co-op mode for up to 4 players online, a first in Dynasty Warriors history, I just had to get the game. Strikeforce is structured like a role playing game than the mindless action that the series is known for so it should be an interesting experience. I originally wanted to get Darksiders for the Personal Computer but since its release date is delayed way into September of this year, I gave up waiting for it. Darksiders is an action adventure game that supposedly has some parallel to the classic Zelda formula. If that claim is anything close to being true, the game should end up being pretty good.

Strange how these two games got inducted together because the whole thing is very Star Wars...

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

June 2010 Gaming Analysis

The results shown below are of course based on the combined data from the Daily Game Log which should provide a clear indication of a game's usage frequency. Bear in mind that even if a game is played twice or more during a particular day, it would still register as 1 in the Day Count column below. In a sense, "merits" are given based on how often a particular game can make me play it again throughout the entire period of the month on a daily basis. A game that makes a gamer play it over and over again or at least spend a lot of time with it... Isn't that what we mostly want from a great game? I don't think it's really fair to count all the way down to the number of hours played since some games only require a short amount of time to properly serve their purposes.


Total Games Played: 57

League of Legends on the Personal Computer was the number one game of choice for me for the month of June 2010. I am currently at level 20 (10 more level to go to hit the cap) and I was sure that I was going to max out my level rather quickly if not for the arrival of one heck of a shooter that I got near the end of the month. LoL's fulfilled promise of free gameplay and its plethora of fun champions must be experienced by everyone who can game on a PC: Well if you still are not gaming on the PC, you are missing out a lot. I have moved away from the melee characters after I wrote my "addiction" article with Teemo being my new favorite. Things are getting a bit dicey when it comes to the raging at high level play even for this game but I just ignore those fools. I hope to get back into this game again soon - I stopped to play that other Defense of the Ancients clone!

The second most played game last month was Culdcept for the PlayStation 2, thanks to my recent incursion into the gameplay streaming world of It could have easily taken the number one spot if I haven't stopped doing the streaming for a couple of weeks now. It's been a bit busy for me in the evening and I was being a bit selective in what I have been playing. Because I don't have the most convenient setup for streaming, doing so means a reduction in image quality for me in what I am streaming - like having to play games in a smaller window on the desktop. I will be streaming again, hopefully very soon but I may actually move away from Culdcept since I notice that it's not something that a lot of people like to watch.

Though Super Street Fighter IV is on the top 3, I had anticipated to play it more often than I actually did. The online ranked matches were fun but only one person on my friend's list has the game and we all know what happened to that whole situation. The game definitely feel a lot more polished than the regular edition but I can still see that it would have been possible to be distributed as a patch. The replay channel is fun to watch and about 30% of my time on the game was spent just watching the replays.

Best New Game of the Month:
Sin & Punishment: Star Successor (Nintendo Wii)

Unexpectedly Forgotten New Game of the Month:
ModNation Racers (PlayStation 3)

I Missed You I Want You Game of the Month:
Wild Guns (Nintendo Wii)