Sunday, May 12, 2013

Weekend Gaming Odyssey

I have spent an unfortunate amount of money on computer games recently... and honestly, I haven't gotten that much satisfaction out of them. I am getting grumpier with my games as I age, I guess. In any case, I spent my weekend looking for something exciting and... I got mixed results. Here is what I played this weekend.

This was the final beta weekend for the new Marvel Heroes MMO and I decided it was too tempting to pass up. Marvel Heroes is an upcoming FTP offering from Gazillion Entertainment. It plays an awful lot like Diablo II. You pick one of 20+ Marvel superheroes with which to start your crime fighting career. Each character has a distinct fighting style, advancement tree and gear. Action is point and click with the ASDFG and H keys allotted to your special powers.

The game plays well enough and is a reasonably fun ARPG. I was lukewarm while I was dozing through the tutorial mission, but once I got to the first open zone, Hell's Kitchen, I was pretty happy with the game. There are lots of mini-missions, events, side maps and bosses to keep you occupied. If you like Diablo II, or Torchlight, and you can stand running around with a dozen Iron Men named lickIt, and born2pwn, you should give it a shot when it releases.

Marvel Heroes was fun enough, but it isn't really my kind of game and so I spent a few hours searching for something else upon which to waste my time. And though I am not in need of any new games (my current back catalog of PS2 JRPGs alone would last me until my death), I just can't help giving Valve more of my money.

For that reason, I picked up Might and Magic Heroes VI on Steam. I have loved pretty much every Heroes of Might and Magic since the very first one (including its predecessor, King's Bounty)... even the much maligned HoMM4. Aside from the Yoda-ization of the name, MMH6 is pretty good. Some of the game is streamlined, primarily the resources and the town building, but the basic game play is there -- build a stack, level a hero, pick some cool powers, kill your enemies in simple, but fun turn-based battles. MMH6 delivers on this formula fairly well, I think.

What is not so good, is that it also delivers on the modern-day wackiness of DRM and bogus online options.  You already have the DRM inherent in Steam. I can live with Steam. Like many PC gamers, I have made that Devil's bargain of trading the hassle of DRM for the convenience of getting my games quickly and easily and with the extra features that Steam brings to the table (Community and Workshop, for instance). However, on top of Steam, you still have UbiSoft's Uplay system. So "playing" MMH6 from your Steam menu really just starts UPlay, where you have the option to hit "Play" again, or go shopping with some goofy U-currency for crap you couldn't possibly want... It is literally the version of Heroes for people who want DRM in their DRM.

When you are in the game, you have even more online options. You start by connecting to the Conflux... what the heck is the Conflux? And you can spend your dynasty seals on new heroes and widgets... and you can sync your games to the cloud and... I don't know. Honestly, I love wacky options and features piled on top of features, but couldn't we have somehow made these features part of the game, as opposed to some kind of micro-transactiony metagame? If this is where the franchise is headed, I am not impressed. For now, I suppose I can ignore it, hit Custom Game and have at it.

And because I have a lifetime account and little self-respect, I found myself coming back to an old standby, Champions Online. CO is my go-to superhero MMO since City of Heroes folded. It is much-improved from its release in 2009. Pretty much everything from the gear, to the power sets, to the leveling has been made much better and CO is probably the best it has ever been.

That's the good news. The bad news is that, regardless of how far CO has come since 2009, it hasn't improved much at all since 2012. Updates have stopped (Neverwinter might have something to do with that) and the player base is very depressed. I have played a lot of MMOs over the years and this one smells like it is in a steep decline...

I hope that isn't the case because I have remade my first and favorite City of Heroes character in Champs Online. Monochrome Girl is now officially a refugee from Paragon City. Hopefully, she will have a few more years in her new home before they shut down the servers for Neverwinter Online 2: The Drizzt Files.