Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Game Review - Numen: Contest of Heroes

Game Review - Numen: Contest of Heroes
Score +2/-7

Run around killing things. Large amount of grinding.
++ Graphics: The style of artwork and the lighting really enhance the overall look of the world. Overall a beautiful gaming environment. Textures are also very good.
- Character Development: Boring skills with boring animations. Some skills are clearly clones of each other given to the three classes (Warrior, Archer, Mage).
- Combat: Horrible concept as -- and even in the manual it says this -- it really depends on the exploit of not "pulling" (getting the attention of) too many enemies. On any difficulty this will be the case. The manual even says to use potion extensively, which further suggests a very flawed concept (or at least a bad mathematical model). In any other game this would be considered an exploit. In Numen, it is a necessary survival tactic.
- Combat: The manual tries to make it sound strategic, but really it comes down to button mashing skills while waiting for other skills to cooldown. You start with some skills that have very fast cooldowns, so you are just using those constantly.
-- Combat: You have range and line of sight limitations, but the enemy does not. They can shoot through walls and other barriers, and have remarkably long range when you are fleeing. When they cannot path-find toward you or when they break off pursuit, they recover health very quickly, but you do not when you are fleeing. You can test this by trying to keep your distance from an enemy while shooting at them with a bow. Eventually the target will be too far from its starting location and turn back, and while it is running back to its original position, it will recover health at a great rate.
- Combat: Archers and Mages are advised to keep their distance, but this does not really work in practice. The range for attacks and powers is very short. Also, enemies will turn back to their starting position if they are too far away, and once they do, their health regenerates very quickly (your health never achieves that much regeneration speed when out of combat). They will also regenerate health very quickly if they are still trying to path-find their way to you. You can see this latter situation in practice by fighting the scorpions during the childhood tutorial phase. Stay high on the slopes. Often the scorpions will have to walk along the base of the hill until they find a shallow enough slope to crawl up. During this time, they often have very fast health regeneration.
- Pacing: Extremely boring pacing. Every new area has monsters typically much stronger than you. Even if you use the exploit of pulling only one enemy at a time, there will typically be a lot of running away and retrying fights until your level improves enough to handle them. This means each area typically starts with very boring grinding until you can handle it.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Game Review - The Sims Medieval and the Pirates and Nobles expansion

Game Review - The Sims Medieval and the Pirates and Nobles Expansion
Score +5/-10

Sims Medieval is basically a collection of short stories stretched out by performing repetitive tasks with the characters involved. Once you've played enough of the game, you will probably want to just skip the boring bits you've done a hundred times and cut right to advancing the story. Because some of the stories are actually really decent. It's too bad you have to play the game to see them.
The Pirates and Nobles expansion is worth getting just for the stories, which are quite good. If you are getting Sims Medieval already, it doesn't cost that much more.
+ Graphics: The world is sort of cartoony, but the heads and faces of the characters are really very good when grossly exaggerated facial expressions don't distort them into caricatures.
- Bugs: There are very annoying bugs or oversights on game mechanics, such as not enough feedback on why marriage isn't happening, or too many sims in the area, continually preventing you from talking to someone or using an item. Most of the time, the only thing you can do is to just keep clicking and trying over and over again until something works.
++- Roleplaying: The "quests" are basically short stories of out-of-the-ordinary events that happen to ordinary people. Like stopping the invasion of an evil wizard. Often what you do is pretty generic, like cooking or talking to people or buying something from a store. But just as often the quest is resolved with what is unique to the profession, like a priest giving sermons and blessings, or a blacksmith crafting special gear. Some of the stories are really rather good (if you like the level of seriousness or the type of humour), so playing through the stories isn't as bad as it sounds. A lot of critical action is "off screen" or just relayed to you in text to read, (such as your character disappearing from gameplay for several minutes because they are "hunting in the woods") and that can feel really unsatisfying.
- Roleplaying: Beyond the stories, there is no depth and no point to playing the heroes. For example, you increase the skill of your blacksmith so that they can craft legendary weapons and armor, but none of that is really important in gameplay. Often, whether a warrior hero has access to a boring sword or an epic sword matters very little because the quests aren't designed to really have any failure result or dependence on anything other than the heroes involved. For most of the quests, character development does not matter, which means there is a pointlessness to roleplaying.
-- Game Mechanics are Stupid: Quest performance has almost nothing to do with your skill or even the skill of your heroes. The individual quests are generally ludicrously easy. What you need to do to get the best performance (Platinum-level) is basically wait for the performance bar to reach Platinum. In short, wasting time gets you better performance. The short and very easy quests are therefore actually the hardest to get the best performance because you have to space out doing the quest steps so that you don't accidentally finish the quest before the quest performance meter is at Platinum.
- Game Slowdown: The more you play a kingdom, the more characters get added to it, either leftovers from a quest, or children of AI sims. All sims are constantly doing something whether on-screen or not, so the longer you play a kingdom, the more system load is generated. For this reason, if you have a weaker computer (not just the graphics card, but CPU), you might want to restart your kingdom when it gets overloaded, or just load a previous save so that you don't have to completely restart everything such as furnishing hero homes or levelling up heroes.
+- Outfits are quite broad in style. Some have crossover potential and some professions, such as the monarch, have a good array of choices. However, for many heroes there are only a couple of choices that are specific to their profession. A lot of clothes choices are generic, and better for professions with no iconic look, such as merchants. Because of this mix of circumstances and no usage constraints in random generation, using the random generation button often produces horrible results. Using default heroes would typically give you a reasonable iconic outfit, but you can't edit the rest of the hero (hair, head, body shape, traits).
+--- Home and Hero Decorating: Initially it is fun to decorate the home of your hero or dress them in various outfits, once that novelty wears off, there is very little to recommend it. You can unlock more items and outfits, but the effort required (playing through kingdom goals and getting achievements) is all out of proportion for what you get in return. You can change colours, but there are only so many actual clothes and furnishings to get.
For furniture and household items, even if there weren't a lot of furnishing choices, how the game plays conflicts with what to buy since there are very few pieces that give you a good game effect (stat bonus) so inevitably player will (for example) get that one particular bed that provides the best and fastest rest for your character; or the one style of oven or cookpot/chimney. Because that's the only one with the best bonus. Finally, you need to play the various kingdom ambitions to unlock more clothing and furnishings -- this in turn means that you are constantly starting from zero. Every time you start a kingdom, the old one, including all the work put into playing, acquiring money, and decorating, gets erased and you start all over again.
Minor decorative items appropriate to an area are actually NOT desirable to get, especially for heroes with small homes. Initially they cost money with you do not have. Also, they take up space which could be better used to fit other things. At the same time, they would have been nice to add for more ambiance.
Because the reward-to-effort ratio is extremely low considering the amount of effort required to unlock everything you can furnish homes and dress heroes with, we recommend you get some cheat mods and play the sandbox "An Eternal Kingdom" unlimited free play. You get access to the same quests/stories, and you can continually add to your kingdom so that you don't have to restart anything. Doing in this way also gives you a better sense of history and cumulative achievement for your kingdom. You get access to the same quests.
You *can* still sort-of do this with one of the kingdom ambitions, but without a cheat mod, you have to play through them all plus get various achievements just to unlock all outfits and furnishings. Also, you cannot earn Achievements during free sandbox play -- only before you have quit a Kingdom Ambition. Instead, I recommend you short-cut by getting a cheat to unlock everything, then focus on the quests/stories.