WO:ARing myself out for Fallout 3

What I really want out of my MMORPG class

It seems what I personally want out of a class in Warhammer Online — and I’m noticing this trend in all MMORPGs — is a character that excels at helping other players while doing enough damage to accelerate the advancement rate when soloing.  Is that so unreasonable?

“Helping other players” usually means being able to protect them in some way.  After all, if players need any kind of help in a MMORPG, it’s usually in protecting them from themselves.   The average pickup group spaz – for whom I’ve a certain devotion towards under the rationale that the common man reserves at least a basic level of respect to flourish – needs as much of this kind of help as they can get.

“Accelerated advancement when soloing” requires both a certain level of self-defense capacity and a certain level of offensive capacity.  Without the later, it takes forever to kill things.  Without the former, I’m sitting on my around waiting to heal.  (Fortunately, WO:AR’s balance is such that you never need to keep a book around to deal with downtime.)

It’s tricky.   To an extent, a good offense can be a good defense, and so why would you need healers or tanks?  That’s a question the developers answer by making sure the offense is not great enough to replace healers or tanks.  In trying to find a fast-damaging class that also protects, I’m left trying to satisfy a desire that is forbidden by niche-focused design.

I started up a Warrior Priest to see about merging my love of a tank’s durability with the influentialness of a healer.  It didn’t work.  If I can’t guard, I’m no tank.  Healers are great for a scratch, but they can’t blunt an offense nearly as well.  Besides, the Warrior Priests’ offense (at level 5ish) seems as bad or even worse than my Archmage experience.

In my previous Warhammer Online experiences, the Archmage is an excellent healer but his mediocre damage output at level 22 left me doubting.   Maybe I should try re-specializing him down the Path of Asuyran (the offensive Archmage specialty).  The Shadow Warrior’s damage is outstanding, but killing enemies is not a guaranteed way to protect your allies.  Thanks to that whole niche-specialty by design thing, my Shadow Warrior can barely protect himself, let alone others.  The Swordmaster is pretty damn close to my goal, maybe I should just shut up and play him?

Im glad that Warhammer Online turned out not to use a miniature purchasing subscription model.

I'm glad that Warhammer Online turned out to not use a miniature purchasing subscription model.

I’m contemplating one more alt before giving up and settling Swordmaster: the Dwarven Engineer.  On paper, they’re essentially a different flavor of ranged DPS, but with the distinction of dropping their positional attacks (backstabs) for a wide range of area-guarding mechanics, including his stationary pet.  If I specialize down the Tinkering path, I can even drop a moderately potent PBAOE healing effect.   OMG, healz!  It seems to be the all-round choice I always wanted, right?

However, I learnt something from playing a City of Heroes */Devices Blaster and /Traps Mastermind.  If you have a bunch of stationary traps and whatnot, you’re trying to move in reverse and pull the enemy to you.  However, your average MMORPG spaz wants to move forward.  The only hope for my Dwarven Engineer is if forward locomotion is not as common in gritty Warhammer Online as it is in the super-powered City of Heroes.

I’m not sure I still have the motivation left to start another alt, such is the amount of burnout my rampant alt-a-holicism has generated.  Even as I write this, BYOND Dream Maker is open in the background: my new default “bored of the games I have” activity.

Fallout 3: Oblivion

With a October 28th release, Fallout 3 is less than 2 weeks away now.  Seems a waste of 1/1040th of my estimated remaining lifespan to worry about the game being only 2 weeks away, but that I would actually perform that calculation shows just how much anticipation I have towards the game.

I knew Fallout 3 wasn’t going to be a literal sequel to Fallout 2 because I knew that it was based on the same engine Bethesda is using for the Elder Scrolls series.  However, after seeing the “trench warfare in DC” trailer I was surprised how brutally true it was.  It was downright depressingly stupid – like Gears of War without the innovative cover system.

Fortunately, I found better trailers, such as the above PAX 2008 installment.  The PAX videos show a number of features that Fallout fans will enjoy: the “VATS” targeting, planting live grenades in peoples’ pockets, and familiar tunes on radios.

Still, what we’re talking about here is more of an Oblivion sequel than a Fallout sequel.  Fine, I’ll take that and enjoy it.  It’s not like Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion sucked, exactly — it’s more like Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion got boring after I completed the main story because suddenly the whole flow of the thing stopped.  Fallout 3 offers a whole new story, so that’s cool.  It aught to hold me a couple hundred hours of gameplay, and if that isn’t worth $50 then what is?

Blue Bomber Blues

Finding your way to the upper right of this map is even harder than it looks.

As the reviews are making clear, Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood is indeed an imperfect game.  It’s a pity considering this comes as a blow to the reputation of Bioware, to whom Mass Effect proved a massive feather in their cap.  (I’d probably shell out for the PC version if I had the scratch right now.)

However, as an appreciator of games in general, I’m quick to interject that Sonic Chronicles is not an absolutely awful game.  The art direction (aside from the sound) is good, and the combat is as novel as it is monotonous.  Some interesting features include a mini-game involving chasing foes who flee from you in combat, the Tamagotchi-like Chao-bonding, and combat stylus exercises.  In the end, what we have is a relatively tolerable JRPG-style game, if certainly rough around the edges.

My lead gripe for the game remains that the maps are so hard to navigate.  The very second map you encounter in the game is a city that involves running around in the opposite direction to find the way up to where you want to go.  I can appreciate challenging the player, but most RPG players are just going to be annoyed when simply trying to move to where you want to be is one of those challenges.

It helps one overlook these faults if you’ve watched the entire Sonic X series, a setting of which Sonic Chronicles borrows heavily.  Admittedly, I’m 32 years old and couldn’t put the series down until I finished it.  All I can say in defense of my sanity is that it’s really hard to look away from the absolutely ridiculous things Sonic and friends do.  These video game characters clash so much against a modern backdrop that it’s a spectacle.

More than that, it’s the Superman appeal: sure the dude wears a blue outfit with red underwear on the outside, but when he can punch through the hull of intergalactic spaceships you generate a certain sense of appreciation towards the character.  Sonic is neither bird nor plane but rather one freaky (reinforced metal hull perforating) hedgehog, and he’s got equally freaky friends.  So it’s actually kind of interesting that Sonic Chronicles puts you in control of these improbable marsupial marvels.  I’d humor a continuation of the Sonic Chronicles series (hopefully with the major gameplay issues addressed) for this reason alone.

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