Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Byte: Long Weekend Gaming

Other than my ongoing daily visits to Animal Crossing, two games have been occupying my time and thoughts over the long weekend, and both of them have a rather destructive bent.

The first is Auto Assault, which has already been mentioned in these ramblings. My Press Beta key appears to be valid for the full game, which was released last Friday, so I put in half a dozen or so hours into the game, trying out each race and class, and racking up about 20 levels across four characters. It's still got that edge of arcade frenzy from the Beta, but unfortunately still seems to have quite a few of the technical problems, too. I'm not entirely convinced by the quality of the netcode, and given that a post-apocalyptic environment isn't entirely conducive to eye-candy, the game world is visually quite flat. The special effects are still quite pretty, but it's not nearly as aesthetically interesting as something like World of Warcraft or Guild Wars. Also, criminally, there's a little dial on the GUI that does a TIE-Fighter-esque power management thing, changing your power plant priorities to weapons, speed, or defense. The buttons are therefore labelled "Defense", "Speed" and "Defense". Yes, they cocked up the GUI. The last button should say "Offense", and even sets the power priority to the weapons properly. It's a blindingly obvious mistake in something that will be staring in the face of the player for practically the whole time they're playing, and was such a simple thing to correct between the final Beta and release. Except they didn't bother. Kind of makes you worry about what else they didn't fix... I'm going to play it more over the next week or so, and then you can expect a full review in the usual place.

The second game I've been playing over the weekend and the week or so before that is SpellForce 2: Shadow Wars. I've been pleasantly surprised by it so far, as normally when you get given something to review that's hyped to be a cross-genre hybrid, it usually turns out to be either anything but a hybrid, or a complete and utter mess of styles. SpellForce 2 actually seems to be a genuine hybrid, though it's more akin to RPG than RTS. The RTS elements are thankfully quite light - no more complicated than something like Starcraft (or perhaps more relevantly, Warcraft III) - and don't outweigh the amount of time you can spend questing. The story's little more than traditional fantasy fare, with a token good Dark Elf in a ridiculously impractical Battle Bikini, but it looks great and is interesting to play. If you're a fan of Warcraft III or the hack-n-slash variety of RPGs, then I think it's well worth a punt when it hits retail at the end of the week. Fingers crossed, I should have my review finished and up by then.
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