Monday, February 02, 2009

Byte: Dawn of WAAAAAAAARRRRGGGHHH!

I've not been playing so much WoW recently, since the new 3.0.8 patch has rendered the game so laggy as to be practically unplayable - and I don't appear to be the only person in my guild having the trouble, either. My other internet speeds don't appear to be affected and the lag is endemic regardless of which computer I use and it doesn't matter whether I'm playing in a high-population zone or not - 500ms is about the best I've seen since the new patch, put it's more frequently in the 2000ms range, which makes it impossible to do anything, really.

So I've been playing a little bit of the Dawn of War II beta instead, in skirmish mode against the AI. Graphically, the game's a big improvement over the original and the game has been streamlined a bit to bring it more into line with the system used by Company of Heroes - which is no bad thing, if you ask me. Some might say it's a little too dumbed down, but at least it means that you can have a skirmish game that will finish on the right side of two hours now. Obviously, given all the hype, I had to try out the Tyranids, and they're really rather cool. I particularly like the way their headquarters just spits out new units in clouds of goo.

It convinced me enough to put my pre-order cash down with Play, anyway, because what I'm really interested in is the single-player campaign. I've never really been one for RTS multiplayer, since you always seem to end up playing people who know all the tech trees backwards, have a tremor in their clicking finger that allows them to give three thousand build orders a second and have meticulously worked-out defensive strategies for every conceivable combination of attacking unit in the game. In other words, 12 year old obsessives, who are invariably SHOUTY, with terribly bad manners, and spelling to match. At least you know where you are with an AI.

Beyond that, I've been sticking serious time into Mass Effect on my lovely 360 Elite. I'm hoovering up all the side quests before I really make too much of an attempt to finish the story, so Noveria ended up being pretty easy, as I was already in the late 20's in terms of character level. And I've just stocked up on Spectre weapons before I toddle off to do Feros, so that ought to be pretty simple, too. One thing that I have found a lot harder, compared to the PC version, is the combat in the Mako. Since the control scheme doesn't allow you to move and aim independently of each other, you either end up having to use hit and run tactics, driving around in circles for half an hour until you actually end up landing with a shot, or staying still and bunny-hopping while you trade shots with Geth Armatures and rocket troopers, hoping they die before your shields give out. And Thresher Maws are best avoided entirely... I'm not looking forward to Virmire, where you have to take on Geth Colossuses (Colossi?), since they're even bigger and meaner than the Armatures.

Like last time on PC, I'm playing mainly with Wrex and Tali as my companions, as they give you the best all-round balance if you play as an out-and-out Soldier, which I'm doing for this playthrough. I'm also playing as a girl (for Jennifer Hale's sterling voiceover), and since the romance with the forgettable blue-arsed one is so dull, I may end up having to kill my beloved Ashley to see what the Kaiden romance storyline is like. Though guilt alone will probably mean I have to replay as a guy just so I can resurrect her.

Still, after playing the PC version so much, I'm pleasantly surprised by the 360 version. Some ugly texture pop-in aside, it looks amazing on my TV over the HDMI cable and it plays really well with the joypad. Hopefully BioWare won't make us wait too long for the sequel, especially now that I have the machine to play it right off the bat and not have to wait six months for the conversion.
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