Category Archives: Games

—Champions Online(TM): Quick Review

I spent the first three days of my 14-day trial trying to figure out why I could log in to the account, but not the game.  Three days without a meaningful response to  a trouble ticket or forum posts.  I—myself—finally figured out that my password was being copied, then pasted, with a stray trailing space.  The account login properly disposed of it, while the game login did not.  Customer service is the basis of successful MMO efforts, guys, not something you add on after you get cool effects and snappy patter installed. 

Anyway,  I finally made it into the tutorial, which seems to be effective in teaching game mechanics, at least.  The game has a very comic-book, flat-shaded feel, which is an artistic decision to be sure.  Whether it compares favorably to other efforts such as City of Heroes is something others will decide in time.  

The gameplay interface is very rough.  It was nearly impossible to control the character from the keyboard—I have to use the right-mouse-button to control facing to get anywhere. 

There is a lot of humor in the game which is, frankly, juvenile at best—accidentally turning your enemies into teddy bears, and so on.   The artifacts one picks up are often silly, and I have yet to see an explanation of what you do with them other than bind and absorb attribute boosts from them.  There is something mentioned about “trading” which hasn’t been explained anywhere I’ve looked.

Some of the humor is, however, pretty good, if a little “self-referential”:The Mechanic and Poster-2

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—Warning! Incoming PC Game Demo Review: Batman: Arkham Asylum

[Ok, maybe the Reboot stuff is getting a little dated]

 Batman: Arkham Asylum PC Demo

This appears to be a sort of merging of fighting game and RPG.  The HTH combat has a lot of potential, with very natural and fluid flow between available attacks, take-downs, and combinations.  It would probably be really great as a multiplayer game.  Unfortunately, it appears that no support will be provided for any of the popular PC controllers, except for the MS XBox PC Controller, whatever that is. 

My video card is already too old to support the latest physics engine used in the game.  It didn’t really seem to matter much. 

RockSteady has gone to great lengths to produce a gritty, depressing environment and extremely detailed characters—some maybe a little too detailed.  Batman’s exposed facial features look like he was in the tub too long.  He is able to do a wide range of acrobatic moves, grapple and climb on wall features, glide, and crouch, but for some reason cannot jump onto the top of a desk.  Only a very small sample of objects in the environment were interactive.  The Detective Mode allows inspection of critical elements in the space, warns of enemies, and can be used to understand the wiring of gates and shock fields, and so on.  This also has a lot of entertainment potential, which may not have been very thoroughly exploited, at least in the demo.

The battles I tried seemed far too easy.  I just walked around and set off a series of punches and kicks until the target fell down.  This never really got any harder even with a large number of inmates attacking at once.  It was sort of the martial-arts-movie thing where the bad guys politely wait for their turn to attack one at a time [better be sure I spell “martial” right—don’t need that misunderstanding again].  The scary psycho-murdering monster in the first major combat succumbed to 3-4 simple punches and collapsed in a convenient heap.  It was never clear whether I was taking significant damage, except for  a few grunts, and cheering by the inmates.

I can remember making game demos by carving out a limited subset of the released game, but I really think the extraction was done with more forethought than was apparently used here.  After the first major combat I wasted at least an hour wandering around the room prying and breaking things to no avail, only to learn that the particular device needed to solve the puzzle simply isn’t activated in the game.  No documents tell you this, nor is there any indication that the demo is over.  You are simply left with no way to continue.  I hope this isn’t a preview of customer support for the game.

There were forum comments about the use of a draconian anti-piracy system with the full distribution, which will only allow the game to be reloaded three times before the disk must be repurchased.  The publisher would only say that the rumor will only be addressed closer to release for the PC version.

This could be a very interesting development in the evolution of fighter-shooter-RPG computer games, if fully exploited.  Many of these possibilities seem to have been underachieved in the demo.   I will probably check back on the title sometime next year, after the inevitable post-release quality assurance has been performed by other customers.  Multiplayer?