Tag Archives: Diablo

Maybe 2012 Hasn’t Been That Bad

Long time no post, eh?

Maybe I was being dramatic back at E3. Maybe, when I thought this year was so crap that I was considering getting out of games altogether, it was an overreaction. The fact that my list of GOTY contenders contained only a couple of entries as far into the year as May spoke for itself, but a few months later, 2012 hasn’t turned out so badly. New blood in the form of new hardware is sorely needed, don’t get me wrong, but it’s been far from the death knell of the whole industry.

I’m still struggling to see where ten games that are truly worth celebrating are coming from, to be honest, but the absence of big, big games to get excited about – Halo 4 being my one exception – has forced me to expand my horizons, giving B-tier games that might not otherwise get a look in a chance.

I think the disappearance of the B-tier game as all but the biggest and safest developers fail has been a problem, and as a result I’m keen to champion them. Look at how many minor classics, sleeper hits and brave experiments we had last generation that could never happen this time around. I’m talking about games like Beyond Good & Evil, Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy, Freedom Fighters, Stranger’s Wrath, Breakdown. Some weren’t hits, sure, but those who played them enjoyed them, and one commercially failed experiment wasn’t enough to torpedo a developer.

Well, those games do exist, albeit in reduced numbers, if you care to look.

The Darksiders series is one. It was a new property, backed by a new and enthusiastic developer, that was fun and ambitious in scope. That’s why I keenly bought into Darksiders II and thoroughly enjoyed myself with it. Sleeping Dogs as well, which had a tumultuous gestation but turned out to be a critical and, from the looks of things, commercial success. Both were fun and would have been overlooked, had they stumbled into the big hitters that have no doubt shifted production to future hardware.

The consoles’ archaic hardware hasn’t stopped the progress of the PC, of course, and anecdotally I’ve seen a lot of bored console gamers investing in gaming PCs, which can be had for only a little more than the likely price of the next-gen consoles. This boost in the market has helped consoles as well, leading me to enjoy fantastic 360 versions of games that are traditionally PC fodder: XCOM: Enemy Unknown and The Witcher 2. Both likely candidates for my eventual GOTY list and worlds apart from the corridor-based man-shooters we’ve been told are all that’s being made nowadays.

Small developers, too. We’re starting to get some of the spoils of the Kickstarter boom in indie games and genre revivals, with FTL: Faster Than Light being another that I’ve fallen slightly in love with. Terry Kavanagh’s Super Hexagon has sucked an ungodly amount of my time and been responsible for more than one premature battery depletion on my phone. Great console downloads like Journey and Trials Evolution. The list goes on.

In fact, the two biggest disappointments of the year have been arguably its two biggest games from established names so far: Mass Effect 3 and Diablo III. Both had prominent PR disasters – the reception to the ending, which I actually defended in the name of artistic integrity, and Error 37 respectively – and should maybe be taken as evidence that those who are gnashing their teeth over the state of the games industry need to broaden their horizons. Look beyond the chart and the PR machine at where the buzz is, because passionate gamers are rarely wrong.

Come the end of the year, 2012 likely won’t be one that’ll be looked back on with any great nostalgia. The death knell of the industry, though? Perhaps we were hasty.

Diablo III’s Brave New World

Diablo III is my first experience with the series, and I like it a lot. Or rather I like it when it’s not doing something like this…

Diablo III Error 33

Bearing in mind that I’m going through it solo for my initial run, this is a single-player game with lag, server queues and no offline play. Goodbye flipping open the laptop on the train for a quick go and, for the moment, good luck playing at peak times.

This has been written on at great length and much more authoritatively than I could manage, so I’m going to point you in the direction of Eurogamer’s arguments for and against this new approach, because what surprised me about these discordant articles is that I agree with both of them.

When you’re online, the connection’s reliable, Battle.net is running properly and you have no urge to venture outside somewhere without a good wi-fi signal, Diablo III’s infrastructure is magnificent. Log in on any computer, PC or Mac, and your characters are there. Make some progress or just throw a couple of things into the auction house and it’ll all be reflected on your computer at home when you fire the game up later. That’s how ‘the cloud’ is going to change gaming, and we’re starting to see it with cloud saving in Steam, Xbox Live and PSN. Throw in how always being online makes playing alone, playing with randoms and playing with friends one and the same and never more than a couple of clicks away and it’s a good advert for the natural progression of what we’ll see in the next-generation versions of our current online services, only available right now.

It’s for these reasons that I’m giving it the benefit of the doubt. Blizzard is forging a new path here, and although it does a lot that needs to be done better, it’s a very respectable first attempt. When you can get on, that is.

Torchlight is awesome

The launch of Steam for the Mac came and went with all but one of Valve’s own games notable for its absence, and so the duty of providing a game that wasn’t possible to finish in three hours fell to the third-parties. The obvious winner was Torchlight, and not merely because of its price.

This is my first foray into this particular sub-genre of dungeon-crawling loot-whoring RPGs, having passed by the likes of Diablo, and I have to say that I’m very impressed. For a game that involves clicking for hours on end in order to get stuff that isn’t worth anything, it’s remarkably addictive; likewise, for a game that doesn’t look a long way beyond Warcraft III, it manages to look rather good. And the fact that such graphics mean low system requirements makes it a great game for an ageing laptop. Like Warcraft III, then.

The developer, Runic Games, deserves immense credit for creating such a wonderful little game and some successful early attempts to become one of those companies that’s impossible to dislike. Free updates, extensive modding support, and heartwarming stories like this:

Mere hours after a forum member mentioned that one of the game’s camera effects left her unable to play sections of the games due to an uncommon eye condition, a Runic developer patched in a user toggle for the option — at 8:00 am on a Sunday morning, no less.

Seriously, is it getting a bit dusty in here?

This game’s been a big time sink for me in the last week, able to vanish hours at a time with frightening ease, and this is without multiplayer beyond the promise of the upcoming MMO in the Torchlight universe. Oh, and that MMO? Free to play. God, I love you, Runic.

Diablo III is suddenly much higher up my wishlist, it must be said. But you never forget your first taste…