Tag Archives: MMORPG

Best of 2009 #8: Borderlands

I don’t have any more categories than an overall top ten when I pick my game of the year, but if I was going to nominate the best value purchase of the year it would certainly be Borderlands. It cost me less than £18 and I got far more out of it than most full-price purchases. And thankfully it’s not been completely overlooked either, as it’s the fastest-selling new IP of 2009 and has sold handsomely.

It’s one of those surprise packages that I didn’t see coming at all, looking like nothing more than a random gun gimmick that got a quick facelift to stop it being completely lost in the shuffle as another FPS with RPG elements set in a deserted wasteland. How wrong I was. It’s a genius idea, taking the best bits from first-person shooters and MMORPGs and blending them masterfully to create something that can be played alone or with friends, and is also immense fun whichever way you do it.

I have friends who wouldn’t touch an MMORPG with a ten-foot pole but fell right into Borderlands, in one case spending over 15 hours with it over a weekend, and I’m really excited to see where the framework is used now. We know that a sequel is coming and that ‘Borderworlds’ has been trademarked – the fact that it’s plural is the really interesting thing in that title – and more of the same, perhaps with some more varied environments and a bit of visual character customisation, would be brilliant and a certain purchase for me, but Gearbox should really take it to its natural conclusion as a true MMOFPS. This with an active and populated world could be the MMO recipe that finally manages to click with me.

So well done, Gearbox, for coming onto this list with the latest entry and being one of the year’s genuinely nice surprises. Here’s to Borderworlds.

Falling Off The Wagon

My initial flirtation with Azeroth was mercifully brief, lasting only the duration of a few blagged free trials and two months of actually paying, but intense, taking in over 60 hours in that time. Thankfully I hit a wall relatively early on and got bored by slow progress, and later managed to avoid temptation when patch 2.3 sped up levelling to get people to the new, high-level content. I was free, and I’ve been two years clean.

You can probably guess where this is going by now…

A couple of weeks ago it hadn’t even entered my mind to play Warcraft again, but a chance discovery that the Burning Crusade expansion was now only £6.99 was all it took. I feel like a drug addict who’s fallen back into the habit upon seeing that smack was on a 2-for-1 offer.

The current plan is to try it out for a month to see if I like what’s changed, and with any luck I’ll be sated after only dropping another £8.99 into Blizzard’s coffers, but you know how these things go. You find a new area with new quests, or manage to gain some new levels and cool items, and before you know it the new expansion is out and what can it hurt to give it a try because it’s only £25…

Oddly, I also got pulled into the Blizzard halo effect and reinstalled Warcraft III and its expansion. After being out for six years, Blizzard finally removed the requirement to play with the CD in the drive, taking away my biggest issue with playing it on a laptop and stripping out my most second-most hated form of copy protection. Why any game with such an online-focused community needs that, I’ll never know, and, at the risk of getting into that copy protection argument again, how about not making me hunt down a no-CD crack for a game that I own and legitimately want to play on my lap without forever ruining my chances of procreation?

Still, it remains a great game after all these years and is much more to my tastes than the epic-scale RTSs du jour like Supreme Commander. It’s even got me convinced to buy Starcraft II on release day so as to get in on the ground floor and only be lightly kicked in the posterior, as opposed to the prison shower scenario that starting on the first Starcraft at this point would bring. Ditto Diablo III.

Microsoft, Sony, and even Nintendo: please bring out something good so that I have no excuse. This enemy is far too powerful for Geometry Wars 2 and Uncharted with trophies to fight it alone.

The FFXI Beta…

…gets a big “meh” from me.

Though presumably necessary, making a player sit there for the best part of two hours while PlayOnline installs itself and then downloads updates, then while FFXI installs itself (an hour) and downloads even more updates (took me 40 minutes, but I know someone who was there for 90), and then letting them go through a convoluted registration process which requires a USB keyboard before you let them even create a character isn’t particularly endearing. Neither is sucking up 6GB of the hard drive but still requiring the disc to play.

When I finally got into Vana’diel I still wasn’t very impressed. The game is over two years old and looks it, really not showing off the 360. That’s not unforgiveable in itself, but what is is that there’s slowdown in it when it looks as drab and generic as it does. In the introductory flyby I noticed quite a lot of juddering. The interface is clunky and I had to find and download the PDF manual to work out how to log out since the searchable support database in the game is for the PC version. I know it’s a beta but still, it’s not exactly polished.

I’ll make sure to give it another try while I can play it for nothing but if Microsoft really want a great MMO to show off Live they need to flash the cash and get Blizzard on board, even if having the Final Fantasy name in the roster must be nice. Five million players can’t be wrong.

On a more positive note, my HDTV shipped! Yay!

Final Fantasy XI 360 Beta

Just a heads up that the new Official UK Xbox 360 Magazine is out with the free copy of the FFXI beta which you can play for as long as the beta period lasts (they say in the magazine that they expect at least three months). This is where I’d normally be giving impressions, but you have to install the game to the hard drive and it tells me I still have 34 minutes left…

In other news I have an update on my TV. Novatech now show it to be out of stock and wouldn’t get back to me when I emailed them to see if I’d ordered it before they’d run out, so I cancelled and found that Futurehome have it in stock and for a similar price so I went ahead and ordered from them. Thankfully I have all of next week off so I know what I’ll be doing.

Best of 2005 #1: World of Warcraft

World of Warcraft

Many of the players may have started with this in 2004 but it didn’t come out here until February and I didn’t get it until October, so it definitely qualifies for my 2005 list.

Anyway, my experience with MMORPGs and online RPGs in general was limited before this year, with only a fair amount of Phantasy Star Online and a dabble in the betas of City of Heroes and Guild Wars under my belt, but when I got this for my birthday it really showed me how great this genre is. Trust Blizzard to do it so right first time.

As I type this I’ve suspended my account so that I can enjoy my 360, but after two months I’m pushing 100 hours of play, a number that only a small handful of games come close to with me, and once I jump back in it will show no signs of abating as I get more drawn into the more interesting quests and plethora of group activities (I’ve barely dabbled in instances with groups of other players), money making schemes, and general community aspects that the higher levels bring. It really says something about the immensity of this game that despite all the time that I’ve poured into it, I’ve only really played one race out of six (all with different paths and quests) and have set foot in maybe ten of the game’s fifty-odd zones as quests and the urge to explore begin to expand my horizons.

On paper this, like most MMOs, looks fairly monotonous, but somehow the great community and personality that Blizzard have imbued their world with (it might look like generic fantasy in screenshots but believe me, it’s not) combine to make a game that’s maddeningly addictive but never less than a wonderful place to be. I dread to think what the expansion will do for me but in the meantime this is my game of the year. Easily.

Free FFXI 360 Beta

I’ve mentioned before that I’m not too hot on people who buy magazines just for the freebies, but I’m afraid that I’m going to have to break my own rule here. I’m going to justify it by saying that I’m not really commodifying any journalism because there is none in official games magazines, but apparently the upcoming issue of Official Xbox 360 Magazine due out on 5th January comes with a free, fully featured copy of the Final Fantasy XI beta for the 360. It’s not as good as getting it in the box like they did in Japan, but it’s probably the next best thing.

Some people plain refuse to buy an official magazine (I haven’t bought one since Nintendo Magazine System became the crap it is today), so just think of it as paying £5.99 for the beta and getting a free copy of the magazine.