I am a fool, also a cat.


On the 10th, I made a post ranting about November game releases. One of the games I talked about at length was Diablo 3. However, despite fact-checking pretty much everything else, I was so certain in my knowledge about the release date of the game that I didn’t look it up.

It turns out that this was a massive mistake and Diablo 3 isn’t actually going to be released until summer 2012, and will be in beta until then. Where I got the idea that it was going to come out yesterday, I haven’t got a clue, but I was wrong.

I’m sorry if the previous post caused any confusion, disappointment, or anything else. My boyfriend was certainly quite miffed, what with being a huge fan of the Diablo series.

As for Skyrim first impressions – oh gosh yes. Less of what was a bit hand-holdy and ‘let’s just put some fantasy tropes in a pretty land’ about Oblivion, more of the atmosphere and tension from Morrowind.

How many games must a man walk down?


Or something like that, anyway. If you have any sort of interest in video gaming or like to keep up with new releases in the industry, you’ll know that this week and the coming week are long anticipated for a lot of people.

For a start, we had Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 released on the 9th. Midnight launches and record-breaking sales suggest that November has had its biggest release already. However, Activision will certainly be facing some still competition tomorrow when the release of two games with huge and dedicated fan bases could challenge its new king of the gaming charts.

Diablo 3 Image

Eleven years ago, we saw the release of Diablo 2 for the PC. This game was one of the biggest names in the early 2000’s and continues to be popular with fans today. However, online multiplayer of Diablo 2 could see a decline soon as Blizzard releases Diablo 3, taking advantage of the 11/11/11 to release a game 11 years after its prequel. Some fans are upset at the online-only game play that Blizzard seems to favour (their other major title being MMO giant World of Warcraft). For some reason, Blizzard are surprised that not everyone’s happy with this.

However, even more startling about Diablo 3 is the ban Blizzard have placed on modding. For many people, myself included, part of the PC gaming experience is focused around mods. It’s quite possible that I would be a console gamer if not for The Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind. I played everything in that game to death and when I was about to shelve it away as ‘done’, I discovered the modding community, and a true PC gamer was born. Mods more than tripled the play time available to me in Morrowind.

When you look a little deeper, though, you start to work out why modding is prohibited. Blizzard, in their infinite wisdom, have implemented an Auction House in the game, from which players will be able to buy items for their characters. Normal enough right? Nope, Blizzard have decided that they are going to be the pot and call the kettle black by making stuff for sale for real life money. In the past, Blizzard have spent huge amounts of resources trying to stop people on World of Warcraft exchanging real money (and other things) for in-game money, but it’s something they are implementing themselves in Diablo 3! Maybe they found out how lucrative the market was and decided they wanted their finger in that pie, too.

November the 18th sees the official release of Minecraft, though whether an official release date for a game which has already sold more than four million copies is necessary, I’m not sure. Minecraft started off at a very low price and was £7.99 when I bought my own copy, while it was still in its alpha stages. As time has gone on, the price of Minecraft has increased – now it’s £13.95, and it will be around twenty pounds on full release. So if you’re going to get it, do so now to avoid the price hike.

For me though, November has something else. As if those three huge-name titles weren’t already enough, November the 11th sees the release of a game that I have been anticipating for a very long time.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

Go on, guess the game.

My whole computer gaming career was cemented in place as I said previously, by The Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind. I would spend hours shut in my bedroom, using the computer that my grandparents bought me for schoolwork, exploring the vast expanse of the island of Vvardenfall, wearing the faces of many different people, from noble knights to cunning thieves to maniacal magic-users and back again. Morrowind satisfied me for three years, until Bethesda released the PC-testing The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.

As soon as I caught a whif of the system requirements, I knew that my tired HP machine just wouldn’t cut it. I made my own machine, designed to play Oblivion on it’s most hardcore graphics settings. I finished the machine after Oblivion had been out for about two weeks, The wait was agonising but worth it. At that point, it was more worth it than anything I’d ever experienced before, and that included sex.

Now, it’s five years later. My baby, the looming black and silver machine whirring away in the corner of my bedroom has served me well, a true testament to the phrase ‘you get what you pay for’. However, five years of heavy use will tire out even the best computer, and with the latest installment of a series that has defined my life since I was a teenager on the horizon, I knew what needed to be done. One of the last jobs of the Oblivion Machine was to order its own replacement. Now it’s cold and silent and sad, as I cavort with the younger, sexier model, the Skyrim Machine, delivered to me a couple of weeks ago.

I am restless with excitement. The fact that many people have been able to already pre-download Skyrim on Steam has served only to agitate me further. As much of a Steam fan as I am (I really do believe that it’s the ‘future of gaming’), I have pre-ordered my copy of Skyrim from Game for one simple reason. The versions of TES III & IV I got (the GotY edition and the Limited Edition) both came with posters showing the world map, as did the Shivering Isles expansion to Oblivion. There are two ways to get the Skyrim version of the poster map – getting the Limited Edition, which is sadly way out of my budget, being £129, or pre-ordering the game from either Game or Gamestation stores. So, in exchange for a small delay (I will have to wait until Game opens, and then walk home and install the game before I can play it instead of playing as soon as I wake up) I will get to continue my much-loved map collection. It’s not Elder Scrolls without a map blu-tacced to the wall.

He's watching you.

This wallpaper release had me all a-quiver earlier this year.

However, I’m not fifteen anymore. I’ve lived and loved since then and played a lot more video games too. My tastes have developed and changed and I’ve discovered that actually, maybe video games aren’t better than sex, after all.

The build up to Skyrim might have given me the same thrills and excitement as I experienced when Oblivion’s release date was creeping nearer, but will that first ‘New Game’ give me the same absolute astonishment? All PC games these days can acheive a level of graphic detail and scope that Oblivion had, so maybe Skyrim’s graphics won’t make me want to pinch myself, but will the rest of the game blow my socks off in the same way? Watch this space.

Sadly though, Skyrim has already become a part of the PC vs Consoles war. Bethesda has been lifted to power by fans of the Elder Scrolls series, and carried along by the PC modding community. However, there has already been the announcement that the first two pieces of extra content for Skyrim will be exclusive to the X-box for a month before us PC gamers or PS3 owners get our versions. the deal with Microsoft had better have been worth annoying such a huge portion of your customers, Bethesda! This is twice as infuriating when you learn that they have promised the DLC packs will be infrequent and substantial – there will be big parts of the internet that I will have to stay away from in order to avoid spoilers for the DLC for 30 days each time, if they are going to be big story-additions and extra content instead of things like the infamous horse armour add-on for Oblivion.

You might never find out just how much I enjoy Skyrim, though – I’ve already given Chris a warning that he shouldn’t expect me to be particularly sociable while I’m playing it. The chances of me finding the time to write about it are slim to none. I should have known I’d never manage NaNoWriMo.

Minecraft


Another game I’ve been spending a lot of time on recently is Minecraft. Created by the enigmatic Notch (a Swedish bloke), Minecraft (MC) is a global phenomenon. Even though it’s currently only in beta testing, MC has sold over a millions copies.

I’m a relative newcomer to MC. A friend lent me his account for a few days and when I eventually got around to playing it (I admit that I did ignore it for a fair while before trying it out – I was dubious) I was hooked pretty quickly.

I wasn’t hooked instantly, though, since the complete lack  of a tutorial left me furiously hammering the mouse button because I didn’t know any better. Some kind of introductory thing would be hugely helpful, even if it was only telling you the controls.

After I worked out how to actually collect basic materials I had to return to the MC wiki to find out what the heck I could do with an inventory full of bits of tree and earth. It became clear quite quickly what I needed to do.

Hide.

It was getting dark, and in MC, while the sunsets are actually quite pretty and picturesque, they spell trouble. And in MC, trouble is spelled c-r-e-e-p-e-r. When it gets dark, scary things come out to play, where play = kill you and eat you.

minecraft fleeeee

Because it had taken me so long to figure out how the basic controls worked, I  hadn’t had time to make a shelter or find coal to make torches (the only source of light in the scary dark night). This meant I was alone and open to attack. The safest thing I could think of was to dig a small pit and cower until the sun came up. Which I did. I’m not sure if it was luck or something else, but I survived that first night pretty easily and safely. The noises scared me to the edge of my seat though. The groaning of zombies, the chittering of spiders and the twang of skeleton’s bowstrings, all combined with something I couldn’t identify and the occasional explosion to make the fairly quiet night seem cacophonous.

When the sun rose, I emerged blinking from my pit and jumped immediately back into it. I could see from where I had been a zombie on fire. Turns out the MC monsters don’t like the sun. It burns some to death and makes others docile. After a moment or two I ventured forth into the world again and started to plan out a place to live and mine.

minecraftscape

Minecraft really is a game that does what it says on the tin. You mine to gather materials and then use them to craft almost anything you can think of, really. I’ve seen some fantastic things, ranging from a scale model of the SS Enterprise from Star Trek, to a funky little beach parasol made by abusing the strange physics the game has.

This a game which really has me gripped, and a lot of my friends too. We have gone to some lengths to set up a multiplayer server, including using a laptop which does NOTHING ELSE other than run idle, dedicated to the server. (Admittedly, it is a laptop which has no screen, but that’s beside the point)

Steep learning curve aside, I highly recommend this game. It is one that takes you and has you gripped. It lets your imagination run wild, and gives you a real sense of achievement. Don’t believe me? Try mining your first diamond vein, or trapping your first monster in a cleverly designed trap which implements Redstone (Minecraft’s equivalent of electricity). Then you’ll see what I mean.

Recent Crazes in AliceLand


So, lately I’ve been playing a lot of Puzzle Quest 2. I can’t think of any better way of putting it than ‘Bejewelled – the Role Playing Game’. Essentially, you play a character who, in typical RPG style, locates a village and has to (for no good reason) save it from the baddies. You do this by fighting off various monsters. However, in place of a conventional battle system, you play bejewelled against an opponent. Your character earns mana from matching colours and uses it to cast spells, most of which alter the board state in some way.

When you’ve killed the monster, you might find a chest to loot! To do this, you play bejewelled, matching up various chests and crowns and coins instead of gems. You may come across a locked door on your adventure! To open it, you can bash it down with bejewelled power, or cast a spell of opening using your bejewelled magic, or pick the lock with bejewelled lock picks. You might have to search a room for a clue, or disarm a trap. I’m sure you can guess how….

Despite being very repetitive, PQ2 is a good game. It does exactly what you expect. It lets you play bejewelled, but makes it slightly more interesting. The abilities and spells your characters get are a great addition to the game and make it very interesting. Being able to turn half the gems on the board purple, then destroying all the purple gems for MASSIVE DAMAGE! is great fun.

There are a few kinks, and the levelling and mini-games systems I think especially need some more work. For instance, it’s just as easy to use a spell to unlock a door as it is to bash it down, whether you’re a berserker or a sorcerer. It would be nice if this was altered to be more appropriate.

All in all though, if you’re looking for a casual game to sink a few hours into (I’ve lost nearly thirty so far), Puzzle Quest 2 is an excellent candidate.  It’s available on Steam and a very reasonable price, so really there’s no reason not to buy it! (Unless you have a particularly addictive personality. Then it might not be such a great idea)