Category Archives: Review

Witcher : Enchanced Edition Initial Review

I bought Witcher : Enhanced Edition during the summer steam sale and even though the story line is intriguing enough to keep you going, the clunky combat made me quit soon after chapter 1 ended. Last weekend, I was looking for a “new” game to play on the side with wow, since I’m done with grinding faction rep, and raid only twice a week, and decided to give Witcher another try. So after re-acquainting myself with the story line and the combat, I was surprised that I no longer despised combat like I did 6 months ago.

When I gave it some thought, it seems that the  reason I was put off by the combat the first time I played it in June was because it moves away from the traditional RPG and D&D combat style and strategy. While innovating is not a bad thing and often encouraged, what the game is lacking is a proper introduction to the combat style and strategy. Very early into the game you are dropped in to combat with a few unhelpful tips to beat your opponents. Even after getting used to it, I still find that the combat feels a bit repetitive after you find the same 3 monsters in the swamp in chapter 2, a hundred times, however, it also feels challenging when you find yourself up against a trophy monster you need to figure out how to prepare before engaging it.

The talent tree seems to be completely passive talents. I wish that the game had some active talents – like parry and dodge, instead of making parry completely passive. Even thought we can double tap a directional key (W,S,A,D) to dodge attacks, I seldom use it, since my group style attacks knockdown enemies and dodge also breaks the attack chain, making the dodge useful only at the start of the fight when I am surrounded by enemies and want to get them all in front of me. While I love the alchemy and prepare-for-combat part of the game, I still hate the fact that the most time spent during combat is in waiting for the right time to click for the next combo move. That being said, I am still only in chapter 2, and probably not very far in, so may be as the story proceeds, and monsters become more difficult, I will hopefully find myself doing more than casting one Igni spell, and then waiting for my sword icon to turn into a flaming sword icon, so that I can click for my next chain attack.

Being used to Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter Night’s style inventory, it took me a while to get used to the inventory management, especially weapons, since you can’t carry more than the number of slots provided in the leather armor. which seems to be limited to 4-5 weapons, of which two will be your primary weapons.  I liked that innkeeper’s allow you to store weapons and items which can be accessed from any other innkeeper in the game. I also found some free storage – non-innkeeper storage in chapter 2, namely in the jail. Unlike Morrowind, things left on the ground vanish after leaving the area, so I couldn’t sell the items in multiple rounds, unless a vendor in the same area. Which brings us to another aspect of the game – Dice Poker. A fun game, easy to learn, possibly difficult to master, which can be used to make money besides fistfighting and brawling in inns. So far, I’m still a novice in dice poker, and haven’t earned a lot of money, but as I defeat more and more opponents, I am finding it hard to believe that the dice rolls are truly random. In one instance, I had a 3 of  kind and the opponent had nothing, however, when I raised the bet, the opponent rolled 4 of  a kind and won the round. If this was a rare occurrence, I would be okay with accepting the loss, however, as I play more and more dice poker, I find such rolls happening more frequently.

Despite all the complaints, the game has a good story line, which according to other reviewers, is very solid until the end. It is possibly the strongest reason or continuing right now, beside the good graphics, awesome attack moves.

The Good:

Intriguing story line, graphics in the enhanced edition, and amazing attack moves during combat. Dice poker provides a fun way to make money. Experimentation in alchemy and its use in preparing for combat, makes combat satisfying when facing challenging opponents.

The Bad:

Poor introduction to new combat style, somewhat cheesy dialogue and NPC interactions, and clunky inventory management.

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Goodbye, Star Wars : The Old Republic.

A few days ago I unsubscribed from Star Wars : The Old Republic. The event coincided with subscribing back to World of Warcraft, however, the two decisions were made very independent of each other.

Star Wars is an excellent game, but it is still lacking in a lot of respects. I think after playing WoW for a couple of years, the expectations of a smooth game were a bit misplaced on my part, especially with a launch of a new MMO. I wasn’t around the time when WoW was launched, so I can’t compare the two, but from what I have read on various forums, I understand that Blizzard had a hard time as well at the time of launch. Even then, Star Wars did have a lot of good things about the game which made it the only game I’ve played day and night for the last two months since it launched.

Before I get to why I quit star wars, I would like to point out the good things about the game which would be the main reason why I would come back to it in the future.

The Good:

  1. Personal class quest: The full story line from the time you enter the game until you reach level cap was very unique. Unlike wow, I actually felt like I was doing something worthwhile in the universe, and was not just another character among millions killing different levels of boars and wolves at every level. There were some annoyances here as well with some instnaces of unnecessary travel and a few bugs when you are in a party while doing class quest, but not completely game breaking. As an example of unnecessary travel, consider this part of my class quest. At the end of act 1, my Jedi Knight had to go back to the Republic Fleet for ‘Rest and Recuperate’, before I could continue with my class quest. I , like many others raging on forums, thought that there would be something there to do, something on the lines of soaking in the culture on the republic fleet, talking to people, maybe a flashpoint, figure out my next steps and lay the groundwork for Act 2 etc. However, as soon as I got there, I clicked on the person I was supposed to talk to and then quest completion window popped up without him saying a single word to me. So much voice over acting all over the game, and this felt so impersonal and unnecessary. They made me travel all the way back to the fleet and then on to the next planet for nothing. Going through two loading screens (loading republic fleet and then loading the ship again – see point 5 in ‘the bad’ section below for more raving), should be at least worth something.
  2. Engaging planet quests: The planet quests were very engaging, and though they also had the ‘kill X of Y’ kind of quests, I never had to go back and forth for them. These type of quests would start in the area when I killed my first enemy and would end after a series of quest with an item to drop in a mission drop box. Lots of travel time avoided in the game just to report success on each part of the ‘kill X …’ quests. The quests on each planet were unique and hence, I was not in a hurry to reach level cap, which was a huge difference when compared to wow, where as soon as I was level 10, I had stopped reading the quest text that was given to me and just follow my quest tracking pointer to complete the quest to get to end game. The voice over acting for the quests and their relation to the Republic (or Imperial if you are playing one), was very well done and I wanted to do all quests on every planet. I completed all quests in the first couple of planets but I soon realized that I was out-leveling the other planets this way and stopped. If I hadn’t unsubscribed I would have probably gone back and completed them. I had never thought I would say this for MMO quests, but they were really a lot of fun.
  3. Companions: Companions were a great addition to the game and their conversations put a smile on my face from time to time. Each companion had a unique trait and they never felt forced upon. I was always excited to see the quest marker on one of my companions, because it meant more laughs.
  4. Crew-skill missions: Loved how leveling crew skill missions was easy and took away the hours of grinding that would have been otherwise required. It is probably the only reason why my crew skills were all capped even before my character had reached level cap.
  5. Getting to Datacrons: Call me crazy, but getting to some datacrons was really fun. Never thought I would jump on pipes for hours on end just to get a +3 strength boost. The datacrons on Nar Shadda were in very hard to reach places, but while I raged every time I lost footing on the rails, it was extremely satisfying when I got the datacron.

The Bad:

  1. Companions: While I enjoyed having companions by my side, I thought that like other Bioware games (Dragon age, Mass Effect to name a few), there would be a companion quest of which I would be a part of. However, I was disappointed when the companions just said they had something to do, went away and the screen went black for a while before they returned about news on how it went. Very lackluster and disappointing. Another thing that bothered me about the companions was the romance. The romance and the sudden need to get married felt a little rushed, and I wouldn’t have been disappointed if that was left for the future expansions. Now I wonder if the companion story line is over and there will be no more companion related quests and conversations in the future.
  2. Crew-skill mission completion: Why does the window have to pop up in the middle of the combat ? It was really distracting and I raged a few times when all of my companions returned one after another exactly when I am in combat just to tell me that they have completed their jobs.  It is a fight to the death in pvp and here they are happily returning with some green goo (I was doing bioanalysis and green goo was just one of the various forms of goo you could get from analysis). Are their jobs more important than my life here ? Usually when you are in conversations, the mission completions go to the pending bar at the top right. Was it so hard to put all the crew skill mission completions in the pending bar while I’m in combat ? Well, I filed a ticket for this, so lets see how it goes.
  3. Unbalanced PvP: PvP felt largely unbalanced, especially huttball, where any class with a charge or a pull had not trouble getting across the map. If a map becomes easier for certain classes but is difficult for others, it is not a good map. I played a Jedi Guardian so this was not a problem for me at all. I could select any enemy player and force leap to them, even if they are on higher rails, but there were a lot of other players – my friend included – who didn’t have any abilities, and all he could do was get charged or be thrown or be pulled by players who could. Another reason that made PvP unplayable was the lack of deserted buff, which allowed people to just leave the warzone as soon as there was a hint of trouble leaving the rest of the team towards certain defeat even if we could have otherwise won. This has become much of a nuisance more recently and becoming worse day by day. I wish Bioware would do something about it soon. I think there is a also a bug right now which can allow you to get 10 players on your side, instead of 8, and I’ve seen a few teams use this exploit in the warzones. This is a deal breaker and must be fixed immediately.
  4. Huge planet sizes: Planets were ridiculously huge, and not that I mind it, by definition planets are going to be much larger even when you compare them wtih the areas in other games. But the planets themselves didn’t have a lot of content to justify their huge size. Quests were far apart, separated by a wide expanse of nothing and it took 20 minutes to just get from one place to another. I think Tatooine was by far the worst of all planets but except for starter planets all planets were empty and large.
  5. Long load times: With larger planets came longer load times, and you could practically browse for a few minutes, go to the bathroom and come back and it would still be loading. I don’t have an SSD so maybe it was too slow for me, but a friend who had installed the game on his SSD, still complained about it. His load times were definitely faster than mine, but not by much. This was very annoying and time wasting, especially when I had quests which required me to go to places for absolutely nothing (see the example in personal class quests above). This actually made me wonder why Bioware was loading the entire planet all at once, rather than loading it in parts like Halo Reach did ?
  6. Everyday patch fixes: I am not annoyed by the fact that they are doing patch fixes everyday. In fact I’m glad that they are listening to all the feedback and are busy fixing them. Working in a service myself, I can imagine what their work life balance would be and it makes me shudder just to think about it. I’ve been there and I hope they get out of the rut soon. However, they took down servers at midnight everyday for patches for the last two months, and being in the pacific this really cut into my game time. I am a late to sleep, late to rise kind of a person, and usually play until 2am on weekdays and until wee hours of the morning on holidays. The early patch fixing schedule took away almost 2 hours from my game time and sometimes, when I forgot to check the forums, made me leave my flashpoints incomplete only to find them reset the next day.
  7. Lack of economy in the game: There was absolutely no economy in the game. I had a lot of money, and after I had bought the speeders and their higher ranks, there wasn’t much that I could do with my money. Even though I wasn’t a millionaire, I read about a lot of people who easily got to be millionaires with nothing to spend their money on. I doubt it would be a very difficult task. As a slicer myself, even after the slicing nerfs, the missions are extremely profitable. The auction house – or the Galactic Trade Network to be precise, was another disappointment in the game, and the UI was lacking as well. I feel that not many people were using the GTN for trading, but instead preferred to advertise in the general chat.
  8. No combat log: Combat logs are very useful, even if the game does not have a strong log parser like recount. They help understand how to improve your class  with respect to damage, defense or in case of pvp, your opponents class so that you can use  the right tactics to counter specific classes, without resorting to hours of reading on line on how class or boss fight mechanics worked.

One more reason which prompted me to unsubscribe was the lack of friends who played Star Wars. I had two friends who bought the game, and I leveled my characters with one of them, however, the vast majority were still playing WoW and had no plans to subscribe to two MMOs at a time. This by no means was Bioware’s fault which is why it is not mentioned in the list above and if it hadn’t been for the reasons above, I would have definitely stayed and joined strangers to play – that is the whole point of an MMO anyways.

Most of the bad points that I have mentioned are not really game breakers. They are minor fleeting annoyances, which can be fixed eventually. Bioware just needs some more time to get their act together. Looking at the issues they’ve been having, I think they released the game a little too early than they should have, but I guess shipping off an MMO is no easy task and errors are bound to happen. I’m, however, impressed with the rapid pace at which they are fixing these issues.

So what I’m saying after a long harangue is that while I have currently unsubscribed from star wars because of these issues, this is not the end of it. Bioware has yet to disappoint me, even after a horrible Dragon Age 2, and I plan to give Star Wars another try after a few months, when most of these issues, if not all, will be hopefully fixed making the game fun enough for me to convince most of my friends to move as well.

In the meantime, I will be keeping a close eye on the game development and forums, as well as cheering for Bioware as they fix issues, release more end game content and ship Mass Effect 3 Smile

So long Bioware and good luck!