- Fallout 3 [FLL]
- Warhammer Online [WHM]
- Guild Wars [GWA]
- Stalker: Call of Pripyat [SCP]
- The Witcher [TWR]
- Pokémon Mystery Dungeon [PMD]
- The Saboteur [TST]
- Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 [CDM]
- Dragon Age: Origins [DAO]
- Settlers 2 [STT]
- Assassins Creed: Brotherhood [ACB]
[FLL] - Fallout 3
Fallout was released two years ago but has since then undergone some changes, most recently opening up to modding (and before that a couple of DLC's which added new quest areas) which makes it worth trying out again and so Love has dusted off his old Fallout 3 to give it another re-run to see what has happened.
Fallout is one of the best game series ever made. Not "probably", not "perhaps", but definitely. It goes without saying, but you can't say it too often either. So having said that it's understandable that it was with much anticipative angst that people were looking forward to the most recent part in the series - Fallout 3. Since the game was placed in the hands of a new developer Bethesda, and not the original creator Black Isle, it means someone else than the ones who had made Fallout into the awesome concept it is, was taking over the legacy and putting their interpretation over the game. Fortunately, the ones taking over were no nobodies. Bethesda have done their fair share of huge RPG-universes in the past, most notably Oblivion, and people were anxious to see what Fallout 3 could turn out to be in their hands. Awesome or dreadful. It turns out to be both, but not inbetween.
To explain myself we probably have to take a closer look at Bethesda. To understand the good and bad parts of Fallout 3 we have to look at the good and part parts of Bethesdas idea of a good game. Bethesda is a game developer whos made a name for themselves as really good story tellers. They usually put alot of effort into making their game worlds as immersive as possible when it comes to dialogues and character build up. Bethesda does these parts great, and so also in Fallout 3. What Bethesda never has done any good however is more about the mechanical bits of the game. Bethesda feels like a bunch of pen & paper rp-players who've been forced to adapt to the digital world of the computer and don't really know what to do with things like game physics and graphics. A game isn't just supposed to be a good story, but Bethesda often seem to think that as long as people enjoy the narrative, they'll overlook or forgive flaws in physics and graphics. This is only true to some part. Easy explained Fallout 3 looks like Oblivion in a Fallout setting. The graphics and physics are exactly the same - good looking but odd in the same time. The story line is great and characters that you encounter around the world generally interesting. There is of course the PipBoy and other Fallout-trademarks implemented into the game and anyone who's played the other parts of the Fallout-series will feel right at home.
Unlike the other games in the series, Fallout 3 is 3d instead of 2d. People were concerned about the feel to the game after this rather massive jump in dimensions, something that hasn't always worked well for other games of other series throughout the gaming history (Sonic for example). This is probably one of the biggest changes to the game world that Bethesda has done, but it works really well. Bethesda presents a beautiful dystopia, if such a thing could exist, and it is really more fun to be able to sneak around corners in 3d than in 2d. That extra dimension actually gives a whole new dimension to the game (see what I did there), and doesn't at all remove the feel from the other series, but rather enhances it. In the old games you could get into tense situations by being chased by more enemies than you could handle. In Fallout 3 you can be jumped by mobs from behind or around corners, which makes the entire world even more eerie and dangerous. So with any Bethesda game there is nothing wrong with the overall feel and immersion of the game.
It is worth noting however that Bethesda aren't as good as the dark humor that was Black Isles trademark for the Fallout-series. A little bit of that certain feeling has been lost, but Bethesda could've done so much worse when it comes to administering the legacy of this game. And in other areas of the game there is alot that could've been done alot better.
The problem lies in the details, details that in the end will become like huge splinters in your eye, because you can't stop thinking about them. Bethesda are extremely bad at constructing character graphics, for one thing. People move in bizarre ways and look really odd. Even if the character profile and story is great, you don't get the feel that you're actually talking to a real person, which could be bothersome when Bethesda is trying to make you feel something for them. It often happens that you simply shoot someone down just to get rid of their annoying behavior. Not because they're annoying characters, but because they move around like robots with ants in their pants. So even though some characters are just awesome, like Moira the crazy wannabe writer who uses you to learn more about how a person can be hurt, everytime you look at her you wonder if she's been hit by a truck because she moves around so weirdly.
Don't even think about zooming out to see your character in third person view. Although this is according to the the standard of the previous games, I strongly advice you never to do that. The animations of you character are hilariously bad. Jumping, running and "strafing" (or whatever it is your character is trying to do when you push those buttons) looks like your character has suffered severe damage to his backbone, removed it and replaced it with a stick. This takes me to the physics part of the game, which could make its own post really. The physics of the game are to the most parts so badly programmed that you wonder if you entered Twilight Zone somewhere along the way or if you've had a little too much of that rad-coke.
When shooting an enemy they can explode into red goo, or fall in literally any direction. They can easily get stuck in just about anything when falling making them end up in Lovecraftesque death positions with limbs all over the place and twisted in possible and impossible angles. They can also just hurl away and start bouncing around and probably never fall down to earth again. A car can come falling from the sky. Just like that. The problem with the physics of Fallout 3 is that it seems like Bethesda has a fairly advanced movements motor, but hasn't applied any weight to objects in the game. This means the game has to calculate how the body would move in weightlessness, something that usually ends up in total, mind-boggling chaos. Items/bodies more often than fall downwards rather than any other direction, but that's about the weight they seem to have gotten. And even then it happens that bodies fall upwards. The physics of Fallout 3 seriously never end up confusing and amaze you as a player, it is almost worth playing the game just to see what can happen to loose objects. "WTH?!" is something you'll think alot when playing Fallout 3.
Bethesda has changed the turn-basedness of the previous games into the Vats-system, allowing the player to semi-pause the game to choose different areas of the enemy player to hit, with different percentage scores presented to tell you how big of a chance you have to actually hit that particular body part based on your skill what that weapon. This means you can either play Fallout 3 like any old shooter, simply running around and using your own aiming skills to shoot down enemies, or have statistics do the shooting via Vats. The statistics of your character applies to both these systems however, which means that in Vats you can change the percent-chance to hit different areas and outside Vats the damage and spread of you weapon is affected by your skill with that weapon. Vats is also affected by action-points, which means you can only do a certain amount of actions through the Vats-system. This is to ensure that both systems work about equally well and that none is too easy to use. Unfortunately both of these systems suffer from huge flaws that in the end makes Fallout 3 into a rather bad shooting game. Yet again the criminal is the physics motor.
Trying to describe how a body moves around in the game world is difficult, because there isn't really anything in the real world that would behave in such a way. Enemies, and you, react to every little object in the world when moving around. That means that enemies running around will bob up and down like a fishing-bobber when moving about an area, making it really difficult to try to aim at. Trying to anticipate and predict the enemies movements for that perfect shot is near to impossible. Shooting stuff outside of Vats is best done on enemies standing damn still. Vats has its flaws too however. It doesn't seem like the Vats-system is correctly programmed to what obstacles does to shooting. This means that it can show you to have 90% chance to hit an enemy in the head, but when you try to shoot Vats ends up shooting some pebble that happens to be in the way. When using Vats you might be aiming in the right direction, but anything in the way will probably be hit instead and you will have wasted all those shots on shooting the grid in a fence or things like it. Vats is best used when you have a really clear vision of sight, and definitely not when you're crouched behind objects like one wants to in shooting games. The shooting aspect of Fallout 3 is because of these flaws rather crude and has to be worked around constantly to make due. The player constantly has to compromise his actions to what the physics motor will allow, which ruins immersion pretty effectively.
So far it sounds like Fallout 3 is a horrible game and completely un-playable. And yes, Fallout 3 has very many problems about it that makes it difficult to enjoy the good portions of the game, the story-telling and characters (and also it is always easier to talk about the bad stuff than the good stuff). Fallout 3 offers hours of interesting game play that deserve a chance. Fortunately, Bethesda have in some sense realized that there is room for improvement and that anyone else probably would do it better than them. Hence, they have opened Fallout 3 for modding, making it possible for anyone skilled enough to enhance the aspects of the game they find lacking the most. And there has been alot of enhancing done. Unlike Add-ons, mods actually change how a game works, which means you can change, remove or add aspects to the game as you please. All of the above mentioned problems and flaws of the game currently have a mod that tries to fix the problem somewhat. A mod is only a patch in the end of course. What Fallout 3 really would need is a code-overhaul, but since that won't happen and Fallout 3 definitely is worth experiencing at least once, we'll have to make due with band-aid mods instead.
There are mods that do just about anything - changed graphics that make people look less unreal, more detail to different items, enhancing the rp-factor of items, adding quest-lines and new characters, adding creatures, making the game more difficult etc. Not all mods work well together, but there is a lot of them so you can pick and choose pretty much as you like and end up with a Fallout 3 that suits your likings.
As an example of mods that one might like, Love went with the following;
- Fallout Wanderers Edition: A huge overhaul to many aspects of the game, enhancing the RP-experience. Adds for instance the necessity to eat, drink and sleep. Fast travel is changed, so that a motor cycle is needed, which has to be maintained with fuel and repairs. You can no longer carry half a military base around which means you have to restrict yourself to a select amount of weapons. Not being able to carry around enough ammunition to kill half the wasteland but actually feel a little exposed. When encountering enemies you might actually choose to avoid them instead of going in and Terminate everything you see Schwarzenegger-style. You will actually have to treat injuries. These are just some things that this mod changes.
- Marts Mutant Mod: Adds a couple of new enemy types. Most importantly it gives all the enemy types already in the game more variables when it comes to color, size and things like it, making the enemies more unique and interesting instead of a hoard of clones.
- Project Beauty: Remodelling of some character faces which makes them look less beaten by the bad-programming-stick.
[WHM] - Warhammer Online
Unlike with Guild Wars I didn't play Warhammer Online alone. Although the two friends I played with and I never teamed up to do things together in the game, but merely played it simultaneously, I am sure this makes a difference for how a game is perceived. This gives the opportunity to discuss the game with eachother and reflect upon it in a new way. Things that seemed bad might not have been so bad and things that seemed good might not have been so good. I'll say it at once though, I really liked Warhammer Online.
It bears a close resemblemance to WoW, at least on the surface. There are goblins and dwarves and dragons and whatnot, all taken from the pretty vast universe of Warhammer. I have played alot of Warhammer 40k, and would really love it if they did an mmorpg based on that universe as well. Finally something that isn't about demons and dragons eventhough there are plenty of demons in Warhammer 40k when I think about it...
In all honesty, it is actually WoW that looks like Warhammer rather than the other way around. The concept of Warhammer is way older than that of Warcraft and one can speculate that the Blizzard employees at that time probably tried to make a Warhammer-like computer-game which then turned into Warcraft. The medieval view of fantasy goes even further back to Tolkien of course.
In any case, they look alot like eachother. What differs lies in the details and I played Warhammer Online alot more than I did Guild Wars, I actually played it for its full 10-day trial duration. I tried a shaman if I remember correctly. One thing that immediately struck me and that I really liked was the fact that all classes used the same kind of energy system. Instead of stuff like mana, rage and energy every class basically used what could be compared to energy. I loved it since it gave every class equal opportunities to use their skills and forced for another kind of planning, just like energy does when compared to mana. When using mana you can cast as many casts you like withing a time frame and then none more until you have replenished, there is a limit to your abilities. With energy you can instead cast few casts within a time frame but there is no limit to your abilities in the long run. In the end mana works like energy because you don't want to go oom and therefore you must portion your skills like with energy, but theoretically there is a big difference. Imagine not having to think about whether your energy-source will run out or not when healing or caster dpsing? It would be a completely new way (for me at least) of playing that kind of class. I salute Games Workshop for daring to remove mana from the game, as it is such a common feature in these kind of games.
One thing I also loved about Warhammer Online was the rp-aspect they had implemented into everything in the game. I really don't rp much, but I really liked that they had named skills stuff like (and I'm just making up because I don't remember the names of the actual skills, but they sounded like this) "Is gonna be ok now" for a healing skill or "Raaaargh!" for a hard hitting skill. It makes the straight-forward sounding skill names of WoW like Charge and Flash Heal sound rather dull.
Warhammer Online also has a version of the recording system that was implemented in WoW with Wotlk. In WoW we can now see any kind of statistics about out characters in pretty minute detail and also achievements. Now correct me if I'm wrong but I think Warhammer Online was first with this idea. And when I played WO it also looked better than the info we get about ourselves in WoW. In WO we can also see information about creatures/areas/items in an extremely detailed manner, and they also keep track about what kind of quests your character does. Yet again there is more of a rp-sense to it than the boring listings of WoW.
The design, graphics and motion of the game were relly good, but there isn't much to say about it since it was alot like WoW really and nothing I put any thought into. The questing, killing and talking to npcs was alot like WoW, and maybe part of what I liked about this game. Not that it looks like WoW, but that both WoW and WO contain components that I enjoy in a game and present them in an interesting way.
One problem with the game however, was the server stability, or rather lack thereof. I didn't have much trouble with it since I was enjoying the game so much, but there was considerable delay on the servers when I played. This especially bothered Love, he is kind of elitist when it comes to things like that (fps, lag, delays) and needs it to be perfect conditions or he is annoyed. When playing on low levels like we did I found that some compensating for the delay still made the game playable, but I can imagine that in the higher levels this would be a major problem. Remember now that it was over a year ago that I played this and the chances are good that they have made something about this. Or that we were unlucky and had hit a bad server. Or something completely else of course. It wasn't a problem with out internet however, because our friend had the same issue and he played on a completely nother net.
Speaking of end game there isn't much I can say about it since I never got that far. I did however get to try the random-group-quest events that occur in this game, and what little I saw I enjoyed. From what I understood these group quests work alot like the AQ war effort even in WoW did, but on a much smaller scale. Instead of collecting 50.000 of X item, you need to collect perhaps 50 of an item that lies around in the vicinity. Anyone playing can do this collecting and when enough items have been collected (or another criteria filled) the event moves on to the next stage. The next stage is usually in the same manner, a kind of quest in which anyone can participate. The final part of this quest-chain in the area I was in was encountering a rather hard hitting and ugly company of npc dwarves (I played goblin) with an elite dwarf leading them. Anyone could partake in the battle to kill these dwarves, and as I understood it whoever had participated in the battle the most had the highest chance to win loot. I don't know how it determined who had done the most in a fight, considering healers, fighters and tankers participate in a fight in completely different ways. The end result however was a bonus to your roll for the extra-good item that dropped. I only tried this a couple of times and really liked the idea, but I can't really say if it works out well overall or not.
As a conclusion and going back to where I started I must say that I really enjoyed playing Warhammer Online. In fact I liked it so much that I still today consider buying it and playng it "for real", while taking a break in WoW. The only thing that has kept me from doing so so far is the fact that I would be completely alone playing WO, while all my friends play WoW. That is one of the bad and the good things about WoW, the social aspect. Since everyone I know plays it I'm kinda hooked to it. But if I ever decide to play another mmorpg instead of WoW, WO would definitely be my first choice.
[GWA] - Guild Wars
One rarely notices them, but there are in fact several other big mmorpgs out there. Have you ever tried one? I have tried two of them, Guild Wars and Warhammer Online, both on 10 day trials. It was some time ago (Guild Wars about a year and Warhammer Online about half a year), and the games have probably changed considerably since then just as WoW has. But you still get the essence of the game when trying them out, or at least I hope I do since that's the whole idea of a 10 day trial isn't it? To give people a general idea about what a game is about so they can decide whether they want to spend 40 hours a week playing it? I always try to think that I shouldn't compare other mmorpgs to WoW, because it's not really fair. WoW has been out on the market for far longer than GW and WO and has had more time to fine tune through trial and error, but it's hard not to in reality. Since I have played WoW so much, I will inevitably think about everything I do in another mmorpgs through the eyes of a long time WoW player. I'm only human after all. So what did I think?
My first horror filled insight about this game was that you can't jump in GW. Seriously! I read that they're going to release a GW2 in which you can jump, but this still means my very first impression with GW wasn't overly positive. It might sound like a small thing, but it really bothered me. It gives the game a 2-dimensional feel, like you're stuck to the ground. You might as well be a rock in the sand, you don't really get the feeling you're a "living" object with free choice to move around, and I didn't think it suited the game. Maybe it's a habit thing, and if GW is designed around not being able to jump (and I am sure it is), this doesn't have to be an issue, just one of those "I'm used to being able to do this and I want to whine about it"-problem. And on the bright side you automatically get rid of all the idiots who spam jump around when waiting for something in a group.
One thing I knew about GW before playing it, from watching a friend who played it some, and really liked about it when I played, is the possibilty to do just about anything you like with your UI. Unlike WoW, which has the worst and most rigid UI ever, GW gives the player nearly free hands to move bars and windows around as you like to fit ones play style. Lovely! More game developers should think about implementing these kind of choices into their game. It seems like they (Blizzard) don't think about the fact that we're supposed to spend a whole lot of time looking at that screen, and most of us want to customize it to our liking. The UI is part of the game, although Blizzard doesn't treat it like that.
The graphics of GW have always been better than those of WoW. Blizzard has played it safe by having a slightly cartoonish look, it is easier to hide bad graphics that way (and boy are they bad at some places). The emotes, motions and spell effects looked cool enough and I really have nothing bad to say about the graphics overall. As a WoW player I am used to the world and the monsters that inhabit it to look a certain way, which meant I had more trouble locating stuff in GW. The eyes adapt to a certain way of scanning the surroundings I suppose, which of course didn't work the same way for GW. But that was just a problem about me having to become used to the graphics of GW instead, and not a problem of the game.
I did miss the possibility to choose a race other than human though. I like being able to play some sort of "monster", or at least something that doesn't feel so plain all the time. In all honesty I only played one class, some sort of caster, and I can't say much about the diversity in professions and classes. In games like Diablo playing only human heros isn't anything you think about, and I am sure it doesn't have to be a problem in a game like GW either.
One thing about Gw that was a major problem for me before I started out, and that I didn't get a chance to try out (see below) was the game design choice not to let player play by themselves outside of cities. This means you always have to be in a group, either with other players or with npc's. It's an interesting design choice, no question about it. Like I said I didn't get to try it so I can't say it doesn't work well, it probably does. But being forced to play in a group doesn't sound like something for me. I don't like any kind of game mechanics to be force like that unless it is supposed to be an outright multi-player game. But that isn't so since you can use an all npc group, which sort of removes the feeling of being multi-player. The point seems to be that you can't do stuff alone.
As in WoW, you start out playing a secluded area, set up for you to understand the game properly before you get thrown out into the real thing. This worked well and I had no trouble until I got out of this place. Or rather was supposed to get out of this place. I ran around like stupid trying to find the nect place to go, but I just couldn't. I asked around in chat, but just as no one really cares much about nubs in WoW, no one cared much about me in GW. I asked every npc I could see, ran to every corner of the map, but I seriously didn't know what to do next. After a while of running around I just gave up. It's not supposed to be that difficult to get going with the game! I'm not slow (or so I think) and I have at least some experience with games of this kind. Maybe the solution was dead obvious, but they lost my interest anyway.
I realize I probably didn't give GW the chance it deserved, and maybe I was just unlucky or too stupid to get into the game properly. On the other hand I think that a game only has so long to impress me and the competition is fierce. Somehow I think GW had to do better than it had, and eventhough one should never say never, I probably won't become a GW player. I might give it another try, or GW2 if that turns up (maybe it has already?), but overall I felt that GW wasn't a bad game but it wasn't my kind of game.
If you read this and happen to know alot more about GW than me and notice some mistakes please just tell me. In any case what I've written here is the impression the game has made on me, so even if some things are wrong that's still the idea I got from playing it. But I'd also love it if I am completely mistaken and GW happens to be an awesome game (more awesome games for the people), in which case I have to try it again of course!
Next time, which might be tomorrow, I'll talk about my impressions on Warhammer Online!
Have you tried GW? What did you think of it?
[SCP] - Stalker: Call of PripyatI'm going to do something a little different here and not talk about WoW! Instead, I thought I'd say some things about the game Stalker: Call of Pripyat which is the third game in the Stalker series. The reason is simple, Love is playing it for the third time and I asked him what he liked so much about it (and if there is something he doesn't like). In case you didn't know, the entire Stalker series is about survivors living in the contaminated area that emerged with the Chernobyl accident. Well calling them survivors isn't really the right word, they're there by their own choice to profit from the fact that this area is completely lawless. Because of the heavy radiation alot of funny stuff is going on with mutations and anomalies, and well some people like that stuff, because anomalies can both spawn evil and good. Call of Pripyat is divided into three zones. When you start out you've only got a shitty gun and a flash light, which definitely isn't going to help you much against the "zombies" (people with fried brains) and mutated animal life.
This is one of CoP really strong sides. When you start out you really get the feeling to be a looser in a really hostile world and you will have to fight to survive. Realism is heavy in CoP, with everything from degrading gear, friendly and hostile npcs interacting to the need for food and it does it very well. Every encounter with a rabid mutadog that doesn't end in death feels like a victory, without the game being too punishing. It's you against the crazy world, and it's only your courage and bravado that stands between you and glory (and shitloads of money). When entering a dark cave you don't know what will be in the other end, and it can seriously be just about anything.
Also, if you've played the first game Shadow of Chernobyl, you'll be happy to know that CoP isn't anywhere close to being as buggy as SoC was. In SoC the bugs where more of a rule than an exception. And no game is completely without bugs of course, but CoP really has only the healthy, normal amount of bugs. None that bother gameplay too much.
You soon encounter other humans (that haven't had their brains fried yet) with whom you can trade and feel some connection to reality. Because although everything in CoP (and the other Stalker games) is so far out, you still feel like it could be real. Out there somewhere people are eating Popcorn while watching Karate Kid, but right here you are fighting an invisible Bloodsucker. In that way it is similar to Fallout.
Unfortunately, the game quickly turns a little too rewarding. And I don't mean "too good" but that it gives you too much of everything. About half way through the second zone you'll have your hands on most of the really heavy artillery (rocket launchers and mecha suits anyone?) and not even the rabid mutadogs or creepy Bloodsuckers pose much of a threat then. The vulnerability and feeling of having to fight for your survival disappears as your inventory is filled with heavy weapons and heavy armors. A characters has to become better and better of course, so that you don't feel stagnation, but in CoP this happens a little too fast. Preferrably one should never feel too good, there should always be a feeling that there are somethings you still dread to take on. But towards the end you don't do your choices based in difficulty anymore, but based on lazyness. You don't choose your fight style because you'll die if you go about another way, but because it's the fastest way to get rid of the pest that just some hours ago made you run away screaming.
Also, unlike the previous games, there are no factions to rep with. That makes you feel cut off from the other humans in the zone and like a one man army. That doesn't necessarily have to be a bad thing, but if you don't feel like you need the people around you you're eventually mostly just annoyed by their presence. When you should feel like they're part of a haven in a dangerous world.
The third zone is a model of the real Pripyat itself, the neighboring city of Chernobyl that was quickly evacuated when news of the catastrophe was spread. People probably didn't realize the magnitude of the catastrophe back then because the citizens of Pripyat were told they'd be able to return in a couple of days and therefore left everything laying and standing as it was. This has turned Pripyat into a modern day museum, or ghost town rather. A complete city, totally empty of human life, but as if it was left yesterday (except for the fact that vegetation has crept into the buildings).
Unfortunately, the game doesn't offer much to do in this zone. The area is huge and you can wander around and look at stuff, and maybe that is the entire reason for it, but that feels a little too empty. Some emptiness is good for the immersion but here it feels unfinished. There are no side quests and only a few main quests to do. Since the previous zones have thrown anomalies and mutants in your face every now and then you enter Pripyat with the sense that it is a little too quite. Something is about to happen. After about 10 minutes of sneaking around, looking around your shoulder and keeping your senses peaked for anything, anything at all, you realize that no. This place is just damn empty.
END SPOILER ALERT!
CoP offers alot of potential and the inital half of the game is also really well made. It could've stayed that way but the player quickly overpowers the game, without the game throwing in more challenge. Getting hold of enough money to buy everything you'll ever want and need isn't as difficult as it should be and you go from feeling like Sarah Connor hunted by Terminator to quoting "Hasta la vista, baby" to every hostile encounter. The thrill of exploration and victory disappears too fast.
So far one could get the feel that CoP has more bad than good features, but the good things about it are good enough to warrant at least one playthrough (or three). The game doesn't actually ever turn bad, it just turns too easy (just cranking the difficulty setting to max seems like a haphazard solution) and that removes its most important components - immersion and the feeling of success through hard work.
[TWR] - The Witcher
This time I'll talk about a slightly older game - The Witcher by Red Studios, released 2007. The game is about Geralt who suffers from the standard "how to make the player not know everything about the game from the start"-amnesia. So Geralt remembers nothing about himself but soon finds out he is a Witcher, a person who at some point in their life turns into a mutated monster-hunter by eating too much poisonous, mutating plants. It is presented in a much more intriguing way in the game of course, and it is an interesting idea. This is also basically what the game is about, chasing monsters while eating alot of strange herbs that increase your combat power in different ways, all baked into an interesting story about... well that is for you to find out.
The game runs on BioWares Aurora engine, which also has been used for games like KOTOR 2, NWN 2 and Icewind Dale. The graphics do what they should with the game, it looks good enough, considering also that it is already three years old.
The combat system could be said to be standard rpg-ish with its own twist. Usually rpgs either are turn based or combo-click based. Witcher is combo-click based, where timed amounts of click with the mouse will make Geralt do different combo-sequences. The twist comes about choosing the right weapon and combat stance when fighting mobs. Geralt has two types of weapons - steel and silver, and three different combat stances - group, strong and fast. To each fight there is a combination of weapon and combat stance that works best, and it is choosing this that makes the challenge. It's a sort of rock-paper-scissors system. Using potions and the like during combat triggers an emote, which means Geralt can't swing his sword and use another item at the same time. Often it is wise to pump up on buffs and hp before you start a fight, especially so when fighting bosses. Geralt also has some spells he can use, but they're usually not worth the effort. This means that, from a rpg:ers point of view, the combat system could become a little dull. Although there are some variables to choose from, they're simply not interesting enough to hold the whole way through.
Another not so motivating factor, again from an rpg:ers view, is the fact that you basically start out with the best gear available. Geralt will find countless items that he can use, but nearly all of them will be less good than what he already has. For you gear-crunchers out there, beware. This is not a game about fiddling with your gear, like Diablo.
Like I said however, the story, without giving away too much, is quite interesting and well-written. The game is composed of 5 acts which each take about 5-10 hours to play through, so there is much to do. There is a lore book where you can learn more about monsters and characters you meet along the way. In some cases this could actually become quite useful, since you can check what weaknesses monsters have that you can use to your advantage when fighting them.
Although the game mechanics are somewhat simple and therefore repetative, alot of time and effort has been put into the story, which will keep things interesting enough to make you want to play anyway. Overall an ok game, which will entertain you mostly with its storyline.
[PMD] - Pokémon Mystery Dungeon
I've always been quite fond of the Pokémon franchise and have played all the non-spinoff games (except the latest) and collected many cards. Admittedly I am and was probably always a little older than the supposed target group. When I started playing I was probably 14 or so while everyone else was 6-10. I remember when visiting the Pokémon trading club I was by far the oldest in the room. My first encounter with Pokémon was by managing to get my hands on Pokémon Blue through some scrubby trading (a guy who liked me traded it with some kid for a burned cd with some music and gave it to me as a token of appreciation). I think I had just bought a Game Boy Advance to play it on. And I, just as millions of other children around the world, loved it instantly. The concept of catching and using little monsters to care fora nd fight with was a genious one. Just like with Final Fantasy, Pokémon was never thought to be more than one game but grew into the monster franchise it became and still is to some extent today.
I started collecting cards too. My english wasn't very good then, and those I played with knew even less, so initially we made the rules up. You simply hit the opponent for the given sum and if you killed him you won the card. Since I was the oldest I could make up my own rules as it fitted and most kiddos would believe me. Swell times. Anyhow we started playing by the real rules after a while and I've spent countless time and money on this lovely game. But enough reminiscing.
I haven't played any Pokémon for some time now, and although I still have my old decks I don't really have anyone interested in playing it with me. I think the last Pokémon game I played was the Pokémon Diamond or something. Until yesterday when I tried out Pokémon Mystery Dungeon - Explorers of Time (PMD).
Mystery Dungeon is the game concept of dungeon crawling with ever changing dungeons. Actually my first impression of PMD was that i resembled the old Playstation game Azure Dreams alot. In a Mystery Dungeon game you re-enter a dungeon over and over to collect valuables of different kind. When exiting the dungeon you lose some of what you've collected so that re-entering will always be a challenge. In Azure Dreams this was quite well balanced - the main character (you) always lost all levels but kept any gear or items they had found. If you died you lost everything you had on you (if I remember correctly). The goal was to get to the uppermost level (which was above level 50 I think). Since oneself returned as level 1 everytime you needed the aid from different monsters that you could catch and train inside the tower to do your bidding. These monsters were quite similar to Pokémon in that way that they had their weaknesses and strengths against other monsters in the tower. To get all the way up you needed a full arsenal of diverse monsters to be able to take on whatever evil you could happen to find inside the tower. If you have any kind of interest in Mystery Dungeon games, playing Azure Dreams is a must.
But back to PMD. The Mystery Dungeon part is actually quite fun, dungeon crawling has its own charm. It doesn't really ever grow boring as long as there are items to collect and the enemies don't grow too easy. In PMD there is a cute (?) side story which seems to be meant to give the dungeon crawling some framework and meaning (like you need more motivation than finding items and kill stuff!). Most of the story is harmlessly pokémonishly cute and doesn't disturb gameplay much. The game is overall entertaining and a decent mystery dungeon game. The fighting system and AI all work good enough to make it an entertaining experience. Unfortunately it feels like the game makes didn't believe in the dungeon crawling being able to pull its own weight in providing fun and so forces a horrible little mini game upon the player from time to time. It's called "guess the Pokémon". Here you are supposed to guess the Pokémon based on its footprint. But there is no logical connection between the look of a footprint and the pokémon that owns it, which makes this most of an annoying guessing game. Most footprints are more or less round shaped, sometimes with some toes.
The music is great. I actually feel some tunes deserve to be in a bigger game than this. They are thought through and captivating in a Pokémon way. The fighting system is well designed too. Your companions won't always do what you want them to do, but there is the possibility to set tactics and AI-rules for them which work ok. Some solutions are great like the fact that your companions can pick up stuff too, or that you can give and use items to/on them even if they're far away from you on the map. This means you won't have to watch your less than brainy Pokémon friend die against some foe without being able to do anything about it.
The characters and story are typically pokémonish, with the frightened but brave, evil but kind and yourself who is a human in a Pokémon body, able to see the future and the past. I myself endure the story line because I enjoy the dungeon crawling so much, and like mentioned it isn't bothersome. Like in any Pokémon game it's an excuse to get to the gameplay which usually is highly entertaining. PMD will give some hours of fun and I recommend it if you're, like me, a little of a collecting freak. Gotta catch 'em all!
[TST] - The Saboteur
Love has played another game, and this time it's The Saboteur by Pandemic Studios.
You play as Devlin the Irish-man (as he will let you know a couple of times during play) who has to choose sides in the war when... well I won't spoil it for ya, but he is drawn into the conflict against his will anyway. The game takes place in Paris during WWII where you help the french resistance against the evil Nazis, also known as Krauts. The ingame Paris is an actual copy of Paris as it looked in those times. I can't validate it's exactness of course, but Pandemic at least claim to have tried.
One could start out with simply saying The Saboteur is a great game. You don't really need to know more than that and should try it right away if you're interested in sand-box-sneaky-games. It's like a cross-breed of Hitman and GTA, mixing the undercover-stealth-disguise-murder part of Hitman with the free-roaming-do-as-I-please from GTA. There are of course missions to work through, but you are always free to run off and do something else, as long as you keep inside Paris city walls.
Devlin is a kick-ass wall-climber/cat-burglar and can with ease get around Paris roof-mileu to get where he wants. The "saboteur" part of the game includes blowing things up, sneaking behind people to stealth-kill them and disguising as nazis. For being a "stealth"-game it's not very stealthy. In some games like Thief, going face-to-face with the baddies could become a real problem. This isn't an issue in The Saboteur and chosing to go right into combat instead of sneaking behind works just as well, if not better in some instances.
The graphics are ok and do what they should to help your sneakiness. The AI isn't bright but not so stupid as to make it boring when you outwit them. You can tell you're playing against a script but since the AI isn't the only obstacle to success the game still offers some challenge. Devlin and the characters around him are believable although the storyline feels more of an excuse to get to blow some tanks and buildings. Nothing wrong with that. Devlin is also not one of them silent types who let everyone else comment the surrounding but has a real persona behind him. Now whether you like that persona or not I (and Love) usually prefer characters with some own life to them (Tidus being a huge exeption).
The game is huge playtime wise but not so big areawise. You've got entire Paris to play in, sure, but it does feel a little crammed after a while. The overall good thing about the game is its lack of flaws. It provides the right amount of challenge without hindering the player due to silly or stupid mechanics. Most importantly the whole wall-climbing-sneaking business works without any troubles. Devlin rarely throws himself out onto a street face-first instead of grabbing that window-sill. The weapons arsenal is good with its standard array of most things from small guns to snipers to grenades. As in every other game in this genre some weapons are better than others, but at least there are plenty to choose from to find one owns favorite.
One really strange thing though is that you can't change game graphics inside the game but have to go into a config file and rewrite the code. It's not difficult but a strange way to have to do it.
[CDM] - Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
Modern Warfare 2 is the sequal to Modern Warfare 1 (duh) but should really be considered more of an expansion. If you're not completely daft with first person shooters you'll play it through in a couple of hours, something around 3-4 or so. Yet again I didn't play this game but Love did.
Although MW2 will provide you with some hours of shooting fun it has some interesting gameplay problems, issues which could have been easily changed to further the experience.
First of all there is no way to mod your weapon, a feature becoming increasingly available and loved in first person shooters. This means that if you want to use a weapon with a silencer you need to find said weapon with a silencer on it on some enemy and pick it up. This really limits your possibility to chose between weapons as you please. For example, at some points you are provided with a weapon with a silencer for a special mission that requires it. This means you can't change that weapon to something else unless you find the exact weapon you want that already has a silencer on it. You are therefor forced to play with a special type of weapon which seems lame for a first person shooter which is all about being able to choose your own shooting experience at least to some part.
Also MW2 offers a choice of game-mechanic which really becomes bothersome and negates any sense of sneakiness and skill you feel you might have. The enemies can do things you can't, which means you have to trick them in order not to die horribly all the time (which you'll do anyway). This could sound like an interesting twist as to make the game more challenging or the AI more intelligent, but it is done in the wrong way. For example, not being able to peek behind corners in a first person shooter seems really odd. This means you have to do trial and error runs to find out where enemies are positioned, which isn't a rewarding type of gameplay. To hurl your entire body into the open in these kind of games usually means instant death. Being forced to do it seems like poor planning or game constructing to me. The enemies can do this however which means you'll often die by some sneak-shot from behind some cover. It is not like in Gears of War where you can just hurl your weapon around or above some cover and blast away some shots, a feature that works well in these kind of games and at least should exist in some form.
Another problem is that missions aren't always well balanced to the difficulty of staying alive. This was now played on easy and still you die in approximately 4 shots or any one burst from an enemy weapon. Yet there are some missions that require you to run through open areas with literal hordes of enemies and few offerings of cover. Yet again you'll need trial and error over and over to run through a room with over 50(!) enemies shooting at you from all places and no chance to duck behind cover to shoot some off before running along. That makes MW2 feel more like an old Mariogame where you have to learn some parts by heart to make it.
Also the whole feel of the game and the attitude to war is sometime so deadly serious it feels someone is about to burst a vein. In games like Red Alert you really feel that this is just a game and we do this because it's fun, it just happens to be in a war setting. MW2 makes clear that this isn't a joking matter, at all. This is dead serious and you better understand it, son! There is an opening mission you actually have to promise not to be offended by before being able to play it. This because it's about killing loads of civilians. But the game has no trouble what so ever with the player killing butt loads of people tagged as "enemies", be it terrorists or confused military of other countries. This means the game developers have put a distinct line between people ok to kill and people not ok to kill and don't care at all what the player might think. All enemies are also of course rabid trigger happy maniacs who need to be killed or they will kill you. This "all or nothing" attitude is sort of perplexing but you need to look behind the american "if you're not with us, you're against us" moralizing and try to enjoy the game for it's gameplay features instead.
These problems don't make the game unplayable though, and it is still short enough not to make it an entire pain to have to live with these problems for a few hours. It just feels kinda sad that they haven't put more effort into something that comes with a pretty solid base and idea. Wouldn't say it's worth full price though.
Picture is from Wikipedia
[DAO] - Dragon Age: Origins
I don't actually play that many different games, although I am very interested in most (except sports games). I am just too... dunno... don't have the patience for most games really. For instance I've played like every Final Fantasy game but only finished one (VII of course). It often feels like when I've fully understood the game-mechanics and gameplay there is nothing much more worth playing for, unless the story is amazingly interesting which rarely is the case. So when I say something about a game it's most likely not played by me but by Love, who plays new games all the time. Dragon Age is such a game.
Dragon Age is a very basic rpg-game with the compulsory dragons (duh), elves, warriors, thieves... well you name any fantasy ingredient and it's there. Bioware has basically distilled the old Dungeon & Dragons theme into a great rpg game. There are awesome amounts of lore and gamestory to read through if you're interested (and you can skip it if you're not). It's always fascinating to think about all the man-hours put into something that's supposed to be just flavor to a game (kinda sad somehow). You can read up on any place or monster you encounter, about different events and about people in the world. Actually there is something written about nearly everything you'll see in the game.
You can play as warrior, caster and thief/rogue and for once the caster option isn't the most difficult/annoying one. Many rpgs suffer from having their gameplay balanced after the warrior-class, or any melee, which makes caster-classes usually much more difficult to play due to unfair and unbalanced game-mechanics. Dragon age is not so. The caster is a viable, even great, option for playing through the game. There are only slight changes to the story depending on which class or race you choose of course, people will call you by your class and race and such.
The story is interesting with some twists which is quite unusual in most rpgs who are pretty straight-forward. Or if they try to implement twists you can see them painted red from a mile away. The actors are good too and don't ruin the mood with crazy Tidus-ish rants. Graphics and music work well to add to the immersion although some of the gear make you look like you fell through the Red Cross clothes-container with glue all over your body or like you lost a bet.
Although Dragon Age has way more ups than downs, it still has some downs (and talking about what's bad is always easier). The fight system, which is turn based, leaves something to be wished for. Actually it sometimes turns a little too turn-based and doesn't flow as neatly as one could hope for. It is quite similar to the fighting system of FFXII where your teammates can run around with standard orders to act by and can be given new orders during combat. This means you can have one team mate set on "heal when needed" and he/she will do so fairly accurately until you tell him/her to do something else. And that is where some issues might arise. If you give someone a new order mid combat they will not smoothly engage in this new action but halt entirely, as if their brain needed rebooting, and then start their new action. This is a loss of valuable time, but fortunately only slightly annoying and nothing one will die from repeated times.
As many other games Dragon Age jumps on the choose-between-evil-and-good-fad-train. Unfortunately being evil isn't really set as a real option to good, as it doesn't bring you anything especially useful to make it worth all the drawbacks (people hating you and being uncooperative and not letting you buy from them and so on). This is a problem all games I've seen who try to implement this game style suffer from. Kotor and Fable and others give the option of being good or evil but reward one side (always good) more. Is it then really an option? Most of the times you don't even have the possibility to be really evil, as to say force someone to help you when they refuse because you're so evil. So the evil-side isn't well worked through and that is a shame.
Dragon Age is all in all a great game, offering about 100 hours of solid gameplay and a great story and very few drawbacks, worth playing through for anyone who likes rpgs (and doesn't suffer from acute antsiness like me).
Picture is from Wikipedia.
[STT] - Settlers 2
|Settlers 2 Original Cover (from wikipedia)|
So when my grandma bought a game, Settlers 2, that actually worked for mac (and that wasn't a shooter ala Wolfenstein 3d) I was thrilled. I had no idea what it was about and I had never played a game like it before. On my n64, playstation and game boy I had mainly played multi-player games like Mario Kart and Mario Party or single player games like Yoshis Story, Pokémon and Final Fantasy. The concept of strategy gaming was new to me.
The game was initially given to my younger brother who was in the completely wrong phase of his life to be interested in the rather peaceful going pace of Settlers. He wanted murder and mayhem. I loved it immediately though. Interestingly enough I found the subtle fighting that does take place in Settlers 2 to be too stressful and played without competitors at the beginning. What's the point of that you might ask? The drawback is that it doesn't give the game a clear goal if you play without a foe to vanquish, unless you see trying to get your society to work without problems as a goal. Playing the game without enemies turned out to be a great way for me to grasp the general concept in Settlers, that of creating a smooth circle of production throughout your empire.
No other strategy game has even remotely entertained me as much as Settlers 2. Not even other settlers games (although I haven't tried them all). The original did have a couple of bugs which meant you had to fool the game to work around them. For instance;
- Carriers could just randomly stop carrying stuff. You often had to delete the road he was standing on and build a new one to sort of "reset" the system.
- The game was very prone to crashing. At first I thought that was my game only, but after having talked with friends who've played this, it seems it was rather a fault within the game as a whole. Because of this I had to save every 3 minutes or so, and be ready for a crash every 20 minutes or so. Don't know how I had the patience to still play it as much as I did.
- Soldiers whos building had been destroyed could get lost on their way home and simply lay down and die. That sucked.
I get the urge to play Settlers 2 every now and then and I am currently playing the 10th anniversary gold edition in which they have remedied the abovementioned issues and also implemented two new features;
- Military buildings can be extended as long as space allows for it. This wasn't a possibility in the original game (as far as I remember) which made planning ahead even more crucial.
- Destroying a building will refund a couple of the building materials used for building it.
So what differs Settlers 2 from other strategy games? In all honesty I've only played other strategy games briefly, games like Civilization, Colonization and what have you, they just never hooked with me. If you ask people who play alot of strategy games I think they will say that the concept of Settlers differs quite alot from the general strategy game. So much perhaps that most people wouldn't even call Settlers a strategy game at all. In a way they are right, because Settlers is alot more about luck than I think many other strategy games are. You don't have complete control over everything (especially not in Settlers 2). Even if you build a quarry next to some rocks you can't tell the worker where to start removing stones first. Same thing with woodcutters and trees. This is something they changed for later games though. Even if you can tell your game that you want it to prioritize food supply to your gold mines, there is never a 100% control over how that supply will go. Overall Settlers is alot about balancing prioritizations rather than push a button and get something done. You're "fighting" your own system as much as the enemy. This might sound horrible for the strategy fan, but it is ultimately what I really like about Settlers. It's a game about building up the best circumstances for your settlement to make it against the foes. You can't control every aspect, just as you probably couldn't if you really led a society. In some cases you just have to make sure that the situations are as optimal as they can be and hope it works. You have to know how the game handles various areas to be able to make the best of various situations. This can be frustrating at times but in the end the end result only comes down to how much micro management you've set in. If you want your gold coins to come to a special military building you have to make sure to tell the game that you don't want them anywhere else.
In many ways Settlers is alot more life like than other strategy games. You don't "research" stuff, for one. I never liked the idea of "congratulations sire, you have researched the wheel and your units can now move 10% faster" or whatever. That's totally not how the invention of the wheel worked. You don't have farms that produce "units of food per week". You have a farm that will produce one package of hay. You can see it since your little farmer actually goes around sowing wheat, the wheat grow on the fields, he goes out and reaps it an packs it and places it on his doorstep for a carrier to carry to the appropriate place. The mill for example. The miller then mills it to flour which is packed into a sack and carried to the baker. The baker will combine it with water (which means you need a well) to bake one bread. Not a unit of food, but one bread. That bread is then carried to one of your mines where are miner eats it and hacks out one lump of ore, iron for example. The iron lump is carried to the Iron Smelter who smelts the iron ore and mixes it with coal ore into a bar of Iron. The iron bar is the carried to the Smithy where the smith will smack it into a sword or a shield for your soldiers to wear. You can follow each of these steps, they're not just represented as a production number somewhere. This is a concept you'll either like or hate I think. And I love it.
There are a thousand things to think about to make this circle of production work as smooth as possible. This is where the challenge of Settlers comes in. Settlers 2 really examplifies the concept of "easy to learn, difficult to master". Here are some pointers I've collected throughout the years;
- When building a road, make sure to keep as many flags on it as possible. This will allow you to have more goods on the roads at the same time since there only will be one carrier between each flag stop. More flag stops equal more carriers equal more goods.
- Some areas of production can, and should be, moved around when necessary. The most important one include the production of wooden planks for building construction. The shorter distance your carriers have to carry the material, the faster you'll be able to build up new buildings. On the front line this can be the difference between winning and losing.
- Another way to move your production line towards the front is to build storehouses. That way all the materials gathered don't have to travel all the way to your headquarters to be stored, and then all the way back to be used. Just remember to always keep as many entry roads to a store house as possible, preferrably it shouldn't even be directly connected to a major road since the carriers who carry stuff into the store house will hold up the entire supply line then.
- Gold coins will promote your soldiers one rank, giving them more health. The way the gold coin works you should always try to send them into military buildings where there are as many soldiers as possible. The gold coin will always promote one of each rank into the rank above. This means that if you have 6 privates one will be promoted. If you have 3 privates, 1 officer and 2 sergeants, 3 will be promoted. Using gold coins on one single soldier is nearly always a huge waste. Knowing how to get the most out of your gold coins will make a big difference.
- To avoid wasting gold coins you should turn of gold coin supply on all new military building that you build and only re-engage it when necessary. Your little carriers will make sure to waste your coins if you don't tell them not to. They don't know better!
- Whenever you're closing in on the enemy, keep an eye out for catapults. A catapult can instantly kill any of your soldiers as long as it hits your building. If you find one and it is aiming at your military building, you can either attack the military building of the enemy that is the closest to the catapult. If you win the fight the catapult will be destroyed. Or you can destroy your own military building before the catapult stone hits, that will save their lives. Or you can have them evacuate the building.
- Handling mines is a mini game in itself. The only way for you to know what kind of ore that lies in a mountain is to ask a geologist to go and check it out. He will report whatever he finds by setting up little signs with the corresponding ore. These signs will go away after a while, and unless you have the memory of an elephant, you'll eventually forget what was in that mountain and have to send the geologist out there again. To save a whole lot of time, it is best to "mark" the area by setting up a mine there of the corresponding ore. As long as you don't connect the mine to the road net it won't be built, but you will exactly know what you can get from that mountain. Once the mountain has been depleted of ore you can leave the road net that has been built up around the mines lying, to remember you that you've already worked that area (you don't want to leave the mines since that would be a waster of miners).
- There are a couple of productions that are only valuable from time to time. The Metalworks, that create tools, are only necessary as long as you need a certain tool. Make sure not to waste materials by having it active when you don't need it. The same goes with the ship builder, donkey farm and brewer.
- There is a great way to use the possibility of extending military buildings to your advantage in war, not only on your own side but on the enemies side. If you see an enemy is extending a military building you've got two good choices. Either you attack him before he is done to make sure he doesn't get a stronger foothold in the area. Or you wait until he's just finished, but before the reinforcing troops have arrived, to snatch the building from under his nose.
As you should've understood by now, Settlers is great fun and it only ever becomes boring when you become too overpowered (as in any game). So go try it out already!
|Screenie from the original game (from wikipedia)|
----------------------------------[ACB] - Assassins Creed: Brotherhood
When Assassins Creed: Brotherhood was first announced, it was greeted with mild interest by many players. The first two games in the series, Assassins Creed and Assasins Creed 2 where competent games with some interesting features, but both suffered from being slightly too repetitive to stay interesting in the long run. It was fun to run around on rooftops, sneaking around and doing assignments, but mostly it really just was the same over and over. Although the second game managed to improve the concept somewhat, it still had the same basic problem - too much of the same thing. Even the simplest of concepts, like Tetris, change in that they become more difficult. Assassins Creed lacked much of this however. So when Love got to hear about Brotherhood, a sort of expansion to AC2, he merely shrugged his shoulders and continued playing some other game. Even if there might be new assignments, a new city to jump around in, it would really just be the same all over again, and in that case there were more interesting things to do. Until he read a game review on the game that explained some of the new features. The review stated that enough of the game felt new and fresh to be worth a play through, so Love set to it.
Brotherhood takes place in Rome while AC2 was in Venice. Although we now play in a new city, it could've just as well have been Venice, and much of the game really is the same old. Ezio jumps around the city rooftops and the storyline is one of treachery, betrayal and power in exactly the same way as in the previous games. The premise of the game taking place as a travel in genetic memories is still there of course, but really just a way to explain the boundaries of the game. Whenever there is something you can't do, it's because it's "untrue to the original memory". In that way Ubisoft have made themselves a great tool for explaining why you can't leave the city or do exactly what you want with the assignments you get. Hat off for at least trying to invent something new beside the "you wake up in a room and don't remember your name"-plot. It works and does what it should without interfering with general gameplay too much.
So, much in the game is like in AC2. You take assignments, jump around rooftops, blend with crowds, push people around and fight guards just as in the other two games. You can buy and build new features into Rome just as you could in Venice, where new buildings will earn you money and give you access to new weapons and armors, among other things. This feels more like giving the player both a way to earn more money, and have some way to spend it, and just as in AC2 this isn't what will keep you interested in playing. Yet again however, one must recognize the fact that Ubisoft are trying to make something new of a standard feature in many games, that of repairing and buying new items, by wanting to turn it into something more immersive and interesting.
The graphics and gameplay are basically exactly the same, meaning they're great. Just running around exploring is fun in itself for a long time, as anyone who enjoyed the first two games will know. There really isn't much else to say about them. If you've played the first two games you'll know exactly what Brotherhood looks and feels like.
We will get to meet Da Vinci again, who has a set of crazy inventions up his sleeve just as in the last game. They're both useful and fun, and do add something new to the old "jumping around rooftops" to keep us entertained for an extra couple of hours. His role is much as it was in AC2, meaning he's not a very important character to the plot, but rather some added flavor to the game as a whole. Da Vinci is far from the only character based of off a real person, in fact most of the important characters in the plot are based of people who once existed. Ubisoft have also implemented a data base with information about the era, giving the player a chance to educate themselves a little if they'd like to know more about the real Rome during these years.
But there are indeed some new features. Are they really good enough to warrant a playthrough, if you're bored with AC2?
The biggest change is the newly added Assassins Guild feature. Ezio can recruit his own band of assassins, send them on missions all over Europe, earning them experience with which you can improve their stats and gear. The more difficult the mission, aka the lower the succes rate, the more experience your assassins will get. As long as they're not on mission they can also be called in to help you out on your own missions, which can turn into a really powerful tool when used correctly making it a little more than just a mini-game within the game. It might not sound much, but it's just as fun as in any "collect and improve"-game, where Pokémon probably is the best example. There just is something really entertaining about taking care of your own band of Assassins, seeing how they improve and fight beside them.
They've thrown in a bunch of new weapons which are fun, but also adding to one of the biggest problems of the game series as a whole, which I've mentioned shortly . The new weapons simply are too good, making the player too powerful and the game too simple. One thing that made the previous games dull in the long run was the lack of any real challenge (remember Tetris again). Ezio is supposed to be a badass assassin of course, but there is not much fun in kicking the ass of everything you see and being practically unkillable, at least not in the long run. Since you can't restart a mission without dying, there are even situations where you will have to help the guards kill you, if for example you've failed wtih a mission and want to start over. They just can't do it by themselves. Much of the challenge in the game lies in completing the missions as close to perfect as possible, but there is no good way to restart them if you fail. If you simply restart them you start all over, clearing any checkpoints you might have made. The best way is to die, but like mentioned, that isn't always an easy task. Trial and error in a game doesn't have to be a bad thing, but it must be practical. In this game you rarely feel like you can be arsed to try to kill yourself to redo something, unless you really have to.
The game is designed to be played on both consoles and computers, but in some cases they've made too many compromises to have the game work with both. You can only assign four hotkeys for example, which in any computer game is just stupid. They've also chosen to map a lot of features to only a few set of keys, which makes sense on a gamepad, but not on a keyboard. Having three different things happen on the same key depending on where you do it is a great solution if you don't have many keys to spare, but it's a bad solution anywhere else. It tends to be a problem when your character burns down a building instead of looting a corpse, just because the key does both. Targetting can be somewhat of a problem at times as well. None of this ruins the game of course, but it's still annoying.
Another interesting design choice is that you can't save any progress yourself. This isn't an uncommon feature in games, and doesn't have to be a bad thing. Problem in AC:Brotherhood however is that the saving process is really subtle, probably in an effort to not ruin immersion, but it also makes it difficult to know exactly what progress has been saved and which hasn't. Overall you can be pretty certain that the game saves progress after you've succeeded with a mission or bought something new to the city, for example, but you can never be completely sure. It has made Love lose progress a couple of times, and can be somewhat annoying of course.
Overall, AC:Brotherhood is a mix of the old and the new, but mostly the old. It does retain everything about the old games, making it common ground for anyone whos played and enjoyed any of those. It does also add a couple of new features which makes the game a little fresh and interesting. The answer to the above question has to be - nah. If you're really bored with the first two games, this game won't be worth your money, but if you enjoyed AC and AC2 this game is well worth a playthrough.