Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Zero Punctuation Reviews: Sonic Unleashed

The embedded video problem seems to be something wrong with escapist, not with blogger or how I'm copying the embed code, because the videos from a month or two back are still working. So here's the url because I know the embed just won't work-

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Yes, I Know I Suck

So I haven't written a review in quite some times. The ZP updates are stacking up. Here's why -

First and foremost, I'm still having too much fun in Warhammer Online to stop to play something else.

Second, ZP keeps beating me to the punch >_<

Thirdly, it's the holiday season and between travel and sickness my free time's gotten pretty... not free.

Seriously, I actually have managed to take a look at the odd other game (such as Fallout 3 and Call of Duty: World at War), but somehow the spirit just doesn't move when it's time to put pen to metaphorical paper. I have other games stacked up ready to go for review, but as I mentioned my ability to churn through them is a little choked right now.

But I do intend to do something about it. At some point.

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Zero Punctuation Reviews: Left 4 Dead

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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Zero Punctuation Reviews: Mirror's Edge

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Zero Punctuation Reviews: Guitar Hero World Tour

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Zero Punctuation Reviews: Fallout 3

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Zero Punctuation Reviews: Fable 2

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Gametrailers' Warcraft Retrospective Part 3

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Review: Command and Conquer Red Alert 3

Well, I have to say that my expectations going into this were not very high. Whether or not that had some kind of buoying effect on the final outcome, I'll leave to you to decide.

The reasons my expectations were low was because of my disappointment in the Wrath of Kain expansion for C&C3. Now, granted C&C3 itself was an ok game. Maybe not spectacular, but not terrible. RA3 doesn't make a whole lot of improvements over C&C3, but it slathers on the kitschy alternate-timeline jingo cut scenes and really amps up the amusement factor, transforming a mediocre RTS into an enjoyable show (if for not all the right reasons).

The single player campaigns, however, are unforgivably gimmicky. Only in the last mission of each campaign do you actually get unfettered access to the whole tech tree and every other mission also gives you dozens of little hoops to jump through (some admittedly fun, some aggravating in the extreme). Some missions, the gimmick is a simple tech handicap (only lowest tier vehicles, or no tanks, etc), and others it's the C&C signature "you have 1 unit and 1 unit only and if it dies before you pass all the scripted checkpoints you LOSE" horseapples. It makes the game not feel like quite up to being called an "RTS" in the same way you can't quite really in an unqualified manner call a Zelda or Final Fantasy game an RPG. Perhaps I'd better explain that before I upset triple the fanbois in one sentence.

See, in most of the Final Fantasy games, which are billed as "RPGs," you don't actually pick a role and play it. The role is already defined, you just step into control of a brooding spikey-haired protagonist with an oversized sword and set about advancing the plot in the exact same sequence of events every single time with absolutely no open-endedness whatsoever. Compare this to a true RPG such as Baldur's gate, which has so many sidequest diversions and such freedom of exploration that the multiple methods of advancement are absolutely staggering. Not to mention that you roll your protagonist completely from scratch, with an appearance and development path entirely customized by you. This is a similar feeling to RA3, which obviously falls into the RTS category but doesn't actually let you do any strategizing - there is usually one and only one solution to the obstacles set before you, and it becomes more of a point and click action game. The single player campaign experience is practically on rails, as opposed to RTSes such as Dawn of War or Supreme Commander where the entire array of tools is set before you and it is up to you to decide how and when to accomplish the mission (which is invariably destroy the other guys). Though, it is a nice touch to be given the option to play the single player campaign cooperatively with another player. Perhaps it should be classified as a Diet RTS, RTS lite, or to take the opposite metaphor, McRTS (as in the MacDonald's reference to indicate something is lacking substance and overloading on visual appeal, a la McMansion).

The campaign issues can be largely alleviated by simply playing in skirmish mode, but that deprives you of the cut scenes, which really ARE the Red Alert experience. If you're a fan of bad cinema, you'll love this stuff. Scads of second string actors hamming it up while half-dressed infobabes carry on the transition of cutscene to playfield, delivered with groanworthy dialog in hilarious accents. If you put a gun to my head right now, I couldn't describe Ivana Milicevic (the Russian infobabe)'s face to save my life. They also include more cheesecake shots of the RA3 girls on the quick-reference cards provided in the box, so I guess it's pretty obvious who their demographic is and what they think about them.

They seem to be using the same costume designers from C&C3 who never quite figured out how to get clothes to fit women properly, but having come to realize this, they incorporated push-up bras and plunging necklines into all female costumes to distract from otherwise mis-tailored uniforms. Gemma Atkinson, who plays the "Allies" infoblonde, has possibly the worst English accent I've ever heard on an English actress - it's like she can't decide if she's from London or Scotland. Andrew Divoff's accent also vacillates between Russian and English, which is a bit puzzling since he married a Russian girl and speaks fluent Russian, so one would think being inundated by it all the time he would have remembered to roll a few more Rs, slur a few more Ws and lift a few more As into Es. And I shouldn't have to say anything about Tim Curry's russian, if any of you has seen the movie Congo. Autumn Reeser is way too goddamned perky, but when is she not? Jenny McCarthy makes a thoroughly repulsive Agent Tanya, reminding us all that McCarthy is a sexy woman only until the instant she opens her mouth to say something. It also doesn't help that the wardrobe department has apparently bisected a golden tabby cat, cleaned out the blood and guts, and put it on her head for a wig. JK Simmons makes a chuckleworthy pastiche of J. Jonah Jameson and George Dubya Bush (and he's forced to spout off every predictable "ugly americanism" from "they hate us because of our freedom" down the list), and as everybody's heard by now, George Takei is cast as the Emperor of the Rising Sun, and does the best with what he's given. Actually the entire asian cast does a passable job as compared to the others. But don't even get me started on the atrocious acting of all the co-commanders of every faction.

It all makes for a circus of the hilariously bad, silly and (incoming saving grace) self-consciously tongue-in-cheek.

But, even in skirmish mode, there are things about the game itself that just rub me the wrong way. Whereas other RTS titles in the genre try to push the frontiers of RTS play with new paradigms, grandiose scale and versatility, the C&C franchise seems chained to just shuffling existing ideas around like cards and then dealing a new hand and calling it a new game. Everything "new" in RA3 is something we've seen in a slightly different combination or configuration in previous C&C or RA titles. In C&C3 I also felt a vague sense of "wrongness" or disconnectedness with everything I did in the game, and it persists in RA3 but I think I've nailed down what it is... nothing moves as I quite expect it to. Airborne units move a smidge too slow, tank units move a smidge too fast, and frankly the whole "strategy" dynamic takes a great big back seat to the "rock paper scissors" dynamic (which admittedly is present in every C&C RTS previous to this one, but) which is ratcheted up and feels like they're trying to squeeze the last bit of toothpaste out of this paradigm. Other games (especially the two aforementioned ones) have shown us that there's more to strategy than configuring the right mix of units in your battlegroup and going gallivanting around the map celebrating invulnerability through diversity. I also found, however, that you don't even necessarily have to do that either... Many a game I won simply by building 3 airfields, building as many Kirov bomber-blimps as I could and winning by explosive attrition.

I was also disappointed to see that the resource gathering dynamic has taken a huge step backwards. No longer are the days where you must worry about the safety of your harvester vehicles as they rumble out into no-man's land to scoop up resources... RA3 now simply allows you to build your "ore processor" immediately adjacent to the "ore mine," allowing your "ore truck" to simply drive back and forth between the two facilities loading and unloading cash-generating "ore" as swiftly as the driver can shift into and out of reverse gear. I don't see why they even really bothered with the separation instead of simply providing you with a building that you build directly ON the mine resource node, which then periodically provides cash every few seconds. And most of the levels thoughtfully provided not one, but TWO such resource nodes in each starting camp, and since your partner player/ai and you split resources (and he/she has their OWN two starting nodes), most levels I never even found the need to go out and claim more mines. You don't even have to build silos to increase your maximum funds cap... it just keeps rolling right in.

It's not all bad though (just mediocre as opposed to terrible). C&C3's brilliant interface scheme returns, allowing for quick and intuitive management of construction at multiple sites and types. The graphics are absolutely beautiful, the action is smooth, the unit models are novel and idiosyncratic, the sound and music are very appropriate and immersive (and a reminder of why some people still listen to C&C music soundtracks even without the games), and as long as you let your brain slip into neutral the live action exposition will make you cackle. The fidelity of the cutscene material is crystal clear and artifact-free.

Unfortunately, as the game emphasizes flash, twitch and (perhaps unintentional) comedy over cerebral strategy and innovation, the replayability suffers despite the skirmish play option provided. But overall I considered it a more positive experience than Kane's Wrath, and so I find myself hesitant to be too hard on the McRTS. I feel it's right on the cusp between C and B, in that I probably will come back and play it again from time to time, but only briefly and not often.

Grade: B-
And that's the word from Bandit Camp...

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Zero Punctuation Reviews: Dead Space

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Video Game Name Generator

Barbie's Insect Syndrome
The Secret Weapon of the Dating - The Card Game
Ultimate Karaoke Football
Everybody hates the motorcycle epidemic
Funky Moped Jihad
Drunken Quiz Conspiracy (my kinda game!)
Papal Carnival Hell (Here's my money! Make the game already!)

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Gametrailers' Warcraft Retrospective Part 2

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Zero Punctuation Reviews: Saints Row 2

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Monday, October 27, 2008

The Whiners of Warhammer

I've been noticing a trend lately. I play both Order and Destruction characters, each day choosing one just purely on whim. Despite my experience and better judgement, I also occasionally peruse the IGN warhammer forum, mostly because from time to time Mark Jacobs, Mythic GM posts there.

As I knew from my time in Dark Age of Camelot, the place is a gathering spot for whiners and haters of the highest caliber. You thought the WoW official forums were bad? Welcome to Butthurt Central.

So anyway, I have a passing familiarity with some of the gripes the gripers make about this game, from my (as brief as possible) visits to the IGN vaginalogue fest and of course from hearing the occasional whine in /1 or /sc while I play. I've noticed that Order seems to whine about how Destruction outnumbers them in open world RvR (though that is becoming less and less the case with Mythic's recent incentives to roll new characters on numerically disadvantaged realms), and especially at low levels they whine about the nigh-invulnerability of the Orc. Destruction, however, whines about Bright Wizards and scenarios.

My order characters never seem to have a problem getting into a scenario as quickly as they like, and they can pick and choose. Don't want Stonetroll crossing or Tor Anroc? No problem! Just queue for the others and wait a couple minutes. I am absolutely loving Highpass Cemetery, btw. But they do seem to have some trouble hanging on to keeps in the non-scenario RvR arenas. The whining is actually pretty sparse there.

Ohhh but destruction. Never have I heard more mealy-mouthed tear-streaked mewling crybabies in one spot since... well, since closing the window that had IGN's forums open. God forbid more than 3 players on the other side in a scenario should happen to be bright wizards, that's just grounds for logging out right there. And one of the recurring whines is how the only tier 3 scenario that ever comes up is Tor Anroc. Never mind that if all these people who hate tor anroc simply didn't queue for it, they'd have a grand time in the other ones.

For instance, just last night I managed to get into Temple of Isha on destruction side (by simply queueing for everything and then removing myself from the Tor Anroc queue, go figure) three times in a row. The first time, Order claimed the flag first, and we didn't manage to fight them away from it until they were up by about 280-50 or so. General consensus in /sc was "just hold the flag and we can still win" even though there was less than 8 minutes left to go. But certain dumb players couldn't help running off where the healers (who stayed at the flag) couldn't get to them, and kept feeding the enemy points so that we finally lost... by three points. It was a gutwrenching defeat. So close.

Second time in, we started out rough again. Many on our side didn't join in a timely manner, only appearing 30 or so seconds after the clock started running, so naturally Order got the flag first. Then people started whining about how order had FIVE! FIVE! five bright wizards! This was intolerable to them. They started whining about wanting to log out. I remember this one dark elf called Ysr or Ysl or something like that in paricular, because she was one of the brainless twats handing the enemy extra frag points by hustling to her death in the first match. She vocalized her intent to log out and then did so. So did some others, mostly the brain dead simps of similar bearing as her. This meant that in mid-match, some poor bastards got brought in from the queue to fill those who logged out, only to get their butt handed to them in less than 5 minutes and get pushed back out (probably running back to Tor Anroc with their tail between their legs) because some big girls' blouses couldn't handle a challenge.

I wanted to haul the quitters back into the scenario and yell at them. "You know what Ysl? Go ahead and bail, because you're useless anyway. I saw you last match, running off to hand victory over to Order by trying to solo the entire Order team while out of healer range. If you really want to do the forces of evil a favor, just log out and stay out. Don't requeue for another scenario, ever. Better yet, delete your character. Better still! Roll order and subject THEM to your incompetence and whining! Or why don't we just cut to the best solution of all and have you go die in a fire??"

Fortunately the whiners didn't come back for the third round. Despite Order getting the flag first as always, we rallied, kicked them off, and held the flag. Without the Short Attention Span Special Forces going and getting themselves farmed one at a time, we managed to overcome the exact same situation we were in first match and win. How about that. Who'd have thunk that the loudest whiners were also our least effective fighters?

There's a big debate at good'ol IGN about whether or not people who log out of scenarios because they are losing are complete wankers. For me, there's no debate. Undeniably they are the biggest wankers since wanking was discovered. They'll tell you that "getting my ass kicked is not fun. Why should I play if I'm not having fun?" So let me get this straight... only winning is fun? You can never be allowed to lose or else you're not having fun? Why don't we just get you a game that consists of a single big red button marked "WIN" that you can push and it will play fanfare for you every time you do?

These are probably the same kids that when they realize they're going to lose at chess or checkers, their answer is to slap the board across the room and storm out. Listen you pasty retards, when you joined that queue, you signed up to play a team game with other people. While not exactly as binding as a commitment to the armed forces, it still labels you a dick if you then take your ball and go home the instant you start to lose. It's PvP! Someone has to lose if someone's going to win, and if you're routinely experiencing crushing defeats perhaps it's time to start looking for the problem in the mirror! In a soccer match, do players on the losing team start driving home at halftime? No! The entire attitude of these "I quit when I'm not having fun" people just absolutely reeks if immaturity and possibly developmental/personality disorders.

Well, it's just further proof that even in the best MMOs on the market, the worst aspect is always the other players.

Oh no! Aragorn was dotted by Bright Wizards!

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Zero Punctuation Reviews: Silent Hill Homecoming

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Gametrailers' Warcraft Retrospective

A little trip down memory lane here.

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Friday, October 17, 2008

Review: Warhammer Online - Age of Reckoning

No doubt both my regular readers will have noted that my content has dropped off for the last few weeks (thank goodness for Zero Punctuation, eh?). I'm in Warhammer Online and I'm hooked.

My highest level character is only mid 20s (out of a max 40), so really I don't feel comfortable doing a full review, but I also feel that already too much time has passed where I've been playing the game and not writing about it. So, here's my look at the non-endgame tiers of Warhammer Online.

First of all, let's get something out of the way - the experience of playing Warhammer Online is very distinct from the experience of playing World of Warcraft. The only thing they really have in common is the layout of the default interface and the ability to add in LUA-based interface addons. Yes, WoW draws on Warhammer for its inspiration and basic art, but the two diverged a long time ago. Warhammer's atmosphere is much more dark, bestial, brooding and dystopian. Warcraft "reformed" the Orcish Horde and now there's a "sort of" war going on between two sides where there's really no bad guy (except, of course, the NPCs), whereas the war between the forces of destruction and order is so bloody and desperate that lofty ideals and morality have pretty much gone out the window in a frantic scrabble just to survive. The forces of Destruction are unrepentantly evil, and the forces of Order are just as likely to impress a 15 year old into military duty and execute his Father for objecting.

Furthermore, Warhammer Online was designed from the ground up as a game where PvP, or rather, RvR, is the focus (as opposed to WoW which was entirely calibrated around PvE and continues to make that the primary focus of the game, all the way through the endgame). You can engage in RvR (Realm vs Realm, the Mythic/EA word for team-based objective-oriented PvP combat) from level 1, in your newbie gear and still stand a reasonable chance of contributing and advancing. As a matter of fact, PvE content takes a back seat and becomes just "something to do" to fill the relatively small gaps between RvR breaking out. This emphasis means that for the most part the character classes are extremely well balanced against each other (with a couple small exceptions to be noted later), and exponentially raises the replayability factor of the game at any given level.

Warhammer is extremely casual-gamer-friendly, in that the content does not require large consecutive blocks of time. The matchmaking tools are also very good, featuring a grouping model very novel for the genre: the "open" group. Unless you otherwise specify, your group can be joined at any time by anyone who wants to join it (though the group leader still retains the ability to kick out members, set loot rules, even change the group to the traditional "closed" group). Also, the UI has an excellent tool to find nearby "open" groups and get you into them. RvR scenarios typically run 15 minutes and "public quests" rarely take more than half an hour, with rewards being doled out generously. Also, there are separate rulesets available on special servers to suit the player's taste, whether you desire RvR to be limited only to designated areas or for there to be the potential for combat with the enemy no matter where you are. There are no "hardcore free-for-all" PvP servers as of yet where team restrictions would be ignored for PvP combat... and really, the nature of the game doesn't really lend itself to such a setup, and it isn't needed in any case.

The world is broken into 3 theaters of conflict, with 4 tiers of progression in each area. Each tier area has a slider of "control" which moves according to who is winning in RvR (both kills and objectives). Control of an area grants bonuses to the winning side (increased XP and cash drop rates, or better merchant prices for example) and control of some areas "opens" other areas to invasion at the 4th tier. The final objective of course is to invade the enemy's capital city, kill their leader and leave no stone standing upon another. This is a rather long and convoluted process of territorial acquisition.

The game itself however is pretty taxing on your hardware. If you haven't upgraded in the last year or two you will probably feel some of that strain on the kind of graphical settings you see in screenshots. You can turn them down, but texture quality tends to degrade very quickly when you do that, and even on low settings you really ought to have 2 gigs of ram, a multicore processor and a fairly recent video card.

The PvE has the usual "go here and kill this" type quests up for offer, but the real star of the show are the "Public Quests." Public Quests, or PQs for short, are multistage npc-driven events which usually require player cooperation to complete. You don't have to go see somebody to get a public quest, nor turn it in. Just wandering into the area automatically makes you part of the public quest. Most PQs are 3 stages, the first stage usually requiring the mass slaying or gathering of plentiful mobs or items that pop up on the ground. The second stage will usually be either a "miniboss" or another item-driven objective (burn down X houses, for example), and the final stage is almost always a boss encounter. The game keeps track of who contributes to the completion of these objectives, because when the PQ is successfully concluded there is loot to be rolled for (rolling happens automatically but transparently, like a scoreboard), and the more you contribute the higher a bonus will be added to your roll. This generally makes for a rather equitable distribution of loot, but it isn't perfect. I personally HAVE walked into a PQ that was nearly done killing the 3rd stage boss, took two whacks at the boss mob, and when it was over I won first place in the rolling (granting me the best item that dropped) and people who contributed exponentially more to the PQ got lesser items or nothing. Conversely, I have also many times been the "most contributing" member and walked away with nothing more than the XP and "influence" I gained for doing the PQ (each little area has an "influence" bar you can fill up, with rewards available once you do. Doing PQs is the only way to raise influence). However, the injustice is rather diminished because the PQ will reset itself quickly, and you can go through again, this time with yet another roll bonus for "persistence" because you did the PQ already and didn't win anything.

Really, though, as far as I'm concerned, PvE is only something to do in the sparse minutes between RvR scenarios and keep fights... not something I ever seem to need to do for any stretch of time. Really, I often don't WANT to level up, I want to stay at the top of the tier I'm in, trashin' bozos... but eventually the slaughter levels me despite my wishes and I'm back to being a small fry in the next tier. But fortunately, the game is balanced such that it is still entirely plausible for low level characters to contribute meaningfully in RvR, within their appropriate tier. If the influence rewards for doing PQs weren't so nice, I doubt I'd PvE at all, personally.

At this stage (a month after release), the patches have been small and frequent, mostly concerned with fixing bugs. There are still some pesky bugs flitting about but nothing near the caliber of Age of Conan's problems, and there are more things coming. Mythic maintains an excellent avenue of communication to their playerbase through their "herald" website and their GM, Mark Jacobs actually spends a great deal of time posting on the IGN warhammer forums (Mythic seems to be repeating their practice from DAOC of not having "official" forums but using IGN's forums extensively). I worry about the influence of the hordes of brain-dead whiny preteens (and mental preteens) that hang out at IGN searching for reasons to hate the games they play, but so far Mr. Jacobs has proven rather resilient and resistant to their influence. Mythic clearly has remembered the lessons they learned during DAOC's time in the sun and is building upon them carefully.

At this point, I can give my hearty endorsement of Warhammer Online, and recommend it unflinchingly with the one caveat that you need a pretty nice system to get max enjoyment out of it. Not as much so as Conan, but still pretty beefy. I think I've found my drug of choice for the forseeable future.

Verdict: A+.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Zero Punctuation Reviews: S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Clear Sky

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Zero Punctuation Reviews: The Force Unleashed

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Zero Punctuation Reviews - Mercenaries 2

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Warhammer Online's War on Gold Spammers

Apparently Mark Jacobs isn't too fond of gold spammers.

I hated seeing their messages when I played WoW or any other MMO and I’ve been waiting for the day that WAR launched so I could have the absolute pleasure of instituting policies to make their lives more difficult so we could drive them out of WAR. Since WAR launched we have been banning these jerks like crazy. As of Saturday Night, we had banned about 400 of them.
I can attest to having seen broadcast messages about "Spammername has been found guilty of heresy against Sigmar and has been sentenced to execution along with many cohorts" since launch. They really seem gung ho about going after gold spammers. Which is good, because the /ignore function doesn't seem to work at the moment.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Zero Punctuation Reviews - XBLA Double Bill

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Buy RA3, get a bear hat in Warhammer Online

Pretty clever cross promotion here... if you buy Red Alert 3, you'll get a promo code that will give your Warhammer Characters a fuzzy soviet hat with a red star on the front that turns you into a bear when you use it.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Zero Punctuation Reviews: Spore

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Zero Punctuation Reviews - Too Human

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Monday, September 08, 2008

Review: Spore

Gah, finally. The last time a game was this hyped was Daikatana. But at least this game doesn't explode into a million fiery bits of suck.

Spore, as I'm sure you know, is a game that concerns the evolution of an organism you create, nurture and guide from microscopic to interstellar life. It's been highly anticipated ever since its sneak peeks at various E3s and of course the release of its "creature creator."

The graphics are decent. They're nothing cutting edge but a certain amount of simplicity had to be kept to facilitate the fluid and organic nature of reshaping custom polygons in real time for your and all the other lifeforms.

The sound does a good job and is well produced. While I don't expect anybody will be buying up copies of "Spore: the soundtrack" like some other games have in the past, it functions well for its purpose.

Honestly I was expecting a level of complexity, or perhaps autonomy, that was not there. Most of the game involves you ordering your organism around personally, for every single little action (or multiples of them in later stages). As far as the game dynamic goes, I was somewhat reminded of another old Maxis title, SimLife... only this one is infinitely less complicated and you only concern yourself with one organism.

It's like SimLife and Black and White got together and had a baby, which grew up and decided that science (SimLife's area) and theology (Black and White's bag) was not for it, it went to Art School and then decided to become a kindergarten teacher.

And that's one of my two big gripes about Spore.. it's overly simplified. Never has designing life from the ground up been so simple. The interface is simple. Playing is simple. Everything is simple, fast, easy, straightforward, and really takes little planning. The game just needs somebody to click stuff. It would make a good game to play with a kid aged 8 to 11 or so.

My other big gripe is this game is big on the "GOTCHA!" factor. For a game that touts your ability to custom-build your organism just the way you want it, there's too much black-box future-altering stuff going on that you don't know about until its too late. For instance, you want an omnivore, you better very, very carefully count how many plants versus animals you eat, because the game keeps track (but doesn't tell you) until you are done with that phase, at which it tells you that you won't be allowed access to any of the omnivore mouths in the next phase because you ate too many of one and not enough of the other and now your organism is inextricably exclusive in its diet.

Woody, over at also brought up a couple salient points -

First, I'm not okay with the idea that I can only install the game 3 times. You guys know how often I have computer problems and/or upgrade. 3 installs will likely last me all of a year and a half. Then I have to start calling in to explain what I need additional activations. But how long is phone supported activation going to last? What happens when it dries up? Basically, I have to rebuy the game. Thanks EA.

Second, for all intents and purposes it is a single player game. You should never be required to have internet access to play a single player game. Sure there is player generated content to be had online, but if you're like me you'll look at it but probably never download it. The idea is that players will have to authenticate their game online "the first time" and then re-authenticate their game when they "use online features, download new content of a patch for their game". I don't care if this means I won't need the disc in my computer to play the game. I'm okay with tossing in a game disk if it means not putting computer sniffing spyware on my machine.

All in all I found the game could not maintain my interest really, DRM concerns even aside.

Overhyped and online components kind of unnecessary, extremely simplistic and shallow gameplay... all in all it's not a game I'd spend any more time on other than what I've already played to review it. If I had a young child I was trying to introduce to PC Gaming, it would be one of my first picks, however.

Verdict: C- (Minus for the DRM shenannigans. You'd have thought they'd have learned from what Bioshock went through).

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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Zero Punctuation Reviews: EVE Online

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Review: Bionic Commando Rearmed

Rewind time back 20 years. It's 1988 and Bush and Dukakis are slugging it out for the white house. It is still appropriate, even masculine, for a man to wear hot pink. Thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev, glasnost and perestroika are zinging around in the Soviet Union, which still shows no sign of its later collapse. And most importantly to a kid of the 90s, the NES still dominates the video game market, and one of the best titles for the console is that year's Bionic Commando by Capcom.

And now it's back.

Bionic Commando Rearmed is NES Bionic Commando, ported to modern hardware (both console and PC, thankfully). In fact, 90% of the game is a level-for-level, tile-for-tile translation of the old classic, updated, enhanced and re-envisoned. If you were a kid in 88 and you liked the original, you will find it hard not to like this one. But there are some new things.. new weapons, new items and a super-difficult new final-final level. So even if you could play through NES BC in one sitting of a couple hours (I could), this one will still throw you some new pitches.

Graphics -
No sprites here, lads. And you better have a card that supports shader model 3. That seems a little odd, considering the 8-bit roots of the game, but that's the requirement. It's still 2-D platformer in that your character moves and fights entirely in two dimensions, but all the levels use 3 dimensional rendering and backdrops that provide depth and atmosphere. All-in-all it does an excellent job of taking a game from 20 years ago and updating it, but really did it NEED to require Shader Model 3? If not for that one requirement, I'd think it would run on my laptop... but the lappy only goes up to SM2.

Sound -
They did a real bang-up job here. The auditory experience of BCR is top notch, blending both vintage NES saw-wave and block-wave sound effects with more contemporary gunshots, explosions, voices and other effects. And the soundtrack! Oh the soundtrack! Somebody on their sound engineer/composer payroll needs a big raise, because that somebody is a damned genius. Again it takes the old NES's soundtrack and remasters it with modern instruments and affectations, and even manages to even use some of the old waveform instruments seamlessly, and it all sounds damn good. Nostalgic overdrive kicked in right from the start, and didn't let up until the end of the final credits.

Gameplay -
For the benefit of the urchins and philistines unfamiliar with the original, I'll give a brief overview here... BCR is a sideview 2-D platforming game in which you play a soldier who has been enhanced by a bionic grappling arm, fighting behind enemy lines to rescue a heroic comrade and save the world from an imperial regime bent on world domination. Instead of jumping, you must grapple and sometimes swing from place to place. There are a variety of types of enemies, a level of every setting from factory to PoW camp to alpine stronghold to flying superfortress, bosses that require clever use of game mechanics to defeat, a wide selection of weapons and support items, and a delightfully cheesy storyline straight out of a comic book with dialog that very often turns humorously tongue-in-cheek and self-aware, poking fun at itself and its original incarnation ("Why do they call this 'Health Recovery Pills?' It looks like a bottle of liquid! Get the heck out of here, you nerd!")

Now, for those familiar with the source material, there's also plenty new for you. What you remember as the last level is now only the second to last level, as the Albatross has been turned into an entire flying fortress instead of just a boss encounter. Also, the original version's final "get this single-chance shot off right the first time or die immediately" helicopter encounter with Master-D (here shortened to just "Leader") has been turned into a proper boss battle. There are also dozens of "challenge rooms" which time your completion of a set of obstacles that require expert use of the bionic arm to traverse.

The Aegia (now Nvidia) Physx engine is also put to good use here for all the swinging, shooting, particle and flying debris physics. They got the controls mostly right (the only thing that felt different was the dynamic of multiple swinging over spikes, which didn't feel exactly right but you have to grant some leeway for that).

Conclusion -
The whole thing is a great big digital valentine to one of the best games of the 80s, and of course it is also meant to wet our whistles for the upcoming release of the Bionic Commando full 3d remake. It does everything extremely well, with only a few nagging grumbles on my part (the SM3 requirement, and maybe the final level could have been a bit less unforgiving of error). It is the precisely right amount of homage and innovation, with what deviations from past design they made were great improvements. And it's even cheap, to boot.

Verdict: A. And that's the word from Bandit camp.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Atrophy of Conan

Been playing AOC for a couple months now, and I think my time in it is about over. Apparently I'm not the only one deciding that. I've witnessed entire guilds disintegrate or vanish entirely as their members flee back to WoW or get into the Warhammer beta. Even my guild is bleeding level 80 members faster than we can level them, and in the last 2 weeks we've had 4 officers and the GM quit the game. Raids we previously had no problem filling the 24 person limit before are now struggling to come up with 12 and more than one healer. Some of our allied or rival guilds have vanished entirely. That's some serious attrition.

Funcom claimed they sold something like 800,000 units... then last week, they claimed they had 400,000 active subscribers (which I actually think is high, given that this would mean there's 6000 players per server, and I can tell you there isn't). But even if that estimate weren't high, that means half the people who bought the game didn't stick with it past the included 30 days. That's bad for funcom.

Why is all this happening? Probably because the game, as I quite frankly said in my review of it, was not ready for retail launch. I would say that is still the case. I'm still crashing from memory leaks, half the content is still bugged to hell (especially the endgame), and Funcom takes as many steps backwards in fixing things as they do forwards. For instance, in a patch today, to address a current imbalance in an unintended ability to stack the benefits of player crafted equipment to ridiculous proportions, their answer is to make a "temporary" change that absolutely destroys any point to making or using player-crafted equipment. Rather than simply place stat caps on the trouble areas, they reduced the benefit of all "gems" (which are the things that give player crafted weapons and armor their stat benefits) to less than 10% of their previous amount.

Think about that in terms of your current MMO... if your equipment started giving you 90% LESS of a boost to your resists, damage, etc.. would you still be able to tank that raid mob that is already hitting for nearly half your max HP *with* the "overpowered" resists? There is much consternation going around that this "fix" will not only destroy crafting, but put a halt to endgame raiding. So if you can't make your own gear, and you can't raid for purple gear, you're left sitting in your quest rewards and blue drops, dying quickly in PvP (oh, and Massive PvP keep sieges are still bugged and broken) and not having much else to do other than roll an alt or quit.

And a lot of people are quitting. It's too bad, too, because combat in this game is a blast, I love cutting off heads, and in group PvP I haven't seen balance this good since DAOC, abarring 1 or 2 issues... at least until this patch turned everyone's gear into garbage.

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Zero Punctuation Reviews - Braid

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Don't Buy Cyber Acoustics

My headset died the other night. I really liked it, it was a big HP headset with boom mic and bass boost vibration. Not only did stuff sound really good through it, the microphone was top notch. Anyway, a few too many yanks of the cord and now it's got a short in it, so I went to Office Depot to get a new headset.

Unfortunately my HP headset was discontinued (I got it on clearance), and looking at the choices I could get something that looked similar for $50, or I could get the cyber-acoustics standard model for 20 bucks. The miser in me did the math and I grabbed the 20 dollar headphones.

Ugh, these things are awful. They're uncomfortable, they feel flimsy, and they even make my voice sound tinny (and I'm annoyed by tinny voices on Ventrilo, so I am sure not going to become one).

I've gone through this song and dance twice before I think... you would think I would remember, but somehow it's never until I get the thing home and plug it in, and experience the RAGE that I remember, oh yeah, Cyber Acoustics is shit, why did I buy this?!

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Warhammer Online Newsletter #35 (August 2008)

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Mythic kicks off this year's Games Convention (Leipzig, Germany) with a bang as we release the new cinematic trailer for Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. Created by Venice, CA- based Blur Studio, this new cinematic thrusts viewers into the heat of RvR as the forces of Order battle to stop the marauding hordes of Destruction from taking the capital city of Altdorf. ENJOY!

View the Final Movie >>

You will need Flash 8 to view the movie.

This week, we announced that the open beta for Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning will begin on September 7th, 2008. This means that hundreds of thousands of fans will be able to enter the gritty fantasy world of WAR to experience the thrill of RvR combat before the game goes live on September 18th, 2008.

Open Beta Begins – Sunday, September 7, 2008

Players can get into the North American open beta by pre-ordering Warhammer Online from select retail partners. Participants of the North American closed beta will automatically be granted open beta access.

Pre-Order Customers

1. Visit the new Mythic Account Management website to create your Warhammer Online game account. When prompted, enter your Open Beta code. If you have previously entered your Open Beta code in the Beta Center, you will need to enter it again when you create your WAR game account at the new account management site.

2. Download the open beta client from You will be required to create a free FilePlanet account and input your open beta pre-order code to access the file.

Closed Beta Participants

1. If you are currently in the WAR closed beta, you will automatically be granted access to the open beta. Simply continue to patch your client and you'll be ready to play.

The Open Beta will be level capped and content restricted. You will be allowed to choose any of the game's 20 unique careers and advance through rank 20. You will also be free to explore and battle across Tiers 1 and 2 of each army's homeland. Please note that any characters created during the Open Beta will NOT carry over into the live game as they will be wiped from the servers.

For more information about the WAR open beta, visit

The Internet braces for an onslaught of Warhammer Online info as Mythic lifts the Closed Beta NDA!

Like a barrage of Orcapults fired upon the gates of a Dwarf fortress, yesterday we demolished the non-disclosure agreement (NDA) for the Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning (WAR) closed beta in North America. Beta testers for the epic MMOPRG are now free to actively share their experiences on the battlefield and discuss the best strategies for dominating the enemy in WAR’s signature Realm vs. Realm (RvR) combat.

With the gates of information now open, WAR truly is everywhere – and it will come to a head on September 18th, 2008, the “Day of Reckoning,” when gamers everywhere will have a chance to battle it out as soldiers in the armies of WAR!

Read More about the NDA Being Lifted >>

Now you can join hundreds of thousands of mighty heroes on the battlefields of Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning for 30 or 60 days of relentless RvR combat without the use of a credit card.

60-day Game Time cards will be available at participating game retailers. Collect all eight cards in this limited-run set.

30-day Game Time cards will be available at Wal-Mart.

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This month we release the first of two new game trailers for WAR. In Part One, we join the Realm War following a Warrior Priest as he leads the forces of Order to assault the gates of an imposing Chaos fortress. Look for Part Two to be released at the end of the month!

View the Final Movie >>

You will need Flash 8 to view the movie.


Crusaders of California!
Warriors of Washington!
Battlers of British Columbia!
Soldiers of Sydney!
Armies of Auckland!
Warmongers of the World!

March the ROAD TO WAR!

For many months, you bloodthirsty hordes have been clamoring for combat and now we have heeded your call. For the weeks leading up to the launch of Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning, you may satisfy your bloodlust in a series of weekly battles to be played out on a global stage.

Road to WAR is an exclusive online game brought to you by Mythic Entertainment. It is currently in beta.

Click Image to declare your allegiance and
begin down the ROAD TO WAR!

For those salivating at the prospect of an all-out confrontation between the forces of Order and Destruction, you may now throw yourselves into the open embrace of Realm vs. Realm battle before WAR even goes live. In Road to WAR, each side will endeavor to obliterate their enemy, with the overall objective of achieving a preemptive victory at the onset of the Age of Reckoning. The Winning Realm will be amply rewarded with spoils of war that may be used in the live game. Special rewards will be reserved for top players. Declare your allegiance, choose your army, and march into battle on the Road to WAR.

Each week on the Road to WAR there will be featured Battles and Quests allowing players to earn points towards valuable in-game rewards and bragging rights. Here are the current challenges:

August 17-22 (Battle ends: 11:59 pm Pacific Time)

This week's battle will be all-out warfare as the Realms of Order and Destruction fight slaughterously for control over the states east of the tumultuous Mississippi River. Although these states are small, the capture of this region would gain your Realm a sizeable advantage as it is in these lands where the nation's capital is fortressed. Gold, guts, and guile will lead you to victory in this treacherous crusade. In the end, the majority shall rule.

Battle Objectives: Take Control of the majority of states to win the Capital.

States in Play: ME, NH, VT, MA, RI, CT, NY, NJ, DE, MD, VA, WV, PA, NC, SC, GA, FL

How to Win: Victory will go to the Realm that has won the majority of states in this region by the end of the week.

Victory Points: 1000 Victory Points to all battle participants in the winning Realm.


At this juncture it is not known which Realm has the most loyal followers, so the first quest is to meet at the gates of Beta and declare your allegiance. Failure to complete this Quest shall be the scourge of your Realm.

Quest Objective: Go to the Warhammer Online Beta Center and enter one of the supplied association codes from this newsletter. Declare for Order or side with Destruction. Each member of the most favored Realm will receive 100 Gold for their war chest in the Road to WAR.

Association Codes:

For more information, visit the Road to WAR. You’ll find game rules, exciting downloads, new Battles and Quests, and an exciting way to prepare for WAR!

EMPIRE IN CHAOS, the first book in a new series based upon the Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning is now available for Pre-Order.

In the Empire a ghastly plague breaks out. Is this illness a natural occurrence, or does it herald a far greater evil? As the apocalypse draws ever closer, can our heroes rally the defenders of the Empire to face the most terrible of all enemies – the hordes of Chaos? Read a sample chapter.

Now you can prepare for the coming war by pre-ordering Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning to receive some great added benefits. You’ll have the chance to gear up with special items and experience the glory of Realm vs. Realm™ combat before the rest of the raw recruits even set foot in the game world. Pick up the special pre-order box (or order online) and reserve your copy of WAR today!

Read the official press release.

Collector’s Edition pre-order update: All units of the Collector’s Edition have been pre-sold in North America. As expected, demand was strong and the Collector’s Edition moved quickly. However, you can still get into the game early and receive some great bonus items by pre-ordering the regular edition of WAR!

This pre-order information is valid for North America only. Pre-order offer may vary by retailer. See your local game retailer for details.

Visit for more information.

WAR Pre-Order Benefits include:

Open Beta Access
Be one of the first players to experience the glory of battle and the thrill of WAR! The Open Beta will immerse you in a world of perpetual conflict and give you a taste of the epic Realm vs. Realm battles yet to come.

Live Game Head Start
Begin your adventures in the Age of Reckoning before the raw recruits arrive! As a pre-order customer, you’ll get access to the live servers before the game officially launches to help lead your Realm to victory.

Universal Fighting System™ Battle Deck
The Emperor Karl Franz and Tchar’zanek, dread Champion of Tzeentch, go head-to-head in this exclusive collectible card game deck from Fantasy Flight Games. (Universal Fighting System Battle Decks are available in a limited supply from select retailers.)

Bonus In-Game Items
Equip your characters for their journey to the frontlines with these helpful bonus items:

Pre-order customers will receive:

Rittenbach’s Portable Camp
Rest your weary soul and heal your wounds between battles.

Plus, order from Best Buy and also receive:

Champion’s Sapphire Band
Enhance your stats and cast “Touch of Frost,” increasing your chance of doing additional elemental damage with each hit. (Usable in PvE combat only.)

Order from GameStop or EB Games and also receive:

Sentinel’s Amber Band
Enhance your stats and cast “Touch of Earth,” increasing your chance of doing additional corporeal damage with each hit. (Usable in PvE combat only.)

Purchase the pre-release pack from Target* and also receive:

Vindicator’s Ruby Band
Enhance your stats and cast “Touch of Flame,” increasing your chance of doing additional elemental damage with each hit. (Usable in PvE combat only.)


Save your hard earned gold with a $5 coupon good towards the purchase of Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning.

Order from**, Circuit City, Direct2Drive**,**, EB Canada, Fry’s, FutureShop, GameCrazy,, and*** and also receive:

Guardian’s Iolite Band
Enhance your stats and cast “Touch of Spirit,” increasing your chance of doing additional spiritual damage with each hit. (Usable in PvE combat only.)

* Target pre-release boxes will be in stores in early August. Purchase of the pre-release box does not reserve a copy of the game at launch but does provide access to the pre-order bonuses. Offer does not include the UFS Battle Deck.

**,, Direct2Drive and pre-order customers will receive codes via email. Offer does not include the UFS Battle Deck.

*** pre-order customers will receive their in-game bonus items with the final product at launch. Pre-order offer does not include access to the Open Beta, Head Start, or the UFS Battle Deck.

Join your friends in discovering whether or not the peasants’ outlandish claims of monstrous rats scurrying about the Altdorf Sewers are true, fight alongside your Realm’s bravest in facing murder incarnate at the Bastion Stair, or aid in the effort to rescue the Everqueen in the Lost Vale. These are just a few of the several dungeons in Warhammer Online for mid-to-high level players to enjoy.

Dungeons come in three varieties: Realm-instanced, group-instanced and warband-instanced. Survive the challenges and epic boss fights found inside to earn the most coveted of weapons, armors and loot.

Introducing Lost Vale

Claim yourself a practiced Bright Wizard, believe yourself Tzeentch’s favored Chosen, pray that you are a balanced Archmage, the Lost Vale awaits you. Take arms alongside five of your strongest allies when venturing into this six player instance, for the challenges therein are like none other found in the Old World. Your prowess with the sword, bow and arcane will be pushed to its limits against creatures and daemons both rare and terrible. Only the most skilled and innovative of players working together will manage their way through the many threats and solve the many mysteries this majestic island holds. Those successful few will learn the Everqueen’s fate, and reap the greatest rewards.

Oh, my Queen, how I have failed you.

It seems odd, perhaps, that I set pen to page now, but ever have I been a scribe, and ever will I remain so. Even though I have carried shield and spear, bow and blade as one of Alarielle's Handmaidens, I cannot bring myself to forget my humblest beginnings. Every great tragedy begins with sorrow, and mine is no different. I have thinned my ink with tears which I have freely shed in the name of my people.

It is not of me that I set out to write, for I am merely a tiny player upon a grander stage. I write of my Queen, and of my sisters, for I have lost them here within the Gaen Vale. Call it the Lost Vale, if you prefer, for it has truly been lost to us. I fear that the Gaen Vale will soon become synonymous with all that is corrupt and vulgar in this pitiless world.

Even as we arrived, the signs were somehow wrong. The light was of an unusual cast, and the air was still and tainted with an odor that I can only describe as feral. The beasts of the wood, normally complacent and welcoming, were not to be seen. The songbirds regarded us from the treetops with obvious suspicion. It was as if we were strangers to our own island, forgotten by our former friends. Forgotten, or mistrusted.

While the Queen's retinue traveled onward to the Palace, I was sent to the Thornvale Wilds with Nunriel to collect silk from the Whitefire Spiders. The Spiders had long been friends, and long had we harvested their silk for our looms. When we found the spiders, they did not greet us. Their eyes flashed with anger, and their limbs waved with frantic, aggressive motions.

Nunriel was not concerned, and approached within a pace or two of the gleaming creature that hissed at her as if possessed. Before I could call a warning, the spider leapt upon her, its venom-slicked fangs descending upon her exposed throat. Fear overcame me, and I ran. I do not hide the shame of my fear, for I may have been able to save Nunriel had I taken up my blade against her attacker.

I fled blindly through the wilds with Nunriel's screams a companion to the sounds of my beating heart and labored breath. My mind was two paces behind my eyes as I entered a clearing filled with a number of cavorting Beastmen. At their center was an ancient waystone, drenched in fresh blood and filth, and beside it stood a massive Doombull with the pale fur of an albino.

It was then that I screamed, for I had never imagined such a sight would be found in this fair place. The Beastmen ceased their savage dance, their red eyes turning upon me with hate, fury, and dare I say lust. I stopped short of them, my hand upon the pommel of my sword. The white Doombull grunted in amusement, a sentiment that was echoed by his companions.

Their laughter died in their brutal throats as the spiders that had given me chase scrambled into the clearing in my wake. The two forces paused only briefly at seeing one another before they joined together in frenzied battle. The hissing of the spiders joined the braying of the Beastmen in a symphony born of madness. Using the fight as a distraction, I made my way towards what I hoped was Alarielle's Palace.

My sense of direction, hindered by my fear and self-loathing, did not serve me well. I wandered for many hours, alone and bereft of hope. How could this have happened? Beastmen upon the Gaen Vale? The Whitefire Spiders now our enemies? Alarielle would know what to do, if only I could find her and bring her the news. It was only when I caught sight of an ancient tree, one that I had seen many times before, that I knew I had come to the Blackwillow Forest.

The Blackwillow had long been a refuge for the rarest and most beautiful of our kingdom's wildlife. It was truly a refuge, for the trees watched over the grounds diligently. These spirits of the forest could be counted on to lend me their aid, were I able to find them. My footfalls had likely alerted them to my presence already, and I only had to wait a short while before one of their kith came to investigate.

I could hear my would-be ally coming before I saw its woody body and leafy limbs emerge from the underbrush ahead. It locked its gaze upon me, pausing briefly to appraise me before breaking into a sudden, inexplicable charge. The creaking of its boughs and its upraised claws gave me no doubt that it was unfriendly. Much like the spiders of the Thornvale Wilds, the forest spirits of the Blackwillow Forest had also come unhinged.

I regret my actions, for I have always sworn to uphold the natural order, to defend those spirits that reside within the wooded places of my Queen's realm. The warrior within me broke free of her fear and surprise, and I drew my blade in a swift, sure motion. The dryad was upon me in an instant, but my sword served me well. Sticky sap sprayed across the leaf-strewn ground, and the forest creature fell to its knees, thrashing.

"Why?" I asked, my voice choked with emotion.

The Dryad rolled upon its back. It did not reply, glaring at me with such loathing that I was forced to take a step away. Sap continued to pulse from the dryad's wound in a thick, ceaseless torrent. The creature's eyes lost their angry glare just as its wound ceased to bleed. I watched helplessly, my weapon shaking in my hand. I felt that I had somehow betrayed the land, but what else could I have done?

Leaving the Dryad behind, I approached the bole of the tree that had once looked so familiar from a distance. The bark was torn and gouged, the wounds recent. The brush around its roots was trampled, crushed into the mud by heavy feet. Peering closer, I realized that whatever had trodden here was no Treekin. Though my mind raced to find some alternative, I had seen such markings before: Ogres.

It was then that I knew what must be done. My bearings found, I would travel to Alarielle's Palace. I would discover the condition of those halls, and discern the whereabouts of my sisters. What else could I do? What other options were open to me?

So this is what I have come to, and how I have arrived here. The moon rises now, marking the day's passage. The sounds of the Blackwillow echo behind me and the lights of the Palace blaze beyond the fog that faces me. I hear screams in the night air, and each one makes me cringe. The pained voices are familiar, which makes them all the more horrifying. Should I be the last free Handmaiden here, then I am my sisters' final hope.

Now I go to face my fate within the Palace Gardens. I leave this sheaf of parchment as a testament to what I have seen, and as a warning to those who come after me. I fear to discover that which has befallen my sisters, and I shudder to think that my beloved Everqueen may be among them. May Isha protect me.

Raelle Mournfire, Handmaiden/Scribe to Alarielle, the Everqueen

Now that the guilds are settled in and the battles are raging over every inch of the lands, we’re ramping up even more this month as the fray heats up! Our beta testers have sunk their teeth into the meat of the game, with tier 4 testing including all pairings and careers. Level 31 Templates were provided to our testers as well, so no time was wasted in preparation of assaulting their enemies in Scenarios, PQs, dungeons, and more!

In a series of focused testing events, a selection of testers were even able to storm the gates of the Inevitable City and Altdorf and showdown with Tchar’Zanek and Karl Franz and see WAR in its full glory! Destruction rained down upon the Forces of Order as they held the gates of their fair city, but in the end, the forces of evil descended and were able to lay their wicked eyes (and blades) on Karl Franz himself. The tides were then turned upon Destruction as Order sought to cleanse the city’s blackened walls and fought to vanquish the darkness forever by conquering Tchar’Zanek, Champion of Tzeentch and enemy of the free world.

The Beta population swelled in the beginning of August as we welcomed the tens of thousands of members from our Collector’s Edition community plus a few thousand more Australians and their neighbors to test out our Oceanic servers. Feedback was great, and allowed us to see the game from the perspective of a completely different audience. We're proud to support such a vibrant and active community in Beta

With all this excitement, we figured why stop here? We’re preparing to invite even more into our warcamp, until our tents are full to bursting, during the upcoming preview weekend, and beyond that, Open Beta!

A few comments from our Beta testers:

"Love my exploding squig ability." - Level 8, Squig Herder

"I like it when the quest objectives take you into battle without making the objective to kill x number of mobs. These kinds of quests are great for story too." - Level 2, Shaman

"Firing the bolt throwers was amazing!" - Level 2, Disciple

"This quest is awesome because you can keep doing RvR and do this at the same time, I really enjoy it." - Level 10, Magus

"This was my first day playing through the beta. If the finished product even comes half this close this will be the best MMORPG I've ever played. I still can't believe I got to PvP and use a siege engine all before level 5!!!" - Level 6, Witch Elf

"I was very impressed by the shaking screen that alerted me to the arrival of a War Hydra, and the art for it. I turned around from my quest giver when the screen started shaking because I thought it might be a bug, but what do I see? An enormous, very intimidating monster! Very cool." - Level 2, Witch Elf

Check out the latest News from the Front: Into the Depths!

Episode 8: Thunder Valley and Logrin Forge
by Brian Wheeler, Lead RvR Design

In this episode of Scenarios 101 we finish the grand tour of Greenskin vs. Dwarf Scenarios with Thunder Valley and Logrin's Forge. Thunder Valley's large play area will require the skillful use of siege weaponry and mounts. While just the opposite is true for Logrin's Forge which offers relatively confined battlefields in both indoor and outdoor areas.

Read more from Scenarios 101 >>


The Dwarfs first discovered the secrets of black powder, and no one can rival them when it comes to putting it to good use. Armed with guns, grenades, and gadgets, the Engineers often prepare traps and ambushes throughout the battlefield before the fight begins, and then quickly dispatch any surviving enemies from a safe distance.

Crossbows were good and fine, but nowadays, a gun is better - and if a gun is good, then an automated self-aiming gyro-mounted gun turret with a cyclic grenade feeder and napalm cannister is even better yet! An Engineer has gadgets and gizmos to suit any situation, and is virtually an entire battle line on his own.

Engineer Career Masteries

Path Of The Rifleman
This path focuses on long-range attacks, and taking your time with carefully aimed precision shots. A master of this path prefers to stand back away from the hectic front lines of battle, and dispatch his enemies quickly and cleanly from behind defensive cover.

Path Of The Grenadier
This mastery is primarily focused on grenades and bombs, powerful explosives which may be quickly tossed into the middle of a fray to wreak havoc on enemies. While their effective range may be shorter than a gun's - after all, Dwarf arms aren't exactly build to throw for distance - grenades make up for this through sheer stopping power and swift arming times.

Path Of The Tinkerer
A specialist in this path is concerned mainly with his deployable contructs, preferring to fight from near the safety of his turrets while he lays out his foes with swings of his heavy steel wrench. Master tinkerers have also been known to use additional deployable devices above and beyond turrets as well, and many are the Engineers who've been banned for life from a blacksmith's forge after trying to test and improve the heat thresholds of land mines.

Black Orc

Black Orcs love a good brawl, and are always the first ones to charge into the hectic chaos of combat. Over enough generations, this has ensured that the only surviving Black Orcs are the toughest of the tough and the meanest of the mean, resulting in a group known for their brutality and sturdiness even among other Greenskins.

Black Orcs are master tacticians, and brilliant combat fighters without intellectual peer among the Greenskins, for they can actually formulate and follow a detailed and complex battle plan. Some warriors of other races have been known to occasionally point out that a Black Orc's plans somehow seem to consist of nothing more than progressing from "Hit 'im!" to "Oi, 'e's still standing, hit 'im again!", and then back to "Him 'im!" again...but they're careful not to sound mocking or dismissive, for in the hands of a Black Orc, such a plan is crushingly effective.

Black Orc Career Masteries

Path Of Da Brawler
A master of this path believes that the best way to win a fight is through choppin' the other guy into little pieces quickly. He scoffs at the thought of using a shield, since that just makes it harder to swing a massive Big Choppa around, and he doesn't need anything getting between him and his choppin'!

Path Of Da Toughest
A specialist in this path sees the wisdom in using a massive shield and taking care to defend himself against attacks - after all, while choppin' is grand fun, living through the fight so that he can do some more choppin' later is an appealing prospect as well.

Path Of Da Boss
If there's one thing that an Orc Boss can do better than anyone, it's yelling at those who aren't as big as him. A specialist in this path has had long practice at yelling, shouting, and encouraging his group to fight onwards and be strong - although it's still a point of military debate whether the Orc's allies are actually inspired to press forward and fight, or whether they're simply trying to get the Orc to stop his deafening bellows and reeking breath.

Chaos NPC – Grimontongue
the Sateless
Dwarf NPC -
Long Drong
Slayer Pirate
Dwarf NPC –
Slayering Ungrim
High Elf NPC – Eltharion Ryman
Dark Elf NPC – Lord Uthorin
High Elf NPC – Saruthil the Sage

Chaos NPC – Nurgle
Deamon Prince

Inevitable City War Room

Altdorf War Room

Warhammer Online Podcasts are now available on iTunes! Subscribe today!

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The executives and developers here are so talented and they make the podcasts look effortless each month. At least that’s what you see... You have no idea how many takes and cuts we have to do to get the polished look that we share with you. In this month’s podcast we share with you just a few of the outtakes from the podcast production room floor. This is a great laugh – Enjoy!

Each newsletter, the Video of the Month brings you a fresh, new look at WAR in action! These videos are not highly polished marketing trailers, but clips of raw game footage showcasing many of the cool features of WAR.

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This month we share with you a video developed by a few extremely talented German WAR fans. We thank them for allowing us to share their beta experiences with you!

There are a million stories in the Age of Reckoning just waiting to be told. What is your tale?

Witness the power that Chaos has over many lands and beings. Is the Empire prepared for the wrath that the Chaos winds will lay upon them soon?

Read This Month's Beta Journal Entry >>

WAR is coming! Are you properly dressed?

Declare your Allegiance T-shirts Now Available!

Do you feel like you’ve been lacking accessories in your WARdrobe? Well, not any more!**

Visit the EA Mythic Store!

** Offer valid for U.S. residents only

Feeling creative? We know we have some talented fans out there and now is the time for you to demonstrate your skills. Send us your WAR-inspired art and we’ll showcase the best submissions in upcoming newsletters.

The Witch Elf
by Al-Chalabi

Dwarven Lunch
by J. Camacho

Keepin' a Lookout
by C. Columbus

Mechanical Malfunction
by J. Coverdale

Chaotic Renegade
by D. Gonzales

by B. Mutschler

Following the Wind
by Friedman

Hordas Hispánicas
by Abaddomn

Charging Dwarf
by Praslea

by S. Paschkewitsch

Visit the Fan Art Gallery >>

Submit your artwork >>

"I’m a bit of a nerd, so my hopes and goals for the game are simply to lay down the foundation for a proper framework and support for my future ideal online game. (As a hint: it would involve cognitive science advancing quite a bit so cables are no longer the medium through which we connect ourselves and computers are no longer the nodes on such a network.) "

Developer Profile >>

"Clearly nothing is a bigger influence than the original IP that Games Worskhop created. But if you look a little deeper (ok maybe not so deep), most of the armies are based on real world counterparts. If you approach the material from the same, 'let’s twist up a real-world culture into something warhammery, you can glean material from all over just by knowing a little world history."

Developer Profile >>

This month, decorate your desktop with more images of WAR.

July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008

February 2008

Each month we’ll be shining the spotlight on WAR fan sites that exemplify what we consider to be the best in WAR community spirit.

This month’s Community Spotlight shines on, for their unique Guild Database feature. It’s a great place for guilds to post detailed information and network with other guilds and players who plan on being a part of WAR. Check out their guild database and register yours today!

Is your fan site doing something cool, informative, or fun? Let us know by sending an email to and you could be featured in the next community spotlight.

Download the WAR
Fan Site kit.

The views expressed in the linked sites are the views of the respective owners of each site, and do not necessarily express the views of Electronic Arts, its wholly-owned subsidiaries or Licensors. Electronic Arts does not endorse and is not responsible for content on third party sites, including fan sites.

You truly are in an "Age of Reckoning," with your Realm on the brink of annihilation, when you enter into the online world of Warhammer Online. It's a massive confrontation of Order vs. Destruction and it could take decades to decipher every keep and castle, trainer and traitor…if you didn't have a clever game guide--or two--to reveal the infinite Warhammer Online secrets!

That's right: Prima has two books to deliver everything you need for the much-anticipated Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning launch. First, the Game Guide spans more than 250 pages, filled with class guides for all 20 careers. From maximizing healing and damage with a High Elf Archmage to deploying the perfect pet as a Goblin Squig Herder, you can master the strategies of your chosen career in record time. Plus, we've jammed the Game Guide full of detailed maps for every zone, RvR tips for besting the most ruthless scenarios and battlefields, insight into the mysteries of Crafting, Guild rewards, and more!

The second book, the official Warhammer Online Atlas, expands upon the Game Guide with close to 200 pages of highly detailed maps, quest points, and tactics for hardcore gamers. Whether you want to find the hotspots in your current zone or need to zoom in on the terrain for an upcoming skirmish, the Atlas maps give you instant access to enough info to make the Emperor's royal cartographer proud. Don't leave for the dungeons without it!

Both the Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning Official Game Guide and Warhammer Online Atlas as well as all bundles and downloadable eGuides will be on sale the same date as the game. Check out for more info and check back soon for our upcoming “Which Warhammer Race are you?” quiz!

BONUS: Receive an exclusive in-game item when you purchase the Warhammer Online Strategy Guide from Prima!

For more information, please visit

WAR Zboard:

WAR Fragmat:

Ideazon is pleased to announce the Warhammer Online Keyset for Zboard! Dive into WAR and experience this epic story with the most powerful weapon available for your PC!

The Warhammer Online
Keyset delivers:
  • An Intuitive layout for lightning fast reflexes in battle
  • 16 dedicated keys for commonly used chat, group and social commands
  • 12 popular single-press emote keys including Shout, Brandish, Mad and Laugh
  • Jaw dropping official game graphics

BONUS: Receive an exclusive in-game item with the purchase of the WAR Zboard!

Available at time of game launch. For more information visit

What is going on in this picture? Send us your best caption! Please keep your captions clean if you want them to be printed!

Enter your Submission!

Last Month’s Contest Winner:

Due to technical problems we are not able to post captions from last month. Please accept our apologies.

Get your hands on the latest
build of
WAR at one of
the following events:

Games Convention
Leipzig, Germany
21. - 24. August 2008

LA Games Day
August 23, 2008

Penny Arcade Expo
August 29-31, 2008

Don't Miss Jeff and Paul at PAX
on Saturday, August 30th
at 3:00 PM in the
Raven Theatre (2AB).

Stay tuned for more information
about our upcoming 2008 show schedule!


*In order to participate in the Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning Beta you must agree to a Beta Test Agreement, in which you will represent and warrant that, among other things, you (a) are eighteen (18) years of age or older, (b) are not a principal, employee, agent, independent contractor, officer or director of a developer or publisher of video or computer games (other than EA), and (c) are not a principal, employee, supplier, independent contractor, officer or director or of any entity that participates either directly or indirectly in the sale of in-game items, including but not limited to, in-game currency, armor, weapons, etc., whether these sales are to the general public or to a third-party.

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