Category Archives: Game Reviews

The day I reveal mechanics for Infinite Advent.

PathsYesterday, I introduced INFINITE ADVENT, the RPG I created after researching D&D Next.

Today, I’m going to share specific mechanics.


If you’re a fan of Pathfinder or 3.5, it’s possible Next is just what the doctor ordered.

I’m a 4E man, however, for no other reason than I thought 4E was a move (first of many, I’d hoped) into the new millennium. It embraced MMO concepts like replenished resources, classes that level in parallel.

It also got things horribly, horribly wrong (duration of combat). 4E’s infrastructure screams “power bloat.” That might be great for a publisher like WOTC, but for DMs and gamers, it’s just more to look up. Read More →

Rage against 4E, Rage against D&D “Next”

WOTC is regularly releasing playtest packets for their next edition, generically dubbed “D&D Next.” Supposedly avoiding the moniker “5th edition” will prevent players from becoming jaded with another rules overhaul. Also, “Next” purports to be a return to the “truer” D&D of prior editions, re-introducing many mechanics abandoned in 4th.

(Graphic from

Though I haven’t (yet) playtested with a group, as a DM of 17 years I form definite opinions based solely on reading the rules. Read More →

Star Wars, The Old Republic: The Evolution of Gaming?

We’ve seen Star Wars games by the dozens and MMORPGs by the handful. Even a Star Wars-based MMO is nothing new. The franchise alone doesn’t always sell games, which are inevitably judged on their own merit.

So what makes EA and Bioware think they can profitably challenge industry behemoth World of Warcraft and its competitors? Is the Force with them?

I tested Star Wars: The Old Republic this weekend, possibly the most ambitious game ever made. It was innovative and surprising, and takes the genre in new directions as promised.

Read More →

I’m a Jedi, like my father before me.

Greetings Lomerell,

Your account has been selected to participate in an upcoming Star Wars™: The Old Republic™ Beta Weekend Test. If you have previously tested or are currently participating in an ongoing test, you will be invited again. Additional details for this upcoming test will be announced soon.

As part of this test, we will be partnering with games industry sites to distribute additional beta codes as necessary. This will help ensure we meet our population goals, so we can effectively stress test our servers in preparation for launch. Please do not acquire and redeem one of these codes as it could jeopardize your ability to participate in this test.

As a reminder, should you choose to participate, everything associated with this test (game information, process, forums communication, etc.) is confidential and may not be discussed outside of the Game Testing forum. Additionally, your participation in the Game Testing Program is subject to the Game Testing Agreement.

May the Force be with you,
The Star Wars: The Old Republic Team

RIFT: The Next MMO?

I’ve had the pleasure of beta testing RIFT, a new MMO from Trion Worlds.

As a six-year veteran of World of Warcraft, I have hardly encountered another game (of any genre) which comes close to WoW in quality of storyline, world depth, intelligent game design, difficulty calibration.

During WoW’s impressive reign of the genre (and before), I have tried many other MMOs and found them sorely lacking in one or more regards. Among those discarded lie Dark and Light, EVE, City of Heroes/Villains, Perfect World International, Champions Online, and Warhammer. And while I have good things to say about most of them, they simply didn’t capture me in the way WoW did.

I bring a critical eye to the MMO landscape, an eye tempered by years of game-tweaking of my own in tabletop roleplaying, as well as endeavors into player-content-creation opportunities afforded by venues like Spore: Galactic Adventures and Neverwinter Nights.

RIFT was the first game in a long time to bring some new concepts to a saturated market: Ideas like truly mixed classes, and dynamic world-altering events.

So how does RIFT stack up to the giants of the industry? Is it worth playing? Or will it shortly be set aside? Read More →

Critically Examining the Sims 3: Excellence is outdated

MediocrityThe folks at Maxis have got to be some of the WORST game programmers on the planet. They have high and lofty concepts for gaming but their delivery — to be quite frank — sucks.

When Sims 3 was released, registering for it gave you access to a “free town”. A month of troubleshooting, emails, and phone calls still has not enabled my game application to download objects from the Sims 3 website. These are objects that are being SOLD, by the way.

Maxis has just released patch 1.05 for Spore, finally introducing asymmetry. Let’s be honest: I’m thrilled with asymmetry. Anything that puts more control and creativity at the hands of the player is a win.

What I’m not thrilled with is that every time a Spore patch comes out, it causes my game to crash immediately upon loading, or “forgets” to include one of my installed expansions. The fix is usually a manual uninstall including editing the registry followed by a full reinstallation.

Patches are supposed to FIX annoyances like these, not cause them.

I have been trading emails and forum posts with Game Cam. Previously I have been impressed with Game Cam, using a fully paid for registered version for all my game-recording needs.

Currently, Game Cam will allow me to register but will not remove any of the restrictions imposed on unregistered users. The lady who tracks registrations insists she has no records of me EVER registering even though I have done so multiple times in the past — long before this problem arose.

Manual uninstalls with more regediting were advised as fixes, and a whole new version of the application was posted on the website. Nothing corrected the problem.

On the forum, I asked if my correspondant could recommend a more reliable program. He responded that I might have success with Fraps, but he did not know of a “more reliable” program.

Here’s a clue, guy: If Fraps works (so far it has, even though I’m out another $37 for the exact same type of software) and Game Cam doesn’t, that means Fraps is more reliable.

Wizards of the Coast announced their game-changing suite of software tools for release with 4th edition in June of 2008. As of July 2009, they have only released ONE of those tools, and have freely admitted abandoning two of the others.

Each of the above companies required purchases up front before it was possible to discover these problems. That’s how they remain in business. Even with shoddy workmanship, they keep my money.

Galactic Adventures: First Impressions

Spore Galactic AdventuresI vascillated deep within the labyrinth of ambivalence, seeking wise elders of game reviews and a younger generation of Youtube posters before making my decision.

But eventually (read: the day after release) I broke down and bought the Spore expansion, once again proving that conscientious budgeting is a poor goalie against the onslaught of creative curiosity (a lesson learned many times over upon the release of new RPG books).

I am less than thrilled with EA Games, which is to say that water is less than dry. After forking over enough dough for not one but two legal copies of the Sims 3, one of which is my wife’s collector’s edition, I have been unable to download content into my game. Repeated email questions have met with such tips as “update your video driver” (even though my wife is using the older drivers and doesn’t have the same issue) and “the download you are requesting is on THIS webpage!” I didn’t need a link to the page when I included the link in my question.

Two hours on the phone yielded no results, and the rep there confessed, “I don’t blame you if you’re fantasizing about my death right now.” Tempting.

Upon installing Spore: Galactic Adventures, the Creepy and Cute parks pack once again disappeared from my computer without my consent, and I was forced to do a manual uninstall via registry editing and other annoyances to gain access to hundreds of my own creations. Bravo again, EA programmers. And allow me to eyeroll at protestations of piracy — try making sure the legitimate version of the product works as intended for your paying customers…please?

Okay, technical issues aside, how does GA play?

The quick play mode lets you jump directly into adventures from the main menu. This isn’t very immersive, though, as many have a “locked” captain scripted into the adventure, and don’t let you progress with a captain of your choosing.

Dissatisfied there, I jumped into Space phase, eventually abandoned by all Spore players as very repetetive and dry for a 4X game, to see how GA spices things up. I’m pleasantly pleased by the results.

Rather than sending you on the same four banal missions from before, about 90% of the time, alien empires send me to an “adventure” instead where I beam down and play as my captain complete the adventure.

I won’t deny the gameplay is a little stale, particularly for a new captain without any of the cool gadgets. (I can tell you firsthand that combat sucks when you’re up against ray guns with just claws and teeth. Fortunately just one adventure was enough to put those days behind me.)

The game plays primarily like a three-dimensional watered down diablo. There isn’t much in the way of tactics or strategy to combat…just spam your weapons, and retreat if necessary.

The platformer levels, like races or jumping games or mazes, prove to be far more challenging if occasionally annoying. Some of the adventure games are stale, and some are interesting, depending ultimately on the imagination of the author.

Speaking of authors, an inherant weakness of user-generated content is that I have already found such adventures as “distroy teh geniraters” and “kill the enimy captin”.

For the most part, though, I’m pleased, because already I have encountered a rich variety of adventures, and even the poorly designed (or phrased) adventures give me more in the way of content exploration and fun memories than just flying over a bunch of planets. In one adventure, handing two alien sheep creatures each a 3D number resulted in them adding the sum and giving you the total. Not challenging to play, but interesting to experience. I have also reunited feuding dukes, defended a well from attackers, helped a shepherd run errands so he wouldn’t have to leave his flock, performed as a DJ in a club (after killing two bouncers), climbed a mountain, and destroyed the “geniraters” in just a few short hours of play.

The adventure editor is easy to manipulate, and gives me exactly what I wanted — it makes me feel like an RPG designer. True to my perfectionist nature, though, my own first adventure has been hours in the making and is nowhere close to ready. So far the plot is that the Earth Sprinkles have made a mistake practicing bad magic and awoken (or created) a giant evil beast. The Water Sprinkles will appeal to your captain to save the day, not just by destroying the villain, but by rallying them to aid, and eventually convincing the Earth Sprinkles of the error of their ways.

The really cool thing is learning new ways to combine story elements by playing other adventures. And you can even open them in the adventure editor to see how the effect was accomplished.

So what sucks about GA?

It’s overly simplistic. The amount of weapons and powers may appeal to younger gamers in droves, but for anyone who’s played an MMO, there are astoundingly few choices of weaponry.

Also, Maxis has once again opted for cuteness-at-all-costs in Spore…speaking to an NPC makes you face them directly in letterbox form as they gesticulate their mood to you, and your own captain does an annoying dance upon the completion of each adventure. It’s hard to picture yourself as an alien Captain Kirk or a Klingon hardass when your beloved creation is shaking his rump to cheesy music.

But when all is said and done, my biggest annoyance with GA is that more of my friends don’t have it, and I can’t share my created adventures with them.

Maybe when Spore meets D&D my wildest dreams will finally be realized.