31 October 2015

The Summer Wind ...

... came blowin' in from across the sea

Time has moved on since the summer and we’re now smack in the middle of autumn. My summer this year was simply marvellous. I attended a conference in London in the last week of July and I was able to bring the family along. That was a magnificent experience. I always enjoy visiting London, having spent a year at college there. After that we had a two week vacation in Italy, followed by a week each at both my wife’s and my parents. Working in the educational sector in Europe is rewarding in more ways than one. Speaking of work, I’m back at the university, still pursuing my goal of becoming a tenured professor. So, personally and vocationally, all’s good.

I stopped all gaming over the summer to focus fully on my family. Upon returning home, however, I felt the urge to revisit some of my old-time favourites, namely three instalments of the Heroes of Might & Magic series. Heroes of Might & Magic III was the first turn-based strategy game I ever played, and, after a brief introduction, both my wife and I did play quite extensively. I might even go so far as to proclaim HoMM III my favourite game ever. Strangely enough though, in all my time playing this series, I had never even played the campaigns as I agree with TotalBiscuit that the true value of the Heroes series can really be found in the custom games. So it happened that I finished all the campaigns of Heroes of Might & Magic III to V including their respective expansions. Unfortunately, the series ends with HoMM V for us as there’s no way we’re going to succumb to Uplay. All in all I have to say that HoMM III remains my favourite despite its dated look. I know that some die hard fans will shout heresy when I state the following, but for me it is, in fact, a close call between HoMM III and IV. I must be one of the very few people who genuinely enjoy HoMM IV and consider it to be a very good advancement of the Heroes series. I’ll gladly admit that it has glaring flaws but I don’t think it’s nowhere near as bad as some people make it out to be. HoMM V on the other hand really feels like a cheap rip-off of WarCraft III (e.g. story and cut scenes) and plays like a 3D port of HoMM III. So I’m kind of torn here: I like many gameplay elements but found the story, in particular, to be rather lacklustre. I do, however, enjoy playing all three instalments, especially together with my wife.

Much has changed on the MMO front. WildStar went free-to-play and after reading what Bhagpuss had to say about the game, I decided to give it a try. I finished the tutorial and afterwards started exploring Nexus. I must have played for about an hour when I had enough. That game is just not for me. I remember when I first heard about WildStar I was rather intrigued. That changed quickly when I learned about the action combat and the telegraph system. I seriously hate twitch gameplay, so naturally I uninstalled the game right away. But at least I did give it a try and tested it for myself. Many voices can be heard as to why WildStar tanked and with it yet another MMORPG had to resort to a free-to-play model, most of them claiming that the game was too hardcore and that this is the sole reason for its failure. As I don’t believe in mono-causality, I wouldn’t want to fault any single aspect for the demise of any game. It usually is a combination of several factors. Consider e.g. that WildStar was indeed marketed as a hardcore game (40-man raiding) with a cartoony exterior and action combat. Any combination of those basic pillars could both attract and repel potential players. I for one would enjoy a cartoonish look and a hardcore approach, but I cannot come to terms with twitchy gameplay. Couple that with the fact that WildStar’s idea of “hardcore” means (or meant, not sure if that’s still the case to be honest) time constraints (Gold runs, Explorer path), count me out. Even if WildStar was the perfect MMO otherwise, combining all the elements that I want to see in an MMO like a game built around crafting with strong social ties and interaction, in a living and breathing world, those two elements (time constraints and twitch) would drive me away. I can imagine many people feeling similarly or altogether differently.

No comment on the next WoW expansion. I’m simply no longer interested in retail WoW and instead get my kicks from the Nostalrius project. They have launched a PvE server most recently. YAY!!!

The 4.0 patch of Knights of the Fallen Empire has almost completely ruined SW:TOR for me. I was hopefully optimistic after the koffee announcement, but all that is left now is disgust! More on that some other time.