Archive for December, 2011

Advent Rising is the first game I post here, that I never finished completely (pretty sure). I played it roughly 1 year ago and still had the screenshots. The reason I never finished it, was the rather lengthy final boss fight, in which always the same thing happened: an explosion (I think) tossed my character with his head into the wall and all he did after that was to struggle with his feet, but was otherwise completely stuck. I played this fight 4-5 times with always the same outcome, which had me so frustrated, that I never tried it again. Apart from that (or up until that point) the game was quite good.
Advent Rising was supposed to be the first game in a trilogy (or so the rumor goes), but that plan didn’t work out and therefore this stays the sole installment. It’s good handling and fast action that makes this title worth playing and “details” like story and soundtrack what raises it above mediocrity. Except for the soundtrack none of the individual parts are that special, but it works all really well together. It’s also a nice example for what changed between the Unreal 2.x engine and the more current 3.x.
Since I learned only recently, that an unofficial patch for this game exists, I might still try once more to finish it. :)

  • 12 Xbox cutscenes and one movie file that were removed from the PC version
  • Fixes to 49 of the game’s 64 cutscenes
  • Corrections to timing and various subtitling errors in all of the game’s subtitles
  • Edits to the .ini files that:
    • Enable 4:3 display without the black bars
    • Enable trilinear filtering and Vsync
    • Bind the V key to teleport
    • Bind F5 to ShowDebug
    • Bind F6 to ViewBot
    • Bind F7 to free camera
    • Bind F8 to level skip
    • Bind F9 to screenshot
  • Edits to engine.int to correct a few problems with objectives
  • Edits to Interface.int, EonWeapons.int, and EonPowers.int to correct some issues with weapons, weapon screens, and descriptions (including resolution-dependent issues)

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Ah Arcanum… :P (I wonder how the game would have been named, if it would have been released after Valve’s Steam was started) Just (a few days ago actually) finished Arcanum. It’s one of those famous & legendary (to me) Troika games. I didn’t get to play this one when it came out originally. Which is really good, because (knowing myself) I never would have had this much fun with the original game. Now there’s the unofficial patch, the high-res patch, high quality town maps, high quality music and lots of other stuff. And the fact that the graphics are old now, has little effect on me. The game mechanics are complex and there’s lots of text/story. Makes more than up for it.
I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have enjoyed this game very much before the unofficial patch, considering there are still a few bugs in it even now. To be honest I found only one really big bug in the game, but this one was so annoying, that I almost would have stopped playing. I’m very glad I that I didn’t allow it to turn me off too much though. In Arcanum every NPC has a reaction value towards the PC, that determines how he will react in several nuances ranging from immediate attack to very polite conversation. Basically a very good idea and very ambitious too, most (role-playing) games only have a binary good/bad reaction implemented, if at all. In addition, the PC has a reaction modifier that influences the normal reaction value, which is based on several character attributes like beauty or charisma – also, certain clothing/equipment can have a positive or negative effect. Sadly several NPCs throughout the games are bugged, in a way that I can only describe as some sort of “buffer overflow”. These characters don’t seem to reach a maximum value, if they already like the PC and then a huge modifier is added, instead they apparently bounce over a barrier and then have a negative value – which makes them attack right away. This is especially frustrating, when this person is a quest giver. Madam Lil in Tarant and her half-orc bartender are prominent examples. The orc (Ogdin, I think) on the isle of despair is another. An early workaround I used, was to wear an armor that would make people like the character less, thus preventing the overflow. Crazy, right? At one point it got so bad, that this didn’t work anymore (by having solved some quests for these people, their initial reaction value was raised and the armor no longer lowered the modifier enough to still compensate for that – a positive reputation was also toxic) and I could only play certain quests, by editing my save. In one city (could have been Caladon, but I forgot) was a dwarf, who attacked me on sight, so I never did his quest, because I was too annoyed at this point.
Apart from that I didn’t encounter any bugs, which would be worth mentioning. It also didn’t crash once. Especially noteworthy, considering the hours it took to complete this epic tale.
I don’t know the story behind Arcanum, so all of this is nothing but pure speculation, but the ending felt a little rushed. Combining this with the amount of bugs the original release had, it probably didn’t receive a lot of polishing and had to be released. The ending features one of these concrete epilogues, which are based on the player’s decisions throughout the whole adventure (very similar to the Fallout 1+2 games, for example). These epilogues however, featured info that I never would have expected to see there and left out many more I would have liked some closure for. Some half-orc, who only appeared in a short/minor side-quest is mentioned very prominently, while all the huge characters the player could have in his party for the majority of the game, weren’t mentioned at all (including the player character!). Today they would probably consider a Director’s Cut Edition or a DLC to “fix” this (given the company still existed), if the game would have sold well enough (Arcanum was Troika’s biggest financial success AFAIK). Alas, now certain questions will never be answered, at least it doesn’t diminish the core experience significantly. In the end, the Rumors & Notes section in my log book had 84 pages alone, plus 23 more for the quests I did. That’s still a lot of content, even for an RPG.
Unnecessary to mention it’s quite good, otherwise I never would have finished this big game, compared to this type of game, the main storylines of modern RPGs like Skyrim are just short.

BF3

Since “everyone” only talked about the multiplayer of Battlefield 3, this was ample reason for me to try the single. I strongly dislike all this talk, that single wouldn’t even matter anymore (at least in the context of such games) and multi would be “everything”. Down the road this mindset could very well be one of the reasons, why no one bothers anymore, to make a singleplayer part at all – or at least a good one. Cutting costs is always attractive.
Once again I found the negative descriptions (for the campaign) mostly unfounded. At least the SP part of BF3 wasn’t worse than the equivalent in Call of Duty: Black Ops and that game’s SP parts didn’t receive so many negative comments (the story in most of these games is typically rather… I don’t want to insult anyone, let’s just say I was shocked to learn during the ending credits, that BF3 had 4 writers :P). In fact, BF3’s campaign was a little more “engaging”, than Black Ops’, because I thought BO had little to do, except for running behind a “guide” for almost the whole duration. I find this almost insulting. If I intend to watch a movie, I won’t grab a game instead. That’s little difference from playing a rail shooter right away (please start making Rebel Assault 3 if you are into that). Though BF3 has this “follow the leader” bullshit too, there is often a little more exploration and running around involved (running too far away gives starts a time limit, during which the player has to return to the allowed area… I guess it’s not that different from placing walls, still…).
I was also curious, because I never played a game using the Frostbite 2 engine thus far. Because I’m not a graphics fetishist, I’m almost always very happy with how games look (if I care at all – good graphics don’t make me play bad games, most of the time :P, and unimpressive graphics don’t keep me from playing/replaying great ones), I only get keen-eared when some games are praised for their looks, while others are not (or even receive some critics), despite looking pretty much the same. BF3 seems to be fitting this scenario, because it is sometimes even described as “the PC-game with the prettiest graphics right now”. Yeah… With such expectation it’s usually a short(er) way to disappointment. While I would naturally deem the visuals as good, the game looks in some aspects better than comparable games and in others worse. In that regard I would judge such descriptions as exaggerations. Of course it’s impossible to judge the potential of the engine by that.

Unofficial English Patch 7.9 by Wesp5 (221 MB) / Changes

v7.9 22.11.2011
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  • +Restored Giovanni spirit, video victim and fifty five scenery props.
  • +Changed condition for forklift sequence and restored Protean icons.
  • +Added option to send Gimble to Vandal and a museum panel inspection.
  • +Restored final two music pieces, thanks to Malkav and Rik Schaffer.
  • Corrected Romero not mailing and Vandal not giving additional lines.
  • Fixed chandelier and camera rod textures and drinking glasses clip.
  • Removed newspaper from downtown in basic and fixed minor map issues.
  • Added Packfile Explorer 3.9 to Extras folder, thanks to Dave Gaunt.
  • Fixed Hitman quest problem and restored lines of Lu Fang and Carson.
  • Repaired dancer behaviour at Confession and added it for Glaze too.
  • Restored Blood Hunt music, ballroom shaft of light and Sin Bin sign.