Hearthstone Heroes of Warcraft BETA

While I was in Nashville for the inaugural Wizard World Comic Con, I got an email from Blizzard welcoming me to the Hearthstone BETA.  I am still recovering from the Convention, which was the 2nd biggest Con I’ve been to (the largest so far, and my first, was WonderCon).  Be looking for several articles about Wizard World Nashville and, once I’ve tested through Hearthstone, a review of the Beta.

I eagerly await this game coming to iPad, but will suffer through it on my MacBook Pro for now.  All joking aside, it is one of the most exciting games, for me, to come from Blizzard in years.

Neverwinter Online Open Beta pt.1

First off, as a fan of old school pnp D&D (3.5 rules…like there is any other) it was hard not to be excited about Cryptic studios and Perfect World teaming up once again for another free rpg, this time an mmo set in Forgotten Realms! This setting has long been a favorite of many dungeons and dragons players, and is a far cry from Eberron (I’m looking at you DDO). Neverwinter Online is based on 4th edition D&D rules of which I am unfamiliar, so this game was going to be exciting and fresh to learn about…..when I actually got in game.

neverwinter online

Launch day (open beta or not) = client crashes, launcher errors, frustration, and nerd-rage monsters on the official game forums. The one thing I think Guild Wars 2 had right was their ability to forsee massive influx of players on launch day and planned accordingly through “ghost servers.” This allowed players to log in game in an overflow server, buts that is another game and was another time. Neverwinter Online was shaping up to be just like any other game launch, so I was patient and finally got into the game after an hour or more wait in “Queue.”

SERVER SELECTION & CHARACTER CREATION:
3 Servers to choose from all highy populated, my guess is they’ll add more in the very near future. I give this a solid B, it has enough variation to make you feel like your character is unique but its really nothing fancy here.

CLASS & RACE SELECTION:
Being open beta on a very new game, I think the 5 class choices and 7 races are very different and good for a start up imo. Guardian Fighter, Great Weapon Fighter, Control Wizard, Trickster Rogue, and Devoted Cleric all have certain roles and I’m sure more will be added sooner or later. The races (all but drow, to be added later) are all native to Forgotton Realms. Human, Half-Orc, Halfling, Half-Elf, Elf, Dwarf, and Tiefling all have certain ties to starting stats so you’ll want to choose your class/race combo wisely. Example: An elven Guardian Figher tank might sound cool in theory, but they’re racial bonus doesn’t bode well with a tank class and you may end up dead more often than not.

GRAPHICS & GAMEPLAY:
The graphics for Neverwinter Online are stunning! There are many little nuances that I enjoyed looking at, water looks like water, shadows are in the correct places and the landscape is beautiful. Another thing I enjoy in games is to be able to jump around, you can freely do this in Neverwinter but the default controls are wonky (good thing there are keybind options). Movement is very fluid in Neverwinter and I had no lag at all, while you’d expect this from a partially intanced based game its still nice to see no rubberbanding. Basic attacking in Neverwinter is bound to your left and right mouse clicks, and the game features a new targeting system that I very much enjoyed. Its a target reticle working with a permanent mouselook mode, so it feels almost like a first person shooter set in a fantasy game. Its very different but I think revoluionary to an mmo experience.

There is a plethora of other things to cover in gameplay from encounter, daily, and at-will powers to power ponts, feats, endurance, crafting, guilds, friends, group-finders, and dungeons but only so much can be said from 3 hrs of gameplay and a lvl 7 character. Stay tuned for part 2 coming soon. If you want to try the game and start a band of nerd-brothers known as a guild hit me up on the mindflayer server, “Grux” is the name and my full game handle Grux@ginrummy1 is how you’ll find me.

neverwinter online

Neverwinter Online Official Game Site

The Primal Zerg of Starcraft (and what they could mean)

In StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm, we are introduced to the Primal Zerg of Starcraft’s fictional universe.  The Primal Zerg story paints a more in-depth origin of the Zerg species and gives rise to some speculation for the remaining Protoss story line.

Primal Zerg Origins

As the Heart of the Swarm story unfolds, the Protoss Dark Templar Zeratul reveals the origins of the Zerg to Kerrigan and encourages her to seek them out to make herself stronger.  From games past we know that the Xel’Naga, a mysterious alien race presumed extinct, created both the Zerg and the Protoss.  These two races were created with two very different focuses; the Zerg were focused on physical perfection, while the Protoss were focused on mental perfection.  Players have seen the Zerg evolve and get stronger and more specialized against their enemies, but always at the direction of a hive mind.  In the original StarCraft that hive mind was The Overmind, but before being mostly destroyed by the Protoss Templar Tassadar, it had created its successor; The Queen of Blades.  Anyone familiar with the StarCraft universe knows all too well the story of Sarah Kerrigan and her transformation into The Queen of Blades.

The planet Zerus is the newly discovered home world of the Zerg, inhabited by the Primal Zerg who have never known a hive mind.  They are free from the influence of Amon, the Fallen One, the Xel’Naga that created The Overmind.  In appearance the Primal Zerg of StarCraft resemble dinosaurs, much more so than the chitinous almost insect-like Zerg players are accustomed to.

Primal Zerg of StarCraft

 

What does this mean for the Protoss?

This forgotten sub-race of Zerg could mean a likely parallel in the Protoss expansion.  Long time players are very accustomed to the various dislocated tribes of Protoss.  Some of these are very maligned against the greater Protoss force, but still share the common roots we know from Protoss lore.  Could there be a lost world of mystic Protoss even more telepathic than those we have encountered?  Maybe.  I’m not entirely sure I expected to see Primal Zerg in StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm, but I did.  It was a large chunk of the story and some of the most interesting gameplay.

Primal Zerg of StarCraft: More questions than answers.

For me, Heart of the Swarm raised more questions than it gave answers.  Which is to say, it did everything that a middle chapter should.  My own preferences aside, I am more excited for the next StarCraft game than I was before. Another question to ponder:  Will Blizzard stop with the Protoss expansion, or will there be more?  Leave your thoughts as a comment below or on my FaceBook page.  Also, what did you think of the Primal Zerg of StarCraft?

 

Hearthstone Heroes of Warcraft Announced!

Today, Blizzard Entertainment announced Hearthstone Heroes of Warcraft.  Blizzard has also set up a YouTube channel with some videos giving you a glimpse into this new game.

Hearthstone: Trailer

In the next video from Blizzard, you’ll see the game being played.  I’d like to point out that it appears that the game may be available for multiple platforms.  With two views of the video I’ve noticed it being played on a PC via an Intuos and what appears to be an Apple iPad.  The tablet could, of course, be an Android tablet.  The gaming communities hope would be that it’s available everywhere; PC/Mac and iOS/Android devices.

Hearthstone: Gameplay and Behind-The-Scenes

Hearthstone is a fast paced online collectible card game.  It’s geared for the beginner as well as the advanced card player.  Chris Metzen explains the impact that other such games, like Magic: The Gathering, had on the early development of Blizzard’s company culture.  For the development of this game, Blizzard took a more low key approach.  Bringing together a 15 man team of do-it-all experts, they worked to create something Epic in play, but not size.  Hearthstone’s mechanics will be familiar to players of TCGs and CCGs and spells, items, and monsters will be familiar to previous Blizzard gamers.

Hearthstone Heroes of Warcraft

The artwork for the game is a major selling point.  With a card game being such a visual sport, it’s nice to have a huge library of fantasy art to pull from.  On a personal note, I’ve been wanting to get into the World of Warcraft TCG for years, but haven’t had the time or space to do so.  I think Hearthstone looks very promising and I’ll be patiently awaiting a Beta invite.

If you have played Hearthstone Heroes of Warcraft, then leave a comment or send a message!

Hearthstone Heroes of Warcraft

StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm Story Reviewed

StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm Reviewed

StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm

Opening cinematic shows Kerrigan leading the Zerg in the fall of Korhal, but it’s only a dream.

starcraft 2 heart of the swarm

Raynor smuggled Sarah off of Char, but the Xel’Naga artifact has mysteriously disappeared.  Mengsk is still hunting for her!  Rebels are doing research on Sarah in a secret facility to ensure that she is actually human.  Kerrigan is initially tested by controlling Zerg units in a tutorial fashion.  Kerrigan proves how dangerous the Zerg are by destroying a large portion of the base.  Kerrigan apologizes to Raynor for his having to choose between her and Tychus.  Before she can leave with Raynor, Dominion forces storm the base, led by Ghost Agent Nova.  Raynor and Kerrigan have to blast their way to freedom after sharing a brief, intimate moment.

starcraft 2 heart of the swarm

Kerrigan and Raynor get separated and Kerrigan takes Raynor’s ship to escape.  At the rendezvous point, Kerrigan learns that they were unable to retrieve Raynor and becomes furious, attempting to kill Valerian.  With the Dominion forces closing in on them, Kerrigan leaves to find Raynor on her own.  After discovering a canon meant to shoot down any returning or escaping rebels, Kerrigan uses some Zerg to destroy the canon.  She realizes that she is slipping into old habits and leaves after destroying the canon.  She watches a propaganda message that Mengsk is broadcasting, stating that he has captured and executed Raynor.  Hearing that she has lost Raynor, she flies into a rage and ventures forth on a mission of vengeance to reassemble the Swarm.

starcraft 2 heart of the swarm
StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm
Kerrigan raging after hearing that Raynor is dead.

Kerrigan finds the Swarm divided, with some of her Brood Mothers vying for control.  On the frozen planet Kaldir she fights a Protoss research outpost.  Afterward, the Dark Templar Zeratul shows up and a small fight ensues.  He psychically shows her an ancient Zerg world and tells her of its power and how it could help her.  Kerrigan wonders why Zeratul is helping her to become more powerful, and in his usual fashion he spins a mysterious tale of prophecy.

starcraft 2 heart of the swarm

After getting to the planet Zerus, Kerrigan awakens the most ancient of the Zerg.  This ancient, primal Zerg instructs her how to harness the primal power of Zerus and the Zerg there.  She follows his instructions and abandons her human form via chrysalis chamber.  The ancient, primal Zerg tells Kerrigan that if she defeats the primal pact leaders, then all the wild Zerg of Zerus would bend to her will, but after defeating them and taking their essence, the most ancient one decides his time to evolve is now and battles Kerrigan.  She defeats him and takes his ancient essence for her own evolution.

starcraft 2 heart of the swarm
StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm
A primal Zerg of the planet Zerus.

After Zerus, you head for the planet Char.  On Char, Kerrigan fights an old Brood Mother until she surrenders and rejoins the swarm as Kerrigan’s lieutenant.  After this, Kerrigan sets her sights on the large Terran military installation currently under the direction of General Warfield, from Wings of Liberty.  After crushing their base and finding Warfield trapped and dying, she allows the escaping wounded Terrans to leave after Warfield attempts to appeal to her humanity.  However, during the battle, Terrans fired holo-communicators at the Leviathan Zerg ship.  Using these communicators, Mengsk delivers a message to Kerrigan.  Raynor is alive, but he will kill him if she comes to Korhal.

Kerrigan enters Dominion space to attempt to rescue Raynor.  She initiates communication with Matt and Valerian of the Hyperion to persuade them to hack into the Dominion network so they can track down where Raynor is being held.  After a side mission to obtain a Terran capable of the task, they discover that Raynor is being held on a prison ship that jumps to random coordinates regularly.  They intercept the ship while it’s on a scheduled refueling stop.  After fighting through the defenses and securing Raynor’s cell, Kerrigan is rejected by Raynor for turning her back on her humanity and embracing the Zerg.

starcraft 2 heart of the swarm

Afterwards, Kerrigan received a mysterious transmission regarding Mengsk’s breeding of hybrids, half Zerg half Protoss warriors.  After traveling to the world where these experiments are being conducted, Kerrigan meets an infested Stukov.  Alexei Stukov is one of the humans from Earth who traveled into the Koprulu sector, during Brood War, to retake it in the name of Earth, but failed.  His true motives are unknown, but he agrees to help Kerrigan attack the research facility.  Narud, a shapeshifting servant of Amon the “Fallen One”, seems to be the one creating the hybrids.  Narud is very ancient and very powerful.  Kerrigan kills a few of these overpowered hybrids, which are able to psionically attack Kerrigan from a distance.  With Stukov’s help, Kerrigan repels Narud and kills him, but discovers that the fallen, godlike Xel’Naga Amon is indeed alive.  However, Kerrigan’s sights are still set on Mengsk.

starcraft 2 heart of the swarm
StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm
Kerrigan verus Narud (shifted into human-Kerrigan)

After a lengthy siege of Korhal, letting Valerian rescue as many civilians as possible, she assaults Mengsk’s stronghold.  When Kerrigan breaks into Mengsk’s chamber, we find that he has taken the Xel’Naga artifact that Raynor collected during the events of Wings of Liberty.  Mengsk purposely lured Kerrigan into his chamber so he could use the artifact to kill her for good.  However, before Mengsk can finish her off, Raynor comes to the rescue and together they finish Mengsk at last.

starcraft 2 heart of the swarm

We are left with Kerrigan pulling the Swarm away from Korhal in preparation for the coming battle with Amon.

starcraft 2 heart of the swarm

All in all, not the story I was expecting, but I think it made the game that much better.  I’ll definitely want to play through Wings of Liberty again before the Protoss expansion hits.  There are going to be a lot of things to tie up in that game, but it shouldn’t disappoint.  As far as gameplay goes, I’m not sure if I’m getting better or if Heart of the Swarm is “easier” than Wings of Liberty.  I didn’t have to repeat any missions, unlike Wings of Liberty.  I swear I played that last mission about four times before I beat it.  Hence I give the game a 9 out of 10.  It just felt too simple during some parts.  Keep an eye on my YouTube channel for some video highlights of gameplay specifics.