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

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.

 

StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm Collector’s Edition Unboxed

Blizzard’s Collector Edition games have become a staple of the Blizzard fanboy’s library.  StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm should be no exception.  With last year’s release of Diablo 3, the digital goodies have gotten more plentiful.  In-game character aesthetics, banner sigils, and banner accents are added to the exclusive in-game World of Warcraft pets and mounts and StarCraft 2 portraits and decals.  With different items appealing to different people based on preference or collecting habits, WoW pets are to me as Beanie Babies are to little girls, some prefer the physical items included in the Collector’s Edition.  To date, every Collector’s Edition has included an art book showcasing the amazing talent of the design team.  These art books sell for a premium by themselves, due in part to most collectors not willing to part with them.  Most editions include another special item made especially for the collector’s edition, such as a cloth map, mousepad, or custom USB drive.

StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm Collector’s Edition

The construction of the box alone helps me appreciate spending the extra money for the collector’s edition.

starcraft 2 heart of the swarm

Everything is very carefully arranged and packaged inside to keep things together during shipping.

My personal de facto standard on a Collector’s Edition, the art book.

starcraft 2 heart of the swarm

Some of the illustrations are breathtaking.  Maybe a little scary, but breathtaking all the same.

starcraft 2 heart of the swarm

The behind-the-scenes DVD / BluRay.  These usually have some pretty interesting segments in them.  I usually only watch them once or twice though.  I tried to sell my Wings of Liberty DVD on eBay and wound up meeting Neil Kaplan.

starcraft 2 heart of the swarm

Honestly, I’m a little better with the soundtracks, but not much.  These do sell after the fact pretty quickly.  I suppose it’s because Blizzard doesn’t sell a physical version in major retailers.

starcraft 2 heart of the swarm

The StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm Game DVD.  The game itself is the same disc as a standard edition.  It’s the activation code that makes it special and gives you the digital goodies.

starcraft 2 heart of the swarm

The Zerg Rush Mousepad.  I like the Blizzard mouse pads fine, but I don’t usually use them.  However, today I think I will since I’ll be doing most of the campaign at the kitchen table on the laptop with headphones on.

starcraft 2 heart of the swarm

Video

If you want to see the unboxing unfold via video, here’s a link to the short video I shot of the actual unboxing:

YouTube

The Call of Koprulu

Now that this thing is fully unboxed, it’s time to get it installed on my Gaming PC and laptop.  I plan on tacking as much of the campaign as I can in the next 24 hours.  Hopefully I get the game conquered before the weekend.  Sign up by email, using the box to the right, to be updated when I post the spoiler-rich, in-depth review of Heart of the Swarm.

Diablo 3 – From Beta to Patch 1.0.2C

Diablo 3 very quickly became the best-selling game of May.  It broke Amazon.com’s Pre-sale records and set the PC Game Launch record by selling more than 3.5million copies in the first 24 hours of it’s release.  It was met with some criticism due to Blizzard’s unpreparedness with it’s servers.  Personally, I had almost no issues connecting to the servers.  Diablo 3 took the best of it’s predecessors and streamlined the game experience.

Diablo 3

The most noticeable difference between Diablo 3 and Diablo 2 is the skill system.  You gain new skills, and new ways to alter previous skills, as you level up.  It feels like a well thought variation of the skill and rune system in World of Warcraft. With the skill system, quest check points, and constant barrage of bad guys, this game feels very fast.

Since the initial release of World of Warcraft, Blizzard has offered a premium “Collector’s Edition” of their games.  Diablo 3 was no exception.  Included with the game is what has become standard offerings in the premium editions:  Art Book, Behind the Scenes DVD, and Soundtrack.  New to Diablo 3 is the addition of a Blu-ray disc with the DVD.  Also included is a USB Soulstone containing Diablo 2 and it’s expansion, Lord of Destruction.  For more information including in-game aesthetic items go to Blizzard’s Diablo 3 site.

The biggest disappointment I had with the game was the removal of the Necromancer class in favor of the Witch Doctor.  I’m not very impressed with the aesthetics of the Witch Doctor, but have discovered a random event in Act 2 that contains a Necromancer.  This warrior claims to be the student of the Necromancer that fought the three prime evils in previous games.  That’s the closest you’re going to get if you’re a fan of the Necromancer.  The biggest plus, as far as classes go, is the Demon Hunter.  A vast improvement over the complicated Assassin from Lord of Destruction.  Of course, if you play World of Warcraft, you will notice that a lot has been borrowed for Diablo 3.  Remember, WoW borrowed a lot from Diablo 2 when it was first released.

If you enjoyed the video review (overview) of Diablo 3, let me know.  I’m currently playing the Mists of Pandara Beta and will be sure to get some great video and screen shots for a review once the game releases.