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Gaming Inertia Lost: NWN2, PSU

There comes a certain time when a dedicated gamer has to admit he's miserable with what he's playing. In about a month I'm afraid that time has come for Neverwinter Nights 2 and Phantasy Star Universe. I lost inertia, thanks to my video card getting replaced by a hot new one that left me buzzing between old games and seeing how much quicker they run and which ones crap out due to what I assume is a power supply problem. Now that the inertia has died down and proven stubborn to remobilize, I'm both in a pretty good position to ream these games with negatively biased impressions and hurting for something to do... so here we are.

I might have been more excited about Neverwinter Nights 2 if I had not played it before it came out. I'm talking about all the D20 Bioware RPGs, from Baldur's Gate to Knights of the Old Republic. They all involve the same game with slightly difference balances: a D20 core where the best min/maxer wins and the rest of us keep reloading until our rolls go favorably enough to overcome the encounter. NWN2 includes a powerful editor, but if I can't get away from this crappy D20 design then there's no point in trying to use it. Upon coming to this conviction, Bioware's D20 RPGs can only work for me because of the story alone, but I'm afraid I lost interest in seeing what happens next in NWN2. If my interest comes back later, maybe I'll play long enough to try out the property ownership subgame.

Phantasy Star Universe is more enjoyable than Neverwinter Nights 2 in terms of the gameplay value it offers. It's only half die rolls, the meatier half belonging to a not entirely oversimplified action game. So what went wrong? Long story short, I finished it. I finished the offline game, which I enjoyed despite the distinctively non-PSO episodic anime focus because I happen to like anime space operas. I finished the online game before I even started because there's no story and the grind is too steep for my liking.

I realized the grind was bad when I noticed I only made about 1000 meseta in an hour and I wanted 11,000 to open my shop. At best, it'd take me almost another ten S-Rank DeRagon runs, but that's tedius repetition of the same content and they won't all be S-Rank. The alternative to De Ragon runs would take another 20 hours because the meseta drops are weighted poorly against taking on more challenging content.

I had known that the gameplay no longer dazzled me before I had completed 26 hours of the story mode, but I was curious about the Network mode and my curiosity was not rewarded. After about twenty hours of network play, I deduce that it's pretty much the same game story mode except the mobs are tougher, there's worse rewards, and absolutely none of the plot emphasis that kept me interested long enough to finish the offline game. Getting to play with other players was the only real benefit, but I'm afraid their main function was just to take most of my share of the overly sparse loot.

Now that I'm gaming dispossessed, I need something to do besides browse message boards and write blog entries. Browsing porn is a bad habit (that isn't the kind of pixelated delight staving off boredom I'm covering here) so perhaps it's time to restart a different bad habit entirely.

Though my wallet threatens to implode, I'm thinking of shelling out to get back together with an old flame, either City of Heroes or EverQuest 2. Both games seem to feign convincing stability for my unusual video card situation, tested through City of Heroes' offline -demoplay mode and the EverQuest 2 trial. I can't subscribe to both, so I'm left with a choice. City of Heroes is more creative and fun at the GUI level, but EverQuest 2 has more massive and a faster rate of content release. EQ2 has a friend playing it, but he wants me to play on the PvP server: Playing with friend is good, but following them into war zones invokes hesitation. I'll have to think it over, but I suspect that the enjoyment I could derive from either is about equal.

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