Exploring Cutting Edge Gaming

While it's comfortable to think of gaming as forever existing in old fashioned PC and console games, times change, and the cutting edge of games moves with them.  Over the last few days, I did some catching up with the modern face of gaming, both in terms of the new generation of MMORPGs and a whole new platform: the iPad.

"The New Generation of MMORPGs"

By this, I'm referring to expertly leveraged free to play games, which you just know all the cool kids are playing.  The two games I played today are both hosted by Nexon, which boasts account numbers in the hundreds of millions.  Even if only a tenth of those subscribers ever dropped a dime on their games, the company is probably making more money than Blizzard is on World of Warcraft.  

Enticed by an interesting mention in PCGamer that this was apparently the most played MMORPG ever, with 200 million accounts and 2 million concurrent logged in players, I first gave Nexon's Dungeon Fighter Online a try... and, though I have no problem with the idea of a 2D fighter RPG, I was generally underwhelmed.

The main problem is that the game is too easy: even on "hard," I annihilated the goblins of the first three quests.  The root of this is that the enemies seem extremely hesistant to launch any kind of attack: I'm really more accustomed to the balance of a game like Final Fight or Batman: Arkham Asylum, where the enemies seem genuinely programmed to try to hurt you.  Maybe this would change at later levels... although, looking up gameplay video of those levels in action (such as the above) the enemies still seem pretty helpless.

The bigger question is whether or not I'd be willing to exhibit the patience to play a game I'm bored of in the present in order to pursue the ambiguous promise of being able to enjoy it in the future.  To answer to that big question has been carved into my soul from the jagged hooks of decades of burnout at the hands of dozens of EverQuest/WoW clones: it is a resounding, "NO!"  Not unless I undergo a sudden surge of desperate masochism.

Moving on to Nexon's Vindictus, I found it to be a considerable improvement over Dungeon Fighter on most fronts: the Source Engine physics are used to good effect - ample destructible environment props and things to toss about - and the game possesses remarkably high production values.

However, like Dungeon Fighter, I found the enemies a bit overly hesitant to attack and the overall fights to be boringly simple even on higher difficulties.  Again, this might change at later levels, but I would have a hard time getting myself to play through the boring beginning when the game gives little to no sign of providing an end experience that I would enjoy.

Further, the character selection and move variety would seem to be even more limited.  Dungeon Fighter gives you some 6 prefab characters - as a person who likes to identify with his characters, it rankles a bit that I'd have to play what looks like a 12-year-old girl if I want to play a magic user.  Vindictus has a similar approach, but with only 3 characters and 2 more in development.

Next, I'll probably give League of Legends a try.  Being closer related to a real time strategy game, I suspect it will be a completely different creature

Initial iPad exploration

Admittedly, the most entertainment a jaded old gamer like me could get out of my new iPad has been something else entirely: the use of a Crunchyroll app to view anime.  The iPad was clearly made to stream video, as it does so marvelously.  However, there may be times when I'm stranded somewhere without an Internet connection and need something to do, and my forays into the realm of iPad gaming have lead me here:
  • The Incident Lite - A simple but novel game where you tilt your iPad/iPhone to move your character left and right, avoiding fallen objects, or touch the screen to jump.  The game has a fairly zany sense of humor as you never know what crazy object those aliens will drop on you next, but I can't see there as being a whole lot to it.  3/5 stars.
  • Medival HD Lite - In the vein of "castle defense" games, Medieval HD makes good use of high quality art assets to present a game that mostly involves manually firing arrows from your castle-mounted ballista into approaching troops while occasionally sending your own troops to wreck the enemy castle or capture its flag.  Unfortunately, I don't see a whole lot of depth here, though perhaps that's to be expected of the genre.  4/5 stars.
  • Starfall HD - My first iPad app purchase, it is a very competently executed tower defense game, both in terms of slick coding and presentation.  However, as I got deeper into Starfall HD, I found it to possess a few balance quirks: having a second tier of he same base three towers renders those base three towers pointless; there are resource generation units which quickly undermine the economy; the upgraded second tier towers are a bit too powerful, rendering the game trivial.  4/5 stars.
  • ENDI Tank Battle HD - A very simple tank game, the main thing ENDI Tank Battle has going for it is a nice artistic style of toy tanks battling about the sandbox presented rather vividly.  It's hard to complain considering it's a free app, but the praise can only go skin deep when the gameplay is pretty much all basic movement and firing.  2/5 stars.
  • Warpgate HD Free - I was hoping to find something for the iPad a bit like Escape Velocity Nova, a freeform space travel game where you upgrade your ship as you go along.  Though the game should fit the bill for many, I found Warpgate to be considerably simpler than game of this genre I've played on other platforms, and I found the combat to be completely nonsensical.  3/5 stars.
  • Airport Mania: First Flight - A game where you're directing (ridiculously cute) airplanes from the sky to runways, then to the terminals where they offload and load passengers, perhaps making a stop in between if they need to make repairs or refuel, and then back to the runway again, another satisfied customer of your airport.  It's a solid game in much the same way the Diner Dash is: it continually keeps the player's mind occupied with numerous things to coordinate, and so an excellent sense of flow is generated.  A fair bargain for $2.  5/5 stars.
Thus far, I've been fairly disappointed with the greater bulk of iPad games as they are overly simple to somebody who has been gaming as long as I have.  However, there is a massive library of iPad apps out there, and the app store seems overly designed to bury the diamonds of yesterday, thus I have much interesting digital archeology ahead of me.  The very next thing I'll probably pick up is Puzzle Quest HD, a game I know to be deeper than most, and although I already have it on many other platforms, many sources claim the iPad actually the best platform it's been on.


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