JRock3x8's Life Musings

Sunday, February 26, 2006

One year anniversary of JRock and Halo 2

To my 2old2play.com brothers and sisters (in arms?)

So with the passing of my birthday (ugh, again - 31 spankings I'm up to now) comes the realization that I have been playing Halo 2 for a whole year now and it's still the best game I've ever played online (with all apologies to MechAssault).

My time with Halo 2 has been unevenly divided into two pieces :

the gut wrenching, cursing at the TV, ice running through the veins, stay up till 2 am and wake up pissed as all hell "matchmaking" period


the fun, loose talking, hang out with buddies, play for hours on end and not even realize it, drinking (I swear it's apple juice) general good time "2old2play" period.

Needless to say I am pleased to be in your company and thankful beyond words for this website and the connections I have forged with the people on it.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Knights of the Insanely Long Video Game Titles II

One of my favorite titles of the XBox generation was Star Wars : Knights of the Old Republic. So this weekend I finally picked up the sequel, Star Wars : Knights of the Old Republic II - The Sith Lords. Try saying that 5 times fast. Try saying it 5 times at any speed. Yeesh.

I have just completed the first phase of the game, which is to say I got out of Peragus. One of my favorite things about KOTOR 1 was the incredible depth of the story. I can't imagine how many hours it must take to design a truly great RPG. The maps, the story, the characters, the weapons - it's mind boggling. And yet, The Sith Lords delivers on every single one of those things early on.

The maps are intelligently constructed, and you are cut off from getting to certain places until you unlock the piece of the story that gets you there. For instance, you can't get to the Ebon Hawk until you've explored darn near the whole mining facility - which is great! The maps are all true blue Star Wars concepts down to the bottomless pit shafts at seemingly every turn.

The story is unfolding in a similar fashion as KOTOR 1 where you're not really sure who you are or who the people around you are. I thought the placement of the doomed Republican warship early on in the story was great because it was laid out almost exactly like the similar ship that exploded from KOTOR1. I'm looking forward to fighting the Sith Lord who looks like he is made out of ashes. It is a little confusing that the story seems to start out on such a dark tone. If you finished KOTOR1 on the light side everything was shiny and happy. They might have done a better job explaining that part, but it's a small gripe.

The characters and voice acting are every bit as good as KOTOR1. In some cases, it's actually better. I am a little confused about the voice only lady who seemed to be talking to me at every turn only to completely disappear later. The appearance of video "journal entries" REALLY adds to the story as it gives some drama to even the smaller parts of the game. Watching the HK droid walk out of the Ebon Hawk from the flames was laugh out loud funny as I remembered the similar character from KOTOR1. Obsidian was careful to take some well conceived nods from KOTOR1 while trying to make their own game at the same time.

The weapons and the new workbench really add a lot to the game. In KOTOR1, I felt the workbenches were kind of a pointless exercise but in KOTOR2, they are frequent and there are many more weapons that can be constructed and upgraded. Building your own sword from scratch instead of trying to find one is really fun and rewarding to the gamer. Deconstructing useless items like 60 medpacs is far more fun than trying to find some poor schlep merchant to dump them on.

Okay, now the bad.

First and foremost, this game is crazy easy on default difficulty. I died once over a span of a five hour gaming sequence, and only then because I got really careless. For the same sequence in KOTOR1, I easily would have died a dozen times.

Secondly, and I'm not sure if this is partially or entirely due to the 360's backward compatibility, this game is buggy. I get weird feedback sound chirps, strange frame rate issues, characters warping across rooms or getting stuck and all sorts of other strange effects. I also had a strange flicker on the opening titles the first couple times I played it, although that seems to have stopped for whatever reason.

All in all, the game seems really fun and engrossing and I'm looking forward to finishing it. I'll report back with more when I get there.