Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Goodbye and Hello

Any regular readers out there must know something is up.

First, I call out Blizzard.

Then, I start talking about other games.

It has been almost three weeks since I last wrote about the game. (Aside form that letter, of course)

I must admit, my interest in the game is at an all-time low. As such, there is very little to write about. Sure, starting next week, I'll have LOTS to post about Aion. But, I feel it would be a bad move to take a WoW blog and switch focus to a different game. Going back and forth between the two is just going to confuse and upset people.

So, this will be my final post here on Hardcore Casual.

Fear not! I am not disappearing.

I have started a more general-purpose blog, Massive Nerd. There I will write about many subjects, including Aion and, yes, I will still post about WoW.

To those who are only looking for Warcraft coverage, that's cool. There's a whole list of blogs off to the left that are worth your time. I'm not making this switch to increase readership. Hell, I'll probably LOSE readers. I'm doing this for myself. I wish to explore other aspects of writing and creativity.

To all my loyal readers, both of you, thank you for your support. I enjoy interacting with the community more than the writing itself, and you guys have hooked me on blogging. I hope to see most (or all!) of you at my new home.



See you, Space Cowboy

Monday, June 29, 2009

Machinima Monday: Into Divinity

Oh boy, some of you are going to hate me for this.

Hardcore Casual presents... its first Aion Machinima.



A nicely edited video showing off some of the low-level gameplay available in the second Closed Beta event, which had a level cap of 10.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Nerd Life Movie Review: Transformers Revenge of the Fallen

Allow me to start with the simple: This is NOT a good movie.

That being said, you should still see it.

The story is a complete mess. Way more complicated than it needed to be. As such, the middle portion of the movie drags on for waaaay too long. Then, once everything comes together, there isn't enough time to give the final battle the screentime it deserves. The whole final few scenes feel very rushed.

In the end, it doesn't really matter, we're all here to see giant robots, Megan Fox and/or BAYSPLOSIONS!

In all the chaos, unfortunately, many of the Transformers get lost. Megatron and Starscream get much more characterization in this movie, but the rest of the Decepticons are just cannon fodder. The filmmakers reused many models for different characters, and some are even characterless drones.

The Autobots fare little better. Optimus Prime returns to his 80s-era awesomeness. Bumblebee, Ratchet and Ironhide are all just... there. Arcee and ideswipe are very cool in the few scenes they're in, and Jolt is a complete ghost for almost the entire film. The only new bots in the movie that get any screentime are Skids and Mudflap, the Twins. I must admit, I didn't hate them as much as I thought I would. They are, however, still stupid and annoying. The point of having immature characters is to watch them grow over the course of the story. They're idiots at the beginning, and still idiots at the end. Also, for characters created to appeal to kids, they're language is nothing that I would want to expose my kids to. The way they talk fits the characters, sure, but be warned if you take your little ones.

Aside from Optimus' nerdgasm-inducing scenes, the only bots to stand out are Wheelie and Jetfire. Wheelie is a fun little character that I enjoyed more than I thought I would. Jetfire, an old Cybertronian hiding on Earth for ages is also a blast. His difficulty transforming and "old man" talk and thought process mirrors the audience's own confusion with the storyline.

As for the human characters... who cares? Most of the cast is acceptable. Nothing bad, nothing great. Sam's parents are funny in their scenes. John Turturro's Agent Simmons COMPLETELY steals every scene he's in. I will say that Shia LeBouf nailed his "Allspark freakout" scenes, though.

So, all this talk about story and acting. What about the ACTION?

Optimus Prime... holy crap. Every scene he's in is so mindblowingly awesome, your eyes will vomit from being overwhelmed. Bring buckets.

Lots of other great fight scenes, BAYSPLOSIONS abound. The effects are unimaginably amazing. You see every freaking gear on the Transformers. They feel real. Devastator is a marvel of modern special effects, with more moving parts than a carnival. Unfortunately, the character is very underutilized. Again, a warning for the parents: This movie is very violent. Sure, they're CGI robots, but some of the scenes can be a little intense.

So, again, is it a good movie? No
Is it a bit too long? Yes
Is it worth your time and money? Absolutely

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Nerd Life Mid-Week: A True Hero

"A True Hero" or "Everthing I Know About Being a Man I Learned from Optimus Prime"

Two years ago, some kid sat in a movie theater, bouncing up and down, clapping his hands when Optimus Prime first appeared on screen.

That kid was me.

Inside every grown man beats the heart of an 8-year-old.

Transformers were not just a part of my childhood, they WERE my childhood. The series premiered on American TV during my formative years. If you do not understand just how awesome cars, trucks and planes turning in to giant robots and doing battle is, I feel very sorry for you. To a very young child in the 80s, life could not have been any better.

The first true hero I ever worshiped was the leader of the brave Autobots, Optimus Prime.



He was strong, brave, intelligent, honorable, dependable and selfless. As a young boy growing up without a father, Optimus Prime was everything I needed in my life.

At the age of 5, I was treated with a trip to see Transformers: The Movie in theaters. Early on in the film, the Autobots are on the brink of defeat. Many soldiers have fallen, and the Decepticons are about to take Autobot City and end the war.

Then, Optimus Prime enters the battle.



Stupid Hot Rod, getting in the way, allowing the Decepticons to escape. That's OK, Prime will recover and lead the counterattack!



...

I was inconsolable. I cried through the movie. I cried on the way home. My hero, my idol, had fallen. Life would never be the same.

I grew up a lot that day.

Sure, they would realize how bad they screwed up and bring Prime back, to lead all Cybertronians into the Golden Age. But things would never be the same.

Now that I'm older, I understand that the movie was nothing more than a marketing tool, used to end one version of the toy line and launch another. As such, Transformers would see many iterations over the years. Optimus Prime would see many incarnations over the following 20+ years, giving future generations of little boys a hero they could be proud of.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Initial Aion Impressions

I had no idea yesterday's post was going to be so popular. Apparently, many of you are anxiously awaiting what I have to say about Aion.

I'll keep this post relatively simple, to expand upon my thoughts later.

Beta

Fist of all, Aion is not undergoing a full Beta. The game has been out for some time overseas, so NCSoft knows the game works. The NA Beta is more to stress test the servers and test out the localization.

It's not 24/7, but rather a small selection of days every couple weeks. Last week's event ran from Friday-Sunday. The next Beta event is July 2-6.

Technical

This game is gorgeous. It runs on a version of the CryEngine. However, it is no Crysis. If your PC can run WoW on anything other than bare minimum settings, it can run Aion.

Even at very low settings, I've been told the game still looks stunning. I'll try to provide some screenshots in the future.

You can "fix" your FPS. In other words, when entering a crowded area, the game will automatically scale down the graphics to maintain smooth performance until everything can load fully. A very nice feature. No major city graphics-lag lockups.

Customization

The main draw of this game is customization. The character creator gives you free reign to design your character any way you want. Skin tone, hair color, hair design, facial structure, height, build, you name it.

I have heard that there is a robust crafting feature that can create mind-blowing armor sets. I have seen the images, but not tested the system yet, myself. Dyes exist so you can customize the appearance and be somewhat unique.

Now, let's say you LOVE the way your level 30 armor looks. (And you will) However, you get an item at level 38 that has better stats. For a fee, you can transfer the stats from the new armor ONTO the old, and keep the appearance. If you cannot grasp how brilliant this is, I feel sorry for you. Imagine how happy Paladins would be running around in full T2 at Level 80.

Classes

At the start you select from 4 Archetypes: Warrior, Scout (Thief), Mage and Priest. These lower-tier classes allow you to learn the basic gameplay mechanics of the full classes.

At level 9, you unlock a quest to choose your ACTUAL class. These are Gladiator, Templar (Paladin), Assassin, Ranger, Sorcerer, Spiritmaster (Shaman/Summoner), Cleric and Chanter (Some sort of super-support class, I believe)

Each class is varied and unique. While Gladiator and Templar both stem from Warrior and do share some skills, they are nothing alike once you get your hands on them.

Combat

Combat starts off awesome at Level 1. You gain several cool skills early on. While the total number of skills isn't as high as in WoW, that's not necessarily a bad thing.

You can combo your skills together. Unlike other games *cough*FinalFantasy*cough* Aion shows you in your skillbook which skills Chain. For example, on my Scout, Quick Slash combos with Soul Slash.

Let's say I place Quick Slash on my hotbar at number '2.' I press or click 2 and Quick Slash goes off. The game automatically moves the next skill to your bar. I can then simply press 2 again to finish the combo. Quick Slash will then return to its place, awaiting its cooldown.

Additionally, Scouts learn a skill called Counterslash, which can be used after a Dodge, similar to skills like Rune Strike. The nice addition, though is you don't have to watch your combat log and action bars like a hawk waiting for the skill to proc. After a Dodge, a button appears RIGHT ON THE SCREEN letting you know the attack is available.

Flight

At level 10, you earn your wings.

Let me repeat that:

WINGS

Yes, you can fly in Aion. It helps with travel exploration and...

COMBAT.

Aerial combat is a major selling point of the game. Imagine a Ranger raining arrows down from above, or a Gladiator knocking an enemy to the ground to get wiped up by an Assassin. Aerial combat looks to be a major focus in the PVP game, but very integral to PVE, as well.

I think that's enough to whet your appetites for now. I'll give more detail as I play more of the Beta.

Until then, here's some links:

Aion: The Tower of Eternity - Official site for the game
Aion Source - A great fansite
djjdiss - Youtube channel for very in-depth coverage.

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A part-time player trying to exist in a full-time world. Guild Master of Denarian on the Azjol-Nerub server.

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Current Goals

  • Haddar - Level 80
  • Tarmr - HERBS!
  • Samodean - Wyrmrest Accord Exalted
  • Samodean - Finish Northrend Quests

Currently...

  • Watching - Primeval
  • Playing - Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood (DS)
  • Watching - Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
  • Playing - The Last Remnant (360)
  • Playing - Persona 4 (PS2)

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