27 March 2011

HD offerings... part deux!

And on to Warrior Within.

This game fares better than The Sands of Time mainly because it's newer and had both PC and Xbox versions out of the gate. Unfortunately, this game also suffers from the half-assedness of TSoT HD version, however, luckily there are no problems with balancing issues for the sound!! Prosit!!

On the other hand, the game is blatantly just upscaled. There are no new textures and even the menus and menu fonts are pixelated due to the stretch to an HD resolution. It's pretty pathetic to see the textures on the characters (apart from the prince) being so blocky and low-resolution. I'm also realising now that TSoT version on this Blu-ray is probably cribbed from the PC version and any improvement in texture and resolution i was seeing was from that version (which i didn't play).

I'm guessing that Two Thrones will tell a similar tale and to be honest it's quite dissapointing. There's nothing new or extra for this release, and the poor implementation of this HD/3D version means that none of these games have been treated with the respect they deserve or respect for the customer at the price at which they've been released. Myself and Tboon talked about HD re-releases not long ago on the podcast and one of the things that came up as a positive was allowing new fans to come to the series and experience good games. I'm not sure, if i didn't have nostalgia to help me along, that i'd want to play or buy these games that look so much worse than anything current gen in just a less-muddy resolution.

This is not the way to do an HD update.

However, there are some franchises i would love to see in an HD offering. I would love to see Silicon Knights and Crystal Dynamics revive and release their Soul Reaver/Legacy of Kain series. I loved those games back in the day and would love to see Soul reaver 1, 2 and Defiance and possibly also the two Blood Omen games in one package on the PS3.

26 March 2011

HD offerings...

I'm a big fan of the Prince of Persia series and, having been given some vouchers for my birthday, I decided to get the Prince of Persia Trilogy HD collection on PS3. If this is the way that companies re-hash old classics to make them into HD offerings then i won't be buying any more.

The Sands of Time:

First off, it's a lazy port. Seriously, the sound during cutscenes is so quiet that you struggle to hear it and the voices aren't tied to the "voices volume" but instead to the music volume, meaning that you can't improve the situation because if you manually crank up the volume on the TV set, the music drowns out all the important dialogue regardless.

Secondly, the "HD textures" are pretty limited. Most of the environment has been updated texture-wise but the textures on the character models of the prince and Farah are poorly done. Whenever the prince opens his mouth and i see a bright red, flat surface in there it pulls me right out of any immersion i might have had. Similarly, when i see the inside of Farah's eye sockets for whatever reason (i'm assuming that there's some conflict with the way the port renders on the PS3) i'm wondering why i'm not playing this on my Gamecube where these weren't issues. Flat, monochrome textures should have no place in an HD update, this isn't the N64 we're talking about here....

Finally, if they're going to do an HD update of a classic game, at least make SOME effort. Remake the character models in higher poly-counts - as long as you keep the same dimensions you can just tie them into the same animations. It would be nice if they also didn't mess up the sound levels in the game as well... Yeah, it would be nice to be able to appreciate these classics as i once did.

As it stands, i really can't recommend anyone buy any HD classic remakes unless they hear good things about them.... I'm really disappointed in the quality of this release.


Well, having played through three hours of this classic game, i'm starting to appreciate how much the sound and conversation in games (and specifically this one) makes a huge difference in how much enjoyment you get out of th experience. Whoever did this port to the PS3 HD version really messed up the sound. The talking is too quiet so you miss half to three quarters of the conversations and quips; removing character and character development between the two protagonists.... The effects noises are completely out of whack with the rest of the game world, with knocks and plods from the nearby enemies overwhelming other sounds. Specifically, directional sound is broken, i find, as when you run around, things that Farah says are lost in the background noise compared to the originals.

The worst part is that the only tools the user has to balance these things are pretty useless. Reducing the music level also reduces in-cutscene dialogue (as i mentioned above)... so you need that high.... but leaving that high means that you can't hear the talking.... so you need that option set to high as well.... but, ideally higher than the music.... but then you can't hear the talking during the cutscenes..... and then there's the sound effects which are quiet as well.... except for those enemy noises when you're not in combat.

It's probably the most frustrating sound-balancing/design that i've ever encountered in a game..... and doubly so because it was perfect in the PS2 and GC versions of this game.

15 March 2011

More complaining?

Well, i was going to write up some more saddening thoughts about Dragon Age 2 but, really, the fine professional writers over at RPS have done that so well, that i figured i should just point to their article and do away with my own diatribe.

The only difference between his viewpoint and mine is that, i actually quite like the game, despite the complete and total creative mess it is. I like the exploration and running around whacking things (it's an action RPG at normal difficulty) and the mindlessness of the whole enterprise. It fills that hole that i've been looking at in my gaming experiences for a while.

One thing i would like to mention is that he is spot on about the lack of ability to roleplay in this game. Having the choice between goody-two-shoes, flippantly unfunnily rude and evil "i'll cut your eyes out and gut you" is not good. The only time you get to exercise any sort of interesting dialogue trickery is when you have an appropriate squadmate present to intervene on your behalf. No more jedi mind tricks or verbal trickery at high intelligence or wisdom levels.

One thing the RPS article doesn't mention is how the stats system is now pointless. There is no reason to have "strength, dexterity, magic, cunning, willpower and constitution" because each class only really utilises two of them and, if you don't put your points into those two attributes when you get them, you end up with a nerfed character who either can't wield a good enough weapon or can't wear the right armour for your level.
I don't necessarily mind that they've done it this way, but for gods' sake, take out the attributes if they're essentially meaningless. Instead make armour and weapons dependent on your skill and class choices. Let's face it, there's no reason why a fighter (who was in the army) would be unable to wear a piece of plate mail that is level 1 or level 20.... the weight should be the same (or even lighter for the higher level and better quality item). So just do away with the increased, Dragonball Z-esque, strength requirements and instead tie them to skills you purchase with points or to the level of the character. Especially if my putting points into the "dodge" skill makes me unable to wield a weapon for a few levels because i'm always playing catch up DPS...

The illusion of choice in the game is pretty claustrophobic and means that the game is pretty shallow.... sorry, i meant 'streamlined'.

12 March 2011

Dragon Age 2: The complainening....

Now, it may surprise some of you that i got this game, having not played the original.... It may also surprise some of you that i'm complaining about something..... But while this game has been okay so far, so much of it smacks of sloppy writing or game-design. So, below you'll find some random, unfiltered thoughts as i play through the game:

1. Sidequests: There is SO little exposition for sidequests, sometimes i'm accidentally turning in sidequests and not understanding the point of the quest or why it was needed in the first place just by "using" everything and everyone that i can use. I found a stone toe - i thought, i'll read the journal entry later - and then found the person it belonged to in the next area. The guy was so happy he said "Haha, thanks! Well, that'll teach me for doing that!" Or some such non-committal nonsense. What was he doing? Why was he doing it?! Nothing! Was he hiding in the wardrobe because some angry lover burst into the room he was sharing with a whore? What was going on?
Also, how does he KNOW i have a stone toe? Am i going around, showing it to everyone?! Or do i wear it on a string around my neck like a trophy? It's hackneyed and stupid and previous journal entries are replaced with the latest bit of info so you don't have any clue. "What was it about that toe i just gave away? Let's read the journal - Oh! quest completed, guy has his toe back! Hooray!". Very informative.

2. I keep running into groups of armed guys surrounding an empty spot with some sort of leader in their midst that i can talk to. These guys aren't doing anything and if you talk to the leader he just tells you to piss off. I haven't triggered it yet but i KNOW that they are just there to wait for me to stand in their center after being given a quest to talk to the guy and then let them "ambush" me. Stupid, stupid, stupid STUPID!!!

3. Where everybody knows your name. Seriously. You're in this city for a year's worth of servitude - but NOOOOO. Bioware didn't make it into a quest or playable intro so you just skip ahead a year and "poof" you're free - no blurb to tell of your exploits, nothing. The problem with this is that EVERYONE knows you. You've got people coming up to you telling you to stay safe and how Athenril (or whatever the rogue choice's name is) really did well with you.... or they give you something for old-time's sake. I mean... who the fuck are these people? Did Bioware think having people who you've never met recognise you is a cool thing? You know what people call it when that happens in real life? Creepy..... or possibly amnesia... But you get the picture!

Minor Complaint: A - No first person camera. There's this beautiful, detailed world and you're restricted to a camera distance that doesn't let you see it properly. It's actually quite annoying for me.
More soon!

1 March 2011

Podcast! The Easy Button Episode 16

Happy anniversary! This week, Taylor talks about Crusader Kings, i moan a bit about Test Drive Unlimited 2 and we think about things over our first year of podcasting together.

The Easy Button Episode 16

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