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JingoBingo "marsh goblin" (UK)

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Diablo III (PC/Mac DVD)
Diablo III (PC/Mac DVD)
Price: 20.00

56 of 65 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Mediocre at best, mind numbing at worst, 18 July 2012
= Fun:2.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Diablo III (PC/Mac DVD) (DVD-ROM)
Diablo III the mouse clicking frenzied dungeon crawler, the descendant of Diablo I and II - the gameplay of the Diablo series is based on a simple but frenetic recipe of ever increasing level, gear and monsters. To possibly find that new bit of equipment, or explore that previously unseen area urges the player to just keep on going.

Diablo I nailed this very well, and despite the naive coding issues that generated spawned and hacked equipment it was a great title.

Diablo III then surely cannot go far wrong with this recipe ? With the power of modern computers to impress visually with atmospheric areas and moody sophisticated lighting, the game must have just got only better.

Except it hasn't. Despite being prettier the game doesn't actually play better than what has come before. Why is that ? It's difficult to frame, but the tweaks and the feel of the game are rather flat - after you've played a bit, you've pretty much seen it all. And after you've completed it on the first pass at Normal difficulty, well, you will be hard pressed to find interest further on. But D1 was pretty much the same thing over and over wasn't it ? It was and it wasn't - the levels were always very different, and the styles and creatures you could find just meshed nicely into a myriad of different themes. D3 is far less rich in its replayability. Many of the areas are always the same, the dungeons are largely similar, and the creatures - well you get the idea.

So, D3 is an at best, mediocre copy of D1. At its worst its a copy that doesn't come up to the standard of the first one. Its pretty. No doubt about it. But visuals only get the audience in the door. Gameplay is what keeps them in their seats.

D3 could have been so much better - its apparent that very little thought has gone into its gameplay design, things like the identify are now a strange leftover that does nothing and could certainly have either been implemented better or done away with completely. The design of the dungeons are also lacking in imagination - very samey and locked in some bizarre 15 year old 2d plane layout. Given the richness of the visuals much could have been done with the dungeons to make them more interesting - true 3d heights to allow jumping, climbing and the like, pits, chutes and some clever puzzles could have done wonders to not only just copy what has gone before, but nudge it that bit further down the design path.

But its not only the level design and randomness that is lack lustre.

Things such as customisation of characters is woefully lacking. In fact its so lacking that it seems almost ridiculous you cannot change the look of your character - you are limited to dying your equipment. This seems jarring with the current design of games, MMOs in particular, that allow lots of character customisations to add a bit of personality to your avatar. Sure, D1 didn't have such customisation, but to be fair, that was over 15 years ago and the machine limitations were greater. It seems almost strange that the company that is behind World of Warcraft and has at least some experience with customisable characters launches Diablo 3 which has none of it. A blast from the past !

Blizzard have also tweaked the gameplay of D3 with an eye to milking a cash cow. You can see their thinking. If Diablo is so successful, and gets lots of repeated plays, how can we monetise that recurring popularity ? The answer is in the item drops and the auction house. You can now pay cash for items. Injecting real money into the economy brings a market nature to the game that generates income for Blizzard, and in theory makes your game more interesting by shopping for items. But does it really ? One downside to this is that game balance is secondary to that of game income - Blizzard will want to promote the spending of money rather than the balancing of things to play better. It also brings up the often bitter arguments between those that buy their way in, and those that earn their way in - and tends to disincentivize the earners.

All in all D3 feels like its stuck in the past. Zero innovation, a carbon copy of old Diablo gameplay - but implemented in worse fashion in many areas, a monetisation of items. Not good.

The gameplay ends up being bland. Its replayability surprisingly low for what it should be.

Interestingly enough I think many of the design copy issues are also present between Starcraft I and Starcraft II. For me Starcraft I was one of the best games ever made - its balance was brilliant, its gameplay hitting the sweetspot. Starcraft II seemed to try to replicate it - prettier - but missed its target.

After the disappointment of Starcraft II and Diablo III, I can't help feeling that Blizzard's best days are behind them, and that perhaps some of their best known games were either design flukes - or the loss of the original staff that worked on those games has hit the creativity of the company badly. We'll have to see what Torchlight II is like - many of the staff there actually the guys behind the original Diablo.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 11, 2012 1:55 PM GMT

Samurai Champloo: Collection [DVD]
Samurai Champloo: Collection [DVD]

5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best, 14 Aug 2010
Samurai Champloo - one of the best anime series out there for a more mature audience. It has one caveat - it needs a little time to properly get into, as its arguably too slow initially.

Whilst the character development is a decidedly slow burn affair, by the end of the series climax, you are thoroughly invested in the characters, and ride their highs and lows with them.

The fight scenes are excellent - they have all the zing, vibrance and fluidity of Cowboy Bebop fights (Spike's fights in particular) - and the contrasting styles of the two fighting protagonists is nicely done.

The wacky sound track did little for me - it felt like an attempt to keep the whole Cowboy Bebop design ethos rolling, and whilst it works spectacularly well with Cowboy Bebop, here it falls flat. After watching the bulk of the series, it had nevertheless grown on me a little, but it still feels tacked on just to be wacky, hip and cool ( and earn plaudits like CB ).

All in all definitely worthy of watching and keeping in your library. Cowboy Bebop is better, but then, I doubt if that will ever be bettered.

Personally I watched the first couple of episodes, before, disappointed it wasn't a match for Bebop, went off for six months watching other things. Giving it another go and sticking with it, I found the series was a real gem - one I nearly overlooked - which just gets better and better as it goes on. By the end of it you don't want it to finish !

Best Served Cold
Best Served Cold
by Joe Abercrombie BA
Edition: Hardcover

40 of 49 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Best Served Cold is Luke Warm, 5 Aug 2009
This review is from: Best Served Cold (Hardcover)
As there are a lot of other reviews going over story and plotline I wont bother.
This is a solid book, a good piece of writing but - its nothing special. Compared to the author's first trilogy this book lacks a certain something or somethings - perhaps its the fact the lead character isn't particularly interesting, shes a pretty buttoned down, unemotional, non quirky kind of gal with a dose of steel a mile wide, or that all the characters are far less developed than any of those in the trilogy, or... well whatever it is, this book doesn't thrill like the First Law set.
Although this book is a standalone - it does help somewhat if you have read the trilogy first, some vague hand waving and nods towards the greater political sphere will fit with a much more satisfying depth if you actually understand some of the bit part players threats, fear and doubt. Without it, I should say that some scenes will come across as a bit light - Who, What, How now ?
In short, this is a fine book, but it doesn't emotionally engage like his other titles, its much more 2D, and reads like its going through the motions in places. Just... another... 1,000 words... and then I'm done with this chapter. Not that its ever boring. Its just not going to set your world alight.
I seem to recall the author fretting that this book wasn't as good as the First Law trilogy, and rationalising that not everything can be great, but maybe his mind was playing tricks on him and it would be great. I would say his first instinct was right in this case - good, but nowhere near best.

Call Of Juarez: Bound In Blood (PC)
Call Of Juarez: Bound In Blood (PC)
Offered by 4GamersUK
Price: 4.44

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars All Bound Up, 5 Aug 2009
= Fun:2.0 out of 5 stars 
This game puts you in the shoes of 2 rough and ready hard bitten cliched Old West gunfighters. Through a series of set pieces for single player, you will advance through a story as one or the other, shooting, knifing, and exploding things along the way. So far so good.
The set pieces have a great attention to detail - the levels have a lot of TLC put into their design, and it really gives a great immersive feel to the world, from the excellent graphics, to the great audio, to some fairly decent voice acting. As theres not a huge range of FPS titles set in this era, all in all its different and refreshing.
The problems come when you start controlling your characters - sluggish and clunky, its one of those FPS' where you feel its holding you back and preventing you from truly getting to grips with things. Perhaps a more realistic take than any of the Quake or Halflife iterations - but perhaps not. Also the lovely terrain features some wild and woolly clipping issues - where you get stuck for no reason, you cant jump over simple obstacles, etc. Which in some places really feels like you are being rail roaded in a certain direction - and also breaks immersion as your character hopelessly flails against some random piece of scenery. In other places its just goofy clipping.
This game could *almost* be a rail shooter in some places - it has that feel, rail roaded movement, poor enemy AI that pops out in front of you to shoot, and high quality visuals - this is reinforced with the "auto cover" system, where you will automatically stick to a piece of cover and bob your head up, down, in, out, to fire ( depending on your control ).
I'm a big fan of FPS games, I've played a lot - and a few of them fall into a clunky control category. For me that usually spoils the gameplay - they feel not quite finished, not quite polished when it comes to control input and feedback.
Overall the game is high eye candy, the theme is great, and much quality shines through. Unfortunately some of the core gameplay pieces are just not done very well - clunky controls, movement, and dodgy clipping - and it greatly spoils what otherwise could have been a fantastic game.

Judas Unchained: Part Two of the Commonwealth Saga
Judas Unchained: Part Two of the Commonwealth Saga
by Peter F. Hamilton
Edition: Paperback

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sorting the Wheat from the Chaff, 30 May 2009
If ever a book needed an editor with a ruthless streak when it comes to cutting out dead wood, then this book is it.
An involved storyline, threading dozens of different characters and view points into a wide picture of a future society, an imagining of a burgeoning human expansion into space, the politics, subterfuge and powermongers that fuel it, and its inevitable friction with non humans, world building on an impressive scale. An epic story. However, it suffers from not knowing when less is more - the final straw for me, was when one of the climactic clashes of the story was building, the novel decided to detail the cable car that was being used in yawnifying detail - who had planned it, which political group had opposed its building, which had supported it, the argument over its green credentials, whether it was better for the environment, a page of mindless, not even exotically interesting fluff . . . and, oh my, do we care ? Does it matter ? Just get on with it. Rather like suddenly coming across the minutes of a local council meeting stapled into the middle of an otherwise fine story.
And unfortunately theres quite a lot of this fluff and obsessive detailing - its a tribute to the author that he can put that much thought into building a deeper world with a background for much of it, but its also about telling a story as well as the world building, and sometimes the story is lost amongst the endless boring details that have no point.

Theres a reason this book is so long, and its not because its jam packed with a wild story, its because it often digresses into trivial uninteresting detail.

There IS a good story and set of ideas here, you just have to sort through a lot of chaff sometimes to see it. Halve the book size, and this would be a cracking read that would lose none of its intricate interweaved plotlines.

Less is sometimes more after all.

A Feast for Crows (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 4)
A Feast for Crows (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 4)
by George R. R. Martin
Edition: Hardcover

8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Much ado about nothing, 8 May 2006
Having finally got round to picking up this book - and its predecessors - from my stacked shelves, I have read the whole series back to back in a short space of time. So perhaps my perspective is rather different to those who have waited for years for this book, only to have been disappointed at its lack of zing that the earlier titles had.

In my view the book is of a different pace to the others, its slower, it spends much more time on characters who arent doing a great deal, and has a lot more sedate plot revelation too.

Which if you squint probably says, its much ado about nothing. However, it does give you nice characterisations of the various people in the world, it shows you how they are thinking, the choices they are making, and you can slowly see why things are working out the way they are, because those people are the way they are. This book is certainly more about a character driven story than an event driven story - its balance is subtly different to the earlier books.

Taken on its own I think the book would be rather dry and probably boring. However its not on its own, and you know the landscape and the characters well from the other books, and as such its a more intimate glimpse into what makes them tick, and the trials and inner demons they face, and so, I think if you really like the world and characters present in this series, this book is a good, albeit differently paced, addition to the set.

For me personally I love the detail of the politics and interplay between characters, its so rarely done in fantasy books, which often just wheel out archetypes doing and saying the same old mush in a new set of clothes within a background of oddly drawn maps inside the front cover.

Hoorah for no "real" knights, and the assassin that goes bump in the night.

Managed DirectX 9 Kick Start: Graphics and Game Programming
Managed DirectX 9 Kick Start: Graphics and Game Programming
by Tom Miller
Edition: Paperback

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great introduction to Managed DirectX, 16 July 2004
This is a great book covering the new direction of DirectX into Managed .NET . Written by the guy who was responsible for heading up the project at Microsoft, this book is full of useful to the point information.
If you ever wondered about DirectX or thought it looked over complex, then this book could be the foot in the door you have been waiting for ! The book describes in easy points the new clean .NETtified interface that Managed DirectX has, and how to do common things associated with games programming.
Prior knowledge of 3D terms and techniques would be useful, and some .NET experience would also be good. But the supporting code is very complete, and even a .NET noobie should be able to get to grips with it. I recommend doing a basic 3D primer before using this book if the reader has no 3D experience - it will smooth comprehension.

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