League of Legends S4: The Wonders of Kayle Support

The Judicator of League of Legends is a multi-role champion that can serve basically any purpose with distinction. Kayle is mostly used as a mage in top and middle lanes but there’s another role she’s particularly good at. Supporting with Kayle is surely out of the mainstream trends but it doesn’t mean she’s an unwise choice. Kayle is extremely versatile and she can be built in multiple ways according to players’ choices. Besides, she has an incredible skill utility and counter-engaging commands.

Reckoning: Engaging and Counter-Engaging

Reckoning is one of the most powerful slows in game and it can be used in an offensive or defensive way. This skill can reduce the movement speed of a single target up to 55% during three seconds. It might seem quite short but it’s not. In fact, this spell can pick up kills easily if Kayle is moving with other allies. But that’s not all, if the enemy team decides to engage she can simply nullify one of them with this effective slow. At least during three seconds, one of the four enemy champions won’t be able to pursue allies.

League of Legends Kayle Divine Blessing: Consistent Aiding

Kayle is able to provide continuously assistance during the lane phase through Divine Blesing. This ability recovers a small amount of health and gives a minor mobility boost for three seconds. Since the cool down is relatively short, Kayle just needs mana regeneration to keep this spell running at all times. Combining this supportive skill with Reckoning, Kayle is able to counter enemy strategies and create unexpected moments that can become beneficial for the whole team.

Righteous Fury: A Little Damage Never Hurts

The thing about supporting with Kayle is that she won’t be able to do much damage, however Righteous Fury provides a temporary ranged attack with extra damage. This means that even without damage items, Kayle is still able to hurt enemies, at least a little. Nonetheless, she doesn’t need to exactly do huge amounts of damage, she only needs to repeatedly hit a single enemy and stack her passive, Holy Fervor. This debuff can stack up to five times and it reduces enemy champions defenses by 3% per hit. If you allies focus your target, then they’ll be able to do up to 15% more damage.

ILeague of Legends Kaylentervention: Saving Lives

Intervention is probably the most decisive ultimate in League of Legends. A great decision concerning this skill might determinate the outcome of a match. How? Well, it’s simple. Kayle’s ultimate shields an ally champion with invulnerability to all damage up to three seconds. In team fights, casting this skill in your tank or carry will most likely grant you advantage. If the enemy lineup focuses a certain target and all that damage is nullified, then your team will have higher chances to succeed.

In the End… She Can Turn Tables Around

If there’s a champion that can truly change the outcome of a match, then it’s Kayle. A precise ultimate at the right moment can be the end of the enemy team. On the other hand, an imprudent ultimate might end up having severe consequences. But overall, Kayle is a very reliable support, she can slow, heal, speed up and shield enemies from all types of damage and still manage to do a decent amount of damage.

Best Early Access Games You Should Be Playing Right Now

Access

There has been a very mixed response to the idea of “early access” games, but my opinion is that it helps developers who might otherwise not have access to funds to continue the development of their titles and, in some cases, deliver some true masterpieces. There are a ton of games available in the early access form on Steam and many of them are extremely crappy. But many stand out and we’re here to talk about 10 of them – the best early access games you can and should play right now.

They’re not in a particular order – each game is amazing in its own way – and you should really consider giving them all a try. We did and loved every second of gameplay!

Project Zomboid

01 project zomboid

One of my favorites, a game that’s been in Alpha stage for ages, but you still probably haven’t played it yet. As the name suggests, it’s zombie survival game – an isometric zombie survival game with a huge focus on the scavenging, resource gathering and surviving part rather than shooting down all zombies thing. A truly amazing experience that I highly recommend to gamers who really want to experience something new and cool.

Steam link: Project Zomboid

Star Lords

02 star lords

One line is enough to describe this game, and obviously its devs have found it: “Star Lords is an epic, complex, dense, turn-based 4X PC strategy game, set in deep space”. Although this game is clearly not for everybody, those who love deep strategies will get to love it. It’s a game of galactic proportions!

Steam link: Star Lords

Wasteland 2

03 wasteland 2

I guess that this game needs no introduction. It’s probably the best post-apocalyptic game available on Steam’s Early Access service and ticks all the right boxes for a game to remember. Bonus: it’s the title that served as inspiration for the Fallout series. Until the original Wasteland, no other CRPG had ever allowed players to control and command individual party members for tactical purposes or given them the chance to make moral choices that would directly affect the world around them. Wasteland was a pioneer in multi-path problem solving, dripping in choice and consequence and eschewing the typical one-key-per-lock puzzle solving methods of its peers, in favor of putting the power into players’ hands to advance based on their own particular play style.

Steam link: Wasteland 2

Don’t Starve

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In my case, Don’t Starve was the first real current gen survival game that I have played. And by “current gen” I mean: options. Tons of options, tons of things to do, a lot of freedom and boy, so many things to learn! Couple that with a world that keeps evolving (read: developers constantly add new stuff) and you have a gem of a game to try out if you haven’t already, together with its Reign of Giants DLC.

Steam Link: Don’t Starve

Prison Architect

05 prison architect

A game that gives you the task to build a prison doesn’t sound like the most exciting game ever but more like a poor time management tycoon like game that you will get bored with after a few minutes. However, this particular title is created by the same team that brought us the beautiful Darwinia, so it’s clearly something to look at. You have a ton of options when it comes to building up your prison (will it be a fortress that nobody wants to be in or more of a Hawaiian vacation for your prisoners?) and complex gameplay mechanics that will really make you believe that your dream job is that of a… Prison Architect.

Steam link: Prison Architect

Meridian: New World

06 meridian new world

Play as Daniel Hanson, commander of the first expedition to planet Meridian and uncover the dark secrets it holds! Shape the world around you with every decision you make and through every dialogue with your crew. Meridian: New World offers countless options to devise your own strategy, including various equipment options for your units and special abilities for you to rely upon. Use your abilities anywhere on the battlefield and turn the tide of battle by weakening the enemy troops. Alternatively take the covert approach and sabotage the enemy power supply to shut down their production. You can rely entirely on researching superior weapons or special abilities. Or you can risk building a large economy, constructing a massive army from your enormous resources. The choice is yours!

Steam link: Meridian: New World

Dead State

07 dead state

A bit of a wild card, Dead State has been in development since forever and some gamers are disappointed that after such a long wait the game still isn’t perfect. I doubt there will be any zombie survival game (because that’s what Dead State is all about, after all) that will please all sides but I can honestly say that it’s worth giving it a try. Probably not the best thing since they invented bacon, but still an enjoyable experience.

Steam Link: Dead State

Starbound

08 starbound

You play as a character who just crash landed on a strange new planet. It’s not one filled with the friendliest creatures in the galaxy, so you embark on a quest for survival, exploration and a lot of fighting in a game that procedurally generates content, including creatures and weapons. A highly replayable, highly enjoyable product. Hint: if you enjoyed Terraria, you will most likely enjoy this game too

Steam link: Starbound

Space Engineers

09 space engineers

Although in real life being an astronaut or space engineer would probably be one of the most exciting jobs on earth and around it, in video games having to freeroam your way into space, repairing stuff doesn’t sound like the most fun way to spend your time. Somehow, Space Engineers manages to make it extremely fun and addictive – plus they recently added a survival mode and a multiplayer one which makes things even more exciting.

Steam Link: Space Engineers

Broforce

10 broforce

I must admit, this is a really unexpected entry as the game has just been launched, but it’s filled with pixelated awesomeness so it totally deserves its place on this list. Old school run and gun elements, destructible environments and the most badass team of Bros who are not afraid to use extreme power whenever necessary.

Steam link: Broforce

Do you have any other favorite Early Access games that should be placed on this list?

League of Legends S4: The Wonders of Zilean Support

Zilean

Zilean is an old champion; he has been part of League of Legends (LoL) since the very beginning but he has never been a top selected one. Why? Well, because he doesn’t entirely fit a single role, he’s a hybrid champion, half mage, half support. However, in this fourth Season he has been revised as a decent offensive support. More than that, he’s an excellent choice for climbing the ranking ladders at lowers stages under the supportive role. It seems a bit surreal but it’s true.

League of Legends ZileanZilean: The Anti-Farm Machine

Going full support with Zilean is quite hopeless because his skills are not built for that purpose. Instead, he has a strong offensive potential, in which he can easily deny his opponent’s farm by using auto attacks and Time Bombs. The trick is in Zilean’s attack range (600), which is quite long and allows players to continuously poke enemies without much of a trouble. Besides, casting Time Bombs is fairly easy and it does huge amounts of damage, especially if played with AP runes and mage masteries. Casting double bombs with Rewind is the ultimate anti-farm weapon. With this combo, Zilean can assume total control over his lane and force enemy champions to retreat and stay back. If they decide to keep farming instead, then you’ll have a great opportunity to get some kills. It’s a win-win situation. And the secret is all in hitting and avoiding being hit.

Time Warp: The Power of Speed

Speed is crucial in the world of LoL and Zilean has a very powerful haste that can change the outcome of battles in a blink of an eye. But Time Warp doesn’t have just one effect. It’s able to speed up allies, as well as slow down enemies. It’s a utility skill that can be used in many ways. With a cool down reduction build, Zilean can keep up the speed or slow without any issues, at least during a group fight.

Chronoshift: One More Life

Chronoshift is definitely the most precious ability for Zilean players. In fights, any other skill can be missed and the scenario might still be alright. However, if Chronoshift is not properly casted, things will get really ugly. This skill has the power to bring back a fallen ally, which means that your team will have an additional life at all times. But this skill should always be used with precaution, since it doesn’t just have a giant cool down, it also has the power to change the outcome of team fights, so casting it correctly is the key to win. In normal circumstances, casting it on the ally carries is the smartest option. However, it might happen that your team carrier is someone else. In that case your priorities should change and adapt.

League of Legends ZileanThe Cons: Extremely Matchup and Team Composition Dependent

As I’ve been saying all along, Zilean is more than viable as support but not always. In fact, he’s extremely dependent on ally and enemy champion selections. He’s quite weak against melee supports such as Leona and Thresh but on the other hand, he’s quite strong against other mage supports like Sona and Anie. The other huge con is Zilean’s susceptibility. He has no way to protect himself, so dodging all the incoming damage during lane phase might be difficult, if not impossible at times. Therefore, killing Zilean is easy, he’s a mage and his most effectively support build is offensive, so he should be low on defenses and health.

In the End… He’s Truly Destructive

Winning lane phase is half way to win a match, so considering Zilean against non-tank supports is wise and prudent. If you’re able to to stop your enemies from farming and pick up a few kills, then you’ll get a decent advantage, thus helping other lanes will be easier. Just remember, your main duty is to save your carry’s life. Ultimately, you can use Chronoshift on yourself but in most cases it’s preferable to die in order to save someone else. Why? Because you’re not supposed to carry and we all know, without damage you can’t win.

Goat Simulator: Is ‘Trolling’ Becoming a Gaming Genre?

Simulator

Goat Simulator’s final release (April 1st) is approaching and the hype deepens. Being a destructive goat seems to be exciting enough for most but really, what’s so special about a game with no plot, storyline or missions? The answer is simple and it can be defined in one word – trolling. This indie title from Coffee Stain Studios is not meant to be serious. In fact, Goat Simulator is a rushed and senseless game with the sole purpose to make players laugh with their own crazy and outrageous actions, as Coffee Stain stated:

Goat Simulator is a small, broken and stupid game. I t was made in a couple of weeks so don’t expect a game in the size and scope of GTA with goats. In fact, you’re better off not expecting anything at all actually. To be completely honest, it would be best if you’d spend your $10 on a hula hoop, a pile of bricks, or maybe a real-life goat.

Goat SimulatorWhen a game developer publishes such words about their own creation, it’s clear that Goat Simulator is a mere entertainment object with no trace of quality or refinement. There’s no intent to keep players engaged and customer satisfaction is simply inexistent. But why would you need such features in a game like this? You’re a goat able to unleashing chaos and destroy everything around you. You can also lick objects, stick your horns into objects, kick people and do all kind of hilarious things. In the end, it’s all about experiencing funny, ridiculous and unexpected moments.
Unlike standard simulators, this one doesn’t exactly transcribe reality into the virtual world. Instead, it creates a surreal and exaggerated reality focused on amusement and hilarity. It’s all about fun and fun only. However, this peculiar genre is not new.

Last year, Bossa StudiosSurgeon Simulator released Surgeon Simulator, another hysterical indie title focused on the same principles. Assuming the role of a surgeon, players had to perform surgical transplants but… in a very sadistic and frenetic way. This human perversity, in which tragedy and amusement appear to be separated by a narrow line, is being exploited by game developers who seem to know well their audience. Who doesn’t enjoy a good laugh at a flying goat about to die? Consequences don’t matter in the end, because this is the virtual reality and words like death, don’t hold the same meaning. So, there’s plenty of space to create aberrations and eccentricities capable of awakening anyone’s humor. After all, with so many serious, complex and deep games, it’s more than positive that games like this emerge. Trolling or not, it’s a very peculiar and distinct genre and it’s a stimulus for game variety, besides it increases players’ options when it comes to gaming genres.

Is it Really the Best Game Ever? #2: Super Mario Galaxy

Super Mario

In the last installment, we admired The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. There were collective oohs and aahs, like super mario, we were attending some kind of nerdly gaming fireworks display. Because Ocarina is just that beloved by players and critics.

Not all of them, naturally. It’s impossible to please everybody in any walk of life, perhaps especially the gamertastic (you know the philosophy of the Internet, I whine, therefore I am, after all). But we’re looking at the most celebrated games here, and the best-reviewed of all time –according to gamerankings.com– is Super Mario Galaxy.

The hype was strong with this one, there’s no doubt about that. This much ballyhooed Wii release was Mario’s first for the system, and it had the full force of the franchise to live up to. Super Mario 64 was among the most prestigious platformers ever made, and was the game that thrust our ol’ moustache buddy into the third dimension. But hell, that’s a classic for another day. All we’re concerned with just now is: how do you top that?

The N64 launch game added a liberating sense of scale and freedom, with its big ol’ mountain slides and vast castle hub. The Gamecube’s Super Mario Sunshine was quite the curve ball, sending us a-platformin’ across the verdant tropical paradise of Isle Delfino. Thinking big has been the key for the series’ designers.

And what’s even bigger, more ambitious, than these huge worlds? Outer darn space, that’s what. Because if a world is vast, a galaxy must be vast..erer.

Super Mario Galaxy 2

Wasn’t this a sight during the previews/screenshot/sneak peeks phase? Prior to its release in November 2007, there was a lot of anticipation about this odd new direction Mario was taking. The Mushroom Kingdom was nowhere to be seen. The hub would be the Comet Observatory, from which we would transported to planets, moons and satellites across the cosmos. It was all shiny and new and exciting.

After all, Mario has only rudimentary knowledge of space travel. It isn’t his domain at all, as the franchise hasn’t really ventured into that area before. Beyond the fleeting Space Zone in Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Golden Coins, that is. You would think it’d be an idea at odds with the games’ legendarily brightly coloured, toon-tinged funtimes. The endless black bleaky blackness of space is an odd fit in this vibrant cartoon world.

But wow, does that juxtaposition work. It’s rather a gimmicky concept, and running across those rotate-y planets and asteroids is a strange feeling at first. But then you’ll encounter the giant goombas on the supersized world, or the thwomps, and you’ll wonder why they didn’t think of this before. As is the case with the other 3D games in the series, there are no ‘levels’ as such. Instead, you are exploring the same locations with a different objective, and this is the key to Galaxy’s success.

Whatever you may think of Super Mario, the quality of its platformery –because that’s a thing– is pretty well unrivalled. As the genre goes, they are always polished to a delightfully shiny shine. What Galaxy did was literally take this to a place the series had never been before, and try to enhance that sense of wonderment, grandeur, freedom and plain fun the mascot stands for.

It will only take your first joyful journey on a Launch Star to see that they succeeded.

Is it Really the Best Game Ever? #1: The Legend of Zelda- Ocarina of Time

Ocarina

Yes, ‘best game ever’ is one of the most controversial titles in gamedom. First and foremost, it’s horribly overused. Your little sister, for instance, may give that accolade to Camp Pink Unicorns Prancing About Simulator 2. It’s a matter of perspective.

Well, rather, it’s a matter of knowing that best and favourite aren’t the same darn thing. My personal favourite video game of all time is Treasure blaster Gunstar Heroes, but I hardly think it warrants the prestigious ‘best ever’ tag. For that, consensus is key. So thank Thor for the Internet.

Of course, reviews aren’t the be all and end all of a game’s worth. Far from it; they’re simply the opinion of the writer playing it. The same title being rated 1/10 by one and 10/10 by another is… less than helpful. But when everybody miraculously agrees? That’s when you’re onto something, right there.

As is the case with The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Critical acclaim is an understatement, it’s among the best-recieved titles Gamerankings has ever featured (just pipped to the number one spot by Super Mario Galaxy). You wouldn’t find many gamers –fans or not– denying its place in the nerdly hall of fame either.

Ocarina of Time 1

So let’s take a look at just what makes a game worthy of a place among the best ever.

Ocarina of Time was released in 1998, the franchise’s first foray onto the N64. It had a similar objective to the earlier Super Mario 64: bring one of Nintendo’s biggest IPs into 3D, and dazzle the world into a state of bowel-loosening amazement in the process.

Mission accomplished.

It was that very move to 3D which had a profound impact on players from the off. Sixteen years ago, this was a revolutionary game indeed. As incredible as it was to learn that Mario doesn’t have to run from left to right forever, Ocarina was something else. Expansive overworlds weren’t new to the series (A Link to the Past had two of them, in a manner of speaking), but… wow. This Hyrule had a whole new sense of scope, scale and grandeur.

If you try telling me you didn’t crap yourself a little when emerging onto Hyrule Field for the first time, I’ll only conclude that you’re a dirty liar. Stop your dirty lies. That first ride on Epona, hurtling towards the castle or Death Mountain or some other distant landmark? It was a magical moment.

Ocarina of Time 2

But spangly new visuals would only take us so far. What we also needed was substance. The story and structure are comfortably familiar (spoiler: Ganondorf and his angry ginger beard are being nefarious again), and they set the stage for some of the finest dungeons in the series. Even if the Water Temple did make many of us cry sad, sad tears of sadness onto our bedroom carpets. Again, the third dimension was at work, making all manner of fancy new puzzles possible.

Away from the main game, it was a joy to catch cuccos, fish, hunt skulltulas and other sidequests in a world that felt so vast, so (to use the word correctly for once) epic. Ocarina of Time enhanced the sense of wonder and adventure that the creators always wanted to convey. It was such an influential release, for introducing Z-targeting and for implanting those memorable moments of Zeldatastic on our hearts.

For all of these reasons, it’s regarded by many as classic of the genre, perhaps the greatest Zelda of all, and certainly a contender for the best game ever.

Source of images: gamefaqs.

The Elder Scrolls Online: When PvP Becomes Too Massive

PvP

The Elder Scrolls Online (ESO) beta testing phase is over and Cyrodiil revealed to be exactly what I predicted last month – a lag feast of massive zerging. The promise of an epic PvP system based on choices and engaging experiences seems to be a mere utopia that is far from leaving the concept world. Regardless the lack of PvP options in ESO, the massive battling system could deliver something spectacular or rather unique. However, this is not the case. Cyrodiil appears to be a reproduction of Guild Wars 2 World-versus-World-versus-World system, where massive numbers of players from each faction battle for territory dominance. The only major innovation in the whole system is the Emperor title that crowns the player from the winning alliance with the most points (and all his/her followers) with a special bonuses tree. But even this feature has its own controversies, since it only takes one hit to earn alliance points and an assistance to earn an extra bonuses tree. But that’s no surprise, I suppose. In a system of masses, you can’t expect anything else but a massive and disperse reward.

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Path of glory – follow the main army for supreme dominanace.

Cyrodiil: The Only Choice is Massive

Game director Matt Firor claimed that “ESO is about choice” but when it comes to PvP the only choice is Cyrodiil. I guess in this case, the only feasible option is to choose between entering Cyrodiil, the exclusive PvP map, or keep adventuring into solid environmental land.

It’s true that Cyrodiil is capable of proportionating different types of battles but in general, conflicts are always massive and colossal. Taking part of massive battles is inevitable and the chance to find a fair fight anywhere is close to zero. There’s too little space for strategy, tactics or skill for all that matter because the most crucial rule in massive combat is to follow the masses and hope for the best. Since the only way to stand a chance against a wave of enemies is to be among a wave of allies. Otherwise, the result is obvious – proficiency won’t bring salvation.

Massive Battles: The Pandemonium

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with massive combat systems. In fact, it can be really fun at times but that’s mostly because players spend more time watching the battlefield rather than fighting themselves. In the middle of so much chaos and disorder, there’s indeed nothing much to be done and that’s exactly when the insignificant sensation might rise up to destroy all the fun. After all, it’s not like one more arrow, fireball or sword hit will be able to change the outcome of the battle. And even if shooting a siege weapon might feel meaningful at times, it will eventually start to feel tedious for the mere fact that shooting at a wall is everything but amusing. But all this seems secondary when facing the real pandemonium. What to do when your screen is filled with enemy and allied players? Who to shoot first, where to take cover, what’s the main objective?

Untitled-1

Combat:  Friend or Foe?

One thing I noticed while fighting in Cyrodiil was the fact that there’s no visual differentiation between players until your cursor passes by someone who’s enemy. This lack of distinction increases the chaos and confusion levels in the battlefield and in my opinion, it’s quite annoying. I know it’s a medieval game and ESO aims for realistic and immersive features; however this is far from being realistic. In medieval times, armies always carried some kind of distinction in their armors, such as colored plums. I find it quire miserable to be in the battlefield trying to realize who exactly your enemy is but well, at least there’s no friendly fire, else the entropy levels would reach unplayable standards.

The Elder Scrolls Online PvP
Finding enemy players is not as easy as it seems.

Strategy vs. Fun: The Indulgence of Easy-Mode

Nowadays, it seems like everything that is easy has become fun but does fun always stand for easy? In ESO’s logic the answer is yes. Isn’t it why the only PvP system implemented is based on quantity rather than quality? Bethesda/Zenimax could have made something very different or at least present a legitimate choice for PvPers but instead they’ve created a massive system, where all players can do is join forces in huge groups and conquer certain points. If this is not easy-mode then I don’t know what is. In fact, I don’t think they had any other option than to make the whole system quite simple and easy because the great challenge lays in finding your enemies and hitting them, else how are you supposed to farm alliance points and compete for the Emperor title? Indeed, it all fits together.

Whatever Happened to… Cheat Books and Tips Hotlines?

Books

In this instance, of course, we know exactly what happened. The Internet did. Still, the more decrepit gamers among us may get a tingle of memory-pleasure through their undercarriage at this brief retrospective.

At one time in the gaming world, print media was king. If you wanted a preview of Mario’s latest upcoming escapades, or a walkthrough, magazines were the way to go. They still exist, and have a certain following, but there’s a foul stench of the obsolete about them; like Grandma’s old record collection which will never see the light of day again.

Partly because they’re LPs, similar relics of a bygone age. And partly because who the hell ever wants to hear The Greatest Hits of the Jackson 5 again anyway?

But anywho, these magazines were the nerdly refuge of the Internet-less. Oftentimes, they’d include huge free ‘cheat books,’ which were the only manner of finding obscure codes and such. My family were probably the slowest in town to finally get online, so I was poring over books with maps of Final Fantasy IX’s Chocograph locations long after others had abandoned them.

"You're having Zelda trouble? Sure, I'll try and help, find nothing particularly useful, and prattle on for an age at a premium rate.
“You’re having Zelda trouble? Let me try and help, find nothing of any real use and generally prattle on for far too long. At a premium rate. Sound good, bucko?”

It’s a painful, painful pain a whole generation will never experience. If you’re stymied by a game today, a quick google search will bring you up ten different FAQs of the dungeon/boss/whatever at hand and a Youtube video tutorial or two. Back then, though, there were none of these newfangled thingamabobs. What we had were books full of Tekken 2 big head codes, infinite ammo codes for Doom, and other low-tech weirdness. A couple hundred pages full of PlayStation button combinations.

OR, the legendary tips lines. Before ‘Google it’ was the answer to any and all questions mankind will ever have, this was our only resort: a mysterious voice on the end of our phones. They may or may not know where we’re going and what the hell to do when we get there, but we’ve got no other bugger to ask. Begging audience with this oracle with a heavy Mancunian accent and seeking its wisdom was the only way.

Think on, younger gamers. The older, simpler times were much, much less simple.

Header image: Flickr.

The Elder Scrolls Online: Why the Character Animations Look So Strange?

Animations

I finally got the chance to try The Elder Scrolls Online (ESO) and one of the first things I’ve noticed was the character animation weirdness. A MMO with gorgeous graphics and an innovative combat system featuring animations that don’t feel right – it doesn’t make much sense. So, I wondered why ESO’s character animations feel so wrong. And the answer relies on two simple words – realism and naturalness. Characters don’t move naturally and even the stunning detail quality can’t save them from looking fake, from a dynamic perspective. This is a well-known issue with older games, especially RPGs. And that’s when I remembered where I’ve seen very similar animations. In fact, after watching a few walkthrough videos I got the feeling that ESO imported some of Dragon Age Origins (DA:O) animations. Running, sprinting and even attacking movements look exactly like Dragon Age’s. This wouldn’t be a surprise if ESO had been released a few years ago. After all, most RPG games featured similar animations around 5-10 years in the past. However, we’re in 2014 and having a game that has character animations which resemble a game from five years ago, that’s quite shameful, I would say. But enough of pure opinion, let’s jump to facts.

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The Elder Scrolls Online (2014) Female Rogue Run Animation
DAO-rogue
Dragon Age Origins (2009) Male Rogue Run Animation

Analysis: Why ESO’s Character Animations Look Weird?

I starting by pointing out the obvious, the animations are simply unrealistic and unnatural. Why? Well, as you can see in the gif image, the character moves like a robot – the torso remains steady, the arms barely move and all the work is focused on the legs. Now, we know this is not the real mechanism for running or sprinting. When we run, all our body muscles move according to speed, so if you sprint, there’s no way that your torso will remain still. Therefore, why it looks so weird – the character fluidness is just not there.

Screenshot_20140316_054712
Bending over is the most common animation in ESO and DA:O.

The second strange thing about the animations is the fact that characters bend a lot. My assassin rogue had her back curved all the time while in combat mode, which is quite pathetic. Why would a rogue need to bend, unless for defensive purposes? This detail looks even more senseless with the mage class… Because, mages bend just to cast a normal hit. Just as it used to happen in DA:O. I spent hours and hours watching Morrigan bending her back and legs while casting any kind of spell on enemies. I never understood that logic, I just assumed it was all about programming limitations. But now, with complex technologies able to design dynamic and interactive skeletons, I can just assume it’s a designing problem.

The Elder Scrolls Online
This is the only “animation” I can get from my character if I remain inactive for several minutes.

Acting lively is also something that ESO characters lack. Other MMOs like Guild Wars 2 and Rift, feature a realistic system where characters pretend to be alive by interacting with the world around them, little things like expressing boredom or looking at other characters do make a difference. On the other hand, ESO displays a dull and static system. In this upcoming world, characters simply don’t connect with anything, they remain steady while immobile and the only actions are blinking and breathing. I acknowledge that living as a warrior is no easy task but that’s no excuse to implement robotic behaviors instead of human ones. I really thought we had surpassed that gaming phase, where characters were a bit like wooden stick toys manipulated by a few dynamic layers. The software does exist and other MMOs have already used them to create a more realistic and accurate system, so my question is: Why did Bethesda/Zenimax choose to use an overpast technology, especially when they had access to a 200M budget?

Thief: What Happened to Erin?

Thief

Square Enix’s Thief revolves around Erin and her mysterious disappearance after falling into an energy beam at the start of the game. Garrett’s attempt to save her was in vain and guilt has been haunting him ever since. As the storyline goes on, we learn about the existence of a magical entity with devastating powers, the primal energy, which is within Erin’s body since the incident. As soon as Garrett suspects Erin might be alive, he follows her old tracks in a desperate attempt to unveil the past and the truth itself. But in the end, no matter how many answers he finds, there’s always a ceaseless question – what has truly happened to Erin? That’s a question that has intrigued me endless times because everything related to Erin becomes an enigma, a supposition, a paradox… and the true facts only come out at the very end of the story.

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One of Garrett’s visions, where Erin appears and challenges him to find the truth.

Signs: She’s Alive  

Garrett assumes Erin is dead but he knows something is not right. Since the incident things were never the same again. In fact, he can’t even remember where he has been in the past year. Eventually, he starts getting visions of Erin in a gloomy environment, where she is usually scared in pain and remembering him of how he let her slip away into the other side. At first, it appears to be signs of pure guilt kicking in but soon enough, we understand that there’s more into it. The supposed deluded visions are in fact messages from Erin herself that uses her primal energy to connect with Garrett. They were both exposed to the matter when it exploded, therefore Garrett’s eye changing to green upon his return.

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Erin survived but she’s a mere slave of a new identity – the primal energy.

The Monster Within

Erin didn’t die but she’s surely not the same anymore. The primal energy within her body transformed her into something… dark and malicious. It’s true that Erin is alive but she’s nothing more than a dull shadow of her old self. She became a living weapon, a terrifying being at the verge of breakdown. Her thief skills were replaced by the imminent ability of turning humans into husk freaks. However, this enigmatic magic is suspected to hold incredible powers when properly attuned. As so, Erin was held prisoner by Orion at Moira Asylum. He conducted innumerous experiments in hope to extract the energy from her body in order to cure the people of the gloom. This traumatic experience turned Erin into a wicked monster unable to control any type of feelings and emotions.

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The circumstances repeat themselves.

Saving Primal Erin

Close to the end, it is unveiled that Erin holds a death sentence and it’s crucial to extract the energy from her body before it becomes too late. To perform this ritual the caster must rely on the primal crystal and the sacred tools (book and wand). Garrett is not ready to lose her again and he’s forced to fight a Primal Erin, who’s completely blinded by hate. She thinks the master thief wants to steal the energy for himself, so she puts all her powers into stopping the ritual. The storyline closes with Erin slipping away again but this time Garret manages to save her by successfully extracting the energy. Erin’s fate is not clear but everything indicates that she fell into the water and survived. The very fact that The City wasn’t destroyed reveals that the primal energy didn’t go loose. Furthermore, Erin’s claw reappears embedded in the wood beam close to Garrett, meaning that someone had to place it there. If there’s going to be another Thief reboot, then Erin is surely coming back.

It’s not everyone who gets the luxury of having a second chance, for Garrett a second chance to save his friend and for Erin a second chance to live. Even if the whole concept has several loop holes, this is a great story of how friendship can move worlds and change lives. It’s also a remarkable lesson of redemption and attunement.