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?

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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.

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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.

Rift: A Lesson of Survivability

Rift

Rift is celebrating its third year of existence and great success. But what keeps the game running? What’s so special about the world of Telara? Rift is no World of Warcraft but it certainly has many strong aspects that should be considered for future creations. The MMO genre envisions a world where instability reigns – keeping players’ interest over time, thus a constant population rate is the main key towards continuity. However this is no easy task to be accomplished. Even though enduring time’s challenges can be tough for MMOs in general, Rift has made it through. Trion Worlds has effectively ensured Rift’s prosper life innumerous times and in various ways, as Google trends indicate:

But keeping players interested requires a huge reciprocity effort. Attending to players’ needs, desires and wishes seems to be crucial in this particular gaming sector. A strict balance between PvE and PvP is also essential for a general satisfaction. Let’s take a closer look at Rift’s case and why it’s a lesson of survivability for all MMOs.

1. Access Evolution: From Pay-to-Play to Free-to-Play

Rift had a tremendous release success and players didn’t mind the monthly subscriptions, after all it was worth paying for a fresh new game, with new features and a spectacular world to explore. However, after the first year the global population started decreasing significantly. Trion World tried to emend this issue by adopting a hybrid system, Rift Lite, where players could play for free until level 20. Regardless this measure, the population rating kept decreasing and on June of last year Rift became free-to-play. Therefore, the rates became more stable.

Rift Screenshot2. Constant Updating: Refreshing Telara Every Week

The introduction of new events and further content reassures the vitality of the game. In fact, it creates an enthusiastic aura that reassures players’ motives to keep playing. There will be always something new to explore and experience. The constant attempt to create a balanced gameplay through bug fixes and class stability is another proof that Rift is not forgotten and it will keep attending to players’ needs.

3. Online Shop: In-Game Currencies vs. Real Cash

The online shop is fantastic in many ways, first because it allows players to buy a huge amount of items without the need to visit a certain place or talk to a specific NPC. The usability levels are incredibly high as well; players can easily browse over all the categories and sub-categories and easily find what they’re looking for. Finally, the hybrid payment mode allows players to decide which model they prefer to use to acquire a certain item – in game currencies or cash.

Rift_1.9_0104. Action: Duels, Massive Battles, Open World PvP or Warfronts?

Who doesn’t enjoy a bit of action in a MMORPG? In Rift, there are several distinct options that vary with numbers, tactics and objectives. Ultimately, there’s a feature for every taste. For a more competitive approach, players can duel, join warfronts or even try to find enemies in open world maps. However, if they prefer massive PvP encounters, they can either join Conquest or Battle for Port Scion.

5. Environment: Endless Ways to Create Your Own Journey

Leveling in Rift can be done in multiple ways. In fact, it’s on players’ hands to decide how they wish to obtain experience. The game itself rewards players for doing basically any activity in-game. For loners, questing alone and following the story line might be the best option. While for action lovers, warfronts is undoubtedly the most exciting method. But there are many other ways, including dungeons and journeys that give huge amounts of experience.

rift_1.8_world_event_PCs_v2_046. End Game: A New Game Begins at Maximum Level

Reaching maximum level in Rift doesn’t take more than one week of regular playing and that’s probably because a new whole game starts upon reaching level 60. Besides new features such as Chronicles and Conquest, players can start doing daily quests and farm specific currencies that will allow them to purchase unique gear. Furthermore, they can upgrade and customize their builds in endless ways.

7. Customization: Create Your Ultimate Unique Look

Customization is one the most extensive features in Rift – it’s unlikely to ever meet another player that looks alike. The character creation system is quite wide and versatile but that’s not the main core of customization. Rift offers innumerous costumes and gear skins that players can use to mask the real appearance of their combat equipment. Furthermore, they can purchase unique mounts, pets and companions.

Does Vita’s ‘Toukiden: The Age of Demons’ Beat Monster Hunter at its Own Game?

Monster

Monster Hunter, as we know, is a uniquely Japanese phenomenon. The franchise gained some modest acclaim in the West with Monster Hunter Tri, but before that it was certainly obscure around these parts. In Japan, though, it is the biggest of big deals. It couldn’t get any bigger or… dealier. Those guys can’t start their day without jabbing a large dragon or two in the eyeball with a lance. That’s just how it is.

These Hunterholics never did embrace the Vita. A lot of this can be attributed the fact that Capcom’s action RPG has never made it to the console. But there have been similar releases. The wonderfully creepy Soul Sacrifice brought us hunting with a hideous that-thing’s-got-a-mouth-where-its-stomach-should-be feel, and a nightmarish aesthetic. Already a success with a sequel confirmed, the genre is gathering momentum on the handheld.

Next up is the spangly new Toukiden: The Age of Demons from Tecmo Koemi. The setup will be instantly familiar to anyone who has ventured into Monster Hunter before: you are a novice hunter, moving into a small village plagued by… demonic nasties. Your goal is to work your way up through the ranks, from simple quests against small fry to dispatching huge slavering death-beasts. Of death.

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Scavenging items from defeated foes will allow you to forge new weapons and armor sets, thus ‘upgrading’ your character until they are a match for bigger, toothier, angrier beasts. In between quests, you are returned to the village ‘hub,’ where you can listen to the prattle of the NPCs, visit the shops, all the usual RPG trappings. There is a small assortment of different weapons to master, longsword, bow, spear and such, each of which perform a little differently and cater to different combat styles.

It’s all very Monster Hunter, in short, but much more than a simple clone. In Toukiden, as in Soul Sacrifice, there is a substantial narrative to follow. The story focuses upon the Slayers (hunters) and their war against their enemies, the demonic Oni. Said beasts’ assaults have become more coordinated, and the warriors of the village suspect there is a new ‘leader’ of sorts in their ranks. While it’s hardly The Da Vinci Code levels of intricate plotting, it’s a welcome addition to the game that is lacking elsewhere.

In the missions themselves, Toukiden is again different. You can’t bring a limited satchel of items, or set traps or bombs for your opponents. You rely solely on your weapon and your equipped Mitami. This is the soul of a departed warrior, which you can affix to your chosen stabbing stick at the blacksmith. It will grant you different abilities in battle, and there is a huge selection of them in each of the eight disciplines.

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These determine the powers you can use. The Attack style bolsters your power, for instance, while the Healing style allows you to remove status conditions and revive teammates on the fly. With the more combo-heavy combat style, quests in Toukiden feel rather more streamlined than Monster Hunter. As does the game as a whole.

Without much of the between-mission micromanagement, this new Vita effort has rather more of an arcade-y feel to it. It is all around more accessible, I’d say, and brings a Feudal Japanese charm to the genre in its aesthetic and some of the weapons choices. Inspired enough to appeal to fans, certainly, but with some unique touches all its own. Whether these are for the better or worse will be down to the player’s feelings.

Source of images: sgcafe.