Monthly Archives: February 2014

GunZ 2: Steam Early Access Impressions

By Michael Sagoe (mikedot)

After several years of waiting, MAIET Entertainment has finally released their high-action multiplayer shooter for (most of) the world to enjoy on Steam’s Early Access program.

GunZ 2: The Second Duel is an online third person shooter about killing stuff with style. Players can run up walls, pull off acrobatic movements and switch between gunplay and melee combat on the fly. It’s a sequel to the original GunZ: The Duel which came out back in 2003-2005.

GunZ 2

For those that do not know: One of the biggest changes in GunZ 2 compared to its predecessor is the removal of K-Style and D-style: Two popular play-styles that significantly changed the overall flow of gameplay by allowing players to jump, dash, block, slash and shoot all at the same time. While this made the gameplay a lot more intense and exciting, it also brought weapon imbalance, made latency issues more apparent and even brought about health concerns from prolonged performance of these techniques, such as Carpal Tunnel.

MAIET thought long and hard about wanting to bring “style play” back for the release of GunZ 2, as shown in the game’s alpha footage: Players were able to perform moves including shot-slashes (rather than slash-shots), light steps and more. But in the end, MAIET came to the conclusion that it was too much of a hassle to bring it all back if they were going to achieve a more balanced shooting game.

With my extensive time spent playing the South Korean, Europe and Taiwan versions of the game (as if I couldn’t get enough of this game in my life…), it was now time for me to jump head first into the Steam Early Access for North America, just to see if there has been any significant changes made, as well as being able to play against others in my region of world.

First bit of disappointment that I had with the Steam version was that MAIET still has not included any initial character customization when selecting between the four available classes, which for some reason all have names attached to them unlike before. The Silent Avenger is now called Ivan, the Gunslinger is called Elena, the Shield Trooper’s name is Max and the newest class, the Shadow Dancer, is named Rena. Between these four classes, they each have many different strengths and weaknesses, but you still cannot select different hair styles or faces for them, unlike the original GunZ.

The character I decide to start off with Rena, who has the ability to create shadow decoys of herself in order to confuse enemies. Plus she also comes equipped with dual daggers and dual pistols, so she plays out like some kind of ninja out of an anime or action movie.

GunZ 2

While a lot of people would claim that splitting core gameplay up between different classes would be limiting, I did not find these classes to be limiting at all, as I will explain later on regarding some of the bouts that took place.

In the original GunZ: The Duel: Instead of different classes, players had access to a weight system, where they could select any weapon they wanted just as long as the player had enough weight space available to hold them all, and this was all dictated by the armor each character wore, so if a player had good armor, they could carry multiple weapons or heavier weapons. However, this proved to give a false sense of customization in the later levels due to the use of K/D-style limiting most loadout options.

Once I selected my character, I went through the tutorial which hasn’t changed very much since the EU and TW versions. After completion, one noticeable change was the inclusion of crystals and ores which can be earned from unlocking achievements, opening supply crates every hour and from dismantling equipment. These ores and crystals can be used to earn weapons and equipment from the tesla machine, which is basically a fancy gachapon/gambling system. And as much as I dislike gambling systems, the tesla machine is actually very fair in comparison to other gachapon systems, mainly because it actually shows a global number of chances to win each available prize. Once you understand how the tesla machine works, it’s quite possible to wait patiently for the prize list to drop as low as possible for going for the main prize, which are usually permanent weapons or special costumes.

GunZ 2

The three modes that are currently available in GunZ 2 include Team Deathmatch, Team Elimination and Time Assault:  While Team Deathmatch is fairly self-explanatory; Team Elimination is similar to Team Deathmatch except that players have one life per round. If you die during a match, you cannot respawn. Think of it like a typical round of Counter-Strike with bombing run or hostage capture mode, except that there’s no main objective other than defeating the enemy team… and that people can jump around the environment like something out of a Cirque du Soleil show.

The other available game mode is Time Assault, which is very much a straight forward Attack & Defend game mode where one team defends one of three target points on the map while the other team tries to destroy those targets. This mode and Team Elimination mode is where the gameplay truly starts to shine, as teamwork plays a vital role here. Of course, it’s hard to engage in teamwork when the thought of trying to be a nonstop, badass, one-man army kind of action hero is so tempting, but it usually pays off.

GunZ 2

As to whether or not GunZ 2 takes skill to play compared to its processor, I would answer that by saying: It’s debatable. Gameplay is now more focused on team play rather than solo performance, although it is still very possible to hold your own in solo situations, no matter which class you choose. As I’ve seen time and time again where players have been able to carry entire teams on their backs or have been able to clutch it out during a 1-on-4 situation during a team elimination match. These intense moments really show that quick wits are now what GunZ 2 is all about, rather than repetitious muscle memory and a shallow overarching strategy of “spot an enemy and K/D-style them as hard as you can.”

GunZ 2

There are some animation cancel techniques possible in GunZ 2, such as reload shot and guard cancels, but they are nowhere near as game breaking compared to GunZ 1 and only a few of them give players a slight edge over their competition. And overall, some of the older techniques from the original have been rendered as completely obsolete:  There’s no need for slash cancelling in order to shoot and dodge in midair since players can dash while firing all weapons now. There’s no need for wall slashing to scale walls since they’ve included more initiative wall running mechanics, and so on and so forth.

Also: Despite the class system used in GunZ 2, the three weapon types each character has available allows for some varied play styles. I’ve seen Ivan players that prefer to use nothing but their katana to rush down enemies, Max players that like to pester snipers using their mini-guns and much more.

GunZ 2

Personally speaking: After a few matches in normal mode, and having the opportunity of playing with people in my region, I would have to say that Gunz 2 is actually more difficult to play than Gunz 1. Without the crutch of insanely high mobility, I was forced to make decisions more quickly. I found myself dying a lot in Gunz 2 because of the difficulty of adjusting to the more team-based and snap decision making nature of gameplay. Some battles do get pretty mindless (especially up against grenade spamming Elena players and aggressive flamethrowin’ Max players), but usually when you’re up against a full premade group, you really need to focus.

GunZ 2

The biggest issue with the Steam version of GunZ 2 is most definitely the lag issues. It seems like MAIET didn’t get the memo that peer-to-peer connections do not work well in online video games outside of South Korea, since not every country out there is the size of a small state, and not everyone has access to T1+ internet connection speeds. Unlike most modern shooting games that use dedicated servers, GunZ 2 randomly assigns one player as the “host” before a match begins, which means that if the host lags, everyone lags. And even if the host has a decent connection, they will still have a major advantage over enemy players due to hitscan detection and registration time. If a player is not selected as the host, they will need to lead their shots constantly; otherwise they’ll be missing a lot of hits. This is especially noticeable when using Ivan’s sniper rifle, where it can take up to half a second or more for a shot to travel from point A to point B, and by the time the shot travels across the map, a target would have already moved from their position.

Overall, in the game’s current state, it shows a lot of promise with many new classes, game modes and a new campaign in the works. Even with the direct removal of K/D-style, it still managed to give me the same thrill and excitement that the original GunZ gave me. If they can manage to develop some kind of netcode that can compensate for the latency issues before adding new content, then I could see GunZ 2 having quite a long life span. I’ll be sure to give a follow-up review when GunZ 2 is declared as an finished product by MAIET, so stay tuned.

Planets³

Planets³ (Planets Cube) is a 3D open-world, voxel-based, first-person role-playing game. Planets³ seeks to combine the freedom of open worlds and creative voxel building with the story and multi-player community of an online RPG.

Features:

A Changing World: The world consists of blocks of differents shapes and sizes. Use tools to pick up the blocks and use them to craft and create!

A Massive Universe: The universe is comprised of several solar systems, each with planets and moons that have unique gravity mechanics based on their square trajectories!

Secrets To Unlock: Rescue aliens that crash-landed on earth, exploring main quests and side quests as you discover new worlds and objects.

Path of Exile: Sacrifice of the Vaal Preview

By Darren Henderson (DizzyPW), Wraeclast Karui Seer

 

Oh I’ve seen the horrors of the Vaal. You thought they were merely a legend? Long lost civilization that destroyed themselves? Arrogant outsider. The creators of the Tears of Maji were not so simple as to destroy themselves with their own devices. Eternal life was always their goal. Their vision. Well, I shouldn’t say that goal speaks for all. Certainly not the countless souls sacrificed in pursuit of it anyway. But perhaps old Queen Atziri wasn’t so mad after all.

Countless disasters I’ve suffered in this lifetime. Countless Exiles I’ve watched march to their deaths in search of treasure and fame. Long I wondered why a crippled old man such as myself was spared a painful demise by the hands of the walking dead, rising demons, and power hungry emperors. Now I finally understand. It was to witness the horrors to come. And perhaps with my warning, give you a fighting chance in the battle that will soon reshape Wraeclast into a living hell. The Queen returns.

 

Path OF Exile Queen Atziri 4

Vaal Content Update for All

Unlike most previous expansions and mini-expansions, Path of Exile‘s The Sacrifice of the Vaal update brings with it meaningful content for all players from those just starting to the maxed out end-game veterans. It’s been a challenge for Grinding Gear Games to implement such an update thus far without impacting the flowing storylines of each branching area prior to this, but with the clever use of dynamically spawning instanced portals, this is now a reality.

As players travel through the now corrupted lands of Wraeclast, they will stumble upon eerie red Corrupted Portals. These offer new option zones packing some seriously wicked challenges with sixty new bosses awaiting to challenge players to think critically. By utilizing the Exile skill building system, these bosses have been designed from the ground up to fight back just as another player would, using the same player skills you’ve used to crush so many foes prior against you. If that wasn’t enough, you can expect special rules placed in these areas to further complicate the situation and take you outside of your comfort zone.

 

Path Of Exile Relics

Secrets of the Ancients

While any proud Exile would be happy to see these new areas just for the entertainment they provide, the glory of taking down the revived forces of the Vaal Civilization won’t leave you empty handed. New Vaal Artifact chests will drop upon successfully clearing the zones, offering plenty of sweet rewards for you to cash in on. But these all pale in comparison to the introduction of Vaal Artifacts, the revived Tears of Maji offering skill gems with unparalleled power to the game.

Vaal Artifacts are slotted into your equipment just like normal skill gems. Most in fact are just extensions of existing skills in the game, only buffed to hellish levels. This unbalanced power comes at a price though, and rather than extended cooldowns or massive mana costs, you will need to kill countless monsters to fill a soul charge on the skill. Once achieved, a beating heart icon will confirm the power is ready to be unleashed. Here’s a few examples I witnessed:

 

Path Of Exile Vaal Frost

Vaal Frost Nova – Just list the AoE explosion of ice that normally spreads in a radius in all directions from your character. Only now every enemy impacted by it will generate a second circle of ice cold death that continues to spread and reactive down the line of foes.

 

Path Of Exile Vaal Chain Lightning

Vaal Chain Lightning – Sure lightning can already jump between foes. But now it can jump between them sixty times! *Insert Evil Laugh*

Vaal Spark – Sparks everywhere. I mean everywhere. Nothing is safe so long as its within your field of vision.

Vaal Firearrow - Send a blazing arrow through the heart of the enemy’s lines, exploding and adding burning status to everything even remotely in the way.

Vaal Detonate Dead – Exploding a corpse for damage is cool. But luring your enemies into a field of corpses before watching them blow up like C4 covered toppling dominos is better!

 

Path Of Exile Vaal Fireball

Vaal Fireball – Twirl your spirit stick as you unleash a Mario style fire chain in a circular pattern around your character. Sure to add some heat to any horde that dares surround you on all sides.

 

Path Of Exile Vaal Cyclone

Vaal Cyclone – Relive the movie Twister as you spin to win with intense winds sucking all foes on screen into your cyclone of death. I actually saw an enemy survive this by getting stuck on an environment obstruction so it’s not 100% effective everywhere. Also beware doing this when low on health as the enemies can hit you just before getting diced in your living blender.

 

Path Of Exile Vaal Molten Shell

Vaal Molten Shell – Sure Molten Shell is alright I guess. But don’t you hate when you time it wrong and a trash mob wastes the explosion? With Vaal Molten Shell you will explode with vengeful flames each time you take damage for the duration.

 

It seems that these artifact drops are meant to be quite rare, though Chris Wilson and Jonathan Rodgers did tease that a method of crafting them was being tested. Unfortunately I don’t have further info on that.

 

PathOfExileSacrificeVaal

Corruption Does a Build Good

Another interesting piece of the spreading Vaal corruption of the land is the ability to utilize corrupted artifacts to experiment on your armor. This can only be done once per armor piece and corruption isn’t always guaranteed, but when the gamble pays off, it can set you above even the Exiles parading around in end-game Uniques by creating normally unattainable mods on Rares or granting white skill gem sockets. Some examples I witnessed while scrolling through my inventory included culling strike on a sword, and life leach on a set of boots. And for those adverse to gambling, rest assured that there’s no danger of destroying your equipment during the corruption.

While on the topic, special support gems combining with corruption are now able to push the limits of gem levels up to an unheard of (but surprisingly Q&A tested) level of 29! If you’re one of the ultimate min-maxers, I wish you luck in the quest for discovering the method of recreating this.

 

Path Of Exile Ambush Chest

A Tale of Two Leagues

More into the competitive scene than the story driven main game? Two new leagues are on the way as well to scare up some competition and push players to their limits.

The more casual friendly league known as Ambush hides special identifiable chests on maps for players to unlock. The odd part about it though is that you can reroll these chests and visibly see what modifiers, and dangers, lurk upon opening them. Thus where the name Ambush comes from as you’ll be faced with some pretty unusual and nasty battles to earn the right to acquire the loot within. I don’t want to spoil too many of the combinations, but a particularly nasty one to watch out for is freezing minions along with the chest that explodes  upon activation, putting you at a nice health disadvantage right from the start.

Path OF Exile Ambush Chest 2

Chests are typically themed as well, whether it be a weapon chest, armor chest, map chest, currency chest, alchemist chest, and so on, and each item dropped will carry the marked quality listed on the chest description. This adds a bit more tactics to the normally mindless looting prospect, and should give economically minded Exiles some interesting forms of currency based competition as this feature is expanded on in future Leagues.

Invasion on the other hand will test players’ ability to react and counter bosses from throughout the game appearing at unexpected locations.  Interestingly enough, since the bosses are randomized and some may be too powerful for certain early levels, their skill sets will be limited and scaled based on the party’s level. As such facing the same boss repeatedly as you progress through the game may result in new tactics being thrown at you so never let your guard down. Facing them in certain cramped spaces as well will surely add some level of epicness to these fights.

 

Path Of Exile New PvP Modes

PvP A Plenty

Those looking for more of a visceral unscripted fight can turn to the new Cutthroat system, in which memorizing battle tactics against PvE creatures won’t be enough to ensure victory in races any longer. That’s because your instanced battles can now be invaded by another bloodthirsty player looking to end your life, and collect loot from your corpse like any other fallen creature in Wraeclast. Should Grinding Gear add in an element of permadeath in future Leagues featuring Cutthroat, this could be an intriguing spectacle.

Casual players looking for quick pick up matches should also be thrilled at a new free for all arena portal appearing in the third town. This mode offers fast and furious matches for the busy Exile trying to sneak a bit of gaming in on work break or between bouts with the wife. Future plans are also promised to open up tiered arenas to allow players in different level brackets to fight it out against others in their power range.

 

PathOfExileSacrificeVaal1

Queen Atziri and the Vaal Relics

Perhaps you have been collecting them already wondering their purpose. The four shards that together seem to make a circular pattern? With Sacrifice of the Vaal their purpose is finally known, as you can open a portal to Queen Atziri herself to face the most intense raid Path of Exile has yet seen.

Upon placing the four relics on Atziri’s altar, arrogant Exiles will open six portals to her hellish world. Those seeing the end should either consider themselves gods, or travel in a group with plenty of synergy built up from repeated successes together. For inside you’ll face hordes of foes with regenerative abilities and maximum health bars beyond anything you’ve faced prior. And if you can withstand the onslaught, three powerful boss battles are ready to finish you off. Just be cautious, as each failure will take away one of your portals. And once they’re all gone, you’ll be out scavenging Corrupted Portals recollecting pieces for another shot at her.

Path of Exile Vaal Boss 1

The first boss’ agility may leave you confounded at first. You may wonder if you’re facing two entities as you futility chase the denizen of hell around the chamber, smacking legions of minions out of your way in the process. Finally it will hit you that you are up against a boss and its shadow. And defeating one will only feed power into the other, eventually reviving the first. Plan your attacks accordingly and take them out in unison to avoid a truly menacing finale.

The next triple boss combination will test your agility as a shielded tank, marauder, and giant witch fight as one to poison, cripple, and cut off your escape routes. Expect the grasping hands of the dead to reach from the ground to weigh you down as the marauder cyclones across huge distances of the map. Utilize the four pillars to your advantage to block the enemy’s advance while unleashing hit and run tactics whenever an opening allows for it.

Path Of Exile Vaal Second Boss

This fight becomes a real nightmare as you fell each boss as not only will it open a portal to hell, unleashing an endless stream of minions fighting with a similar style to their fallen master, but the remaining enemies will grow in power and size. I ended up facing a marauder the size of a house that could cyclone halfway across the arena in two seconds, with tons of body blocking ghouls and ranged medusa looking witches offering support fire before finally ending the battle.

 

Queen Atziri 1

Queen Atziri’s Chamber

The battle with Atziri though is on another level. Even with my advanced ranger, one accidently push of the menu delayed me long enough to kill me off. Atziri surrounds the entire arena in small and large circles that explode upon reaching their maximum expansion. Get too close to her and she’s not afraid to use all four arms to cut into you with her various melee weapons. And all her talk of sacrifice comes into play when she surrounds herself in an impenetrable shell before summoning minions from the four corners of the arena. Any that reach her are disintegrated and fed into her health bar.

Queen Atziri 2

Perhaps the coolest trick up her sleeve though comes from her division into four copies of herself, each holding a different weapon. The mirror self reflects damage back at the attacker as the other three blanket the field in fiery explosion. Focus fire one of the three weapon wielders quickly to eliminate them from the fight. Just be ready as just like the previous battle, whichever weapons you leave her with will only grow in might as the fight continues.

Queen Atziri 3

The battle for Wraeclast begins anew on Wednesday, March 5th. I’ve told you all I can to prepare you for the coming days of darkness. Hone your skills, sharpen your minds… and your weapons, and gather strength from your comrades. For the greatest wealth soon awaits those capable of standing against the Mighty Vaal Empire.

 

Nosgoth Closed Beta Now Available

Nosgoth

From today, gamers can experience the blood-thirsty team-based online multiplayer action of Nosgoth, as the game’s closed beta phase commences. Available on Steam, players take part in asymmetrical, ranged versus melee battles as both Humans and Vampires fight in a dark and brutal fantasy world.

Included in the closed beta phase is the new Siege game mode. In Siege, Humans must capture specific locations and keep them safe from Vampires, while the Vampires must satisfy their bloodlust and hunt down their Human opponents.

Nosgoth will be updated continually throughout closed beta, with future additions including new maps, modes and character classes, plus new weapons, abilities and skins, and more.

Be among the first to fight for the survival of your species and register for the beta here: http://beta.nosgoth.com/register/new

Top Eight Teams Selected For SMITE Launch Tournament

SMITE Teams

Hi-Rez Studios today announced the eight teams that have secured a spot to compete in the SMITE Launch Tournament in Atlanta, Georgia.

Teams from North America and Europe have been participating in weekly qualification tournaments since January 4th of this year.  After this weekend, the final teams have been selected and seeded as follows:

NA #1: Cognitive Gaming    
NA #2: Team Dignitas    
NA #3: SNIPE    
NA #4: Denial eSports
                      
EU #1: Team SoloMid    
EU #2: Cloud 9 HyperX    
EU #3: SK Gaming    
EU #4: Team Coast

The SMITE Launch Tournament will take place from March 28-30th at Center Stage Theater in Atlanta, Georgia.  This tournament will mark the first time the best NA teams compete against the best EU teams in a LAN environment for prizing. The tournament prize pool began at $100,000 and community contributions through in-game purchases have increased the prizing to over $175,000 as of today.

Hi-Rez Studios also announced additional details about the SMITE Launch Tournament venue and schedule as posted here.