Lo-Ping MegaBlog: Week of 2/28/2011

By Lo-Ping - Mon Feb 28, 10:37 pm

Hidey ho, Pingareenos!  Welcome to our first ever MegaBlog on our site!  The MegaBlog can be viewed both here AND on our account on GameTrailers.  However, since we want to draw you fine folks to our site for a reason, all our other articles are EXCLUSIVE to our site.  We’ll slip you some of our contributors’ articles here as a taste though, so fret you not.  So hit the jump for your first dose of Lo-Ping goodness!


OUR INTERVIEW WITH DjArcas: Creator of FortressCraft




Two Worlds II: A Journey Worth Taking for Hardcore RPG Fans: By Kyle Sondergaard
Two Worlds II is the kind of game that gets overlooked among all the great offerings from top-notch RPG developers like Bethesda and BioWare. It lacks the level of polish and overall quality that we’ve come to expect from games this generation, but just because it’s no masterpiece doesn’t mean it’s terrible. Two Worlds II shows a very high level of improvement from the first game in the series, which is widely considered to be one of the worst games of this generation. The voice acting is still bad, the animation can be awkward at times, and the story is pretty forgettable, but Two Worlds II offers a fun and unique role-playing experience for those who are willing to forgive its flaws. For those like myself who found charm underneath the layers of technical issues that plagued the first game, everything you liked is still intact and improved upon.

Like most European RPGs, Two Worlds II tends to put more emphasis on character development than storytelling, and the effort that developer Reality Pump put into this aspect of the game really shows. Two Worlds II ditches the restrictive class system found in most RPGs and instead, opts for a robust skill-based advancement system, allowing you to improve any of 50 skills in any order and combination you choose. The game also features an interesting equipment upgrade system and the most unique and versatile spell casting system I have seen in any game to date. Combined, these features make character advancement the most fun and rewarding part of the game.

Two Worlds II also goes where few RPGs dare to go, by adding a full multiplayer experience to the fold. There are several competitive multiplayer modes as well as a village builder and a seven-part cooperative campaign. The competitive multiplayer is somewhat passable and the village builder is not much more than a distraction, but the cooperative campaign, while very linear compared the single player experience, is a very welcome and fun addition if you have a few friends to play it with.

Overall, Two Worlds II is a worthwhile investment for hardcore RPG fans, but if you’re a more casual fan of the genre, the rough edges might steer you away. The level of improvement from the first game is incredible though, and Reality Pump has proven that it’s worthy of a second chance as an RPG developer. Two Worlds II is definitely not the next Dragon Age or Elder Scrolls, but die-hard RPG fans will find a lot to love in this otherwise passable game.

Flash in the Pan – A review of Bulletstorm: by Gavin Gaddis.
With today’s media being so interwoven with the Internet and what the media perceives to be the public’s attention span, I find it hard to make a statement about anything anymore. Whatever hot news story of the moment now seems to fade away into nothing even faster these days thanks to the million other things to distract us from it.

Remember when North Korea was going to become the instigator of World War 3 a month or two back? Or perhaps the controversy about violent video games causing rape rates to skyrocket? Or when Julian Assange was poised to rein in the future of free speech and bring forth a sort of Internet Revolution?

Sure you do now but do you honestly think you would have if I hadn’t brought them up?

Bulletstorm is the perfect game for idiots to target and point fingers at, be they ignorant ‘experts’ that want their book to sell more copies with some controversy, or gamers themselves wanting something to glorify what they feel is ‘ruining the industry.’ It is a first-person-shooter (bane of video games, eh indie gamers?) with ample violence, swearing, and a tall fat man’s hairy butt-cheeks.

Despite it’s ‘mainstream’ title and accusations of being the Michael Bay movie of games, I enjoyed Gears of War as a franchise so far. The characters are boorish stereotypical men that could only be more ‘extreme’ if they were literally made of testosterone, floating on a gun-shaped football suspended in a sea of steroids and silicone breast implants. The only real person that could possibly relate to them is, in fact, the stereotype jock frat boy that should be playing Halo. (Alpha Phi Kappa!)

I can get why people dislike Gears, thanks to some discussions with my friend who despises Marcus with a passion, but sometimes it’s fun to indulge in the sheer silliness of these kings among jocks. And once that silliness wears off there’s still a decent ‘War is Hell’ storyline to follow through.

Bulletstorm’s characters are not Gear characters, containing more depth and nuance to them beyond ‘Did you know he’s voiced by John DiMaggio?’ and the humor has you laughing with it rather than at it. If the game has a ‘Giant Worm’ moment, it tends to poke fun at the situation instead of attempting to maintain a sense of seriousness when something phenomenally silly is taking place.

In recent years video games seem to beat their chest and shout about how ‘expansive’ or ‘epic’ their sequences are. Bulletstorm’s ad campaign is not innocent of this count. For the first third of the game it kind of felt like it was trying, like the game was putting on a song and dance to make me say ‘wow that is a huge boss’ or ‘that is one giant cityscape’ or ‘That dam is like totally blowing up in my face, whoa’ (I may have been doing a Keanu Reeves impression in Skype at the time so that may have influenced my reaction a tiny bit)

Then the giant walking venus fly-trap that bled when shot showed up. This boss fight was the first satisfying multi-staged boss I’ve encountered in a while, not too long, not too short. Just the right amount of ass-kicking. From then on the game achieved some scenery that… well I won’t say the E-word because lord knows we get enough wordplay on that these days thanks to the developer, but it is damned impressive.

Story-wise Bulletstorm keeps a pretty good one going, weak and predictable at points but still fun though these parts. When I started playing and encountered the backstory about how Grayson Hunt and his pirate pals went from elite squad elite blah blah blah who were used by a corrupt general to perform hits on political rivals and whatnot. I decided to come up with a funny analogy for the game’s storyline right there and then based on my then perception of the game from the demo and what I had seen on the first act.

‘Bulletstorm is the video game version of The Mullet, business up front, party in the back.’

If the game’s plot had been what I thought it would be, a serious start that gets the bullshit out of the way for some Inglorious Basterds-style revenge fantasy with lots-o explosions and boobs. I was happily surprised to discover that the game’s storyline is more rich and interesting than this first guess. (although not a boob to be had in this game, dammit)

From a visual and story standpoint it delivers. Weapons-wise it delivers as well, I would go on a tirade about that as well but that would spoil to much of the inherent fun, just rest assured you can kick some serious ass in this game.

Now for the bad bits.

The online is a absolute joke with only one mode, Anarchy. It’s Gears of War’s horde mode with Bulletstorm weapons and the Leash, that’s it. Over 50 levels of rank and the only way to get through that rank is grind through anarchy.

I can totally understand that it would be extremely difficult to balance a game of Team Deathmatch with everyone using Leashes but if you just turned of those off you would have a good old-fashioned ass-kicking contest. Even taking away the ‘Multiplayer’ tab of the main menu and including a straight link to Anarchy would have sufficed. A Multiplayer button kind of gives the impression there is so much lying within that button it requires it’s own sub-menu, not just some leaderboards and a player model customizer that is your sole reason for leveling up.

I played the PS3 version so this game does not break the long line of Unreal games having troubles on my console of choice. From graphics glitches to framerate issues to one glitch that actually put me outside the map until I restarted. At times like that you feel like tester than someone who paid for the the game.

Bulletstorm is fun, glitchy and a teensy bit bugged on one console, but fun. I fear that thanks to the current release schedule and lack of a hearty mutiplayer offering it will fade from memory. Nothing but a flash in the pan and a spark of controversy bull. If I knew what I know now, I would say IF there were a chance of future single-player DLC or DLC that adds in a new mutiplayer mode: I would buy the game.

If I knew how fast I would beat the campaign and the fact that Gears 3 comes out in September so there’s as much chance of Bullestorm getting DLC than ODST did: I would rent it.

Thankfully, in true Epic Games style, there is a little bit of audio after the credits that leaves the door wide open for a sequel.

I’ll gladly step into the boots of Grayson Hunt two or three more times if they keep the story and inventive swearing coming.

Retro Gaming-Why Do We Do It?: By Kyle Sondergaard

The popularity of retro gaming has risen rapidly in recent years, but why? Is it just nostalgia? Is it a fad brought about by internet personalities like the Angry Video Game Nerd? Is it a desire to look back at our roots and see how far we’ve come in a generation where graphics border on photorealism and storytelling has matured to the point where gaming is debated as an art form? Or have we rediscovered past gems that truly hold up today?

I own at least one console from every generation since the 8-bit era and I play them all on a fairly regular basis. Obviously, I consider myself to be a big retro gamer. As such, it’s always been my belief that games don’t really age. Old movies are just as good today as they were when they were new, regardless of how long ago they came out, so why wouldn’t the same be true of video games? I own these games because they are the games I grew up playing, but nostalgia isn’t the reason I still play them. I legitimately enjoy them in the same way I enjoy new releases.

My opinion isn’t the only one out there, so I turned to my fellow retro gamers to gather a general consensus on why we play old games. The responses I got were pretty unanimous. For the most part, everyone I talked to grew up playing the games that are now considered to be retro. When asked about the effect that time has had on these games, everyone agreed that while some old games have aged quite poorly, most of them still hold up. If a game was good when it released, it’s still just as good now. The responses varied a bit more when asked why they are interested in retro gaming. For some people, it was interesting to see how video games have evolved over time, and seeing the roots of gaming added to their appreciation of what it has become in recent years. For others, it’s the joyful simplicity or an intangible quality that is lacking in new games.

Retro gaming isn’t for everyone though. For those who grew up playing these games, revisiting them can be a great experience, regardless of your reasons for doing so. However, some of the retro gamers I spoke to pointed out that people raised on more recent games may not enjoy retro games like we do. They may find the lack of modern conveniences like checkpoints and autosaves to be frustrating, especially when paired with the notorious difficulty of old-school platformers and side-scrolling action games. Someone who is used to the eye-popping HD visuals of modern games may also find retro games to be a bit of an eyesore, further preventing them from finding the same enjoyment that we find in old games.

Regardless of our reasons for retro gaming, it’s clear that it is not just a fad. As long as video games exist, retro gaming will exist. For us, retro gaming means breaking out the NES or the Sega Genesis, but one day, a whole new generation of gamers will be dusting off an old XBox 360 or PlayStation 3 and revisiting old classics like Halo: Reach or God of War III.

Thanks to the “I Watched The Entire Overblood Super Replay” group on Facebook for answering my questions!

Freebie Folder

Welcome to a new segment here on Lo-Ping in which we dive into our magic Freebie Folder to bring our dear readers some fantastically free fun-sized bites of gaming goodness that happen to not cost you one penny.  Up front at least.

We have a couple of rules around here as to what I’ll be bringing to your attention over the coming… amount of time I decide to keep writing these.

    * Rule 1: If the game is in alpha/beta stage at the time of writing, it cannot be a “closed” beta that requires having a code sent to you. The most secure beta I will write about requires you to make an account on the game’s site.* Rule 2: Nothing for a phone. 

    * Rule 3: Nothing made by Zynga or Popcap. I am not ruling out flash games or even Facebook games but these two developers are both too large and too good at throwing in “catches” to their games to make them good freebies.

See? That introduction wasn’t so hard no was it? We’re almost like family now, although I will have to ask you not to put your feet up on the coffee table..that’s just rude. Great, now I’m not even in the mood to tell you about this game. I guess we’ll just have to do our best to work past this incident and move on with our lives.


On a Steel Horse I Ride: Two men review World of Tanks Co-Written by Gavin and Rodney

It’s no secret World War 2 has captivated media since the days of its occurrence. The air of romanticism portrayed by many books, the gritty hellish reality soldiers had to endure projected onto thousands of screens, and how the distinctive ‘shing’ sound made by a M1 Garand rifle ejecting a cartridge is cute the first 200 times you hear it in a video game.

To many World War 2 has been run into the ground by the gaming scene by now, for every Band of Brothers episode there seems to be 20 or so samey shooters and strategy games that always SOMEHOW manage to either make it to Pearl Harbor or Operation Market Garden depending on where the game in question is set, to the extent that if every game hero had actually been there for real, there would have been so many men deployed at both places that neither ambush would have worked.  I still feel there are still a few untapped bits of potential left in The Great War 2.0. The Alaska oil field of gaming convention, if you will.

There is something inherently fun about driving a hunk of metal with a big-ass gun welded onto it through buildings with the intent of blowing up another one of said monstrosities, in my opinion Tanks haven’t been very fun in games lately. In fact if not for the’old’ Scorpion tank in Halo: Reach I cannot think of any games that feature fun tank combat.

Battlefield’s tanks come part and parcel with an eternal fear of the sniveling little snozwangers with a satchel of plastic explosive doom. Your tank charging down a road too full of pith and vinegar to notice the flashing yellow device that will then explode underneath you and send you to that big-ole spawn screen in the sky.  Unreal Tournament’s Leviathan was fun, but it was too alien to capture the good ‘ole days of tank combat in World War Zwei.  Men of War, while a little-known RTS gem that turned out to be quite fun and possessing the best voice acting of 2010, only comes CLOSE to capturing pure tank-y goodness. The true prize for tank-y goodness simply must go to a little known game called World of Tanks (currently in beta, set to release sometime around 3rd quarter 2011).

World of Tanks is more than a mere free-to-play game, it if a fully-fledged RPG experience with a creamy center of tank-y goodness. You start with a choice of three different (albeit very weak) starting light tanks. One from the USSR, one from Nazi Germany, and one from the United States. However, it does nothing but expand from there. At full release, it will have well over 150 different tanks (at the present, it has ~105, France will soon be added, along with possibly Italy and Japan).

Gameplay is simple, which is to be expected from a game depicting huge chunks of metal throwing fireballs at one another. However, this is an instance where simplicity is a good thing, why meddle with fifteen different controls when good old WASD works just fine? Helpful side-controls such as cruise control and speed adjustment are helpful but a novice player can get by with a ‘full throttle, blow things up’ mentality and still have fun.

The thing that separates WoT from the pack is it CAN be played both seriously or lightheartedly and never shall the twain meet. WoT uses a Tier system akin to Eve Online (WAIT! Don’t run! It’s not THAT similar, you won’t have to devote a day to researching how to fire your cannon properly or anything trivial like that,) Each class of tank subdivides itself into tiers

The combat is sublime. All specifications of all tanks are very historically accurate, while they may be upgraded or changed. All factors from the caliber of a gun, the muzzle velocity, to the thickness of armor and angle of penetration are modeled perfectly. If you hit a certain tank where the commander would sit, guess what? Your commander is knocked out until you can either revive him or the game ends. The physical aspects of your armored vehicle can also be damaged/destroyed. For example, if a tank takes a shot to the tracks, the track is cut loose and the tank is rendered immobile until the crew can repair it. If a tank is hit in the engine, it has a chance to catch fire and potentially spread to the magazine, in which case a small catastrophe would ensue.  Normal tanks are not your only option, however. You can also use assorted tank destroyers or self-propelled artillery. All, of course, are made with the same attention to detail that is given to the normal battle tanks.

Being developed by a Russian company the usual quirks of Russias view of the world sneak through, from awkward gun-ho “American” accents to Soviet tanks being slightly better than the other nations available at time of writing.  It’s easy to go on about how fun and realistic this little-known game is without taking into account that some of the things that make it fun will cost real denari (retro amirite?) in the future. On a daily basis players are awarded gold to purchase special tank variants, powerful special ammo, you can convert experience points into gold to make said purchases with, and to buy consumable items such as medical kits to revive dead crew in battle.

The hitch of all of this: gold is the “hook” item that costs real money when the game is released in full later this year, like those pesky CityVille Dollars you Facebookers all know and hate. However, in this writer’s these writer’s opinions, even when gold becomes worth real money WoT will continue to be a fun game.

Gavin: Because of this review, my limited time playing the game has been devoted to using gold as little as possible to simulate how I would play it if gold was worth real currency. Except for not being on the fast track to the eff-you tanks, not much is changed to be honest.

Rodney: Gold is probably my most finite resource. As soon as I receive my daily allowance of 250 gold, I immediately spend it on either conversions of XP, or convert to in-game credits. It is a nice boost, one that will be sorely missed once the game is launched.

So there you have it, the frank and honest opinions of two gamers who have just spent the last five hours mutilating each other’s writing in Google documents. We hope you enjoyed this first dive into Lo-Ping’s fabulous Freebie Folder!

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