Castlevania: Lords of Shadow DLC Detailed and Dated

Posted on December 23, 2010

Dust off your whips and prep your best brooding scowl, more Castlevania content is on the way. Today, Komani revealed two new pieces of downloadable content are in the works for Castlevania: Lords of Shadow from developer MercurySteam.

In the “Reverie” downloadable content pack, players will return to the castle as the game’s hero Gabriel in order to lend a hand to the former servant Laura “in destroying the unruly evil that was previously kept in check by the recently slain Queen.”

The second downloadable content takes place immediately after the events of the game. Entitled “Resurrection…


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The Minecraft Experiment, day 17: A Ghast

Posted on December 22, 2010

When I first started playing Minecraft a few months ago, I played with a rule: if I die, I have to delete the entire world. Now I’m trying to get to hell and back. The diary starts here, and over Christmas new entries will go up weekly on Wednesdays.

World 10, deaths 9

Minecraft is loading the Nether, which is its version of hell. I’m usually impatient with loading screens, but this is one I wouldn’t mind lasting indefinitely. If it’d just crash and dump me back in the real world, that’d be fine too.

But no, it’s cruelly quick, and now I’m in hell. I step out of the portal in a vast cavern, thin lavafalls pouring out of the impossibly high ceiling in the distance, and a handful of zombie pigmen shuffling around in the dark in front of me. They’re harmless, so long as you don’t attack them, and actually a rather good source of grilled pork if give them a friendly nudge into a bonfire.

It is, in other words, the last thing I expected it to be: quiet. No immediate danger, nothing scary in the distance, lots of open space to get my bearings. Exactly what I need, because now I’ve got to pummel the bejesus out of this portal with a diamond pickaxe, so I can take all the blocks with me on my journey across hell. Without them, I’ll have no way back home – only obsidian can be used to make a portal between worlds, and it doesn’t occur naturally anywhere in hell.

It takes a long time. Every block has to be hit dozens and dozens of times before it breaks off and can be picked up, and there are 14 of them. I’ve just chipped off my eighth when there’s an ungodly screech.


They sound like a kitten with chalkboard teeth trying to eat a hyena made of razorblades. They’re giant jellyfish that float, unreachably high, and spit fireballs down at everything on the ground.

Most of the time, they’re not a huge problem – they fly high enough that you can avoid their projectiles in time so long as you keep moving.

And most of the time, mining obsidian is not a problem – it takes a while, but you’ll get it eventually so long as you don’t move at all.

This presents a dilemma, and it’s the kind of dilemma you have to solve with a fireball on its way to your face. I chose move.

This is when I discover the rock beneath me is not in fact rock, but a sea of screaming faces that stick to my feet in such a way that I can barely move. Shit like this is going in my TripAdvisor review, Nether. Two stars MAX.

I wade through the face-mud with fireballs slamming into it behind me, then finally drop off a ledge onto normal, non-screaming land. I scramble underneath it and consider my lack of options.

There are many – all kinds of lacks, really. I can’t go back to the portal – there’s no hope of chipping any more obsidian off with the Ghast there. I can’t wait it out – more Ghasts are as likely to come as this one is to leave. I can’t go on without the obsidian – you can cut corners to make a portal with 10 blocks instead of 14, but it leaves you exactly as boned if you only have 8.

The only way to get back to the portal without getting torched is under ground. I can dig through the screaming face-mud until I tunnel underneath the last few chunks of the portal, and chip it out from below.

It’s a good idea, but one which very quickly leads to me bursting up through the mud in the worst possible place: directly beneath the Ghast, and nowhere near my portal.

I bolt back down as the fireball hits above. OK, I saw it. It’s about three blocks this way, then five that way, then a couple up and whunk! I’ve struck obsidian. Congratulations, Tom, you’ve discovered the thing you just came out of.

Once I’ve mined it all out – I get all 14 blocks just in case I screw something up later – I’m ready to set off. My quest is to just walk in one direction, as far as my tools will take me, then portal back to the real world. Distances travelled in the Nether take you 8 times further in the real world, so when I get back I should be absolutely miles away from home. I’ll then trek all the way back, with a compass to guide me.

The only thing I have to decide now is which direction to head. I don’t want to have any risk of getting confused and doubling back on myself, so I orient myself with the only constant in this world: screaming facemud. If I look directly down at a block of it, and move so the faces are the right way up, the direction my portal was facing when I came through is left. That’s where I’ll head.


Next Wednesday: Crossing the lava sea.


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Dungeons & Dragons Action-RPG ‘Daggerdale’ Announced, Packing Co-op

Posted on December 22, 2010

If you ever wished D&D had a little more “action” in its “RPG,” you may be interested in Dungeons & Dragons Daggerdale, announced today. For everyone else, well, is a downloadable action-RPG with support for four-player co-op of any interest? Thought so.

Described as having “intuitive pick-up-and-play combat” with “a wide assortment of weapons, feats and powers,” Daggerdale will see players defending the Dalelands from “the evil Rezlus and his Zhentarim,” which surely means something to D&D fans.

While Daggerdale will support co-op for up to four heroes, you can also play solo.

Coming from Scratch: The Ultimate DJ‘s replacement developer Bedlam Games and publisher Atari, Daggerdale is slated for a downloadable release on PC, Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network in …


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New Community Content!

Posted on December 22, 2010

Below is the latest list of community submitted entries to our databases. ArtworkJulan and the Clannfears by Plangkye (Morrowind Fanart) Some more…


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Humble Indie Bundle #2 Now Offering Free Humble Indie Bundle #1

Posted on December 22, 2010

The brilliant ‘pay what you want’ Humble Indie Bundle #2 keeps getting better, as organiser Wolfire Games has now announced that you can receive the six games from the original Humble Indie Bundle for free.

All 180,00-odd customers who bought Bundle #2 before this announcement was made will have automatically received Bundle #1 for nowt. New purchasers, though, will need to spend more than whatever Bundle #2’s average purchase price is at the time in order to receive Bundle #1. When this story was written, the average was $7.33 but surely you’d pay more than that for all those games and to help charity anyway, wouldn’t you?

The Humble Indie Bundle #2 contains DRM-free versions …


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$5 Hero of Sparta Android game is free for today only (Android)

Posted on December 22, 2010

It’s three days before Christmas, and that means everyone in this country is broke from buying all their holiday gifts. Luckily for you, Gameloft is giving you a gift of its own – one of its best Android games, a $5 value, for free…


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DiRT 3 – DC Compound Gymkhana Trailer Video (HD)

Posted on December 21, 2010

I loved DiRT. DiRT 2 is definitely one of my top 3 favorite games of all time. Do you think I might like DiRT 3?

Wow. Yeah, I think it is a safe bet.

Dirt 3’s Gymkhana, presented by Ken Block

Posted on December 21, 2010

Ken Block’s Gymkhana antics are well documented, but when Dirt 3 launches next year, it’ll be new to franchise vets. Thus, Block and Codemasters have provided a primer video where the pro driver not only gives some background on Gymkhana’s rise to prominence but, more importantly, its inclusion in Dirt 3.

Continue reading Dirt 3’s Gymkhana, presented by Ken Block

JoystiqDirt 3’s Gymkhana, presented by Ken Block originally appeared on Joystiq on Tue, 21 Dec 2010 07:00:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Looking Back at 2010: The Year in Shooters

Posted on December 21, 2010

Looking Back at 2010: The Year in Shooters

2010 offered us a lot of video games, and for those of you who enjoy pretending that your controller is a gun, it involved a lot of shooters as well. Some were good, some were bad, but can you remember all of them? Stretching your memory all the way back to January 2010 can be tough when we’re on the precipice of the holiday, but lets’ take a look, shall we?


Army of Two: The 40th Day

The year was still brand-new when the second Army of Two got dumped in our laps. It expanded upon the original, giving us more co-op moments, destructible environments, and the ability to mock surrender while your partner popped them in the head with the bullet. While not a huge success, it was one of the more robust co-op experience in that vast wasteland of early January. However, most people were probably playing Darksiders instead of this one. Great idea that just hasn’t delivered yet.

Read on for the Rest of the Year in Shooters!


MAG promised us massively multiplayer gunplay action, and it actually delivered. Up to 256 players online at the same time duking it out as one of three different factions led to a lot of fun moments, although there were some glitches along the way. Still, manning a turret and defending your base from hordes of real-life foes is highly addicting and was well worth it. Issuing orders to your squad and leveling up through the ranks gave this a lot of replayability.


SOCOM: U.S. Navy Seals Fireteam Bravo 3

Who said shooter experiences are just limited to consoles? SOCOM on the PSP delivers a squad-based shooter experience in the palm of your hand, and it does it with over 70 different weapons. Seriously, that’s a lot even for a console title. Online co-op lets you experience the action with a friend, and you can level up and earn ribbons to decorate your uniform with. If you’re stuck in a car on the way to grandma’s house for three hours, this is what you want in your pocket.

Borderlands – The Secret Armory of General Knoxx

Yes, Borderlands came out in 2009, but the best piece of DLC (possibly ever?) came out for the game in early 2010, giving you even more RPG Shooter-ness to enjoy. Brand-new weapons, never-before-seen enemies, more Scooter, and tons of new missions make this piece of content a very easy buy, and we haven’t even mentioned Crawmerax. What’s that? Oh, you’ll find out. Oh boy, will you find out. Just keep a spare pair of pants handy.


Metro 2033

Metro 2033 came out of left field and surprised everyone when it managed to combine the shooter genre with the best elements of action adventure. Plus, the game introduced a bullet economy where ammunition was more valuable than cash. Requiring air filters for gas masks, supplying you with horror elements, and even making you illuminate your map with a Zippo lighter all gave this game a unique edge that is still a lot of fun to experience.

Red Steel 2

Even the Wii got some much-needed shooter love in 2010, and it all started with Red Steel 2. Which actually means it started back in 2006, because it was a launch title for the Wii. However, this game is superior in every way to the original Red Steel, and it adds MotionPlus support, so you can more accurately pop a cap in, or disembowel, someone. Great combat and much-improved visuals make this sequel well the time.

Just Cause 2

While this game might not fit squarely into the shooter genre, I’m calling it the lone entry in the “Sandbox Shooter With a Grappling Hook” genre, because it gives you the toys you need to play with (namely lots of guns, and an awesome grappling hook) and sets you loose. You can completely ignore the storyline if you want, and just go around tethering things to one another. Or shooting people. It’s really up to you, and more people should check this game out. There is something truly addictive about it.


Splinter Cell: Conviction

It’s almost criminal to include this title, as Splinter Cell has traditionally been about sneaking and stealthing, but Sam Fisher’s new ability to “Mark and Execute” make spying on enemies that you’re about to kill all the more exciting. Granted, the game is extremely light when compared to Chaos Theory, but Fisher needed a shakeup. While the team stopped shy of turning him into Jason Bourne outright, they got very close in delivering us a fast, powerful Sam Fisher. Plus that whole “spraying the name of the objective” on the environment thing was very cool.

Dead To Rights: Retribution

I’ll be honest. This game was a real limburger cheese-fest. By which I mean, it stank. However, you know what didn’t stink? Shadow. Having a dog sidekick that can literally rip the balls off of bad guys is awesome. Sure, you have to trade the good with the bad, and was DTR: R’s bad gameplay worth it? Definitely, when you saw the “Scrotality” achievement.


Lost Planet 2

Again, not a typical shooter, per se, but one that gave you the ability to hop onto giant mechs armed with pods that could house your teammates and wield things like giant shotguns. Yes, there were some control problems, and trying to carry giant eggs in multiplayer is enough to make you tear your hair out, but that low-gravity combat and those Vital Suits made it enjoyable. If only this had been a Winter release, I would have felt the need to search for heat sources a bit more compelling.


Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker

While I enjoyed Portable Ops as much as the next PSP owner, I really didn’t think it was going to be possible to put out an MGS game that managed to tie together the original games with a new storyline, but they did it. Peace Walker represents a true MSG-centric experience on the PSP, and the fact that they made it co-op is all the better. Even though you all play as Snake on your own screen, it’s nice having the ability to bring buddies into the battle. Once you step onto the beach in that opening scene training mission, you’ll be hooked.


While not the first game to allow you to manipulate time while you fire weapons at baddies, Singularity had the added ability of letting you de-age things (i.e. crumbling a wall), or re-aging something (restoring a crate to its full glory so you can smash it open and get the goods inside). Yes, we all know that the game wasn’t exactly a success when it hit shelves. but the innovative time-manipulation was definitely something that I’d like to see in a game at some point. There’s so much that could be done with time-travel, so I’m hoping that Valve picks up the chrono-gauntlet after Portal 2.


Crackdown 2

While Crackdown 2 didn’t really shake things up too much in terms of a sequel, it added a lot of new toys to play with. Granted, searching for orbs gets to be a pain in the ass after your first 100, those magnetic grenades turn everything in the world into something fun to play with. Launch cars up onto buildings has never been so enjoyable. Once you finally find aerial vehicles, you’re so far into the game that you can practically leap everywhere you need to go. But, that doesn’t mean that the flying isn’t a total blast, because it is.


Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days

If you want gritty realism in your video games, then you need to check out Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days, as it was inspired by user created content from surveillance cameras and the like. Grainy, jump-cutty, and visceral, this game doesn’t want you to think it’s light and fluffy at all. Gameplay mechanics are basic, but going online to co-op as both Kane & Lynch (you only play as Lynch if you’re going at it single player) offers up the best experience. It’s a bloody mess, and very fun at times.


Halo: Reach

Okay, if I really need to remind you about the Halo: Reach release date, then you need to try chewing on a plasma grenade. Halo: Reach gave us a team to fight alongside, and sweet powerups that give you a slight edge at times, or let you do insanely stupid times at others. Like flying off the edge of the map to your death. Not that I’ve done that several times or anything.

Quantum Theory

Quantum Theory, I really don’t want to be the boot that kicks you in the ribs while you’re down, but holy cow you sucked. Your premise sounded amazing. I mean, fighting your way through a living tower? Getting to toss your partner as a projectile? These are all good things. Sadly, it just didn’t come together. Maybe next time.


Medal of Honor

While I didn’t enjoy Medal of Honor as much as I thought I would, there were some awesome gameplay elements that this brought to the table. Silently traversing a map with your buddy instead of going in guns blazing? That creates a lot of tension, and is surprisingly enjoyable. But my favorite level had you a great distance from the bad guys, popping them one by one with an extremely long-range sniper rifle. That was enjoyable enough to make me wish they’d just make Sniper: The Snipening game already. Bring back Silent Scope!


Yes, it was short, had dorky dialogue, and a wafer-thin plot. But, it was a science fiction shooter that delivered hardcore or the clanking and robot-ing where Halo: Reach only offered you strange-colored aliens. Plus, since when has knee-gliding been such a core component of a game? Read: never. Especially since knee-gliding isn’t offered up in Guitar Hero or Rock Band. Vanquish offers a solid game experience that got overshadowed by Halo: Reach, and deserves some of your hard-earned attention.


GoldenEye 007

When this game was first announced, I thought it would be a craptastic port. Instead, you got a beautiful game with some very fun gameplay and a very fun experience on the Wii. I only play it with a classic controller, but I have friends who swear by the Zapper. Whichever flavor you choose, GoldenEye offers up a really impressive James Bond experience on Nintendo’s baby, and it does it with style. The multiplayer doesn’t have quite the addictive feel of the original, but it is a lot of fun as well. Especially in that tacky disco level.

Call of Duty: Black Ops

Best to end the year with a bang, right? Call of Duty: Black Ops certainly came in with a bang, and it shows no signs of going out anytime soon either. We imagine this will be a popular gift this holiday season, and with the just-announced DLC, you’re going to be killstreaking and fragging your way to multiplayer bliss in no time. Plus, the game has one of the most interesting and exciting single-player campaigns to come with a shooter pretty much ever. Toss in the hilarious historical zombies, and this is a game that you’ll have no problem loving.

So we probably didn’t hit everything on this list, so what were some of your favorite Shooter from 2010? I’m split between Halo: Reach and Call of Duty: Black Ops. Thankfully this isn’t the Gift of the Magi, where I have to give up both games in order to make someone else happy.

Have something to share? Have an idea for a feature you’d like to see on G4? E-mail me. You can also follow me on Twitter.



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Editors Choice – Best Multiplayer Mod

Posted on December 21, 2010

Find out who our judges picked as 2010 Best Multiplayer Mod!


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Back To The Future: The Game Preview

Posted on December 21, 2010

Telltale’s take on Back to the Future has the potential to make history by representing the film franchise positively in video game form. Read on to see how they plan on doing it.


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EA Wants To Turn Madden Curse Into A Movie

Posted on December 21, 2010

Even non-sports gamers are familiar with the Madden curse, the idea that football players who appear on the cover of a Madden game end up performing badly or suffering a terrible injury. Now Electronic Arts is apparently looking to cash in that legacy with a movie about it.

The Wrap is reporting that EA is working on developing a sports comedy based around the concept of the Madden curse. Currently titled simply “Madden Curse,” the potential film will follow a retired athlete who comes out of retirement just in time to appear on a Madden cover and have to face up against the curse. EA confirmed that they are working on the film to The Wrap.

Although there’s too little info on this movie to know if it’ll be any good, I’ll at least give EA credit for thinking outside of the box. Games based on movies tend to be terrible, so why not create something that fits a little more tightly into the Hollywood genre norm but can still carry a popular video game franchise name?

[via Kotaku]


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Does Kinect Work If You Are GWAR?

Posted on December 21, 2010

GWAR has been touring the world for 25 years, leaving concertgoers with clothing soaked in blood and other bodily fluids (fake, of course). They murder monsters onstage, sacrifice celebrities and politicians, and encourage their fans to beat the holy hell out of each other. That’s all well and good, but what really concerned me as a gaming journalist was whether or not they’d ever be able to experience Kinect for Xbox 360. Considering that they are alien creatures that are constantly adorned with spikes, gladiator gear, and codpieces made out of alien sea creatures (yes, that’s what that thing is), I wasn’t sure if Kinect’s technology would be able to sense them. There was only one way to find out, so I invited them to our office.

To the horror of pretty much everyone else that works at Game Informer, lead singer Oderus Urungus and bassist Beefcake the Mighty wasted no time in accepting my invitation. In an effort to answer my question, I placed them in front of Kinect to see if they could enjoy a game of Dance Central like the rest of us.

Check out the video below to see the Kinect test as well as an impromptu office tour/invasion.

Thanks to David Schulte from CTV for his help shooting this video. Our video pro Ben Hanson was out of town and Dave stepped up to help make this happen.

WARNING: This is GWAR we’re talking about. They are offensive, rude, immature, and pretty *** gross. You’ve been warned. Not intended for viewers under the age of 18.


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Hard-Earned Victories

Posted on December 21, 2010

Super Meat Boy may not teach us heady life lessons, but it does edify a core value: Victory is hard-fought.


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Chascoda’s Traps for Morrowind and new artwork

Posted on December 21, 2010

Below is the latest list of community submitted entries to our databases. ArtworkNerevar &amp Voryn by Shagan (Morrowind Fanart) Cliffracer by…

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(Planet Elder Scrolls)

Grand Chase: Season 3 Screens

Posted on December 21, 2010

4 new shots posted.

Get the full article at GameSpot

Grand Chase: Season 3 Screens” was posted on Mon, 20 Dec 2010 18:06:00 -0800

Bleach: Soul Ignition gameplay footage fails to impress

Posted on December 21, 2010
The PS3 debut of Bleach isn’t looking too good so far.

I don’t hold the anime/manga Bleach as close to my heart as other people do, but I can still dig what the show does. Even having only viewed a few episodes, I enjoyed the crazy nether realm action the series offered and enjoyed the English voice acting from folks like Johnny Yong Bosch.  So despite not having the Bleach mega fan badge, my heart aches after watching this gameplay footage of Bleach: Soul Ignition for the PS3.

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Morning Discussion

Posted on December 21, 2010

I kicked my Christmas festivities off last night with a double-bill of Trading Places and Scrooged at the cinema. It is now Christmas. I am overflowing with mirth, merriment and good will towards all men, except those I’m not too fond of. Ho ho ho!

Having posted a contemptible Bulletstorm trailer at work earlier in the day, filled with senseless flips and motherflippers, I was delighted by the restrained swearing in Trading Places. If you artlessly drool non-stop obscenities, like Bulletstorm seems to, it can quickly become tiresome. This is deeply unfortunate as swearing is excellent.

No, Trading Places held back, even stopping itself mid-cuss, until the time was just right. It’s this restraint which makes, for example, this simple two-word obscenity–…


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New Call of Duty: Black Ops ‘First Strike’ DLC hits Xbox 360 on Feb 1st. PS3 players? You have to wait (Call of Duty: Black Ops)

Posted on December 20, 2010

Tired of shooting men in the face in the same old Call of Duty: Black Ops maps? Then rejoice. For you shall soon be able to partake in said make believe face-shooting on new maps, when the game’s first DLC is released on February 1st. Entitled First Strike, the pack will remain a timed-exclusive on 360 for around about a month. All the details on the new maps inside…


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World of Warcraft: Cataclysm Review

Posted on December 20, 2010

It’s big. Oh god, it’s big.

World of Warcraft is the world’s most successful subscription MMO. Orcs and humans, fighting dragons. It’s four games welded into one vast whole: a multiplayer cooperative RPG in which you quest. A competitive fantasy team battleground game. A three-versus-three arena competitive ladder. And a 10- or 25-man dragon bashing cooperative raiding thing.

Together, those elements make for a deep and terrifyingly compulsive mix. The trouble was that to get anywhere in the latter three games, you had to go through the former.

80 levels of questing in WoW translates to around a month of fairly solid play. And pre-Cataclysm, that was a month of trawling through some of PC gaming’s most mindnumbingly boring tasks. Ferrying packages across continents. Crawling through shit to find excreted seeds. Massacring leopards en route to killing more leopards.

She’s friendly. But you’ll want her to be exalted

Yes, Cataclysm is an extension of that. Five new levels taking the cap to 85, a bunch of new dungeons, extra professions, new races, blah blah. But it’s also a rescue package. The story of Cataclysm – that of an angry dragon bursting out of the ground – is an excuse. An excuse to rebuild the world.

There were flashes of what WoW could be back back in 2004: defending a robot monkey in the jungle. Tracking down crims in the back alleys of Stormwind. Getting a party together to kill a giant yeti. But it was mired in grind. WoW has an incredible sense of place, and you want to explore it. Its fantasy combat mechanics – a mix of spellcasting, avoiding damage and healing, while holding an enemy’s attention with an armoured warrior/magic paladin/ angry bear – are fundamentally fun. Assassinating gnome mages in player versus player combat is hilarious. Defeating ancient guardians in abandoned temples in teams of 10 or 25 is brilliant. It’s just a shame you had to play for a month to get there.

That’s the point of Cataclysm: to deliver entertainment where there was filler between levels 1-60. Designers often talk about game interaction in terms of sentences. Actions are verbs, nouns are items. In old WoW, the only two verbs the engine could cope with were ‘kill’ or ‘collect’. With the previous expansion pack, Wrath of the Lich King, WoW got a new verb: ‘use’. It turns out, you can do a lot with that verb. Use ‘explosives’ on ‘mammoth’ to collect ‘meat’. Use ‘hot poker’ on ‘captive alliance prisoner’ to get ‘information’. Use ‘robot suit’ on ‘harpy infested forest’ to collect ‘essential goblin supplies’. Use ‘fireextinguisher’ on ‘burning forest’ to ‘save the orchard’.

Quests on speed

Quests introduced in Cataclysm are brisk, fun, and over in the blink of an eye. Quest hubs have five, maybe ten quests max, and can be burned through in ten minutes. Giant arrows on your map show you where to go. Any objects you need to collect are marked with a twinkle. Any monsters that need to die are highlighted with red text. Hover your cursor over them, and the game will tell you how many need to die, and why. The flow never stops moving you around, never lets up. And if the game ever does resort to asking you to kill ten of something – it’s fine. Because it’ll pair that objective with something to do along the way. Burn bales of hay, or rescue peons, or activate machines, or douse fires, or [verb] [noun].

I miss Arthas already. Bring back the Lich King!

At the back of your mind will be a nagging thought. “I’ll just find this thing then go to bed,” or “let me finish this questline, and I’ll do some work.” I’ve got some bad news. So expertly are you breadcrumbed around the world, teased with new objectives, that you’re not going anywhere. Not for a month, at least.

You might think that WoW is for hardcore lore nerds, a kind of cartoon Lord of the Rings thing. Serious.Po-faced. It’s really not. Blizzard aren’t working with heavily controlled intellectual property like Warhammer, Star Trek, or Batman. They don’t have to get their game and ideas approved. They’re also pop-culture magpies. If they want to have spacefaring alien goats, they can. If they want to introduce vampires and werewolves, they can. What matters is the entertainment. Zones aren’t places to explore: they’re stories. Uldum is an Egyptian Indiana Jones movie with giant cat people. Gilneas is a Victorian era Twilight. Kezan is GTA: Goblin City. Westfall is CSI: Azeroth. Duskwood is a vampire story. Ashenvale is orcs versus elves in the woods.

In WoW today, entertainment trumps everything.

Nice face, baldy. Shame about the teeth

Redridge Mountains is a relatively low level zone. It’s a valley surrounded by Orc camps, with one tiny Alliance village under constant threat in the far west. The story says the people of Redridge can’t expect help from the vast Alliance armies of Stormwind. They’re on their own. They need adventurers, stat.

But you’re not good enough. What you really need to do is convince the local cage-fighter to help. He used to be in the special forces. He’s in the backroom, fighting for kicks and cash. All his old mates have been captured or tortured. He’s a ball of rage, with no outlet. He’s Rambo.

Stage one: infiltrate the orc camps, put the fighter’s team of five back together. Some are in cages. Others are strung up, hanging from cave walls. Stage two: gather the forces, and stake out a new camp. The mage turns himself into an rocket motor, and we zip across the shark infested lake. Stage three: we infiltrate. We cover ourselves in horse dung and plant satchel charges. Stage four: assassination – the leaders of the Orc camp are quietly released. Any further prisoners of war are set free. Stage five: detonation and escape: a gnome heli-drops a tank into the zone. Rambo jumps onto the gun, and proceeds to gib about a billion orcs. Stage six: the final showdown and heroic last stand with a very, very big, and very, very bad, boss.


Cataclysm does have some dead patches. Often, the size of the old zones isn’t compatible with WoW’s new designs. New WoW puts the questgivers and monsters right next to each other. Old WoW would spread them about. New WoW favours tight, compact zones. Old WoW rambles. There’s still too much flat open space in zones such as Durotar (Orc starting area) and the Barrens (the clue is in the name). And something has been lost with the new quest approach: one of the thrills of old WoW was exploring, discovering the world at your own pace. New WoW is a conveyor belt in which you input time, and output a level 85 Goblin mage.

95 percent of Westfall’s content has been revamped

But it’s captivating. New players will think this is what all MMOs are like. The old players, once they’ve recovered from exploring the new, very top tier zones, will be thrilled with the changes.

Let’s look at that top tier in detail.

The new zones are, mostly, very good. Uldum, mentioned earlier, is the standout: a comedy interpretation of Egyptian legend that plays out brilliantly. Deepholm is a vast underground cavern that seems to stretch on forever, and despite the claustrophobia, it’s remarkably fun. Vash’jir, once you get over the fact you’re underwater the entire time, is smart, although it seems to drag on. Being given a seahorse to swim around on helps. Twilight Hylands, the very last zone you enter, is ferociously story focused; it isn’t as heavily themed as the other zones, but it does introduce you to a new Orc clan, and provide background to the baddie of the expansion: the dragon Deathwing.

It’s surprising how focused the storytelling is in new WoW

Which leaves Mount Hyjal, which is a disappointment. The idea is that you’re defending, and eventually repairing, a giant tree, on the site of the culminating battle of Warcraft III. It doesn’t work, partly, I think, it’s because you never get a sense of the location – you hop between caverns, portals, and points of interest too quickly to really stop and look around. Partly, as well, the zone feels upside-down. The quest flow directs you down the mountain. Ascending for a final battle would make more narrative sense. Finally, the story isn’t focused enough: it’s got a giant turtle, a passable interpretation of the arcade game Joust, elementals, Twilight Council, this and that. Everything is thrown at you to hold interest, but nothing sticks, nor is there a memorable character. Compare that with the excellent questline in Twilight Highlands, which covers some of the same story beats, but does it with a funky new Orc War Lady-person.

The new dungeons are excellent. Dungeons have always been the place that first tests your class as you level, and the place to get the best loot. The new 80-85 dungeons, and their matching heroic (hard) modes are universally the best Blizzard have made. They’re funny: it’s hard to laugh as you fight a squid that bounces from head to head, turning each player into an infected waterspewing tyrant. They’re challenging: every class needs to use the full range of control abilities and interrupts – not just burn down the target as quickly as possible. And they’re entertaining: nothing can quite match the thrill of riding into battle with a giant skeletal demon on the back of a camel.

Health and efficiency

The new dungeons also introduce WoW’s new combat model – and it’s a shock. The core concepts of WoW are relatively simple. Players do damage to monsters, and they fall over. Monsters do damage to players, and that damage must be avoided, or it must be healed. Over the last expansion packs to WoW, the damage output on all sides has rapidly increased, but the health pools of players haven’t. That’s sped the game up – and reduced the complexity. Healers play whack-amole with health bars, using their fastest spell to bring a target up to full health, while damage-dealing classes and tanks saw little reason to use their crowd control abilities to minimise the damage coming in. It was a heal or die, zero sum, game. You use flash heal, or your class’s equivalent, or everyone died.

Paladins have new mechanics to cope with

Now, health pools of players are vast. Consider a newly minted tank a level 80 (Wrath of the Lich King’s level cap reached around 25,000/ 30,000 health points). That’s following the health pool inflation of two expansion packs, and five years of patches and new gear. In Cataclysm, newly minted level 85 players have health pools of around 100,000 points. Damage is slower to occur, but the power of a healer’s spells hasn’t risen by the same factor of three, nor have their mana pools expanded to cope with more spells cast. The healing game now isn’t whack-a-mole: it’s triage. Healers are expected to pick their targets, and the spells they use, according to priority. Low cost heal-over-time spells for those who just need topping off. Big heals landing at the point of impact for tanks taking mega-hits. Flash heals for DPS classes that stand in fire or take unexpected damage. Group heals for panic stations. To help, all classes need to reduce the damage coming in – by being aware of their situation, interrupting abilities where possible, and by crowd controlling dangerous enemies in packs.

Smart groups of friends, playing over voice chat or with their guild, will be, and appear to be, fine. But for the random groups I’ve played in since Cataclysm launched, this new combat reality is taking time to sink in, and tempers are flaring. It’s a better, more fun game for the change. But it’s also a far harder game, and there’s no easy ride. A dungeon-finder tool, introduced late in the Wrath of the Lich King expansion, makes finding a group easier, from a pool of players countrywide. But it doesn’t automatically make players better, or better able to cope with the change from easy-mode care-bear questing to hard-mode face-palming.

Getting personal

Where the new combat model definitely improves WoW is in the player versus player modes, battlegrounds and arenas. Stretching combat out, rather than letting players gib each other in an instant, makes face-offs more interesting and more dynamic. There’s more chance to save each other, more chance to fire off a cooldown or improvise an escape. The two new battlegrounds are very, very good: they’re remixes of traditional capture the flag and capture-and-hold favourites, but the change of scenery is welcome. What doesn’t work is the new open world combat zone: Tol Barad, a prison that can be captured by horde or alliance, for a chance to raid the bosses held within. Right now, it vastly favours the defenders, and rarely flips. It’s a shame – open world PvP is when WoW feels most at war.

Healers face real pain in Cataclysm

But it’s still good. Good, and vast.

It was always obvious that I was going to enjoy Cataclysm: it’s an extension of what I really like. What surprised me was just how much I enjoyed the new old world – perhaps more than levelling through the new stuff, and gearing for the raids to follow. Before, I used to warn people off them. Too much grind. Too boring. No one to play with. Now I recommend to my friends that they pick up WoW and try levelling a Goblin, or a Worgen (the two new races), just because it’s such fun. Deathwing’s ascent hasn’t destroyed Azeroth: it’s saved it from decline. In wreaking so much destruction, he’s sowed the seeds of WoW’s dominance of PC gaming for another six years.


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