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My Game of (last) Year: Dragon Age Origins

[I realize this came out last year, but this is the game that dominated my gaming experience in 2010]

Awarding something ‘Game of the Year’ can be done under a number of different criteria, but one that works for me is this: “what game really drew me in, and had me spending hour after hour with it?” That game, despite some very real flaws, was BioWare’s Dragon Age: Origins.

For me, what really sold the game was the character Morrighan. From an artistic perspective, BioWare did a good job of developing a character with some sex appeal that wasn’t overtly sexy. Courting her meant being judicious about helping that defenseless villager, but she is not a character I would describe as evil–let alone a ‘bad’ girl.

In fact, despite all her idiosyncrasies, her behavior is actually quite logical based on her upbringing. Learning the truth about her ‘mother’ Flemeth, exacting revenge, and earning her final amorous approval is something I enjoyed quite a bit. I’m not sure how I would have reacted to the ‘God baby’ endgame without having courted her first, but that’s a twist I certainly didn’t see coming.

Add this defining character into a world that feels lived in. Sure, Orlais and Ferelden bear more than a passing resemblance (with fates reversed) to England and France post-Hundred Years’ War. The prophet Andraste is clearly modeled after Joan of Arc. But look what designers did with high-fantasy regulars: dwarves and elves. The political system of the former and the political status of the latter was something I found incredibly refreshing. Elves as once-immortal beings now typically found enslaved or in refugee camps. . . that lends a darkness to the fantasy setting a thousand Drows could not.

Origins has been let down by its mediocre and poorly balanced DLC packages as well as the largely forgettable Awakening expansion but the core game that shipped in November 2009 got more love from me in 2010 than any other title in my library.

Honorable Mention:

My runner-up is a game that actually came out in 2010, and sucked my time away more than anything that didn’t have Morrighan  in it. This was my first experience with a DICE game and the franchises represented in it (both Battlefield and the Bad Company sub-brand), and I’ve been totally blown away by the experience.

Multi-player in BC2 is an addictive, well-balanced affair that brings tactical gameplay to the fast-paced environment of the console in a way that Call of Duty probably never will. Though the game’s success owes much to the Frostbite engine, especially the way destructible environments make each match feel like an organic battle, the real key is something more subtle. The two dominant multi-player modes (Rush and Conquest) hybridize objective and deathmatch play in a way that no other FPS does: objectives are given–and are key to each mode–but unlike other objective games, kills and kill/death ration still matters for the team. For those who care to read more, I wrote about this on Gamasutra a while back.

The reason Bad Company 2 doesn’t get the nod from me, despite being my favorite game actually released in 2010, is that the campaign is pretty forgettable. In fact, the final level has been so maddening to me I still haven’t finished it.

Disappointment of the Year

Perhaps I came into Halo: Reach with excessively high expectations. It’s a good game, but I expected greatness. On the single-player front, gameplay is solid, but two key enemies are drastically over-powered to the degree they are simply not fun to fight, despite the challenge: Zealot elites, and especially Hunters. Even worse, the story–its characters in particular–fall flat in a way that leaves ODST as the most engaging Halo story to date.

Nor, unlike Bad Company 2, does the multi-player redeem the campaign’s flaws. True, I had some pretty glowing things to say about it back in October, but the more I play the more I get tired of the Halo formula. It’s subjective, I know, but I have to bring it up. Objectively, the game is impeccably balanced, but the majority of levels fail to impress–and they’re certainly not memorable. Not in the long run.

The Noble Map Pack is well-done, and I’ll stick come back from time to time, but Reach is not addictive in the way Halo 3 was and has not superseded Bad Company 2 as my “go to” multi-player game of choice.

Moment of the Year

The last hours of Red Dead Redemption. Especially what happens after the credits roll. . . wow. I left the game there, because that’s the ending I wanted to remember.

The game as a whole is pretty flawed, but it will be interesting to see what Rockstar does with the Wild West setting down the road.

Honorable Mention: the debut of space combat in Reach at E3. I only wonder what would have happened, though, if Bungie and Microsoft had kept that under wraps and let gamers be blown away as they played the game. That surprise alone might have been enough to sway my opinion of the game.


Bad Co 2: Vietnam’s Achievement List

The Battlefield blog has released a list detailing most of the achievements, reproduced below, which are contained in the upcoming expansion to Bad Company 2. Of particular note are ‘would you kindly STFU’ and ‘balls of fire,’ definitely. Note that there is one achievement missing here, since there’s a secret achievement. Wonder what it’ll be?

Achievement List

Can I Go Home Now?

Achieve a team victory on all Vietnam levels

Every Gun has a Silver Lining

Get silver stars on all primary Vietnam weapons
(Veteran weapons not included)

Ecstasy of Gold


Get gold stars on all primary Vietnam weapons
(Veteran weapons not included)

Doing the Rounds


Get a kill with all Vietnam vehicles

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Why Are There No New Maps Or Content For The BFBC2 VIP Program?

Though the buy-new incentive ‘Project Ten Dollar’ was implemented for Bad Co 2, Battlefield fans everywhere claim that the VIP program has presented little value for their money. Instead of getting any new content, the program has taken to re-releasing established maps in different modes–and even simple costume changes, which end up being slight recolors of established models, or the only new mode, Onslaught, have cost Battlefield players money. This has set precedent to the feeling that if Battlefield players want to experience new content, they’re going to have to fork over cash to do it. So, what gives? Well, the Battlefield Community manager had the following to say on the subject:

How come you are releasing map packs and not “new” maps?

“The idea of the VIP program was to make sure that we had a continuous flow of content to our players, to keep the Battlefield updated with new places to fight in. We also wanted to make sure these were free of charge to the people with VIP codes. The remixed maps has worked great for this but we clearly also hear the community request for new maps. Naturally these are much heavier to create from a dev stand point and hence the lead times are longer.”

So, there you have it.

Now, at the risk of sounding cynical, I’m going to guess they have little incentive to release new content because not only is DICE working on Medal of Honor, but there’s also a full-fledged expansion–Vietnam–which will be released later this year. Intuition tells me Vietnam will be their response to our cries for ‘new content.’

Interestingly, other ‘Project Ten Dollar’ iterations–like the Cerberus Network for Mass Effect 2–have managed to churn out a lot of new content in a shorter time frame at zero expense to those in the program.

Monday Night Combat Developer Walkthrough 2: Support Class

After watching this video, it’s looking like I’ll be running support class myself. The previously previewed tank class just doesn’t look as exciting or as complex as the support class. And just what type of class is the support? “A healer and a tech combined together with a Heal/Hurt Gun for a primary weapon and a deadly close range shotgun for a secondary. His four upgradable skills include Hack, Firebase, Air Strike and a passive Support skill,” says Uber Entertainment.

Here, we can watch each of these skills in action. In most games, the support classes do not have enough exciting UMPH because it would throw the balance of the classes off. In Bad Company 2, your medic cannot do anything about tanks, for example. Here we see that the medic is just as viable as anyone else in terms of big firepower and taking out heavy units. You have a variety of tools to do so, too: put up a turret, call in an airstrike, or just shotty it.

Want to know the details about some of the abilities and skills?

“Hack allows Support to enhance any built turrets as well as turn an enemy turret into a friendly at higher levels. Firebase is a transforming throwable turret that can be placed anywhere. It will heal Support and teammates when upgraded. Air Strikes can be called with a throwable sticky beacon that can be attached to arena surfaces as well as other characters. Support’s passive skill upgrades his armor as well as enhance robots around him in a given range.”

Another thing to note is the sort of atmosphere the game is going for: very campy, tongue-in-cheek feel. Your support guy sort of sounds like Mario, but it’s not obnoxious or anything. The announcer makes quips occasionally, but he’s voiced well enough that you don’t wince like you might after hearing SSF4’s announcer. You can get ‘juiced,’ and yes, that’s probably exactly what you’re thinking it is. In this world, being ‘roided is just par for the course–hell, it’s the prize you get for your killstreaks. Your powerups are actually corporate sponsorships. Lastly, the reason why you’re all fighting to the death? The American Dream, of course: a ridiculous sum of cash.

Monday Night Combat releases this Wednesday on the XBL Marketplace for 1,200 MS points.

Battlefield Bad Company 2 Mythbusters

Two videos here for you, which put various myths about Battlefield Bad Company 2 to the test. Of particular interest to me was that you can destroy a stationary shield with your repair tool, and that you cannot kill someone with your ATV unless you go over them with the wheels. I can’t count the number of times I’ve run over someone, but they didn’t die: and now I know why. Other myths, like whether or not you can kill someone through the glass of a stationary shield, are also debunked…definitely interesting stuff, though only a couple of things are practical in actual use. The fact that you can snipe someone with that shotty without slugs is downright insane, even though I can’t ever see myself using it that way.

Map Pack 4 Officially Out, Atacama Rush, Port Valdez Conquest

Rumor mongers no more! Turns out that our scoop on the leaked map pack releases is right so far, since today the Battlefield Blog revealed that map pack 4 includes Atacama Desert on Rush, and Port Valdez on conquest. If you are in the VIP club, you can download the map pack for free, barring that your hard-drive has space, of course. Just to get you pumped, here’s a trailer for the map pack, which you can watch while you download.

Rumor Monger: New Map Packs for Battlefield Bad Company 2 Revealed, Pictures?

The EA forums are bustling with the leak of what may be DICE’s upcoming VIP Map Packs–since, as you may have noticed, there are still a couple of DLC packs denoted on the Battlefield Store. The alledged release(s) will include:

  • Conquest on Port Valdez
  • Conquest on Nelson Bay, during the day
  • Rush on Atacama Desert
  • Rush on White Pass

There are a variety of pictures to accompany this rumor, which you can find here. Now, we don’t quite know if this is legit or not. Those pictures could have been shopped, right? But, does it really seem that outlandish? I think it’s clear, with the upcoming release of both Medal of Honor and Battlefield Bad Company 2: Vietnam, that DICE is probably not spending any time trying to make original maps for us. And if there’s still a couple of DLC packs to be released for the VIP club…there’s a very high chance that we might see at least a few of these, if not all.

More on this as information surfaces.

New pins for Bad Company 2 (via Gamertag: xeer2000)

I’m no achievement whore, but I think I’d go out of my way to get every single one of these pins just for the lulz.

New pins for Bad Company 2 Bad Company 2 will soon be getting patched and along with that code update will come the following pins. (via) … Read More

via Gamertag: xeer2000

Will Gears of War 3 Insult You For Sucking?

CliffyB posted a link on his Twitter to this picture, joking that “Gears 3 is being mean to me.”

Is that some sort of ranking? Or is it like Battlefield Bad Company 2, where you get this screen for killing yourself:

Either way, I feel that this screen can only be appropriate whenever a chainsaw kill happens. Of course, since the chainsaw bayonet is CliffyB’s baby, not only will this never happen, but the BS that is the chainsaw will also never disappear.

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 Onslaught Mode Review

Now that Onslaught has dropped for us 360 owners, I finally had the chance to try the mode out for myself. Onslaught is a $10 four player co-op mode which sees individual squads running through old maps with mostly cosmetic, though some gameplay oriented, changes.

If you’ve read anything by me, you know how I tend to approach things. Go big or go home. In Bad Company 2, I played so much I was placed in the top thousand in the leaderboard–the only reason that I wasn’t in the top few hundred is because as I got better at the game, finals were rolling around the corner and I had to stop playing as maniacly as I was. And with the upkeep of this site, in conjunction with, you know, life, my special alone time with BC2 has severely diminished. Anyway, what I’m trying to get at here is some sort of justification as to why I started off playing Onslaught on the ‘hard’ difficulty instead of normal.

Unlike other game modes, you can’t access Onslaught from the  normal multiplayer menus. Instead, it has its own separate entry on the main menu. Here, you can define the difficulty–I went with hard, as you know–as well as choose one of the 4 available maps. I assume that DICE will be releasing other maps sometime, albeit probably ones we’ve already seen before, as they have been doing for Rush/Conquest/SDM. The game found a match in no time, and soon enough I found myself in Nelson Bay along with 4 other folks who all, interestingly enough, had microphones. Never before, in my hundreds of hours of playing BC2, had I ever been in a match with complete randoms, who all had mics.

The thing about Onslaught is, it’s been marketed as a mode that encourages, hones, or introduces team-oriented play for both veterans and newbies alike. So don’t be surprised if the people you play with tend to have mics, like to communicate, and want to work together to get the job done. In this sense, Onslaught is what Squad Rush should have been. At current, SR is really just a very slow-paced version of Rush, which heavily encourages camping for defenders. Definitely not the more ‘tight knit’ version of Rush which requires cooperative squad play. Onslaught, however, fits that bill perfectly.

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