Video Game Reviews: Rage and Diablo III

I used to be an avid video gamer: I’ve played WoW to 70 (back when it only went to 70), all the Halos, all the Modern Warfares (including Black Ops and World at War). I’ve played Borderlands and Mass Effect and Skyrim.

Rage (Bethesda 2011, played on XBOX 360) is a post-apocalyptic game set 106 years after a meteor struck Earth. Somehow all the survivors went deep-fried country and have no recollection of the Earth that Was: only what is. They also seem to run through mechanics and electronics like they’re a renewable resource: faster than you can imagine. It’s semi-steampunk, with rigged apparati pumping harmful something-or-others out of the air and a halfway interesting mix of future and past tech melded together.

That being said, Rage is Borderlands without the customizing. Rage is Borderlands with better graphics and (slightly) more story. Rage is repetitive and frustrating, and feels like someone tried to poke fun at themselves while staying serious.

You get vehicles. Yet the moment you’ve spent all your time hauling butt getting upgrades to one vehicle, you get another, better, more armored vehicle, and the old one is obsolete.

You get guns. My brother stated you play the entire game with only six guns. I spent no more than an hour before I had seven (not counting dune buggy guns and remote control cars. Counting wingsticks). Yet the moment you get one, the enemy becomes stronger and you need something else to do strong damage.

You get meta-games like dune buggy racing and shooting practice–all of which are ho-hum and yawn-inducing. Yeah I played on Normal. But just because I’m playing normal doesn’t mean I get to win everything first try, and doesn’t mean I shouldn’t get a challenge as I do so. I even got a “Mutant Smash TV” quest that dropped me in a funhouse full of enemies coming out of the walls. A throwback to the Smash TV video game, I used Wingsticks and had a 90% hit rating. More yawning.

The enemies all talk like middle-management at Best Buy faking a southern accent. The NPCs all talk–and act–like caricatures of real life westerns.

The graphics are great. The fluidity of gameplay is nearly perfect. The storyline is pretty spot on. But there isn’t much freedom to move around in this game: either you race along the main questline or you embark on repetitive side-quests that take you to places you’ve already been.

It feels fake. Unfortunately, Borderlands had a greatly superior level of customization, with ability trees and a level/weapon use system. Yeah, they sacrificed graphics, and the style was pretty boxy, but the worldbuilding and specialization more than made up for it.

I give it 1 of 5 stars. Borderlands 2 is coming out in September. Skip this title and try that one. Unless you prefer solid graphics and interesting storyline. Replay value is my number one, and unfortunately this game didn’t have it.

Diablo III (Blizzard 2012, played on PC and MAC) starts with a bang and ends with a whisper. I loved the first and second titles in the series: I made two druids where one was a spellcaster and the other was a werewolf. Most fun I’ve ever had in a RPG.

Unfortunately, with the success of World of Warcraft, Blizzard let many qualities of WoW bleed into this game: it has an auction house, it has a plot-line that is inundated with floating enemy heads giving insecure, self-serving speeches about their superiority, and the bosses are nearly a joke.

Storyline is great, but the characters are shallow (not that it’s important to the gameplay, but it’s worth noting). Without giving away too many spoilers, I have to quote Wash from first episode of Firefly: “Curse your inevitable betrayal!”

The two aspects of Diablo II succeeded so strongly over any other game of the time was the skill trees and item randomization. Blizz got rid of the skill trees, instead replacing them with simple spells that can be specialized through a rune system. It dumbs down the gameplay so far as to make it repetitive and uninteresting (with the exception to the Barbarian: they finally got him right. Finally).

Blizz changed the drop rates to accompany the Auction House. This means, unlike DII, there are no set pieces before lvl 60 (a set item is an item that gains bonuses when paired with one or more items of the same set). Furthermore, the legendary drops (an item that has a single name no matter how often it drops) are nearly nonexistent. After beating end-of-act bosses, you may get a rare or two. If you play that same end-of-act boss a second time, you’ll most likely get blues for the remainder of the times you play it. This is a huge difference from DII.

Looking at the Auction House, you see over thirty pages of a single legendary item. What this system does is pull the user to the auction house to buy at-level items. This destroys replay value, separates the casual players who enjoyed playing, say, Canyon of the Magi over and over again for good drops, and creates a slot for the mega-gamers (the farmers that spend hours at top Magic Find dredging the depths of Act IV for rares and legendaries to sell on the Auction House). The average player, Me, spends gold he collects while playing on the first run-through to buy worthy pieces on the AH. It removes the replay value. Very important to me.

And, to add, by the time you hit 60, you’ve played the game through 3 times already, assuming you haven’t touched any other classes. The repetition, paired with the lack of replay value, drains my interest by the end of Nightmare mode (Normal, Nightmare, Hell, Inferno).

Finally, the secret gem of DII was the cow level: wide open fields chock full of polearm-wielding bovine. It’s wild, free, and I could spend half an hour slaughtering the enemy constantly. DIII has Whimseyshire, a Nintendo-esque Kirby world of random mobs you find anywhere else on the game. Yawn-inducing.

If it had more strategy, more legendary/set item drops, or more of the flavor/feel of DII, I’d be giving this game many more props. It just seems everyone is trying to dumb their games down for the six year olds to play.

Mac users will enjoy the gameplay a little more than PC, simply due to the ease-of-HUD presets.

I give it 2.5 of 5 stars. I’ll be playing it as a time-waster for some time to come, but you won’t see me gushing about it.

A title that came out the same day as DIII is Max Payne III, a game I’m now interested in testing.


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