vendredi 12 avril 2013

Grinding the ARPG genre

Time to drop a scroll of wisdom, friends, so stay awhile and listen...

(TL;DR: Hardcore ARPG is THE gaming experience. Diablo 3 is quite good even for 50 B€cks and very bad itemization and the (RM)-AH wrong decision. Torchlight 2 (with Synergies Mod) is the most enjoyable game I can share with my son (and Hardcode PvP is perma-death too!). Path of Exile is the greatest game experience I had so far both from a making point of view, the real F2P philosophy, the well thought money-less economy and the quite wonderful itemization/crafting.)

After so many years of leveling, not the power-one, sometimes even bought from a chinese website or an RMAH, favored by many youngster today, but the friendly, looking for underlying beauty of a third-aged french still exclusively heterosexual four times father (private joke for you Tony) trying to have a good pastime, I find it the time to express my views on the RPG gaming genre.
I am not the Kripp or ZiggyD wizard of gaming able to world first a sequence but my experience of RPG games dates back to Wizardry on the color Apple IIe and covers Ultima 1 to 7, many Might & Magic, Dungeon Master, plenty rogue-like, the fabled WoW, NeverWinterNight platinum.... Should I also mention the dozens of REAL role-playing game I have played and dungeon-mastered starting with the legendary Basic & Expert set of D&D!
After trying to trick my conscience for some years in not being the gamer I am, I came back thru indy studio BasiliskGames (Thanks a lot Thomas) in what some would call a fall (who mentioned my wife?) into discovering that my genre is ARPG.
I will not describe here the multi-instances difference between a MMORPG (Yes it is a game Sheldon), a RPG and an ARPG as you should already know them if you managed to follow me so far. But the interesting thing that will help understand and mitigate my later rambling is that traditional MMORPG has too many things to do, too many keys to remember for me and some RPG are lacking the adrenalin of a fast-paced ARPG, especially played in Hardcore Mode.
So what are my credentials in the genre ? I was a fanatic Diablo I gamer and played my Amazon in Diablo II quite a lot, but I was not fully commited to the ARPG genre yet and thus was never able to finish second level Diablo which force me to put the game down with an unfinished feeling. Coming from more traditional RPG, being able to relevel on already done maps was not something I found easy to master.
So it came only recently to me that my gaming genre was ARPG. And it was while waiting for the very long awaited Diablo III. First I replay Diablo I and then look around the internet to find some more possibilities. This led me to play Torchlight 1 & 2 (still in it but with the Synergy mods now), the more MMORPG GuildWars 2 and last but definitively not least Path of Exile.
First of all, I must say that I find Diablo 3 quite a good game. Lots of bad things have been said but being able to offer 300+ hours of game is quite a feat that I think no game has ever offered me. The graphics are absolutely stunning, the music I cannot tell but the sounds help the game and the combat are cool! Lots of errors too and I think the summary done by mostal from judgehype forums (kuddos!) is quite accurate : "And so that's what it is, this game, almost not able to support the weight of its name..."
I do not know if the RMAH and its micro-transaction are responsible for the direction of the project or if the desire to casualize the game had made it so bad for some (Speaking of casualization, I have replayed for 7 days WoW Mist of Pandaria and it is quite more casual than when I leveled my 60 lovely wizardress but so very fun!! Lots of new possibilities in quest that are quite cool, like some kind of mini-games and I loved the pet combat and collection of them) but what I know is that it is a philosophy issue that makes it what it is. The game is done to make money not to make players happy. If they come happy, all is good but what Activision need is to make a big show and make a lots of money. I have stopped for the moment and I am waiting for the itemization patch (that is after 1.0.8) to come back but when I found my level 60 parangon 36 barbarian run-playing normal Act 2 to finish the acheivements "Wheel of Misfortune" instead of farming for more gear...
I also love quite a lot Torchlight 1&2. I discovered the indy studio quite late, almost at the time of launch for TL2. Missing multiplayer in TL1 was a big thing that has been quite nicely done in TL2 and this is the game I play with my son from over the atlantic (when I manage to refuse being killed again and again and again in Team Fortress 2 by his bloody sniper). Graphically it is quite nice almost toon-like, my girls absolutely love the pets and it is true that lots of the game mechanics are pretty good. All my Hardcore characters are dead at the moment, the latest level 9 Necromancer killed by the cheated level 100 Engineer of my son in a PvP match! He was probably the one more sorry as he did not believe perma-death would occur in PvP (Told you so, son, Told you so!). But I will definitively come back to it and make my way till the high-end maps in a 2-coop mode with my son.
And my latest find is Path of Exile since the Open Beta. I had found their website during the Closed Beta but was not willing to take time to enter, even if some of the features were looking wonderful. I would probably have ended as a Diamond Supporter if I were to read their Manifesto before. The explanation on the Gold-Sink needed in game economy and why that led to a system without money denotes a philosophy is quite strongly adhere with. The dark atmosphere of the game reminds me of the levels in Diablo 1 were you could be scared by appearing monsters (and this is what makes my son prefer TL2 over PoE). Their decision over the Hardcore league to revert killed characters to the Default league is a good one. I would not replay my own characters once reverted but I can understand that for many people it is too much to definitely lose something in which you have invested so much time. With the endless possibilities of the skill system in PoE (both the Passive skill jungle and the active gems), losing a char would just mean the possibility to try something new. At the moment I have a 26 Duelist moving around in Act II and I will recreate my level 6 witch because I am not ok with the choice of Minion mastery I have followed so far. I plan to go along with a Chaos Inoculation build with a character choosing stuff for the look rather than sheer power. I would really like to level my char to the High-End maps objects to see what they are and upgrade some with the Chisel to see the effect. What I miss is some of my friends coming from D3 to PoE so I can test the multiplayer system because at the moment I am not sure I would very much enjoyed the loot being visible for all. I understand the reason why GGG has chosen this path but I am not sure I like it so I want to test it with friends before going public with it. Also worthy of note for me is that they are an Indye studio rather than the AAA of Activision/Blizzard and seem to go for an economic vision based on long-term investment rather than the standard 3-months vision favored by shareholders today. It is now time to go find some more shards of alchemy or an orb of chaos or two...

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