Monday, 29 August 2011

Innistrad Previews

So it’s finally Inistrad preview time. I’ve been looking forward to an dreading this time in equal measure. It’s good for the obvious reasons, new set, new themes, new monsters (quite literally in this set.) Yet is also marks the summer holidays drawing to a close, which is hardly a fun time. I can’t dwell on that though, but instead I CAN talk about some of the cards revealed at pax.

One of the most important reveals was the night and day mechanic. It’s like flip, but with a twist – there’s something on both sides of the card. Meaning you use proxies or sleeves. It’s interesting, and to be completely honest I’m not sure how I feel. It seems that’s going to have to wait until my first draft event to truly see what it’s like, and drafting, with cards being open, should provide an altogether different experience. Rather than write 500 words on a single card, showing it’s uses in many decks etc, I’ll do a paragraph on a few reveals that I particularly liked or otherwise had reason to pay attention too. I may post a few decks once the whole set is revealed, but basing a deck on a card when half the support is unrevealed seems a tad silly :D
And before I start, a word on how I play. Commander mainly, so I’ll keep that as a main idea, but also play constructed60 and sealed, so I’ll look from all viewpoints really but dedicated competitive. I’m not quite there yet…

Ludevic’s test subject

The first D/N(day/night… hey, Death Note!) card that I really liked the look of was this. Starts off weak, but with a small(well, commander wise) investment you get a massive 13/13. Sure, they could take it out by then, but the same can be said for every card. It seems that blue and green and having a good time bleeding their colour pies as of late – green has been taking a bunch of draw power, and blue has fatties. Don’t believe me?
Take a look back. Stormtide Leviathan is fairly fat, and there are very few other creatures with over 8 power. Who knows, we could be onto something here! But I digress. It’s not quite the Frankenstein’s monster I was expecting from the first blue, but I like it even more. I like how they have shown this mechanic makes sense for more than just werewolves, as forcing an egg to hatch into this is quite fitting.

Elite Inquisitor
It should be noted one of my commander decks is mono white soldiers. I play Kazandu Blademaster, cause he’s awesome, and I look forward to having him gain an ally in this Elite Inquisitor. He’s pretty good anyway, with a nice set of abilities that really look like they belong to a higher mana cost. His protection for the major beasties is also gonna make him a potential threat in the format, certainly in drafts. And outside of the gloomy depths of Innistrad, it’s bound to come in useful here and there.

Olivia Voldaren

Until this card, I didn’t know what top down design was. Not in the sense that I didn’t understand, but that I literally didn’t know. I looked it up, and thought this was a pretty good example. It could have been executed better, but I still love it. I’m self professed to love multicolour cards, so this already has my vote. But then I actually read it, and it’s awesome. You take a bite, gain power from it, and then bring that creature over to your side. Quite fitting. Now, maybe you should have powered up their creature from it becoming a vampire, but maybe that would be a tad overpowered. And you know what, it has construted potential. For a measly two mana it can power itself up and kill a weak creature, or if it survives take control of it. It’s going to be a massive threat for commander perhaps, but I’d like to see how it plays out. If the vampire subtheme is well enough supported this could be a surprise winner. But I hope not so I can pick up one cheap myself!

Enemy Dual Lands

The reason I quote the set, and not the individual revealed Woodland Cemetery, is because they really are similar and what can be said to one will really apply to all, so it’s fair to deal with them all at once. Personally, these are my species of dual land. The reliance on basic lands means you still have to keep the fundamentals in your deck, but allows for some mana fixing when the need arises. Looking back through magic’s land history the bounce lands are perhaps my favourite for longer/multiplayer games due to the card advantage(not technically, but essentially works out that way. I don’t really count mana gen-lands as cards, but that’s another story for another time.) These are definitely my land of choice for constructed. Balanced pretty well and, if I may say so, are the best balance of dual lands to date. There only flaw is that you can only have 4, really wanting some other form of mana fixing, and as a rare opportunity for enemy colours as is I doubt we will see it. All around brilliant though, I’ll be glad to pick up whichever I can find.

Hollowhenge Scavanger

I looked at my previous card choices and saw I had represented every colour but green, yet when it came to choosing one I found myself struggling, even though we have seen 10 green cards, the most so far. I obviously can’t say this speaks for the set as a whole, as 10 cards is a minimal amount, but at least this selection is limited.
And to be honest, I didn’t choose this card because I like it as much – to be honest, I find it quite underwhelming. Yet it is the only card that shows off the morbid ability so far – and that I like a lot. In its current form it is underwhelming to say the least, but It has potential I really like. There could be a card that says “Morbid- Whenever a nontoken creature dies this turn, put a 2/2 Black zombie into play”. Perhaps not in those words, but you get my meaning. It has potential to do some really fun things for the game, and making your opponent think twice about killing your creatures is always a good thing to do – perhaps not in a graveyard set, but none the less! It’s a mechanic I look forward to reading more about as the weeks pass.

I hope you enjoyed this little slice of my mind in relation to the new set. I don’t really have any magic-liking followers (yes, that is a hint) so the standard “If you like it, I’ll do more” can’t really apply. Instead, I’ll say that I WILL being doing more magic related articles in the future. I actually rather enjoyed writing this, so don’t be surprised to see a top 10 cards of the set or even top 5 of each colour – or whatever – come the full spoiler. Until then, *insert cheesy card-related good luck pun here*.

Oh, and by the way, here’s my preview card for the new set. Didn’t I mention I had one?

I doubt I got you, but worth a try. We will probably see SOMETHING like this… but meh, who knows!
Thanks for reading.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Lack of posts

I lied.
I've been making a MC adventure map, hence lack of posts.
It'll be on here once its done.

Grand Theft Auto IV Review

Getting a PS3 certainly has been an experience. Before January of this year my gaming of the last few years consisted of WOW, Wii and the DS. While each is good it’s own respect, a gaping void was opened by this period. While the wii certainly has some killer titles, they are certainly not as plentiful as other formats. And again with the DS, there are many good titles but for a gamer like me a dry spell was placed over the last few years. So picking up a PS3 lead to the purchase of several Nintendo-unfriendly titles I had missed. And this, arguably, places above them all.
This was my first game of the Grand Theft Auto series, yet this was rarely a hindrance at any point during the game. At first my lack of experience with the genre lead combat and driving a bit of a mixed experience, yet it was not long until I had got to grips with these controls. No alienation can be found in the story either, as you start afresh as a Serbian immigrant to Liberty City named Niko Bellic. You start slow, running errands and driving taxi’s, but it is not long before a darker side to the city is revealed as you assume the role of a hired gun. There are a variety of characters that keep the story interested throughout, and as usual I won’t talk too much about specifics. It’s no Heavy Rain, but it’s certainly enough to prevent me from skipping a single cut scene. The tech is hardly impressive when compared to L.A. Noire, but considering the release date it does the job. Now may be a good time to note my way of playing this game – I’m a story man. I’ll play though the missions and sub events and rarely venture off on a tangent of killing. Indeed, many reap enjoyment from taking arms and wrecking havoc among the city, and while after a few frustrating missions it can be a change, I do not see it as a pivotal point of the game for me.

Combat is rather different to what I expected – there is a large emphasis on cover and shooting by default is automated, with your aim instantly locking and following a target – placing importance of not the accuracy of your shot but the timing. Sometimes it’s hard to resist the urge to bugger it and run in all guns blazing, which can work if your careful so it’s not set in stone how you approach each mission. The auto-aim system is far from perfect however, as every now and again your drawn towards a far off target when there’s someone shooting your ass, resulting in a swift yet annoying death which doesn’t always seem like your fault. This is worsened by ineffective use of checkpoints – often you must waste several minutes getting to the location again just to have another go. Of course there should be some penalty to dying(I don’t expect an instant replay) but it seems a bit unnecessary. You also don’t recover body armour or health if you try again, meaning there are only a few mission’s you can take advantage of what limited time saving there is, as walking into some areas without body armour is suicide for your average player. While the expansion packs fix the checkpoint issue, the body armour problem is often left unchecked, which can make a frustrating mission(in a good way) even more frustrating(in a bad way.) Ignoring this though, the core game play is very good – and that’s only the combat. There are races held around liberty city as well, with and the driving is not quite the best I’ve seen, but it does the job and is overall an enjoyable experience.
Getting to browse Liberty city on the go really shows how much Rock star cares about the product – it’s gorgeous. I played the majority of the game without HD, yet I was still impressed with what I was seeing. It feels like a living, breathing city in contrast to some other places I’ve visited (E.G. No More Heroes’ Santa Destroy ) and other than cab drivers, you never seem to see the same face twice. The same can be said for idle conversation overheard as passing by and even the complaints as you barge past a group of bystanders – it always seems like something different is going on. A completely optional touch that I loved is the variety of people you can happen to walk by and interact with. From a spoiled youth giving away money to an old friend from the war, you need never interact with these people but it shows that these characters do have a past beyond the games natural progression. In between that, the variety of cars, a mass of radio stations, and carefully constructed recognisable landmarks I would be lying if I said I was anything but extremely impressed in Rockstar’s efforts at making the game what it is.

Yet, while playing it I felt that it was not as good as it’s reputation made out. I enjoyed it, yes, but it was far from the best I had played. Then I played something else. I realised something was missing, and it soon dawned on me just how good GTAIV was. It’s a game everyone(mature enough at least) should play. Don’t like the story? See the sights or kill some time seeing the city. Like it? Sorted. It’s strange to realise how good it is after completion, but looking back I enjoyed my time in liberty city enough to revisit it not soon after in the expansions. But that’s for another time. I highly recommend you play this game, take in the city, and be amazed by the amount of effort placed to create Liberty City. It’s far from a perfect game, but it’s got the closest I’ve seen on the PS3.
A word on the expansions.
Taking Liberty City from an outside view of either a member of the lost bikers gang or a right hand man to esteemed nightclub owner is certainly a side to see. It gives a different perspective on the same city, and fix some of the originals problems. Bikes were fairly annoying in that a slight tap could sent you flying in the original, but TLATD fixes this and makes bikes the transport of choice. Both give new weapons and events that are well worth playing. I won’t say much, but I waited to review this game until I had completed both expansion packs, and they certainly make for a full collection. Issues like lack of body armour still remain, but it’s still a great play.