August 2004

Dark Age of Camelot

August 31, 2004

Online, the new frontier for video games, as such this new frontier has produced many new titles that are flying off the shelves. One obvious choice is roleplaying games, a game where the player themselves have control over their avatar to dress, adventure, and level up as they see fit. The lure of course is that you do not have to do it alone. The enre has made for interesting roleplaying and party creation that is necessary in order to tackle some quests that will reward you with riches, new gear, or a new wizard hat so to speak.

On my tour of the MMO world I have already landed in the wasteland that was Star Wars Galaxies and that has left me with a sour taste in my mouth. I needed something new, with better roleplaying, and that “dragons and wizards” theme that I love. My next step on this MMO Tour was Dark Age of Camelot, I was not expecting much, but I liked what I saw, and enjoyed it even more when I played it.

Dark Age of Camelot, like many other MMORPG’s, sets you in a world where your created character has a chance to make a lasting impression in the community, make a name for himself, and share the experience with others. The first thing I noticed when starting the game was that there were roleplay intensive servers that called out my name. Once I found my server and realm of choice, which I might add is very easy, I was able to create a character to my liking. I was very disappointed with the lack of depth in character creation but the character design of the different races allowed me turn the other cheek.

I dove right into the game, handling the first few levels on my own. You get quests extremely easy as NPCs seem to hand them out like candy depending on your skill level. I found this better then walking up to a monetary “quest generator”. It added a bit of depth to the world where I would soon be spending hours immersed in. The quests are challenging and fun; often times leading you outside a city and into the wild where you are not guaranteed a safe return.

Of course you may kill time by monster camping in an area appropriate to your skill level but a little background to your slashing of skeletons doesn’t hurt. My favorite quest was one that required you to find a team and travel to a new city together. This was much easier in the roleplay server as you can “play” the lost character and easily find a few good Samaritans to lend you a helping hand. With one of these friendly folk I would eventually share a few other quests as my character grew in skill a bit. This implementation of “needing” party members helps the “shy” roleplayer meet people, and many were more then kind enough to lend a helping hand. In later levels I have helped a few rookies get through a rough area by watching over them making sure they stay on the living side.

To add to the roleplay vibe I remember a few party members stopping in the midst of a beautiful plain while we each talked about our character. I was taken on how well some of the characters were thought up and how well the players emoted their avatars and played to the conditions we were set in. For example my party stumbled upon a pack of mountain lions. Individually we could have taken perhaps one each but we were up to our neck in trouble. Our party leader screamed, “Run!” and we started booking. As we ran for our lives each member of the party emoted huffing, puffing, and an all around sense of panic. Some of you reading might find that completely lame, but to us roleplayers it’s moments like that we remember fondly.

The world that was created was your standard MMO universe, a giant, scaling world with trouble and sanctuary always around the corner. The design of the landscapes was a sight to see. Running across open plains or taking a horse to get you from one town to the next allowed for some wonderful scenery and the occasional NPC in the middle of nowhere with a rewarding quest.

Of course your payment for participation of quests is experience which lead to levels, new items, or gold which leads to the purchase of better weapons or armor. If you are like me you will find yourself buying better looking armor right away and then better weapons later. Customization is also available with the ability to dye your armor and cloaks for just that right effect.

The class sets vary depending on which realm you select. Each realm has a list of races and each race has restrictions to which classes it can become. This had me create a character on each realm so I can see what the game has to offer. You have a good selection of classes to choose from that range from your fighters to your wizards or elementalists. As you level in these classes you may then multi-class to a more specialized class. I found myself as a Rogue: Shadowblade with dual wield and a character with an attitude problem. Good stuff here, trust me.

Players can create guilds, recruit members and even have guild wars with each other. I was not able to partake in these events as my character was still low level compared to some of the guild members. I did however stumble upon many places where battles just took place and the ground was littered with gravestones (a representation of a fallen character). I could only imagine what happened there. From what I hear the low level characters experience better roleplay if that is what you are looking for. As with most RPG games it’s easy to get into the funk of power leveling due to the need to keep up.

Dark Age of Camelot has with it some good expansions that enlarge the world, allow for more races to be selected and add a bevel of new adventures. With Shrouded Isles and Trials of Atlantis expect more of the same in better doses. Unfortunately these expansions are intended for a higher level crowd and I was unable to partake. With the standard set by the original game I can only expect them to be just as good. Feel free to send us your take on the expansions we would love to hear it, especially on any adventures that the Trials of Atlantis offers and its new underwater settings.

If you are looking for that MMO game with actual roleplay, this is your best shot. This is the closest thing I have found to an immerse world or adventure and roleplay. Don’t get me wrong though, you will still find either bad roleplayers or those who are not roleplayers at all on the roleplay server, but you will have a better time finding those who want to play the game like you do, however that may be. Feel free to pick up the game at Mythic’s DAoC [url=]website[/url] for a free 7 day trial. The game does have a monthly fee at $12.95 (last I checked) which to some is well worth the experience they have been searching for.

Next on my tour is Square’s attempt at the world of MMO gaming with Final Fantasy XI. Just know before time that I am one of those Final Fantasy fan boys so I might get a little help in the review so you can at least get a hint of unbiased ness. At least I admit it.

[floatleft][/floatleft]The characters of Hamtaro are back in yet another highly addictive title. Hamtaro: Ham Ham Games follows the lovable creatures through a 15 event sports festival. The release of this game came just prior to the start of the 2004 Olympics in Athens so I have aptly named this the Hamster Olympics. You play as part of the Ham-Ham team and obviously try to win top honors in each event.

Each day of the competition is typically broken up into several parts. There are 3 events with free time in between each event. You can use free time to walk around and talk to people in different areas of the game and collect sunflower seeds. When you enter an area and start an event you have a few choices. You can view the tutorial on how to play the event, you can practice the event, and then you can enter the event. You can also set the level of difficulty for each event. I highly recommend starting on easy, watching the tutorial, and practicing until you have the event down solid. Some of the events are just timing button presses and some require a very high level of patience and a lot of practice. When you decide to enter the event you are given a choice of characters from the team. Sometimes there is only 1 choice, but in other events there are multiple member of the team that are experts in the event. You then battle it out and are rewarded a medal for your efforts. The medaling system is Gold, Silver, Bronze and you are also awarded a number of sunflower seeds for each medal ranking. The number of seeds for each medal goes up as you raise the difficulty.

At the end of each day you take your hamster back to the clubhouse and go to sleep. This will start a new day so you can continue your utter domination of the Hamster Olympics (at least that was the case for me). The 15 events you will be competing in are as follows:
[*]100m Dash
[*]Hammer Throw
[*]Beach Volleyball
[*]Bird back riding
[*]Pole Vault
[*]Carrot Pull
[*]Triple Jump
[*]Synchronized Swimming
The event that gave me the most trouble was the Bird back riding, but I ended up with a dominating gold medal anyway.

This game does make use of the GBA to GBA link cable or the GBA wireless adapter if you have one. You can compare stats with your friends and there are plenty of items to collect and trade with your friends. I only own 1 GBA and so I will not be touching too much on the linking capabilities of the game.

Up until this point I know what you are thinking. If you checked out the screens for the game and have made it this far then you are wondering why on earth I would recommend you pick up a cute little game where hamsters compete in Olympic sports. The only thing I can say to that is crack. The game is like crack. Not quite to the extent that Animal Crossing is, but it is very addicting and I want nothing more than to be the most dominant hamster athlete in the world.

I didn’t really dig the music or sound effects in Ham-Ham Games so I spent most of the time playing with the sound off. This works well for gaming on the go and not so well if you play in a Gameboy Player. Since I did spend some time with it in my GBP I figured that I would mention that the game was much easier to play with a full size GC controller. This is not always the case for GBA games since they often rely on the D-pad and just 2 buttons that are in strange places on the GC controller. The swimming event relied heavily on timed presses of different sets of buttons and would probably be needlessly hard with a full sized controller so I opted to stick with my GBA for that event.

Hamtaro Ham Ham Games is a fun Olympic style game that will appeal to a broad range of ages. Youngsters will like the cute hamsters but may find some of the events a little too difficult. Adults will find themselves addicting to ensuring that their team has the gold in the next event in order to maximize their dominance in this highly competitive arena. All in all it was a good game and playing new games on the GBA always delights me because the focus is always on gameplay over graphics and that gives me a very nostalgic feeling.

Xbox Live part 2

August 30, 2004

I got a chance to play some more Black Arrow last night and had a blast. I am still not very good at all, but I am learning. There has been some discussion in the forums about having a set day of the week and a time for everyone to meet for some Xbox Live goodness. This is an idea I really want to see through. I am not sure what day or time will be condusive to everyone that wants in on it, but I will do my best. As always, keep your eyes peeled for people in the forums that are looking to play.

Xbox Live

August 28, 2004

So I got on Xbox Live last night and played some Black Arrow. Fun stuff aside from the rampant spawn camping. You can add me to your friends list as SnackbarGames. I would like to play with non idiots sometime soon.

Say What? Winner

August 27, 2004

I just wanted to congratulate ExoVark from the Penny Arcade forums for his [url=]winning submission[/url] to the Say What contest. It was very hard to select a winner with all the great entries. He walks away with a GBA SP of the Classic variety, a game of his choice, and a carrying case. Thanks to everyone that entered. Our next contest should be coming up very very soon.

We will also be having a HUGE contest in the next month or so that you PC gamers will not want to miss.