Being somewhat of a fan of superhero comics, I’d noticed the Marvel Heroes box sitting on a shelf on the very first day I stepped into CarcaSean. It wasn’t until much later that I ventured to ask Sean about it. At that time, he told me that he had only played it once himself and didn’t quite understand what the point of the game was. He recommended that I get our resident Ameritrash expert Han to teach the game to me. Even that was quite a while back and only this week did I get a chance to play this out-of-print game with Han, Sean and my wife.
Initially I had the mistaken impression that it was some sort of miniatures-based battle game, perhaps something similar to the Heroclix system. That was incorrect of course as I soon realized after getting into the habit of looking games up on BGG. Instead, pre-painted miniatures notwithstanding, it’s actually a rather abstract strategy game in which the players race against one another to score victory points by resolving various crises. The miniatures aren’t used to track tactical positioning at all and I’d say that the miniature for each team’s mastermind villain doesn’t even have any gameplay purpose.
Continue reading Avengers Assemble!
The bad news is I’ve still yet to receive my copy of Grand Theft Auto IV, so no new game for me. The good news is that since I’m leaving on holiday on Thursday anyway, I probably shouldn’t start a new game for real just yet, so I decided to download a free trial for yet another MMO. The game I picked was City of Heroes, one of the more unique MMOs out there and one that I’ve often wondered about.
Until Champions Online launches later this year, CoH is still the only MMO that lets you play as a superhero (or a supervillain if you so choose). This means that it has an extremely powerful and versatile character creation system and is set in a contemporary cityscape, the so-called Paragon City. Unusually for an MMO, it has no auto-attacks. All attacks are essentially powers that must be manually activated. Furthermore, characters in CoH can physically obstruct one another and a crude physics system allows characters to be knocked down or even blown away a fair distance when hit by the appropriate power.
A few things were apparent from the first moment I started up the game. This game is old and looks it. Not only is the graphics engine terribly dated by now, but its interface, user friendliness and general game design all mark it as very much a pre-World of Warcraft MMO. What’s surprising is that even though CoH launched only a few months earlier than WOW, it looks a lot older, with plain textures and blocky polygons and is far less polished.
The character creation system is indeed as powerful as advertised and to me was probably the most fun part of my short trial. While the combat system felt suitably visceral compared to other MMOs, I was bothered by the fact that although characters use their powers on each other, there’s next to nothing that they can do with their powers to the environment. This felt silly to me and detracted from the experience. You’re not superpowered unless you can throw cars around and blow buildings up in my book. I was annoyed that gameplay seemed to consist mostly of grinding on random mobs or running missions in buildings with the same layouts over and over again. It reminded me unpleasantly of my very first MMO experience with Anarchy Online.
One nice thing that I noticed was that players were generally serious about their character and took the time to design a cool costume and picking an appropriate name. People who are already used to the multitude of dumb and meaningless names in MMOs should know how significant this is. Unfortunately, this game is still too dated and too clunky to warrant any extended interest on my part. I am however looking forward to Champions Online.
We went to watch the new Watchmen film over the weekend, a week after its premiere in Malaysia. We could have gone earlier, but we’d been meaning to go watch The Curious Case of Benjamin Button for a while now but one thing or another kept getting in the way, so we finally went for that last week. As I’ve posted before, I’d read the graphic novel the film is based on, so I knew what to expect going in and loved it. Judging, however, from the people who walked out before it was over in the cinema where I watched it and the overheard chatter about the film afterward, not to mention how poorly it’s been doing at the box office, it’s clear that most people either disliked it, or went in expecting a completely different kind of film.
After reading the discussion thread on the film on QT3 (much of which I should mention is very insightful and contributed a great deal to the opinions I’m expressing in this post), I found that perhaps the single best description of it is one posted by game reviewer Desslock: a $150 million art house film. Watchmen is not your traditional big budget summer blockbuster. It’s not even a superhero film in the traditional sense. It’s really an independent, art house quality film made for a very niche audience. It so happens that this one features superheroes as its characters, cost about the same as your typical Hollywood blockbuster, and was marketed to a mass audience who in all likelihood were led to expect something in the vein of Spiderman or Iron Man.
Continue reading The world isn’t ready for the Watchmen film
Since I gushed over the first season of Heroes so much, it’s only fair that I take the time to write about how awful it’s become. My wife and I have just caught up with the first half of Season Three and though it isn’t exactly the debacle that Season Two was, it’s nowhere close to the greatness that was Season One. It appears that the main lesson the producers learned from the previous season was never be boring. Things move along at a breakneck pace and there are plenty of action scenes through with hardly any quiet moments at all.
Continue reading Heroes continues descent into spiral of death
Check out these Watchmen promotional posters released for the Comic Con. I just love the attention to detail and the little Easter eggs straight out of the comic miniseries in each of them.
I realized after watching The Dark Knight last weekend that ever since Iron Man in May, nearly every movie that I paid to watch in a cinema has been a comic book movie. The sole exception was Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but Indy’s roots lie in pulp comics anyway, so in a way, that still counts. I suppose that this is partly due to the current state of film-making and CGI technology that allows directors to fully recreate the fantastic visuals of the comic book medium on the big screen and partly due to the successes of X-Men in 2000 and Spider-Man in 2002, which opened the eyes of the studio bosses to the commercial lucrativeness of comic book licenses. Not every comic book movie since then has been a success, Spider-Man 3 in particular was a disappointing dud even with Sam Raimi still at the helm, but there have been enough films that “get it” to make this a great time to be alive for a comic book fan. Here’s a quick recap of the comic book movies that I’ve watched so far this year.
Continue reading The Golden Age of Comic Book Movies
My Magic: The Gathering playing days are long gone and even if I do sometimes cast a nostalgic eye on an exciting new release like the recent Shadowmoor, I know in my heart of hearts that I will never again have the patience and freedom to buy entire boxes of boosters for the thrill of opening them one by one, build up networks of friends to trade cards and play games with and spend countless hours fine-tuning decks and analyzing strategies. So when I bought my PSP, it was with the knowledge that there are a number of well-received collectible card games available on the platform, and the Marvel Trading Card Game was at the top of the list to try out.
The Marvel TCG is a direct adaptation of the card based equivalent that uses Upper Deck’s Versus system. I’ve heard of this system but I’ve never actually learned to play it before this, so I had to go through the included tutorials not just to learn the interface but to understand how the system works as well. The tutorials do a decent job of teaching the fundamentals, but it’s likely that the average player will still need to actually jump into a game proper and learn about the quirks and subtleties of the system by playing the game and observing the available options.
Continue reading A Game: Marvel Trading Card Game (PSP)