[SWTOR] Space combat Mini Game Review

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[SWTOR] Divad Canazza – Lawful Stupid Masochist

Six weeks is probably the longest I’ve ever taken to level a character to maximum level. Not even my first MMO character ever, an Orc Hunter called Bel Riose, took that long. This is probably due to two factors. One of which is the fact that Bioware made a game where I want to read the quest log, or in this case watch the cut-scene. It’s so unnaturally immersive when you’ve been used to the stale old walls of text from practically every other MMO in existence. Even Champions Online and DCUO had walls of text that were pretty much required to know what the quest was about, even though at the time they were released they had the most spoken dialogue of any MMO.

The second reason it took so long was, well, I chose to level as a healer. The last time I levelled as a healer was in WoW, with a druid. I gave up half-way through after I spend a full 30 minutes soloing the then-elite Bhagthera in Stranglethorn Vale and being thoroughly sick of it.

Thankfully though, this time I had companions who could tank and DPS for me, and I rarely felt out of my depth going this route. Indeed the only time I felt out of my depth was when they decided to invoke a plot twist that removed the tank companion I had been gearing up all through the previous planet (and my other tank companion had been woefully under-geared since I picked her up). Gold enemies tore through my DPS companion like he was thin paper and I had to take them down the good old fashioned Stranglethorn Vale way. Hit, Hide and Heal.

Perhaps in a stroke of foresight by Bioware, my primary Healing stat also improves my DPS, unlike in Vanilla WoW where Intellect and spirit were as useless in cat form as Strength and Agility were to healing, and the Balance skills were the equivalent of paper spitballs and twanging them with a ruler.

Yes, I chose to level as a healer knowing my potential fate for one good reason. If I could come out of 50 levels of gameplay as a healer and still say I had fun, I’d know this was a good game.

I did the same for City of Heroes, I did the same for Champions Online, I did the same for Star Trek Online. Only WoW and CoH made me want to gouge my eyes out for choosing the support route while levelling. Luckilly for CoH I could get a group anywhere, any time. Unfortunately for CoH I spent most of that grinding an instance in a way known as ‘Drecking’. Which is ironic since the one thing you didn’t do when Drecking was kill Dreck.

So, did I have fun in SWTOR? Yes. I had fun. Most of the time. The companion mechanics let me choose to shore up the areas I was lacking in, allowing me to focus on doing what I did best, healing my companion, stealthing around and generally avoiding fights.

That last point is a bone of contention too. With such a stealthy class as the Operative, being able to crowd control and sneak past without fighting I missed out in about 50% of the XP when levelling. This was incredibly apparent when a friend of mine, who is currently a level 49 Bounty Hunter, said he had just finished Hoth, when I, at level 48, had just completed Corellia. I was 4 planets ahead of him and 1 level behind. I’d finished my class quest (and got my tank back). I had even spent a full 2 hours playing the (rather fun considering) Space combat minigame and pulled back a full level. (Possibly only JUST bearable due to the ‘2 hours of awesome’ playlist I compiled beforehand). I felt like I was being punished for playing my character as intended.

Aside from falling behind the levelling curve – and lets be honest here I never actually came across a fight I couldn’t take, even being 2 levels behind intended – there are still a few niggles that keep me from falling deeply in love with this game.

The first is the incredible similarity to WoW. As you may have guessed already I’ve played this game in such a way as to be able to directly compare it to my WoW experiences. I chose the Operative class which is most like my Primary WoW Class – Druid. I chose Medic to go along with a talent tree I knew beforehand it had similarities to – Resto. I chose Biochem as my crafting profession since I knew it’d be like Alchemy. I chose Empire since it was most like the Horde. I even joined my old WoW guild as they started over in SWTOR.

I have a list the length of my body of direct comparisons and direct similarities. Some of which I will share.

First off is Crafting. It’s almost a direct copy of WoW’s crafting system with a little bit of Fallen Earth in there too. Thanks to companions doing all the legwork you don’t actually have to stand there and watch a progress bar. This frees you up to do other things while crafting is going on (like levelling, or flashpoints, or play the Auction House), and also allowed Bioware to up the crafting times. I’ve got recipes that take up to an hour to complete (the little dash of Fallen Earth I mentioned). They’ve also taken WoW’s recipe discovery mechanics and made it make alot more sense. You get a chance to discover a better quality recipe of an item when you reverse engineer it (Reverse Engineering is kind of like disenchanting in WoW, you get some of your ingredients back and lose the item). Frankly it’s a lot better than WoW’s way of discovering new recipes, it makes you feel like your character is actually discovering them rather than transmuting fire and learning to make a super-flask-of-awesome.

There’s also similarities in what you can craft. Biochem makes stims that are effectively the same as WoW’s flasks, plus you can also discover recipes for Biochem-only reusable version like WoW’s Alchemy-only mini-flasks or reuseable potions.

End-game Gear is also split into tiers, for which you receive tokens from Operations and Flashpoints (Raids and Heroics in WoW parlance), the difference here is that all the stats in the majority of pieces are ‘modifications’ which can be swapped out (for a price) and put in any other piece of gear with mod slots, meaning you don’t have to become a clone of every other level 50 Agent/Sith/Jedi/Trooper etc as you get better gear.

It also means that you can, potentially, have a level 50 epic tanking set that’s actually the Slave Girl Costume from Return of the Jedi. Granted, WoW has just added something similar in, and pretty much every MMO released in the last three years has something similar, even if it’s only changing the colour.

Operative Class abilities are also eerily similar to that of a rogue. Stealth, Ambush, Cheap Shot, backstab, sinister strike, Vanish. All there albeit with different names. Add onto that a smattering of ranged abilities that mirror WoW’s Hunter, and a similar story for druid healing abilities and you’ve got a class that’s going to be very, very, versatile when dual-specing is added.

Healing as an operative, while superficially similar to that of a WoW Druid, is nothing like it at all. While you do have yourself a slow, big heal (like Healing Touch), a Player-based AoE HoT (like Wild Growth, that’s also the end of tree Talent) and a stackable fast HoT (like rejuvenation) and an instant, buff consuming, low-cost heal (like swiftmend) there few but crucial differences. Mainly the “Tactical Advantage” buff. The big heal, Kolto Injection, gives you this TA buff. Random ticks of Kolto Probe (the stackable HoT) also give TA with talents. Tactical Advantage allows a selection of other abilities to be used. One is a quick, medium heal that consumes a TA (like Regrowth without the HoT), the other is an instant heal that also consumes a TA (like Swiftmend). However, with talents, if the target is under a certain health threshold your cheap and powerful Swiftmend-alike doesn’t consume the TA buff, allowing you to spam it. This means that the most energy efficient way of healing a tank thats being pounded is to keep them under 30% HP.

Which is fun.

I’ve already gushed about how great the story is, but playing as a light-side Empire I fully expected to find some strange and awkward gaps where the Light Side choice didn’t make any sense, or should have rightly gotten me killed by whoever I said it to.

Thank god Bioware knew this. I got zapped by about 3 or 4 Sith Lords through my playthrough. One of which ACTUALLY killed me and sent me to the Medical Droid. As you progressed through the story you gain more and more influence, so the underlings requesting your assistance – while questioning your decision – can’t actually do anything about it because they know you have the power and fear you.

Lightside Empire isn’t all goodie-two-shoes though. Most Light Side choices are pragmatic or bureaucratic as opposed to evil. Bioware spend alot of time distancing the Sith from the Empire conceptually, so that an Empire Patriot can still loathe and despise the Sith. Despite this, it does occasionally fall into what Dungeons and Dragons players call “Lawful-Stupid” territory. Whereby the Light side choice is quite obviously a dangerous, stupid and frankly idiotic choice. At the end of Directive 7 flashpoint (minor spoiler here) there’s a droid who help you, who, during the instance has basically said he agrees that Organic Life is a menace, but doesn’t believe genocide is the answer to it, and you have the choice to destroy him or let him go. I’ve read enough Asimov to know that a determined sentient robot with an agenda can manipulate the galaxy, even if it’s a pacifist, but as a “Light V one-dark-side-choice-and-lose-your-title-and-speeder” character I had no choice but to let him go.

If anything destroying him should have been light side, and making him a slave by sticking a restraining bolt in should be dark side.

Darkside and Lightside choices often fall into a false Dichotomy, and I can nearly always see a third way out to all of these situations, but the options just aren’t there.  Where there are three options, it’s normally 2 light, 1 dark, or 2 dark, 1 light. A few times there’s an option without a score change, but – while they have promised it – there are no rewards for Neutral players yet.

The comparisons to WoW will remain in the game mechanics. When it comes to story though, SWTOR is lightyears ahead of anything else. It’s what Bioware does best, and they live up to their standards here.

If you loved KOTOR, give SWTOR a try, even if you turn off chat, play the Jedi Knight and pretend it’s KOTOR 3. It’s worth it.

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[SWTOR] The First Fortnight

The Light-Side Agent

Merry Christmas everyone! Or should that be Happy Life Day? Curiously, SWTOR seems to lack seasonal events. Perhaps it’s the terrible memories it brings back for those old enough, or curious enough, to have watched even a moment of the Star Wars Holiday Special.

Before I Go any further, I must declare my love for this game. I have reached the end of Act 1 in my Class Quest – the Imperial Agent – and once again Bioware have shown that if anything, they are masters of storytelling. They are the geniuses who twist and weave stories using the most trite and over-used clichés known to modern culture into something plainly awesome. Through clever use of foreshadowing no single twist seems like an arse-pull or out of the blue, even if you predict one twist you probably won’t guess every detail. Unlike the latest revelations in a certain other game that make me glad I’m no longer playing it.

So far everything else has been merely a subtle refinement of the MMO Genre from WoW. Subtly tweaking, changing or removing things. The storyline however is unlike anything seen in MMOs ever. The way it’s presented, the way it flows, the way you feel like you’re actually making a difference. It’s also hard at the current moment to know if you’re making a difference though, since sites like TorHead are incomplete in their quest descriptions, you don’t actually know what would happen if you chose option B over option A once the conversation is over, and how it actually affects the later plotline. For now however, it does feel like you’ve made real choices. Even if the same outcome would have happened regardless, you still get to make moral choices that affect alignment, and non-moral choices that let you refine your character and gain affection from your companions.

Someone's been watching Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles too much

The game so far has been far from bug-free, but I’ve come across only one game-breaking bug, flickering terrain, and it can be fixed by a re-log. (although, that’s hardly fair with the length of queues on my server). Most problems are cosmetic, or crafting/vendor related. Nothing that stops you progressing. One bug I found was commendations received through the mail system don’t go into your currency tab, but are physical items taking up space. I’ve only gotten 2 so it’s not a big deal. A few times I’ve had enemies embed themselves in walls, continue to shoot me but be completely invulnerable. Running round a corner forces them out, but it’s still frustrating, and if there’s no Line-of-sight cover then you’re screwed unless you can get out of range without pulling something else.

As mentioned above queues were abundant. Between 5pm and 9pm GMT my server had queues upwards of an hour. They’ve gotten better recently since they’ve upped the server cap, or people have decide to move server, and I’ve not had to queue for the last couple of days. Plus, out of about 200 servers there’s only about 12 with any queues at all, and I was just unlucky that every Tom Dick and Chewie picked my server.

Mechanically the game is sound. Familiar certainly. Balanced? Well, professions seem to be okay, except slicing which is guaranteed money (but has been nerfed in todays patch). Class wise I’m unsure. I’ve yet to try and PvP, and it’s too early to tell if one class is more powerful than the other (the meta-game has not gotten into full swing yet) though playing as an Imperial agent it does feel like I have a shittonne of tools that you wouldn’t expect a single class to have.

Firstly, I’ve gone Operative, which gains stealth and focuses on mid-ranged damage dealing. I’ve started levelling up as a Medic, one of the core healing trees in the game, just so I can compare to levelling as a Resto Druid at the start of Vanilla WoW. Yes, I did that, I spent 20 minutes soloing the 30 Elite Bhagthera in Stranglethorn Vale using auto attack and heals. Let me tell you now, SWTOR is nothing like that.

Like the Resto Druid I have both healing and stealth, and a little ranged damage. A very hybrid class at it’s core. Pile on top of this everything a rogue gets in WoW and more. Vanish, Sap, Evasion, a Threat Dump, a variation on cheap shot, an AoE stun, a frontal-cone ranged attack, ranged poison DoT. Okay, my damage output is terrible compared to someone who took one of the other two trees, and their healing output will suffer, but a stealthed, stun-crazy, DoTing, fast healer has to have some kind of balance issue.

I mentioned crafting being balanced earlier and I definitely believe that to be true. Everyone I’ve talked to has said they’ve been able to find something in their chosen profession that they’ve been able to sell to other players.

Giant flying space whales > Hippogriffs

I picked Biochem, and again with the WoW analogies, it’s like Alchemy.  I make stims (Potions) and implants (trinkets). Instead of discovering potions and flasks like WoW tried, you reverse-engineer items (think disenchanting) to regain some of the materials you used to make it, and you then get a random chance of learning an improved version of it. Also, each item takes various amounts of time to make, my longest crafting recipe so far takes about 8 minutes/item. Luckily you can just tell a free companion to make it while you continue to play. So you don’t actually need to stop playing to go crafting.

I can definitely recommend this game to friends. Even if it’s just for the storyline. It’s still too early to tell if the end-game team dynamics will work, but so far my group experiences have been fun. I can only hope that the group conversation options don’t affect which boss you spawn, otherwise you’ll get guilds forcing republic players to choose Dark Side options just to spawn a boss that’s slightly easier, or bugged, or whatever.

We know Bioware can do story, but can they do balance?

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[SWTOR] A Face you’d surely like to punch. But does Kotick have a point?

Such a small person...

When Bobby ‘Actiblizzardzebub’ Kotick, the man presiding over WoW’s decline, questions the profitability of SWTOR, surely your first reaction is to scoff and chortle over this blatant piece of self-promoting trash talk. But has he inadvertently made a point?

Lets face it, SWTOR is, in all respects, a World of Warcraft clone with a Star Wars skin. This does not make it a bad game. 10 million people play WoW and I was one of the 12 million a year ago. Copying something fun, even if it’s declining, doesn’t make it unfun. SWTOR is a very polished and slick game. It’s mechanics appear solid and the classes varied. It is a good game.

Sonic Generations is a good game, but I played it for a few weeks and haven’t touched it since. Same will most of the games on my shelf. A good game can still have terrible longevity.

World of Warcraft had, at peak, 12 million subscriptions, and, as of this month, it’s dropped by 2 million. That’s a 16% subscriber drop in the space of a year. With World of Warcraft’s subscribers declining you have to ask yourself: “Where are they going?”

They’re certainly not going to The Old Republic, it’s not out yet. People have been leaving in droves since the release of Cataclysm last December. Are they playing any number of other MMOs? Have the stopped playing MMOs altogether? Are they just floating in the ether, waiting for SWTOR’s release next month?

silverpine forest never looked so good

In the first instance, if they’re playing other MMOs, they’re likely playing a free to play, since the vast majority of MMOs today have some form of free to play model, would these players consider forking out for a subscription when SWTOR comes out? Is the shiny prospect of a comfortable, yet new, game enough to lure them away from whichever MMO they’ve taken up? Perhaps the lure of something graphically superior to LOTRO, or a deeper end-game to Champions, or something with simpler mechanics than Fallen Earth.

There’s no doubt in my mind that alot of these Free-to-play games will suffer in the opening month of SWTOR. People will leave in droves to play the free month that  comes with the game. The question remains is will SWTOR retain these players?

In the intervening months lifestyles that focused on WoW’s addictive nature have changed to that of the free-to-play model. A pay-when-you-play model that doesn’t put pressure on the user to ‘get their moneys worth’ means radically different patterns of play for many people. Playing when they have time, rather than making time to play. Would they give up that? It won’t change much during the free month, but when it comes to fork over that subscription fee then the realisation that they’re committing to play for another month may put them off. Part and parcel of free-to-play is the free part. Free as in cost, and free as in time. That kind of freedom is hard to give up.

Then there are those people who are waiting for SWTOR to come out. What ever they are doing at the moment, playing another MMO or floating in the ether, those are a given that they’ll pony up the cash for atleast one months sub. From the Beta Weekend I can assume that the vast majority of people on that will be playing launch, and have pre-ordered. In which case they’ve already made a truckload of cash back off the pre-order sales. Profit? Doubtful. But the investors are probably smiling inside when they look at the numbers. How many will subscribe in January?  Well, that depends on the game doesn’t it.

The Stealthiest Agent in Intelligence

In order to figure out if SWTOR will retain it’s players you have to figure out: Why is WoW is in decline? Is it because it’s gotten easier to play? Is it because the content is trite and predictable? If people have become so bored of it that, even in the face of brand new content (IE cataclysm) they began leaving in droves? (1.1 million users gone in the first 6 months of that expansion)

If that’s the case, why would any of them stay with SWTOR? Once the shiny veneer of the storyline is brushed away, and they see the WoWishness underneath, will it be too much of a leap to say that fatigue will seep in here just as quickly as a new WoW expansion?

Kotick may have the wrong reasons for believing SWTOR won’t be profitable (I honestly believe he doesn’t think a game like WoW can fail because it’s like WoW, only because their money men are dumber than his), but he may well prove right if they can’t retain their subscribers after the first month. Or the second. Or if they can stave off the same lethargy that hits WoW Players. Remember: There are still 10 million WoW players who don’t seem to have this problem of fatigue. The prime candidates for eating up SWTORs subscriptions won’t leave WoW because they don’t see anything wrong with it.

We know those playing free-to-play probably won’t pony up for SWTOR. We know WoWthralls won’t leave WoW. We know that the Star Wars fans and the Bioware fans will subscribe, but them alone will  likely not turn a profit.

Ofcourse, I’ve missed out on one type of player. The player that’s waiting for SWTOR, but hasn’t move to a new MMO. And this is where the unknown lies in the equation.

How many of WoWs subscribers are just as fatigued as those who have left. Who are just there through sheer inertia, and how much of that will SWTORs flywheel steal when it bumps up against it’s main rival?

We’ll find out at the end of January, won’t we?

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A Plethora of Skyrim Content

Since it’s release I’ve been playing a lot of Skyrim.

Frankly, the game is far too big to do one of my normal video reviews on, so I’m releasing lots of little bits of content for it.

Now, it’s not going to be one of those Let’s Plays of the whole game that everyone and their uncles are doing, although I will do Lets-play style things (I’m going to do a playthrough of the thieves guild chain for example), it won’t be of the whole game (I just don’t have the energy or bandwidth to edit and upload 100+ hours of video)

So, first off is showcasing a small bug with companions. When you get into combat with a sparring partner (ie, one who will submit after x hits) and if they accidently hit your companion, said companion will. not. stop. attacking.


It’s especially annoying on invulnerable NPCs. like this guy:

Here’s a guide on how to marry anyone in Skyrim (almost)  using console commands (addtofaction)

And here’s Part 1 of my Thieves Guild Playthrough

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Sonic Generations – A Review of Questionable Quality

Sonic Generations is a game that attempts to please all types of Sonic fans, Past and Present, with not one, but TWO playable Sonic characters. Both the classic Megadrive sonic and the modern 3D sonic, travelling through time, revisiting past glories and revising old failures.

I like this game, both Modern and Classic Sonics play really well, the remixed levels are a joy for the most part and while the whole cast of characters are back, they get very little screen time and they’ve actually hired some decent voice actors this time!

One problem rears itself right at the start. They’ve introduced a Skill shop to give both sonics some extra bonuses. However, this contains atleast two powers that are required to make Classic Sonic behave as I remember him.

It’s a strange decision, honestly, not giving you them at the start, since you can buy them the first time you enter the hub world. I understand why these things are skills, since you can swap them out for other abilities if you feel you don’t need them, and because you can’t have them and activate the Super Sonic skill, meaning you have to gimp normal Sonic in order to be able to transform in normal levels.

Otherwise, Classic Sonic plays quite well. It’s not quite as seamless as the old Megadrive games, but it’s close.

Modern Sonic plays like he does in Sonic Colours, with the boost and homing attacks working really well in the 2D side-scrolling segments and the normal 3D segments alike, and is overall a very enjoyable, if easy, experience.

The boss fights in particular are very easy. Perfect Chaos, for one, was really just a series of linear platforms, and a quick-time event. Press X to Win. Once I’d gotten past him I began to feel that the game was lacking any real difficulty. Indeed, some of the special trial missions felt a bit patronising. There’s a Green Hill race against Knuckles that, even if royally screw up (like I did the first time) Knuckles waits at the end for you to catch up, and when I say wait, I mean, glide through the air with all the horizontal speed of a snail with a Zimmerframe, all the while doing barrel rolls.

Then I hit Crisis City, the level from the buggy, ham fisted mess of a game, Sonic the Hedgehog from 2006. Not that it was buggy, the modern Sonic version was as slick, streamlined and fun, even if it did have a load more instant-death pits than the rest of the levels. The Classic version however was boring, it’s layout uninspired, it’s obstacles frustrating, unforgiving and, like the modern version, arbitrary in it’s bottomless pit placement. A random difficulty spike and exercise in futility. Otherwise the game is relatively easy to complete. Crisis City was my only real stumbling block, and very little else required me to do it more than twice.

To say Sonic Generations is too easy is a bit harsh. Yes it’s easy, but there are hard mode bosses and challenges for those who want them. For me though, Sonic has never been about difficulty. It came from an era that would define the term “Nintendo Hard” as something utterly unforgiving (I’m looking at you, Battletoads), yet sonic bucked the trend by making something enjoyable that was hard because it was new, not through some punishing combination of sadistic programmers and poor level design. Sonic stood out for it’s speed, it’s music and it’s wonderfully themed environments.

While the first two of these are present in Sonic Generations, they have a real thing for city-themed zones. Crisis City, Speed Highway, City Escape and Rooftop Run, leaving only 5 non-city themed zones, three of which are ‘green’ zones, Seaside Hill, Planet Wisp and the quintessential Green Hill, with Chemical Plant and Sky Sanctuary being the only two without a shared theme, and even then, parts of Planet Wisp can be considered to share Chemical Plants “Factory” setting.

Maybe I’m being picky, each zone does stand out as unique despite similar theming, and there’s more than one environment in some of the zones, as I mentioned with Planet Wisp.

Most levels are well designed, having multiple paths and hidden secrets. The branching paths, even in the 2D sections, have a tendency to tease you with what you missed by either showing it in the background of shot, or by bringing you tantalisingly close to that Red Star Unlockable but ultimately denying it. Each zone has it’s own gimmick, normally relating to the game it was released for. Planet Wisp has two kinds of Wisps (Spikes and Rocket), City Escape has the skateboard/snowboard, and even Seaside Hill from Sonic Heroes has everything in groups of three, like rails, booster rings and springs, an allusion to the fact the course was intended to be done with three characters.

It’s not only the art and level design that sets these zones apart though, there’s all that lovely remixed music too.

Sonic’s had a lot of really bad music, starting, really, with Sonic Adventure 2. Which insisted that everything have lyrics. Leading to such crimes as Knuckles’ faux Gangsta rap, Shadows Angsty Emo Punk nonsense and the ultra-soft cheery sub-J-pop sweet-fest that was the City Escape theme. God did that make me cringe when I first heard it. I was embarrassed to be playing the game with that song on.

Surprisingly, both remixes of City Escape are a marked improvement, and I can actually say the Classic City Escape theme is really starting to grow on me. Who’d have thought that Endless Mine – an also-ran in Sonic 3’s time attack stages – could combine with that monstrosity to become something fun and energetic. Sure, the lyrics haven’t changed, but the melody has infused it with a bizzare power. It’s still generic, coma-inducing bubblegum pop, but damn it’s catchy now.

There’s also the Hub level’s various remixes. Most of which are string and flute renditions. They’ve really outdone themselves with the music in this game.

Overall It’s a solid game. It’s a fun game. It’s by no means perfect, but what is? It’s a celebration of Sonic’s ups and downs over the last two decades and it’s done a fantastic job of it. It even made me hate Sonic 2006, despite never having played it. And what better reflection on Sonics history is there than that?

This is a very good game. Easy? yes, stylish? definitely, fun? Absolutely.

Oh, and don’t play it with a keyboard. Use a Gamepad.

You can buy it now for Xbox 360, PS3, Wii and on PC through Steam. It’s honestly worth it.

One final note. I remember when I first saw Sonic the Hedgehog. It was a preview of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 on Bad Influence. I remember being blown away by the 3D special stage they revealed over the closing credits. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5bRQ_Y_gYW8#t=8m35) God I feel old.

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Sonic and the Generation Divide

Gamers of a certain age are about to feel really old.
Sonic the Hedgehog came out 20 years ago.
And now, 20 years later, Sonic Generations attempts to rekindle the magic of those early days, and celebrate the evolution of Sonic since his inception.
Where two Sonics, Classic and Modern, battle through the best of the past 20 years of Sonic games.

To those who are not Sonic fans, you may be wondering why they felt the need to have two Sonics at all.

While there is the obvious divide of 2D sonic and 3D sonic and their differing abilities, there’s a deeper divide in the Sonic Community which has led to this rather intriguing gameplay decision. Indulge me for a bit while I explain my view on it.

I was but a wee babby when I got a Megadrive for my Christmas, and witnessed the awesomeness of Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Okay, I was a little late to the party, and back in 1991 I was 6, and playing Super Mario Bros 3 on my NES. Even so, Sonic 2 kindled a life long love of that furry little ball of spinning… fur.

I got the rest of the games, I watched the Cartoons, I bought the comics. I covered my guitar case in Sonic the Hedgehog stickers. I ran around beating people up pretending I was Super Sonic. Honestly though, charging head first at people screaming ‘POWWARR’ wasn’t a good fighting style, I should have done what the rest of my peers did and copied Power Rangers since I kept getting my arse handed to me by wannabe ninjas.
Having played Sonic 3 & Knuckles to death, you can safely say that I am a classic Sonic lover.

I also adore the Advance series that continued the 2D trend.
And, predictably, I wasn’t terribly blown away by Sonic Adventure.

I never owned a Dreamcast, so I only got Sonic Adventure DX on the PC in 2003. By this time I was 18, and at University. It had been a fun game for the most part. Some of the hub stages were rather frustratingly badly designed, some of the game modes were rather lacklustre (the less said about Amy or Big the Cat’s stages the better), somewhere along the line Sega found out about Rock and Roll, and rather than hire Michael Jackson (like they wanted to do for Sonic 3) they went and discovered Busted, about 5 years before they formed, and got them to make terrible soft rock melodies. On top of that, the voice acting was horrible.

It was mostly Tails and Amy that grated the most, speaking in frequencies that only dogs should be able to hear, but I persevered through these, and had great fun playing what was, for the most part, a competent and rewarding game.

Sonic Adventure 2, however, was the last Modern Sonic game I played. And no, it wasn’t the introduction of Shadow and all his angsty glory that put me off. I thought he was a rather well done antagonist. Gameplay wise, Sega actually listened to their fans and stripped out all the terrible gameplay modes and left us with a core set of 3. Sonic’s speed, Tails’ walker machine and Knuckles diggy diggy Echidna levels. Okay, Knuckles’ diggy-diggy Echidna levels were boring as sin, and Tails’ levels were linear and frustrating, but atleast it wasn’t Frog Fishing with Big the Cat, or Run-the-fuck-away-from-the-robot with Amy.

But what really put me off was the music.
They took the soft rock stylings of Sonic Adventure and Let. The. Band. Sing.
“Rolling around, at the speed of sound,
Got places to go, gotta follow my rainbow.“

Can you feel the sickly sweet coma-inducing saccharine?
Follow that up with some faux gangsta rap for Knuckles and you’ve got a game that’s trying very hard to be ‘hip’ and falling flat on it’s face. Like your dad dancing to Beyoncé, it’s creepy, it’s weird and it just doesn’t feel right.

This is where the Sonic Divide was created. In the crucible of the treble cleft. It set the feel of the game far beyond the story, the characters and controls ever did.
By then however, a new generation of players were beginning to play Sonic. Who had no idea of the old games, or if they did, dismissed them as relics of a bygone era, like black and white film, Disco music, or communism.

They enjoyed what I enjoyed in Sonic Adventure, and either loved Sonic Adventure 2, or manged to ignore its flaws. They had good fun with Heroes (from what I understand, a mediocre but competent game that introduced a few cool new things, but which I never played), glossed over the chronic bugs in Sonic 2006 and by the time Unleashed came out were moulded into a separate breed of entitled fanboy from Classic era’s entitled fanboys, so much so that really the only thing both generations could agree on was that the Werehog levels in Unleashed were terrible, and that the Daytime stages were excellent.
Again, having never played Unleashed I can’t comment on it first hand, but the consensus from fans lead directly to Sonic Colours, the first 3D Sonic game in a decade that tempted me to buy it, but for one problem. I didn’t own a Wii.

Sonic Colours. A Sonic game with one playable character, with multiple powerups giving Sonic various special moves, balancing speed, platforming and puzzle solving. It stripped out the fat that plagued the earlier 3D outings and streamlined what we all wanted from a Sonic game: Sonic.

It sounded so good it actually tempted me into buying a Wii just to play it. But guess what. They announced Sonic Generations was coming, and it was coming on PC. They announced it would have both kinds of Sonic, and that gameplay from every main series sonic game would be present.

And here, in the present day, we come full circle. I’ve played Generations from start to finish, and can say that I undoubtedly had fun. A full review of that will be forthcoming, but let me say this:
Sonic Generations manages to make “Got places to go, gotta follow my rainbow.” sound cool.

Or maybe it’s just a sign that I’m at that age where I shouldn’t be dancing to Beyoncé.

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