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More demo impressions

More demos today!

Darksiders

I played through a trial of the first hour of Darksiders, and I love the feel of the game. Everything is so big and meaty, every interaction feels so solid. It’s not as fast as Devil May Cry or Bayonetta, but I felt like I had interesting decisions to make during combat, and that’s very important. I even got a little interested in the plotline – I want to know who’s responsible for this apocalypse!

I’m not sure if I want to pick up the game and play through it; the demo didn’t really excite me, and I’ve heard that the full game is very Zelda-like: explore, backtrack, find an item, use it to advance, explore some more. I’m having more fun with the game right now as a directed, linear slash-fest.

Elemental Monster: Online Card Game

Elemental Monster kept my interest for a while, with a card mechanic that’s well-designed for console play (only 6 cards in a deck, with 3 active at a time) and some interesting decisions to make along the way.

Because Elemental Monster is a free-to-play game, I found that my fun was sapped somewhat as I kept wondering when they were going to tighten the screws. That’s how these games work; give you a lot of leeway at the beginning, let you advance quickly, then apply an increasing amount of friction and un-fun until you pay to get back to the fun. So that makes me hesitant to get into the game, because I don’t want to run into the paywall later.

I did notice that the online lobbies were totally empty. More about that later.

Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle Cars

The long title of this game accurately describes the main control elements of the game – going supersonic, being acrobatic, and using rocket boost – but completely skips over the fact that it’s soccer. I only did some single-player content, but I found it to be really fun.

It’s a good example of how emergent gameplay can be created if you loosen the reins a bit and let the physics engine and the player’s creativity take the helm. There’s no gameplay ‘move’ for driving up a wall, jumping off, rocketing across the arena, and sticking to the other wall, but if you think it’s advantageous, you can do it. This game totally wouldn’t work if it had humanoid characters, and tried to have an animation for everything. But toy cars can flip, roll, crash, and bounce, and look great doing it, and with no more animation than spinning their wheels.

Like Elemental Monster, I found the online lobbies totally empty. I think there’s a fundamental problem in how online play works, especially with downloadable games that may not have as big an audience as larger titles. The chance that I’ll come home and say “I feel like playing Crash Commando with people online today” is pretty slim.

What’s more realistic to me is that I might say “I feel like playing an online game today.” Then I would load up some kind of centralized online matchmaking application, look over my list of games I own and the gameplay modes I’m willing to play, and start matchmaking. After a minute or so, I’d get a list of games, and be prompted to choose one and jump directly into that game. With that system, I’d be happy to leave something like Elemental Monster checked off, and then maybe a month down the road I’d notice that a few other people are looking to play Elemental Monster, and we can all jump right into a game together.

DC Universe Online

My experience was the same as the last half-dozen times: start up the game, it says it has 10 gigs of data left to download, let it sit for an hour or so, turn off the console. Maybe someday I’ll get to play.

I think developers need to have some kind of single-player content that the player can access pre-patch, pre-update, no online connection, etc. Just something so I can understand the viewpoint, the basic gameplay, and the genre of the game, and be able to make a judgment about whether I’m willing to wait for the game to download, or whether I just have a fundamental dislike for something about the game.

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