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Before You Buy Mount & Blade WF&S

So yesterday I’m enjoying my time killing bandits, looters, and taking up arms for the King of Sweden in M&B: With Fire and Sword and Todd sends me an IM about a post made over at one of my regular haunts: Quarter to Three.

The writer seemed really pissed about his experience with the new game which struck me as odd because I’m having a lot of fun terrorizing Eastern Europe. I have read about some of the changes between this and Warband and while I understand it when long time fans get tweaked when developers alter designs, hell I don’t care because to me all of this is new, to some extent.

One of his complaints is that your mercenary troops don’t level up like they do in Warband.

I knew this was nutty as I’m constantly leveling up my companions. Tepes is now a level 6 one-man bad ass and my Pikemen just reached veteran status last night after we stormed a Polish stronghold. That’s right – pikemen storming a castle. Only in a videogame.

But I knew something was afoot. No way would Qt3 post something so off base. There’s a six page M&B thread topic and the writer was assuredly posting in it. Sure enough this was brought up on the forum and I started to wonder — do I have an early build?

To cut to the chase — yes, I in fact am running version 1.137 whereas the release version is 1.138 which has a confirmed bug where your troops don’t earn XP. 1.137 has no such bug. Oops. Note the above picture. See how it says “recruit”, hinting that they can earn ranks above that? Yeah the release build doesn’t have that. There is a box where you can click to upgrade your troops, which I no longer see when I run version 1.138.

So basically the 15 hours I have spent with this game has been with a build you guys aren’t playing. I wasn’t aware of this. Such is the risk I am always talking about when it comes to reviewing “early” copies of games. Because if I hadn’t read this post on a game blog there’s no way I could have known, I would have written the review and looked like a dope.

So, the end game — wait for Paradox to fix this before buying.

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Sony to Offer U.S. Customers One Year I.D. Theft Protection Program

No High Scores

The US Sony Playstation Blog just put up a pair of of new posts. The first is a mea culpa of sorts from Chief Executive Howard Stringer. You can click the link to read that and make of it what you will. He does directly apologize, for what that’s worth. The more interesting is this post, which details their plan to offer US customers* a year of identity theft protection through the the AllClear ID Plus program from Debix Inc. This includes the following core components…

Cyber monitoring and surveillance of the Internet to detect exposure of an AllClear ID Plus customer’s personal information, including monitoring of criminal web sites and data recovered by law enforcement. If his/her personal information is found, the customer will be alerted by phone and/or email and will be provided advice and support regarding protective steps to take. The customer will also receive monthly identity status reports. Debix works with an alliance of cyber-crime experts from the government, academia and industry to provide these services.

Priority access to licensed private investigators and identity restoration specialists. If an AllClear ID Plus customer receives an alert, or otherwise suspects that he/she may be the victim of identity theft, the customer can speak directly, on a priority basis, with an on-staff licensed private investigator, who will conduct a comprehensive inquiry. In the case of an identity theft, the customer can work with an identity restoration specialist to contact creditors and others, and take necessary steps to restore the customer’s identity.

A $1 million identity theft insurance policy per user to provide additional protection in the event that an AllClear ID Plus customer becomes a victim of identity theft. This insurance would provide financial relief of up to $1 million for covered identity restoration costs, legal defense expenses, and lost wages that occur within 12 months after the stolen identity event.

The full post also indicates PSN subscribers should expect to receive activation emails “over the next few days,” with an enrollment deadline of June 18th.

So what say the rest of you? Is this enough to ease your ire? Personally, my impression is this goes the extra mile I’d look for as a consumer with a stolen credit card number. (I honestly have no idea if I ever used my credit card with PSN or not. I don’t think I did.) The horse is out the gate, so the best you can do is give people some means of protection should that information be used to do harm to an individual’s credit. I wouldn’t know a quality I.D. protection plan if it slapped me across the face and called me Pippy, but this at least looks legit and comprehensive.

*The full post indicates steps will be taken for residents of other countries as well. I’m sure the other Sony Playstation blogs will update with similar information relatively soon (if they haven’t already).

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Dominant Species in Review


This week’s Cracked LCD is a review of GMT’s Dominant Species, a game of Darwinian survival and adaptation circa 90,000 BC. It’s sort of a hybrid cross between a couple of heavyweight Eurogame styles but with some good old fashioned wargaming aggression and some brutal cardplay in the mix. I like it a lot, but it’s long and requires players to sort of dig in to really get the most out of it. It’s not very complex in terms of rules, but it is in terms of gameplay. And other players can royally screw up your animals’ ability to avoid extinction.

Check it out over at the Big House.

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Three Moves Ahead: FFG vs. Puffin Software

Remember the story I posted back on Saturday, April 23rd about FFG battling Puffin Software over legal rights to game mechanics? Well, the Three Moves Ahead podcast read it and then built a show around it. Unlike me ramblin’ on Rob actually got the lawyers involved! Actually, it’s William Flachsbart, intellectual property expert.

So, not only is this an interesting discussion about IP rights and whether or not Puffin can do what it did but the most important point :

A post on No High Scores was turned into a podcast topic on Three Moves Ahead!

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Conduit 2 Review

No High Scores

My review of Conduit 2 went live yesterday at the mothership. You should go and read it, but in short, I didn’t like the game. Not at all.

I quite enjoyed the first one. Sure it was somewhat generic, but the controls were good, I liked the story and the enemies kept me on my toes. With the sequel, High Voltage took most of the things I liked about the game and threw them completely out of the window. The cool conspiracy story was replaced with what, I still don’t know, as you hopped around the globe trying to harvest the souls of dead aliens for your little globe, eye thingy. Meanwhile DC was destroyed and aliens were about, along with other faceless bad guys, why they don’t tell you, assuming you played the first game and remember every little detail. The game also had the tendency to swarm you with a lot of really annoying melee enemies, seemingly to get around having to program enemy AI.

Worse still, they took the serious tones of the first game and replaced it with an attempt at humor that fell completely flat with me. Humor is a tough thing in games and some of the reviews I’ve read praised HVS for going the B-movie route, as those reviewers really enjoyed the jokes. When I read those reviews, I wished I had played the game those people had played because what I played was filled with dumb one liners and plodding attempts at self-referential video game jokes. I don’t have a problem with B-movies, House of the Dead: Overkill was filled with B-movie aesthetics and that game was so brilliantly hilarious I still can’t believe it got made.

So yeah, I didn’t like Conduit 2’s single player story but the multiplayer was still solid, as were the controls, hence the C rating. Grading these games are hard at times because you have to take into consideration why people may be buying the game. I have no interest in multiplayer in the game, so for me the single player is more important, but if MP is done well, I can’t ignore it. If the game were only a single player game, the grade would probably be lower.

This was a game I really didn’t want to dislike and I was very disappointed with how it turned out. I like the people at High Voltage. They’re all incredibly nice and I have had nothing but good dealings with them. We recently had the game’s designer and producer on Jumping the Shark and other than them sounding like they needed a nap, they were stoked about the game and were great to talk to. Part of me, a very small part, feels bad about having them on the show and then rating the game badly, not just for them, but for our listeners. My hope is that no one listened to the show and then didn’t read any reviews before buying the game, thinking us having the HVS people on the show was an endorsement for a game none of us had been able to play yet. I don’t think we have that much pull. Besides, actors and actresses appear on talk shows all of the time, shilling movies that end up being crap and no one assumes that the host of the show is endorsing the movie. At least I hope not.

Still, though, there is some unease involved in having people on your show to talk about a game you don’t have first hand knowledge of. In those cases, we let the guests talk about the game, and then try to delve into the development and design process rather than have us gush about something we haven’t played. The flip side to that is had we waited to play and grade Conduit 2, would the people from HVS want to come on the show to talk about their game? Probably not. So it’s hard. We don’t have the same access to early builds like a bigger site would, but when a company like HVS asks us if they can come on our show, we want to have them on. I don’t know how HVS feels about the review, or if they feel like their coming on the show would result in a good score. I certainly have no reason to believe they did and we certainly gave no indication that we’d be anything than 100% honest about the game, so I feel like all of our bases are covered.

At the end of the day, they made a game that wasn’t as good as it could have been and I graded it accordingly. That’s what I get paid for and who does or doesn’t come on the show has no bearing on that. Admittedly I would have felt better about giving them a good grade, but the game didn’t warrant it, and doing the easy thing would do my readers and listeners a disservice. Ultimately, my credibility as a reviewer, along with the credibility of the site and the podcast, is more important than taking the easy way out.

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Notes from the EA Conference Czll

I love these things.

Basically all of these conference calls or “investor” calls are a company’s way of talking to the press, and its investors, without anyone saying anything in return.

At the plate today is EA.

So here’s what we gather from EA’s recent call activity:

1) Star Wars: The Old Republic “could slip into 2012” which I think surprises no one.

EA’s Frank Gibeau said: While we fully anticipate launching Star Wars: The Old Republic in Q2 or Q3, the low end of our guidance range assumes the outside possibility of a January launch,” So…it may come out when they plan or it may… not. Got it.

2) Battlefield 3 is Bad Ass and is so much better than Call of Duty.

Ahh big company, multimillion dollar franchise selling catfights. More from Frank — drop some knowledge on them brother:

We know we had a big competitor, but head-to-head with Call of Duty in Q3, we have the superior game engine, superior development studio and a flat out superior game… Come and see for yourself. We’ll be showing brand new code and features at E3, I encourage everyone to make time for Battlefield 3.

I love the smell of pom poms in the morning.

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Assassins Creed: Revelations Has Three Times the Stabby Goodness

No High Scores

Assassins Creed is one of those series that I have enjoyed more and more with every entry. I played the hell out of the first one, too much really, as the mundane side missions and excruciatingly infuriating “kill ten guys across the map in three minutes” missions made me want to assassinate the game’s designers. I held off on AC2, despite everyone telling me how awesome it was until shortly before Brotherhood came out. Then I played it and loved it. I waited on Brotherhood, fearing I would be worn out on the series, but finally played it early this year and loved it as well.

What this has taught me is a) don’t wait to play AC when the next one comes out and b) stabbing a dude through the neck after hurtling off a building to the sounds of an eagle’s cry never gets old. This month’s Game Informer breaks the details about the upcoming Assassins Creed: Revelations, a game which features all three assassins: Altair, Ezio and Desmond as well as new weapons, new locales, a customizable multiplayer game and some explanation on just what in the hell happened at the end of Brotherhood. The game comes out in November, adding to an already crowded buffet of potential gaming greatness.

The PR is below:

Today, Ubisoft announced the development of Assassin’s Creed Revelations, the fourth installment in the critically acclaimed and immensely popular video game franchise. Developed and led by Ubisoft Montreal with the support and expertise of Ubisoft studios Annecy, Massive Entertainment, Quebec, Singapore and Bucharest, Assassin’s Creed Revelations presents the most immersive experience available in the series to date and the culmination of Ezio’s adventure. The game is set to release on the Xbox 360 video game and entertainment system from Microsoft, the PlayStation 3 computer entertainment system and Windows PC this November.

In Assassin’s Creed Revelations, master assassin Ezio Auditore walks in the footsteps of his legendary mentor, Altaïr, on a journey of discovery and revelation. It is a perilous path – one that will take Ezio to Constantinople, the heart of the Ottoman Empire, where a growing army of Templars threatens to destabilize the region.

In addition to Ezio’s award-winning story, the acclaimed online multiplayer experience returns, refined and expanded, with more modes, more maps and more characters that allow players to test their assassin skills against others from around the world. The latest chapter in the Assassin’s Creed saga also includes revolutionary gameplay, allowing players to manipulate the construct of Desmond’s memories and the Animus to decipher the mysteries of his past and gain insight into the future.

“Delivering the final chapter of the Ezio trilogy is an important milestone in the Assassin’s Creed franchise for us and for our fans,” said Alexandre Amancio, Creative Director at Ubisoft Montreal. “Assassin’s Creed Revelations includes lots of new features and some significant surprises. We can’t wait to show our fans what we have in store at E3 this year.”

Additional details on Assassin’s Creed Revelations can be found in an exclusive feature in the June issue of Game Informer Magazine, available this month.

For more information on Assassin’s Creed, visit: www.assassinscreed.com and www.facebook.com/assassinscreed.

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Get Access to Age of Empires Online Beta

Still want to get in the AoE Online beta? Microsoft is opening the doors this weekend.

Details below:

The team at Microsoft Game Studios wants to make sure everyone who wanted to get into the beta for “Age of Empires Online” gets their chance before they close it to the public, so they’re opening up access to get fast-tracked into the beta for 48 hours only this Thursday-Saturday.

If your readers didn’t get a code last week (I can assure you, they did not) here’s their chance! Simply visit http://gamesforwindows.com/ageofempiresonlinebeta between 9:01am on Thursday, 5 May and 9:01am on Saturday, 7 May.

During this time, the Games for Windows Marketplace will prompt you to sign up for a Windows Live ID and download the beta immediately – no waiting.

For more information about Age of Empires Online, visit ageofempiresonline.com

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