Mr. Meh Review: Total War: Shogun 2

I am a huge Total War fan. I practically love everything they touch. It’s to the point that I just wish it was more often and even broader.

I grew up on what most know as RTS for my computer gaming selection. Back in the day I think many of us were basically all taught through Command and Conquer series. My big fascination in the 90s was the Age of Empires series and then into the Civilization series. It was in my sophomore year of college (2001), as I was talking about Age of Mythology as the next best thing ever, that I had a friend scoff at the game I mentioned.

“You know Total War: Medieval is coming out though, right?”

“And?”

“And … ? Did you play Shogun!?!?”

I held my own, and never really tried the 2 games out for years. In my boredom I remember picking up Total War: Rome. And I was never the same. Basically the Total War difference, if you have never played, is simply that they separate the Real Time battles with the construction and civil side of progression. RTSs in the past had everything in one place and one time. We have a map, you need soldiers to battle, therefore you need buildings that require resources to make these forces. And if you want better stuff, then you need to research that.

The result of the old RTS method was simply that you learn the fastest way to do something and you win. The faster person wins. Total War takes buildings, resources and technology and puts those items on a turn based map (board game style familiar to RISK) rather than having them on the battlefield map and then implants the battle of RTS as a combat only dynamic. The result means that when you fight, you are fighting, and not gathering berries. It also means that you can put in fort and city sieges in a fashion that more of a resemblance to what you would expect to fight in. It’s just a system that many gamers can better enjoy with a hot beverage, instead of sitting glued to the monitor because they are in for an intense hour-long game of rush clicking.

In the middle of March, Total War: Shogun 2 hit the shelves. And I was there to buy it and play it. I gotta say, it’s as awesome as I hoped. It takes what you loved about Shogun 1, and uses the Empire engine to make your gameplay just amazing. One of the advancements in Empire was uniquely dynamic individual combat between your troops. So as all the chaos is taking place, if you so had the time or daring to do so, you could zoom in on a smaller portion of the battle and just watch the show. It’s no longer just troops running up and wacking on each other, with an every so often neat killing blow. It is actually troops fighting, parrying, kicking and falling in a more realistic manner.  As soldiers are cut down, their bodies can go into animations of suffering or injury. It was one thing to have fields of static bodies littering the ground. But now the map resembles the aftermath of an actual battle. 

The other nice advancement was the change from Empire in which you had satellite locations with resources that you could station troops in. The satellite resources still show on the map and belong to that city, but the areas themselves can’t fortify a force.

Another improvement was in the character advancement of Generals and Characters. These units now build experience and can gain abilities that help you define the way you want your force. Instead of receiving advancements on characters and random, you now can map how you want to advance each character in your nation.

The biggest Pro of the game above all the others is that it is a great game that utilizes many of our favorite features of Total War and they made a great running game. In my weeks of playing and with loads of game time, I’m yet to find a bug or even a crash. I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to play an extremely involved game that doesn’t crash or mess up on saved data.

I don’t have an actual Cons list, because I really, really like the game. But there are some ideas that I loved about past installments that didn’t make into this game as well as some ideas that I would hope would improve in future installments and expansions.

I like the agent and general progression. But I don’t like how these units have no upkeep oosts. Which is something that was in prior installments. It kept players from creating endless Ninja forces, or just adopting as many sons as possible for ‘free’ general bodyguard forces on the map. Why build stables when I can just use generals? In Medieval the counter check for this, was that these units costs a fortune to maintain. Lost mechanic for balance I’m thinking.

The ability to improve existing troops in a city that could recruit better was also lost. In previous editions if you had ungeared or lowly trained troops, you could send them to a city that could better help them. Spend the upgrade costs and make them better while still keeping their experience. In Shogun 2, if you have an under geared unit, they are that way forever. Or until I put them in the very front of the next big engagement. Even then, they find a way to live. Bastards.

Being able to play as Clans/Nations that you defeat was also a lost idea I really enjoyed from the days of Medieval 2. You get to play as these first clans, but we should be able to take on different roles as we keep playing the game. Obviously, we don’t want to keep playing the same thing over and over. Trying to play as some of the lesser clans that have maybe even more unique and minor benefits would be more interesting for the long run.

The other missing part is city/castles that resemble actual cities. These castles are fun, but they are open and don’t really have anything within them. Just seems like a hill with walls. And to that, I have yet to see an NPC attack a door. The only strategy they seem to understand is wall climbing.

Beyond those lost ideas, there is only one big idea I would like to see more fluent in future installments and that’s in having better fights for heroes. I think one of the things most of us like to do, is plan out our battles and really just rely on our troops doing what they are supposed to do without much oversight in terms of micromanagement. To that, it’s to a point that we want to zoom in on the battle watch our favorite unit. It would be nice to have a Hero among each army that we can attach to a unit (this could be the general). But this Hero (agent/general) has better fighting abilities on the field. Much like the special abilities we can grant to our units now, the hero has special fighting abilities that make him not only keen to watch, but in a way control. This way, us camera zoomers can focus on something and be more interactive. Just an idea, I’ve been waiting for Total War to use ever since I played that feature in Warhammer: Mark of Chaos RTS. 

In any case, Shogun 2 does not disappoint. If you pick it up as you should, I only have a couple of items of advise which lie around the idea of city management. It took me a couple of goes to finally realize that I needed to let go of my previous understanding of town growth in the previous Total Wars. You’re town grows despite the castle size. Castle and Market improvements use food surplus. So it is just a matter of managing these upgrades to what you can supply in food. Basically, my winning idea is that each city just simply needs to make a rank 3 castle so that they can can have 3 slots of improvements. These slots should be the Market, Gamble Hall and Temple. Maximize money and happiness. The more happiness, the more tax you can impose. Fairly simple. You use cities that have blacksmiths and artisans for army building as a means for your offensive capabilities. That and the Uesagi Warrior Monks are OP, FYI.

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Rift Online: New Map, New PVP, New Zones

To start off, this was leaked through the forums. This is not new news. Secondly, it is but just a screenshot of slightly different version of the map we know now. It could be completely fake. A very good fake, but none the less fake. Thirdly, we have only been given slight details about the open PvP area plans for Port Scion (that dark area in the center you can’t get to), so this just might be a leak from the testing. And the results are likely to change upon implementation(s).

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The Dignity In Lowbie Kills

Being on a PvP server for Rift is a bit difficult. The game is seemingly not built for it. Not that many box big sale games are. Most are versions of last-minute Open PvP assemblies as an afterthought. There are quite a bit of disadvantages to leveling in an environment that has no protection or even a lack of benefit to the abuser for using their capabilities over you. I.E. There is nothing that really can prevent a band of level 50s from just rolling over players much lower in level. But the negatives actually travel a bit farther than just the basic idea of Open PvP.

There are a couple of things that I don’t enjoy about the system in Rift for open world PvP. Shared quest hubs are a really neat idea, but the NPCs are a bit soft for being these champions of battles that they claim they are. Not that they shouldn’t be killable, just that I shouldn’t be able to kill all of them with a sneeze. So, these hubs have about the same defense capabilities of say … a bar of soap against a flame thrower. And then the respawn points are for some reason placed out in the middle of no where. So if you do get rolled over, you get to spawn and take a couple of minutes just to run back to a healer. You are, however, even more likely to take more deaths as you maybe carrying the 50% death buff in NPCs were involved on your player death. On that point, the systems use of Soul Vitality is seemingly decent way of tracking penalties. And the PvP benefit is that you shouldn’t take any damage if you die to PvP. However, that is ony true if you strictly die from PvP. If a NPC even agros in the fight, those that die take soul damage as well as the 5 min debuff of 50% stats. Just small one oversight after another.

When people think of an Open PvP servers, they get excited about knowing that those times when you see the opposite side, there isn’t just a wave. In RIFT, a couple of ideas went overlooked. NPC involved deaths always grant you Soul Damage and a 5 min debuff. Not every spawn point has a healer. And the hub NPCs are not the Elite Ranks they should be. Is this griefing? No. The system allows it. So understand it, and plan for it. That simple.

However, to the actual point of the post, it also means that I can’t go travelling or exploring without being apart of the problem that I don’t like. Too often I have been moving through an area that is riddled with lower players. I’m not there to kill the lot of them, I’m there for the reason I went there; unlocks, explorations, cairns, puzzles, dungeons. But as for roaming to find one guy I’m going to camp for eternity and make their life a living hell. No, not my cup of tea. If this makes you feel like a big man. Have at it, big scary burly man of manliness. It’s OPvP.

I roam and explore for a purpose. That purpose isn’t to kill lowbies, it just happens to be the side effect. At first, I would explore and do my thing with the purpose of ignoring lower players. They’d see me and do that household pet routine of stopping and holding still, like I’m a T-Rex and can’t see them if they don’t move. I’d /wave and move on. But that was in the first couple of weeks. Now, I move by them only to later find that in minutes I’m being knocked into NPCs and jumped on by the same group of lowbies I ignored. So instead of jumping on them in their PvE and destroying them, I’m now giving them a kill on a 50. My lack of Epeen stroking is only stoking theirs.

Another example that kept repeating: I run by 2 level 30s. They pause, I wave, I keep moving. A minute later I encounter a level 50 Rogue. He wants to play. But instead of a decent fight, I have 2 level 30s successfully CCing me once it begins. Not saying that a Rogue couldn’t take on a Cleric in Shaman/Justicar setup, or even that I can blame the lower levels for taking the advantage. I’m just saying, that if I didn’t have false principles, I’d have 3 kills and not a death. But, I decided not to pick on lowbies. Silly me.

This constant observance changed me. I now see Red, I kill it. Not that I enjoy it. I just kill it on the result of precaution. If I kill you, you aren’t likely to be behind me in a couple of minutes when I have to fight something and turn the tides. That simple. I don’t kill them and move the spawn to get some more. I don’t kill them and /say “lol.” I kill them and move on. Sometimes I can /say quickly enough, “sorry.”

And as this happens, I discovered yesterday possibly the worst oversight yet in the Open World PvP; even 10 ranks under you still grant a portion of Favor and Prestige. Most not be tempted … by … numbers … must resist.

A wise man once said, “Tis not a warrior’s place to ponder the absence of dignity. Tis the fallen’s to regret having it.”

I’m just joking. I made that up. He actually said, “STFU and kill the little assholes, you dipshit.”

And he wasn’t so much wise as he was drunk. And he may have been not a man, but a little raging boy. And he may have just my inner voice. But it all comes down to the same thing, right? Yeah.

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RIFT Online: Being Bad

 I spent most of my MMO days in a game called EVE. I played around with an MMO here and there; but only really found a role in a Hack and Slash with WAR. For the most part, if you don’t have a system built around PVP, then you probably aren’t getting more than the box sale out of me. This habit and cycle continues as a jump from one spot to the next as I look for the next best thing. I don’t have the longest MMO résumé in the blogosphere, but I have enough to notice a trend that always persist.

That trend is at MMO start-up, the sizable portion of the community is a mash of multiple communities rolled into a new enviroment. This translates into a seperation of philosphies and speechm and with game sucess that community will develope their own subpar techniques of communication. You can usually tell where someone is coming from based on their chat and the terms they use. With us being in the first month of RIFT, and the combination of being able to chat with the enemy, we get to see a revalation of witty and not so witty comments. And all too often I see this word, “bad,” and all it’s different forms of brutalized internet lingo. 

By itself it doesn’t seem to express anything abnormal. “Oh that’s bad.” -or- “Oh, wow you’re bad.” These say something normal to me. I understand what that person is telling someone else and the use of the word like that seems okay to me. It’s when it gets altered or used in such a manner of quick internet type that it translates to me a much more negative criticism on the speaker. I keep seeing this:

cuz UR bad.” 

“UR a baddie”

“keep bein badder newb

… I see this and all I can really think is … the player must be child. And I don’t mean that in a derogatory sense. I mean that, they must be an actual child. Who says you are “bad,” or a “baddie?” I don’t know. Because when I want to tell you are bad, I tell you “You are a fucking moron.” That’s what adults do. We use obscenities and insults to help better ourselves.

I understand I’m not really in a mature game. This isn’t EVE, or even a game with a mature rating. But reading these cutesy terms that beat around the bush is actually fairly upsetting to me. Instead of a Profanity Filter, I would actually like a Profanity Filler. Every time the system recognizing the use of a childish word it will replace it with something above say what a middle schooler could use. Ideas for replacement terms:

Baddie -> Horrendously Moronic
Meany -> Twunt Punter
Newb -> Fucktard
Noob -> Hairless Ball Sack

Who’s with me? Send in your feedback.

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Rift Online: The I in TEAM

I’ve mentioned it before in leveling and I’m now running into an even bigger result of this problem. There just isn’t a good reason to group up. Whether your leveling or now you are running Warfronts for your Favor and Prestige, a group holds you back.

Ever since my Middle School Teacher pointed that “i” out, it has always made me happy. “Look at that, there it is,” as I clap and smile like a fool. Everytime.

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Mr. Meh’s Jerk Guide to Leveling Your Cleric

Are you a Cleric?
Are you in need of Levels?
Are you willing to leave your friends in the Dust?

Well, look no further, friend. Mr. Meh is here to help you on your way to glory. A glorious path awaits you and is paved in selfishness and greed. And you will most certainly be lonely at the top. But it’s the top, so who cares what those lowbies think, right? Right.

I have finally hit 50, and it doing so, I realized how it took me near twice as long to do it. If only I didn’t have friends and this desire to help. But, you, I can help you level to 50 in no time.

Around Rank 25ish. Feels so long ago. Loved that Horned Helmet.

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RIFT Online: Outstanding Issues – Mostly Clerical (pun intended)

With rank 50 literally around the corner for me (maybe tonight?), I’ll have time to finally not completely concentrate on that rush. I’ll get time to bitch, whine and moan (inside joke intended) on the forums in feedback. I came to this game because it was the PVP solution to the broken game we left at WAR (post 1.4). Unfortunately, there are a ton of glaring imperfections, massive balance issues and just major oversights when it comes to end game play.

Now my perspective is from a Cleric’s point of view. Though I am sure Mages alike can quickly agree with many of the points. As a side note, it has been a grueling 2 weeks of experimentation. I do not simply play, decide one spec and get mad when it doesn’t work. I have probably spent more Platinum in the last week on respeccing than most have on the 90% mounts. At this point I think I have exhausted every single one of the tree in each assembly one could think useful. I am woefully regretting choosing the cleric, maybe even more, this game depending on the actions of nerf/buffs in the next month.

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