Review: Marvel Heroes


Event boss Venom gets a thrashing

It’s been a while in the making, but Gazillion have released Marvel Heroes into the wild. I’ve spent about a dozen hours playing this game at time of writing this review, and I can tell you I’ll be playing more, but I’m not sure for how long.

A disclaimer before you read on: I’ve been a Marvel Comics fan for over 35 years, so I expect a lot from a Marvel MMO and as a show of faith I forked out $200 for the Ultimate Pack months before launch.

How Does Marvel Heroes Work?

MH is a Free-To-Play MMO, and the very obvious (and valid) comparison that can be made is in relation to Diablo, particularly in its style of gameplay. It’s an isometric game navigated by clicking the mouse in the direction you want your character to move. None of this is surprising given Gazillion Entertainment’s President is David Brevik, former Blizzard North co-founder who worked heavily on Diablo and Diablo 2. The similarities with Diablo move much beyond that though – as a D3 player, the whole interface is essentially the same, power-ups are similar, as is gear and inventory. None of this is a bad thing in any way – it’s all tried and tested stuff that works well and ensures you get into the action without spending too long orientating yourself to the interface. It just takes some of the excitement out of that initial hour or so although some will say it’s usually more frustration than excitement learning a new interface.

Getting Started

Once you’ve downloaded the client from, you choose the hero you’d like to start with. There are a decent number to choose from, with a good mix between the genders and types of powers. If you’ve bought one of the more expensive packs then you have even more to choose from. For each character you can also buy alternate costumes from the in-game store. There is no cost to play unless you’re unhappy with the base set of heroes or you want to change costumes or buy some cosmetic items or experience boosts on the store. I was amused to find that although I’d purchased an Ultimate pack giving me access to all heroes, my absolute preference was Daredevil, who is one of the basic roster ones anyway.

Playing The Game

Once you’ve got your character it’s time for the first cut-scene explaining the story-line. The cut-scenes are lo-fi, comic styled ones and I actually like them a lot. As you progress through the story there’s some great scenes – I love the Taskmaster Institute video – that’s definitely been a highlight for me so far. Like a lot of isometric games you use your mouse to move and the same goes for fighting, with your left and right mouse buttons getting plenty of love. You live and die by your health and spirit levels. Your spirit is used when deploying any non-basic fight moves and your health bar declines with every hit you take and doesn’t replenish in any way unless you use a Med Kit, you pick up some gear with health regeneration or one of your foes drops a health blob to pick up . Sound familiar?

The mini-map does well to ensure you know which direction you’re going whilst still giving you plenty of scope to explore. Fights are fairly fluid and there’s enough different animations to keep it pretty interesting. There’s some good spontaneous comments by NPCs to add to the atmosphere, and graphically I like a lot of the areas I’ve seen so far though like any isometric game there’s always a little bit of same-same feel in areas.

Boss fights are fun but generally challenging as the dozen or so I’ve done all have some unique fight mechanics that take some working out. That said, I’ve only died once in total fighting bosses (with a healthy reliance on med kits), so it’s not too arduous either. Any MMO also depends to a large extent on social features and Marvel Heroes has the bases covered. The event bosses (like Venom as pictured above) are good fun though once you get more than half a dozen heroes fighting it all becomes a clicking blur with your enemy very difficult to pick out.

Beyond the main storyline there’s a few other play options, once you’ve completed eight chapters of the story. There’s repeatable missions and end-game PvP  is in development to name two. Crafting is also a key component, allowing you create a range of items from materials you pick up when fighting. None of it is particularly innovative but they’re all key components of an MMO hoping to have some longevity. Which leads me to…


Hmmm what shall I wear today?

Is It A Keeper?

I’m not so convinced that Marvel Heroes has the ‘replayability’ to keep me engaged over a long period of time, unless Gazillion are going to release some fairly regular content updates. For me, and I can’t emphasise strongly enough that this is probably very specific to me, I really struggle with how similar everything is to Diablo 3. I played the whole D3 storyline through (on normal mode only though) and really, really enjoyed it. And since then I’ve never been back – and so the similarities being so strong with Marvel Heroes I’ve fallen into the mindset that I may do the same here. That said, I’m very much hoping to be proven wrong.

Other Bouquets and Brickbats

– The game seems to run fine of relatively low-spec machines i.e. I’m running the game on a 3+ year old iMac with Boot Camp and aside from the odd stutter in the cut scenes and entry into new zones, it’s been fine.

– On launch you will get driver error messages if your drivers are up to date – this can be a good thing in some ways but some will find it frustrating.

– I do like the option to donate loot to a vendor to gain vendor experience that leads to them offering more gear for sale.

– I know it couldn’t easily be avoided but I dislike the immersion-breaking aspect of picking up gear and it not changing your appearance. It’s a unique challenge for a game involving costumed superheroes, but it still grated on me nonetheless.

– It’s early days but there’s been some serious issues with frequency of server maintenance periods and the patch updates are still large so those on broadband plans with lower data allowances may get annoyed.

– You can’t log out anywhere and expect that’s where you’ll be when you join the game next. Like Diablo 3, you’ll become obsessed about waypoints so you don’t have to replay huge tracts of the game to continue your progression.

– I’d like better enemy targeting options – flame away in comments if I’ve missed something but I’d like to be able to hit a key to target the enemy rather than having to click – particularly event bosses.

– The Marvel Heroes forums seem one of the better MMO communities out there. So far.

The Verdict

If you’re a comics fan or an isometric gaming fan looking for something new to play, then Marvel Heroes is well worth checking out given it’s free to play. If you’re an MMO player looking for something innovative to devote the majority of your gaming time to, I’m not sure Marvel Heroes will fit the bill but again it won’t cost you anything to give it a go.  For casual players looking for some Marvel-tinged gameplay that sticks well to the comics universe, then you’ll definitely want to spend some time with this game. The cutscenes alone are fun enough in parts to make it worthwhile.

Plus, I always wanted to kick Venom’s butt.

Now it’s your turn: have you played Marvel Heroes yet and if so what do you think? As alwaysI’m also more than happy for people to rip me a new one if I’ve got something factually wrong.

Finally – we do discuss Marvel Heroes on our fortnightly MMO podcast, called Flash Point – we’d love to have you on board.




Neverwinter: First Impressions

Neverwinter reviewA big welcome to guest writer Wayne Hewitt, who has penned a detailed review of the soon to be launched Neverwinter MMO.

As a pen-and-paper Dungeons and Dragons player from the early 80s, I have always had a soft spot for games set in the Wizards of the Coast gaming worlds. Neverwinter Nights and Baldur’s Gate, both set in the Forgotten Realms are arguably the best in a long list of games.

When a closed beta for the up and coming Neverwinter MMO was announced, my Visa card jumped into my hand and begged to be unleashed – who am I to knock back a request like that. So with a small fanfare I was granted access to the closed beta. Yes, you had to pay to be in a beta for a game that is going to be completely free to play. Go figure.

As with all betas there has been an amazing amount of changes from one version to the next, and now that the final closed beta has finished up we can look forward to the open beta (which is really a soft launch as there will be no character resets from this point on and anyone can play). The game will launch as a free to play title and if the closed beta is anything to go by, only boosts and cosmetic items will be sold in the cash shop. With all cash shops there is always the fear of Pay to Win, but I think Cryptic have been very conscious of this and have gone with the cash for convenience model.

Neverwinter lore is set in the Dungeons and Dragons Forgotten Realms universe. The game has been created by Cryptic Studios in partnership with Wizards of the Coast. It is an action based fantasy MMORPG that uses the Dungeon and Dragon 4th Edition rules as the inspiration behind its game play.

Creating a character in Neverwinter starts as it does with virtually every MMO. First select a race and gender. Neverwinter has 7 races to choose from based on the 4E DnD core rules. There is a choice between Human, Elf, Half Elf, Halfling, Dwarf, Half Orc and Tiefling.  For me selecting a race was pretty easy – how could I pass up the chance to play a Tiefling (A humanoid with a tail and Horns).

Next, select a class. As the game stands in beta there are only 5 classes to play. Cryptic has stated that there are more on the way, but for the moment this is probably the most limiting feature I experienced. The classes stick to the Holy Trinity with a Guardian Fighter (tank), Devout Cleric (heals), Control Wizard (controller – CC specialist / ranged DPS), Great Weapon Fighter (striker – 2 handed melee AOE DPS) and a Trickster Rogue (striker – single target melee DPS).

The character customisation was enjoyable. There are an adequate amount of default looks to choose from with sliders to adjust features in the advanced menu. All up I was able to make a character I was happy to play and it had a feeling of individuality that I would expect from an MMO.

Neverwinter is of course steeped in lore. A lot of this lore originates from the DnD pen and paper game material, previous computer games as well as a swag of novels (more than 70).  The game takes place 100 years after the spell plague and volcanic eruption that destroyed the city of Neverwinter. There is a real feel of depth to the game from the moment you arrive shipwrecked off the coast of Neverwinter city.

The first thing that stood out was a golden sparkly trail leading from my character to the first quest giver. Just like the yellow brick road this wonderful trail would lead me from quest area to quest NPC. No more looking at my map staring blindly in an attempt to figure out where I need to go next. This feature can be turned off for the more adventurous player. The tutorial missions introducing you to the story, explain the movement and combat system taking you from the beginning area through to the city gates, leading up to a boss fight on the bridge entering Neverwinter city.

nwn2Combat in Neverwinter is a lot of fun and the action based combat is a breath of fresh air in the MMO world. As your character advances in level you gain more and more skills. These skills are made up of ‘At-Will’ powers that are automatically mapped to the left and right mouse button, these are your main abilities and as the name suggests you can use these at will. You also receive ‘Encounter’ powers. These are more powerful abilities that have a short cool down. You can have 3 active ‘Encounter’ Powers mapped to your ability bar. Lastly you have daily powers. Daily powers require action points which are earned through using your other abilities. When you have enough action points you are able to use your daily power. You may map two daily powers to your action bar.

After finishing the tutorial you enter into the Protectors Enclave. Here you find all of your merchants, banks, auction houses and other game necessities. I love the views from the Protectors Enclave – they give the game a real sense of the size and grandeur. On first entering the Protectors enclave I did have one of those wow moments when I saw my first player mounted on a rearing horse. This would have to have been one of the best rearing animations for a horse mount I have seen. And yes, when I got my first mount at level 20 I spent a good five minutes making it rear in front of other lower level characters.

At level 16 you get a companion. The game has a huge variety of companions that you can acquire from the standard races and classes to animals, magic weapons ghosts and demons. Companions earn experience while they are questing with you and need to be sent off to training to level up.

Questing really displays Neverwinter‘s Dungeons and Dragons side, with many of the quests taking place inside instanced dungeons that can be ran either solo or in a party. As you would expect, from a Dungeons and Dragons based game, dungeons come fully equipped with all the things we have come to love. There are monsters to fight, traps to disarm or avoid, puzzles to puzzle over, chests full of treasure, and of course Bosses to kill.

Where the questing in Neverwinter really sets itself apart is in the style of quests. The typical ‘go grind X of these’ type quests are rare, with most quests feeling like part of a story, often with multiple parts in different scenarios. The other interesting concept for quests is the foundry. The foundry allows players to created content that is available to all players. By the end of beta hundreds of player created quests and quest chains existed, some as good if not better than the main quest lines. Ultimately the foundry provides an interesting way for anyone to be able to tell their story.

Although I only had the opportunity to run a couple of the 5-man dungeons over the beta week ends, I would have to say the first dungeon, ‘the clockwork tower’ was my favourite. As a healer I did at first find the idea of relying heavily on splash healing from my attacks rather than direct heals an odd concept. But as I got into healing with the devout cleric, I came to enjoy the liberty of being able to both heal and attack at the same time. And don’t worry healers, there are some direct heals as well as AoE heals.

Questing and dungeons are not the only things to do. There is PvP – both 5 v 5 Arena style matches and 20 v 20 matches. Unfortunately I am not much of a PvP’er so I spent a lot of time dead. Another game mechanic that I found to be enjoyable was the skirmishes. These are quick PvE encounters where a group would protect an area from wave after wave of enemies. I must admit I spent a large portion of my game time playing in these encounters. Even with the mad combat caused by large waves of enemies, the combat system never leaves you feeling overwhelmed.

Overall, for a completely free to play game Neverwinter really hit the mark with its questing. Although a lot of the quests are instanced, this is not at all detrimental to the game play. If anything it enhances the feeling of a Dungeons and Dragons game. I did spend a lot of time running around with friends and we were able to do all the instances together and having an absolute blast doing it. There are plenty of large open areas for questing as well, with great opportunities to run into other players.

I must admit I would have liked to see a larger variety of classes at launch, but I am sure they will not be far away. The classes presently available are a lot of fun to play.

See you all at launch on the 30th April!

Wayne Hewitt (

Rise Of The Hutt Cartel: A Targeted Review

Rise of the Hutt Cartel ReviewIt’s only been a few days since early access started, and it’s still a day until the full launch of SWTOR’s first expansion, Rise of the Hutt Cartel. Being the dedicated chap I am, I’ve already put in a solid block of hours to levelling my Jedi Sage from 50 to nearly 52 (yes, yes, I know I have a long way to go).

That amount of ROTHC gameplay has given me enough exposure to the content to feel I can make some considered judgements on it. Instead of going on too much about specific likes and dislikes (make sure you check out Simon’s mini-review here), I thought I’d target my thoughts to particular groups of people.

Also, I’ve thrown in information related to Game Update 2.0 Scum and Villainy as it’s all in the mix now. So here goes:


Brickbats and Bouquets In Less Than 200 Words

Bouquets: This expansion is worth the money for the level of extra content it provides, Makeb looks great as a planet and is well differentiated from current planets. The Hutt storyline is engaging as well. Love the improved achievement system.

Brickbats: Quite a few graphical glitches and I’ve had an ongoing issue with staying in combat. It seems related to all the low level droids around – if one’s in an area where you’ve killed a bunch of enemies, you stay in combat even if you kill that droid. Killing the droid before the last mob seems to help sometimes. Very frustrating – please get this fixed BioWare. I also dislike the on-planet transport not showing the full journey – there’s a fade to black and arrival to the destination. Some will love this but for me it takes away from immersion in the game and seems and obvious way to save development time.


ROTHC By Play Styles

As promised, here’s some thoughts on how appealing ROTHC is, based on individual play styles:

For everyone: It doesn’t matter what sort of player you are, this release is a sign of SWTOR’s growing maturity as a game. There’s something for everyone here – even with some frustrating issues that have taken some of the fun out of the new content for me (more on that below).

For the cynical ex-SWTOR player: There’s enough in this expansion to make it worthwhile for you to invest a few hours. The reasons each person departs a game are obviously individual so ROTHC may still not have addressed them for you. But if you were wanting more story content, more Flashpoints and Operations and some improvements in interface and usability, then that’s been delivered to a large extent.

For the Achievement Junkie: I well and truly fall into this category and there’s been some much needed updates to the achievement system. For starters there’s a lot more achievements to earn. Unfortunately a lot of them don’t reflect your playtime prior to the new system’s achievements – an example is in regard to companions where you earn achievements for the number of kills done with each companion: all started at zero on my Level 50 Sage. That said, it doesn’t take long to chalk up a bunch of kills so it’s not a deal-breaker.

For the casual / solo player:  aside from the extra story and content, this expansion doesn’t deliver a lot extra for the more casual of us – although for me the achievement system adds to the solo appeal.

For the hardcore raider: For any raider it’s about progression and this expansion definitely offers that. Every new Operation and its challenges are very individual for each guild, so it’ll be a few weeks before we get any serious evaluation of either Terror From Beyond or Scum and Villainy.

For the PvP’er: This is a difficult one, particularly from an oceanic perspective. There’s certainly been changes with tiers and rankings and gear, but that’s about it. The imminent closure of local servers is not going to make many PvP players happy I wouldn’t think.

The Summary

Given the challenges SWTOR has faced over the first nearly 18 months of its existence, there’s been a lot riding on this expansion. The move to F2p saved the game’s bacon for the short to medium term. Rise of the Hutt Cartel has achieved something more: proof of a game with a growing content that integrates well with the current game. If BioWare fix some of the more annoying glitches in the next few weeks, I’ll be one of hopefully many touting SWTOR’s new expansion as one worth exploring.

What’s your take on ROTHC so far?

Blitzkrieg: The Matilda Black Prince Review

Blitzkrieg is a new regular column devoted to the very popular MMO World of Tanks. If you’ve got a topic you’d like our resident expert Matthew “Scope” Pearce to cover, drop him a line!

Who wants some lead?

The Matilda Black Prince is the first British tank to be added to World of Tanks, and is similar to the medium tank Matilda supplied by the British to the Russians under the Lend-Lease program that was in World of Tanks before patch 8.0.

The new Matilda Black Prince has some big differences, one of the most significant being changes in the turret and gun.

The original Matilda in game used the ZiS-96 76mm, which had 65-108mm of shell penetration, making it hard to penetrate tier 5 heavy tanks. The Matilda Black Prince now uses the same QF 6 pounder Mk. V A that the Churchill used as well as the same A27 turret.

This means that the new Matilda Black Prince has a penetration value of 83-138mm, and the crazy ROF (Rate of Fire) of 26 rounds a minute, meaning it shoots a single round every 2 seconds giving it 1957 DPM (damage per minute)

The Matilda Black Prince is not without its drawbacks however – it shares the same frontal armour as the Matilda medium tank, but has only got 55mm of side armour compared to the Matilda medium tank’s 75mm.

Its engine is also lacking with only 190 horse power compared to the Matilda medium tank’s 274hp, meaning that the top speed the Matilda Black Prince can reach is only 22kmh on flat terrain. With such a low speed, it is usually best to shoot on the move with this tank, and as such I train my crew members in Snap Shot for my gunner, and Smooth Ride for the driver allowing me to fire more accurately on the move.

World of Tanks Black Matilda Prince

Erectus Turretus Maximus!

Because this tank is a premium tank, it gains far more credits than normal tanks, and helps the player save credits for those bigger tanks we all want to drive around in, as well as help pay the repair bills.

This tank is loads of fun to play and can be purchased for only 1750 gold from the World of Tanks in-game store.

World of Tanks: Patch 8.0 Tank Destroyer Review

Blitzkrieg is a new regular column devoted to the very popular MMO World of Tanks. If you’ve got a topic you’d like our resident expert Matthew “Scope” Pearce to cover, drop him a line!

G’day fellow gamers – recently Patch 8.0 of World of Tanks hit the live servers with its brand new physics engine, a graphical overhaul on some of the original maps, and also the introduction of a second TD (Tank Destroyer) line added to the Russian tech tree with four new TDs all up.

First up in my review is the brand new tier VII TD the SU-100M1

The SU-100M1 is equipped with the 100mm D-10S mod. 1944 gun with 131-219mm of armour penetration which deals 173-288 of damage, and sports a health pool of 830, and has a top speed of 50Kmph, with 90mm of frontal armour.

The armour for this tank is rather low for its tier, however its strength lies in its low profile and high camouflage rating, and how fast it can react to the ever changing battle with its amazing speed.

The upgraded gun 100mm LB-1C can shoot 9.52 rounds a minute with an accuracy of 0.33 at 100m, and an aiming time of only 1.7 seconds, which makes this TD an incredibly accurate borderline semi automatic sniper rifle with an average of 2070dpm (damage per minute).

The SU-100M1 tank destroyer offers players the speed of a medium tank, and the firepower and accuracy of a tank destroyer giving yourself more opportunities to move to your favourite bush, or sniper spot quicker and easier than before. 

Next up is the tier VIII TD the SU-101

The SU-101 comes equipped with the tier VII 100mm D-10S mod. 1944, has 990 hit points and has a top speed of 54kmph with 120mm of frontal armour.

The SU-101 plays as a slightly faster, more heavily armed TD than its predecessor.

This vehicle is a counterpart of the Jagdpanther II – it even looks the same.

There’s one difference though – the gun on the SU-101 is a TD version of the tier X IS-4’s top gun, and boy is it powerful.

Let’s compare the stats on the guns. This powerful 122mm M62-C2 gun is in a small nimble platform that has a nice 120mm of armour angled at 60° which means you can bounce quite a few shots from range while packing quite a punch and retaining good accuracy and a comfortable rate of fire.

Now for the tier IX  TD the SU-122-54

 World of Tanks Tank Destroyer

The SU-122-54 TD is based on the T-54’s medium tank hull with a max speed of 48kmph and 1530 hit points, while sporting a newer upgraded 122mm M62-C2 gun.

The strength of the SU-122-54 is not only in its powerful new gun though – it is also the smallest of the tier IX tank destroyers, making it harder to hit as well as having the best camouflage and thus making it harder for enemy players to spot you .

The SU-122-54 is also a great flanker due to its lower profile allowing it to move around unnoticed far easier than other tier IX tank destroyers.

And now for the tier X tank destroyer: the Object 263

 Object 263 World of Tanks Tank Destroyer

The Object 263 is completely different from its predecessors as it is based on the Russian tier X IS-7 heavy tank.

The Object 263 has 250mm of sloped frontal armour, making it one of the hardest tanks in game to penetrate frontally from range.  It’s got  1900 hit points with a maximum speed of 55kmph meaning it is also the fastest tier X tank destroyer in the game.

But wait it gets even better. The Object 263 comes equipped with the 130mm S-70A that has the best accuracy of 0.32 at 100m out of all the tier X tank destroyers as well as a rate of fire of 5.45, which gives it the title of the fastest shooting tier X tank destroyer and making it capable of dealing over 3300dpm.

This tank destroyer is a killing machine on crack – not only does it have an accurate gun that has an insane ROF (Rate of Fire), more armour then the most heavily armoured tank in the German tech tree (the Maus), but it also has an incredible speed of 55kph while the Maus can hardly get to 20kph on open ground.

Coming from playing the German tech tree for the majority of my World of Tanks career, with the amazing accuracy that comes with being a German tank commander and loving my Jag Tiger ,I have reluctantly started to climb the Russian TD line in order to get a tier 10 version of my beloved JT as the JpzE-100 just doesn’t feel like an upgrade from the JT but more of a downgrade.

So over to you, what do you think of these new TDs?

Through The Mist: Looking Back at Cataclysm

Through the Mist is a regular column from Luke Le Page covering everything World of Warcraft. If you’d like something covered in a future column, drop us a line!

With Mists of Pandaria only a week away I felt like it was a good time for a review of its predecessor: Cataclysm.

The anticipation I felt towards the end of Wrath of the Lich King was immense. Icecrown Citadel and Ulduar had been a return to the epic raids of the past such as Molten Core, Blackwing Lair, Karazhan and Black Temple to name a few. The reintroduction of Naxxramas as a level 80 raid also had me extremely excited having been stuck on the Four Horsemen in classic WoW before taking a break in preparation for the Burning Crusade. I was finally going to be able to defeat Kel’Thuzad and close that chapter of Warcraft lore – not only that but I would be throwing down against Arthas himself in the not too distant future.

This is where I think Cataclysm faced its greatest challenge – how were Blizzard going to come back after having defeated Arthas, the antagonist of the unbelievably popular Warcraft 3? We had spent years working up to this culminating fight. The pre-expansion event had me fairly excited (The Cataclysm). Having also read the Shattering, the expansion’s companion novel, I felt truly immersed in the events that were taking place. My beloved zones were utterly destroyed as Deathwing emerged from Deepholme.

I hated him for that as I am an altoholic. I loved many of the original zones, hated others. I played through them more times than I care to admit and came to love the environment of the game and this former aspect had come along and completely destroyed many of them and it was time for payback.

The event really set the tone for me as I ventured into this new expansion – there was no way I was going to let Deathwing off the hook. So I logged into my account page and race-changed my Rogue to a Goblin and set about on my journey for vengeance.

We also saw the introduction of two new races. After many years of petitions from players we finally saw the emergence of Goblins as a player race as well as the ever mysterious Worgen. I have played through both of these starting areas and must admit that I was quite impressed by the work done by Blizzard. During the Worgen scenario I truly felt that I was being hunted. The Goblin experience was less exciting for me but it left me with an even stronger desire to rid the world of Deathwing.

That was about as excited as I got during the Cataclysm expansion. My levelling experience went fairly well, I was among the first level 85’s on my server. I thoroughly enjoyed Mount Hyjal, the ever elusive Mount Hyjal that we had ran through as ghosts or by cliff jumping very early on in the original form of the game. It was finally open and it did not disappoint. The zone itself made fantastic use of Blizzards phasing technology.

My first foray into Cataclysm dungeons occurred on the first day as I headed into Blackrock Cavern with a guild group. This was a relatively positive experience and reinforced my hopes for the expansion.

Mount Hyjal was followed by Deepholme. The cutscene entry to this zone was excellent and really set the scene as we ventured deep into Deathwing’s home. This was another impressive zone, I enjoyed the turmoil within the elemental plane and our efforts to assist Therazane.

After completing Deepholme, and a few runs of the Stonecore (a thoroughly enjoyable dungeon that continued the storyline of the zone), I ventured into Uldum. I have to say this is where my experience went sour.

The zone itself was fine, though a little spread out and at times it felt a little slow. My major gripe was that the zone felt like filler. There was no real point to it even existing. Granted they tied the zone to Deathwing lore but it felt forced. I can’t say that I enjoyed Vortex pinnacle, though it was fun on heroic and had some interesting mechanics.

This lead me to the Twilight Highlands. Again the zone relied heavily on lore and led us to investigate the Twilight’s Hammer and Deathwing’s relationship with the other dragon flights. It was an interesting zone and tied into the Bastion of Twilight raid extremely well. The introduction quests to the zone, both Alliance and Horde, were interesting and I enjoyed doing them.

Overall, I had a mixed levelling experience, so much so that I still have not levelled a handful of alts that I would like to and many that I have were levelled through dungeons alone. The zones after a single completion felt tedious and I did not wish to do them again on alts. This is the first time I have ever felt that way during my time playing WoW and it was a somewhat foreign experience. If I was forced to give it a score out of 10 I would probably lean towards a 6.5 or 7. It wasn’t terrible and many zones were enjoyable while others were frustratingly spread out.

This brings me to heroic dungeons.

I don’t really have anything bad to say in regards to heroics – we began running them almost immediately as a guild in an effort to gear up for raids. I can’t say that I ever found any of them overly difficult; some were tough at lower gear levels as you would expect but I have no memories of repetitive wipes in any of them. Some of the achievements were a lot of fun to attempt and whilst I did not complete the heroic meta-achievement, due largely to a break that I will mention below and some laziness.  I still occasionally run the early tier of heroics so that is definitely a positive for Blizzard. The remakes of Deadmines and Shadowfang Keep were also fun. The addition of the Zandalari heroics later in the expansion is also a positive – I was not playing at the time these were released so I can’t speak for how difficult they were at the appropriate gear level but I quite enjoyed them at a higher gear level.  I give heroics an 8/10.

The New Azeroth

I have to say that I really enjoy the new zones. Blizzard has done an amazing job revamping the levelling experience and has made it relevant to the current content of the game. Lore-wise it is a little disconcerting that we do Azeroth and then move to Outlands and Northrend (that are effectively in the past) before returning to Cataclysm content. The other drawback comes from the levelling speed of the game. Even without Bind on Account items and Guild perks, that increased experience gain means it is possible to out-level a zone from a single quest hub. I found this a little annoying despite my enjoyment of the zones themselves. I give 9/10 for the new levelling areas.


I will not spend too much time on my raiding experience. My guild went into Blackwing Descent first and downed Magmaw with minimal fuss. Omnitron took a handful of attempts but also went down on the first night. Chimaeron was a sterner challenge and went down on the following night after a fairly high number of attempts. In the second week we moved on to Maloriak and Atramades and successfully killed them. I was not present for the Nefarian and Onyxia kill but was there for a number of early attempts. The only fight I truly enjoyed in this raid was Atramedes. I was immediately disappointed with the difficulty level of the raid. Granted my guild wiped, but it was nothing major and we overcame much of the raid with minimal fuss. I rate the first tier of raids extremely poorly: 2/10

Bastion of Twilight was a similar story with the exception of Cho’ Gall. This fight for a variety of reasons took us some time to master and to be honest I really enjoyed it despite the wipes. I can’t say much for the rest of the raid zone. I found most of it boring and simple. Ascendant Council took some time to adapt to the mechanics and coordination required, but was overcome relatively quickly.

I give this early raiding tier a pretty low score, a mere 3/10 overall. I was severely disappointed by it. After my guild defeated Nefarian and Cho’ Gall I immediately took a break from the game. This is an opinion piece and I think that a launch player who had played through every previous tier of raiding stepping back so early says more than my review ever can about that tier.  I also note that I never did Throne of the Four Winds.

Due to this, I missed all of Firelands. As a huge fan of Molten Core and Ragnaros I would love to have been a part of my guild’s progress through this raid but it was not to be. I still have not completed this raid having only returned to the game in mid Dragon Soul.

This brings me to Dragon Soul. Due to the break mentioned above I was no longer a part of a core raiding team for Dragon Soul and had to settle with sub-ins and pugs. My experience overall was fairly positive and I enjoyed the zone overall and give it a 7/10.

The introduction of the Raid finder. Well this is a debate in itself. It has polarised much of the WoW community and I personally like it. It gives casual and new players a chance to participate in later tiers of the game. The difficulty could probably use a little bit of tweaking – being able to ignore the mechanics of fights should not be allowed to happen but in general I feel it is a good way to make raiding accessible to all players. Hopefully in Mists of Pandaria we see a balance in the raid finder that is challenging and rewarding for new and casual players.

This is where people will gripe that if I found the raids so easy why didn’t I do hard modes? The simple answer is I didn’t care enough about the raids to bother with them. Very few of the encounters even piqued my interest enough to go through them a second time. My break ended up being an extremely long one and from all reports I missed an excellent raid in the Firelands and if I have one regret from this expansion it is not completing that raid or even experiencing it. The reason I returned from my break was the WoW annual pass. I was always going to play Diablo 3 and the deal was too good to pass up, it also gave me a chance to experience MoP without having to purchase it. I am sad to say that it was nothing Blizzard added to the current game that brought me back .

Overall, I think it is clear that I did not enjoy Cataclysm as much as I have the previous expansions of the game. This is not entirely Blizzard’s fault as I went through a number of issues in life that also affected my enjoyment of this expansion. Putting those aside however, I have to rate Cataclysm as the worst of WoW’s expansions so far.

My ranking structure would be

World of Warcraft 9/10
Wrath of the Lich King 8.5/10
The Burning Crusade 8.5/10
Cataclysm 6/10

Note that I rate BC and WotLK the same – I put in an inordinate amount of work during Karazhan progression which affected my experience of the raid so I rank it lower than WotLK.

Now your turn: what’s your feelings or thoughts about Cataclysm now that you look back?

The Secret World: Oceanic Gamer’s Review

Funcom’s The Secret World has been live for more than a month now. In the lead up to launch and immediately afterwards, I was hearing very polarised opinions about the latest MMO out in the marketplace. All MMOs are polarised, but this one seemed expecially so, with people saying it was terrible whilst others loving every second. My curiosity got the better of me so I paid for the digital download version and for the past two weeks have put in quite a number of hours each evening exploring.

Overall gameplay

Fun. That really does sum it up. I’ve never had an MMO like this where I’ve spent a lot of hours running around a fairly small geographic area (Kingsmouth) and enjoying at least 90% of it. I like the atmospherics, the pacing, the music / sound effects (quite minimalist overall) – in fact pretty much everything.

The reality is that you don’t ‘level-up’ in the same way as other MMOs, and is a big plus. Sure, you still get obsessed about achievement points (for more abilities) and skill points (for buffs to your abilities), but it’s a much more fluid process to gain those points and deciding what to do with them. Believe it or not, a lot of the skill side of things is actually fun to think about, which is something new for me in an MMO. With weapons, you get the chance to try them all out before choosing a skill / ability path to start down, and even then you can easily divert to other weapons if you want to.

Oh and Mac users: this is a Windows only game but it runs a treat on my three year old iMac in Boot Camp.


Like any MMO there are your usual ‘kill 12 of X things’ but I have to say that these were nowhere as frequent as any other MMOs I’ve played. Most of the quests are pretty interesting, particularly the invesitigation and surveillance missions, which require your thinkign skills, not your button mashing skills. There are of course daily quests and the like if you’re on a real XP grind. Oh – and there’s a web browser in-game to make it easier to do online research for some of the quests – a great feature.


Like any MMO there’s the expected social features of group chat, private messages and general chat in each area. Having only got to the end of Kingsmouth I don’t feel qualified to discuss how social people are getting later in the game, but at this stage there’s not reams of toons hanging out in particular locations. One very subjective comment I’d make on general chat is that it’s a bit more civilised than other MMOs I’ve played although that could just be a result of the lower numbers on the server comparatively. That said, a warning: if you are thinking of jumping on general chat to have the brains trust answer the mystery you’re currently trying to solve, then make damn sure you’ve at least tried to research the answer for yourself.

Graphics and Music

This is where I became totally sold on TSW as a game I want to play longer term. I’m going to come out and say this is the best quality MMO I’ve played graphics-wise. Add to that the art style and the minimalist music, and it has me hooked. This is the only MMO I’ve ever played where I’ve always kept the sound on. Of course, graphics are a very individual thing so some may totally hate the style but I’m certainly not one of them. The rich colours (particularly in London as I rolled a Templar), are worth noting as well.

For those really interested in the graphics, I’ve created a slideshow of a dozen or so scenes from the game:


I partly covered this in the quest section above, but I wanted to give some more emphasis to how engaging story can be in this game. Star Wars The Old Republic made much of the fact that it’s obsession is story, and they succeeded to a very large extent. I’m here to tell you though, that TSW kicks SWTOR’s butt in relation to story. Mainly because of how well the cut scenes are done, the natural language the NPCs use and the thought that’s gone into developing a story line that keeps you hooked. Both games appear to have done a good job in making people want to have multiple characters in the game.

The other key point to be made here are the stark differences between the Dragon, Illuminati and Templar. Sure, every MMO has its factions, but Funcom have done a great job in emphasising their differences, even though they’re all human. I’m hanging out to get more in-depth with the two other factions besides my Templar.


Aside from the items you can pick up in the game, Funcom also have an item store where you can outfit your character to the style it deserves. You’ll need to buy Funcom points for the privelege – they start at US$5.00 for 600 points, and the gear you can buy ranges from 80 points up to more than 2000 points for the high end stuff.

The Downsides

I actually found it difficult to find significant negatives, but like any MMO they’re certainly there. The main frustrations / concerns for me were:

1. There’s definitely a lag issue at times. Not being interested in PVP, it never toally impacted my experience but there were times I cold see my cast bar lagging behind what I was pressing significantly – sometime to the point my cast bar was a whole action behind.

2. Some quests don’t work well if done out of order. There were a couple of times I’d realise I’d missed a quest involving a character I’d already dealt with and it didn’t complete for me properly. Some of that will be early teething problems too, and I know there’s been some fixes already with some quests.

3. I hate crafting – I just can’t get my head around the need to manually drag things into certain patterns. The approach does fit the wider design of the game but it just annoys the hell out of me. I may be in a minority there though and would appreciate your comments on crafting in the comments.

The Verdict

If you’re a lover of MMO that’s a little burnt out on the usual fare and looking for something different, then you should take a serious look at TSW. Even if you hate the whole monster / zombie schtick, this game is done well enough that you may still find it more than rewarding. If you want a simple hack and slash MMO then TSW may not be for you as you will need to think beyond key mashing and getting out of the fire.

Given the relatively small price of buying the game, which comes with 30 days free playtime, it’s not a big gamble. If you hate it or are indifferent to what it offers, then you’ve had a $60 experiment fail. If you love it, or can see it’s full potential developing in the medium term, then you keep subscribing.

The strongest point I can make on what I think about the game is what I did with my wallet: I bought a lifetime subscription.

Our score: 4.5/5 Greeblies

Now over to you: we’d love our thoughts on the game. Feel free to pick apart any claims we’ve made, point out any gaps or give us the low-down on later content in the game if you’ve got that far.

SWTOR’s combat system: an initial review

coruscant Self-proclaimed SWTOR newcomer Phillip has a close look at SWTOR’s combat system:

Bounty Hunter Class
UI looks pretty straight forward. UI appears to be hidden during “cutscenes”. Dialog Interface during cutscenes to decide on conversation path seems intuitive, reminds me somewhat of the Sims dialogue widget. Action bar sitting along the bottom along with character hp bar sitting slightly above. Mini-map sitting along the bottom, the majority of the screen apart from the bottom is free of distractions. Point and click based combat similar to WoW with use of skills from the action bar. Very little use of cover or tactics it appears, target appears on the other side of the UI action bar.

Smuggler Class
Represents Han Solo fantasy, once again makes use of a basic blaster. Disappointing that the cover zones are specified, would have been nice to have cover accounted for simply by being obstructed. Why don’t other classes have access to cover facilities? They keep talking about “Heroic” combat, I don’t see all that much heroic about hiding behind a rock.

Korriban Planet Review: Sith Warrior Class
Sith learn their training on this planet. Appears to be melee based class, and has what appears to be a rage style bar. The light sabre effects look good, will be curious to see what kind of system demands are placed on PCs and Macs. The scenery from all demos looks fantastic, plenty of spaces to take cover it looks (not sure if they are cover zones). Enemies make use of cover, the demo doesn’t really detail the AI capabilities.

Flashpoint: High Level Bounty Hunter and High Level Sith Warrior
UI in the cutscene shows two of the character portraits in the lower left hand corner. Can’t work out what the numbers are being shown in the portrait icon. Interactive system and it appears different group members have an opportunity to participate. Force Charge used, force bar seems to charge through melee attacks. Nice fire effect from the Bounty Hunter. Looks like decisions will affect “Dark Points” accrued, I’m assuming Jedi’s accrue “Light Points”? Storm Troopers armed with Melee weapons? Why wouldn’t they be equipped with range weaponry? Especially going up against Sith or Jedi. Sith Warrior has crowd control abilities. Jet Pack, Death from Above ability, no player control it appears, an action bar ability. Bounty Hunter has lockpick type abilities, explodes the locked door. The combat on the whole does feel epic watching it from the point of view of the Sith Warrior, not so sure it has the same feel while playing ranged. Bounty Hunter has Sleep Dart. Jedi Padawan takes on the Sith Warrior. Not very acrobatic combat or relying on the use of the Force much apart from a Force Choke. Combat against the Jedi Knight appears to be very stationary, would have been nice to see more acrobatics and movement rather than so much toe-to-toe combat. The UI appears to be very slick, will be curious to see whether or not 3rd party addons will be allowed and to what extent they can have effect on the UI customisation. Inventory system is more compressed and doesn’t waste screen real estate with the characters avatar shown. First ever multi voice dialogue system.

The Sum Up

Wow. Exciting. Visually compelling.

How else to describe the video delights Bioware is releasing currently to those of us impatiently awaiting every tidbit of news they dangle before us. Having spent some time watching the developer walk-through, it had me thinking about combat and what we’ve seen so far in the demo. Overall I’m fairly impressed, but it’s not so impressive to leave me speechless and in awe (on the flip-side the environments and atmosphere did impress me – a lot).

There was just something a little off in the way combat appeared to pan out during the walk-through, if I had to pick a word to describe it, I would probably say it’s a little ‘wooden’. Now what do I mean by that I hear you ask? Movements and actions just seemed too orchestrated, there just didn’t appear to be any kind of “flow”. Most of the classes just stood exchanging blaster fire or melee blows which didn’t equate to anything “heroic” in my book.

Every time you read through or watch a Bioware interview they always talk about how “heroic” their combat is going to be along with all the “heroic” action. I think the story is heroic, but as for the combat shown, it’s not so heroic. I’ll break it down and go through some of the issues I feel need to be addressed.

The smuggler, a great class idea, and it’s use of a cover system is exciting, but I’d really like to know why they are the only class to have access to “cover”. Shouldn’t every class be able to make use of objects or obstructions as refuge from persistent laser blasts? Last time I watched the films I vividly recall that all of the heroes at least spent some time huddled away behind doors, or cargo boxes exchanging blaster fire, even the mighty Jedi weren’t averse to ducking out of the way every now and then. As a game mechanic it’s great, but yes, I don’t see why it’s a unique class perk, just seems a little silly to me, when you see a smuggler taking cover while his Trooper buddy stands out in the open taking the heat – I really think if he had a little common sense he’d be jumping for cover as well!

There has been a lot of excitement in the forums surrounding the Bounty Hunter’s jet pack, a lot of people are speculating as to whether or not it will be possible to use it to fly around the zones. It looks like that will not be the case, although I could be proven wrong as higher level details haven’t been released at this stage. From what was released in the walk-through, it will be leveraged in some of the abilities available to the Bounty Hunter, but just being able to quickly shoot into the air a few feet and rain down some damage seems a little understated. At least have the Hunter drop a nuke or something worthwhile – a few puny blaster shots does not constitute “death from above”.

The Sith Warrior was exciting to watch, there’s something about seeing light sabres flash and skewering people effortlessly that is so visually thrilling. It’s eyeball candy, very hypnotising. There was even the occasional use of force choke thrown in for good measure. There wasn’t much to not like about the Sith Warrior, it definitely looked to be a more immersive style of play and the flow of combat between the Sith Warrior and the Jedi Knight near the end brought back memories of the epic light-show dance of death you see in the films. I’m looking forward to what they’ll have to offer with the Jedi (when they officially release the class info).

The environments shown look rich and intricate, a lot of thought and effort has been put into the design of the game world. I’m very curious to see how it will turn out in terms of scale, as we are dealing with Planets in the Star Wars mythos, not simply cities or continents. I’d expect some areas will be richer than others, and I’m really looking forward to combat in varied atmospheres against different species!