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Tycho / on Wed, Sep 24 2003 at 5:37 am

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Believe Me, We Tried

I really must maintain that I have no inherent lust for Doom 3.  I have to buy it, of course - out of a misguided sense of tradition, which they are no doubt banking on.  I’m being serious, though.  Read this love letter to id on it over at GameSpot and tell me if it sounds like any original ideas made it in.  I submit that they have not.

I went long on something else Monday, the Savage thing, and I didn’t have the patience to enunciate my impressions of The Temple of Elemental Evil

The game came out early as you might recall, which I thought was a boon.  You’ll note that no-one ever celebrates an early pregnancy, and there’s a reason for that - human beings need to “bake” for a set period of time, upon completion of which they can be considered “done.”  The Temple Of Elemental Evil is not what I would consider “done.”  It is, however, very cool, which is what makes discussing it complex.

Let me begin by saying that this is the most accurate representation of the modern Dungeons and Dragons combat system in existence.  Neverwinter Nights is great and all, I’m on record as holding that position.  But without going into too much detail - trust me, it is not possible to establish in this space the comparative complexity of the systems - allow me to compare Neverwinter’s system to Temple’s annoying, imitative kid brother.  They each made choices about how to manifest Dungeons and Dragons, Bioware made the choices that would be right for most people, and Troika let the source material make the decisions.  There’s no other way to put it.       

Everything else about the game leaps frantically from brilliant to bullshit.  They have a potent, forward-looking radial menu system that allows hotkey access to truly vast individual functionality - similar to Neverwinter’s, but heaped high with esoteric combat functions - but this intuitive mechanism simply doesn’t exist outside the main game screen.  The metaphor needed to extend over the entire game - particularly the inventory screen, whose functionality is cumbersome everywhere it isn’t deliberately obscured.  Even there, there are kernels of cleverness - a set of tabs to create a handful of different configurations, a welcome feature in a game where you’re constantly swapping equipment to deal with new situations.  Identifying items works in a way counter to the source material.  Temple has a great, in-line hypertext help system that clarifies many rules.  The game runs poorly.  Do you see what I mean?  I’ve been thinking about this for days, I got it the day it came out.  I feel like I’m losing my mind when I try to come to some conclusion about this game.       

The rules of D&D, while not as complex as some pen and paper systems, can throw you for a loop even if you’re reasonably familiar with them.  This made many discussions on the forums seem like battles in and of themselves, as one side would call perfectly canonical decisions “bugs,” and vice versa.  Even outside the continuum of that discussion, there is still a robust supply of issues with the game - and, as this recent chat reveals, Atari released the game before Troika was done with it, cut out some evil dialogue paths, and now Troika has no contract with them that would cover the production of a patch.  They still want to make one, they just can’t tell us anything with specificity.  Well, awesome.   

It like some kind of test from God.  As an unabashed fan of Greyhawk and Dungeons and Dragons, can you brave the slipshod production and questionable decisions in order to enjoy the most accurate D&D game to date? 

You may recall my surprise and pleasure at discovering the Tom Clancy Companion Disc while rooting around at the EB website.  The link they had available for it doesn’t work anymore, as it turns out - near as I can tell, it’s a pre-order offer now and nothing else.  They must have realized that absolutely every person who wanted Rainbow Six 3 on the Xbox would probably put down a little money to play it early, and they might as well convert fans of Splinter Cell and Ghost Recon into buyers of the new game while they were at it.  I’ve heard that they plan to release these new levels eventually over Live anyway, but since I can’t find that press release I don’t invest that statement with any certainty.  At any rate, Ghost Recon is pretty much what I’m playing on the Xbox at the moment, Island Thunder specifically, and it’s something of a credit to it that a game that is essentially two years old manages to be Xbox Live’s most compelling offering at the moment.  I neglected to mention it, but not because I wasn’t thinking about it a lot - you have, by now, seen the new trailers they have at the Splinter Cell site and elsewhere for Pandora Tomorrow.  You’re all perfectly aware of my fixation not only with the original Splinter Cell but also with choking people, two interests that really dovetail nicely.  If you’re already an enthusiast, though, the new trailers raise a lot of extremely interesting questions - we see multiple people sneaking for one thing, obviously that’s just the multiplayer mode we already know about, but seeing it is still interesting.  But what about these first-person shots?  Is there some kind of mode where players sneak through areas guarded by other players?  In fact, the entire video seems to be dedicated to some sort of unannounced genre of multiplayer experience.  And what could the lizards and ancient statues represent?  Very curious indeed.           

Also, it’s official:  Half-Life 2 has been delayed.  Though it was clearly foolhardy at this late hour, I was still generating whole realities where Valve could get the game out on time.  It’s probably for the best, I’ve realized.  Gives me time to play Etherlords II.  And Billy Hatcher.  And Homeworld 2.  And Freedom Fighters.  And UFO: Aftermath… 

(CW)TB out.

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