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Tycho / on Mon, Jul 21 2008 at 12:00 am

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Vacillation Street

So, there are two things.

One is that I was sort of surprised to see that World of Warcraft is going start offering achievements.  When achievements came out, I thought it was interesting in general terms, perhaps a reason to restrict multiplatform purchases to a single box.  I also called them fool’s gold and bared my teeth.  I was further surprised when Valve offered them, and then surprised (but slightly less so) when Sony offered them.  They must be a very big deal to somebody.  For me, they’re like change in the street.  If I get some, I’m sort of like, “Ooh!  A penny!” but you’ll never find my on my hands and knees scraping the sidewalk for them.

Two is that I’m out of World of Warcraft again.  I have been for awhile now, but I didn’t want to believe that I was, because that would mean admitting the extent to which I had let down my allies.  I was able to play for awhile after I hit the cap, much longer than I expected, but the corollary metrics of player progression (honor, faction, gear, mounts, gold, and now achievements) have no hold on me.  Of course, now they’ve got you playing WoW without even playing WoW, via the card game and now their Goddamned, motherfucking tabletop minis.  If you’re going to San Diego, you should make it a point to check out the latter.  The game is built around this shockingly elegant initiative system, which…  Actually, don’t go see it.  You’ll probably be better off.

My apostasy has allowed me to tunnel through the growing backlog in record time, though - and several games into Civ Revolution, I’m pretty happy with it.  It has problems, and that’s what we’re going to focus on exclusively.  But the arc of a Civilization game is present, even in this friendly interpretation, a feat which is worth mention.  I can’t even imagine what dark magic this classic gameplay works on the console-exclusive player.  Having been somewhat inoculated by previous exposure, I can enjoy it in relative safety.  If you’d never played it before, I couldn’t even estimate the damage.

The problems I have are nested in the multiplayer.  The FAQ for CivRev boldly declares that the game needs no save function, because “games can be completed in a sitting.”  The problem is that “a sitting” has radically different definitions.  For me, a sitting is the hours between ten p.m. and midnight, one of the last blocks of truly unfettered time.  I could probably barrel through a game in that span, but why would I?  I like to corral an AI foe, reducing him to a single squalid city, and then brandish the dark fruit that hangs on the tech tree’s highest bough.  Not including a way to save your progress is ridiculous.

You also can’t determine the difficulty of the AI enemies in multiplayer.  If you’re using the game to play as a team against the computer - that ancient co-op hack - this means that you can burn out the existing experience pretty quickly.

The last time I played, a couple nights ago, we ran into synchronization issues that robbed us of victory in two successive games.  Each game had an hour or so already invested in it.  What this means is that I have played the game night after night, still enjoying it, even though I have never been allowed to finish even a single multiplayer round.  I have no idea what the victory screen even looks like, though in my fantasy it has a glorious countenance.  The ability to save would have resolved either scenario.

In a game with so much else to do, it may be unfair to focus on those problems which are exclusive to multiplayer.  Playing with other people was (I thought!) one of the main virtues of this aerodynamic variant of the series, to bring the highly addictive play closer to the surface.  They’ve done that, but without more robust multiplayer AI, saving, and richer multiplayer scenarios I’m not sure it’s fit for my purpose.

(CW)TB out.

do you believe me now

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