Diablo III : Reaper of Souls

Date Completed : 11/9/2014

Diablo III was fun, but was a big disappointment as well.  I can’t recall any other games in memory that has spawned more discussion with friends about what went wrong, and how it could have been better.  The conversations were very similar to the discussions about where Star Wars I, II and III went wrong.  Luckily for Blizzard it’s easier to patch a game than a movie.

I think my colleague Josh said it best when he said Diablo III : Reaper of Souls is the game that Blizzard should have released originally.  In preparation for the expansion the game was patched with major updates.  The auction house that seemed like a good idea at the time but totally ruined the original game was removed.  The difficulty level scale was completely reworked, and a few new play modes including ‘Adventure Mode’ were added that made it fun to play even after you’d cleared the game.

The expansion itself adds a fifth act to the game where you hunt down Malthiel, the Angel of Death who has gone rogue and stolen the black soul stone.  The new Act reminded me a lot of Act III, which was my favorite of the original release.  So, the new act is a good one.

It’s still too dark and violent for my boys to watch, and combined with the requirement for Internet access I wasn’t able to play at all until we completed our move into our new home.  Even after the move I didn’t play much until I found that it is quite possible to play one handed while holding my infant daughter.  It turns out that she enjoys the game almost as much as me…although I’m pretty sure my wife disapproves of this particular method of bonding.  I used to joke that my oldest boy would find the sound of gunfire relaxing because I played so much Resistance 2 while he was an infant.  Maybe my daughter will find the sounds of monsters exploding relaxing.

In my original Diablo III review I wrote I’ll probably be playing on and off for 10 years, and now I’m even more sure of that statement than I was when I first wrote it.  Maybe by then my sons will even be able to play with me.

Starcraft II : Heart of the Swarm

StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm

Date Completed : 3/18/2013

There are only a few things more exciting in life than the release of a new Blizzard game.  I’ve been playing Starcraft ( and Diablo ) on and off for 15 years now.  No other game in my collection has been played so consistently for so long.  My former roommates and I played the original Starcraft game regularly for over a decade until finally, Starcraft II : Wings of Liberty was released.  My oldest boy was a bit over a year old at launch and he was able to participate in his first great video game unboxing.  He even helped to christen the box by peeing on it during a potty training incident.

I have two boys now (almost 4 and 2 years old) and they both helped me to unbox StarCraft II : Heart of the Swarm.  I’ve tried to explain the plot of the game to them but the older boy thinks that Sarah Kerrigan is a bit scary and the younger boy thinks she’s some sort of spider.  Their lack of enthusiasm didn’t slow me down much.  I was able to play through quite a bit of the game by distracting them with classic ’80s cartoons.

HOTS Unboxing

Unboxing HotS with the boys.

The game hasn’t changed a whole lot from previous incarnations of StarCraft.  If you’ve ever played a real-time strategy game you’ll know what to expect.  The big difference between StarCraft and other lesser RTS titles is the story.  I had to rush through the game because co-workers have been discussing the plot for the last week.  After playing through the game my wife actually feigned interest in the story and asked me how it ended.  After completing the game I can say that the story is excellent and it clears up most of the loose ends from the previous title quite nicely.  The between chapter videos were all as high quality as you’d expect Blizzard produced videos to be and all had jaw-dropping plot developments.  I sent (and received) many text messages after finishing a chapter that consisted only of the text “OMG!!!”.  StarCraft truly is the greatest space Opera of our time.

Most of the missions are variations on missions from the previous title.  The big difference is that this game has a lot more hero missions where you control only Kerrigan and a small attack force.  Kerrigan levels up as missions progress and gains new abilities.  Some of her abilities are ridiculously powerful and I found myself trying to beat a lot of the missions without using any of the other units that were available.  In another big twist Kerrigan is also available in most of the traditional missions.  Effectively micro-managing Kerrigan’s abilities can completely changes the tides of war.

The game is a big buggy.  There are achievements that weren’t properly awarded, sound that didn’t work right and random crashes.  I plan on playing through the game again at some point but I think I’ll wait for a patch or two.  If Diablo III is any model it’ll take about a year for the code base to stabilize.  It’s probably best to avoid the game for awhile anyway.  My kids stopped calling me ‘Daddy’ and instead refer to me as ‘That man in the back who plays StarCraft’.  Plus my wife keeps giving me the evil eye (but to be honest, that could be for all sorts of things).

I think in many ways StarCraft II : Heart of the Swarm surpasses Wings of Liberty.  The story was more enjoyable, the missions were super fun, and the Kerrigan hero unit was totally badass.  I whole heartedly endorse this game.

.Pros

  • New Missions
  • New Units
  • More Story
  • Awesome Cut-Scenes

Cons

  • My younger boy forgot my name.
  • My wife loves me a little less.
Is it fun: Yes
Score: 10/10
Length:  10 hours
System: PC / Mac
Genre: Real Time Strategy

StarCraft II : Wings of Liberty

While I was playing this game my wife often referred to herself as a ‘StarCraft Widow’.  Every free moment I had was spent playing StarCraft.  I would sneak away when she wasn’t looking so I could play more StarCraft.  I became obsessed to the point where I started buying StarCraft books and I almost ended up purchasing the StarCraft board game (Thankfully I did not).  I wish I could blame StarCraft for most of that but I think my obsessive personality may have had something to do with it.  


StarCraft  II isn’t just a game – it’s a way of life.  If you want to experience everything this game has to offer prepare to offer up your soul.  There is simply too much content for one normal person to get through in a lifetime.


The main campaign of StarCraft II revolves around the Terran race.  You follow the wacky exploits of James Raynor and his band of rebels as they try and save the universe from Arcturus Mengsk.  The main campaign has 26 missions each of which has multiple objectives.  Many of your objectives are optional but completing them will help you out in the long run by unlocking additional technology upgrades.  Each mission also has optional ‘Achievements’ so if you are in to that kind of thing you may end up playing many of the mission multiple times to pick them up.


Objectives in the game are much more varied than in the original title.  Instead of ‘wipe out all enemies’ there are objectives like ‘protect 5 colonist bases’ or ‘destroy 8 dominion trains’.  There are such a wide variety of objectives that I never found myself getting bored with the missions, even after 26 missions.  I had so much fun playing through the missions on normal that after I beat the game I immediately began a new game on hard and started over.


In addition to the campaign mode there is also a challenge mode available to single players.  It is a good tool to prepare you for online matches.  The challenge drops you into a scenario and you are awarded a medal on how well you perform.  The challenges are very practical and are good practice even if you’ve beat that challenge before.


Finally we have online play.  The online play is amazing.  Everything from the original StarCraft has been improved.  The only complaint I have heard is that new players are often confused that some units from the original StarCraft are missing.  If you read Blizzard’s documentation on the matter this was done for a reason, but it may confuse you if you are a fan of the original.  There are normal custom matches, but there are also league matches, cooperative matches, quick matches and team matches.  Any one type of match could consume all of your spare time.  There truly is endless game play potential.


Overall this is one of the most amazing games I have ever played.  I was a fan of the original StarCraft but this game takes it to a whole new level.  I haven’t played a game that I enjoyed this much in a long time.


Pros
* Improves on the original StarCraft.
* Tons of content.

Cons

* Kiss your life goodbye.


Is it fun: Yes
Score: 10/10
System: Mac (Battle.net)
Genre: Real-Time Strategy