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Just finished the 2014 revamp of Thief.

OK…

I was excited, because the previous games were the original stealth games and the last one, Thief: Deadly Shadows was, well, bloody awesome. I envy people of a certain generation who could say, hey, in the 70’s I was in a pub in the East End and Keith Richards and Paul Rodgers were playing pool. Or hey I saw the Small Faces play in a tiny club in Kentish Town in 1966.

People, who even for the briefest moment were witness to an original moment in history.

As I’ve harped on about before, I am of the generation who were there at the beginning of home PC’s and the games that evolved from such humble beginnings of Elite, XCOM: Enemy Unknown and Syndicate. This is where I developed further my self isolating behaviour and started enjoying feverishly, wasting long periods of my life when I could have been enjoying fresh air and meeting people.

So, I have wasted such periods of my life on some of the best original games that today have spawned a billion half hearted, limpdicked rehashes. Don’t get me wrong, the genre has advanced to a point that makes those early sparks of genius, the metaphorical acorns that have grown into pretty decent sized trees, Farcry (besides the QTE elements) and the whole sandbox revolution.

The problem is that now and again, some bastard comes along with a chainsaw and £30 later you’ve got a chest of drawers and a bookcase, both mundanely useful but nothing like a tree from an aesthetic point of view.

And sadly, just like remaking old films (remake Spiderman FFS!!), remaking old games is…shit!

I bet out there at this exact second in history, there are a thousand…no..a million people who have an idea for a computer game in their heads that could revolutionize the genre. Something mind-blowing. But sadly these people and their ideas have crappy jobs that they need to afford that luxury of keeping a roof over their heads or eating, and those dreams will fade, or be pushed back to the woulda-coulda-shoulda corner of their minds, there to gather dust and be something to muse on when their eyesight fails along with their bladder control.

Meanwhile, large gaming corporations, who yes I firmly believe have games fans working for them, reproduce games like Thief, the shareholders and chief execs sitting back and patting themselves on the back for hooking in people who either played the original or heard how good it was, but can’t play it because their computer is too powerful to run it.

I have to say I haven’t really milked the game and seen what I can get out of it now I’ve completed the main storyline, and maybe I will. This review is purely a first impression. Thief is a fairly good game..The stealth aspects are there, the atmosphere is there, the story is…there. NO WAIT!

The story sucks. The ending making me think that a guy like Garret, one of PC histories most iconic characters, who spends his life  climbing about on rooftops, really should in his free time have done some serious work with one of those hand exercise machines. To sum it up,

lame

leɪm/

adjective

adjective: lame; comparative adjective: lamer; superlative adjective: lamest

1.

(of a person or animal) unable to walk without difficulty as the result of an injury or illness affecting the leg or foot.

“his horse went lame

(of a leg or foot) affected by injury or illness.

“despite his lame leg, he fled”

2.

(of an explanation or excuse) unconvincingly feeble.

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Why do they do it? OH WHY!

The game play, while atmospheric is also very linear, something you simply don’t expect from this time in gaming history.  Unless, this was the intention to give the game that retro feel. They even tried to recreate The Cradle, that insanity teasing section of Deadly Shadows that remains one of the most creepy sections of any game that doesn’t have zombies, alien face suckers, or scary little girls in it. But the effect is rather weak now, like a 21st century audience being expected to be scared by Creature from the Black Lagoon.

Some areas of the city exist only for the player to get to a preset scenario and have no opportunities to do a bit of stealing, which is a little soul destroying.

Over all, I was hoping for it to get me over this period before Elder Scrolls Online comes out next month, but here I am on the 6th March, game completed. It will probably go into my pile of games that I enjoyed but will probably not revisit. There doesn’t seem to be much point. And there lies the problem with such games. Without that option to explore and discover things or ways of doing stuff you may not have found before, a game like Thief, simply becomes a vanilla experience like a novel you buy at the airport to see you through the flight. They are something to indulge in briefly but then discard. The problem here is its a £30 novel you buy at the airport and then leave in a cafe somewhere for someone else to read, forgotten with only a vague sense of temporary intrigue or investment. A game you really wish you’d have Torrented, as would be befitting of such a throwaway experience.

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Part One – Blizzard wants your Brain!

(Personal Note – The following rant is by no means intended to upset any of the VERY few players of WoW who made the experience bearable in my last few years of playing the game. They are all diamonds and genuinely good people, especially those in the only long term guild I was a member of, who put up with my antics, my periodic absences and the numerous instances of standing in the wrong place!          Oh and please ignore any apparent word links in this document….I have no idea why WordPress put them in, so they dont count!!)

Ok, first to be honest.

I am a disgruntled ex-player of WoW!

It’s a fact.

I started playing the game about 9 months after it got its first patch and I have to admit, coming from a background where I played RPG’s like Runequest and AD&D, when I first played WoW I thought all my dreams had come true. It was the prodigal son of fantasy computer games.

That first griffin ride was astounding. The first time I walked through the gates of Ironforge……it was like losing my virginity but with a Thai girls’ volley ball team!

Not many people will recall those past glory days, when it was actually a hard slog to level, to gain XP, to get equipment worth mentioning, to reach the next level even! YES BOYS AND GIRLS, back in those days believe it or not, you couldn’t get to level 70 in a week. These were the days when you could comfortably spend all day…..I repeat ALL DAY, in BRD….and that’s all day with one party, with the same players, steadily working through it and getting your arse kicked repeatedly. But we carried on, because it was a challenge. If we came out of that place with a single blue boss drop we could go to sleep feeling that we had actually NOT wasted a whole day of our lives on a computer game. We felt that we had achieved something.

Then came the expansions, and at first they were glorious. Before Blizzard felt that simply providing new content meant that we had to rearrange our skill points and generally screw about with the character we had spent ages leveling just how we wanted them. BUT, even then, we felt that the game improved….for a while at least.

But, things turned sour.

Ok, there were new lands to explore, which is important to me personally. I even remember actually being happy with the first new races, despite being on reflection, rather lame.

But the game still held an element of challenge and novelty.

Those days are gone!

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Before I carry on, I just want to take a moment to cover one reason for this….the festering subject of Beta testing.

This is a process, for those that don’t know, where players can drop into the new, pre-release content and go through the instances etc., prior to the game being released. I believe the idea is for the company in question to find faults, bugs and content issues on a large scale, that can then to corrected before releasing the final fully tested product. Letting the players feel they contribute to a better game.

Sounds as logical as a Vulcan toilet visit doesn’t it?

In ye olde days of computer games, this was a common practice though admittedly, usually performed by a programmers mates. Sadly, in the modern world this simply gives players the inside scoop on instances and boss tactics which upon release they monopolize and so ruin the point of playing the game in the first place.

My question is this……WHY THE FUCK BOTHER?

Allowing players to beta test is firstly fucking lazy for a company as large as Blizzard. Surely they can afford to have company, in house beta testers and so iron out game issues while keeping the game a nice, price-attached, surprise? (The obvious alternative being, make a game that works in the first place, but hey!)

Letting the players play new content before letting their own characters have a go is the ultimate in spoilers. And effectively gives them an unfair advantage over casual players. Basically…..it’s cheating…..don’t split hairs over this….participating in a Beta Test is cheating! Oh, you may rationalize it by saying that you’re helping the game producer in perfecting the game itself, but if you have a scrap of decency in your soul, you will admit that that’s simply bulls pizzle! Players do it to see the content before other people and master the tactics that can beat a boss, which then gives you a leg up on release. That’s the definition of cheating – Gaining advantage over others by prior insight into how to win.

Now you could counter that by saying…ahha….but it’s not uncommon for beta testers to video instance/boss encounters and post them on Youtube, thus allowing others to share such insight. Personally this is on a par with saying that concentration camp guards were just following orders. All you’re doing is spoiling it for other people to make yourself feel better about CHEATING! And this returns me to…….WHY THE FUCK BOTHER? Surely the great thing about new content is that it’s new. It’s NOT new if everyone knows about it before it’s released you fuckwits! So besides being lazy and impatient, we now can’t cope with anything that’s new, that requires time to learn and master upon game release.

I’m sorry…..is this actually true?

But back to WoW, the game as it stands today.

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Nowadays, WoW seems to be increasingly populated by lazy whining, short attention spanned dicks, with a small fraction of faithful players hanging in there, and being pummeled with insult after insult with every new piece of content. Why do I say that? Well, because WoW has been so dumbed down that it is rapidly approaching a level that makes Pacman look thought-provoking and innovative.

How can I put this in a sensitive way?

If WoW was a piece of literature, it would be on a par with Fly Fishing by J R Hartley. (For my younger readers, this is accounted as one of the most notoriously dull books ever written, with the exception of The History of Pockets by Alfred Flannel!)

If WoW was a piece of art, it would have been created by Bonzo the performing chimp in a mixture of water colours, acrylics and his own faeces.

If WoW was an ocean voyage, it would be on the Titanic, and you’re in steerage with all the poor fuckers, hoping for a new life but ultimately doomed.

If WoW was a historical event, you’d be standing on walls of Troy thinking, “Ahhhh, what a pretty pony!”

If WoW was a cocktail, it would be a Long Slow Screw……up against a bank statement.

If WoW was an illegal drug, it would be a lump of brown goo, with the consistency of a month old pork sausage, cut with heroin and diazepam.

If WoW was a piece of contemporary music, it would be The Birdy Song, though Barbie Girl will do too!

And if it was a surgical operation, it would be removing a foreign object from your anus!

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World of Warpcraft appears to have become all about minimal thought, instant gratification……a computer game that in its approach to player investment, marketing and gameplay might have coined the term ‘rinse and repeat’.

And it appears to be having an accumulative effect on those who play it. Now I’m not sure if this is game copying reality or reality is being represented in a game, but in either case it makes me fear for the human race, really! Have we become such a bunch of infantile twats that we can’t cope with anything that dares us to actually invest in a game and take the falls with dignity and tenacity…anything that isn’t so easy that would make Bonzo the performing chimp a power leveler?

And this leads me to my title statement.

You see the problem is, there are a lot of WoW players, millions, and so any new MMO will ultimately be looking for a slice of that pie. So when a new game comes out, its explored by a large portion of WoW players (I think because deep down inside every WoW player there is a spark of unconscious hope that something better will come along and save them from the tedium.), who swarm in by the thousands and then realize that there isn’t anyone ready to hold their hands, wipe their noses and change their nappies, before pissing off again, leaving the game to flounder and die. They appear to have actually been handicapped by WoW’s increasingly hollow experience to the point that they can’t cope with anything else….which sounds absurd, but I fear is an increasing reality.

In other words, if the accepted benchmark for an MMO is a pile of puerile trash, what hope is there for anything else that hopes to improve upon it?

A new MMO that isn’t piss easy and requires players to actually use their brains and show a little commitment or patience will ultimately suffer, with the pathetic peons returning to WoW and bitching about their cast offs, while continuing to do the same about WoW too, like an old married couple who have been together for years and honestly can’t stand the sight of each other, but because of the familiarity of the relationship, they put up with it until one day, one of them stabs the other to death with the fork they were using to carve the Sunday roast.

WoW sets the standard and the standard is, you really don’t need a brain anymore to play it.

Just part with your money, plug in and waste your time, while they continue to produce more of the same, over and over and over again. I confidently predict that in five years, the level cap will be 100 at least and all you will need to do in the game is control it with the mouse, frantically clicking away like……err…….Diablo.

Who made that game again….I can’t recall?

Yup, you’ll get new content, you will even get new races that Blizzard said they would never release, meanwhile they are screwing about with the game until one day you realize that it plays itself….all you need to do is keep feeding the meter. Sadly by then your brain has turned to mush, along with your social skills, psychological maturity and any hope of solving anything harder than a tabloid word search!

And, even if you notice that some of the changes simply make no sense and totally screw up the game play (SEE PART TWO – The Game that Castrated my Character), Blizzard isn’t listening, because why the hell should they? After all, they make more money than a small county and how many small countries have leadership that listens to its people. And of course, this is the company that, as noted above, brought you Diablo 3, which demonstrates Blizzards adopted approach to game creation and development…..nothing new, simply cosmetic changes to thrill those with the IQ of a lettuce and tomato sandwich. But when it comes to innovation, pushing the envelope, unleashing advances in MMO gameplay, Blizzard have become as impotent as a geriatric porn star who’s run out of Viagra.

I’d like to think that there are people in Blizzard who actually think that what they are doing is creative and new. (if so these are the people who get paid the least) That they are pushing MMO’s forward and are doing it only for the player experience. This would make them misguided and incredibly naïve, but at least honest in their convictions. The chilling alternative is that it’s all about knowingly bleeding as much money from as many people as possible, by drip feeding the masses with the online game equivalent of thalidomide.

How can MMO’s advance with this soul sucking leech lingering in the background like a rotten fish under the sofa?

And the question remains…….are MMO players becoming tedious, whining children, feverish for instant gratification, like a teenager with his first porn mag? Or have we evolved this way socially and WoW is just catering to its audience? Is WoW being dumbed down to the mental equivalent of tiddlywinks because we simply can’t cope these days with anything more challenging?

And more importantly, why should other MMO’s suffer at the expense of WoW?

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Coming Soon…………………PART TWO -WORLD OF WARCRAFT – The Game that Castrated my Character