Heart of the Swarm

When Blizzard announced that they’re going to divide StarCraft 2 into 3 games, separating the campaign for each race into individual games, I was livid. Because I thought that the games will be with less content, and that Blizzard’s main purpose behind this decision was only to milk players.

But after playing last year’s StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty, I admit that I was wrong.  The game is so thick with content. The campaign, especially, was very lengthy and it took me a week to finish it. The story and how it was presented were also done so well that it left me begging for the next installment.

Now, almost a year after the release of Wings of Liberty, Blizzard has finally released a gameplay trailer for Heart of the Swarm, the upcoming StarCraft 2 expansion that will focus on the Zerg’s side of the story.

Check out the trailer:

It’s pretty cool, don’t you think?

I’m especially dying to play Kerrigan. From what I read in a couple of previews, and can also be seen in the trailer, Kerrigan actually has a skill tree. So, you can evolve her to become more Zerg-like or you can improve her ghost skills. I’m also curious to find out why she can still control the Zerg.

Unfortunately, I won’t be able to sate my curiosity until next year. So, for the meantime, I’ll just play Wings of Liberty to scratch my RTS itch.

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Best of the Noughties (2000-2009): Games

The Best Game of the 2000's

Electronic gaming has been around for sometime now. But it wasn’t until the noughties (2000-2009) that the game industry made it into the mainstream. Indeed, ever since the release of the PS2 and the emergence of next-gen consoles, gaming stopped from being a mere child’s toy and has evolved into an everyday household entertainment. So, nowadays, it’s more common to see the young ones, as well as the once young (even 65 year-old grandmothers), playing video games. Of course, I’m also part of that gaming demographic. Especially in the noughties because I’ve wasted spent most of my time in this entertainment medium more than anything else.

Anyways, here are the top 10 games I couldn’t stop playing during the last decade:

10. Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind (PC, Xbox)
If there’s any game in the noughties that awed me with its graphics and open world, it was Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. Released back in 2002, the sheer beauty and scope of this game in its detail amazed me. I never even thought a game as such could exist. For months, I explored every virtual nook and cranny of the island Vrandenfell. I was lost to the real world every time I played this game. True, Oblivion and Fallout 3 is bigger and better than Morrowind. But Morrowind already had my heart before these games were released.

09. Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura (PC)
Plagued with bugs and a horrendous combat system, Arcanum is far from being a perfect game. What it is, however, is a gem in the rough. Besides its wonderful plot, what makes Arcanum so unique is its Victorian-era setting, where magic and steam technology exists. In addition, the game also has the best class-less character system that allows you to be what you want to be: May it be an axe-wielding dwarf or a gun-totting elf. Definitely, this steampunk RPG is one of the best games I’ve played, not just in the noughties but of all times.

08. The World Ends With You (NDS)
Only one word can sum up The World Ends With You: Hip. I never expected to be blown away by a DS title. But I was after I saw this game’s graffiti-style graphics. Its urban setting and trendy characters are so colorful that they seem bigger than your DS screen. But graphics isn’t the only cool thing about TWEWY. It’s a got a complex combat system that uniquely utilizes the stylus pen and an inventory mechanic where the effectiveness of your items depends on fashion trends. As one of the most artistically designed games, TWEWY deserves a spot in my list.

07. Company of Heroes (PC)
I’ve played a lot of real-time strategy games. But none of them comes close to what Company of Heroes has to offer. Unlike most RTS, Company of Heroes has lot of tactical features that will aid you in fulfilling your stratagems –from calling down an air strike, ordering an artillery barrage, or telling your troops to retreat. Even the terrain here will work to your tactical advantage, or against it. Company of Heroes is, by far, the only game that made me feel like a war commander. That’s why this game deserves to be on this list.

06. BioShock (PC, Xbox 360, PS3)
BioShock is one of those rare games that actually got everything right. Its graphics, where beautiful art deco designs is juxtaposed against bloody carcasses, is a visual wonder. Its gameplay, where you can use the surrounding environment against your enemies and have a wide array of weapon to choose from, will satiate every trigger junkie as well as the tactical geniuses. But what makes it an important game is its story –a critique of Ayn Rand’s philosophy– that shows us where extreme objectivism can lead to. This game is a work of art and literature.

05. The Witcher (PC)
Based on the novel by Andrzej Sapowski, The Witcher is one of the most mature games I’ve played during the noughties. What I like about this game is its grey and gritty world. There’s no moral compass in the game, no good and evil. The inhabitants here, even the villains, are driven by ideas instead of morality. Your choices, too, aren’t black and white but of different shades of gray. In this game, helping out an innocent can have dire consequences, not matter how good your intentions are. So you’ll need to think hard first before making your choices.

04. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (PC, Xbox)
I’ve always been a fan of BioWare and their products from the start. But it was Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic that raised them to the pedestal of being the best RPG developer. This game is epic in many ways. As an RPG, it revolutionized the dialogue system, giving players a cinematic experience, that’s now being used in many role-playing games. As part of the Star Wars franchise, it boasted a grand story that is considered by many –including me– to be even better than the prequels. This game is a space opera of sublime proportions.

03. Civilization IV (PC)
Just when I thought that turn-based strategy was a dying genre, Sid Meier released Civilization IV and proved me wrong. Unlike previous Civilization games, which can be too hard to enjoy, Civilization IV was built from scratch to accommodate the new generation of gamers. So most of the game’s aspects were tweaked, and some were even discarded. The result yielded a smooth and user friendly strategy game that is still as deep and addicting as its predecessors. Also, I almost failed a class for playing this game non-stop. For that, it gets a spot on my list.

02. Baldur’s Gate 2 (PC)
Baldur’s Gate 2 is the best CRPG of the decade. I’ve played a lot of other RPGs before. But Baldur’s Gate 2 overshadowed those games into insignificance. Its scope and quality gave me a role-playing experience that is still unmatched to this day. Its engaging story, the romance, its memorable characters and the dialogue system that can solve conflicts as much as sword and sorcery can, raised the bar for the RPG genre. This is also BioWare’s stepping stone to greatness. Without it, there could be no Mass Effect or Dragon Age. So, give respect.

01. Deus Ex (PC)
A lot of games in the noughties tried to combine various genres. But none of them has come close to what Deus Ex has achieved. Released in 2000, this game successfully combined elements of shooter, stealth and RPG even with the technological limitations of that time. The end result was a game where you can solve a problem with multiple solutions. But besides its genius gameplay, what makes Deus Ex special to me is its story. It’s a cautionary tale that opened my eyes to the darker side of big corporations and big government.

Well, that’s that. My best of games of the decade list. I really enjoyed writing this one. But before you guys rant why [insert game here] isn’t on my list. Well, chances are I didn’t like it or haven’t played it. I’m only a poor blogger that has no means to pay and play all the games that were released in the 2000’s. Now, that’s two list down and four more to go (film, animation, books, music). So keep an eye for the next list.

A Game for a Dime

Today, and today only, Microsoft’s Games for Windows Marketplace is offering a digital copy of Age of Empires III: The Complete Edition for only 10 cents. How sweet of a deal is that? I think this is even better than Steam giving away Portal for free. Because, while Portal is an excellent game, Age of Empires III is a premiere real-time strategy game. Plus, this package includes all expansions. Sounds like early Christmas, right? No, not really. So before you head out to the marketplace and buy this game, hear me out first. Because this is what I got when I tried to install the game:

Epic Fail: GFWL Marketplace!

The image I posted above will show you that the client is asking for an activation key in order for it to install the game. But Microsoft didn’t include any keys, or whatsoever. If you’re wondering if this is an isolated case, no. There are others in the forums who are also getting this “activation key” problem like I do. So far, Microsoft hasn’t given us any solution to this problem. Except for a suggestion to restart the client, which I’ve done multiple times. Nonetheless, if you want to buy the game and see if it works for you, 10 cents is a small price to pay.