STOP RUNNING AWAY FROM ME!

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I’ve been playing The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing on Steam lately and for the most part it’s an enjoyable game, though that might depend on what you like from your action RPGs. If you’re like me and you beat Diablo, cracked your knuckles and said “Job well done Mr. Fancy Pants, I’ll probably play through that game again sometime down the road” then you’ll probably get some great fun out of Van Helsing. If you’re one of those people who feel that beating the story is a minor point, and grinding for thousands of hours to get the best gear and highest paragon level, well the game has gotten better in that regard but it still lags behind the competition.

But none of that is really what I want to talk about today because today I have a complaint. In these types of games I like to feel like a badass that can leap into combat and slaughter dozens of creatures in seconds! That happens a lot of the time in Van Helsing, true, but sometimes the game just throws dozens of enemies at you, many with elemental ranged attacks, that completely overwhelm you. I’ve died just a second after an encounter has started many times while playing and while that could just be me sucking at the game, it doesn’t really bother me too much. What DOES bother me though are cowardly ranged enemies!


 

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Vodyanoy Bilespitter? More like VodyANNOY Bilespitter! Am I right?


 

In this game most of the packs of bad guys that you run into will have three to six ranged types firing away at you. Normally this would be great, it would force you to prioritize targets and use your movement abilities to get to the enemies you need to take out quickly. Here though the ranged enemies often have a very fast movement speed which means it can be hard to chase them down. On top of that they run away when you get close. Often you can only get one hit on them before you have to chase them down again and this would be bad enough, but they also have Veteran creatures in the game, enemies with more heath. When you run into a pack of six ranged very quick veterans, you can kill every melee enemy within a few seconds, and then spend several minutes running in circles chasing the damned mobs, hitting them one hit at a time.


In The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing enemies have special tags under their names that give you a clue as to their abilities. Some might have tornado summoning powers, and a lot of them are Extra Fast.

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There is very little in gaming more frustrating than chasing an enemy while it runs away. If done well, and sparingly, it can work as a frustration that gets the player good at using their movement and crowd control abilities. Sadly that’s not how it’s done in Van Helsing, and while I could go with a ranged spec or stick with a low DPS weapon that has a chance of slowing enemies, I shouldn’t have to spec my character around avoiding frustration.



There are another type of “Haha! You can’t hit me!” enemies in Van Helsing as well. In the last section of the game you run into Gargoyles that will leap into the air, becoming immune to damage for the duration, and then come back down for an AOE attack. Other games have enemies become ethereal or go underground, and it’s never better. It’s just frustrating because it’s not dangerous, it doesn’t make me have to change my tactics to survive, it just makes me stand there while I wait to be allowed to hit the damned enemy again!

I don’t mind it if developers make enemies that can avoid being hit, or use them to make a fight much more dangerous, but if the enemy just takes longer to kill and that’s IT then you need to rework that enemy! It’s a time waster, and it makes the game less fun overall.

Amazing Spider-Man 2 Thoughts

Cool spiders don't look at explosions.

Cool spiders don’t look at explosions.

I’m currently playing through Amazing Spider-Man 2 for the PC and working on my review, but I thought I’d give just a couple of thoughts here. First of all the web swinging is a lot of fun. It’s much improved since the Amazing Spider-Man 1, and now you actually need something for the webs to latch onto, and you can control which web shooter to fire a web from and which direction, left or right, to fire that web. This leads to a lot more control when swinging around New York City. Not as much as Spider-Man 2 on the PS2, but in some ways I find it more fun, especially with the use of Web Rush. That said, there are some serious problems with the game.

First of all I think we can all agree that the most enjoyable part of most Spider-Man games is web swinging around New York City. Hell, I know I’m not the only one that’s loaded up Spider-Man 2 for the PS2 and just swung around for a while helping random citizens. Sadly it seems like developers are actively out to prevent that fun. What do I mean? In nearly every Spider-Man game with an open world to swing around in there are “Stages” of some plot or outbreak or whatever that slowly make it more and more tedious to swing around. In Amazing Spider-Man 2 there is a task force that is out to get criminals, and that includes Spider-Man. At first it’s fine, you keep up on your side missions to keep your hero/menace meter up and you can swing around to your hearts content, for the most part. Then you hit the second, and finally the third stage. Each stage adds more gun toting idiots and flying robots to New York, and the final stage adds barriers to block off streets when you are swinging down them. Spider-Slayer like machines are called in, there are flying machine guns, turrets, snipers, it just becomes a chore to swing around. This means that one of the most unique and fun aspects of the game is actively being hamstrung by the developers. Who chooses to do that?

The second major problem, and this feeds into the first problem, is the way they have handled the side missions and the hero/menace system. In theory it sounds great, just like in the comics J. Jonah Jameson is always trying to frame Spider-Man as a criminal, so Spidey swing between being a hero when he’s just done something good for the city, to being a menace when it’s been a while or something looks fishy. I like it. Sadly the way they have handled it is by timing all of the side missions. From the time a mission pops up you have so long to complete that mission, or it will auto fail and you will go more toward the menace side. Unless you do NOTHING but side mission after side mission you cannot help but let some fail. After a while they start showing up more, which means more are failing. And since there are only really four side missions, and each one has one to three different versions, you’re going to get bored very quickly and start skipping them whenever you can. What I ended up doing by the end is waiting until my meter was at neutral, then doing two missions to get it back up before ignoring it until it got to neutral again.

So the missions get repetitive, so what? Just swing down, beat up a few bad guys and swing out right? No. Because they decided to make every single side mission begin with a cutscene and end with a cutscene. This means you swing down, stop doing anything and wait, beat up two bad guys breaking into a building, wait, then you are free to continue what you were doing. It completely breaks the flow of the game and after you’ve seen the same opening and closing scene dozens of times you may loathe the idea of even doing another one.

I will be giving my full thoughts and a review of the game in a video in the coming week, but I thought I’d share these thoughts with anyone thinking about picking up the game. There is a lot to like here, and there are a lot of improvements over the first game. Sadly, there are a lot of steps back as well and not everyone is going to have the patience to put up with them.

Pixelated Zen Presents: Nostalgialess Episode 2 + Addendum.

Here is the second episode of Nostalgialess, taking a look at The Amazing Spider-Man vs. Kingpin for the Sega Genesis. This isn’t the best thing I’ve done, and I’ve got some newer videos that I am MUCH prouder of. Still, I want to document my growth, and give you all something to watch while I do it.

And attached is the addendum, The Amazing Spider-Man vs. Kingpin for the Master System.

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