Games Miscellany: SSX, Diablo 3 and Crusader Kings 2

SSX
I finally sent SSX back. My thoughts on it haven’t really changed since I last wrote about it. Some of the core snowboarding is fun, but when more than half the tracks are designed to punish risk-taking rather than encouraging it, your game has fundamental problems. The actual Deadly Descents produce particularly bizarre incentives. Some of them, like Avalanche produce fast-paced, intense runs (I also like the pulled-back camera effect that one has) but more than half of them, things like Rocks and Darkness, encourage slowly crawling along the course, and neither boosting or doing tricks off jumps. The appeal of an extreme sport is going fast and just barely staying in control, and that’s not something that SSX is set up to encourage.

For comparison, look at the recently released Trials Evolution. It does score-chasing right. Mistakes are inevitable, and you do receive time-faults for having to reset, but the most important thing is just how quickly the game gets you back into it. You immediately respawn a few seconds back at the last checkpoint. Also note how the times in single-player go straight onto the online leaderboard. It’s still insane that SSX segregates single-player times from the score-chasing mode.

Diablo 3 Beta
I played this a while back, before they changed how runes work. I did a run-through as a wizard, and I watched H do a run-through as a barbarian. We both found it really easy, and I strongly hope that they calibrate it so that Normal difficulty isn’t a cakewalk or a dull time-sink that one has to grind through before getting to the more engaging second and later laps. That said, the act of combat felt really good. There’s just this solid, crunchy, comfortingly familiar sound to it. It looks great too, and plays smooth. I’m looking forward to playing the real thing in a couple of weeks.

(Also, how crazy is it that Diablo 3 is beating Torchlight 2 to market. I very much enjoyed the first Torchlight, but I can’t help but feel that the good folks at Runic may have missed their window . That said, I seem to recall folks from GWJ coming back from PAX East with good impressions, so maybe the two can co-exist.)

Crusader Kings 2
I won one of the copies that No High Scores was generously giving out. It’s a slow game, and one that demands a lot of investment from the player to get the most out of it, but I’m having a blast. You can just sit there and let the game run, but there’s lots of space to define just what goals you want for your dynasty, and then go out and try to pursue them. After a false-start as a minor Saxon Count, I’ve had two longer games that I’ve been happy with in Ireland. The first one I ended after a major patch came out. I had some hilarious doings with an heir who couldn’t keep it in his pants, and who outlived four wives and a mistress and had eight kids (six of them sons) before I even got to play as him. My second game, I started out as a fairly strong Irish Count (I controlled one county and my son and heir controlled a second) and over two generations, have managed to conquer more than half of the Emerald Isle and proclaim myself King. But now my king is getting old, and my heir has lousy stats, and I’m really unsure of how well I’m going to be able to keep this whole thing together.

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