Massive Gameage!

So this weekend was Valentine's Day. Pfeagh, my blog isn't about kowtowing to the Hallmark gods - it's about games and technology! :-) There was a whole lotta gaming over the weekend. Sunday was a massive Crystal Chronicles and Champions of Norrath blowout, and Monday I played some Norrath online with the Chicago Exile.

Sunday ended up having eight gamers over at my house - 4 on FF:CC in the living room and 4 on Norrath in the den on the 30" TV. I was in the FF:CC crowd so I didn't actually play any Norrath. Word on the street was that the level balance doesn't change at all, so 4 player is a blowout.

Crystal Chronicles has been covered quite a bit in other web fora, I'll just weigh in with the facts that I like it and think the GBA independent menus add a lot to the game. The little "vs." aspect of it where each player gets a secret goal seems to not add much - I don't know if it's really worthwhile. First off the items seem plentiful, and second with everything else being cooperative, you're unlikely to screw your fellow players. And the goal seems random. If you're a spellcaster and you get "Don't use spells", you just lose. So far my experience is that the first pick is the person who got either "take damage", "don't use focus attacks", or "pick up items".

The business about everyone getting a different map screen (one person has the physical map, one has the monsters marked on a blank screen, one has the treasure marked on a blank screen, and one has status info on the current monster being fought) was humorous, but I don't know it was useful. I guess the thought is that it encourages cooperation and communication betweeen the team members and I suppose it does. The major usage of it in our game was making fun of people who were unskilled in map reading. :-)

It is pretty chaotic in 4 player, but not as bad as the end of our multiplayer Norrath got.


Norrath online seems well done. You can import your characters, save off the progress, and the built-in voice worked well. It seems a bit finicky about mike placement (gain seems too high), but that's a quibble really. Some better matchmaking would be nice - seems like to meet up with your friend(s) is going to require some sideband information and planning.

The balance issue seems about right to me. The last few levels I did in single player had gotten extremely difficult. If that curve had continued I would have been abandoning my mage shortly thereafter. We had occasional deaths in 2 player, but only the bosses seemed to be a real threat to both of us. I could easily see that a 3rd player will tip the game over into too-easy territory. I bought Norrath over BG:Dark Alliance 2 or Fallout due to online play - and I'd say that was justified. I currently have no real intention of playing single player anymore.

My comment about chaos above is that the effects seem to get over the top. We were having combats where we'd both have to stop hacking just to see if anything was still alive. Jeff had dual wield flaming swords going on, some sort of particle-based sphere around both of us, I was throwing balls of crap, and drawing beams to creatures who were turning colors and throwing all of their spells - it was phantasmagoric! :-)

Overall, I'd say both are solid acquisitions - but I should caveat that with saying that I bought them both for multiplayer and am enjoying them on that basis.