Great news for the Star Wars fans! Knights of the Old Republic, one of Bioware's name-making RPGs, is now going for $9.99 on Steam. For a game released in 2003, KotOR still packs decent graphics and a hell of story. $10 for a classic RPG. Seeing as it is not a sale, Steam will most likely not raise the price again so there's plenty of time to get it.
With gaming consistently being targeted as a medium that can cause people to do strange and wrong things, I was thinking one day about the fact that gaming could be considered an eighth sin in the minds of most of the governments of the world. Are we really there? Is shooting computer generated monsters and enemies so bad that people consider it wrong to do? I'm half expecting people to start chanting “Guns don't kill people, Halo does!” or something along those lines. I'm afraid if it gets much worse, I’ll be abandoning all hope in mankind.
Rant over. As I sat there contemplating whether gaming could be considered a sin, I was thinking about if there are games that I have played recently that could fit the other sins – Sloth, Envy, Wrath, Pride, Greed, Gluttony, Lust – funny enough, recent releases work quite well.
After a short hiatus from Newegg, Hardware Reviewer Brant "THE_BOB" Armstrong has scoured the intarweb for powerful-but-lean components for your budget box. While Editor-in-Chief "Lell" may like his Monthly Monsters, those of us living in a place called reality can't afford them. After all, the more money we save on a PC, the more money we can spend on games (as seen below)!
ASUS P43 ATX Motherboard
EVGA GTX260 Superclocked
Intel E6300 Wolfdale
4GB OCZ PC2 8500
Raidmax Hybrid 530W PSU
Samsung 22x CD/DVD Burner
Western Digital Caviar 320GB 7200rpm
XION Armor X
ASUS P43 ATX Motherboard Link
Sticking to the budget, GN went shopping for a bare essentials motherboard. Packed with six USB 2.0 slots, one PCI Express 2.0 x16, 6 SATA ports, and support for 16GB of RAM at 1066MHz, this $87 motherboard earns a spot in our build.
EVGA GTX260 SuperClocked Link
For this build we picked an updated version of the famed 8800. The GTX 260 will tear up any game out at highest graphics for the price of $190, making this card a no-brainer. Since it ships "superclocked," expect to see higher memory, core, and shader clock speeds than other comparable video cards. 896MB GDDR3 complimented by a 448-bit memory interface means you'll be gaming for at least 2-3 years on this one.
Intel E6300 Wolfdale Link
With the recent price drops on almost all of AMD's hardware, Intel has competetively lowered their prices on some of the stronger processors, such as the E6300. Clocking in at 2.8GHz, the Wolfdale dual-core processor will keep you from bottlenecking your powerful GTX 260, meaning more programs at once, quicker response times overall, and a happier you. Quad-core is great, but for gaming, dual-core is still as strong as ever.
4GB OCZ PC2 8500 Link
As with all builds these days, GN's minimum requirement of 4GB's of RAM stands strong. This is why it should be no surprise that OCZ's 4GB memory running at 1066MHz, backed by 5-6-6-18 timings, and covered with some durable stock heatsinks at the price of $60 guaranteed this memory a spot on our build.
Raidmax Hybrid 530W PSU Link
Call us lame, but we went with old faithful on this one. We decided to go with the same PSU as our last budget build considering its performance simply cannot be beaten for $50.
Samsung 22x CD/DVD Burner Link
With above average speeds at the price of a below average optical drive, this Samsung drive fit nicely into our build.
Read: DVD=16x, CD=48x
Western Digital Caviar 320GB 7200RPM Link
A 320GB capacity will handle all the games a budget gamer needs to worry about and some. WD's Caviar retains a strong average operating speed of 7200 RPM, and has 16MB of cache. Your cash won't be so bad either, because at $50, this HDD easily beats out the competition to make it onto our over-glorified budget build.
XION Armor X Link
Looking fresh in blue, XION's Armor lives up to its name. Your PC will have a protective home to live inside of, but unlike a real Tank, this one has AC. Well, assuming real tanks don't have two front USB slots, a trio of 120mm fans, and fly LED's, that's also unlike a tank. If you are worried that the stock two 120mm fans won't cover your needs, we highly recommend that you drop another $8 on a 120mm fan for the rear (where an expansion slot is present).
~Brant "The_Bob" Armstrong
As promised by Gas Powered Games and Stardock, the newest addition to the Demigod arena has been revealed. They call him Oculus is a general-type Demigod favoring ranged abilities and focusing on teamplay and minion use. Under the banner of the forces of light, Oculus will mainly be an offensive general using his lightning skills to do damage and boasts the ability to replenish teammates' mana. He can also heal his allies when he takes damage, though these other abilities are powerful in themselves Oculus' real strength lies in his synergy with the minions he summons. Each different type gives him certain boosts making him a threat to be reckoned with. Click read more to see Oculus' specific abilities.
The press has hit the shelves, or rather YouTube, and StarCraft II's map-making will allow many new features (unknown to StarCraft), such as Third Person Shooting! Think Ghost isn't coming out? Well here's their version of it.
Oh, also Galaga is built-in to StarCraft II, so uhh, buy it?
Gamers Nexus sponsored a crew of gamers to beat the hell out of an Xbox. It was thrown out of windows, smashed with baseball bats, and hit by hockey sticks. Old keyboards & mice were also obliterated, followed by the finale with the Xbox. We considered setting it aflame, but being environmentally friendly, decided not to. If nothing else, the resistance put up by the Xbox may well be a testament to its durability.
Check it out (in HD!)
Note: Double click the video to open it in YouTube in order to view it in HD.
Innovation has been absent from the MMORPG scene in recent years. There are those who want to take it to a whole different level, whilst others want to take the old and slap on a few twists. The latter usually isn’t held in much esteem by its own players, but Vanguard: Saga of Heroes certainly has a lot of twists and takes that make it seem fresh.
When players get creative, Vanguard: Saga of Heroes is your fantasy come alive.
Similar to your average MMORPG, V:SOH is based around many familiar functions in an MMO: crafting, killing, questing, guilding. What sets V:SOH apart from its current competition, however, is what developers refer to as “Spheres.” Unlike “that other game,” V:SOH offers a variety of paths for players to choose when leveling up, not just one. Adventuring, Diplomacy, and Crafting are examples of these paths. Adventuring is something we all know, be it from D&D, EverQuest, or WoW. Players accept quests from NPCs marked with a quest icon; those NPCs will beg you to whack ten wolves in order to secure their safety for the night. As you continue along this route, you progressively gain better rewards to battle tougher obstacles and quests. Further down the adventuring trail, players are sent all across three vast continents that are totally unique to the MMO world. The magical world you play in, Telon, is inhabited with 19 races, each originating from either the equivalent medieval European continent of Thestra, the Asian-smooth-curves continent of Kojan, or the Arabian-African desert wastes of Qalia. Each of the continents is a marvel to behold, with a countless number of non-instanced secret dungeons and tall raging mountain peaks that stretch up into the sky. V:SOH is filled with eye candy, with graphics being second only to Age of Conan. Adventuring in itself is a common progression you’ve done in so many MMO’s, but with a beautiful new world and some entertaining quest lines. If lore interests you, you’ll soon find out that the world is jam-packed with it, giving the feeling of a true adventure. You are in a world, not a game. Danger is an ever-looming theme coupled with the relentless drive inspiring you to explore, find secret dungeons that are widely unknown, gives Vanguard players a feeling of accomplishment – ripping apart the sense of otherwise a monotonous grind.
Sigil had no problems making the old seem new. The quests themselves can seem boring and repetitive, but having to actually walk for a little while (or fly, if you choose to ride a wyvern or a gryphon) you can see what the beautiful world has to offer you along the way. Some dungeons are even targeted at soloing, making for a nice change in pace from the “LFG” command you always have to spam to enter each and every dungeon in most MMO’s these days. The dungeons are sprawling and ominous, I even got lost in one once!
The magnificent and sprawling cities are stunning. From the smooth lines and idyllic trees covering the entrance to the High Elves of Leth Nurae, to the bastion of human civilization at New Targonor, looking over the great sea, distinctive landscapes dominate the map. It screams details. The southern part of Qalia, a region inspired from Arabic and Indian influences, is where players will discover snake-hypnotizers seated on carpets. Camels travel in and out of the area, and buildings are crafted similarly to those in the real world. Each race has it's respective city, and I've yet had time to see them all.
Character creation is largely important for many MMO-players, and Vanguard by no means lacks this quality. Supplied with a huge array of tweaks and adjustments, players have the option of character customization to the extreme. The abundance of races only adds to the unique characters, and existing races include (but are not limited to): half-elves, humans, half-giants, fox-like men, and even wolf-like humanoids. Thanks to this feature (and probably the lack of players), it is unlikely that you will meet your clone.
Earlier I mentioned the overwhelming opportunities for adventure, but it doesn't end there. Two other “spheres” in V:SoH are geared toward Crafting and Diplomacy.
Crafting is not what you think. No really, it isn’t. Crafting in Vanguard: Saga of Heroes has its own level, gear and process to make each weapon or item, and the built-in system makes for a fun break from adventuring. It's an active process, you don’t just need click “mix” after 'just adding water,' and the mini-game is similar to the one found in EverQuest II.
Each stage of the crafting process requires a special workstation outfitted with the required tools. During the process, complications arise and need to be battled. This process limits players to a certain number of Action Points, giving the ability to ignore the damaging complications, or just wait and see what happens. The process is fairly complex, too complex for this review, so I will spare you. Rest assured, the crafting is what I spent the majority of my time on. I never liked crafting, but I did in Vanguard. I was actively engaged in the process.
Diplomacy is Vanguard's ace-in-the-sleeve, a never before seen addition to the MMORPG scene. Diplomatic transactions are represented in form of a card game. Equipped with your own deck of cards, each 'play' can be an emotion, statement, bluff, or anything to that effect, and you have to duel your NPC opponent in a game of stichomythia. Many gamers are familiar with this next reference (if you aren't, don't fear!), but the mini-game is loosely related to Magic: The Gathering. Diplomacy is also the best way to learn all about the game's lore, since the adventuring path's quests offer little incentive in forms of lore. The world of Telon has a rich history, and the best way to learn about it is through the use of Diplomacy. The sphere's cards are well-written and reflect the traits of people in a familiar way.
The Good: The biggest game world you've ever seen! A few unique classes add hundreds of hours, because for some reason, alting feels like a whole different experience. Vanguard's music does a fantastic job of setting the mood. Diplomacy has never been done before, and Crafting keeps you entertained when you're worn out from the dungeons and group-play. Three flying mounts and over 20 grounded mounts are available. Although lacking population, the community is tightly interwoven and backs up server-wide events on a large scale.
The Bad: The game engine is still clunky and cumbersone, even after months of patching. As with most MMO's, loading screens plague the game's zones. Animations are sub-par, though graphics make up for them. Bugs still crawl through the game's code, and though greatly improved since launch, were the initial reason for the small population. World population is small in comparison to most MMO's. Some level ranges are very tough to progress through if you intend to solo.
Overall: Graphics are gorgeous. The game offers some unique platforms and is a refreshing experience. The developers haven't given up on Vanguard (dubbed the “Spirit of EverQuest”), and improve content on a regular basis. If you tried Vanguard in the past and were unpleased, a 14-day trial is available from the website. Try it out, and enter a game like no other!
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