Monday, July 9, 2012

MTG Overview: Delver, and why it's bad

The Delver deck type, which is currently dominating every pro tour since it's becoming in late 2011 has been held highly as one of the best decks to ever have been made. But is this true? Of course a turn two 3/2 with flying is amazing, but it's getting to that point which makes Delver an insufficient deck. If one can't rely on a Ponder to rig their next turn, they have an, at minimum, 1/3 chance of having their Delver flip, as the deck runs at least twenty instants and sorcerys in the sixty card deck. Having to rely on luck of the draw, as with Miracles, makes Magic a game less about skill, and more about luck. I have personalty built and tested three Delver decks, one being my own, the other being Gerry Thompsons “Meta breaker”, and finally the nineteen land Delver deck that won a pro tour a few weeks ago. With all of these decks I realized that if I didn't get set up with something within the first three to four turns, I was hosed hard. What good is a Delver against a 6/6 Titan? Or a Mana Leak against someone with ten or more land? Sure I can use a Snap Caster to re use my graveyard, but this in turn weakens the Rune Chanters Pike and causes me to miss plays in order to make sure my opponent cant make theirs. There are other color splashes of Delver, including red/blue which can stomp hard as long as it gets it's Bonfire of the Damned and Delvers out, which continues to show that it's a deck that needs luck, rather than skill.

With the introduction of Restoration Angel, one is now able to flash in and bounce a Snap Caster already in play to get a second effect off him, and for four mana, a ¾ flier with flash is good in itself. But in a deck that relies on a card that needs a chance effect to flip itself and is also reliant on a single mana color needing to splash into a second to even run Restoration Angel, it makes little sense besides being a saving grace for a Go for the Throat or Tragic Slip.

Going back to the whole “speed” issue, one will notice that if they don't get a nigh perfect hand, they won't stand a chance in the long run after their first few turns. If you cannot get at least one Delver out and flipped by turn two or three, you will be sitting still attempting to Gitaxian Probe, Thought Scour and Ponder yourself into any creature or other removal spell what so ever. There are times where you can hold off your opponent, yes, but that doesn't negate the other amount of time where you are doing absolutely nothing but milling and killing yourself, which makes the deck unreliable. Yes, the deck is known for it's extremely good opening hand draws, but as with every deck if you don't get a hand with at least a land and a Delver you are going to be sitting pretty for a while.

I'm currently personally sold on my Esper Sun Titan build for a multitude of reasons, but the main one being that it is able to hold back and stomp Delver. As long as I have three land, I can play Lingering Souls to block, Forbidden Alchemy to dump and pull, Lilliana to kill, Image's to copy, the list goes on. I will most likely, but not always, be able to hold out past the mana leak range and get out my Gideons, Titans, and Elesh Norn. Even if Delver manages to get itself into gear and get three flipped Delvers coming at me for nine, I always have a Day of Judgment handy to stop them in their tracks. Delver has too many answers being run, and it makes the deck almost meta unreliable. Even Wizard of the Coast have told that Delver decks have a 50/50 chance of winning because there are so many of them being played, and with that high amount comes decks such as mine which are meant to destroy Delver where it stands.

Maybe some day there will be a Delver deck that can beat past the luck of the draw that the deck relies on so heavily. But with the 2012 core set and Ponder rotating out within the next three months, that just seems highly unlikely. Without Ponder, the deck is almost nothing. There's no way to cheat the draw, as Ponder is the only way to get past the 1/3 chance that Delver needs to function.  But this is just me ranting, what do I know?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

B Lund Reviews: Diablo III

Diablo 3 is the long awaited finale in Blizzard's well established Diablo series, an action roleplaying game set around killing off the demons of hell. In Diablo 3, the player follows the story of Kain, Leah and Tyrael as the four of them attempt to stop Diablo himself from destroying humanity as we know it. The player can choose from five classes, the Witch Doctor, Demon Hunter, Barbarian, wizard and monk. Each of the classes perform differently and bring a great deal of customizability to the table, with their own unique play style, equipment and skills. The game itself plays smooth on a top tier rig, but that is to be expected as the graphics of Diablo 3 are sub par compared to what they could have been. The textures are washed out and have a mediocre resolution even with max settings, but the artistic style that Blizzard has become known for really shines when playing from a top down perspective, even though they have reused models and textures from previous titles. Map transitions flow seamlessly and cut scenes are top notch with amazing CGI and voice acting, which is one of my favorite parts of the game. Players can and will spend countless hours exploring the world of Sanctuary, from the cursed forests to the arid desert, the last stand of humanity to heaven itself. The boss fights, while easy early on, become a serious pain as one progresses through the game, giving Diablo 3 it's much needed difficulty that it lacks on lower player levels.

Once one has slain the lord of hell himself, they can go back through the story with their current level and gear, to tackle sanctuary once again. And again, and again. Diablo 3 is a very repetitive game, as there is not much else to do gameplay wise but kill the same few mobs per act over and over. Sure there are random events placed through the randomly generated maps, but they are few and far between as the player will be focusing on the main story for the majority of their play time. Crafting mixes up the monotony by letting the player collect gems and break down equipment to create socketing gems and craft better gear. But even this has it's faults, because as of this review it costs less to just buy the gems on the auction house then go through the time and effort of crafting them yourself. As with armor and weapon crafting, while you can choose what type of item you want crafted, the attributes and if it even has sockets are completely random and can cause a lot of frustration when trying to craft your own equipment without the aid of the auction house. Diablo 3's multiplayer is it's shining star, as beating through endless hordes with your friends make's the hollow single player experience tolerable. But even this has it's faults, as there are numerous reported claims of players getting hacked through public games even with an authenticator or without even being in an active game, so one can only safely play multiplayer with those they have added on as to reduce the chances of having ytheir entire account wiped. Couple this with “Always online” drm that gives you latency issues in single player and it leaves a sour impression.

 I'd like to give this game a final review based off of how games used to be rated, where 9's and 10's where something you never saw and reviewers we're more blunt than they are now.
For the Aesthetics of Diablo, the top down view draws the players further from the detail, allowing Blizzard to skimp on what could have been amazing visuals. The textures are muddy and washed out even on max detail, and the skills themselves seem like they could have had more flair seeing as the game has been in development for so long and is a PC exclusive as well, and I do mean Mac and Windows. But when it comes to the CGI cutscenes, Diablo 3 does an amazing job showing off what Blizzard can truly attempt. For Diablo being a triple A title, the visuals could have been more promising, but that's just me nit picking.

Audio wise, Diablo 3 shines. Russell Brower, the man behind the sound of Diablo does an amazing job. Everything is fluid. The town, exploring and battle music is amazing and fits flawlessly. Honestly the only problem I'd have with the sound is that it's compressed, but that's about it. Everything fits, to the music, foot steps, fighting and enemies.

Diablo 3's game play, while at first being a beacon of hope in a sea of washed out FPS's, becomes noticeably repetitive as one progresses. There is never any change of pace other than what skills you unlock through leveling up. You can't custom stat your character, instead you can only gear up and socket to improve yourself. Runing skills was fun and added some customizability during the first play through, but after a while they become useless as there are cookie cutter builds for Inferno difficulty that, if one strays from, you cannot get anything done without using them.

Finally, is the buzzword. Is Diablo 3 just plain fun? Yes and no. At first, I was enjoying myself. Being new to the Diablo series, seeing how it was different from Torchlight and other dungeon crawlers. I've clocked in around 30 hours on my main character, so I can comfortably say that I have gotten my money's worth out of it. Do I wish it was $50 rather than $60? You bet. Would I buy the game for $60 knowing what I do about it now? Probably not. The longer I played Diablo the more I noticed myself going into denial saying “It'll get better” over and over, until I realized Act 4 is about 45 minutes long and I had just beat the game. I honestly didn't know what to think after that.

All in all, I feel that this game is just an average experience of an old genre in a sea of washed out FPS games. While Diablo has amazing music, sound, CGI cut-scenes and voice acting, it falls short on it's actual gameplay, graphics, replayability, and the lack of fun the game honestly fails to provide. What could have shined aesthetically was over shadowed by muddy and reused textures from previous Blizzard titles, Always online DRM and single player lag killed what could have been an enjoyable solo experience and the gameplay itself is just too repetitive to seriously enjoy. Is it bad? Oh no, far from it. Is it good? Also, no. But does it have potential? Loads. All we have to do is wait for Blizzard to supply the extra content needed to make this game the finale it deserves to be.

I give this an average final score of 5/10. It brings nothing new to the genre, other than being a new game from an old series in a market full of FPS games and consoles.