Monday, December 14, 2009


I spent most of my weekend achievement whoring in the first expansion to Borderlands, The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned. I started off on my own, but was quickly joined by Barry and our friend who sounds like he's from across the pond, Ben (he was born in the states but managed to pillage the accent... well played sir). The easiest way to describe the experience is downright fun and hilarious. From the opening cinematic, to the zombie brains that fly out of your fallen foes, downright to the final battle... The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned keeps you engaged and laughing all the way through.

The story has our adventurers sent off to Jakob's Cove... and island owned by the Jakob's Corporation. As far as I could tell (I admittedly don't read all the quest descriptions... I just want to kill zombies) the Jakob's operation involved turning very very large tree stumps into the fine Jakob's weapons you've all come to know and love. Something has gone terribly wrong, and 97% (this is discerned by the hilarious announcements going on throughout Jakob's Cove) of the population of the island has gone all zombified on us. The adventurers are here to find out just what happened, and to put a stop to the zombie outburst lest it spread to the other 3% of the population.

Much of the expansion has you battling off waves of zombies, of course, as you make your way to different parts of the island. The zombies are often udead versions of other enemies you faced in Pandora, including Lance soldiers, psychos, and midget psychos. There are even zombies who look like giant Frankenstein versions of the Tanks from Left 4 Dead. Many of the zombies will also spit bile at you that slows your walking speed and impairs your vision... also much like a certain special infected in Left 4 Dead. The zombies are much easier to kill than their living counterparts... but this is made up for by the sheer numbers that are thrown at you. However, you'll find killing waves of enemies very satisfying. Head shot kills will reward you with a zombie brain that is used to complete a quest for an undead TK Baha as well as unlock an achievement.

Overall The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned is a very satisfying and comedic experience. For extra laughs, pay special attention to the announcements made in the small city of Jakob's Cove. It doesn't offer an extended level cap or new abilities... but for those of you looking for a fun new way to grind your character up to level 50... this will more than do the trick. My 2nd playthrough character started the DLC around level 43, as did my buddies. We all ended around level 48. This left us just a few quests away in the main story line from dinging level 50 and satisfying that achievement requirement. Go get this DLC. It's a great excuse to keep shooting and looting, and it will keep you in practice for the new DLC that was recently announced.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

What We've Been Up To...

We've been gaming... a lot... probably too much if there is such a thing. I know that Barry has finished Dragon Age: Origins a few time, and Chuck is working on copying that effort. Most of the group has also finished Assassin's Creed 2. I fell behind on that objective because of Brutal Legend and Modern Warfare 2. Chuck and I even dove into Left 4 Dead 2 a little. It's a game we haven't been able to give appropriate attention to, and we hope to remedy that problem as soon as Amazon decides to locate and deliver Barry's copy to him. Below I'll give a few impressions of what I've been playing lately.

Brutal Legend

Brutal Legend was a game I wanted to like. The story is ridiculous, of course, but it's fun and pretty creative. If I hadn't been so late to the Brutal Legend party, the RTS elements would have come as a huge surprise. I used to play a lot of RTS games as a kid on the PC. Consoles can just never get it right, and that remains true in Brutal Legend. The good thing about the RTS battles in the game are also a little bit of its downfall.

In the game you learn guitar solos by finding large statues which teach the solos to you. It's somewhat difficult to tell if this is done by reading the ancient looking text on the statue, magic of some sort, or a combination of the two. Either way, the statues look mean. Some of the solos you learn are attacks, one summons your vehicle... there are even solos that act as debuffs for enemies, buffs for your units, and a couple that help set rally points/call your units to your location.

The RTS battles in the game are referred to as "Stage Battles." This is because you set up a giant stage which acts as a unit generator. The Brutal Legend equivalent of mining or harvesting is setting up merchandise booths to harvest fans. This is where the game kind of forgets the "strategy" element. It's very difficult to select individual units. You have to stand next to them and face them until the "double team" icon shows up in the bottom left corner (the double team function lets you perform super attacks with whatever unit you're facing)... then you hold down Y and issue an order to that unit. It's tedious and can be a real pain in the heat of battle. It seemed like the creators of Brutal Legend understood this... so rather than make unit selection easier, they dumbed down the opponent AI so that you're rarely in any real danger. Most conflicts can be resolved by sending all of your units en masse toward each group of enemies. Even if the enemy manages to destroy one of your merchandise booths (which typically seems to be their primary objective) while you're tied up with another group of baddies, it's typically easy to clean up your current problem, send everybody to the group who took out your merch booth, kill them, and then rebuild. Even with the true spirit of RTS being somewhat stripped by this fact... the battles can still be fun... and there's always something rewarding about DOMINATING your opponent and then over running their stage.

Even with my complaints, Brutal Legend was fun... the side quests are entertaining. The story is funny and doesn't seem to take itself too seriously, even when the story has a serious tone. The voice acting adds to the comedic aspect and features the likes of Jack Black, Ozzy Osbourne, comedians Brian Posehn and David Cross.

Left 4 Dead 2

So far I've only spent a small amount of time with Left 4 Dead 2, however, that time was very enjoyable. I only played with one human teammate, so I can imagine that the experience will only get better. We ran through the first campaign mission, Dead Center, and it took us about two hours. I will say that a lot of that time was spent trying to finish the finale as our AI counterparts didn't exactly get the plan we were trying to execute. I really like the addition of the objective based finally as opposed to the first L4Ds method of "just kill a lot of stuff until help gets here." Dead Center has the survivors collecting gas cans to fill the tank of their escape vehicle.

We tried a few tactics, including splitting up to collect cans, but with two AI teammates we found this often left one of us alone and exposed. The AI teammates tended to stick together and only follow one of the human players. Once a few more people we know get the game (and we're lobbying hard) it should allow strategies to be better fleshed out. The AI isn't without merit though. They often knew the quickest way to reach and revive a downed player and were generous with health packs and pills. Even during our attempts to split up, as soon as Chuck or I went down, the AI would immediately set a course to revive.

I look forward to playing a lot more of this game in the near future.

I'll leave my discussion to those 2 games for now. I'm still in the early parts of Assassin's Creed 2, and Modern Warfare 2 has been beaten to death by any and every site out there. Hopefully I'll have more to report soon from our little gaming world.