I picked the game up after watching TotalBiscuit's first impressions video (gameplayfootage @14:36 above). I am pretty impressed.
-Beautiful graphics. I can run everything on very high except for SSAA and it just looks so very pretty. It helps that the world design is well done, with meaningful props and clutter. Each of the different areas I explored had their own ambiance. From the spacious yet crowded D6 bunker to the sprawling markets of Theater, the world design makes each area pop in your memory and on your screen.
-Unparalleled Immersion, at least as far as anything I've played before. The UI is minimal or non existent depending on what difficulty you are playing on. Magazines are typically open such that you can count the bullets or shells that way. Your gas mask can crack or chip and gets dirty, but you can swap your mask with a dead guys' or press g to wipe a bit at the accumulated filth. Your flashlight has limited juice and must be charged by hand to make it brighter as it slowly fades. You have a wristwatch that tells you how much air you have left in your gas mask and whether or not you are cloaked in shadows. All of this adds up to the most immersive game I can remember.
-Almost survival horror levels of scarcity. Depending on which difficulty you pick, items can be pretty scarce. They are both lootable from enemies and picked up from hidden nooks and crannies. The limited currency and ammunition force you to make tough choices or stick to stealth as much as possible. And on the topic of stealth, every light can be turned off or broken to help you slip through in the shadows.
-Tight gunplay. The first game's shooting felt a bit hollow and weak, but this game has tweaked the animations, sounds, and damage values of any returning weapons to make them all feel meaty and powerful. There are attachments you can buy for your guns, using Military Grade Bullets, the game's currency that can also be used as high damage ammunition. The AI is intelligent enough, flanking and dodging attacks, and investigating any sounds you might make. Its downright fun.
Its time to reinvent yourself in the newly released FREE-TO-PLAY open beta of Path of Exile; an Action RPG released by Independent games studio Grinding Gear Games. You and your friends can choose one of six character classes to find yourselvs banished for your past misdeeds in this dark fantasy world of Wraeclast (the persistent world) where you will encounter hundreds of species of opponents laden with loot and mysterious artifacts as you explore the abandoned continent.
The game feels a lot like a Diablo II without the dumbing down of a Diablo III with a mix of Torchlight and I don't want to make comparisons here since I'm dipping my toes into this genre with each game like it I play and this one feels real nice. Here is the release trailer below from the open beta invite they had on January 23rd.
You can play by yourself to craft weapons, magic items and even end-game maps to become more powerful and you have the choice to play cooperatively with your your friends or in the competitive playing field for Player vs. Player combat.. The random level, boss and item drop generation makes it fun to roll new characters with your friends and the PvP arenas are dynamic environments with unique threats and hostile opponents all of their own. The PvP modes available range from duels to large scale team combat in a variety of scenarios with different level caps. Organized tournaments are planned in future.
In Path of Exile you gain skill points and accrue gems as you complete quests and level up. You spend your skill points in the game’s gigantic passive skill tree and the gems you earn level up as you use the skill that it buffs you with. This skill - gem combo system means thousands of unique character builds that don't feel dumbed down and is fairly easy to re-spec with items you find in game, not a "pay to win" or auction house. The way to support GGG (Grinding Gear Games) is to buy cosmetic effects, animations or things like pets from their shop as they don't sell weapons or gems or anything game changing beyond extra chest stash tabs or character slots.
When picking their heroes, many teams make the mistake of choosing their favorite and not discussing what would work best for the team. A team of 4 melee hard carries and one melee support is going to typically have a hard time against a well mixed team that properly lanes well, sets up their ganks, and initiates team fights on their own terms.
Laning – Properly laning your hero will set you and your allies up for a good mid-game, when you are more likely to team fight. Early in the game heroes tend to stick mostly in their lanes to farm up experience and gold needed to gank other lanes. You have your mid lane where you typically want to put a ranged or mobile hero that can get last hits and move to either lane if needed. There is a short lane which is the top left lane for the Radiant or the bottom right lane for the Dire. It is short because the river cuts into your side giving the enemy team the corner and a longer distance to their tower. It is the more dangerous lane because the river being far away from the enemy tower means you have to be far inside their corner to attack the tower, giving the enemy multiple paths to cut you off. The opposite lane is the long lane. This is also the lane that the jungle creep camps will be parallel to in most cases. This is the safe lane as most of the land between your towers is on your side of the map. Typically you want durable heroes in the short lane and heroes with good disables on the long lane. If you have a jungler, you will typically take a hero away from the short lane as it is harder for that lane to get experience and gold. A Wind runner is one of the best choices for the short lane as she is tanky, has a good escape and is ranged. A Shadow Demon and Leshrac make a great long or safe lane combo. Shadow Demon has a long range disable and Leshrac has a long rage AOE stun that takes a second to setup. With Shadow Demon’s disable, Leshrac can reliable setup his stun for several seconds easily stopping even the strongest heroes for several seconds.
The middle lane hero will always get more experience and gold as the middle lane typically only has one hero. Another reason you want a mobile character is that in the river between the corner and mid towers are runes that spawn every 2 minutes. These runes increase damage, movement speed, grant clones, or invisibility. Many mid heroes will carry a bottle which is the only item that allows you to store those runes. Those runes also refill your charges for healing and mana. Queen of Pain is a good mid hero as she can dish out a lot of damage quickly, is ranged, and has a blink ability to cover large distances faster.
Ganking – Some of the heroes you will notice have a designation as a hero that excels in ganking. They excel in moving between the lanes and doing good burst damage or locking down heroes. Typically your mid heroes are also your ganking heroes but that doesn't always have to be the case. A fan favorite ganker is Pudge, who has the ability to send a hook out with increasing range and pull heroes directly to him. He emits a damaging cloud and can disable heroes while they take damage from the hook and the rot aura. Pudge does best when moving to lanes where the enemy wouldn’t expect him and hooking out of line of sight.
Team Fight – Having a hero that can reliably setup team fights will help ensure you get the upper hand. Tidehunter as mentioned before has a Ravage ability that stuns all enemy heroes near him for several seconds. If he can get near enough enemies to cast ravage your team will be able to pick off an enemy hero before the other team can respond if coordinate well. Your carry could turn on his Black King Bar which grants magic immunity and start attacking without fear of being disabled. It is almost always best to fight on high ground to grant vision and if possible baiting or luring enemies to fight near your towers for extra defense. If the enemy team has heroes that can go invisible, carrying sentry wards can help ensure they don’t get away or get the jump on your weaker supports. Each team fight is different so it is vital to know what your hero and your allied heroes bring to the team fight. Most team fights occur near your towers as enemies try to push down the enemies’ towers or in the Roshan Pit.
Roshan – Best to save the biggest creep for last. Roshan is a neutral creep that sits in a pit slightly north of the river on the dire side with his entrance facing the river. He has a chance to mini stun with each attack and has a huge health pool and hits hard. He also gets stronger as the match progresses. It typically takes several heroes several seconds to take him down. If you do, everyone on the team gets gold and nearby heroes get exp and Roshan drops an Aegis, which revives the holder with full health and mana upon death. The aegis goes best on your carries as they are the ones who typically do the most damage. Once you kill him, it takes ten minutes for him to spawn again. Upon his third death he drops a cheese as well that heals the wearer for a large amount of health and mana. Teams will typically keep wards near the Roshan pit to see if the enemy goes into fight. Catching the enemy team unprepared fighting Roshan can help you win a team fight and then kill a weaker Roshan. Never fight Roshan if you don’t know where the enemy heroes are or if they are all close.
Roshan dares you to enter his battleground to prove yourself, especially those heroes traveling from Tyria.
Now that you know how to make money it is important to know what to spend it on! The right items and builds are crucial to maximizing the output of your hero. Item choices aren't always as simple as you might think. You might want to maximize agility items on a Shadow Fiend (Agility based carry) but he needs mana to be able to cast his nukes and abilities. With no mana, he isn't as powerful. So balancing agility and mana pool items is the best way to maximize his output. There are generally three types of items.
Single Use - These are your recovery items. There are a variety of potions you can purchase. Some regen your mana or health, one potion cloaks you and nearby heroes, and another reveals cloaked heroes. These items will have a quantity and have to be replaced. Wards are another good example.
Stat Bonus - These items only have stat bonuses. There are several items with varying stat bonuses, and they get more expensive as the stat bonus goes up. An iron wood branch is only 53 gold to give +1 to your 3 stats (Strength, Agility, Intelligence) where as the ultimate orb gives +10 but costs 2100 gold. Since you only have 6 inventory slots, you can't hold onto 10 ironwood branches. This makes items that have high stat totals much more expensive as it frees up inventory space.
Specialty - Most items fall into this category. These items give special abilities or other passives. An example would be the Battlefury that not only gives you extra damage but also allows for your melee attack to cleave and hit multiple targets. Every hero typically has at least a couple of these types of items that compliment their abilities well and plan around getting them as soon as possible. These are the items you plan for and want to get as soon as possible.
The Battlefury, however, does cost over 4k gold, which is a lot to hold onto. Luckily almost all of the speciality items can be built by buying multiple cheaper items. This way you can spend your gold and get the benefit of the smaller item as you progress to your item. You will also notice that some speciality items require a recipe component. This should be the last thing you buy, as it pieces together all the items. Not all items have a recipe... but it is almost always better to buy your item piece by piece. When you select an item that can be built by smaller parts, it will show the components needed to buy up above your inventory to save you time, and make it easy to get your components without having to memorize the full item combinations.
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Properly gearing your hero is the difference between winning and losing. Dota 2’s variety of hero choices is matched only by its myriad of items available. A single item can totally change the build or viability of any hero if utilized properly. Gearing your hero, and more importantly, farming the gold needed to do it is easily what turns off new players. You play a round and the enemy Morphling has four items that each cost over 4k gold, and you still haven’t even filled your inventory slots. What made the difference was getting the last hits, hero kills, and killing the towers.
Last Hits – As we talked about in Part 1, every 30 seconds, creeps spawn in your base and walk down the three lanes to meet the other enemy creeps mid-map. They will fight each other and if you are near the enemy death, all exp points are shared. The gold however only goes to the person who got the last hit. That means you need to time your last hit so you get the (wait for it...), Last Hit. This means getting to know your attack animation, because each hero is different. This also means not auto attacking the enemy creeps, for two reasons.
First, you don’t want to miss your last hit (which is most important.) Also there is an imaginary line called the creep line. This is the line of demarcation between your creep wave and the enemies where they meet and fight. Unless you are pushing to destroy the tower, you want that line in your base for safety. If the enemy creeps are near your tower, the enemy heroes can’t get behind you or sneak up on you because the tower is too strong in the early game.
Second, chances are the other two heroes will be in the lane as well, and if you were to just attack the creeps, you would take a lot of damage. You want to run in, get the last hit and back up safely. This is why carries or melee carries will take a lane support hero (usually ranged). That means the support can harass the carry while he is trying to last hit, making it easier for your carry. On a side note, once your allied creep gets low on health you can friendly fire attack it, and if you get the last hit, you get a deny. That means the enemy hero doesn’t get the money OR exp. Also if you deny properly there are less of your attackers and the creep line will stay static or move to your base.
Click on through to continue reading Part 1 of the DOTA 2 review...