Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Chapter 3: Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap

Following the ravings of a mad man, otherwise known as Lucius Aldwin, led me back to a familiar place known as Green Park Station. Of course, Green Park Station has always been a favorite of mine simply because it is one of the few "towns" in which it is under fire. However, what makes the experience even more limited is how it is instanced for your character, whereas all the other "towns" are open to all players. Oh, and then there's that little bit in which Lucius Aldwin tells us how he spread out the pieces of the infamous Oracle in three inconspicuous places: Death's Sewers, Death's Tunnels, and Death's City. Wow, someone did a number in the naming department, huh?

Anyways, this next segment in Act 2 might be one of the most repetitive in the whole game. You see, in these three places, we're going to kill a specific enemy, find the altar, grab a piece of the oracle, and return it back to Lucius. It's more of a smash-n-grab sort of thing--you know, something you would expect out of a menial side quest. Amazing, however, how it comes to play in the main game.

Going on then we find that these three distinct locations are not your run-of-the-mill copy and paste tile sets. No, you see, this time you'll get to experience what the game should've probably felt like if Flagship Studios was going for any sort of immersion. In these levels the fog distance is much shorter, in which the fog color is also black, giving the impression that it's very dark.

This is what areas should have looked like. We get to taste it in only three different levels.

Now, even though this is just a simple matter of messing around with fog settings, it just goes to show you how much of a difference it makes the game. The very first trailer banked heavily on a dark, dreary setting of loneliness and inevitability. When those two Templar step out of the station and onto the streets, only to see darkness, one of them fires flares to lighten up the place. That was the setting that made sense. I mean, in a world in which hell has taken over, we have nice, bright and blue skies, and there's plenty of light even during the night levels.

Continuing on, however, I make the point that just decreasing the fog distance doesn't necessarily fix the game either. For instance, spawned area lighting is limited to some actions, not all, and probably the biggest insult to injury is how area-of-affect fire doesn't do anything but try and look pretty.

Contrary to popular belief, fire apparently does not emit a light source.

It's really just another thing that you can see and wonder why developers didn't spend more time on something like this. I mean, what would've been so hard to add flashlights to helmets, or have our glowy armor emit a light radius around the player? It's actually surprising that this was something they didn't do, given that they did both in Diablo 1 and Diablo 2. Either way, it's just insulting to have these options stare at you in the face and, instead, Flagship Studios chose to opt for a more kiddy-like environment of full lighting. Tell me why this game is rated M again?

Anyways. I bring back all the pieces for Lucius Aldwin to piece back together the Oracle, after which I am told to activate it. Now, in the back of my mind, I clearly remembered one of the most popular bugs in alpha/beta, which was once you activated the Oracle, he would clearly jump on the counter behind Lucius, jump on Techsmith 314's face, and then, miraculously, leave a copy of himself on 314's face, but then jump onto some sandbags to the left. And, sure as rain, when I activated the 1/10 scale Zombie Summoner, he did exactly that.

The Oracle proves to us that he can indeed be in two different places at the same time.

At such a point and time, I took a moment to see if other things from alpha/beta were still in Green Park Station, such as in-game advertisements in posters, which was a popular concern of grief back in the testing days. Given that EA has a wonderful reputation of fitting in some advertisements into the games they publish in such noticeable ways that they affect game immersion, people were afraid that Hellgate would be plagued by such marketing schemes. Of course many defenders of Flagship Studios claimed that the advertisements were only there for alpha/beta. I only needed to turn around to see how wrong those people were.

Hellgate: London Weta Workshop collectibles, only $225 each! Get all four for the low, low price of $900!

However, perhaps the most interesting poster I found in Green Park Station was something that wasn't an advertisement at all. I'll end this chapter and just let the picture speak for itself.

Now that's what I call a recipe for disaster.

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