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Chaos Theory: Continuing the Issue #6 journey in The Secret World

Horror, Real-Life, Patches, PvP, Reviews, Opinion, Free-to-Play, The Secret World, Livestream, Chaos Theory

Chaos Theory  Continuing the Issue #6 journey in The Secret World
In sharing my thoughts with you last week about The Secret World's newest update, I admitted that I hadn't yet experienced all of it. Even with a head start, there were too few days available to really dig into Issue #6. So unless I wanted to blow through everything like a runaway train without savoring it, there was no way I could pontificate on all aspects of the update at that time.

That was then; this is now. This time around I've had full week to dive in and experience the different aspects of The Last Train to Cairo. Along with finishing up the story (which culminated in boarding the very train the update is named for), I started clawing my way up the PvP ranking ladder, secured my very own whip, and snagged a few veteran rewards. Of course, there is still more to be done; it will be a while before I am up for the challenge of the new raid boss, even with my snazzy new whip. And let's not forget banking up some recruitment bonus points by roping even more friends into The Secret World. Even so, that leaves plenty for us to talk about in today's Chaos Theory.

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Hyperspace Beacon: SWTOR, a wretched operation of Scum and Villainy, part 1

Sci-Fi, Expansions, Patches, Previews, Reviews, PvE, Opinion, Free-to-Play, First Impressions, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Hyperspace Beacon

Hyperspace Beacon SWTOR  a wretched operation of Scum and Villainy, part 1
Sometimes it's good to be me. When I mentioned that I had not had a chance to test out the latest operation in Star Wars: The Old Republic Rise of the Hutt Cartel on the public test server, one of my Twitch followers known as Jedi Consular put me in touch with the Memories of Xendor guild. You might remember that guild from my column about the tools of the raid. Its members made the real-time parser that I use all the time. MoX invited me to join a 16-man Scum and Villainy operation last Thursday. When we started the raid, I was shocked to find out that we were running hardmode. My groupmates told me they don't even run storymodes anymore. They skip right to the most difficult.

I want to give a big thank you to Tensa, Jedi Consular, and MoX guild for helping make this article possible. Because of this group of awesome gamers, I experienced the complete raid. From Dash'roode to Dread Master Styrak, we fought every boss.

SWTOR has expanded as a raiding game; each boss has its own merits and shows the game's growth from the previous raids. Read on to get my breakdown. However, I will warn you: There are major mechanics and story spoilers.

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Guardians of Middle-Earth: A fun game doomed by its business model

Video, Business Models, Game Mechanics, Previews, PvP, Reviews, Opinion, Consoles, Casual, Hands-On (Massively's), First Impressions, MOBA, League of Legends

League of Legends title image
The MOBA genre has exploded in recent years, with global giant League of Legends becoming the most actively played video game in the world and competitive tournaments getting more viewers than some televised sports. Today's MOBAs appeal to casual and competitive gamers alike, but until recently very few had crossed the console barrier. Released on PS3 and XBox 360 last December, Guardians of Middle-Earth took traditional DotA gameplay and made the quite experimental leap onto consoles.

I'm not much of a console gamer (you can take my mouse and keyboard away when you pry them from my cold, dead hands), but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to see how Guardians of Middle-Earth stacks up against its PC-based counterparts. Monolith Studios has done great things in adapting MOBA gameplay to a console control scheme and audience, and the core game really is a lot of fun to play. But in charging an initial purchase price for a game that relies on having a large community, publisher Warner Bros. may have accidentally consigned Guardians to the scrapheap.

In this hands-on opinion piece, I explore Guardians of Middle-Earth and ask why it's already a ghost town just three months after launch.

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Why I Play: Clone Wars Adventures

Puzzle, Sci-Fi, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, PvP, Reviews, PvE, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Browser, Casual, MMORTS, Hands-On (Massively's), Kids, Family, Clone Wars Adventures, Why I Play

Clone Wars Adventures - Dueling Shaak Ti
I'm Jef, and I love Star Wars. This is the part where the rest of you addicts chime in with "hi Jef," before we go about trying to cure ourselves of a life-long obsession. Except we're not going to do that today, are we? In fact, I'm going to dangle another death stick that you may not have considered as of yet.

It's called Clone Wars Adventures.

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Path of Exile hands-on: The sequel Diablo II deserved

Betas, Classes, Culture, Game Mechanics, Launches, New Titles, Reviews, PvE, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Hands-On, First Impressions, Dungeons, Diablo III

First Impressions Path of Exile vs Diablo III
Like many gamers in their mid-20s, I spent countless hours in my teenage years smashing through dungeons and hunting for loot in Diablo II. The deep itemisation system made building effective characters a real challenge, and periodic ladder resets kept the loot-hunting economy fresh. Fast-forward 10 years and the highly anticipated sequel Diablo III was released to some serious complaints. The servers were unstable for weeks at launch, the always-online DRM caused a stir, and the endgame item grind was severely underwhelming.

Indie developer Grinding Gear Games aims to beat Blizzard at its own game with its new free-to-play action RPG Path of Exile. The game boasts a dark art style and an unprecedented level of character customisation that lets players build truly unique characters. Each skill is itemised as a gem that can be slotted into your gear and augmented with dozens of different support gems. The sprawling passive skill system is better described as a "skill octopus," with millions of different ways to build a character. I've spent the past few weeks smashing up monsters in the Path of Exile open beta and absolutely loving it.

Read on to find out why I can honestly say that Path of Exile is the sequel Diablo II deserved.

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MMO Burnout: A week with id Software's Rage

Sci-Fi, Galleries, Screenshots, Game Mechanics, Reviews, Opinion, Hands-On, Hands-On (Massively's), Post-Apocalyptic, MMO Burnout

MMO Burnout A week with id Software's Rage
So I've been dabbing in id Software's RAGE over the last little while. Actually, I'm not sure whether the late-2011 shooter is called RAGE or simply Rage, but either way, it has the worst (or perhaps least descriptive) video game name of all time.

Also, yes, I know it's not an MMO. This is MMO Burnout and I thought we were past that already.

Anyhow, I'm afraid I'm going to have to recommend the title to burned-out MMO gamers for several reasons. It's quite beautiful, quite fun, and it's the perfect getaway from the typical massively multiplayer grind.

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The Firing Line: Arctic Combat hands-on

Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, New Titles, PvP, Reviews, Opinion, War, Free-to-Play, Hands-On, Hands-On (Massively's), First Impressions, The Firing Line

The Firing Line 13
Poor Arctic Combat. It's not that there's anything majorly wrong with Webzen's new 8v8 shooter. It's actually a fun little diversion. Unfortunately, it went into open beta close to PlanetSide 2's launch, which means that a lot of PC shooter fans are probably still embedded on Auraxis and unaware of AC's existence.

I first saw the title at last summer's E3, where the PR folks at Webzen and the devs at Battery Studio were kind enough to let me get some hands-on time with a pre-beta build. Fast forward six months and I found myself messing around with the open beta and launch client this week. I also found that my opinion of the game is largely unchanged.

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Why I Play: DC Universe Online

Super-hero, Classes, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Reviews, PvE, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Hands-On, Hands-On (Massively's), DC Universe Online, Why I Play

Why I Play DC Universe Online
Batman.

He's why I initially played DC Universe Online. He's why I bought the collector's edition pre-launch, and he's generally why I got worked up into a sweaty lather of fanboy expectation that couldn't possibly be met by an MMO with a finite budget.

A couple of years on, I've rediscovered DCUO, and now the reason I play it (a lot) boils down to three letters: SOE.

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Ask Massively: Reviewing and re-reviewing MMOs

MMO Industry, Reviews, Opinion, Massively Meta, Ask Massively, Miscellaneous

This is pretty much what I think of game reviews.
Back in September, Star Trek Online Producer Daniel Stahl gave an interview that proposed to tell game journalists how to do their jobs. That's only fair; we're always telling developers how to do their jobs, right? Stahl told [a]listdaily,
"The whole game rating business doesn't necessarily do a great justice to MMOs. MMOs are designed to grow over time and get better with every major release. It might be better if sites like Metacritic could find a way to rate MMOs by releases instead of just the initial day one . . . There are plenty of MMOs that have made huge strides since day one and some that have even gotten worse. Until then, we will continue to offer the game for free and ask for people to try it out and decide for themselves."
Quipped Massively reader Matthew12, "If only there were MMO gaming blogs and websites that keep up to date with the MMOs and their updates... oh wait; there are."

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EverQuest II's 8th anniversary: Celebrating a pivotal year

Fantasy, EverQuest II, Game Mechanics, Reviews, Free-to-Play, Anniversaries

EverQuest II's 8th Anniversary  Celebrating a pivotal year
What a difference a day makes. And what a difference 365 days make! Every EverQuest II anniversary retrospective notes a number of changes, tweaks, and additions to the lands of Norrath, but none can boast the depth and breadth of changes that have happened over the previous 12 months. Between adding brand-new systems and altering the very landscape itself, Sony Online Entertainment has changed how players relate to -- and even access -- the game in fundamental ways.

What's new? For starters, new lands, new sandbox features, a new payment model, and a new class have all appeared over the course of this past year. But that's not all; no one can accuse SOE of just sitting on its laurels because the changes keep a-comin' at seemingly ever increasing speeds. Not only does this anniversary sit literally on the cusp of even more major dramatic alterations (the dust's hardly settled from SOE Live and the ninth expansion, with all of its content, launches in just five days), but two innovations have slid in right under the wire!

Whether you've been away or you just want to reminisce, let's take a moment to look over the past year in EverQuest II before we lose ourselves in Chains of Eternity.

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Of MonsterZ and Men: Hands-on with RaiderZ

Fantasy, Reviews, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Hands-On

Screenshot -- RaiderZ
The other night as I was perusing the interwebs for new and interesting things on which to waste my time, I was struck with a craving. I suddenly found myself wanting to get my hands on a good ol'-fashioned hack-and-slash, preferably of the massively multiplayer variety. As I wracked my brain for a game that would satiate my hunger, I remembered RaiderZ. I had a bit of time at PAX Prime to fiddle around with the game between appointments, and I thought it could be just the thing I was looking for.

As luck would have it, Perfect World Entertainment was selling RaiderZ founders' packs for the low low price of 30 bucks, and since I have all the impulse control of a gnat I decided to go ahead and pick one up so I could jump into the game's head start. Since then, I've logged something to the tune of 15 to 20-ish hours bashing in the skulls of a variety of nasty creatures, and I've got a few things to say. If you've got nothing better to do, how about jumping past the cut and listening to me rant?

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Wings Over Atreia: Aion anniversary -- third one's the charm!

Fantasy, Aion, Events (In-Game), Reviews, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Wings Over Atreia, Anniversaries

Wings Over Atreia  Aion anniversary  third one's the charm!
Yup, it's that time of year again: Pass out the party hats and douse the crowd in confetti 'cause Aion has grown another year older. And what a year it has been! Known universally as the terrible twos, this past year has been anything but for the fantasy game.

Much has happened in the world of Atreia since the last annual roundup. With two major content updates and an expansion, Aion has significantly increased the available content in-game. Not only that, but the move to free-to-play significantly increased the game's availability. If you haven't been in-game recently, now is a good time to stretch your wings and return to Atreia. And if you head back within the next month, you can join in the anniversary celebration.

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The Road to Mordor: Soundtrack bonanza!

Fantasy, Video, Lord of the Rings Online, Reviews, Free-to-Play, The Road to Mordor

One of the probably-not-very-interesting things about me is that I'm somewhat of a video game soundtrack aficionado. Ever since MP3s became all the rage, I've been collecting my favorite tunes from console and computer games, often replacing the in-game score with my own personal soundtrack.

MMO soundtracks, as a whole, are hit or miss with me. While there are many incredible pieces out there, a bulk of what you find is low-key atmospheric stuff that isn't meant to be on anyone's Top 40 playlist. Lord of the Rings Online has its up and downs as a soundtrack, but overall it really does evoke the spirit of Middle-earth. It's hard to imagine playing the game, especially the early levels, without hearing these tracks.

I've collected both the soundtracks to Shadows of Angmar and Mines of Moria and have been saving them for a special occasion. Today is that special occasion. These were composed by Chance Thomas (who's scored many Lord of the Rings-related games) and Stephen DiGregorio. Ranging from bombastic to sinister to folksy, this score covers the gamut of themes and emotions related to the journey of the Ring. It's cool to listen to it independently of the game, as you can appreciate the score for what it is -- and see how the pieces evoke memories of your times in LotRO.

Instead of individually reviewing all 40 or so tracks, I'm simply going to pick my 10 most favorite to share with you!

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A hands-on with the Razer Anansi

Reviews, Opinion, Hands-On, Miscellaneous

When I first heard about the Razer Anansi, I was beyond excited. Razer had, after all, made the supremely excellent Naga specifically for MMOs, and the Naga is as close to a perfect peripheral as has ever been made. (The original wasn't wireless, which is a big deal for some people, but it doesn't bother me -- and there's a wireless version out now anyway.) I was pretty much certain that the same team working on a keyboard would produce the ultimate one-two punch for online gaming accessories.

Sadly, the Anansi isn't the Naga. And therein lies its biggest fault -- you can't help but compare the two products, and the keyboard comes up short. It isn't a bad keyboard, but it lacks what made the Naga so excellent, and for the several things that it gets right it also manages to get a couple of things wrong. Without a doubt, it's going to serve better than the stock keyboard that comes with a new computer, but it's far from a must-have addition to your hardware.

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Wasteland Diaries: Terminal Woods

Sci-Fi, Fallen Earth, Patches, Reviews, MMOFPS, Wasteland Diaries, Post-Apocalyptic

To say that the Fallen Earth 1.8 patch is going to have some massive changes coming along with it might be a bit of an understatement. It's going to come fully equipped with major skills, abilities and mutations re-writes. Much will be changed. So much so, in fact, that I don't think anyone's quite sure what to expect, the devs included. The game will still be recognizable, but the flow of combat will be different. After more than a year of adjusting to the gradual changes that have been made to the game mechanics, I had settled into my comfort zone only to be ousted by significant changes.

It still remains to be seen whether Fallen Earth's new changes will be good or bad. Of course, "good" and "bad" are subjective terms, and one person's good might be another's bad. The great thing about major changes like these is this: We get to test them out before they go live. This latest round of testing on the PTS comes complete with new content, including an entirely new area called Terminal Woods, which looks to be about the same size as Deadfall. So it's not quite a sector, but it's pretty big. The devs have put a bit of this area up on the test server for us to "test." Test it I did... if by testing you mean "exploring and shooting at stuff." After the cut, I'll discuss some of the new stuff I found while I was "testing." Consider that a spoiler alert.

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