Backlog: Same Old Hack n' Slash edition

Nick and Doug settle for the gaming equivalent of security blankets this week instead of embracing the unknown.

I'm not judging them, at least not intentionally. But maybe I am now that I think about it.

Our story so far: two editors walk down well-tread paths carved out of boredom while I charge blindly into trying two indie games on a whim and a 2010 retail release I had completely forgotten about until this past Tuesday.

Nick:

World of Warcraft is the great divider among gamers. Either you play it or you don't, and when you're playing it that's generally the only game you have time to play.

As an editor of an award-winning¹, world-famous² website about games, I can't reasonably justify diving back into the murky depths of Azeroth post-Cataclysm. I've watched a fair bit of video on the new regions and races, though, and it looks like a smarter, faster WoW. That's good news, but it also means it's a game I should probably steer clear of for the time being.

But when life closes one time-consuming, soul-sucking door, it opens another one called Diablo 2.

If you know me you know that as far as I'm concerned Diablo 2 is the real goddamn deal. More than 10 years after it was released and came to encompass my high school gaming experience, it's still unsurpassed in its genre. Newcomers like Torchlight have come very, very close, but when Diablo 2 is still so playable and so much fun after a decade of new games, there's something legendary about that.

James (of StarCraft 2 review fame) and I have been playing some serious Diablo 2 over the last couple days, and the game is every bit as fun as I remembered. The expertly-paced combat, the varied dungeons and the addictive loot-hunting gameplay all resonate down to my core desires as a gamer. And with the latest patch adding modern features like being able to reallocate your skills and points as you level up, it's more playable than ever.

The only downside to all this is that Diablo 3 is all but certain to disappoint. How could it not? Between the near-perfect design of its predecessor and a decade of my own potent feelings of nostalgia, it's facing an uphill battle. I hope that, as was the case with StarCraft 2, all those years of development and refinement result in a similar leap forward for the series.

1. Well, in our hearts... 2. Okay, that's just a flat-out lie

Doug:

Right now I'm still sitting between what I want to play and what I feel like I need to play. I'm still playing through a couple different games ahead of our Game of the Year discussions, but I'm only really drawn into one of them. I actually put another one into my Xbox 360 a couple nights ago, booted the game up, and then stared at the title screen for a minute or two...only to pop the disc out and put Mass Effect 2 back in.

Yep — I've gotten the bug for ME2 back, and earlier this week I blitzed through the Lair of the Shadow Broker content pack. Without giving anything away, I thought it was maybe too combat-heavy but provided a fascinating twist into the storyline. Highly recommended for anybody who's played the game, but that's a fact we've known since Nick's review.

Another game I've been putting time back into recently is Forza Motorsport 3. It's over a year old, but it's still a very good-looking game and plays very, very well. After spending all the time with F1 2010, my racing senses have been set to "super-alert"; the street cars in Forza obviously react and drive a bit slower, which takes some adjusting. I really want to sit down and give Gran Turismo 5 a shot now that I've been playing Forza 3 again some more, because it'll be a clearer comparison in my mind. There's also another DLC pack coming out for Forza 3 next week, and it features some cars I like in real life — and then also the DeLorean, as made famous in Back to the Future.

Lastly, I've been playing more NBA 2K11...and it's still amazing. It also helps that I created an awesome Trail Blazers squad with a fantasy draft — Kevin Durant and Tony Parker to run things on offense and Kevin Love to pick up all the rebounds? Yes, please. The closest nerd analogue I can think of is playing a game where you start off by rolling characters, and getting a really good starting roll. I'm looking forward to trying to get through a season with the lineup I've drafted.

Aaron:

It would be great if someone would tell me I was wrong about something way ahead of time. Blur came out in May, and I blacklisted this racer as a cheap knock-off of the Mario Kart formula. It's not. It's much, much better as far as this generation of Mario Kart is concerned.

I'm absolutely serious, people! Mario Kart for Wii was god-awful. I couldn't even stomach the hackneyed motion controls during multiplayer, let alone an entire singleplayer racing campaign.  And that's coming from a diehard fan of every other Mario Kart game in the series -- even Double Dash.

My opportunity to play Blur came this past week, and over the last few days I've spent several hours with the game's singleplayer campaign and multiplayer splitscreen modes. The learning curve is steep, and the tutorial videos are tedious and do a bad job of explaining the concepts. But once I had a few races under my belt I was ready to unleash the fury of my RS Camaro. Time and time again the NPC drivers would fall prey to my land mine traps, EMP fields and tiny purple energy missiles of doom. Blur is a gorgeously rendered neon-soaked alternate universe where a race is won by crossing the checkered line first and pummeling cars into oblivion. This is the most addictive racing game I've ever played (yeah, ever), and I'm saddened that Bizarre Creations might be closing its doors in part because Blur, the better-than-Mario-Kart-Wii racer, flopped at retail.

Aside from blowing up a hundred Ford Focuses this week, I randomly bought two Xbox Live Indie Games. My purchases of Breath of Death VII and Epic Dungeon have been very sound investments. Breath of Death is a parody of everyone's favorite JRPGs as well as a compendium of so many references to nerd culture that I can rarely keep up with the script. Epic Dungeon is a rapid Diablo-like hack 'n slash. It's simplistic in an admirable way, and the incessant dungeon crawling is more immediately rewarding than, say, Torchlight.

Both indie titles are a buck each, and I would recommend them to anyone with the Microsoft Points to spare.