Sunday, 11 March 2012

Zombie Driver: Game Design Review

The idea of zombie driver is to create a top down driving game where you mow or shoot down zombies. From a graphics and sound perspective, the heart of Zombie Driver is in the right place. Unfortunately the gameplay looks good on paper but seriously needs some serious tweaking and modifications to be any fun.

Here are the problems with it:
Camera needs to be smarter - There's nothing wrong wtih having a top down view similar to a lot of top down arena shooters. However the camera is a bit too tight especially for such a high speed game. Similar to the first Grand Theft Auto games, everytime you turn, the camera immediately swings to follow you. This might have worked if this was a slower game which doesn't require too much turning but the nature of a car game like this requires you to turn fairly rapidly and often. Unfortunately this just creates motion sickness.

It's especially hard to see where you're going because of your speed. The camera stays exactly the same regardless of the speed you're travelling at. This combined with the lack of map means it's hard to know what's coming up and I often ended up crashing into places because of that.

The camera should be ideally positioned similar to the later 3D Grand Thef Autos. Slightly behind the car. Alternatively, the camera needs to be zoomed out much more to give you a better view of the what's going on especially at high speeds!

You can only have one weapon at a time - Most games like this will usually give you a speed boost ability combined with a variety of weapons like Bandits: Phoenix Rising. Because this game is designed around running over zombies, the developers decided to give you only one weapon slot and have your speed boost ability as a possible weapon. This means if you want a machine gun, you'll have to sacrifice the speed boost. I not convinced that this was a good idea. It is very clear from the artwork graphics and overall tone the game is about running over zombies not shooting them but I still think it would have been better if you had more choice in the matter!

Lack of a map or compass of some sort - The biggest flaw in this game is the lack of a map in a fairly large world. For a game which is all about travelling a city it's surprising that this was left out especially since it's the same city.

Needs more destructible terrain - You can run over small fences and bushese you can't really mow down concrete or certain barriers. I was sort of hoping to be able to crash through houses and cause more mayhem.

Upgrades need to be more fun - As far as I can see you can upgrade your weapons and your car but aren't really any special powers or anything. You just do more damage or you drive faster etc. Nothing really special. I was hoping you would get special abilities like in an RPG and be able to craft and modify your weapons.

I didn't try racing mode of the game because I just didn't feel like it was worth it. I did however try the survival mode where you race around a small arena trying to survive zombie attacks. It's actually okay as an arena survival game

I appreciate this is an indie game but the lack of variety and polish in the core concept really drag the game down and really there's no reason to get this over other action games. While technical competent and a promising start, the game never really delivers on its promises of over-the-top zombie mowing fun! For me, I think the creators were too limited in their scope focusing solely on mowing down zombies rather than trying to create choice in gameplay. If only they had fixed these problems, created more variety and made more of the environment destructible I think we would have had a sweet action gem. As it stands, you're better off just buying another game.

Parasite Eve: Game Design Review

Parasite Eve is a sequel to a Japanese horror science fiction novel by Squaresoft. The game is made using 2D backgrounds with 3D figures similar to the Resident Evil series and like the Resident Evil series has a strong survival horror atmosphere. The similarities continue especially since the main enemy is also some sort biological horror. I went in expecting a game similar to Grandia or Final fantasy but was surprised to find it extremely linear and lacking many RPG features. For example, you don't purchase new weapons, instead you get given them or find them at various points in the game and then you use the upgrade system to improve their stats.

What I liked:
Weapon/Item Upgrading system- The Weapon and equipment upgrading system is fun, it's an upgrading system that allows you to boost your weapon or armour at the cost of destroying your old weapon. You can choose to add on an effect of the old weapon (like poison) or the bonus stats of the weapon (such as the attack bonus). This means that you can end up with

Parsite Eve's Real time Combat system - From a game design perspective it does some interesting things but at the same time could use a bit of tweaking. The major problem (and innovation) with the game is probably the real time combat system. During combat you control Aya and have to avoid enemy attacks while waiting for your action meter to fill before acting. Once filled you can attack, use items or parasite abilities. It's not a bad system once you get use to it however there are a few problems with it which I describe

What I didn't like:
Weapon usage - There's a risk and reward element when it comes to certain weapons as each of them have a specific range and firing speed. Some of the more powerful but slower weapons take time to fire meaning fast moving enemies will often move out of range and receive minimum damage. This means of course switching weapons from short range to longe range weapons. What I don't like is the fact that switching weapons requires an entire turn. In the end I found the rifle was the best and safest option out of all of the weapons since it has the longest range. I think it would have been better if you could switch weapons automatically rather than having to waste an entire turn.

Damage spread - One of the weird things about this game is that the damage you deal enemies decreases if you increase the rate of fire of a weapon. This makes the total damage the same but the number of shots more. This is balanced by the fact that while being hit, the enemies are stunned so although you do less damage, you buy yourself more time. Personally I think they should have done what most other games do and just have the damage multiply with the number of attacks as the game is all about upgrading and allowing you to create powerful weapons after all!

Camera Angle - This is not usually a problem but there were occasionally minor areas where the camera angle wasn't quite. This was less of a problem than expected because the areas where you enter combat area are fixed so the developers took care to make sure the angle was good.

Slow movement - Dodging can be difficult but not impossible at times and its unfortunately inevitable that you take damage because of Aya's slow combat speed. It is I guess an RPG game rather than action game but still it would be good if there was a dodge button or something which allows you to simply move faster!

One character only - Having only one character makes it hard to retaliate if you get in a bad position. Too often I would get comboed to death in a corner by one or more enemies. To counter this, they probably should have increased the ability of your weapons to stun enemies. There is actually a stun system of sorts in place where enemies when hit pause in their attacks so if you have a fast gun like a pistol or machine gun you can actual interrupt slow enemies enough times to prevent them from attacking until your action guage has recharged.

Ammunition - There is an ammo system where every time you fire you use up ammo but you find enough ammo around that it's pretty much redundant.

Exploration Mode - Walking outside of combat is too slow. Unfortunately Aya walks at exactly the same pace as what she is when in combat. This is Way too slow when compared to how large some of the areas are.

Very linear combat and storyline - Like many other JRPGs, the combat is very linear and enemies will appear exactly in the same places. Similarly there is no real choice in the game. I think for a game which comes on 2 CD's there could be at least more bonus quests or other things to do to improve the variety. I think there was one bonus quest. That's about it. You do however get a New Game+ where you can keep your best existing weapon and armour I believe.

Overall I found Parasite Eve to be a good experience because I'm more of an adventure gamer than an RPG gamer but your mileage will vary. As an adventure gamer, I found Parasite Eve was very interesting and had some very smart characterisation. The game moves along at a snappy pace and has fairly small dungeons so I never really felt like it was padded out. As an RPG gamer, I was left wanting. You couldn't really customise in any real fashion which is a real shame and there wasn't really much tactics that I could really employ because of the relatively limited skill set you obtain and having only one character in my party.

I haven't played much of Vagrant Story which is the much more action combat orientated RPG from Squaresoft but from what I recall it addresses many of my complaints and provides a much more action packed complicated system. Although if I recall correct, it may have been a bit too complicated.