Game reviewers play so many games across various platforms and genres that it is often easy to forget one important detail – we all got started with a love of games and a passion stoked by games we loved playing to the point that we began sharing our thoughts with others in written form. So when the sci-fi shooter action-RPG Greed – Black Border came along, it was right up my alley as a PC shooter and RPG fan … so I had already pre-ordered it even before the review version came along. That adds some benefits as you’ll see later.
Hack ‘n slash your way through this science-fiction-themed action/RPG.
In the futuristic universe of GREED, the discovery of new interstellar travel possibilities has led to a new age of colonization. The five largest colonial powers are entangled in a full-scale war over a new element called Ikarium, the recently discovered rare source of nearly unlimited energy. As a former member of an elite military unit, you will fight a battle for your survival not knowing that your actions will lead the fate of all mankind into dramatic consequences…
* Three entirely different character classes to choose from
* A huge variety of different levels in three unique settings, each playable on 3 difficulties, inhabited by fierce and deadly creatures & screen-filling end bosses
* Upgradeable skills in three categories per character class – the simultaneous use of these categories causes thrilling skill combinations
* Upgradeable character attributes with direct game play effect
* Hundreds of items to collect that upgrade weapons and armour
* Online and local cooperative multiplayer mode for up to three players
I’m sure I mentioned it at some point, but after years away from the RPG genre my wife bought me Diablo when it was released in 1996 at the suggestion of a friend who knew I was a PC gamer. I played for a while but found the narrative (what story?) wasn’t as engaging as the 80’s RPG’s I had played and the action (click-click-click) less satisfying than the FPS games I favored at the time. As a result I pretty quickly uninstalled it and went back to other stuff and thought “if this is where RPG is at these days, I want no part of it”.
And while I still have no great love of the Diablo games themselves (though I appreciate their polish and role in gaming history), I have been gobbling up up pretty much every action RPG since 2003. Some – like Restricted Area, Space Siege and Etrom: The Astral Essence – have been pretty lousy experiences. But others – such as Shadowgrounds, Titan Quest, and Dungeon Siege II – have nicely integrated a story and loot-hunting along with extensive quests and combat. It is that balance that is tricky – if you aren’t a ‘loot hound’, you won’t be satisfied with a game that ignores story and makes all combat centered on loot-spawning. Conversely, if you ARE a ‘loot hound’ you want to feel rewarded when you go plowing through a dungeon – and that reward should come in the form of a load of cool stuff you can use / sell / alter.
Enter Greed – Black Border. As I mentioned, it is a sc-fi shooter, and you get to choose from three characters: a long-range sniper, a close range pyro, and a mid-range soldier. The main difference is with your starting weapons, as skills and stats are all generic across all characters, and you can’t alter your appearance anyway. So I chose my character (soldier) and headed off with little explanation and started shooting everything I saw … which started out as little moving turrets and table saws. There was little in the way of backstory or tutorial, but for the most part there was enough to get you started.
I will dig into more detail, but before I do I can’t stop myself from brain-dumping a summary: this is a game that will satisfy no one. Those looking for a story will be disappointed. Those looking for a loot-fest will be disappointed. Those looking for an innovative combat experience will be disappointed. Those looking for interesting dungeon design will be disappointed. Those who loved Clockstone’s Avencast … will be disappointed.
You start by choosing your character from three archetypes: the melee-based pyro, mid-range soldier, and long-range sniper. The impact of choosing one over the other comes down mainly to starting equipment and attribute balance. If that sounds pretty thin, it is – and it doesn’t get any better. Once you have a character you are pretty much stuck with that archetype for the whole game. Any armor or weapon or modification you use will be specific to your character class. Modifications are the typical ‘gems’ you can slot into certain weapons to enhance offense or defense, and are the main way to upgrade your arsenal.
Technically the game is solid but doesn’t advance the genre in any way. The areas are detailed and the lighting provides an atmosphere that has you constantly on guard. There is just enough light in most areas to see what is happening, but things are dark enough that you can never relax. The visual effects are also impressive, from flames to weapons to explosions everything is carefully detailed – the graphics are definitely the highlight of the show. The soundtrack is fitting to the game style, but neither the music nor the effects are memorable in any way. They are fairly typical of the genre and you can expect to hear everything recycled often as you work your way through.
As you work your way through the game you will advance in levels, and with each new level you get to assign a skill point and an attribute point. Attribute points mainly go to health and shields, but skill points allow you to advance some active and passive skills. You can have two passive skills enabled at any time, and also map one active skill to the right mouse button. The skills are pretty much limited to enhanced attack and defense capabilities, and really add very little to the overall gameplay.
Movement and attack controls are something most action-RPG’s handle in a standard fashion either by using the keyboard for movement and mouse buttons for primary and secondary attacks, or by overloading move and attack to the left mouse button and using right mouse for secondary attack. That is the system used in Greed – Black Border, and yet it feels uniquely inept in how it was implemented, as though this wasn’t something that had become standard after so many years. The lack of precision and visual feedback resulted in my walking right at powerful enemies rather than performing ranged attacks.
The enemies you will face fall into three main categories: robots, zombies and bosses. They are all unintelligent bullet sponges that behave like something out of 1997 rather than 2010. Considering the amount of work done in zombie and sci-fi games in the last five years, it is inexcusable to have such a miserable array of enemies. Not that there isn’t challenge, but the challenge comes from the enemy’s ability to absorb damage, not any sort of strategy or tactics.
As I said, I had pre-ordered this game on Steam. Why the heck would I do that? Because I loved the previous Clockstone game Avencast: Rise of the Mage from 2007. That game was flawed but loads of fun and innovative in how it was put together. So I assumed that Clockstone would try to do things differently even if they failed.
As a result of my prior experience I had already installed the game on my main laptop. So I decided to install review copy on my netbook as the system requirements indicated I might just be able to get playable results. However, when I installed and ran the game it was clear things weren’t going well. The performance was awful and made the system unresponsive for periods of time. I had no issue with this – I knew trying it on the netbook would be a gamble.
So I decided to uninstall the game … and that is where I ran into issues. It wouldn’t uninstall, and more than that it gave inexplicable errors. There was the uninstaller in the game directory as well as the control panel link. Neither one worked … and when I eventually manually removed the game it still showed up and wouldn’t offer to remove the control panel entry. At least it isn’t as bad as the dreaded ‘Pool of Radiance: Ruins of Myth Drannor C drive deletion on uninstall’ bug …
And for reference, I uninstalled through Steam on my main gaming laptop … and that went fine.
As I said at the top, while I started late with the action-RPG genre, I have really fallen in love with many of the games. And while my personal preference is story and character driven games, I appreciate games that focus on the loot-grinding cycle, as well as strictly combat-centric games. Each sub-genre – when well done – provides dozens of hours of enjoyment. And that is the problem: Greed – Black Border doesn’t know what sort of game it really wants to be, so it tries a bunch of things halfheartedly, and ends up doing none of them well.
Where to Buy: Steam (digital download)
What I Like:
+ Detailed graphics
+ Plenty of enemies to kill
What Needs Improvement:
– Bland design
– Little character differentiation
– No core appeal
– Cliché story
– Has no idea of what it wants to be, and fails everything it tries
Source: Personal Copy