Game Philosopher

The philosophy of games and gaming

Games you love anyway – Neocron

Posted by gamephilosopher on September 27, 2006

I was originally going to call this segment “Bad Games you Love Anyway” but I thought that was a bit harsh, not to mention inaccurate. So let’s try the implication that the game isn’t the best, but we love it anyway…

I would say, without a doubt, the game I love but can’t describe why is Neocron. It’s an MMORPG/FPS set in the future after some type of apocolypse, but all of that is really irrelevant, since you have no impact on the plot and the plot rarely changes.

Actually that isn’t such a bad thing. Most people’s top 10 games of all time include games with no plot like Doom, Wolfenstein and Alternate Reality: The City, but we don’t complain about them, do we?

To be fair, the game has a mini-novel’s worth of history to set up the game world and there is stuff going on, it’s just not very engrossing, and definately not the reason why you would play the game or even stick around after the free trial. Games like Morrowind or World of Warcraft have hundreds if not thousands of unique quests. The most you could get away with in Neocron is about 10 or so.

This game also has bugs. Loads of them. Everywhere. Features don’t work or don’t work properly, descriptions for items are missing, instructions are scattered all over the place and largely suplemented by fans. Oh yeah and patches are as scarce as the populations.

So what’s good about the game? We’ll that’s a little harder to pinpoint. For one, the post-apocolyptic thing has been overdone in many mediums, but not in MMOs. While many people focus on swords and sorcery for their RPGs, this game is futuristic, more like Deux Ex than Neverwinter Nights. It definately has originality going for it.

Similarly, the Cyberpunk genre in computer games, even single player ones, is sorely lacking recently. We’ve had great games like Blade Runner, System Shock, and even oldies like Neuromancer, but, if memory serves, there hasn’t been anything out recently to quench the thirst for those of us with a cyberpunk fetish. Neocron deviates from the overcrowded, heavily asian influenced view of the future that most cyberpunk attaches to, but it still manages to deliver on that feeling that the world took a wrong turn and now we’re stuck in some sort of high-tech stone age.

It also focuses on Player vs Player (PvP). This game leans more towards hard-core, so if you’re going to play the game for an extended period of time, you’re going to be fighting over the outposts scattered in the wastelands outside of the cities, which mean you’ll be fighting other players. This is definately the most alluring part of the game because it’s far more interesting to be attacking other smart opponents than the usual stupid enemy AI.

One of the things that sucks me in about RPGs and Neocron especially is the stat management. When you really get down to it, Neocron is focused a lot on stats. I think it was through bad design, but there really aren’t a lot of options if you’re interested in PvP for the endgame. What that leads to is an almost fanatical focus on the minutiae of every stat down to the single point. If you want to use a specific gun, while still be able to do a non-combat skill you have to set your character up just right. Otherwise, you’ll be too slow, or really vulnerable to a certain type of attack.

The last thing I’ll touch on is the community. This game has a small but tight community that is best evidenced by the activity on the official forums. Some of the top players gather there to trade opionions and strategies. I’m not sure if its the fact that the game is rather small in scope or what, but the players and the mods on the forums work a lot better together than the communities I’ve seen for the Star Wars MMO, WoW, and EQ.

And that’s what its really all about in the end, isn’t it? Community? If you want to shoot stuff, you could easily play Unreal Tournament or Far Cry, but if you want to interact with REAL people inside a FPS, then Neocron may be the thing to check out.

In fact, check it out regardless.

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