28 September 2009

Age of Empires Hotkeys

If there is one RTS series I love, it would be that of AoE. It provides a great outlet for my militaristic and economical mind in a historical setting. Sure, Civ2 is the pinnacle of empire-building, yet Age of Kings: The Conquerors and AoE3 are something else. I have consistently enjoyed playing them back since the old days of playing AoE1 on a neighbour's computer.

When fighting a scenario, I am always sure to assign the same old hotkeys to units and buildings, even if they already have them. What I speak of is clicking on unit(s) and buildings you control and clicking Ctrl + a number. So whenever you press one of those numbers, you can zoom straight to the selected unit or building!

1. My 'pride and joy' forces - usually a collection of 40 fully-upgraded Paladins or Unique Units such as Cataphracts or Samurai. I send them into the brink despite their sheer value and often don't think too hard on it - they'll fight their way through!

2. Again with the armies. This can take the form of Cavalry Archers, a huge naval force of Galleons or another 40 Paladins/UUs.

3. My final military slot, typically composed of supports such as Cannon Galleons, archers or, if I'm very expedient, another 40 Paladins/UUs.

4. This slot became the dedicated Mill slot. There are four words in 'Mill', so I figured why not. Same for 'Farm' - four words. My first building is usually a Mill anyways, so this is often the first to be Ctrled. Close to my Town Center and early foragers, it later becomes the place where I buy the Farm Reseeds. Farms can be unlimited so long as you have Wood and rebuild the Farm every time it becomes barren... or you can queue up a load of Reseeds at the Mill :)

5. My Town Center is in the exact centre of my empire and it is useful to zoom to there if I need to make more Villagers or buildings. Also handy if I need to ring the Town Bell in the event of an unlikely attack :O

6. This is the first of the wild cards. It can be anything from a crew of Bombardiers or Trebuchets w/ Repairers and guards, my so-called 'Army of Engineers' or a number of Villagers I send from one resource to another when the others slow down. It could also be a number of Moks, or a fleet of Transports. It is not so random as to be other than the things I listed there, but it can be just about anything as an empty key. It has also been used for Blacksmiths and for mass Barracks/Stables/Archer Ranges, in the event of war.

7. The Market is the absolute backbone of my Empire, at least in the darker days of careful resource management and early booming. It is not so important in the late game, but is crucial for me to get there. Gold is the essential factor, with Stone being sold early for it and Food and Wood being bought with it. That is all typical of the fairly early stages, while later on it is simply used to sell any resource for a bit of Gold for my own flagging supply.

8. This is less a wild card and more just an empty field. The only times I would use this are for Docks, emergency defences or just navies. In Islands, Archipelago and the like, Docks are crucial. For that reason I need to keep tabs on this building so I can manage my seapower. Emergency defence is something I wouldn't waste my time with anymore, but when I was younger and more naive I may have invested in Champions that would stand and guard my Town Center in the expectation of being useful. Now I know to never plan for that - when you have do, you've lost!

9. Among the first keys I assign at the start of the game, alongside the Town Center and the Mill. The Scout Cavalry/Eagle Rider you get free to use automatically becomes number nine. He erodes away the fog of war, checking out my friends and marking my foes. He is always in a defensive stance, as opposed to 'standing ground' - the default stance of your free scout. Very rarely comes a time I will make more number nines to go with him... he usually ends up on the sidelines by the late game as the map is discovered more by roaming armies.

Alright, that concludes my useless information dish!

16 September 2009

Star Ocean: The Last Hope - 'First Impressions'

After finishing Star Ocean The Second Story - a game made of win - for the 3rd time, I decided I wanted to own as many RPG games as possible. RPGs are the only place I can tinker with stats like Strength and Constitution - y'know, intellectual stuff :P

I ordered SO:TLH and Eternal Sonata off Amazon.co.uk as the first in line for my RPG spree. SO arrived first today after a mere 5 days wait, so not too bad. I was surprised by the sheer weight of the package; the box itself had several discs and a hefty enough instruction manual. What is the feeling of foreboding...

Wasting little time, I set into it and am immediately treated to a nice opening movie. Graphics look good and there is a bit of backstory left open, so plenty of motivation. Then the start menu came up and instead of clicking 'new game' I went into the Battle Sim. Not sure what got into me, just the option of fighting a battle appealed from the outset.

One thing struck me from the start - the abstract battle screen. SO games have Active Time battles, but this battle was fought in a very unusual sphere of space or something, no scenery or anything. That'll probably change ingame as I move from place to place. As for the fighting, it seemed quite tedious to feel just one enemy; either these bots had a lot of health or this was a genuine reflection of the main game. I pray it is the former.

Starting up a new game after the sluggish battle , I watched a cut-down movie again except with the main character's dialogue illustrating the history of the game world - Earth. Post-WWIII and the bombs have been dropped - seemingly everywhere. Even Greenland was firing a few, according to the animations. Sneaky Danes!

I got to take control of the main hero, Edge, after a short chat with the main heroine (I assume). I forgot her name and intend not to Google it now! Edge decided to pop into the Battle Sim again, to relieve himself of some angst. I was surprised that I lost horribly, and my strike seemed to be even more ineffectual second time round. Thankfully, the story just moved on from there. I set out on the start of my adventure, wandering about the Earth-orbiting space station I'm on.

That was it for the moment. I'm a poor person when it comes to gaming-sprees. Unless it is tried and tested (by me), I won't buy into it. Unfortunately, I paid good cash for this game and thus intend to beat it. Two complaints register thus far - signs of tedious battles and the tiny
dialogue boxes. The latter are really worrying as I like to sit really far from the screen, on the leather couch against the wall. I don't want to go back to the old neck traumas of sitting on a chair in the centre of the room, looking up at my T.V. on it's perch. Sigh.

Well I'll just have to make do. I presume this is all the slow first hour of plot and linear-ness. Afterwards, perhaps I'll get a nice overworld and some characters to meet and monsters to kill. I'll post another retrospective soon - perhaps SO2? Or maybe my life as a GM and Player in the world of RPGs? One thing I do know - I'm back blogging. 'Coz its fun.

Clearing the Backlog #3 Final Fantasy 12 Remastered

Here we go again. Must have played it two or three times on the PlayStation 2 not too many years ago. I always liked this game but it felt l...