måndag 14 juni 2010

Mini review: PVKII - Three is a crowd?

Pirates vikings & knights II is a free modification for Half-life 2; if you have any source engine games you can get it directly from steam here. You might also want to visit the official homepage: http://www.pvkii.com/

This is a rather whimsical first-person combat game that pits pirates, vikings and knights against each other in various modes of battle.

There are three major game modes; Booty, Last Team Standing and Holy Grail.

In Last Team Standing the goal is to eliminate all enemy players; when enemies are eliminated or the timer runs out the round is over and everyone respawns as the next round begins.

In Booty there are 6 chests and each team starts with a number of 'tickets'; the goal is to accumulate as many chests as possible in your by stealing them from your enemies. The more chests you have, the faster your 'tickets' count down and first to zero wins.

In Holy Grail the goal is to acquire the grail and kill enemies in vicinity of the grail carrier. Here again there are a number of 'tickets'; counting down towards zero as kills are made.

The most distinguishing feature of PVKII is the fact there are three teams simultaneously competing against each other. With only two teams there is no possibility for "diplomacy", you always know who your enemy is. With three teams there is an incentive for two of the teams to engage in an uneasy, often unspoken, alliance to take on the stronger opponent. There's also an incentive for one of the weaker teams to pretend to ally themselves with the other weak team only to stab them in the back; but doing so risks annoying your opponent so that will attack you repeatedly just for the sake of revenge(sometimes even carrying over into the next round!). There can also be an incentive to minimize your presence; e.g. in Last Team Standing, you might just make yourself a bit more discrete and hope the enemy teams wear each other down before you spring into action.

This is in some ways more interesting as it elicits a greater range of human behaviours and in some ways less fair to the stronger team. For 'casual' gaming it works great and it's a refreshing mechanic; but I wouldn't recommend it for 'serious' gaming(i.e. competitons, tournaments, leagues...).

While a first person shooter will never be as good online as it is on a LAN; you can correct for most of the problems induced by latency with clever netcode; with a fighting game you can't do that to quite the same extent. If I'm running backwards with a long spear you can be just out of reach; while on your screen I can be just within reach for a short cutlass. This is somewhat more annoying than with bullets with infinite reach and no ability to parry; but it is not annoying enough to be a deal breaker.

They've been slowly adding more player classes and revisiting gameplay decisions over time and I like the way they're going.

Here's some gameplay footage snagged straight from youtube(what do I look like, someone who's not lazy?):

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