In order to avoid playing the same games over and over we jumped on the Friday Games forum thread early yesterday. There were some good suggestions: Unreal Tournament 3, Natural Selection 2, Battlefield 4 (Anery you kidder, that one’s still making me chuckle). So when I sat down to join in and jumped on Teamspeak to find eight people playing Dota 2 I wasn’t in the least bit surprised.
It turns out people wanted to have a go at the seasonal Wraith King game which Dota 2 is running at the moment. I mentioned it last week, it’s a last stand mode where you protect the giant frozen Wraith King (nee Skeleton King) from progressively tougher groups of creatures, scattered with light versions of heroes. I love the hordes of mini-Slarks. The limited pool of heroes have slightly different abilities, and normal builds are useless, so it forces you to think about your own progress rather than just following a guide. That’s pretty cool, but the short games and frantic pace make it all rather throwaway. Still, it’s an interesting enough diversion.
We did manage to get another game in though, for a while. It turned out to be Natural Selection 2, or Unnatural Erection in 5punky parlance. It’s a funny old fish is NS2. It has the commander and teamwork of Battlefield, the close and twitchy combat of Call of Duty, and the weird aliens of Starcraft. It has alien dog things which bite and climb walls, big stompy robots, flamethrowers, and pig things which slide on their bellies. It has all the makings of a great 5punky game. For some reason though, it never really clicked with me. I’m pretty sure it’s because I don’t have a clue what I’m doing. As a Marine I run about, lost, hosing aliens ineffectively with my assault rifle. As an alien I run about, lost, ineffectively snapping at marines’ bums. Whichever side I’m on I seem completely unable to kill the enemy while they almost one-shot me. Obviously this isn’t the case, but my kill to death ratio speaks for itself.
Still, we always have good fun playing Unnatural Erection. Several things you can guarantee – anyone playing an alien will be mumbling “omnomnomnom” over Teamspeak whenever they attack, there’s always one gobshite random on voice comms spouting off, and there’s always a 5punky response in chat. I remember last time we went through a NS2 phase we declared a truce zone in a bar, where marines were drinking with an Onos (big rhino alien thing) barman. It was fun getting randoms involved in the silliness. We also made a human pyramid in the lobby, much to the annoyance of the other players. Alas, silly antics will only take us so far and most of us are too rubbish at the game to play it seriously, so after an hour or so we switched back to Dota 2 for more Wraith Night mode.
We had two games on the go because there were still nine of us at this point. It sounded as though the other game was having much more success than ours though, as we had several games for their one. I think we managed level three. It gave me a nice opportunity to play new character Legion Commander though, who is great in this mode with her lifesteal and cleave attacks. We stopped after a few games to try to get a couple of normal games in though. Since we ended up with five of us, we opted to play real humans made from real meat.
Probably not a great idea, in retrospect. For a start we were all a bit tired and/or drunk, and had been playing Wraith Night mode. So we were hardly in the right mindset. Our first game saw us battered, losing something like 56-11 in 30 minutes. The other guys’ Sand King was a powerhouse, double the level of some of us by the end of the game. The second game was looking better. Although we were behind on kills we were ahead on towers, and we were starting to pull things back in team fights. Inevitably though it all went to shit, we started to break up and attack piecemeal, and got whitewashed even worse than the first game.
It made me wonder out loud how the matchmaking works. To be beaten so badly twice in a row we were either really shit (more so than usual), or those guys were really good. It could very well be coincidence, but I’m not a huge believer in that. Another consideration is the level discrepancy between Roman and Bits at the top, and pretty much all of the rest of us. If the teams are weighted towards the best players then that could leave us facing opponents who are much better on average. It could also be because we’re playing as teams of five, and opponents who are similarly grouped probably take the game a lot more seriously than us. On the other hand it could be that because we play a lot of practice games amongst ourselves we’ve got into bad habits that go unpunished, so when we do play randoms we get punished all the more. The cynic in me wonders if some people create additional accounts with which to play low level games against newbies so that they can stroke their egos.
Whatever the reason, practice is the only way we’ll improve. Better teamwork, ironing out the bad habits. It’s not a big deal, we play it for fun so we’re not going to start planning training sessions and getting upset at each other, but it would be nice to win a game occasionally.