Aug 032011

The Brink DLC promised to us long ago that was originally supposed to arrive in June and be free forever, has finally been released.  The catch is, if you don’t download this DLC pack before August 17th, you’ll have to pay $10 for the content.  This may bring back some interest in a game that ran into some problems right out of the gate and then lost a large player base soon after.  One could argue that had this DLC hit sooner, it may have kept gamers interest longer, but now it may be a case of “too little too late” and with the free for a limited time shenanigans, I don’t see that helping matters.

Still, if you’ve invested in Brink and think you may want to play the game again at some point, stop and take a moment now and queue up your download for the content before it costs too much for you to even care about it.  Check out our original post on what the DLC includes here, then hit our Brink Wiki page for tweaks before taking on the obligatory Steam link here.  Console version owners, hit up your platform’s marketplace for the download.

May 242011

Last night Splash Damage posted a patch for the PC version which includes a fair number of bug fixes cleaning up many common issues with the game.  You can read the changelog here, although the three key ones that have plagued many users are:

  • Fixed sound dropping out when playing networked games
  • Improved graphical performance, especially when using Ambient Occlusion
  • Fixed memory leak/crash when alt-tabbed out

To extend the double meaning of this post title and to follow up my post last week, I can say that Brink does get better with time.  While I don’t think I ever found that “Eureka!” moment, after more time spent with the game and playing with friends, the game does start to click.  There is a bit of a learning curve to some of the game’s nuances, and unlocking abilities while leveling up your character improves the experience greatly.   Since the game does rely heavily on team play (arguably, even more so than say, BFBC2) online matches can vary wildly in quality depending on how adept your pub teammates are.  Brink does provide a nice change of pace from the latest round of cookie-cutter modern warfare shooters, and while it doesn’t get everything right, does a good enough job for those willing to stick around long enough to learn the ropes and find a groove.


May 202011

Brink has been out well over a week, and I’m still not sure what to make of it.  I’ve done some challenges, played a bit of the campaign modes and did some random online action and I’m still not sure how I feel about this game.  This is a bit strange for me.  Usually I have a fairly strong opinion of a game after several hours, but I’m having a hard time trying to figure out exactly what Brink is.

One thing I have learned is that you can essentially throw out all the single player and co-op stuff, if you want to call it that.  Bot matches in this game are completely unfulfilling, even after a recent patch that was said to “remove bot intelligence inhibitors.”  While the bots are aware of objectives, they seem to have zero concept in supporting those objectives — which, ya know, is kind of important in objective based games.  A strong argument could be made that the bots in UT2K4 are more intelligent than what we’re seeing in Brink 7 years later.

You’re probably yelling at the screen at this point, telling me that of course the bots are dumb, and the only way to play this game is with real people.  I’d easily agree with that.  My sticking point with the bots is that they seem to be such a large part of the game.  The game has essentially three modes: single player or “solo”, a co-op mode and internet “freeplay.”  Bots are prevalent in all three and required in two of them.  Join many freeplay servers that are less than full with real players, and it’s filled in with bots, which I wouldn’t have a problem with if they were just a bit less stupid.  One more reason why you can throw the co-op/private modes out: forget about trying to set up a peer-to-peer game with friends on the PC.  Obviously some people have gotten it to work, but suibhne and I wasted a good 20 minutes last night trying to get something other than a “server not responding” message before we gave up and played on a public server.

Now that I’ve gotten over my bot rage, the rest of the game seems ok, but for some reason it’s just not clicking with me yet.  I say “yet” because I keep feeling like I’m on the brink (sorry) of hitting that magical moment where it all comes together in perfect harmony for me.  All the multiplayer hallmarks are there; classes, character progression, unlockables galore and enough guns and weapons to keep it interesting.  However, I’d have to question some of the balance of the classes, since it feels like engineer and medic are really the only two classes that are worth playing regularly, unless a specific objective calls for something else.  The stunning amount of guns and attachments sounds great, but I find that without the help of the community, figuring out the strengths and weaknesses of some of these in game is virtually impossible.

On the positive side of things, I’ve grown to appreciate the parkour-style movement, and the way you can smoothly navigate some obstacles works surprisingly well.  I haven’t felt this nimble in a FPS multiplayer game since probably UT2k4. Graphically the game looks as good as any other current mp games and the game engine allows for ample tweaking which bucks the trend of locking everything down.  Check out our wiki page for some common tips.  Also the game has Splash Damage’s traditionally great long term support behind it, so Brink does have a lot going for it.

Brink really does have great potential that’s just beyond my grasp at this point.  The fact that it hasn’t “clicked” for me just yet but I want to keep trying it has to mean something, right?  It’s like a meal that’s been simmering on the stove all day that’s missing that one ingredient to bring it all together.  I’m hoping to find that spice soon with some more game play time.

May 122011

So hey, the game’s out.

Reviews since the Tuesday launch have been a mixed bag. Joystiq excoriated the game with a 2/5, while other outlets have gone up to 8/10 and 88/100. Ars Technica went so far as to explain why it won’t be reviewing the game until the messy launch is sorted out. What’s a gamer to do?

I’ve dropped an hour or two in the Challenge modes, solo. It took about that long to unlock everything available through the Challenges (which is mostly weapons and attachments; character skills are unlocked by leveling up), and many reviews have criticized the game for this ease of getting new stuff. (Just fyi, I narrowly avoided a “Master of Unlocking” reference there.) Reviews have also opined that you can reach the maximum level with your character in just a handful of additional hours.

On both of these counts, I think reviewers are spectacularly missing the point. Brink doesn’t try to offer a 75-level drip-feed of character progression, unlike the current vogue among the CoD-alikes (plus BC2) which dominate the shooter market. It wants you to unlock (almost) everything quickly, then just play the game. If anything, Brink fails by not clarifying its distinct approach in a crowded market.

Splash Damage spokespeople also encouraged people to get the wrong idea about the game when they talked about the “seamless” integration of the competitive multiplayer, cooperative multiplayer, and single-player modes. Just like TF2, this is a class-based, objective-based multiplayer game – full stop. If you’re looking for a single-player experience, move along. Nothing to see here.

Brink is hurt by an overall lack of polish, too, but you can get that story elsewhere. Some reviews might be missing the point of the game, for better or worse, but they’re accurately tallying many of its technical shortcomings. The good news is, Splash Damage has a consistent history of providing responsive, long-term support for its games and has already issued two quick patches for the PC version – within two days of the game’s North American release, and before it even unlocks in Europe.

I haven’t played the game online yet, and I’ll be out of town for the next few days. Funkmaster will also be installing Brink next week, so we’ll have more in-depth impressions later. At the moment, the most I can say is that the game might become something great – and if it fails, it’ll be an interesting failure. I can’t predict which of those paths it will take.

In the meantime, I’ve started a new wiki page for the game, covering some important details about configuring the PC version for the best Brink experience possible. Check it out.