Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 Year-End Recap

It's New Year's Eve, and time to take a look back at 2009. This year, I finished 19 games or stand-alone campaigns within games, which I also count:

Diablo II: Lord of Destruction
Metroid Fusion
Gears of War (Hardcore)
Peggle Extreme
Starcraft (Terran)
Grand Theft Auto IV
Half-Life: Source
Peggle Deluxe
Oblivion (Dark Brotherhood)
Oblivion (Knights of the Nine)
Red Faction: Guerilla
Mass Effect
Uncharted: Drake's Fortune
Halo 3: ODST

While hardly anything to sneeze at, this is down from my total of 26 for 2008 (15 for 2007), and I should really pick up the pace to keep up with the obscene amount of games I've purchased (or received as gifts) over 2009.

It's been a crazy, insane year for games, adding a couple of platforms and the huge amount of awesome deals available over Steam, in particular. Just today I bought 3 more games for well under $10 each. This brings my purchased list to a grand total of 59! As I move most of them to the newly updated Pile of Shame, I can see I have quite a year ahead of me for 2010. To help thinning out the pile, I've instituted my new one-in, one-out policy. That is, if I want to buy a new game that costs more than $10, I need to have finished a game recently. This should help save money, too. So as it stands right now, I need to finish something before my next purchase, likely Mass Effect 2.

I'm in the middle of about 20 different games right now, so it shouldn't be too much of a stretch. Since coming to Arkansas and New Mexico for the holidays, I've played a little bit of Torment, just trying to get it to work on my parents' PC. It kept crashing anytime I'd enter any place where it was possible to rest, so I didn't get far. I'll have to pick it up from where I left off at home.

I brought along my Mac and DS, but oddly enough I've only been using the latter. I started on Metroid: Zero Mission and Final Fantasy IV (the DS remake). Both are (relatively) modernized versions of classics that I loved growing up. Metroid is made easier by the inclusion of a wider move set and an auto-map, while FF IV is substantially more challenging than the neutered version us Americans originally got as Final Fantasy II on the SNES. It's apparently even harder than the original, putting it more in the realm of something like Etrian Odyssey or Shin Megami Tensei.

Yeah, it's going to be a busy 2010. Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Embark: Holiday 2009 & Games Of The Year

I was just packing things for the annual pilgrimage to see family around the Christmas holiday. Not games; I've not yet completely decided what I'm going to take. I'm tempted to try installing Planescape: Torment on my wife's shitty old laptop just to be able to take that with me. I don't have any sort of Windows virtual machine on my MacBook, unfortunately. I am bringing the game files and my saves with me on a USB HDD, on the off chance that my parents' old-by-2002-standards machine can be coaxed into running it. I think it just may.

I've been playing a lot of Torment lately, and I'm still in Sigil, the starting city, though I've got four members in my party now, and will probably soon recruit a fifth. The writing in this game is remarkable, and the way it parcels out the background of The Nameless One irresistibly compelling.

Aside from the aforementioned epic, which roots me to my chair for three to eight-hour stretches, I've done some dabbling this week with Red Faction: Guerilla multiplayer, enticed by a 5x (!) XP period, and Torchlight, goaded by the game's new Steamworks and Steam Achievement integration. I also was forced to rush out to Best Buy this weekend to pick up the Metroid Prime Trilogy on Wii for the insane bargain price of $20. It's a hell of a package to begin with, and that good of a deal made me turn in my Borderlands completion token to get it. Now I'll need to complete something else (Torment, maybe) before Mass Effect 2 arrives on January 26th.

At first the Trilogy disc wouldn't load up on my Wii, and I was afraid I'd gotten one of the bum one that has trouble reading dual-layer DVDs, but after a couple of tries it booted up. It was probably just the fact that I hadn't turned on the Wii since whenever I posted about the Legend of Zelda. I actually had to replace the AA's in the wiimote, which is a regular occurrence when I go to get my waggle on. I played through Metroid Prime 1 when it came out on the gamecube, (but never touched either of the other games in the series), so I thought I probably wouldn't replay the entire thing, but that it'd be a good place to jump into to test out the new Wii motion-control scheme. It takes some getting used to, but by the end of the intro space station segment and descent to the planet the game takes place on, I had more or less become accustomed to it, and I actually quite like it. Swapping of visors could maybe done a better way, but it's not hard to come to the conclusion that given time and evolution, such a control scheme could obsolete the twin-stick method--which is really not that great to begin with, merely the best we have at the moment.

Starting up Metroid Prime 1 again, though,... I don't know... I might want to replay the damned thing. It's probably a bad idea; I should probably just move on to the second game in the series whenever I feel like playing it after the holidays.

This week also happens to be a week of Pure White World Tendency for the Demon's Souls universe, so I took the opportunity to jump into 1-1 to go to the execution grounds to the left of the beginning area and kill Miralda and collect some loot. While crawling around the Boletarian Palace now at soul level high 30's, I decided to pay our old friend Red Knight a visit and kill him. It was an especially sweet victory. From there I moved on back to 2-2, the level I have been working on, and got summoned as a blue phantom to someone else's world and shown the way to the boss, Flamelurker, and how to fight him. We killed him and I won my body back and then promptly went and fought him with my own summoned companion.

I wouldn't have won that battle alone, at least not without several attempts under my belt. My companion and I kept trading hate back and forth, attracting the beast this way and that, taking advantage of backstab opportunities as they came, using almost MMO-like tactics. What an awesome game. I think it's safe to call it my Game Of The Year 2009, and since I'm going to go ahead and name it, why waste time? I'll lay it out here:

My 2009 GOTY: Demon's Souls

Runner-Up: Red Faction: Guerilla

See the posts I've made about each game for my reasons why. There are a whole host of 2009 games I haven't even touched, but if I can't be compelled enough to buy and play them, then they don't deserve a spot in the running, then, do they? Similarly, there are some outstanding games I played in 2009 (Far Cry 2, Torment to name a couple) that, were they 2009 games, might belong in one of those spots, but alas; they aren't. I would like to give a shout-out to a few honorable mentions that were just edged out of the Runner-Up spot, though: Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II, Demigod, and Torchlight.

For those keeping track:
2007 GOTY: Bioshock, Runner-Up: Halo 3
2008 GOTY: Metal Gear Solid 4, Runner-Up: Gears of War 2

I guess I really like to shoot/slice stuff?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Onward, To A Lean 2010

Here's to thinning out the pack and adding onto it as little as possible in the coming year. 2009 has been nuts, but I think I'm just about caught up to where I need to be (for now) in terms of looking backward. There are plenty of games of '08 and '09 that I haven't even gotten around to picking up yet, but until I finish off some of what I've already bitten off, their status is iffy (Dead Space, Batman, Mirror's Edge, et. al). There are others I will definitely get (Uncharted 2, Assassin's Creed 2), but those too will have to wait.

I've got one completion in the bank as of now (Borderlands) and that's going to buy me Mass Effect 2, I think. If I can manage to knock off some more of the games I'm halfway into (Yakuza 2 is a prime candidate), then I'll start thinking about others.

Meanwhile, I've been distracted by Demon's Souls and Planescape: Torment, and there is little chance I'll be finishing either of those anytime soon. I follow my heart, though. If I feel like dropping a weekend into WoW in the middle of the Fall release feces tornado, then by the Great Old Ones, I shall.

P.S. Far Cry 2

Friday, December 4, 2009


Lonesteban and mine's Internet radio spectacular, Call Of Podcast, is off to a running start. I got a website up this week to host it upon, and I got the RSS feed working through iTunes, as well. We're due to record episode 12 tonight sometime. It's a lot of time and work (and a little money) to put together and present a show, but it's a lot of fun, too, and cool to have a body of "work" to look back on later. I've been dealing with getting that set up and sorted out a lot this week.

The average time to produce and post an episode is probably 4-5 hours, you can figure 2 hours to record, including the pre and post-show chatter, and then 2-3 hours later of playback and editing and processing and posting. There's very little prep or organization that goes into it so far, just a little reading of the news throughout the week (we'd do that anyway). We like to keep it kind of fast and loose, like a real conversation. I listen to a ton of podcasts, and I like most the ones with the least rigid structure.

As a side note, I have feeds to let me know when there are comments on this site or the one hosting the podcast, so either of these places or twitter is a great place to comment or submit questions and the like.

As far as gaming over the last week or so, I've been mostly focusing on two titles, with a tad of Killzone 2 multiplayer thrown in (I just unlocked the medic class for play).

The first of the games I've been working on this week is Demon's Souls. This is a fantastic game. I had it waiting for me here when I arrived back from my recent trip to Japan, and I've spent maybe 12 hours with it so far. It only took a couple to finish 1-1, the first level of the Boletarian Palace, but then I spent probably 3 or 4 times that amount of time playing in 4-1, the Shrine of Storms, playing co-op with other players (visiting their games as a blue phantom) and leveling up so that finally I was able to completely loot the level and kill the demon boss. Later I went back and played through 2-1, in Stonefang Tunnel, in just one sitting and only dying one time, with the help of my own summoned blue phantom, and a well-placed message on the ground in the boss' chamber.

Refer back to a post I made about the original Diablo for more of why I like Demon's Souls so much. The dark, Gothic fantasy, the great music, and the very cool art direction are all a large part of it, but there's also the fact that in this game, there is no cannon fodder. There are no trash mobs. Anything can kill you, and most of the time within two or three strikes, and often enough with just one. Additionally, death means something, and on more than one level. One death, and you go from your physical form to your soul form, losing the ability to summon phantoms for help as well as losing half of your maximum HP, and that's not to mention all the souls you've gained and have on you at the time. Subsequent deaths will just cost you any souls you have accrued since your last (though you can get them back, if you play well enough), but death also puts you back at the beginning of a level with everything in that level respawned.

It sounds punishing and Draconian, and it can feel that way, for sure, but it very rarely feels unfair. The game is very friendly to the methodical player, and very unfriendly to those who would rush in headlong, throwing caution to the wind. There are some skeleton knights at the beginning of level 4-1 that are incredibly tough when you initially encounter them. They come rolling at you and attack very quickly, and can be your death before you know what's going on, at first. But then, after a while, through death and trial and error, you learn how they move, and when they are vulnerable. I rock through them without a second thought now. I've been through that section of 4-1 probably 50 times, and I enjoy encountering them, now.

My other focus this week has been Borderlands. I'm trying to finish it off. It's been too long since I completed something, and I've got a ton more to move on to, as well. A user-created app I downloaded fixes a lot of the gripes I have with the PC rush-job port (which is what it feels like), but aside from that, this game needs help with story and quest direction. Both are pretty uninteresting, and the world is basically one big brown junkyard. It's a good thing the shooting mechanics and crazy loot and off-the-wall guns are so much fun. And I should emphasize how much fun they are, because were it not for them, I'd have given this thing up for the midden heap long ago, but I'm really enjoying my playtime with it.

I haven't done much co-op of the game because A) I don't want to mess around trying to get it to work on GameSpy's shit and B) I kinda prefer to play solo and at my own pace, though with as throwaway as the questlines and story are in the game, I'd hardly be missing anything if I rushed through with some other people. I should probably give it more of a go...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Year In Review Preview

Just a cursory glance at the sidebar of this blog will tell all about how promiscuous I've been with gaming this year. A lot of that can be chalked up to getting two new platforms with copious amounts of cheap games available (iphone and PC). I love to try new things, and I love a good bargain. It's time to clamp down, though.

I made a change in my life with the new year 2009 (stopped drinking soda), and that has been a huge success. I've had one soda all year, and that was part of a root beer float at a dairy factory, so it could hardly have been avoided. I've been trying to think of another change for the new year 2010, and I thought about cutting back on junk food or resolving to write more or exercise more, but now I'm thinking why not also/instead cut back spending on games? I've made a real effort to spend less all year, but even so I was at over $600 at last count, and I'm probably closer to $1000, now (and that's not counting this expensive PC). I'll try to figure it up at the end of December.

What I'm thinking of doing is instituting a strict one completion, one purchase policy going forward. I could set it in stone, but then I'd have to bank completions in case there was an awesome bargain on Steam or something else came up. I might allow for exceptions here and there, just in case. Maybe for now I'll try to stick as closely to the letter of the resolution as possible, and we'll see how it goes. I'm going to go ahead and start this now ahead of the new year and see what happens.

I currently really want/plan to buy Dragon Age, Assassin's Creed 2, and Mass Effect 2, among several other lower priority games. ME2 is the only one I have to have day one, though. That means I need to complete and/or wring all I care to out of 1-3 games in the next couple of months. Can I do it? I'm in the middle of Yakuza 2 and Starcraft, and in various states of completion of Far Cry 2, Torchlight, Borderlands, Twilight Princess, Final Fantasy II, Dawn of War II, Oblivion, Fallout, Morrowind, and Titan Quest, and that's just to name a few recent ones! I've also just begun Demon's Souls. Can it be done? We'll see...

Update: Ok, it's obvious that there needs to be some provision here for games under $5 or $10. I just bought KOTOR on Steam for $2.49. There was no way I could pass that up.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Weekend In Tokyo

Upon arrival to Tokyo this past Friday night, I made my way from Narita airport outside the city into Shibuya, the very belly of the beast. Lonesteban and I met up at the well-known local meeting spot, a statue of a dog named Hachiko just outside of Shibuya station. We were soon joined by another American expatriate, Seth, AKA Thrakhath. The three of us found our way to an izakaya not far away and I was regaled with many tales of wonder from the inside of a Japanese game developer and publisher. From there we headed over to a Segafredo cafe and recorded Call of Podcast #10. Much about gaming was discussed.

That night, and a good part of the next day, Lonesteban and I hung out around his place playing Demon's Souls, passing the controller back and forth and trying to figure out why we kept getting our asses handed to us by a merciless spear-carrying knight with red eyes. Red Knight, as we dubbed our chief adversary, is apparently not meant to be fought the first time the player traverses level 1-1, the Boletarian Palace. In the end we were able to exploit some geometry in the environment to cause Red Knight to fall to his death from the top of a long spiral staircase. We must have spent 6 hours or more cooperatively gaming on Demon's Souls, and insanely difficult as it was, we were heartily enjoying ourselves. We wondered aloud several times whether the game would be as fun played solo, and I'm willing to bet that it would not be, but nevertheless, I can't wait to get home and pick up a copy for myself and flagellate myself with it. I won't play as a Knight like Lonesteban and I began, I'm leaning more toward the Wanderer class that wields what looks to be a falchion according to the manual and strategy guide. I wonder if I might still be able to find a copy of the collector's edition of the game with the soundtrack, strategy guide, and artbook.

That night the two of us headed out on the town to meet up with Cheapy D of Cheap Ass Gamer and CAGcast fame, and his wife. Lonesteban befriended him some time earlier at some sort of industry event, as far as I know. I'd met Cheapy once before at PAX 2008, but I didn't bother bringing that up, since there's no way he'd have remembered. He's a really nice guy, and just as funny and genial in person as he is on his podcast (which has like 13,000 times as many listeners as we get, incidentally). We went out for Tempura at a well-regarded place in Shinjuku, and then went for some karaoke after that. A fun time was had by all. Oh, and if you're reading this Cheapy, thanks again for coming out (not to mention picking up the tab--you didn't have to do that)!

After a while we Lonesteban and I headed back to his place, where I got in some time with Guitar Hero Metallica. It was about what you'd expect. I probably won't be picking that up unless it's on sale for $10 somewhere. Rock Band 2 pretty much finished the music genre for me. I can't really imagine needing much else unless it's another usability upgrade like with RB to RB2. I did find a cheap copy of Killzone 2 in a store near Lonesteban's pad, though. The American version, no less.

The next day it was time to leave Tokyo behind and head over into Kansai, where my in-laws live. I played a bit of Hero of Sparta, a God of War clone on my iphone, and in between sightseeing and meeting up with family here, I've started the Zerg campaign in Starcraft. My brother in law Jeff (Indonesian, married to my wife's sister, living here in Japan), is the guy who got me into WoW, and has himself recently returned to the game after a long hiatus. We had a good discussion about the modern endgame and gaming in general. And apparently, my six-year-old niece plays Street Fighter 4.

The Week Leading Up To Coming To Japan

The week of the 5th-12th of this month was fairly uneventful as far as gaming. I spent more time plowing through the latest Wheel of Time book and going out with co-workers for drinks (and catching Zombieland) than anything. The time I did get to game out was mostly spent on Torchlight and Borderlands, with a little Dawn of War II thrown in. A good portion of that was spent trying to figure out why Borderlands always crashes my machine upon exiting the game. My conclusion is just that it's a slapdash console port and my computer takes personal offense at having to run the game. It chokes the game down for about as long as I demand, only to purge at the first possible moment. Luckily, it seems to like the other games I've been running.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Crazy- Ass PC Loot Game Rampage

I'm living single for a couple of weeks since the wife has headed over to Japan ahead of myself to spend some time with friends and family. In the meantime, I've been reading a hell of a lot of The Gathering Storm, the new Wheel of Time book, and I've been playing a hell of a lot of some recent PC purchases.

Torchlight is just about perfect. It's a game very much in the Diablo tradition, and indeed made by a lot of the people behind the Diablo series, formerly of Blizzard North. It's a great refinement of the genre, and it's effortless to sit down and waste a couple of hours with the game. I'm playing a dual-pistol-wielding vanquisher with a trick-shot like ricochet ability, and having my pet concentrate on keeping enemies' attention while I blast them from range. The story is paper-thin, and it's single player only, but a game with this level of playability for $20 is madness.

Borderlands is often summed up as Diablo, but with guns. I'd just add that it's done in a brown GWAR junkyard setting. It's a pretty fun game, but the PC version has a lot of things that piss me off. It's just a straight case of shoehorning the console version onto a PC, with just about nothing added but enhanced graphics settings and mouse controls. The UI is atrocious, and the P2P networking over Gamespy is gutter trash. Despite these failings, I've spent like 10 hours playing the game, already. With a patch (or some tweaks I could pull off myself in the config files) the game could be something great. Go the extra mile, developers. You just look bad when you pull this shit.

Dawn of War II is a novel mix of RTS and Diabalike game conventions. It's the tactical gameplay of one with the more intimate scope and character and gear progression of the other. It's great, so far. I like the crazy Warhammer 40,000 universe it's set in, too. So far I've done 6-7 missions of the campaign, a match of the more traditional, base-builder RTS multiplayer, and several games of The Last Stand, which is the Horde/Firefight/survival mode done in DoW II. Very cool, so far.

Yakuza 2 has kind of fallen by the wayside for now, with me about halfway or more through it. I'm at a decent break point, though, and I'll probably be back at it either once I finish this book or once I'm back from Japan around Thanksgiving.

Modern Warfare 2 PC - A Bad Deal

Image is courtesy of Puck at NeoGAF.

Q Is there a console in the PC version of the game, so we can change our field of view from the xbox's default 65 FOV to 80 also can we tweaks the weapon damage for each gun, removes perks, graphical debris, breathing sway, also thru console like we where able to before or is this all gone?

A We would like you to play the game the way we designed and balanced it. - Vince-IW
I can't recall ever seeing such a hilariously awful and fucked up handling of a game. I thought that TF2 on 360 was handled terribly, but at least it was part of an incredibly awesome package deal in The Orange Box. This is really disappointing.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Two New Contenders Enter The Ring

The Royal Rumble of my gaming time continues to get more and more packed. Borderlands and Torchlight come available this week on Steam, and I'm looking forward to playing both.

The last couple of weeks have actually been pretty sparse in terms of gaming. I played a few hours of Dawn of War II two weekends ago, and had a couple of sessions of Firefight, both times teamed up with one other, played just a bit of Yakuza 2, a little TF2 here and there, and a few minutes each of Rock Band and Red Faction: Guerilla, showing a friend how awesome it is. Oh, and there were two post-podcast sessions of Demigod, too.

It's been so light due to being sick, tired, busy, and spending time watching movies and reading. I'm reading Halo: The Fall of Reach at the moment. It's pretty good for a book based on a video game universe! Three of the existing 6 Halo books are by this author, so I'm pretty sure those at least will be worthwhile, too. The two Mass Effect novels I read were decent, but I'd say this is a little better. I was kind of worried that delving too much into the fiction would ruin my 'blank slate' picture of the Chief, and I guess that has been supplanted somewhat, but I'm not exactly put off by what the novel has presented.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Games I Can't Afford

This Fall is, like any Fall, nuts for games. Bear with me while I think this through...

  1. Batman - waiting for price drop
  2. ODST - bought
  3. Demon's Souls - price drop
  4. Brutal Legend - price drop
  5. Uncharted 2 - waiting for price drop/later
  6. Borderlands - bought
  7. Torchlight - bought
  8. Dragon Age - later
  9. Fallout 3 GOTY Edition - later
  10. Modern Warfare 2 - price drop/later
  11. Assassin's Creed 2 - price drop
  12. Left 4 Dead 2 - inevitable Steam price drop
I think that covers about all I'm interested in this Fall. There are still a ton of other games that have already come out this year that I want, though, like Killzone 2, Dawn of War II, Shadow Complex, and many more.

I've also got to work out the games I'm going to be playing. I've got a huge buffet of games that I've stepped into and are awaiting my return. I'm concentrating on Yakuza 2 at the moment, but I've got to figure out what's going to be next once I'm done with it. Maybe Starcraft is a good choice, especially when I'm in Japan next month.

Update: Well, it looks like I'm picking up Dawn of War II for $20 on Steam today in a half-off sale.

Update 2: Decided to pull the trigger on Borderlands and Torchlight via Steam sales and positive word of mouth.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Gutter Japanese Is Hard To Parse (Namen-ja ne yo!!)

I've dug several hours into Yakuza 2, the final untouched PS2 game in my collection. It's a step up from the original in several respects, not the least of which is the simple subtitling of the game's original Japanese voice-acting. The VA in Yakuza, the first, was done very well, but even so ended up an overall subtraction from the game's unique Japanese flavor. It may not matter to some who don't speak the language, but plenty of people find the presence of the VA (and script) that the game was designed around makes for a purer experience.

I'm enjoying it quite a bit so far, and more than I expected to, the mechanics and visuals being dated and clumsy as they are. My Japanese is far from native, but also far from a beginner's. Still, I have a lot of trouble trying to go just off the VA alone, especially when it's some gutter chinpira trash hurling insults, a Yakuza boss making proclamations, or a gruff police detective dropping technical terms all over the place. I can usually understand the female characters, though. Funny how that works, all things considered.

I've been back to Halo: the ODST campaign to mop up a couple of achievements, versus multiplayer, and a couple of solo attempts at Firefight. I'd rank the quality of my experiences in that exact order, actually. The lack of matchmaking in Firefight is pretty crippling to it's accessibility. What a shame that is. It seems like it would be a blast with a good group.

Another game I just keeping going back to is Geometry Wars. I've got a few pesky friends who keep beating my high score, and some straggler achievements that I would love to earn, but the game foils me at every turn. What a great game, though. Definitely in the top echelon of download-able games, indeed all games, this console cycle.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Loss For Words

I know what you're thinking. It's about time, right? I ramble on for paragraphs at a time here every week with impressions and stories of the games I've been playing, and now all of the sudden I have nothing to say? Well, you can thank the podcast I've started doing with Lonesteban, which you can find here: and here:

Now, an annotated pictorial:

I finished my Heroic playthrough of the Halo 3 ODST campaign, and I really enjoyed it. Next I need to try Firefight.

500 Wii Points I had otherwise collecting digital dust went toward a VC Legend of Zelda. This classic still holds up remarkably well, and the master quest is still hard as a diamond.

This is my character in Titan Quest, Yorthagonus, seeking an audience with the Spartan king Leonidas. I have to go kill a satyr or something first.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

That's A Lotta Games

Just since the my last post, I have picked up Bioshock, The Chronicles of Riddick, Titan Quest, Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain and Halo 3 ODST. Granted, the first three of those were only $5 each (and Bioshock was a double-dip just for the sake of having it on PC), but my stock of games is getting large. I wasn't able to hold off on Halo 3 ODST, being a both big fan of the series and genuinely interested in this slightly different take.

Perhaps the three aforementioned $5 PC titles harshen the perspective, but ODST is, by all accounts, not the value proposition it could be at $59.99. I bought it anyway, since the conception of the game I had in mind was, ultimately, worth my $59.99. Did I mention how big a fan I am of Halo? I've only spent an hour or so with the game so far, so we'll see where I come down on this one in the end. In the worst case scenario, it's probably one "for fans only."

I'm struggling to remember much that I've been playing over the past few days. World of Warcraft comes to mind. I must have sunk a couple of hours in, since I'm sitting at level 65 now.

There was a level of Pixel Junk Eden I played through and got another "spectra." That game is great just for the visuals and music, putting aside the fun and unique play it offers.

Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain was released on PSN for $6 last week, and 12 years of curiosity finally overcame me. It's a top-down isometric action adventure, just like I thought. Its pretty fugly by today's standards, too. Graphics from this era in particular just do not hold up the least bit. 2D games from years prior still look great, though--see A Link to the Past, Secret of Mana, etc. Otherwise, after an hour or so, it seems pretty competent if not great, and the plot is halfway intriguing. So, all in all, it's not bad for it's time, I guess.

Finally, STALKER. I spent more time modding it this week than actually playing it. A bit of searching around led me to a mod called STALKER Complete 2009, which basically takes the existing game and makes it look 10 times as nice and makes some nice changes to fix niggling little things that bothered players in the original version of the game. Almost nothing game mechanic-wise is messed with, so the game retains it's unique air.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

I Am A PC Zombie (The Chair Is Cast In The Shape Of My Ass)

I kicked off last weekend with a few rounds of Left4Dead, which I have played remarkably little of, actually. I played the No Mercy campaign co-op with a friend on their 360 once, but aside from that and some brief messing around on my PC copy just to see what it was all about, I haven't devoted almost any time to the game. I'm an antisocial hermit in the habit of playing multi-player games alone (see WoW and Demigod), so of course I started to play through the Death Toll campaign alone before being joined by a friend for a few minutes before having to quit out for dinner that night. I need to at least get through all of the campaigns once.

I spent the rest of the weekend playing WoW and Demigod. My Orc warrior is at level 64 and a half, currently, and I've pretty much exhausted Hellfire Peninsula of quests I can handle on my own (and a few of the group ones, even). I've moved into Zangarmarsh, but I'm not sure how long I should stay. At the rate I'm going, I'll hit 70 before really experiencing more than 3 of the zones in Outland, and then need to move on to Northrend. I guess that's a good thing, though, especially if I end up playing more characters through these levels.

After getting the hang of Demigod, I bumped the difficulty up to normal and played a single-player tournament of 8 games with the Rook. I won all 8 with minimal trouble, so from there I decided to bump it up to hard and my first few games have been a good deal more difficult since. I'm currently 2 games into another tournament, having won both through my own sheer persistence as a building demolisher and portal captor. My AI teammates have been made of fail in hard mode, so far. Like, remarkably stupider than the AIs on the opposing teams. I guess the difficulty level is affected in the form of stupifying your teammates. The game is an absolute blast, though, still--even with me continuing to play the same Demigod the entire time. There is an untold amount of depth to the game, and multiple layers of strategy to explore in every match. What battle tactics do you use, what skill trees do you follow, what items and armor do you purchase, what team enhancements do you purhcase, and how do you balance spending between yourself and the team as a whole? Every match plays out in an entirely different manner.

What do you get when you take a A Link to the Past and World of Warcraft and combine them into an iphone game? Zenonia. I've spent some more time with it this week, and if you like those two great flavors, then you'll like the combination, as long as you can deal with the JRPG-ish cheese in the characters and story, anyway.

Direct2Drive is having a huge sale this month with PC games heavily discounted. I bought Civilization IV, Thief: Deadly Shadows, and Ess Tee Ay El Kay Eee Arr all for $5 each. Civ 4 makes me go WTF and want to try the tutorial, Thief isn't Vista compatible (I wish I had noticed that small text before purchasing), and S.T.A.L.K.E.R., after only 20 minutes or so, I can tell is going to be A.W.E.S.O.M.E. I'll be writing more about this one soon, count on it.

Finally, Lonesteban and I recorded a podcast of about an hour of us shooting the shit about gaming and other cool stuff. It doesn't have a name yet, and it's not currently available except by email, but if it continues, there should eventually be a site where it's hosted and an RSS feed and all that stuff. If any of you 3 people reading this are interested, leave me a comment or something and I can probably send you a copy.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Treasures of the Digital Ether

Among a rich pastiche of games I've played recently, a few stick out.

I completed Uncharted last Friday night, after only my third of fourth session playing the game. It's not terribly long. It's not terribly impressive, either. I enjoyed it--in fact it was hard to put down since the pacing was so well done and just continually drew me further on, but there's nothing really new or original here, and everything it does has been done better in games like Ico, Prince of Persia, and Gears of War.

Where Uncharted does stand out, though, is in it's characters and the acting, as well as the graphics and sound. The game is presented really, really well. It's just that what's being presented is rather unremarkable--an action-heavy, puzzle-light, pulpy treasure hunter adventure tale a la Indiana Jones, Tomb Raider, et al. Compounding the issue is that there is no real incentive to replay the game other than to earn all the trophies available. I hate to say it, but this is a rental, folks. I guess now I see why they decided to add multiplayer to the sequel--to give it some staying power and keep the discs in players hands and off Gamestop store shelves.

Good Old Games was having a really nice sale last week, and so I picked up Fallout and Fallout 2 for a total of $6. I spent a couple of hours with the original this week, at first trying to figure out how to play it, and then getting my first adventure started once I had somewhat gotten the hang of it. I have 150 in-game days in which to find the water chip the people in Vault 13 need in order to continue their sheltered lives, but so far I've only made it to a wasteland village and killed some rad-scorpions for it's denizens, befriending a Mad Max lookalike along the way. The whole post-apocalyptic milieu is still pretty fresh to me, and I'm looking forward to seeing where this game goes. It's a long road to me playing Fallout 3, yet.

Then, for Labor Day, Impulse was having a nice sale, and for $20 each, I picked up Demigod (pictured) and Sins of a Solar Empire, two PC games I had been interested in for a while. I haven't tried Sins yet, but Demigod is huge amounts of fun. It's a multiplayer, team-based rts/rpg hybrid based on the popular Warcraft III modification Defense of the Ancients. Each player controls one character (a demigod) who is basically either a lone titan or leader of a small squad, and with the help of many, many computer-controlled henchmen and grunts tries to capture various flags around the arena and finally destroy the enemy team's citadel, though there are other game types involving killing enemy demigods or keeping control of some amount of flags for some time period.

I had never played DotA or any other game like this (there are a few out there these days) before Demigod, so at first I didn't really know what was going on, but I am familiar enough with a lot of the game's individual mechanics to work out how they come together here. So far I've just been playing with AI teammates against a team of easy/normal AIs, familiarizing myself with all the arenas and my first character, The Rook. He is a castle keep come to life, capable of demolishing enemy buildings and raising allied ones, sapping life from structures, and doing massive damage with his huge hammer. He can also build independently aiming archers, lasers, and ballistas on the tops of the towers on his shoulders, and roll boulders into and over enemy troops.

I can't wait to play more Demigod, and maybe eventually I'll go online and play with human opponents, but more likely I'll just play against AIs until I can beat them on the toughest difficulty settings. It's just faster and easier to get in and get out of a game and not worry about quitting or living up to some random asshole's idea of what teammate should be doing.

I finished Colony Wars this weekend, too. Sorta. The game has 5 or 6 endings, and I made it to my second. The first time I every played Colony Wars was on an Official Playstation Magazine demo disc twelve years ago. I loved it, but never got around to buying the full game. Until just last year, that is, and so here I am now playing it. The funny thing is, I can't see where, on consoles at least, that the series has been bettered for space dog-fighting. Games in this genre are really rare these days, and not just on consoles.

Finally, I played a little bit of WoW this past week, going back to my warrior to try to get deeper into the Burning Crusade content. My buddy that is going to play an ally character alongside my new paladin (now 15) needs to re-subscribe and get caught up, so in the meantime I'm working on my main. Eventually I'll hit 70 and go pick up Wrath of the Lich King, and then I'll probably end up creating a Death Knight, at least just to play through their starting scenario.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Been Pretty Busy

Time just seems to fly by these days, such that I've let a couple of days go by meaning to write this post and never getting around to it. Time is precious, so I'll be quick about it.

I mentioned wanting to go back into Mass Effect last week, and I did so, and spent one evening doing pointless sidequests, and was done with it. Five or six uncharted worlds in one session will do that to you. I still want to go back and replay the game, but sometime later.

I re-upped my subscription to WoW as well, having caught a craving to start an alliance toon--a Draenei paladin. She sits at level 15, currently. I'm enjoying the Draenei starting area, and I look forward to seeing more Alliance-oriented zones before the looming Cataclysm.

Kind of on a whim, I started Uncharted this weekend. It's pretty good, so far, I have to say. I'm at 51% completion according to my save data. I've been playing for no more than 3-4 hours, so that strikes me as a little short, but we'll see. I've been enjoying it, but it hasn't totally rocked my world. I'm most impressed with the enemy AI, and the truly limited ammo supplies that keep me constantly changing weapons. The goons can kind of take a lot of rounds to go down, but
when I think about it, so do the locust in Gears of War, and these guys are more interesting to fight, for the most part. We'll see how this one develops.

In between all that, at strategic times and in discrete locations, I've been playing a lot of Drop7 on my iphone. Hardcore mode, to be precise. Great game, well worth checking out.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Don't Stop Till You Get Enough

I've been going absolutely nuts for role-playing games recently. Almost every game I played over the past week has been one sort of stat grinder.

The first couple of nights last week I spent finishing up Mass Effect. I went through this whole huge rigmarole required to download the Bring Down The Sky DLC, and then off-handedly decided to forgo actually playing it and instead returned to the main storyline and followed that to it's conclusion. I stayed in character as much as possible, finishing up as a truly ruthless renegade. Overall, I thought it was a fantastic game, a solid A in my book.

I'm now faced with the choice of going back and trying to get more achievements and finish more side stuff on the same character, or playing through fresh on another character, presumably with the benefits afforded by the achievements I got on my first playthrough. I may have already bungled the Ally achievements applicable to this playthrough (Liara and Ashley), so maybe I should let go and start my paragon playthrough next, though I kind of want to go tooling around some uncharted worlds without sitting through 2-3 hours of citadel stuff first.

For a long, long while I've had a couple of little sticks stuck in the mud of my mind, both games I purchased a long, long time ago, and was either never able to get into or never able to make run on the weak laptop that I had before my current gaming PC. They are Icewind Dale and The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. I dug out the discs for both of them this week, and got them both installed and got a bunch of characters rolled up and introductory bits completed, so that now I sit with fresh characters and open roads ahead of me on both games. The two coalesce in my mind into the gaping entrance to a cavern where many, many hours can be lost, and I hesitate to put my foot forward into it, but feel drawn in all the same.

These two games, along with Diablo II, have put me in a spot where I'm playing a lot of old-looking PC games, and knowing what sort of stuff there is out there, I got to looking, and I found mods for Morrowind and Diablo II that let me up the resolution of both games and play them in widescreen. I'm running D2 (single player, not on, which doesn't allow the mod) in 720p widescreen, which I found to be the best in terms of looks and visibility. If you take it to 1080p, items and text are just too tiny for comfort. It's a damned gorgeous game in 720p, though. The 2D art holds up really well. Morrowind mainly just benefits from being in widescreen and taking up the entirety of my 22" monitor, being a 3D game. I'm running it in some crazy thing like 20xx by 1xxx, I don't even know what, but it looks good.

Getting D2 up in such a good-looking fashion prompted me to start another character, since I didn't have any offline previously, and so I did a redux on my Paladin, centering him around the skill Zeal for maximum lethality. I finished the first act of the game last night at level 16. I've got some awesome synchronicity going between Zeal (2 mana for 5 successive hits on whatever is nearby) and a ring that grants 1 mana for every kill. I could, theoretically, spend 2 mana to kill a bunch of guys, and make 5 back, given the right circumstances. It's great.

Last, and least, I bought a couple of iphone games on the cheap and put just a little time into both--Doom Resurrection and Zenonia. The former is a rail-shooter with in a Doom motif where aiming is done by tilting the device. It's not bad, being nothing more than an arcade-like diversion good for a few minutes of shooty shooty here and there. Zenonia, though, appears to be much more. At first brush, it comes off as some sort of western/eastern action-rpg hybrid, some witches' brew of Zelda/16-bit JRPG/Diablo tropes. I've only barely started it, but I've heard good remarks from multiple sources that comment on this type of thing.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Lust for Power

This is the common theme to the games I've been playing over the past week.

I mentioned a $5 deal on EVE Online last post, and I bit on that one, which includes 30 days of play time. EVE is a giant galactic MMO all on one server, and where players start out as a random spacer and must choose a career path of either industry, business, military, politics, or some melange of all. It's ridiculously deep and amazingly hardcore, but remains fairly accessible and user-friendly through great design and thorough tutorials. It's also a gorgeous game, running at some obscene resolution on my PC, and has a great soundtrack of atmospheric orchestral music.

I began as a Caldari, a member of a super capitalist society controlled by huge mega-corporations that lend it a strong economy and much military might. My character is an Achur, described as "intensely spiritual, the material world holds little interest to the average Achur." Regardless, I've gone through a few tutorial missions, and started down the path to making money through mining and doing missions for agents at various space stations around the galaxy. One of the coolest things about EVE is the skill training queue. Your skills are trained in real time, even when you are offline, so it's possible to queue up skills (as long as they're start time is within the next 24 hours) to begin training even when you are offline. As long as you check in before your queue runs out and can update it, you're constantly making progress.

At some point last week a thought came to me: I should play a Paladin in Diablo II. I went home and started one up, playing on for a couple of nights, and progressing to level 10, but I was haphazard with my stat and skill points, and ended up dissatisfied with my character development. Rather than start over, I've just left him in limbo for now and started a Sorceress, this time doing some research for a nice skill build to adapt and pursue as I level up. She's level 8 or 9 now. I'm going a Frost/Fire route, aiming for Frozen Orb, Fire Ball, and Meteor to be my main spells. I've been dipping my toes into D2 periodically for a while now, but this is the first time in a while I've really wanted to delve deep. This is probably due to WoW scratching that particular itch most of the time. I'll never finish off my Pile of Shame if I keep this up...

On the progress front, I spent almost all day yesterday playing Mass Effect, so that I finished off all of Noveria and Virmire, did the Luna mission, and visited another uncharted world or two. I'm at the point now where Saren's goals have come to light, and the Council is refusing to listen to Shepard about striking him preemptively on the planet Ilos. On Luna, I unlocked a class specialization, so I'm apparently now an Operative, a sub-class of Infiltrator. I've also been a relentless renegade, meting out justice in the most cold and pragmatic way I can manage, wanting to see how hardline cynical and unforgiving Shepard can be. Mass Effect is the first game I've been able to be "evil" in, and it feels good at times. I really enjoyed being able to browbeat Wrex down from the proverbial ledge he was about to jump. A commander has to keep their subordinates in line.

Monday, August 10, 2009

WoW/Mass Effect round 3!

I really need to play some new stuff! That shouldn't be a problem for a few weeks, because my WoW sub ended this weekend, after I grabbed some gear and a level on my warrior, and ran a couple of instances on my mage.

Lonesteban and I rustled up some people and plowed through Shadowfang Keep and Blackfathom Deeps, getting a bunch of sweet loot and a couple of levels in the process. I'm now at 25 on my mage. My warrior is at 63, and I've been grinding out pvp dailies for gear and other dailies for a special mount. WoW is really good, but I'm going to take this opportunity for a short break from the game so I can concentrate on a few others.

I've been playing Mass Effect, of course, and according to one estimate I am around 65% of the way through, already! It feels like I'm just getting started! I've only been to a couple of story-related worlds once out from the Citadel, and only two or three uncharted worlds, though I do have over 14 hours on the clock. This is a great game, and I really like the gunplay, even if it's not quite as visceral and responsive as something like Gears of War.

Since my Shepard is an Infiltrator (guns/tech mix), I'm using Ashley (heavy guns) and Liara (heavy biotics) to fill out my squad. It seems to be working alright so far, since I haven't had a full party wipe yet, though I have come close once. I have the difficulty on easy, though, I think.
I'll have to up it some for my next playthrough, since I plan to go paragon/male at some point. Being a renegade is tough; sometimes you come off like a real jerk. I even ended up executing this one person. Specters are given those rights by the Council, though, so anything goes in pursuit of the mission.

EVE Online is 5 bucks on Steam this week, and Jumpgate Evolution has a beta going on that it looks like is open for anyone. I plan to check one or both of these out.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

WoW/Mass Effect week 2

That's all this week has been about. It seems like I haven't played all that much, but I guess I have. It's all a blur, between reading more and doing other stuff in my free time, like car maintenance and social stuff.

I'm about 2/3 through the first Mass Effect book, and it's pretty good, actually. As for the game itself, I finally got off the Citadel and started hopping around the galaxy. My first destination was the planet where Liara, the Asari party member, was trapped. There was a Mako (planetside vehicle) section where I kept accidentally dying due to some odd texture bug of me not being able to see what part of the ground was lethal lava or acid or w/e it was. Upon freeing her, I had a boss fight of sorts against a Krogan merc and some geth, which I just narrowly managed to win. We finished that and got back to orbit, and I'm scouting some other uncharted worlds at the moment. I've heard it's best to ignore all the side stuff in ME, but I figure I'll do a little just to get a taste of it and stop before it becomes too mundane.

WoW-wise, I levelled my mage up to 20 before doing Wailing Caverns over the course of a long night, and am at 22 now. It was a pain getting a competent group together, and then once we did, half of them left midway through the instance. Luckily a higher level guy in our guild came and ran us through the rest of the instance, netting us some pretty sweet gear. The 3.2 patch hit yesterday, and so I was able to pick up my epic ground mount and my initial flyer on my warrior, and get my initial ground mound on my mage. I'd thought the patch was a little farther out and that I might take a break from the game (my subscription ends this week), but I'm not so sure now. I also have a server transfer (for my warrior) and the purchase of Wrath to contemplate, once I'm nearer to 70, at least.

Maybe I'll do a 3 month re-sub and see if there's a FFXIV beta by the end of that time to jump into. I can see myself sticking to WoW, at least on and off, for a long time.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Role Playing

The last week has been pretty simple in terms of gaming. I played WoW, and when I wasn't playing WoW, I was playing Mass Effect.

Lonesteban and I took our alts (me on my Mage, Orene) to level 16 and then got online together to run the earliest available Horde instance, Ragefire Chasm. We wouldn't have been able to do much as a duo, so we recruited some folks and then managed to clear the whole instance. I won a ton of good items, including a nice blue (rare) robe. Since, I've been working on leveling up to about 20 so we can try Wailing Caverns next. It's fun to plot out how I'm going to spend my talent points in the Frost tree. I want to focus on soloability and PvP, primarily. That means a lot of defensive and control-oriented talents, which are the Frost tree's specialty.

The urge to play Mass Effect finally overcame me last week, and I caved and bought the game on Steam for 20 bucks. It's pretty sweet so far; the only bad thing was when I lost a couple of hours of running around the Citadel getting quests and absorbing the lore and atmosphere. That was more or less all made up in about 20 or 30 minutes the next day, though. I started out as a male Shepard, a soldier, but then I read that the female lead's voice acting is really good, so I started over, replaying about an hour and 45 minutes of stuff. Caroline Shepard is an Infiltrator, focusing on combat and tech skills, heavy on the pistol skill, so far. I've yet to finish the main stuff on the Citadel and take off for other parts of the galaxy, but the plot is pretty good, so far, and I like the characters.

I'm also reading the two Mass Effect novels as I play the game, for maximal enjoyment of the universe.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Heights To Which I Don't Even Bother Aspiring

In the XBLA release of Ikaruga you can download replays of any score on the leaderboards. The no.1 playthrough is truly something to behold. There is a lot to be learned there, but in my first several attempts at mimicry, the only thing I managed to do any more quickly and efficiently was get myself killed. In my own bumbling way of playing the game, I was able to get much farther, albeit racking up a much smaller score.

I'll never be a super hardcore endgame WoW player, and I have no delusions about this. All I hope for is to hit the cap and still be entertained there by PVP, and to be able to get cool items through that with which to own the opposing faction. Especially the Death Knights. Especially the Death Knights.

I played a bunch more WoW, in what has become my weekend (and weeknight) routine as of late. I finally blew off all of my Azeroth quests and leapt head-first through the Dark Portal, and man, am I glad. After a remarkably short time questing, I already have gear that is on a whole new level compared to what I had up to this point. The greens I'm wearing from Hellfire Peninsula quests are probably comparable to blues and purples from Oldworld. There were also a couple of really cool quests where I went on bombing runs from the back of a wyvern. The only bad thing about Outland so far is the much higher frequency of being ganked. I hate to think about Northrend. I suppose I will have to pick up Wrath soonish, though.

I also spent a couple of hours leveling my Mage alt with Lonesteban's own, a Rogue. For the time being we are both of a level. A mistake in quest reward choice left me with an offhand item and not being able to wield staff, so I trained sword and dagger skills and did my best to find a one-handed main weapon with a stat I could use. In the end I bought a sword with 2 stamina for 1 gold on the auction house.

Otherwise, I played some Wrecking Crew mode in RFG. I'm going for a couple of acheivements in that along with the ones for multiplayer. I don't know if I'll ever get all of the single player ones, though, unless a patch addresses some of the issues with a couple of them. I'm debating picking up the upcoming single player DLC pack, as well, but 10 bucks is kind of a lot in digitally distributed gaming these days.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Playlog 7/6 -7/15

I got a bunch of Red Faction: Guerilla multiplayer action in over the past week, and man, that's a blast. I hope it continues to have a solid playerbase, because it's pretty unique, and it's got a great experience system with character model unlocks. The game modes end up pretty varied as well, because not only do they switch up the objectives and have 21 maps to play on, but there are tons of awesome weapons in the game (everything from the single player and more) around 10 backpacks with crazy abilities like jetpacking around, vertical superthrusting, rhino demolition charging through walls, x-ray vision, stealth, concussive blasts, super speed, healing, firepower enhancements, and tremor inducing. Combinations of the backpacks and weapons lead to insane and chaotic action. As far as competitive console multiplayer, it's more fun than Gears in my eyes, and right up there with Halo in terms of playability. Buy this game!

Another one you can buy, and real cheap, too: Drop7 for iPhone/touch. It's a puzzle game on a 7x7 grid of blocks where billiard balls numbered 1-7 are placed one at a time (with no time limit per move) in rows and columns. They disappear when their number is equal to the number of consecutive, touching balls in their row of column. Fill a row up, and all 7s in that row will explode. If that leaves 4 balls, and one or more of those is a 4, then those will also explode. Not only are there the numbered balls, but there are solid color balls that once caught beside an exploding ball, have their shells cracked and become regular number balls. Over time the whole playfield is shifted up by a new row of solid balls, and if any column is shifted up out of the playfield, the game ends. Like most puzzle games, it's hard to explain but simple to grasp if you try it. Drop7, however, isinsanely addictive--once it clicks. Go try the lite version and give it about 5 minutes so you get over the impulse to just match numbered balls and expect them to explode (because they won't).

So, apart from those, I've been playing a ton of WoW. Not only did I finally get my Warrior to level 60, and begin tying up loose ends in Azeroth before heading to Outland, but I also went and created an alt. People who knew me from my time in FFXI won't be super surpised to find out she's a mage, a blood elf, specifically. Currently level 11, I plan to level her up using the Frost spec, which is more or less universally considered best for solo PvE and PvP, too. The thought occurred to me to give her the name Nascia, that's not Nascia. Her name is Orene, on the Jubei'Thos server. Not on Blackrock with Ropvanks, so for the moment I can't twink her, though I may transfer Rop over at some point in the future. He needs all his own gold for mounts and stuff on the way to 80, anyway.

So, Rop is through Winterspring and messing around in Eastern/Western Plaguelands a bit before heading through the Dark Portal, and Orene is still just getting started in Eversong Woods. Man, WoW is addictive. I fully intend to check out 2-3 other upcoming MMOs, but I can easily see myself coming back to WoW time and again. I still may let me subscription lapse in August, though, if for no other reason than to hit Mass Effect or Shivering Isles in Oblivion.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Mid-Year Progress Report and Forecast

At the beginning of the year I set my goal at having a list of games completed as long as my list of games bought. I may have to amend that with the advent of copious amounts of cheap, bite-sized iPhone games. Then again, I have bought considerably less high-dollar games over the last six months, and almost nothing at full, new-at-release price. The closest I've come to doing so would be Red Faction, which I got for about $45 new, and Burnout Paradise, which I paid the whole $30 for over PSN. I've passed over things I wanted this year, such as Killzone 2, Halo Wars, Wrath of the Lich King, and numerous PC titles, opting to finish stuff I have and/or wait for awesome sale prices. So, all in all, I'm not doing too bad.

The 6-months of WoW I paid for might have something to do with that, but that game remains half or less of my gaming focus overall, which is right where I like it. I'm paid up for another six weeks or so, and I'm undecided what I'll do after that. I may try EVE Online or another MMO, or I may pick up Wrath and continue on to 80. I probably won't buy another 6-month chunk of time, though; I like more flexibility than that.

I'm pretty happy with the list of games I've completed (or sections of games completed in some cases). My main goals for the rest of the year should be to finish all remaining Starcraft/Brood War campaigns, and to hit, hard, my Wii, DS, and remaining PS2 libraries of games.

I'm almost batting 1000 on 360. I've beaten every retail release I can, leaving only Forza 2 and Rockband 2 that need more playtime, aside from a few XBLA games, of course. On PS3, I'm building a great library of games I hope to one day play: Uncharted, Resistance, Ryu Ga Gotoku 3, and the copy of Infamous I should be receiving in the mail sometime. PC is a new platform for me, so somewhat understandably, I'm building a large library of games, and a lot of those need a lot more time in the rotation--Far Cry 2 (which I'm loving), Crysis, World of Goo, Half-Life 2 series, TF2, L4D, Freedom Force series, and more...

With all this gaming, my reading time has really suffered. It's traditionally been off-topic here, but I want to redouble my efforts on that front, as well. Movies and TV-wise, I've been doing great. I've even managed to work pretty regular exercise into my free time (3-ish times a week). Now if only I didn't have a long-ass commute to and from work every day!

I like to shoot stuff.

I've played a bunch of shooters on XBLA this week. I jumped back into the original Geometry Wars trying to best my high score there--only managing to get approximately halfway there. I also booted up Rez again for the first time in forever to chill out to some techno and shoot some things all at once. I even played a game of Ikaruga. Some of the most satisfying games are purely mechanical, divorcing narrative and lore entriely from the experience.

Others garnish the main dish with it, like the other two games I spent a lot of time with over the last week. Red Faction: Guerilla serves it up merely as a raison de demolishment, and it works just fine. I completed that game's story campaign this week, and tried a single match of the multiplayer just to check it out and see the experience system. I'm still going to be playing RF:G for a while, because it's so damned awesome. I still have several achievements within reach in the single-player game (and Wrecking Crew), and I want to get a bunch of xp and unlock stuff in multiplayer, too. This is the Game Of The First Half Of My Year, which is based on the games I played in the time period, rather than what was released therein.

I also played a whole bunch of WoW. I'm level 58 now, working on quests all over Kalimdor, but mainly in Winterspring, Un'Goro Crater, and Silithus. I got the achievement for completing 500 quests yesterday. The new guild I joined, The Blood Knights, is working out pretty well. I joined after receiving a blind invite, having nothing to lose, but it seems like a good fit, actually. It seems to be made up of more casual, non-raiding types who level lots of alts and don't mind fielding my noobish questions about whether I should wear Pants A or Pants B. My WoW plan right now is to power on to 60, get my epic mount, complete the exploration achivements for Kalimdor and Eastern Kingdoms, and then probably jump into The Burning Crusade content and be on my way to 70.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Another Full Week

It was another busy week in gaming at chez Elmdor.

I played more WoW than anything, raising my Warrior up to almost level 56, and knocking through several zones in the process: The Blasted Lands, Azshara, Felwood, and on to Un'Goro Crater. Not that I exhausted them all of quests, just that I got in and looked around and quested until I was satisfied with each. I still want the achievement for exploring each zone fully, but that'll wait until I get my epic mount for the speed boost in running around (plus the help that being 60 will figure into things). This game is addicting, but it hasn't gotten it's hooks all the way into me the way FFXI did, and I don't think it ever will. At least I hope it won't. I like playing other things (and having a good marriage and being able to perform somewhat well at work).

Speaking of other things, I sat down with Red Faction a couple of nights this week, and ended up playing for longer than I expected both times. Yes, it's still badass. I'm at the final sector now, Eos, and still finding new weapons to play with. The rail gun is pretty cool. You can shoot guys through cover with it.

I played a bunch of Geometry Wars 2 and Super Stardust HD, as well. GW2's Pacifism mode is the real genius in that game, but the whole thing remains remarkably awesome. I like how the original GW isn't quite obsolete, too, with it's rotating gun modes, original music, and different multiplier scoring system from the Evolved mode in GW2. It doesn't look as clean as GW2, though. Stardust is also great, but I'm still pretty new to it. I laid waste to Lonesteban's high score in arcade mode, though, more than tripling it with a 16-and-a-half minute first life. Take that, you craven!

Elsewhere, I pulled out my GBA Final Fantasy II in-progress game from 2+ years ago and tried to continue on from that. I think I found the thread, now just to find where it leads. I also bought a couple of new iPhone games for a buck each, Knights Onrush and Hero of Sparta. I've only tried Knights so far, but it seems to be a simple and fun castle defense game, somewhat like a tower defense game, but on a more micro scale.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Tenebrous Maelstrom of Umbral Inferno

This is what my mind is like when I try to recall the games I played over the last week. I've been kind of busy. Let's do a list with quick and dirty impressions:

Hitman: Blood Money PC demo - good, but kind of low-fi, Xbox 1 gen-looking.
Vanguard Storm lite - simple FFTA-style strategy. $5? Not a good price on the app store.
GeoDefense lite - coolest tower defense I've played on iPhone. Didn't buy it, though.
UniWar Lite - complex hex-based 3-way strategy. Need to play more.
Einhander - still really hard, still fucking awesome.
Pixel Junk Monsters - probably coolest tower defense game I've played at all (short time only)
Super Stardust HD - played a couple of games. Already nearing Lonesteban's high score. Makes me want to play more Geometry Wars 2, too.
World of Warcraft - jumped in and killed some stuff for the first time in a month. Currently killing stuff in The Blasted Lands. Still level 52.
Red Faction: Guerilla - liberated Badlands, finished all guerilla actions up to and into Oasis, still having a ball. Most fun game in a while. So great.

I picked up Twilight Princess again after playing the initial couple of hours probably a year ago. I figured it's about time I played a Wii game, and since it's been years and years since I really played a Zelda game (the last was Ocarina of Time), where better to start? So far I've played through the first dungeon, the Forest Temple, got the boomerang, and made my way across Hyrule Field to Kakariko Village. The dungeon took me a while to get through. It was really well designed, though. It will be cool to get further into the game and see more. It's really similar to OoT in a lot of ways, so far.

I never played Wind Waker past a couple of hours in, when someone asked me to go collect butterflies for him. I kind of wish I had stuck with it now, though. Ah well, Twilight Princess it is. I have Phantom Hourglass for DS, too.

The Wii may end up getting a lot of play in the latter half of the year. Besides Zelda, I have Super Mario Galaxy to play through, and I'm more excited than I should be about both Metroid Prime Trilogy and New Super Mario Bros. Wii. Who knows, I might dip into VC stuff at some point, too. I want to play FFIV: The After Years...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Take My Hand

Since last writing here, I righted a longstanding wrong in my gaming experience. Back in 2001, I bought Ico just as it came out, but for whatever reason I never got around to finishing it. I'm not even certain how far into it I got, but if I stopped where I think I did, I was only 30 minutes or from the end.

I started Ico this Saturday, and after three or four sessions, finished it tonight with a time of about 6 hours into it. What a beautiful game. The castle the game is set in is remarkably consistent and well realized. If you see a big building, you can go into it, and just about any feature you see in the game, you will traverse at one point or another. Every time you "zone" onto a new screen, you are right where you ought to be; there are no awkward transitions between one area and the next. It feels like a real environment you could actually walk around in. It's gorgeous, too, and solemn and majestic.

The only things that slightly break the illusion are elaborate puzzles and constructions in each area, but what can you do? Ico is just about the perfect environment navigation puzzle game. I can't really think of one better. I appreciate the lesser focus on combat in Ico as compared with Prince of Persia: Sands of Time. Maybe I should try the newest Prince of Persia game sometime.

I wonder at the connections between Shadow of the Colossus and Ico. SotC is apparently a prequel to the latter, and seems to show the origin of the horned boy phenomenon. Both games share an evil, black, misty antagonist, and of course both games share a similar architecture. Maybe The Last Guardian will elaborate some, in its way, on this mysterious world.

Elsewise, I probably put 10 hours into Red Faction: Guerilla over the last week. It's a blast. I've done a crapload of Guerilla Actions to this point, and am working on liberating Badlands and Oasis. The weapons in this game are awesome, especially the Nano Rifle, which shoots a bullet of something like anti-matter that just disintegrates a big chunk of whatever it hits. It's great for say, taking out struts and buttresses of a big bridge over a wide chasm as an armed convoy rolls across it.

I still have yet to try Red Faction's multiplayer, but the single player is doing more than enough to keep me entertained for the time being. This is easily the most purely fun game I've played since Crackdown.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Killer, Crusader, Revolutionary

I was up until 6 a.m. over this past Saturday night, binging on Oblivion.

I followed the Dark Brotherhood quest line to its inexorable conclusion, with no shortage of surprises along the way. Just as I was starting to question the point of moving from one dead-drop to another for another parcel of gold and another mark, the whole thing got turned on its head in a crazy and amazing way. No one should play Oblivion and skip over this 'faction.'

Right after finishing that, I started on the first expansionary quest line, Knights of the Nine. I had previously thought to just create a new character for each faction, and had for a few, but here I just decided to continue on with my Rogue I had been using as an assassin. It's easier to fast travel around the world if you've been around a bunch of places before. So I took my remorseless death dealer on a pilgrimage around the world to the shrines of the nine divines, gathered the sanctified relics of a holy knight, restored an ancient order of crusaders, and led them to combat an evil from beyond the realm of mortals. It only took about 4 and a half hours.

Now the only major things left in Oblivion are the Arena (no plans to do this) and the larger Shivering Isles expansion, which I'll come back for sometime later. My copy of Red Faction arrived yesterday afternoon.

I got about three hours with the game last night; long enough to liberate the first of six Martian sectors. It's pretty awesome so far. This GeoMod 2.0 tech is tons of fun. If you've ever wanted to plant charges around the circumference of a giant smokestack and blow them all at once, this is your game. You can demolish bridges as your enemy is crossing them, or just bring down their base on top of their heads. The game has a GTA-like open world mission-based structure to it, but gives you even more freedom to go about your objectives, simply because if you don't like where the entrance or exit to a building is, you can create your own in seconds.

I've been on a number of different mission types so far, ranging from defending rebel camps to extracting hostages, destroying important enemy facilities, and puzzle-like destruction challenges that give you time and weapon/ammo limits. It's great fun so far, and I'm excited to explore more of Mars and blow more stuff up for fun and profit. The multiplayer has been getting a ton of praise from RL friends of mine and lots of people on forums and podcasts, too, so I'll need to check that out soon.

Friday, June 5, 2009

E3 2009 and Oblivion

Not much in the way of a play report this week, just a little Peggle, TF2, and Phoenix Wright, aside from jumping back into Oblivion and doing a bunch of the Dark Brotherhood stuff.  That's where my focus has been, mainly.  It has been a series of pretty interesting quests so far, probably some of the most inventive I've seen in the game, and I've already been through the main story, the fighters', mages', and theives' guilds plus the whole vampirism and finding a cure thing and a whole bunch of other random quests.  There was one where I was locked in a house with 5 treasure hunters and had to off them all one by one without anyone suspecting it was me, and there was a big WTF moment when I had to go kill X group of people.  Oblivion is an awesome game.

I have been so tempted to rush out and pick up Red Faction: Guerilla.  That demo on XBL (the single-player one) is insane fun.  I am definitely going to buy this game at some point.  I hope I can find a good deal on it somewhere soon.  I did pick up the Freedom Force games in the Steam sale last week, based solely on recommendations and Irrational's (later) pedigree, including BioShock.  I only messed around with the demo for Freedom Force Vs. The Third Reich before buying, but it seemed cool (and complicated at first), and both games were only $6.74 together.  I absolutely love Steam.

This past week was probably the biggest news week for gaming that will happen all year.  Certainly, it was.  It was E3, and not the lame E3 from the past couple of years, but a full-on assault of megaton announcements.  Some of what I'm most looking forward to, in no particular order:

Metroid: Other M
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow
Crackdown 2
Left 4 Dead 2
Final Fantasy XIV
PSP Go (price drop lol)
Metal Gear Solid: Rising
Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker

So much new stuff came to light that I'm probably forgetting stuff, and there are a few things I think are cool that I'm not even going to bother to mention.  I'm skepical of Microsoft's "Project Natal" motion stuff, and I think Peter Molyneaux's Milo thing is outright bullshit.  Nintendo's fingertip pulse thing is a giant WTF and Sony's motion stuff actually looks the most interesting.
It's a great time to be a gamer.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


I took a trip this past week for Memorial Day weekend, so I did a lot of gaming on the go and with friends.

Before leaving, though, I played Far Cry 2 for another evening, at one point infiltrating a marina mercenary base and blowing up their fuel supply for one of my buddies.  I think I'm going to parcel this game out over several months or years like I have Oblivion and likely will Fallout 3, as well.  Speaking of Oblivion, I'm planning to pop that in just this evening after writing up this post and having dinner.

Arriving at some friends' house for a barbecue, the outdoor munching and conversation shifted indoors as the sun went down and the mosquitoes came out.  In a gathering full of moderate to hardcore gamers, it's no wonder Left 4 Dead on the 360 on my friend's 47" TV was a big hit.  My friend's wife (he prefers to watch) and I played through the No Mercy campaign right up to the end, and she (Louis) and I (Bill) were the only two to make it onto the helicopter to escape.  The game plays very well on the 360, but the limit of 2-player only for splitscreen kind of sucks for what is meant to be a 4-player experience.

Everything else I played over the past week has been portable.  I worked a little further into the fourth trial (Miles Edgeworth as the defendant) in the first Ace Attorney game on a couple of plane rides, and started Galaxy On Fire on my iPhone, and played completely through Underworlds, also on said device.  There's no denying the iPhone as a powerful platform for gaming at this point.

Galaxy On Fire is a fully 3D mission-based space flight game, a la Colony Wars, albeit suitably simplified for the platform.  I have to go against my usual stance here and recommend tilt controls over the digital analog (not an oxymoron) stick.  Touch-sensitive Dpads/sticks just do not work very well for me at all.  I can sort of hack it in iDracula just by sliding around in a circle, but here it's too imprecise and you end up obscuring too much of the screen.  Thankfully, the tilt controls work pretty well in GOF, and you can enable autofire on your ship's cannons just by double-tapping the fire button.  The game features a familar mission progression and seems to later enable free roaming in the galaxy and all the cargo trading you'd expect in a space game.  I'm looking forward to playing more.  This was a pretty awesome value for $3.

I believe I have written on this blog that I would be all over a Diablo-alike for the iPhone, and true to my word, I was all over Underworlds for a couple of days, playing right through it (about 3 hours) and starting another run immediately thereafter.  It's basically Diablo shoehorned onto the iPhone.  It's definitely not as polished or eminently replayable as Diablo, and it kind of runs like shit, but there is enough there to make for a pretty addictive mobile dungeon hack.  I'll outline a list of wishes for the next update or sequel:

  • It needs to run better, with less stuttering in the frame rate.
  • Touch controls need to be more sensitive and precise.
  • There needs to be more than one real character class (the melee-centric warrior).
  • Gear changes should be reflected on the character model, ideally.
  • The level cap (10) needs to be done away with to encourage replays on higher difficulty settings.
  • There needs to be a better shopkeeper interface for choosing which loot to buy/sell.
  • There was music, but I barely noticed it.

I fear this reads like I hated the game, but that's really not the case at all.  I really enjoyed it, and have spent more time with it than any other iPhone game with the possible exception of Galcon.  Underworlds is a really solid foundation for an excellent Diablo clone, and for $1, it's practically an obligatory purchase. 

Thursday, May 21, 2009

All Quiet On The Digital Front

There has not been much at all to report over the past week.  

I played some WoW, getting up to level 52 on my warrior, and starting to move into the last couple of tiers of zones in the "old world."  I want to explore every zone here before I venture into Outland and other Burning Crusade content.  I should probably work on hitting 60 and getting my epic mount to speed that process along.

I've spent a few more hours exploring and merc'ing around war-torn Africa in Far Cry 2.  This is a game that is beautiful in it's simplicity.  It's an open-world mission-based FPS, like a cross between Oblivion, GTA, and some shooter.  Most of the missions are of a pretty similar cutout, but roving around taking guys out and looking for hidden diamonds just doesn't seem to get old.

I finished the adventure mode of Peggle Deluxe this week, and started into Peggle Nights.  Great games, as everyone knows.  I also finished the third trial in the first Phoenix Wright, and got started on the fourth.  I'm saving this for my trip to Arkansas, along with some iPhone games and demos I picked up, too.  I've got a bunch of old games and systems there, too, though.  Maybe I'll hit up the retro while I'm home.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


It's been a pretty light week in terms of gaming. That's probably because I cranked through the final 10 episodes of Battlestar Galactica and then went to see Star Trek on top of that.

I finished up the second trial in the first Phoenix Wright game, and I'm into the second investigation phase of the third trial, Turnabout Samurai. I didn't think I'd like this game as much as I do, but it's got a lot of character.

I got some more into Far Cry 2 one night, doing another weapon convoy mission and an assassination, as well as roaming around the countryside unlocking more safehouses and causing a ruckus. My next mission is another buddy mission for Quarbani Singh. Still loving it.

And of course, I spent a lot of time playing WoW, mostly running around The Hinterlands knocking out quests and earning a lot more gold now that I've given up blacksmithing and have gotten my skinning up and running. I finally decided (at level 49, lol) to see what glyphs are all about, and picked up a few of them to make a few of my abilities more useful. I also jumped into a Warsong Gulch match last night, which is a CTF scenario, whereas Arathi Basin is more of a control point game. It was pretty fun. PvP is a whole other game than PvE, and battle tactics are drastically different. Thankfully, my spec is actually probably better suited to PvP, though it is more than effective enough at PvE, obviously. I focus on demobilization and burst damage, because one way or another, PvP fights tend to end quickly.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Some Things To Write About

I took a burnout break from WoW this past week from about Wednesday until Sunday night when boredom finally got the better of me. Consequently, I actually have some other games to thought-spew about! Just to get WoW out of the way, though, I'm almost to level 47, still mucking around Stranglethorn, and my skinning skill is already almost at 300! Incredible how fast that levels.

After scraping away a year or more's worth of dust, I found my copy of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney in my DS game drawer and finally gave it a whirl. I played through the first case trial all in one go, and kind of got a feel for how the game works. It's not really like anything else I've played before, but seems pretty enjoyable. As of now, I'm into the second trial case, about to begin the actual court proceedings.

Chronologically, the next thing I played was some Galactrix, followed by several hours of Far Cry 2. Nothing much to say about PQ: G, other than that it remains pretty fun, and good for wasting time. Playing FC2, though, is a really unique experience. I completed a couple of sabotage type missions with one of my npc buddies and then did a couple of convoy ambush missions for the arms dealers in the countryside to open up more guns to buy for myself. I also did some diamond hunting and guard post scouting and safe house unlocking.

One incident that was totally awesome was approaching a checkpoint from the side just as a roving death squad was motoring through town. As they drove away I manned a gun emplacement and shot at them to get their attention, and as they turned around to come back I got off of my turret and ran across the road to some cover, and fired some shots at them with my automatic rifle as they drove into the little clump of buildings. Then, just as they came alongside the wall I was hiding behind, I pulled out my flamethrower and smoked both the driver and the guy manning the gun mount, and the jeep crashed and exploded and set the whole area ablaze. It was one of those Kodak moments you wish all your friends could have been there to see. I love the fire in this game. I read that during playtesting they had to tone the fire down because people could throw a molotov and set the whole country alight and kill the Jackal (main bad guy and target in the game) from miles away. How cool is that?

I tried out a bunch of demos this weekend, as well. The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena, Bionic Commando multiplayer, and Red Faction: Guerilla.

Riddick has gotten huge amounts of acclaim, or rather, Butcher Bay has. Dark Athena has gotten less. This demo was from the latter. It seemed ok. The graphics were better than I had been led to believe (save Riddick's own model, which still looks last-gen). It was a lot harder than I was expecting, too. The demo was on the normal difficulty level, but I must have died at least 20 times just in the 15 minute or so demo section. I think I went into it expecting typical FPS type gameplay, but there seemed to be a lot heavier emphasis on stealth tactics that I didn't quite pick up totally in this short bit of game. I don't feel super compelled to pick up the game, but if I ever find it for $20 or something I may give it a go for Butcher Bay alone.

Bionic Commando, sadly, felt kind of janky. I didn't care for how the swing/jump was implemented (seemed like it required too many presses of the A button), and I really didn't like how the gun targeting and shooting felt. Your reticle is freaking huge, and you don't really have any indication of where exactly in there you're hitting. It seemed like maybe the game was registering a hit as long as the target was anywhere inside that huge reticle, which would make sense, since you'd likely need a large degree of aim-assist to shoot anything while swinging around wildly, but there just needs to be better feedback as to whether you're actually hitting the guy you're aiming for. It felt like I was shooting buckshot at something a football field away. The multiplayer character models suck, too. And 2 out of the 3 games I played, I was the pink guy, out of 8 possible colors. That's just not cool.

Red Faction: Guerilla was pretty exciting as a demo, though. It gave off Crackdown vibes in the way the character and camera are controlled, and the destructability of practically every object in the environment could potentially blow the doors of open-world mission-based gameplay. I liked the sledgehammer for breaking stuff, and the sticky remote-detonated mines are awesome. I'll be keeping an eye on this one in the future.