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.