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.