Friday, December 30, 2011

2012 Sea Chart to Success



I have a hell of a lot of RPGs (very loosely defined) that I want to play. I hope to visit some of these lands in the next year.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2011 Game of the Year & Recap

It's been a good year for video games. Aren't they all, though?

My Game of the Year: The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
Honorable Mention: SpaceChem


My GOTY/HM for past years:
2010: Mass Effect 2/Castlevania: Lords of Shadow
2009: Demon's Souls/Red Faction: Guerilla
2008: Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots/Gears of War 2
2007: BioShock/Halo 3

Before 2007 there do be a great sea of FFXI which does divide the present from the past, a time for which there is no recorded 9 Parsecs history...

I managed to complete a surprising number of games in 2011, given the appearance of a wild baby in early July. Here's the tally, 21 games in all:

Fallout 2
Nehrim
Assassin's Creed Revelations
Jamestown
Demon's Souls
Dawn of War II
Space Marine
Kill Team
Deus Ex
Quake
The Witcher 2
S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl
Portal 2
Assassin's Creed Brotherhood
Prince of Persia (2008)
VVVVVV
Uncharted 2
Assassin's Creed II
Metro 2033
Fallout
Halo: Reach

Past years' totals:
2010: 23
2009: 19
2008: 26
2007: 15

I'm not sure what I'm going to set as a goal for 2012, if anything. I'm fairly content with the amount of money I've been spending on games, which has gone down a good bit... I think. It's hard to keep track of all the little purchases. At any rate, I spend more on coffee than games, I'm certain. That's probably what I need to cut out in 2012: trips to Starbucks. Aside from that money sink, I want to trim the Pile o' Shame. It's really been growing like a weed due to insane holiday sale deals and indie game bundles.

For now I am still rolling with the 2 out, 1 in token system, for games over $25 out of pocket.  That may be a tad lenient, considering my buying habits these days, since in all of 2011 I only spent that amount (not including credit from trade-ins) on 7 games, and I currently have 3 and a half tokens banked. I should also probably refrain from buying games in series that I'm not caught up on. No Arkham City until I've played Asylum, no Dead Space 2 until I've finished the first--that sort of thing. That would really get BioShock 2 off the pile for good, wouldn't it? I'll update later with any new parameters I think of to set on my game consumption.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Fallout 2 Finally Finito



Yes, I have finally finished plowing through the first two Fallout games! And fantastic games they are, too. They're extremely playable for being nearly 15 years old, and they really don't even look that bad, owing to the fact that they're rendered in pixel art rather than primordial polygonal 3D like a lot of games of that era. I really like how they're playable with just the mouse alone; they're simple once you get used to the interface. I would really only use the keyboard to choose dialog options and to ESC out of inventory screens and such.

In broader strokes, they play like an Elder Scrolls game, only with a narrower focus, an isometric perspective, and a turn-based combat system. Much of what else is present in the one of the two series has a direct analogue in the other. Most people reading this will probably have played Fallout 3 and/or New Vegas. I would imagine those games are even more like a combination of the two, which of course makes perfect sense given who publishes them.

I'm aware of the rich history of RPGs on the PC, so it shouldn't come as such a surprise to me that a game this full of possibilities and freedom to role-play was possible in '97 or '98 (the original and the sequel, respectively), but it does. It's probably my console gamer roots showing. Contrast these games to the biggest RPG of the day on that side of gaming, Final Fantasy VII, and... yeah. Different schools, of course. Maybe it's just that the content presented here appeals to me at this age more than replaying FFVII.

I had a blast with both Fallout and Fallout 2. Functionally, they're nearly identical, though Fallout 2 is a larger  game and features some slight refinements. I would heartily recommend playing both. Few games integrate as well into a series with what has come before as Fallout 2 does. It is set about 80-90 years after the events of the first game, the main character is a descendant of the original Vault Dweller, the regions of the Fallout world explored in both games overlap. Fallout encompassed a region of California from south of LA to south of SF, and Fallout 2 overlaps that in the south, extending north up into southern Oregon (Klamath Falls). There are several shared locations to visit in Fallout 2, where you can see what the passage of time has done to them, and people throughout the wastes refer back to the deeds of the Vault Dweller from time to time. It's very interesting, and it does a lot to reward player investment.

I'll be excited to explore more of the world in Fallout 3 and New Vegas. I have Fallout Tactics, too, though I'm not sure what to expect from that. I'll give it a go sometime after the new year. It feels good to have these two classics under my belt. They're incredible games to this day, and now I'll be able to go into the modern incarnation of the series with a trained eye.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Nehrim Done

I finally polished off Nehrim last night. The 60 hours I put into this game bring me up over 200 total in The Elder Scrolls IV engine, easily. I've had a ton of fun playing this and Oblivion, but I can't say I'll miss these systems, mechanics, assets, and art. I hope the Bethesda-published Fallout games feel different enough.

Nehrim was great. I'm astonished that such a game could be made by such a small team, and put out into the world entirely free of charge. You could tell in spots that it was a J.V. effort, if you will, but in several ways it was an improvement on Oblivion. Standing on the shoulders of giants, I suppose.

I'm not sure what I want to polish off, next. RPG-wise, it's got to be Fallout 2. But thinking of my games as a whole, I'm not sure what I'll concentrate on next. I want to revisit some of the 2011 titles I have on my short list for GOTY considerations, and there are a ton of 2011 games I haven't played at all. I don't think I'm going to buy them and do so just to have them available for consideration, though. There's something about that idea that doesn't ring true.

I played a little Brink this morning, as it had a free weekend on Steam. It was fun, and easily worth the sale price of $5, but even so, I don't know that I'll buy it. How many multiplayer online shooters does a guy need? Does the world need? It's such a crowded marketplace. Not that sales success tells the full story, but just look at the fact that it's selling for $5 only six months after release. Yeah. I think I'd rather play Section 8 or Battlefield or TF2 or Red Orchestra or Counter-Strike or....

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Assassin's Creed Revelations

Because that's the game I finished the other night and finished last night. I just had a few things to mop up, but I'm done for now. I may head back into the multiplayer from time to time, but I've had my fix and am once again up to date with AC. It feels good; it's one of the few series I am current with. How was the game? It was pretty decent. It was like Brotherhood with some extra fluff mechanics and a ho-hum plot tying Altair's life post AC1 into Ezio's role as an Assassin mentor later in the timeline, and both sets of memories back into Desmond's shattered psyche to prep him for the (intimated) big huge showdown to come in the next AC title.

It wasn't great, but I like these games. I will say that the historical stuff is always great. I also really like the characters in these games, Ezio, particularly. Desmond is a fool and I couldn't care less about the modern day side of the franchise, but I do really appreciate the historical settings and the idea of an ancient shadow war between the factions of the order of the Assassins and the Knights Templar.

I think the series needs a drastic revamp for the next entry, and hopefully Ubisoft is already on track with that. Tying up all the loose ends with existing characters and settings presents a golden opportunity for another paradigm shift on the order of the changes made from AC1 to AC2. Don't fuck this up, Ubisoft.

The only other game I've been playing much of over the past few weeks is Nehrim, the total conversion mod for Oblivion that I've written of before. I'm still less than halfway through the game, plot-wise, but in terms of raw hours, I'm probably closer to two thirds done, if I had to guess. I front-loaded my playthrough with a ton of grinding and side quests and random stuff, so the payoff should be a breezy back end. We'll see about that. Nehrim is like a more plot-intensive, slightly more linear and directed Elder Scrolls game. It's very good. Definitely give it a whirl if you own Oblivion on PC and aren't deep into Skyrim right yet.

I also bought Dirt 3 from Steam a few weeks ago and I've been racing in that a little bit here and there. Not much to say other than that I am super casual, all-assists-on, touristy driver man, here. It looks really damned good on my PC, and runs at an obscenely good frame rate. And rally is a nice change of pace from the usual type of racing game I play.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Runner-Up GOTY?

It's going to be a tough thing to decide, this year. Here are some of the games I need to consider:

Dark Souls
SpaceChem
Frozen Synapse
Portal 2

Games I like well enough, but am fairly certain are not runner-up GOTY candidates:

Warhammer 40K: Space Marine
Total War: Shogun 2
Red Orchestra 2
Sengoku
Jamestown
Section 8: Prejudice
Assassin's Creed Revelations
Magicka

Battlefield 3
Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together


If there's a high profile 2011 release missing from that list, and there is, more than one, it is because I haven't played it. That's the first hurdle a game has to overcome for consideration. If it hasn't won my money and time during the calender year of its release, whatever the reason, it's not eligible. Sorry, Skyrim, sorry Gears 3, et al. Them's the arbitrary breaks.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Fighting My Way Back

I am in the middle of so many games right now, it's obscene. I don't even know where to begin to go about clearing my plate, forget the backlog! The ones bubbling up to the top of consciousness lately though, are Nehrim, which I've put a bit of time into lately, Fallout 2, which I desperately want to get back to and finish, Blade Runner, which I just want to experience, and Batman: Arkham Asylum, which I feel the most guilty about not having played through yet.

And now, lyrics from a Thin Lizzy song, the inspiration for this post's title:

I'm dustin' out/and I'm going in/
and I'm kickin' up/'bout the state I'm in/
'cause I'm tough, rough, ready, and I'm able/
to pick myself up from underneath this table

Fighting my way back
Fighting my way back

Realistically, this is not the time to be fighting the good fight. I've got my health to take care of (I need way more exercise), a kid to help out with, stuff around the house, a novel I'm trying to write (little by little), and on top of that this is the season that all the huge games come out. I'm playing Battlefield 3 every night now, even if it's just an hour or so, and I'm planning on playing Assassin's Creed Revelations the first day I can get my hands on it. That's not to mention the myriad of other games I have sitting around unplayed for one reason or another. I had to force myself to stop playing Dark Souls before I got so far down that hole my entire month would disappear. I'm pumped to get back to it at some point, though.

I guess I should give an update on Dark Souls, seeing as my last post several weeks ago was when I was just about to start it. I did start it, and I started it well as a knight. I think I am soul level 19 or so right now, and I have progressed far enough to have rung the bell on top of the undead church, and then onto find my way to the Capra Demon, which is the next fool to be felled when I get back to the game. I didn't know where to go immediately after ringing the first bell, so I tried both the graveyard catacombs and the underground grotto accessible via elevator under the Firelink shrine. I've been playing as a knight, as I said, with heavy armor, and using both sword and spear, and even an axe, briefly. I've upgraded my broadsword a couple of times, and I think I'll stick with it for a while. What a great game. I hope it doesn't take me two years again to circle back around to this one, as it did with Demon's Souls.

I feel like playing something tonight, but what? Some Battlefield, to be sure, but what else? Maybe I'll try to make some more progress in Blade Runner. I've never really played a point and click adventure game before, and I like Blade Runner, the film.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Here I Go Again

Over the last week, I wound down a two-year endeavor in playing and completing Demon's Souls. I deemed it my game of the year for 2009 only maybe about a third of the way in. Various things conspired and transpired to keep me from hunkering down and getting serious about playing the game until just recently. Partly it was due to the looming release of the successor Dark Souls, but above all else, it was just that it's time had come.

Much has been said, and I'm afraid overstated, of Demon's Souls famous difficulty. The truth of the matter as experienced players will usually say, is that the game is not so much difficult as that it requires a very considered, careful, and precise approach on the part of the player, as well as a willingness to make mistakes and the persistence to learn from them rather than give up in frustration. Demon's Souls was no more difficult than Castlevania: Lords of Shadow on Knight difficulty, or any given Halo game on Legendary. It has the potential to be, absolutely, but the true genius of the game is in just how many options it gives the player to choose from in overcoming its challenges.

There is the brute force approach; play and replay the problem section over and over until you find the best way through, or understand the enemy's attack patterns so thoroughly that you can dance right through it. There is the ability to change tactics; try one of the other dozen weapons, tools, or spells at your disposal to defeat the enemy. There is the reinforcements approach; summon a blue phantom or two to help you take down a tough boss or problematic section of a level. There is the grinding approach; farm souls and level up enough that you laugh and shrug off blows that would take half of your HP away, previously. Finally, for the truly cunning and remorseless, cheat; many bosses and tough enemies are easy to exploit with the right combination of equipment or just the right positioning.

Most challenging games, like the aforementioned Castlevania and Halo, offer one or two of these options at best. Demon's Souls gives the player more than enough tools to take care of the business at hand. What gives the game somewhat of an overblown reputation for being frustrating are the facts that death means respawning at the beginning of a level (gasp!), and the possible loss of all experience (souls) accrued and unspent during the last life. It is possible to play for a couple of hours and come away with a feeling of not having made any progress to speak of. That is because progress in Demon's Souls is not measured a percentage displayed in the corner of a map screen or any such thing. Skill at this game is a real skill, and intangible. It is not easily observed or measured, like so many modern games have conditioned us to expect.

Demon's Souls is, in some ways, a throwback to the days of the NES when games were genuinely, unrepentantly difficult, and many even lacked a method of saving your game for the next time you powered on the console. And it's great. It's a very unique game in this day and age, with a remarkably singular vision, amazing, inspired art direction, and a combat system that is very tactile and weighty. I have no doubt that this was the most remarkable and memorable game released in 2009, for my money.

So, here, a day after finally finishing off Demon's Souls, I am just about to embark on another journey sure to be long in completion, this game's successor, Dark Souls. I played a Wanderer in Demon's Souls, and focused on building my dexterity, using curved swords almost entirely. For Dark Souls, I'm leaning more toward a heavily armored Knight, and wielding a one-handed weapon with a shield.  We'll see how that works out...

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Going Back

Never until recently have I been able to return to a game midway through without feeling like I needed to restart the whole thing to get back into the swing of it. Maybe it's just that I don't have time to restart every game these days, and at the same time I can rarely make myself play a game to completion at the exclusion of playing other games. I used to do that. Back in the SNES and PSX and even PS2 days I used to have a laser like focus to get through whatever game it was I was playing at the time. I might divert to play a fighter or racer or something, but as far as narrative single-player structured games went, I was monogamous. The NES days though, were more like today, with many different games to choose from, and little reason to hunker down and concentrate on any particular one. That was on a much smaller scale, though. Where now I have somewhere around 200 games at my disposal, back in the day it was maybe 10, max.

But in those freewheeling days of the 90's and early 00's, if I got halfway through a game only to be distracted by something else, I would usually be restarting that game when I got back around to it. I don't feel that compulsion so much, anymore. I did with Titan Quest, recently, but that was also due to the fact that I'd put 8 hours into a character build I was into at the time, but didn't feel like playing on restart. My most recent Titan Quest character is a very straight forward dual-wielding melee type, engineered that way specifically so that I can easily return to the game after a long absence and pick up right where I'd left off. Fallout 2 and Nehrim are two other RPGs I'm in the middle of, and feel like I could jump back in pretty much anytime and not be lost, or at least not anymore lost than I was when I last played them. I couldn't even tell you what sort of character build I have going in Nehrim, but I tend toward the simple melee in games where the choice is between that, magic-focused, and rogue-ish characters.

Case in point, I finally replaced my PS3 yesterday and have returned to playing Demon's Souls once again. When I started this game almost 2 years ago, I began as a Wanderer, which is basically an agility-focused melee class with an affinity for curved swords like falchions and katana. Lots of dodging and quick stirkes, which suits the way I'm used to playing action games. I've been playing this game in fits and starts ever since beginning, but I always come back comfortable with where my character development left off. I was afraid I wouldn't be able to carry over my save to my new PS3, and that I would have to start over with a new character. I was thinking I might go with a little bit of a beefier tankish class. Luckily that wasn't necessary.

I cleared 3-1 last night on my first time through the level. The mindflayers went down in two slices of my Uchigatana +4. I'm at soul level 58 now, and I've cleared 1-1, 1-2, all of world 2, 3-1, 4-1, and 5-1. I had been focusing on 4-2, but reapers and black skeletons get me most of the time, the gold skeletons don't do it first. I haven't decided yet if I'm going to push to the end this time, or pick up Dark Souls right away and start in on that, instead. Best to finish Demon's first, I guess. I probably won't be doing a new game+ on it though, when I can move onto whatever improvements are there in Dark Souls. With a lot of tough game still ahead of me though, it's really hard to say what I'll end up doing.

I finally finished another game I started about 2 years ago--Dawn of War II. I was only 5-6 hours from the end when I'd left off last time. I've been on a big 40K kick lately, and I also just started reading the Horus Heresy. 40K is pretty cool. Dawn of War II was also pretty cool. The single player game was kind of a proof of concept, with a lot of reusing the same maps and same basic mission types, but the way the game plays is pretty unique and a lot of fun. It's somewhere between Diablo and Starcraft. It's almost like controlling a whole team of LOL or DOTA heroes and taking on hordes of enemies as you make your way from point to point and usually either defend a location or fight a boss monster. Plus, there is loot and experience for each of your squads (you have 6 by the end of the game, 4 of which deploy at any one time). If it sounds addictive, it is.

I hear Chaos Rising is even better, with more varied mission types and additional RPG elements concerning how pure or corrupt your squads become based on your deeds and wargear. I'd like to start that game soon, but I should probably work on finishing off some of this other stuff that I'm halfway through!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Waaaauuuugh!

I've been killing a lot of orks lately. Yeah, it's spelled with a K in the 40K universe. Since my last entry, I've finished both Kill Team and Space Marine, both melee and shooting based action games set in the grim, dark future. Kill Team was really just a diversion--a cheaply done couch co-op only blast and bash fest 5 stages long. Nothing serious. Space Marine was a much bigger fish to fry. It's a full on retail release, and as such, has to compete with the best in field, and being as it's on the fence between two fields, it's got to measure up to two titans of gaming: Gears of War and God of War. Even for a future where there is only war, that is a tall order.

Space Marine won't wow you like either of those titles, either in terms of spectacle or overall quality, but it does a pretty good job, considering the competition. As Ultramarine captain Titus,  you lead the charge in fending off an invasion of orks on a valuable world that houses the factories that build Titans, the giant death robots of the Warhammer 40K universe. You will shoot/slice thousands of greenskins--and later minions of Chaos--on your way to the game's finale. It's good fun. Space Marine combines the gunplay of Gears with the simple combos of God of War, but does away with the stop 'n' pop of the former and the ponderous puzzles of the latter. It's a very lean concept, so it's probably best that the game isn't too long, coming in at about 8 hours or so, by my estimate. My favorite sections of the game were the jump-pack sections where Titus is armed with a giant power hammer and rocket jump ability. You know where this is going, right? Ground pound. It's too bad that those sections are few and far between.

Space Marine also has a multiplayer mode, but I haven't gotten around to checking that out just yet. Going off of Relic's (the developer) track record, we should see some good post-release support for the game, so I'm looking forward to trying the multiplayer and whatever else they might add to the game. I'm also down for an eventual sequel, supposing they are able to make one. The story didn't leave it hanging exactly, but our character was bound for something interesting in the epilogue. Check out Space Marine if you're into action games or Warhammer 40,000, especially.

I've played a bunch of other little things, too, including Dead Nation from PSN (twin stick zombie apocalypse score mechanic/upgrade system shooter), Track Mania (PC stunt race/time trial/mini-golf esque racing game), and Shining Force (Genesis proto-SRPG).

Also, there's a whole other post's worth of writing I need to do about Jamestown, Sengoku, Warhammer 40K: Squad Command, and Tactics Ogre, but if that is ever written, it won't be tonight. Sleep for the Sleep God!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

God From The Machine

     After three or four long weeks, I have finally wrapped up my playthrough of Deus Ex, the Warren Spector created classic first-person RPG/Shooter from Ion Storm. This is a game much hallowed and spoken about in hushed tones around the PC gaming elite. Deus Ex laid out a style of game design not often emulated in games, even to this day. The degree of possibility, and freedom of choice in how you develop JC Denton and how you accomplish his goals are rare in an industry that nowadays seems to be all about the yearly iteration and that next cash grab.
     It's still a great game, even after 11 years, though the graphics and sound are somewhat painful to experience at times. The combat can be quirky, and the enemy AI is pretty bad, but you're not exactly forced into having to deal with those. The best part about Deus Ex is the fact that there are usually two or three ways to get to a given place and do what needs to be done, so if you're partial to a stealthy approach, that option is available. When that approach doesn't work out, you can always decide to go weapons hot. Much like Metal Gear Solid, it is even possible to play through the game without killing anyone save a few rare exceptions.

The VersaLife Building
     Deus Ex is a regular in the top 5 of so and so's Top 100 PC games lists, and even if I might not personally rank it quite that high, I can see the reasoning behind doing so. I'm sure if I had been there playing it back in 2000, I would have come away astounded, whereas now I merely admire the game and can appreciate the grand things it was going for during the heyday of the run and gun FPS. If the recent release of Human Revolution has you curious about the series' history, don't hesitate, it's well worth playing if you can ignore the bad production values.
     Valve's Steam Trading update went life this week, and so I've been again getting back into TF2 to have fun with that and earn items to trade with other players. Now that it is possible to trade items straight across for Steam games, I'm hoping to try that. Maybe I can get someone to trade me a copy of Deus Ex: Invisible War for a highly sought-after TF2 item of some sort.
     Borderlands also got an update this past week, adding Steamworks integreation--basically just cloud saves--and also some stat tracking stuff so that Gearbox and see how people play the game, and use that information in development of Borderlands 2. I remain a fan of the game despite it's lackluster PC port, unplayable multiplayer (GameSpy), and the fact that I've already beaten it once. I've started a new game playing as the Siren, even though my loot-hunting-in-a-shooter time might better be spent on TF2!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Having A Ball

I've been lucky today in that I've gotten to spend a good amount of time gaming. Just today I've gotten in some time with TF2, Titan Quest, and Section 8, and I'll probably sit down with Deus Ex later on, too!

Today is kind of emblematic of what and how I've been playing over the last couple of weeks. I've been popping in and out of several shooters--mostly TF2--but also Red Orchestra, and I even re-installed Borderlands the other day because all the DLC was 75% off on Steam again and I finally bit this time. I still have my character from when I finished the game, and I'm keeping him around, but I thought I'd try another class too, so I started playing as the Siren. I may try to play a little more of this later tonight, too.

Mostly I've been focusing on playing Deus Ex, though, and it's been a revelation. It's an excellent game, as its reputation would have you believe. I said this on Call Of Podcast, but had I played this back in the day, it really would have been another Metal Gear Solid moment, I think. It doesn't have a hell of a lot in common with that game, but it is similarly in a class all its own, head and shoulders above everything else in the genre (of the day). There is a brilliant flair for game design on display in both games, and like MGS, Deus Ex holds up remarkably well even all these years later. Deus Ex is $10 on Steam, and will run on probably anything capable of displaying this blog (and running Windows). If you haven't played it, consider this post yet another recommendation to do so.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Here's The Problem

As of right now, I have 2 game completions banked, meaning I can buy one new release this fall, unless I finish 2 more games pretty quickly. I can't speak to the likelihood of that, so for now I'm looking at choosing one of the following upon launch:

Deus Ex
Space Marine
Skyrim
Battlefield 3
Assassin's Creed Revelations

Diablo III is a wildcard for the list, too. So, I need to make a tough choice here, and get busy finishing some games!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Few And Far Between

That is how my gaming sessions feel these days. Even with with great expanses of time between these entries, I don't have a lot to write about having played.

I made some progress through Bioshock 2 a couple of weeks back. It's a pretty good game, like the first. It lacks the punch of the first, though, and so ended up being kind of maligned and overlooked upon its release. It's very much the sequel that no one asked for. I remember 2K making noises like they would be able to mine Bioshock well past 5 games; I'm not so sure that's the case, anymore. Perhaps they will, if they count Infinite and the series re-invention it looks to be.

I also played a short bit of Fallout 2, which is nominally the RPG I'm playing right now. I need to get back and finish this one up so that I can finally start Fallout 3 sometime in the next 12 months (maybe). I actually also have been playing a little bit of Dragon Quest IX, which I picked up out of boredom and curiosity. It's a Dragon Quest game, which is pretty much 'nuff said. I enjoyed those two and a half hours or so, so maybe I'll pick it up again soon. We'll see.

The game I've played the most of over the last couple of weeks is a multiplayer shooter called Section 8: Prejudice. I'm playing the PC version, though it is available on the PS3 and 360. I wouldn't advise playing those versions, though; there's barely anyone playing on PC--I shudder to think how empty the game would be on the consoles. It's very good, though. It plays kind of like a cross between Battlefield and Halo, and it looks a hell of a lot like the later. Sure, it's kind of generic in a lot of ways, but I really like it. Its one unique aspect is how you drop from orbit into battle, meaning that you can choose just about anywhere on the battlefield to spawn into, as long as there are no AA guns to kill you on your way down. It looks like you can even land on guys to kill them, but I haven't been able to pull that off, myself. Check the game out, if you don't mind playing in games where about half the players are bots. I got it for $6 on Direct2Drive (again, I can't say I'd recommend the $15 console price, as I'd imagine it's pretty dead over there).

Last, and probably also least, Warhammer 40K: Kill Team. I picked this up on PSN last night because it was only $10 and I like 40K stuff, and I'm excited for Space Marine. It should have been a $5 game, I think. It's pretty mediocre. I don't dislike it, especially, but it's pretty mediocre. I got stuck at a hard part in the first mission, too, and couldn't power through it before I got tired and wanted to go to bed. This is parenthood, I suppose.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Kidpocalypse Now

I've been negligent again. I can't even properly remember all the games I've played since my last post, but Steam shows a recently played list more or less exactly matching the ones I mentioned a couple of posts back. I finally finished Quake, for what it's worth. Fifteen years later. Crazy how you have to kill the final boss in that game, but fitting. I wish modern FPSs still felt like this.

In the last week, though, I've done next to no gaming due to the birth of my daughter six days ago. It's not really that there's not any free time--as I've read a good bit--it's that the free time comes in 5 minute blocks here and there. I have played precisely one level of one game since becoming a sleepless diaper changer, and I'd like to introduce you to that game with a video:



I picked up SpaceChem on the first or second day of the recent Steam sale, and it's been my most pleasant surprise in a good long while. I love this game. I love the insanely complicated and mind-bending puzzles, and I love the presentation. The graphics are nice and clean, and the music is wonderful. Most of all, though, what I like is that it is a completely new type of puzzle game. No falling blocks here or matching three to be found anywhere in this game. Check it out!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Just Cuz

The award for the most out of this world crazy, over-the-top game I've played in a while goes to Just Cause 2.




Look how fun that is! I love the aircraft, and I love how absolutely enormous the game's environment is. I've run around for a couple of hours and have probably seen about 5%-10% of the landmass, and that includes flying over it in planes and helicopters!

There's also a really cool contrast between creating tons of chaos in the form of towering explosions and then jumping off a cliff and peacefully para-sailing just wherever your whims take you. Missions pop up all over the place and can be done in any order. The game actually encourages you to run around and do whatever by doling out rewards and unlocking story missions based on how many side things you do (mostly destroying government infrastructure). It's great to jump into and mess around with such a huge and good looking open world. 

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Train, Roll On

I have been very schizophrenic about gaming lately. I'm all over the place here, getting in as many off-the-cuff game playing sessions as possible before the imminent birth of my first child. This all has got me thinking about the backlog,and I'm making a small change to my little system. I'm removing games from the Pile of Shame once I've played them at all, now. Otherwise, it gets bogged down with games that I have tried once and may never get around to playing again. I can't force myself to finish everything, or even prequels to other games I intend to play, like say, finishing Max Payne before trying part 2 or 3.

This doesn't mean I'm considering them complete or even given fair time for appraisal, it just means I got the shrinkwrap off or installed the game and checked it out for a bit. Take a look at the revised pile now, and you'll agree there are plenty of games in there even after culling the ones I'd played before--many of which I do intend to play more of! They're just not really all that shameful, anymore.

I've got a ton of games to write about playing, including WipeOut HD, Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit, Frozen Synapse, Quake, Batman: Arkham Asylum, and Just Cause 2, but unfortunately they'll have to wait until later, when I have more time to blog! It's time to go out for Sunday brunch, now.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings

I've completed the game twice now. The second time was really only the second half of the game replayed to take the alternate path, but altogether I probably spent 40 hours with the game, though I have no way of verifying that estimation. This is very likely my game of the year. No other 2011 release has been or is as highly anticipated by me as The Witcher 2, and it delivered on all counts.



Assassins of Kings not only took what was great about The Witcher and ran with it, but completely revamped the combat system to great effect. It was pretty difficult at the beginning of the game (a patch in the time since I last played the prologue and first chapter did some balancing), but after getting the hang of it and investing some skill points into the various development trees, I became a formidable master swordsman/mage/alchemist hybrid.



The role-playing choices to be made in the Witcher games absolutely shame anything I've seen in any other games. Not only are the consequences truly meaningful to the development of the game's plot, the choices are rarely set up in a neat black/white good/evil dichotomy, and it's almost never immediately obvious what the ramifications of a choice will be. There is no spectrum on which your character mathematically drifts one way or the other depending on these choices; there is only the often harsh realization that a decision you made hours of playtime ago has just now come back around to you through an elaborate chain of cause and effect.



One key decision near the end of chapter 1 completely changes the plot, availability of quests, and mission objectives for the rest of the game, not to mention many of the locations visited in chapter 2. This is the point from which I went back and replayed from after finishing the game initially. Without spoiling too much, you choose to align (but not necessarily ally) yourself with either the elvish guerilla Iorveth or the vengeful special forces commander Vernon Roche and where you are and what side of the conflict you are on in chapter 2 plays out accordingly.



I can't imagine how CD Projekt Red will be able to carry over all 16 possible end-game world states to The Witcher 3. Most likely they will leave behind entirely many of the characters of this game. The overall political situation of the world of the game is pretty much the same at the ending of the game no matter what choices you make, but major characters (to this story) live or die, and individual kingdoms may be with or without a monarch or at peace or at war. Geralt though, is likely bound in the same direction with the same objective no matter how the saga of the kingslayers has played out. The ending of the first game in the series was similar; no matter who you allied with, Geralt's job was done and he was leaving the kingdom with a fat coin purse when things got real complicated all of a sudden. Something ends, something begins, they said, and if I had to guess the same is true here.



I just hope it's not a 4 year wait for the next game in the series. The Witcher 2 uses a new engine that the developers built specifically for this game, and so now that that groundwork is laid, here's hoping they can get The Witcher 3 done in closer to 2 or 3 years. The way the series is built so far, there is an overarching story arc of Geralt recovering lost memories of his adventures before the events of the games (including those that happened in the popular series of Witcher novels that the games were inspired by), and each game is a self-contained story of the witcher becoming embroiled in grand schemes and political maneuvering while just trying to do his profession (monster slayer for hire with a peculiar warrior's moral code) and earn some coin.



Two games in, and The Witcher has become one of my favorite series in gaming, and Geralt himself one of my favorite characters, right up there with the likes Solid/Naked Snake, Ezio Auditore, FemShep, and the cast of Uncharted. The wait begins for the next entry!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Interlude - E3 2011 Day 1

So, today Nintendo announced the Wii U. I don't really know what to say about it, other than time will tell. I do think it faces a bit of an identity crisis, like Nintendo is somehow trying to take all their Blue Ocean success and fold it back into the hardcore game space. Or rather, trying to fold us hardcore types back into the Nintendo space. I think they'll have to do more than just secure ports of all the hot games already coming to the other platforms, though.

Personally, Nintendo properties just don't connect with me anymore. Sure, Mario is fun here and there, but nothing they put out is liable to keep me interested very long, if it catches my eye in the first place. What would make me interested in buying a Wii U? Well, the lower the price, the lower that bar goes, I suppose. At $199 I might get it just to keep up with my Virtual Console purchases, assuming they'll carry over. That controller, though... I really don't know what to even think of the thing.

I saw some video of Uncharted: Golden Abyss today, which was of course, PS Vita video. It looked good. I don't know that the business prospects of the Vita are worth a damn, but it looks like a desirable gadget, at the very least. I've seen an OLED TV screen before at my local Sony store, and it looked amazing. I'm excited to see a Vita up close and personal.

Interlude - E3 2011 Day 0

So today was the first day of this year's round of E3 bombshells.

Things started off pretty slow, as far as I'm concerned, with Microsoft lobbing softballs to the blue ocean crowd. It seems like 90% of what they talked about was Kinect trash. There's a half-hearted Halo HD remake coming out this fall, and Halo 4 is to be released late next year. Good thing they teased it now, huh?

There were also conferences by EA and Ubisoft today, so we learned a bit more about games I am excited about: Mass Effect 3, Battlefield 3, and Assassin's Creed Revelations. I hope EA's Origin business is as benign and unobtrusive as Ubisoft's U-play.

Sony seems to have won the day with the announcement that the NGP, now the Vita, will come in a $250 model as well as a $300 3G enabled one. People also seem excited by Uncharted, "transfarring," and cloud save synching like was shown with the game Ruin. I might like a Vita, myself. They'll need to show me the software first, of course. Dust 514, the MMOFPS by CCP that will somehow link to their incredibly interesting EVE Online, was also briefly shown. I've been interested in this one since it was announced quite some time ago. Longtime readers may remember that I've tried a couple of times to penetrate EVE, but just couldn't hack it. The interest is there, but not the will, time, or dedication. Maybe Dust will be the thing.

I just watched a bit of Skyrim being played by the game's director, Todd Howard. It looks good, like a modernized Oblivion. The dragons look especially cool.

Of the new, previously unannounced games to be revealed today, only Halo 4 and Far Cry 3 are of much interest. Halo 4 is a given, and far out. Far Cry 3 may also be far out, but the video shown today was, incredibly, all in-game, and it looked awesome. I enjoyed the hell out of Far Cry 2, flawed as it was. If FC3 is able to retain the incredible atmosphere and improve upon some of 2's weak points, it could be an amazing game. I want to remain skeptical, but you can't deny the fact that when almost every other game shown was nothing but CG, we saw a solid 7-8 minutes of actual play here, and it looked very good.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Making This A Thing Again

Blogging has really gotten away from me lately. I blame my job. I hardly have time to trawl the RSS feeds or NeoGAF anymore, much less wax on and on about games. Fortunate then, that I haven't been playing a hell of a lot new or different in the last month. I think it really only amounts to four games.

Bioshock 2 was the last Resolution pick I managed to get to. I played a couple of hours, and was really enjoying it. All the hullabaloo surrounding the original game was about the plot and all it's significance and this and that and  zzzzzz.... did everyone forget how much fun it was? Bioshock 2 is here to remind you. I'm excited to go back and play more, and what's more, the Minerva's Den DLC was recently released for the PC version, which I'm playing. I'll probably have to pick that up--again, as I bought it for the 360 version before catching a RROD to the console's face.

I also finally got around to finishing up S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Now that's a great open-world shooter. It's got some light role-play elements to it as far as choosing which missions to take and choosing who to ally yourself with, and it's got a great big expansive world to run around in and tons of dynamic stuff happening everywhere you go. It's also steeped in atmosphere unlike what you get with many other games.

Also steeped in its own very specific atmosphere is the PC adventure game Blade Runner. A Call Of Podcast listener was kind enough to send me a copy of this hard-to-find gem, and it's quite a find. If you can get it to run on a modern system, it still looks pretty good, and of course the sound is excellent and very reminiscent of the movie. Again I only got to play it for an hour or two, but I was instantly hooked, and mean to get back to it as soon as possible, perhaps when my next game relenquishes its hold on me.

Yes, the long-awaited sequel to The Witcher is out, and I have played it. I have completed it, and gone back to play more. It's good. Very good, in fact, and I'll write more about it, and in detail, in my next entry, due soon-ish.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Falling Behind

Man, it's like I haven't played anything over the last couple of weeks. Well, that's not exactly true. I did manage to get through the Portal 2 co-op mode with a friend. That was pretty fun. I tooled around in Portal 1 some, also. I guess Valve wasn't doing Steam Cloud back when I played through it on PC the first time, because I didn't have any saves or anything for it when I loaded it back up. That was well over two years ago, though. I'm not sure when they began the cloud thing. I need to finish up a playthrough to unlock all the challenge rooms and such. I'll bet my playthrough of Half-Life: Source is lost, too. Steam shows me having played 5 hours of that game, but I finished it, so something is off, there. Maybe they started tracking times when I was midway through.

So the resolution games for the last couple of weeks have been Sniper Elite, which I played about an hour of--pretty cool so far, very deliberate--and Trine, which I played about 45 minutes of just last night--also pretty cool, but no saving mid level? WTF? I'll need to replay almost all of that level, now.

I've been sick and otherwise indisposed lately, so I haven't played anything else but some Team Fortress 2. It's the perfect game to mess around in and kill off a couple of podcasts. Plus, I've been meaning to put more time into it forever to try out all the classes really well and to get a bunch of items. I found my second Gunslinger arm for the Engineer yesterday. I already have a vintage one though, so someone hit me up if you want a trade!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Resolve

A lot of the games I've been playing lately are ones that have been selected by Resolution on Call Of Podcast, or are on my short list of "must finish" games that I would like to knock out before my baby is due this summer.

Portal 2 was on that list, and when it was released last week, I played through it as quick as I could across three evenings. I only made it through the single-player portion, but hope to tackle the co-op soon. I had a great time with it, just like the first. I'll refrain from talking any more about it, because just look at the internet this week. It's lousy with Portal 2 talk.

I've also been playing a lot of STALKER, another game on that short list. I think I've made some pretty good progress, such that I'm about 2/3 to 3/4 of the way through it now. Maybe I can finish that game off this week, and then move on to Fallout 2 before The Witcher 2 is released. I've been live-tweeting my playthrough with the hashtag "#stalk3r," because there's constantly something cool and interesting happening in the Zone.

For Resolution, I've dug into Ryu Ga Gotoku 3 and Max Payne. Both are pretty good, and I'll carry on playing RGG3 to keep up my language practice and because I'm a fan of the series. With Max Payne, I came to a good stopping point. Maybe I'll come back to it eventually.

In the few days leading up to Portal 2's release, you could play any of the "potato sack" indie games to speed along its release. I contributed by checking out Super Meat Boy briefly (really needed a pad for this), and playing a couple of hours in Killing Floor, which plays kind of like a cross between the end scene of a Left 4 Dead scenario and Counter-Strike. You get one life per round, and kills earn you money you can spend to upgrade your arsenal between rounds. It's pretty simple, and fun.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Lost Count

I can't remember if I already subtracted 2 completions from my total for ordering Portal 2 from Amazon. Going off my list of completed/bought for 2011, though, I should still have 4 banked, being that I'm at 8 games beaten, and only 2 bought for over $25. I think what happened was that I ordered the game, took off 2 completions, but didn't add it to the pile o' treasure because I wouldn't receive it for a while. Yeah, lets roll with that. So now, now that I've cancelled that order, I can refund those 2 completions to bring me back up to 4. I'm just going to go and buy the game via Steam when I get home, anyway. When in doubt, err in your own favor, that's what I always say. This way I already have stocked the 2 completions I'll need to spend on The Witcher 2, my most anticipated game of 2011.

Actually, I think the token system has served its purpose well, having curbed my game acquisitions by a good amount. The key seems to be only buying a game when you are about to play it, unless it's a screaming 75% off deal or something. I may scrap that whole policy if I keep going at this rate, since it wouldn't be necessary, and I apparently can't keep count, anyway!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Better Use Of My Time

It occurred to me while playing Killzone 2 this past week that I didn't really like the campaign, and I wasn't going to waste anymore time with it. We talked about it on the last Call Of Podcast (Dad Man Walking), but I've got a baby on the way, and I'm looking at a drastic drop in the amount of free time I have for gaming. It's already started in a lot of ways. We're doing baby shopping, doctor visits, birthing classes, and the whole nine yards. Anyway, I've got games I figure are more fun--indeed, more important--to play. I was prompted to make a short list of "must complete" games that I'm going to focus on over the next several weeks before the baby is due (at the end of June). Said list:

STALKER
Fallout 2
Demon's Souls
Deus Ex
Portal 2
The Witcher 2

I'm well into the first 3, and the second 3 are my preliminary choices for last major pre-baby completion status. It's impossible to say how much time I'll have to play games in the second half of the year, but I'm betting it won't be a hell of a lot, and thus this initiative.

I've kicked off by jumping back into STALKER last night, and I'm planning a separate play diary of that, maybe in further blog posts here, or on twitter.

Otherwise, I spent the majority of my time gaming since the last post playing Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood. I enjoyed the hell out of that game. As of this writing, I have collected every feather, every flag, and every treasure. I've finished every shop quest and own every piece of equipment and every piece of real estate available for purchase in the game. I've done every mission there is in the game, save two that were exclusive to the uber deluxe collector's edition of the game (I have done the Copernico missions that were exclusive to my PS3 copy of the game). I've finished the DLC, solved all of the glyph puzzles and played the Truth mission, and basically have seen all there is to see in the game.  I've only played about an hour of the multiplayer yet, though, and have done practically none of the VR missions.  There are also a couple of Ezio skins I haven't unlocked (Raiden from MGS4, and the Desmond skin). I got my money's worth, though, no doubt.

On a bit of a whim, I finally decided to load up X-Com: UFO Defense. It's a classic, as anyone who was gaming on PC in the early 90's will tell you. At first brush, it's a whole lot deeper than I was expecting, and I'll really need to sit down and get into it at some point in the future. It looks like it could be pretty addictive.

 

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Blogging Backlog!

I've been so busy lately that I haven't gotten around to a proper post here in almost a month! I couldn't even begin to update with detailed impressions on everything I've been playing in the interim; the best place to as much as is available on that front is the latest episode of Call Of Podcast.

As far as the backlog goes, though, I think I'm doing pretty well. Thus far in 2011 I've bought pretty few games, and have been plowing through them at a great pace. I modified my game token policy to apply to games $25 and over to bring the letter of the law more in tune with the spirit of the law, as it were. I had a problem last year treating a $20 Bayonetta the same as a $60 Halo or what have you. My reasoning is that games typically hit prices ranging from $10 to $25 or $30 to $60, and also that anything over $25 is usually closer to that higher range, like $27.99 or $29.99. Also, once a certain caliber of game hits $20 or $25, it may not ever go any lower, even used. I was never going to blow a token on a $20 Darksiders, but at the same time, I might never be able to find it for $10 or $15. Again, it's the spirit of the law, not the letter, that matters to me here.

My intake of fresh, new games is probably going to end up around one a month this year. I had nothing in January, Tactics Ogre for February, Total War: Shogun 2 for March, and I'm looking at Portal 2 for April, and Witcher 2 for May. It's tough to say, after that, but I'm thinking there'll be Assassin's Creed 3 in November or December. We'll probably see the rest of this list fleshed out come E3. I'll probably want the new Deus Ex whenever that's released, and Battlefield 3, most definitely. Can't forget Skyrim, either. Oh, and Mass Effect 3. Sigh. That's a lot of completion tokens I need to accrue. And with a baby on the way, no less!

The past few weeks have been spotty in terms of Resolution, but with the schedule returning to normal this week, I should be able to pick it up again with Killzone 2. Other tasks lurking near the top of the pile are finishing Dead Space, Fallout 2, STALKER, and Nehrim. Then I need to play Red Dead, Batman, Darksiders, and the list goes on.

I finished Prince of Persia and Assassin's Creed Brotherhood most recently. PoP was merely OK, but ACB is awesome. I'm continuing to play it even after having finished up the main plot threads. There is a hell of a lot of content in there, and a whole big-ass multi-player mode, to boot!

I've had a resurgence in League of Legends lately, and I've been playing a lot of that using the champion Olaf, who is a melee dps/lifesteal type of guy with relatively high survivability and strength. It's a lot of fun. LoL still feels like a 80% great game, though. It needs a much better front end, and some of the champions and art are just lame. I can't wait to see what Valve has up their sleeve with DOTA 2. This genre needs to be cracked wide open, and Riot don't seem to be hitting that critical mass; as phenomenal a success as LoL apparently is, it's still very much an underground type of thing that only rarely is discussed even in hardcore gaming circles.

On the subject of real-time strategy, Total War: Shogun 2 was released last week, to the complete bafflement of yours truly. Perhaps not complete, but a lot of bafflement. I made it through a couple of tutorials well enough, but the third stands undefeated yet, a wall to my progress in learning the game. I haven't had just a hell of a lot of time with it yet, though, and I'm a slow learner when it comes to RTS. I need to make more time to sink my teeth into this game. The art and period atmosphere is magnificent.

I had a business trip to Chicago this week, and plenty of time on planes and in the hotel room to enjoy some Tactics Ogre. This is really a great game. Differences from FFT are starting to make themselves more apparent, now, chief among them the amount of thought that has to go into just navigating the battlefields and orienting your troops. It's much easier to have them clumped up and bottlenecked when you're working with up to 12 units instead of 5 or 6 like in FFT. The PSP remake of this game is just chock-full of greatness like the CHARIOT and WORLD tarot, leveling of classes rather than units, and the Warren Report, which may have been in the original. The plot also hinges much more on political machinations than supernatural artifacts of power, which is cool. If you still own a PSP, go buy this masterpiece.

Speaking of still owning a piece of hardware, I may sell my Wii. I can live without it, and have an interested party.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Games I Want To Go Play Right Now

League of Legends
Dawn of War II, The Last Stand
Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood
Dead Space
Battlefield: Bad Company 2, Vietnam
Team Fortress 2

Work sucks!

Here are some things I've been playing recently:
Prince of Persia (done)
League of Legends (swapped mains twice now)
Dead Space (at Ch. 7 now)
Recettear (about 3 hours)
AC:B (just checked out multi for a bit)
Tactics Ogre (still early in Ch. 2)

I'll have more in-depth impressions later, on the next Call Of Podcast.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Platform Joy

I've been doing a lot of platform jumping and navigating over the last week, having barreled through the entirety of VVVVVV in all it's glory, and jumping into a game I recently took an interest in, Prince of Persia (the 2008 release). My cause for playing the latter is having heard about it shunting combat off to the side, or rather, reducing its frequency and emphasis in the game to a level more fitting of its place in an adventure game--that is, not a combat-focused action game.

My major gripes with Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and both Uncharted games thus far are that the combat, in each case, drags the game down. I didn't show up for overlong, frustrating, not-very-well-done fighting sequences. I came for the adventure aspects; the exploration, navigation, puzzling--the fun bits. So far, I'm having a good time with PoP 2008. It's pretty straight forward and not terribly challenging, but so what? It's a good game to chill out with because the smoothness with which the prince can move around the attractive open world is very fluid and relaxing. I'm around a quarter of the way through it, I think. I'm thinking I might pick up the epilogue DLC if I'm still feeling it by the time I get to the end.  I only paid about $10 for the full disc, used, so I may kick $10 to Ubisoft to support this game, which I feel like probably wasn't a great success.

VVVVVV was the Resolution game for last week, and I got right through it and collected every shiny trinket in about 5 hours over 3-4 days.  I really like this game. I love the art and the retro C64 feel to it. I also love the music, which is chiptune and also retro sounding, but featuring fully modern production values. It is an amazing soundtrack, tickling my nostalgia bone just right. The game itself is a big open world hub with linear stages sprinkled throughout, so it's kind of Super Metroid like, except that you can go anywhere from the word go, and there are no power-ups of any kind. Start to finish, you only ever use three buttons, left, right, and gravity-flip. It's a hardcore old-school platformer in a lot of ways. There aren't really any enemies, only obstacles and gauntlets to navigate around. Anyway, VVVVVV comes highly recommended. I think I got this for $2.50 on Steam, though I also bought the soundtrack for $4 later on.

I jumped back into League of Legends this week, trying out a new champion, Pantheon, the Spartan-alike warrior with a spear and buckler. I am complete garbage at this game, and my team loses more often than not, but somehow I still end up having fun playing. I think I am now 2/5 or so with this character, and more like 1/6 in terms of games where I felt like I played worth a damn. Like I said, though, it is fun to play. I wonder how Valve's DOTA2 will compare. I know that is going to be a lot more like DOTA itself, so it may end up being less accessible than LOL, which would be weird, but then, I guess Counter-Strike is also a Valve game.

Elsewhere, I've been plugging along at Tactics Ogre. I feel like every great thing I want to say about this game I have already said in the past about Final Fantasy Tactics, but don't let my silence lie, this is a fantastic game, and a must-buy if you a) still own a PSP, and b) like turn-based tactical combat games. An appreciation for extreme political depth and subterfuge is also a plus. I got through another chapter of Dead Space, too! That puts me at Chapter 6.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Never A Dull Moment

I feel like I have no reason to ever be bored at home, just considering all of the games I could be playing, let alone all of the books and movies and good TV to watch anytime I want.  Imagine the odd feeling I got this past weekend when I didn't really feel like doing any of that for several hours.  I think I ended up playing some more Bad Company 2 multiplayer.

I'm playing the PC version of BF:BC2 now, since my 360 red ringed, and I had gotten rid of the console version anyway when I went "xbox live free," and picked up the PC version for like $7 during the December Steam blowouts.  That game is so good, it's easily my favorite multiplayer shooter ever.  I've never been extremely into any of them, really, but the only ones I've played and enjoyed anywhere near as much as BC2 are Halo 3 and Team Fortress 2.  TF2 I really like, too, but only play occasionally.  I can sink my teeth into BC2, though.  I played somewhere around 30 hours worth on the 360 version, and another 3-4 so far on the PC version.  Battlefield 3 is going to be awesome.  Red Orchestra 2, also.  RO is kind of like BF, but more realistic and with less servers.  Hopefully the sequel gains more traction with players.

I've been playing Dead Space since last week, but I'm still less than halfway in.  I'm at the beginning of chapter 5 right now.  It's executed very well.  It feels like next-gen Resident Evil 4 in space, like better Resident Evil in space.  The graphics are very nice, the UI and general presentation is slick as hell.  If I have any problem with it, it's just that this style of game has never been my favorite, and I don't feel anything drawing me through the game; it's kind of the opposite, because of the tension waiting for the next big startle.  I feel more inclined to not play the game than to play it.  Without the force of will, this game my fall by the wayside.  It's not overly long, though, so I may push on through just to finish it off and see more of the cool graphics.

I played some more Magicka over the weekend, too.  Esteban and I played a few short rounds of the arena challenge mode, and I played through a couple more of levels on the single player campaign.  Magicka, in a word, is crazy.  You are frantically trying to assemble any kind of offensive spell that will knock guys back and dispatch them.  It's funny at times when your hastily assembled spell explodes and kills you and everyone around you, or when you somehow trick enemy wizards into frying each other with their magic.  The game also has a really campy sense of humor, spoofing every RPG trope you can think of, and referencing everything from Rambo to 300.  My wizard currently has an M60 machine gun instead of a sword to complement his staff.  This is a great package for $10, and I hope it's unique magic system is co-opted into other games somehow.  Maybe a simpler version with 4-6 elements would fit into a more serious game like a Mass Effect or something.

Demon's Souls is the Resolution game for this week, and I'm trying to pick up where I left off not too long ago, working through 4-2, getting some souls.  I have still never even visited worlds 3 or 5; I should probably check those out to see if there's any useful loot or easy bosses.

Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together was finally released this week, and I bought it over PSN and downloaded it onto my PSP through my PS3.  So far, so good.  I'm only 4-5 battles in thus far, just through the introductory stuff, for the most part.  It seems deeper in some ways than FFT, but less so in others.  I really love what they've done as far as UI and ancillary information to the game (the Warren Report).  I haven't had occasion to use the Chariot system yet, which allows for rewinding battle turns, but I think the next battle will be a tough one, so we'll see.

I miss FFT's ability to spin the entire stage around in 90 degree increments, and the ability to tilt it up and down, but TO allows for a bird's eye view--from two different angles, which strikes me as redundant, but whatever.  Also, the sprites and environments are by default zoomed-in, so they appear blurry on the PSP screen, but if you zoom the view out so they appear nice and sharp, then they're too small to see very well.  More options here and there would be nice, as would an option in the store to see what all of your guys are wearing at the moment, and how that gear compares to what's on sale.  That should be in every RPG, period.  Come on, people!

I'm not far enough in to really be into the plot, but so far it looks like it has all of the hallmark's of a Matsuno game.  I'm excited to get further in.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Revenge of the Consoles

I've been playing a bunch more console stuff recently, since my last few "focus" games have been Assassin's Creed 2, Uncharted 2, and now Dead Space.  I expect that to continue for a good bit; there are a lot of things I need to get around to on PS3, and many of them should be fairly neat 12-20 hour experiences.

I guess first thing I need to cover here is Uncharted 2, which I played through in about 12 hours over 4-5 days this week and last.  It was pretty much more of what the first game had to offer, but in different locales.  There's not a ton to say about it, other than it was mostly enjoyable, but is a little too proud of it's combat system.  Less goons to wade through would be a good thing for this series, on a number of levels.  It would help pacing, alleviate frustration, and eliminate some of the very real dissonance between the Nathan Drake of Uncharted's many well done cinematics, and the Nathan Drake of Uncharted's action-heavy gameplay.  The final encounter was kind of lame, but otherwise the game is mostly fit for the win category.

Magicka, a neat little indie PC game, is also mostly win.  It's an action RPG played from an isometric perspective much like Diablo, but with a very original and very novel casting system that has you choose elements to cast using the QWERASDF keys, and right-click to cast whatever combination of elements you've queued up.  Most random combinations will result in something happening, as long as you don't negate any elements with their opposites (stone and shock, for instance, or healing and arcane).  There are hundreds, maybe thousands of permutations to try as you make your way through the humorous quest or fight in multiplayer arenas versus waves of enemies.  The game is best played with other people, but single player is pretty fun, too.

I finally decided to download and install my Steam copy of Battlefield: Bad Company 2, having not played the game in months.  This is my favorite multiplayer shooter in recent memory, and probably my favorite ever.  If Battlefield 3 is a substantial improvement on this, it'll be beyond incredible.  It looks and runs really well on my PC, too.  Even on high settings I get 50+ frames per second, whereas I think the 360 version topped out at 30.  It's good to be back in, even if I do have to start over with the unlocks from where I was on the 360 version.

For Resolution, I started Dead Space tonight.  It's pretty slick so far, I have to admit.  I finished the first 2 chapters of 12.  More on this as it develops!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Death Comes For Us All, My Friend. Requiesquat En Pace.

Today I laid to rest a good friend who gave me much joy and satisfaction over the last 4 years, my Xbox 360. Yes, it was taken by the RROD, out of nowhere and with no warning signs.  Here one day, gone the next.  We had some times, though, from Halo: Combat Evolved and Oblivion to Halo: Reach and Assassin's Creed II, some great times, indeed.

Fortunately, I had already beaten Assassin's Creed II, and with over 30 hours on the clock, I was just hunting down the last 15ish feathers in the game and only about 4 achievements away from the full 1000 points.  I was sure I was going to finish that off tonight, and it would have been a brilliant end to my time with a brilliant game, but alas. The pezzo di merde kicked the bucket! Four years is a hell of a long time to get out of an old model 360, though, so I can't grouse too much.

Assassin's Creed II is an incredible game.  I loved every minute of it, and it's one of a very select group that I wanted to keep playing even after finishing the story.  I will very much be looking forward to playing Brotherhood while I attend to some other games on my PS3 and PC, primarily.  Now newly Xbox-less, I'm going to hold out as long as I possibly can before buying one of the new systems.  The guys at Microsoft offered to fix my console for about $100, but meh. Meh, I said, ambivalently.

There is no shortage of gaming to be had on my PS3, though.  I've got the aforementioned Assassin's Creed Brotherhood and Red Dead Redemption for the system, as well as a bevy of PS3 exclusive titles to keep me busy.  And you know, 2011 is looking a lot more like a Sony year than a MS year as far as exclusives go!

I haven't played much but ACII over the past couple of weeks, but I did spend a little time with New Super Mario Bros. Wii for Resolution.  Yep, it's a Mario game.  It's a lot like the DS one.  I finished up Metro 2033 from the week before, and enjoyed that a good bit, which lead to me playing some more STALKER a few days later, for the first time in a while.  I'll finish that game in good time.  It's my new Far Cry 2.  Elsewhere, a kind listener to Call Of Podcast gifted me a copy of Europa Universalis III over Steam.  A blog post wouldn't do that game justice; a master's thesis probably wouldn't, either! Suffice it to say that it's an incredibly deep strategy game where you manage one nation through several hundred years around and during the Renaissance.  It's way over my head, but it's pretty nice to load the game up and listen to the music whilst trying to make sense of the menus and available options.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Heading Into Another Weekend! Punctuation!

My Resolution feature for Call Of Podcast has been going well.  Last week I began Starcraft: Brood War, and this week I've been playing Metro 2033.  I have a feeling a lot of these games are going to fall by the wayside, but some will grab me and/or be short enough to finish, and I think Metro will be one of those.  Brood War, on the other hand... well, it'll be a while.

Metro 2033's closest analogue in my mind is probably Half-Life, but Call of Duty is a good comparison, too; it's just that the set pieces aren't so bombastic as your typical CoD.  I suspect Metro has a ton in common with Half-Life 2, but I haven't played that game yet! Get your Resolution votes in today!  The visuals in Metro are damned good, even set to low so that it'll run at a decent framerate in 1080p (bumped down from my usual 2048x1152, also to help the framerate) on my 4850 512mb.  I'm going to need to upgrade the GPU in my PC before anything, it seems.  I like the game well enough, but it's not really blowing me away.  The atmosphere is there, and pretty unique, but the combat could use some work.  Humans take way too many shots to go down, and the mutants all behave like Doom pinky demons--they charge you, and that's about it.  There are other nits to pick with Metro (the UI is bad, enemies need more dialogue barks), but I like the game for what it's trying to be, and where it does succeed.

Brood War is very good, and very hard.  It's Starcraft for veterans, which I guess I qualify as, but only just barely!  The game is rock-solid.  Rock-solid as in rocks to break yourself on like an ocean wave.  Over and over and over, until, particle by particle, you can erode bits and pieces of the cliff face away, and over eons make progress inland.

I can't seem to play Assassin's Creed 2 in anything other than 4 hour chunks.  There is just so much to do in this game!   I'm in the middle of the fifth DNA sequence of like 16 or something--I keep getting sidetracked doing optional missions of 100 stripes.  I have already fully upgraded the Villa as far as renovations go, I just need to collect all of the art and weapons and feathers and stuff like that.  The feathers, at least, will probably never happen, but the rest may.  This is a very playable game.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Rolling Start 2011

It's been a good long while since I've had a chance to update my progress in a blog post.  It's been really busy at work, and I tend to play games at home more than read or write about them.  I've had a very eventful gaming time these past few weeks!  I finished 3 whole games!  Quickly:

Bayonetta - I pushed hard through the second half of this game to finish it off before the end of 2010, but I really enjoyed it.  It's a must play for anyone who likes the action genre or Japanese gaming, or both!  I'm not big on either, lately, but Bayonetta was a load of fun.  This is probably one I would have played multiple times back when I was in school and had tons of time.  The combat is fun, smooth, and has a lot of depth to it if you want that.

Halo: Reach - the first game I played for my Resolution feature, as voted on by Call Of Podcast listeners.  It was good, but it doesn't stick out to me as much more than just another Halo game.  It's surely the apex of Halo multiplayer, but that's not really why I play Halo, and indeed I am not even subscribed to XBL anymore.  I thought the campaign was just kind of average, and definitely lacking in the wow factor that other missions in other series entries had.  The action all being centered on one planet and not on crazy space installations with epic landscaping is to blame for that.  I did appreciate the space flight and other vehicle sections new to the series, but those all together make up maybe 10% of the campaign.  I kind of wonder about the future of this franchise...

Fallout - probably the most unorthodox RPG playthrough I've ever had.  I kind of stumbled onto the endgame not really knowing that it was the endgame.  The whole thing ended up being shorter than I had thought it would be, and by a good margin.  The entire critical path of the game really only has two legs, though the second consists of two objectives.  First you find a water chip (by hook or by crook), then you're tasked with  destroying the leader of the super mutants, and separately destroying the source of the super mutants.  This is really all the direction you're ever given in the game; the rest is up to you.  You have to figure out how to use the resources present in the world, in the form of people you meet, the skills you gain, and the gear you're able to get your hands on, to accomplish your goals.  I hunted around until I sniffed out a trail for the water chip, and I joined the Brotherhood of Steel to get my hands on some power armor and heavy weaponry for the latter objectives.  There are other, equally valid ways of doing these things, all of which have an effect on the game's ending.  My game had a kind of bitter ending for several factions, as I'd inadvertently allowed the super mutants lay waste to the ghoul town of Necropolis and scare away all the residents of The Hub, as well.

I finished Fallout, but hadn't had enough, so the next day I jumped right into Fallout 2! I'm just a few hours in, but so far so good.  It's very similar to the first game, just with a few improvements having been made in the year between the two games' release dates.  In Fallout 2 you play The Chosen One, a descendant of The Vault Dweller, the protagonist of the first game, and you are sent out into the world in search of a Garden of Eden Construction Kit, or GECK.

It was high time that I jump into Assassin's Creed II, as well, so jump I did.  It's great so far!  Ezio Auditore da Firenze is a much more likeable player character than Altair was in the first game, and the variety of mission objectives and other things to do in the game is a tremendous improvement upon AC1.  I'll have more to talk about regarding this game at a later date.

That about wraps things up for now, aside from some light warfighting/manshooting I've been doing in Red Orchestra: Ostfront '41 -'45 and Battlefield 2, both excellent games, by the way.  More on those later, too.