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.