Friday, March 23, 2012

A Caped Crusader's Space G.E.D.

I finally beat another game! It's felt like an eternity since Max Payne, but I guess it wasn't really that long ago; it was only about a month, which hasn't been that long if you consider how busy I've been. Yes, it was Batman: Arkham Asylum that I took down the other night. If you just total up the time I spent in-game (not the time it was paused while I did something else), I probably spent around 12-14 hours on it. It was good fun; it's about as great a game as you could ever hope for given the long and storied history of licensed franchises. That's not fair; it's actually much better than said history would allow you to hope for.

While I recognize it as being an extraordinary example of both an action/adventure game and one based on another property; I want to mention that as good as the game was, it never really hooked me. I could have quit at any time and never come back. I made myself play through to the end. I don't think this is any fault of the game's. I think that it's just my lack of interest in this type of game. I like Batman as much as the next guy, but I think that's part of the problem--the next guy also isn't a huge fan, but maybe goes to see every entry in the Nolan-directed movie series. I think being a more interested fan of Batman would have pushed me over the edge. Certainly if a game of the same caliber but skinned as Warhammer 40K or, I don't know, Wheel of Time   came out, I would be over the moon for it. As Batman, or some wholly original IP? It's merely a great game that I feel a little clinical detachment from.

I am completely attached to Dota 2, on the other hand. It puts me into a certain headspace where I fully engage with the give and take of the game, how the power-defining economies of experience and gold are developing, how the lay of the map is changing with falling towers and roving player characters, and how my own character development is proceeding--how my farm is coming along, you might say. I should find another character I like as much as Windrunner, in case someone else ever picks her before I can, and so that I don't go so far down one playstyle that I can't acclimate to another. This game is good. How good? So good. I can't wait to see what Valve have in store for it as it is released and matures. Their track record with for extended support is great, with games like TF2 and the L4D series receiving tons of content updates. Counter-Strike and Day of Defeat even get the occasional balance patch, if I'm not mistaken.

Dota 2 is coming along as a player in e-sports, as well, with large tournaments being held for large cash prizes. Spectating matches is a major part of being involved very deeply with a game like this or Starcraft, and that functionality is built right into the game client. I've watched a few matches there, but I prefer to tune into a shoutcasted match online if I'm going to spectate. I like to know what's going on and why players do the things they do, since I'm still fairly green.

Freespace 2 is a lot of spacey, dog-fighty, fun, especially with the nice PC flight stick I bought. While a great deal more complicated than Colony Wars, it's pretty similar in that it's a bunch of scripted missions more like Call of Duty to the X series' S.T.A.L.K.E.R.. I'm still digging into it, but so far it's a lot of fun. I have to admit that the stick really does a lot to improve the feel of the game versus playing with a mouse or just the keyboard.

I got one of those new iPads, the third iteration of them, if you're counting. I'm not buying any media this March in protest of "Big Content" and their shenanigans, but I did have some free app codes from the little cards they give you at Starbucks. I was able to download Bejeweled (3?) and Tetris, which are fun, of course, as well as a few other free to play games I haven't tried yet. I'll have to check some of those out this weekend, I guess, and maybe do a little roundup post.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Space Cadet/Dropout

Not too long ago Egosoft released another iteration to the X series called X3: Albion Prelude. It's actually an expansion to X3: Terran Conflict, and requires that game to run. I spent about 18 hours with Terran Conflict and never really clicked with it. It's quite the deep space trader game. Albion Prelude does a little bit to improve the graphics and user interface, and also adds a stock exchange in case the game's incredibly deep economy wasn't complex enough for you. I picked up Albion Prelude for the might-as-well price of $10, hoping that the game finally would hook me, but I'm sad to report that it has not.

I think that there are some fundamental problems with both of these games, and those revolve around how long it takes to do anything. I spent more time just staring at stations as they drew nearer, my ship on auto-pilot and time sped up to 600%, than I did having any fun with the game. I'm sure that the capacity is there to have a whole fleet of AI guys run my trade empire for me, but that's not something I would accomplish in the first, say, 50 hours of play. That's stretching it a bit, even for a guy like me, who's willing to put time into a rewarding game to get the most out of it (S.T.A.L.K.E.R., Far Cry 2). I like what X looks like, but I can't get on with the execution. There is another major entry in the series set to be released later this year, I believe, called X: Rebirth. I'll be watching it; maybe it will be the one to click.

In the meantime, I have Freespace 2, hailed by many as an essential classic in the space flight genre. I've only played just the first mission so far, along with the three training missions. It seems fun. I think I am going to need a better controller than the mouse, though. I want to see if I can get my 360 pad to work with it.

Elsewise, this past weekend I played a little bit of both Batman: Arkham Asylum and Just Cause 2. Not really anything to report on either, just that I spent an hour or so with them.

I've spent a great deal more time playing Dota 2 over the last few weeks than anything. I'm still learning the basics and some intermediate stuff that a total newb wouldn't get to, as well as learning more about how to build my Windrunner for success. I'm kind of hooked on Dota 2, and I want to stick with it and really learn the game, because it's a lot of fun. It jives with a lot of what I enjoy about several types of games.