Wednesday, December 25, 2013

2013 Gs (and Bs) OTY

The time has come, once again, to look back on the year that has befallen us and to call to account the games that have presented themselves for our consideration.

My Game of the Year: Spelunky
Runner-up: Hearthstone

Past years' picks, for reference:
2012: Dota 2/Diablo III
2011: The Witcher 2/SpaceChem
2010: Mass Effect 2/Castlevania: Lords of Shadow
2009: Demon's Souls/Red Faction: Guerilla
2008: Metal Gear Solid 4/Gears of War 2
2007: BioShock/Halo 3

Here, alphabetically, since I lost track of the chronology, are all the games I've finished in 2013. 33, liberally counted. That's pretty good, I think.

Anno 2070
Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag
Bioshock Infinite
Bioshock Infinite: Burial at Sea Ep. 1
Dear Esther
Diablo III (Inferno)
Dishonored: The Brigmore Witches
Dishonored: The Knife of Dunwall
Fallout 3: Broken Steel
Fallout 3: Mothership Zeta
Fallout 3: Operation: Anchorage
Fallout 3: Point Lookout
Fallout 3: The Pitt
Fallout: New Vegas
Fallout: New Vegas: Honest Hearts
Gone Home
Grand Theft Auto IV: The Ballad of Gay Tony
Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and Damned
Gravity Bone
Mass Effect 2: Arrival
Mass Effect 2: Firewalker
Mass Effect 2: Kasumi - Stolen Memory
Mass Effect 2: Lair of the Shadow Broker
Mass Effect 2: Overlord
Shadowrun Returns
Starcraft: Brood War (Protoss)
Starcraft: Brood War (Terran)
Starcraft: Brood War (Zerg)
The Stanley Parable
The Walking Dead: 400 Days
Tomb Raider

Past years' totals:

I've taken to counting DLC or anything that feels like a completion as just that. I cast aside my tokens and in/out policies, though, and have begun a more laissez-faire approach to the backlog, which is immense. I just buy whatever and play it whenever, if ever. It's working well, so far.

The Booklog, began this year, has seen only middling activity. I wish I had/would make more time to read, I really do. Maybe that'll be a good New Year's resolution for 2014, along with all the usual stuff. I've never picked a BOTY, or even really ever thought in those terms, but let's give it a shot.

Book of the Year: A Memory of Light
Runner-up: The Martians

Books read this year, a pitiful 9 in all:

Fallen Angels
Descent of Angels
Tales of Heresy
The Martians
Telegraph Avenue
A Memory of Light

Monday, December 16, 2013

Wrapping Up 2013

We're nearing the end of the year, and it's time to start thinking about Game Of The Year proceedings here at 9 Parsecs, and on Call Of Podcast. In light of that fact, I have been making a slight effort to look into 2013 games to try to cover as many bases as possible. Here are the meager fruits of this half-hearted effort:

Poker Night 2 -- OK, this wasn't really for GOTY consideration at all, it was just installed and I had a few minutes to kill with something. I played a handful of short Texas Hold 'Em tournaments and got a sampling of the mildly entertaining presentation of the game. I think maybe the assortment of characters in the first game resonated more. But then, maybe not. These are not poker games for serious poker enthusiasts. I'm not sure who they're for, but since they're never more than $5 and are a novel distraction and feature a base level poker functionality, I keep buying them.

Teleglitch -- It's Doom meets Hotline Miami meets Rogue, but with Quake's decor. It didn't really do much for me, despite the lauding I've seen it get elsewhere.

Monaco -- Designed as a co-op, top-down heist game with a trippy aesthetic, I expected to immediately vomit and uninstall, but to be honest I enjoyed the hour(ish) I spent playing this. About half of that time was spent co-op with a couple of randoms. It was sort of fun, and had nice music. I wouldn't go out of my way to play more, though.

Battlefield 4 -- I guess this is a 2013 game. I have only played one round so far, but it seems like a Battlefield game. I think 2014 might be this game's year to shine.

Apart from trying to tick boxes next to 2013 games, I've also done some quick hits on:

Wasteland -- The original, rereleased leading up to Wasteland 2's release, which I find to be a little too archaic or my tastes. This is like going back to play the first Dragon Warrior or something, but Westernized. I would like to really give it a shot, though.

Company of Heroes 2 -- The first game I ever streamed myself playing! It was a short lived disaster. I only ducked in long enough to see how the streaming worked and have the first person on my team in a 4 on 4 match go "WTF dude?," at my immediately apparent ineptitude before I quit out. Not sure what I was thinking, here.

Diablo III -- Esteban finally saw the light and has gotten into the game. I jumped in with my Barbarian as he was finishing up Normal to skip a few beats ahead in the game, and then later went back and killed Diablo on Normal with my now level 28 guy, and will probably move him on to Nightmare next time I play. Or should I go back and complete the parts of the game I skipped? I'm torn.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown -- I aborted my problematic Normal/Ironman game and began a new one, which so far is coming along very well. I'm starting to get into the game more, and wish I had more time to play it.

Hearthstone -- The game was recently updated with some changes to a few problematic cards and a new ranking system for constructed deck play. I continue to jump in and do the daily quests, though I sometimes wonder why. I think Blizzard needs to add more of a reason to keep playing the game, especially outside of Arena. Constructed play is nothing but a ladder grind, and luck has such a heavy hand in any game of Hearthstone that it's hard not to chalk up wins and losses just to luck of the draw rather than any skill surplus or deficit.

Spelunky -- I keep hitting the daily challenge every day, now on Vita/PS3 as well as on the PC version. I have a hard time wanting to play outside of the daily, though. Usually one or two runs will do it for me, especially if one happens to go on to the Jungle or beyond.

Assassin's Creed -- I've put some unholy amount of time into IV so far, and have not yet finished up the story stuff. I want to do that soon. I'm curious what happens with Kenway in the end, and whether Haytham figures into the end of the game at all. I re-installed AC III this weekend, too, just to play through the opening stuff again. The Kenway line is pretty interesting, which is why I'm curious where Edward ends up in the whole Assassin/Templar conflict. So far he's been killing a bunch of Templars, but for his own reasons; he's not explicity with the Assassins. Not yet, anyway.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Flying the Black Flag

I have just begun to consummate the yearly Assassin's Creed affair, this time with the pirate Edward Kenway. I only put in abut 90 minutes so far, but the broad strokes are of course, very familiar. I'm looking forward to seeing how Edward's story plays out, and exploring what appears to be the goofy extra-Animus conceit of the series, going forward. General impressions of this year's game, the sixth fully-fledged adventure in the series, are much more positive than they were for last year's AC3, which I enjoyed a great deal, constant readers might remember. One black mark that game had, though, was that the primary protagonist, Connor "Ratonhnhaké:ton" Kenway, was always so serious, and just not much fun. He was no Ezio Auditore, that is for sure. Edward, Connor's grandfather, appears to be much more of swashbuckling rogue out to make a fortune and have a good time doing it.

Beyond that, I've just been playing the Spelunky and Hearthstone circuit, for the most part, while advancing my way through Dragon Age II.

I did duck into a couple more DLC modules, 400 Days for The Walking Dead, and Burial at Sea Episode 1 for Bioshock Infinite. Both were enjoyable, featuring interesting new content with the familiar mechanics of the parent game.

I also played, and subsequently decided to be done with (for now), Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Battlefield 3. CS:GO is fun, but man, I am bad, and I don't care to put in the time to get any better at it. I'd play more BF3, sometime, but BF4 is already out, and I'd just as soon pick that up and start on it. Which I will, at some point, no doubt.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Playlog: First Week of November, 2013

Most of what I’ve been playing over the last week is the same as the week before. I managed to get in a good, solid 4 hours of game time on Halloween, being alone at home periodically answering the door to hand out candy. Most nights I can play for around 2 hours or so beginning at about 9pm, if I’m willing to give up doing anything else with that free time. Often enough, I am.

I did make some time this week to check out a couple of 2013’s smaller independent releases, namely The Stanley Parable and Proteus. I want to be suitably informed when it comes time to talk Game of the Year. The Stanley Parable is a very clever subversive deconstruction of the typical modern AAA video game, and at times chuckle-inducing. Anyone reading this blog would probably enjoy it. Proteus, though, I’m not too sure about. It’s less a game even than Stanley or Gone Home; it is more of a ponderous exploration of a small, randomly-generated island through a day of each of the four seasons, with soothing music. There is nothing to do but wander around and take in the sights, and once per night cycle find your way to the proper location to trigger procession to the next season. At the end of winter, the whole thing ends, and you are free to play it again. Or not, as I elected.

Dragon Age II is coming along well enough. About 10 hours in, I have noticed repeating environments, and MMO-style light, almost throwaway quest design, but the world and political circumstance as well as the interactions between Hawke and crew are enough of a draw to keep me playing. The combat is either too easy or too complex, seemingly, depending on how you play the game. I have just been focusing on pointing Hawke at who she needs to stab, leaving my part mates to be handled by the AI. This works out well enough, until Hawke gets knocked out, and I’m forced to take over control of one of the other characters, none of whose abilities I am familiar with, since I’ve been letting the game auto-level them up and altogether unconcerned with what they do in battle or how they are doing it. I should probably take a little more of a hands-on approach, assuming control of the mage or fighter types here and there. I’ve had one fight versus a dragon that I might call a boss fight, at this point, and it went down pretty easily, though.

I’ve gotten to a point with Spelunky where I can more consistently get into the jungle levels and accrue around $50,000 worth of treasure before dying. I still have never made it past the jungle, though. I still need a lot more practice.

I have been hitting Hearthstone in a big way since getting access to the beta. I now have almost all of the basic card set unlocked, with 7 of 9 classes leveled to 10 or higher, and I have been doing the daily quests every day to earn more gold so that I can do more Arena draft runs. This is a really good game. The limited card variety and tighter focus on creature fights mean that games are over a lot quicker than in Magic, and while I haven’t done any scientific testing on the matter, it feels kind of like you are more dependent on lucky draws for success at the game. Then again, the removal of mana from the deck means the risk of a completely fruitless once-per-turn card draw are dramatically reduced. Either way, I am having a great time with Hearthstone.

I’ve spent a few hours playing more Battlefield 3 since re-installing it last week, and I’m still kind of ambivalent on the game. I think Bad Company 2 might have been a better game, or at least had better maps. I don’t actually feel like the jets are much fun in BF3—the maps are entirely too small to support them, even the big ones. You spend more time banking and looping trying to line up a strafing run on tightly clustered targets than you do actually having fun with them. The helicopters are a lot more fun to play with, I think. I still don’t feel like I’ve played enough BF3 to warrant the $60 I spent on it when it came out, and thus I am very wary of buying BF4 anytime soon. I need to either get more out of 3, or find 4 for like $30 for that to happen.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

A New Daily Rotation

I've established a solid routine over the last few weeks of Spelunky daily challenges (and sometimes normal Spelunky runs). I continue to get better at the game bit by bit, and my average score and leaderboard position are still climbing bit by bit, but if I don't really focus on delving further and gaining more experience, I'll never be able to finish the game or approach the highest ranks of players on the leaderboard. So, I need to practice more during my daily sessions.

I've also gotten really into Hearthstone, and into doing the daily challenges it gives, which usually mean playing 3 to 5 matches to accomplish whatever quest they dole out. This game is just a lot of fun, and you win enough gold quickly enough to make your next turn in the arena, and your next chance at bragging rights and fabulous card-related prizes perpetually just around the corner. I am still in the process of playing long enough with every character to unlock all of the cards in the basic set. Once I'm done with that, I guess I'll pick one or two to build decks around and set about the business of disenchanting and crafting to build out my card collection to feed those. CCGs!

I am still playing Dragon Age II, but it's been a few days since I jumped in. I've been busy in the evenings to the point where I don't have much more time and energy than it takes to play some Spelunky and Hearthstone. I am still at an early stage of the game, trying to earn a total of 50 gold so I can buy Hawke and crew's way onto an treasure-hunting expedition into the dwarven "Deep Roads."  I now have Merril, Fenris, Varric, Aveline, and Bethany in my circle of adventurer friends.

I had a hankering to play some Battlefield yesterday, so I re-installed BF3 last night, and spent as much or more time futzing around with Punkbuster as actually in game. Punkbuster sucks; I can't believe modern releases are still using that trash. BF3 requires Origin--why can't EA come up with a better anti-cheat solution? I almost decided to go back and play more Bad Company 2, instead, but that's neither here nor there. It's a bummer not having access to around half of the maps in BF3, and EA is still charging $30 for Battlefield Premium to complete the set, even though BF4 is out, now. Legacy product support--EA is the absolute worst about this kind of thing. I still can't believe the hoops required to be jumped through for DLC for Mass Effect 2. Ridiculous.

On the reading front, I recently finished the Horus Heresy novel Mechanicum, and after queueing up my next 4 books on that series, I actually started two new books. The first is a non-fiction book about the ninja in Japanese history, and the second is Red Storm Rising, the only Tom Clancy novel I have not read. I thought I would check it out since I've owned it for ages and ages, and the man recently died. I'm not very far in just yet, but it already seems like a real page-turner, like I remember most of his others being. Those were a lot of fun, if a little jingoistic. I'm not sure how well they would hold up to the scrutiny of recent political and intelligence-related revelations, but hey, they were from a differenet era. The one Clancy book I read and that he wrote in a post 9/11 world was not really what he had become known for, as well. Those Jack Ryan books, and Red Storm Rising, certainly--being a tale of the Cold War going hot--are products of their time.

Monday, October 21, 2013

A Wild Hare

I'm trying to be a little more impulsive in choosing which games I play, and when. I figure that is a much quicker way of whittling down the pile and winnowing out games from it that I can immediately discard, at least initially.

Along this train of thought, I decided to check out a few games over the past week:

SteamWorld Dig - I felt that it made sense to play this, having free money on Nintendo's eShop, and having recently played La Mulana, Cave Story+, and Spelunky, other 2D-platformer cave-centered adventure games. It seems pretty well done, but to be lacking in depth. It feels like it would have been a really great SNES game. There are Metroid-like mobility and ability upgrades, and a petty easiliy identifiable core loop of dig > collect valuables > return to town to sell them > purchase upgrades > tackle more areas to dig in. It just feels a little too pat next to those other three games.

Persona 2: Innocent Sin - The PSP version of this was on sale for $10 on PSN last week, so I picked it up to play on my Vita. I purchased Eternal Punishment way back in, I think, 2001, but never played much of it. I won't be playing much of this, either, unfortunately. It's not that I didn't like what I played--an hour or so--it's just that way too much of that time was spent in repetitive random battles. The game is not compatible with my limited amount of time, as a grown-ass man and father. At least not at this stage of those roles. I did find the premise kind of interesting, though, I have to admit, if a little anime-cliche heavy.

Deus Ex: Invisible War - I bet this game would have made a real impression, had I played it on the PS2. It was apparently designed around that system. Next to modern entries in the "immersive sim" genre, or I should say PC entries in said genre, including the original Deus Ex, this is Deus Ex Duplo. Everything is big and simplistic, with all the edges rounded off. And the voices are atrocious; not that those of the original were any good. What a shame? What a shame.

Dragon Age II - I think my approach may have paid off, here. I've put in a couple of hours with it so far, and I'm intrigued. I haven't played Dragon Age: Origins, and that may be for the better, in this case. Dragon Age II, by all accounts, is not much like that game, and suffers for the comparison. No, Dragon Age II seems to me so far more like a Swords and Sorcery skin on the Mass Effect formula, with a few tweaks. No doubt a huge let-down for fans of DA:O, but as a Mass Effect player, I am OK with taking it for what it is, at least this far. It also starts out well with a cast of strong female characters, particularly with a female Hawke. She's very cool, so far. I'm planning to play more of this one.

On the more traditional backlog slog, I'm still trying to get through Half-Life 2. I don't know why its taking so long; I like this genre, and I like this game, I just always seem to want to play something else. The last section I played through was pretty awesome, though--leading a bunch of antlions on an assault of the Combine-controlled prison Nova Prospekt. I wonder what comes next; I have pretty much no idea where this game goes or what happens on down the line in the series, aside from spoilers about how Episode 2 wraps up. It might be a subconscious thing. I may be protecting myself from getting wrapped up in the story, knowing that there is no conclusion in sight.

I began Soul Sacrifice recently, though I didn't do much but begin it. It seems like it might be good. I need to play more, whenever I can make the time, but I wasn't put off of it for any reason. It could be fun, with some time invested in getting to the up-and-running phase.

I am still playing the Spelunky daily challenge every day, and I think I am actually getting better at the game. That is no protection from stupid deaths, of course, but I do feel like I am regularly getting farther in than I was before. Maybe it's that I am being more cautious with my precious one-time daily plays.

Finally, Blizzard sent me a beta invitation to Hearthstone, their free-to-play digital collectible card game, and I really like it. As a onetime uber-hardcore Magic: The Gathering player, Hearthstone is very simplistic, but also very quick to play, and a lot of fun. It's actually a lot like Magic, just with most everything stripped out and boiled down to the creature combat mechanic, with a couple of interesting tweaks. In Hearthstone, you can choose whether you attack other creatures, which ones, or whether you bypass them and attack the other player directly. In Magic, it is of course up to the defending player to assign blockers or absorb the damage themselves. Hearthstone also lacks land dependency for mana and "instant" speed spells that can be played at any time during combat or the opponent's turn. There don't appear to be any "permanents" aside from creatures, either. Decks are limited to 30 cards, and there doesn't appear to be any graveyard. It seems that cards, once cast, go back into the deck to be reused later. There doesn't seem to be a mechanic for running out of cards, and so the only way to win is to actually kill the enemy through damage. All this leads to a much faster and more streamlined game, but at the cost of a lot of the depth of Magic. It's a valid approach, and it does make for a game that is a lot of fun. I am looking forward to playing a lot more of it; the arena (sealed draft) mode especially.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Shoveling Off Of And Onto The Pile

I found myself suddenly beset with a crippling need to be rid of all console and handheld games that I owned and also had or planned to purchase the PC versions of. I also sold God of War II and III without ever having played them, because meh, Kratos. Whatever.

So, I took a large stack of stuff over to Game Trader, my local, independent, and primarily used games retailer, and accepted the rather low amount of credit they offered me, considering the purchase price paid for everyting in said stack. I was fine with it, however. I had already gotten my value out of most of them, either in enjoyment, or hard lessons learned about what to buy and when, for the future.

I took my $81 or so in credit, and turned around and blew it on a few more games, for Vita and 3DS, that are not liable to ever make their way to the PC: Soul Sacrifice, Wipeout 2048, Lumines, and Super Mario 3D Land. Thus far, I've only played the latter two. Lumines is a lot like the PSP version (which I guess I've never written about here, or at least have not since I began using post tags), and Super Mario is a lot like Super Mario. That's a bit sarcastic; it really is more like a cross between SMB3 and Super Mario 64. It's a lot of fun.

I haven't had a chance yet to check out Soul Sacrifice or Wipeout 2048, nor have I yet looked at a couple of games I bought through Steam in the last 24 hours, or the last 24 to 48 months, really. I've even lost count on my completion token system, though I'm sure I'm somewhere in the negative, depending on what I qualify as a token and what I do not. That system probably needs to be re-worked. I'll think about it some.

I do have a good head of steam built up on my newest read, at least. These Horus Heresy books are real page-turners, and the more I find myself drawn into the universe, the more I want to learn about it and learn the history of it.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Neuromancer, the Birth of Cyberpunk

I should mention that I recently read William Gibson's Neuromancer, which is widely credited with inventing the genre known as Cyberpunk. I became a little more interested in the genre when CDProjekt RED (The Witcher) announced their PC version of the pen and paper game system Cyberpunk 2020, the PC game to be called Cyberpunk 2077. I had read Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash before, and had recently played Shadowrun Returns, but nothing had really prepared me for Neuromancer.

It was a hard book to grok. Maybe it's Gibson's style, but I never really felt like I understood 100% what was happening and why at any given point in the book. Maybe it's that I was reading and falling asleep late at night for most of the book. I should probably give it a re-read at some point, to give it a fair shake, because I think a lot of the genius was lost on me, this first go around. It was fun and action-packed, sure, but I don't think I was capable of really getting everything out of it with a fatigue-impared reading over something like 2 months' time.

I also read Brandon Sanderson's excised chapter from the final Wheel of Time book, focusing on the character of Bao the Wyld, and very much enjoyed that however brief peek into a corner of Robert Jordan's world that he chose never to show to the reader, himself. Finally, I've started another book in the Horus Heresy epic series, Mechanicum, which focuses on the Martian tech-adepts during the early days of the Heresy. It seems interesting, so far. I definitely love me some Horus Heresy.

Shifting Into Autumn

It's hard to recall everything I've played since the last entry, but it mainly comes down to three things: Spelunky, World of Warcraft, and Tomb Raider.

WoW, you say? Indeed. Blizzard offered to comp me a free 7 days, so I took them up on it, toodling around a bit in Outland, bringing my Orcish Arms Warrior into line with all the major talent changes that had taken effect in the three years since I last played, and leveling up to 68, which is the perfect level at which to ditch Outland and head to Northrend. My Orc is waiting there right now for my next free play session.

WoW, while kind of neat and mindless, just is not that fun. The pleasure derived from WoW, for me, is more about exploring the world and filling XP bars. I can barely stand the redundant combat of your prototypical MMORPG anymore. Maybe it would be better if I gave my life to the game and joined a full-time raiding guild, and really took it seriously. But that is not me anymore. I demand to play on my own scant time, and more often than not, I'm playing solo.

I've dipped into Spelunky for the daily challenge almost every day for the last two or three weeks. That is a truly great game. Truly difficult, and truly addicting. As much as I've played it so far, nearly 150 attempts, the farthest I've gotten is to the third level of the jungle, or 2-3, only the 7th level. And that was from starting at the Tunnel Man's shortcut to level 5. I wonder how good I can get at it, if I continue.

In an effort to wrap up and try a few other 2013 releases, I concentrated the last few days on finishing off Tomb Raider (the current release). I actually really enjoyed that game, far more than I imagined I might, and more even than the two Uncharted games I've played, which I found overrated to some degree. Tomb Raider is just plain fun to play. Lara moves around the world really responsively, and is very well animated. The game is also very attractive, visually, and ran at a rock solid 60 fps the entire time on my mid to low-range PC. The combat was always fun, and never actually wore out its welcome, which is remarkable, thinking about it. I also really, really like the new Lara Croft. She's actually a believable human being, here. She may be a bit of a climbing and shooting wunderkind, but that is hardly the most outlandish thing happening on the island the game is set on. I have very few complaints about Tomb Raider, and those mostly center on how limply the plot wraps up in the end, and the completely over-the-top and uncalled for amount of grisly gore present in the game, a lot of it presented in Lara's various bad death animations. I could have done without those oddly out-of-place bits, if I'm honest.

So, Fall is here, and the season for new major releases is really already in full swing. There's not a lot that I care much about this year, though. There's Assassin's Creed IV, and not a whole lot else. I'll probably end up with GTA V and Watch_Dogs at some point, and maybe a PS4 sometime in 2014, but I'm honestly having a hard time thinking of other big Fall releases that I am excited about, this year. Oh well, I've still got a tremendous backlog, of course. I think I may try to polish off the Half-Life 2 series next.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Urban Exploration

In my last post I talked about playing a lot of DLC. I'm still doing that, really. I did finish up the Mass Effect 2 content with Arrival, a cataclysmic event for one star system that sets up the lead-in for Shepard's trial in the beginning of Mass Effect 3. I'm going to have to play that game sometime.

For further DLC adventures, and to scratch that GTA itch while V is released for the consoles but not yet for the PC, I decided it was time to check out The Lost and Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony, the two extra modules available for IV. I thought they were both pretty well done, and succeeded in introducing new protagonists and cadres of characters with interesting enough stories to tell that also interwine with and do a little bit to flesh out the story of Niko Bellic, the original GTA IV protagonist. I think one reason these two mini-GTA campaigns worked so well for me was their smaller scope. They don't bog you down in too many irrelevant missions before moving on with the key events of the story. Additionally, I was doing very little of the ancillary stuff in the games. I would move from story beat to story beat very quickly as compared to how I have played these games in the past. I think this approach just works better in the more self-serious world of GTA IV. Overall, I thought Johnny Klebitz and Luis Lopez's stories each made for solid smaller-scale entries in the GTA series. Having them both also set in Liberty City I'm sure was convenient for Rockstar, but it also worked well to show us the city from other angles, to give it a more well-realized feel. I would recommend playing these, probably prior to playing GTA V.

I've dug into a trio of 2D platform cave exploration type games recently; Cave Story+, Spelunky, and La Mulana. It was recurring discussion of Spelunky on a couple of podcasts I like that kicked it off. I already owned Cave Story+, and had heard good things, but had never played it. Checking that out, first, it seemed ok, but didn't really grab me. It seemed very talky, and I wasn't really into that at the time. I may try it again sometime in the future. Spelunky, though, did a pretty good job of grabbing me right off the bat. Where these other two games are broadly similar to a Metroidvania type game, Spelunky is a roguelike in the form of a 2D platformer and has very nice production values. Where Cave Story and La Mulana look and sound like 16-bit games, Spelunky looks and sounds like your memories of 16-bit games. It's a challenge, and a lot of fun. One of the coolest features of the Steam version of Spelunky is the daily challenge, where everyone who plays that day is given the same randomized world to play a single time, and a leaderboard rank to compare scores with other players around the world. Finally on this tip, I started playing some La Mulana. It turns out this is a pretty hardcore Metroidvania type, and may take up to 30 hours or so to finish. Having seen someone fight the final boss and finish the game, I doubt I'll ever have the patience to go through that, but I do plan to play some more of the game. I like what I've seen so far, and they've just announced a sequel, as well.

I should write about Dear Esther, but it would be hard to say much without spoiling either the game or the effect of playing the game, so I'll just say that if you already own it through some means, or are able to pick it up for a few bucks, and you have an open mind about "gaming" "experiences," you should play it. I thought it was great, and absolutely gorgeous. It only takes about maybe an hour or 90 minutes to walk through. Walk through--because you won't be doing anything but walking, be advised, but I thought it told a story well enough just the same.

Elsewhere, I've played a little bit of Skullgirls, which has a nice tutorial mode that teaches the complete novice fighter such as myself essential skills like blocking and such. I've also checked out The Basement Collection, a compilation of stuff by the creator(s) of Super Meat Boy and The Binding of Isaac. That was full of odd things. I checked that my Anmesia save file does still load, and tentatively queued up more Fallout: New Vegas DLC for sometime soon. I need to toss some more hours into 2013 releases, too.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

DLCOTY, More Like

Because I spend way too much time placing importance on things utterly and compltely without it, I am a little bit alarmed that it is already September 2013, and I only have one half-hearted contender for my Game of the Year in mind. I'm not sure that that is even a reflection on the quality of the 2013 release slate; indeed several factors have come together to prevent me from digging into this year's crop of games. First, I have been, more than ever, playing games of yesteryear. Yesteryear always has the advantage, of course, by dint of the fact that it encompasses every year that is not the current one. Second, my game time has been pretty drastically reduced since taking a new job mid-July--and it was suffering anyway, due to being busy with a two-year-old. Finally, I seem to have found a voracious appetite for DLC in 2013. DLC modules for Fallout 3 and New Vegas, for Dishonored, and now for Mass Effect 2 have all been keeping me pretty busy. Even Bioshock Infinite will probably have some good stuff out this year--oh, and I have been meaning to play the GTA IV DLC, as well. Strange how these things happen, isn't it?

I mentioned Mass Effect 2 DLC--I finally broke down and picked up ME3 for $5 on Origin, and so I also figured it was time to bite the bullet and use the busted-ass POS Bioware site/DLC distribution system to download all of the ME2 stuff. I hadn't touched the game since it was released in 2010, continuing to hold out for some uber edition that would not require me to jump through EA's ridiculous hoops to finish preparations for Shepard's third outing. Alas, that never happened. EA's (lack of) support for this otherwise great game is extremely disappointing. I guess it is the nature of a stupid profit-hungry beast, though, to forget its past and always focus on the short-term. ME3 and it's DLC are available on Origin, incidentally.

Ranting done, I plowed through several ME2 DLC packs this past weekend--Kasumi, Firewalker, Overlord, and Lair of the Shadow Broker, leaving only the final piece, Arrival, left to finish off. They were all pretty fair quality, with Shadow Broker being the best, and Firewalker the least best. I would say its fair to consider them all as read in a complete playthrough of ME2, for future reference. Long time readers may recall Mass Effect 2 being my GOTY 2010. Maybe it's just DLC being DLC, but I can't help but feel that some of the shine has worn off in the intervening 3.5 years since I played it the first time. It is still a lot of good fun, though.

Otherwise, I have spent most of the last several weeks flitting from game to game with little attachment. I am sort of trying to clear a few things off my backlog, but mainly it has just been a case of not feeling like committing to any one thing. The closest I have come to doing so is playing several battles of Tactics Ogre all in a row. I may get back to that after finishing of ME2 for good.

Here is a short and briefly annotated list of things I've touched lately:

Tomb Raider - Still pretty fun, still not exactly hooked, but want to be.
The Binding of Isaac - The stuff of nightmares, really. Fun briefly.
Fate of the World - Nice idea, but too much data-diving. I do that at work.
Sir, You Are Being Hunted - Not sure it holds up for 30-ish fetch quests.
Halo 4 - Yup, it's Halo. Sold with 360.
Red Orchestra 2 - Played a bit, fun multiplayer times.
Civ V - Getting my Hun on. Still in progress.
Final Fantasy XIV beta - Surprisingly nice time for a couple of hours. Sub no thx.
AC3 Tyrrany of King Washington - Looney tunes. No real interest in finishing it.

Monday, August 26, 2013


I got rid of my Xbox 360, as I talked about doing before, and used the credit from trading it and all the games in to get a Vita! Why? Why not! It's a semi-viable platform these days. It's perfectly good for playing classic PSX games and the few really stand-out PSP games. I spent a lot of this past weekend with it, playing a little bit of Assassin's Creed III: Liberation, but mostly having fun revisiting Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Metal Gear Solid, and Vagrant Story, while also checking out Killzone: Liberation, which I had never played on the PSP but did own, and digging back into my Tactics Ogre game, which looks and plays great, as one might expect.

Tactics Ogre is hard and deep and very involved, and I am lost somewhere in the middle with a cadre of fighters whose equipment and abilities have been badly mismanaged to this point. My kunoichi are garbage against most enemies, and I don't know why. I'm thinking it may be due to using the wrong slash/blunt/pierce affinity, but that doesn't explain why their ninjutsu also sucks. I'll have to work it out; I really like this game and want to finish it--multiple times, to see all the various branching stories and whatnot.

Diablo III has had an expansion announced, and I want to get my barbarian up to level 60 and through Inferno before that comes out. I don't think there is a date yet, and I am sure I have plenty of time, but I've gone ahead and gotten back into playing some over the last few days, advancing from level 23 to 26, from toward the end of Act II normal to the beginning of Act III. I also had my third ever legendary item drop yesterday, and what's more, it was even an upgrade! It was a belt that I doubt I will replace anytime soon. I like to play drops-only, at least until Inferno. Once there, things may get a little tougher--at launch, Inferno was insanely out of balance. After several patches, though, I anticipate a smoother difficulty curve, especially since drop rates have been drastically improved during the same time.

In other leisure time, I finished up Dishonored's The Brigmore Witches DLC, and uninstalled it. I love the game, but I need to play other stuff when I want that sort of experience. I have some Deus Ex and Thief and System Shock things to get to, as well. I also touched on Neverwinter; I need to sock away some more time for that; its decently entertaining. I even got in a couple of matches of Dota 2 with a friend/podcast listener. Fun times, all around.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Where Am I Going To Find The Time?

That is the question, these days. I have a hundred things vying for my free time, and it's harder than ever to find. Longtime readers will know that I spend an inordinate amount of time and energy trying to prioritize how I spend my leisure time. I almost don't even have time for that anymore!

Not to worry, though, I keep buying games. Relentlessly. Why, just today I bought about 8 EA games through the Humble Bundle. When will I play these? How long do I have left on this Earth?

Well, I have been playing a few things. The final Dishonored DLC, The Brigmore Witches, is out, and brings to a close Daud's campaign. I'm through the first level of that, another fine Dishonored stage. What a great game. I can't wait for a potential sequel, and I hope they expand more on the world they've just started to reveal in this game.

For some reason I've been playing Civ V recently, as well. I'm not sure what really brought it on, but I played to the bitter end a doomed Russian empire as Catherine the Great, ultimately falling broken, but unbent, to Augustus Caesar's aggressions. Now I've started up a large scale game as Attilla the Hun, where if things work out, I'll be doing the aggressing.

I've also begun playing an MMO. A free-to-play one, actually--Neverwinter, set in the popular Dungeons and Dragons world. Apparently the city of Baldur's Gate is in that world. Apparently Baldur's Gate is a city. Who knew. Anyway, it has many of the usual post-WoW and contempo-F2P traits you would expect in such a thing, but where it begins to deviate, in my limited MMO experience, is in the combat system, which is very timing-based, and does not use an auto-attack system. It seems pretty cool, so far, after maybe 5 hours, max. I had heard it was fun, and was interested, but what put me over the edge was hearing from a friend who was playing it, and asked me to join up so we could play together. Where am I going to find the time?

This past weekend was the culmination of The International 3, the Dota 2 tournament to end all tournaments. I haven't played in a while, but watching the best teams in the world slug it out was really something to behold. The grand finals went the full five games this time, and they were each incredible to watch. Alliance and Na'Vi were neck and neck much of the time; there were some real nail-biters in there, and game 5 was unforgettable.

So, there you have it. Now to play a game for a bit.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Getting Off Before the End of the Line

I was thinking about it today, and with how little I use my consoles, I am wondering if they are really necessary to have around. If not, the time to unload them would be very soon, before their successors come out. The 360 is really getting the most of my evil gaze on this one, since I have more games that I like and unplayed on the PS3--and that is also the one that I can use to stream video without a bullshit pay wall.

The lack of backward compatibility, and my antipathy for much of what Microsoft is doing in video games these days has me unenthused about their upcoming box, and with how little I use my 360 now, I'm better off closing up shop on that platform and getting rid of it, I think.

To that end, I am spending a little bit of time with every unplayed 360 game I have before trading them all in with the system (probably 3DS games and a Vita, if you can believe that). The only XBLA games I had sitting around untouched, and apparently from like 2008, were Shadow Complex and Splosion Man, so I sat down this afternoon for a little time with both. I had actually played the latter before, with a friend, but that was on her box. Nice little entendre for the eagle-eyed, there. But seriously, I had played it before, and thought it was pretty fun. That opinion holds up; unfortunately, these days pretty fun doesn't cut it, and I'm not left with any reason to continue playing it past the first few levels. I see what they're doing, and it is well done, but there was no hook in the mouthful I got of it.

I feel much the same about Shadow Complex, although I will admit that I might finish this one out were it on another platform. But, it's not, and while I had a fun 30 or 45 minutes with it, I get the picture; I've played this game at least 10 times before in other guises. Better guises, I think.

So, there's another couple knocked off the pile. Over the next couple of weeks I want to give fair shrift to Gears 3, Halo 4/Wars/CE Anniversary, and then it's sayonara, kusobako.


First up, Shadowrun Returns. I backed this on Kickstarter a while back, as a fan of isometric RPGs with old school sensibilities, a fan of anything that tries to break away from AAA development these days, and someone with an interest in exploring cyberpunk. Additionally, I had played the SNES Shadowrun game way back when, and while I never quite got it, it always seemed cool. 

 So, now the game is out, and I have actually just finished it as of last night. Well, finished the stock campaign that the designers included. There is also a toolset for players to create and run their own Shadowrun campaigns, much like one would playing the pen and paper version of the game. This seems like a pretty cool idea, and hopefully, and almost undoubtedly, some cool things will come out of the Shadowrun community.

 As for the mechanics of the game, and Dead Man's Switch, the campaign, included, I'm pretty satisfied. It was about a 15-hour play through, not counting time re-playing sections due to the game's checkpoint system, where other games would use a save-anywhere system (probably due to lack of time/money; remember this game was crowd-funded). I love the art, the style, and the music, and the writing of the story was done really well, too. The plot itself started out very interesting but went kinda wild toward the end; no biggie, I had fun. I also like the combat system, which is almost wholly like that of XCOM Enemy Unknown. I do wish I had known more about Shadowrun character development before beginning, though, if indeed this game bears any resemblance to the pen and paper game. I ended up trying to multi-spec a little too much where I should have been specializing in one or two core areas. I ended up playing it through on Hard mode, though, and while I didn't have too much trouble, there were a handful of battles I lost and had to approach with a different strategy.

 Overall, I am pretty happy with my Kickstarter experience as relates to this game. I think the support of player-created campaigns is what really cinches the deal, and saves this from being just a forgettable above-average old-school RPG. That said, the developers are working on another campaign of their own, to be set in Berlin versus the Seattle of the current one. I'll be waiting for it.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Steam Sale Time Again

Yes, it's that time again, and despite my best intentions, I did come away from the sale with a bundle of new games. A couple were ancillary things like the GTA IV episodes and a Steam copy of System Shock 2 (already had it on GOG, but it was $2.50...) and almost the entirety of the Tomb Raider series (I was mainly in it for the new game for $12.50, but the rest of the series was only another $5 on top of that).

Regrettably, I don't have a ton of time to write up the journal entry I'd like to, here, so here's a list of the games I've been playing over the last couple of weeks:

Saints Row The Third
Planetside 2
Cube World
Tomb Raider (OG!)
Tomb Raider 2013
Shin Megami Tensei IV
Civ V
Chivalry: Medieval Warfare

The highlights mean I've put a decent amount of time into each of those, and was planning to go into a little more depth on in the next Call Of Podcast, which, again regrettably, has slipped out another week as my co-host has just returned home from abroad and has to get busy makin' them games.

Yes, one of those is a 3DS game, and yes, I did buy a 3DS at some point--I'm holding out for a good deal on the Vita, as a matter of fact, to pick up one of those, as well. I do still like the occasional Japanese game, and those look like the platforms to find them on, for the time being. When they don't make it to the PC, which is pretty often, unfortunately.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Charitable After All

I just finished up my 'evil' play through of Fallout. Naming my character Charity was, I thought, a stroke of ironic genius, considering the way I wanted to conduct her through the game's various moral decision points. In the end, though, I could never choose the rude jackass options in dialog, which meant doing the Right Thing a lot where I might have opted for a more polite-but-self-interested approach, had one been offered.

In the end, though, Fallout is about saving your Vault, first from dehydration, and then from being ravaged by the super mutant army that is sweeping the wasteland. There is only so much room to veer away. You can, interestingly enough, opt for a bad ending wherein your agree to join the Master (of the super mutant army) and give up the location of your Vault and its inhabitants to his plan to achieve the Unity--his moniker for a humanity-free world where everyone is one of his new super mutants. I did that just to put a cap on my 'evil' character's story, but then went back and finished the game up the traditional way, mostly just because it's more fun to infiltrate and nuke from within the Master's lair and the Mariposa military base where the mutants are being created.

I'm still interested in finding a game that can really pull off the evil thing, though. I'll keep looking.

(pic courtesy of

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

War Never Changes

I picked up Relic's newest, Company of Heroes 2, this past week, and spent a few hours being trounced online and fighting my way through the first few eastern front campaign missions. It seems like, and reviews seem to corroborate this, that it's mostly more Company of Heroes. Not that that is a bad thing, I just get the sense that people were hoping for more. Maybe I am just a sucker or too new to the series to know better, but I am fine with with my full-price purchase on this one. I want to see Relic continue making cool games like they do. I am sure I will get more than my money's worth out of CoH2 when all is said and done.

So, I went back to playing Fallout: New Vegas again, and I couldn't even tell you why, aside from a vague hesitancy to put it away, and a desire to explore more of the Mojave wasteland and flesh out some of my companions' histories. I actually ran into a character from Fallout 2, a companion of The Chosen One in that game, no less. Marcus the supermutant runs Jacobstown, a supermutant/nightkin town outside of New Vegas.

And sticking with the Fallout theme, I started a replay of the first game in the series this weekend, on a bit of lark exploring what it is like to roleplay an evil character in a game. I chose Fallout because I love the world and have really been into it lately, but also because it is a game that offers a tremendous amount of freedom to the player and for the most part is very laissez-faire about directing you to do such and such. It also does not pass judgement on your decisions, and the world will continue to play out and evolve around them, if for example, you kill large swaths of important NPCs in the world. Not that that is the particular route I am going down for my evil play through.

I am trying to play my character, Charity, as a young, impetuous, power-hungry woman who doesn't mind getting her hands bloody in chasing power. She's not overly concerned with finding the water chip to save her vault, but if it will serve as a macguffin to send her on an adventure around the wasteland consolidating a power base for whatever ultimate plan of domination she has in mind, then she'll go with it.

I'm curious to see how well the game supports this kind of character within its greater plot structure. Will I be able to take control over the supermutant army at Mariposa from The Master, and use them to my own will?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Just When I Think I'm Out

Something pulled me back into Fallout: New Vegas this past weekend. I just wanted to get in there and get that Desert Ranger armor, so I played through the Honest Hearts DLC first, and then continued on to finish up some miscellaneous side quests around the Mojave. Honest Hearts had some really great writing, and it wasn't all contained in the primary quests. I felt like the journal entries of the "Father In The Cave" told one of the greatest stories in all of New Vegas. Then, to top it off, I came away from it with his cool Desert Ranger Combat Armor and Survivalist's Rifle, along with a sweet new pistol from the Burned Man, Joshua Graham, called A Light In The Darkness. I really am playing a badass wasteland drifter and gunslinger gal, now. There is still a bunch of content to get to in the game, as well.

Simultaneously, I am also now farther into Morrowind than I have ever been, before. I've climbed a good way up the ladder of the Thieves' Guild, and I've acquired some great weapons and armor even though my character is still only level 2. I still haven't decided my approach to playing through other guild quest lines and the main one, though I am leaning toward multiple characters. I think Elder Scrolls games work best treated as giant worlds to really role play in as though you were a somewhat plausible person, and not the focal point of all the worlds' goings-on--aside from the main quest lines, of course, where you are often The Chosen One.

There is an interesting point of contrast here between Elder Scrolls and Fallout games, which always cast you as the fulcrum of the world's future, and where every choice comes with an opportunity cost. In Fallout, going down one path will close off the other to you, and that is almost never the case in the Elder Scrolls. In Oblivion and Skyrim, they even make it so key NPCs cannot be killed and your reputation is very malleable, meaning that you can at any time go from being head assassin and dread lord to high paladin and mighty savior with relatively little effort.

Here and there, I've also gotten in quick hits of XCOM: Enemy Unknown and even New Super Mario Bros. with my daughter watching. I finally found how to get to that stupid warp pipe in World 1. I've even played a bit of some iOS stuff, though I try to make it a policy not to think too much about that platform of mostly disposable games. I may make exceptions here and there, but not today.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

I Guess I'm Playing Morrowind Now

The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind and I go way back. All the way back to 2002, and its release, as a matter of fact. I had just gotten a sweet (for the time) new Sony Vaio laptop--that, get this, you could separate the main section from the base docking station/disc drive--and was looking to explore my favorite gaming genre, the RPG, on this hot new platform. Little did I know, it had next to zero video memory, and the best I could get the game to run was at probably 10 FPS at 400x200 with minimum settings. Needless to say, I didn't get a whole lot of questing done at the time, though not for lack of trying.

I had tried installing the game on subsequent computers I encountered, but always met with either similarly poor performance results or a lack of time to really dig into the game. I even briefly had the game running on my current PC, modded, a few years back, but did not follow through on actually playing it very much probably due to playing WoW or something. I think I did a complete OS update and re-install since then, as well. 

Fast forward to the present, and having just finished up New Vegas, and not wanting to dive into its DLC just yet, I had almost out of nowhere a hankering to play Morrowind. I couldn't explain why, but I decided to roll with it, found the best suite of modernization overhaul mods, and got started. I decided I wanted to play a stealthy character, and so I created a thief and got started in on the Thieves' Guild quests. So far, so good. I'm five or six quests in, and still level 1, though, so I'm a bit worried about venturing out into the countryside around the town I've found myself in, Al'duruhk or some such, a desert town, by the looks of things. This is by far the deepest I've made it into Morrowind. I think it'll take, this time. 

I am enjoying the keyword-centered dialogue system, as well as the greater lengths the player has to go to just to find out where to go and what should be done to best complete the current quest. Later Bethesda games, of course, made it trivialized that process with the ever-present map marker. I'm torn on whether I prefer it to be there or not. I feel like not having it forces the player to invest more in the world to puzzle out where they should go, but at times you don't want to play the guessing game and just want to know what stupid thing in the environment needs to have 'E' pushed on it in order to carry on.

I found, with Oblivion, that I enjoyed the game more if I rolled a new character for each guild's quest line, so that I could tailor their build around what I thought my play style would have to end up being for that part of the game. I may end up doing that for Morrowind, too. Or perhaps use the same character for the equivalent of the Dark Brotherhood as for the Thieves' Guild, and then if I roll up others, pick whichever I like the best to run the main quest line with.

Much remains to be determined about my playing Morrowind. I'm not feeling very antsy about moving on to much else, though, at least not until July 25th, and the release of Shadowrun Returns (which I backed on Kickstarter, and looks really cool). Maybe I'll make this an RPG-focused summer.

Friday, June 14, 2013

An Independent Nevada

In the end, I decided that the NCR was overextending itself, and that the dwellers of the Mojave Wasteland should be able to live independent of their strained and corrupt bureaucracy, the tyranny of Mr. House's rule, or the brutish enslavement and likely extermination Caesar's Legion would bring. I picked up what was left of Benny's plan to seize New Vegas for himself, and used the power of Mr. House's upgraded securitron army and a deft diplomatic touch to wrestle control of Hoover Dam and New Vegas away from either the NCR or the Legion, and let its power flow across the Mojave for the benefit of the locals.

I envision Nevada as an independent, neutral buffer zone between the NCR to the west, Caesar to the east, and a new Great Khan/Followers of the Apocalypse empire to the North. Most of the epilogue slides in the ending I left me confident in the future of the Mojave, with a few exceptions due to undiscovered or incomplete questlines. I still have the four DLC questlines and a lot of other sidequests in the main game to do. There are apparently some Enclave remnants I never found, as well as the home of the Powder Gangers left to clean up, and several companions' questlines undone, as well. Neither did I ever get any of that cool looking NCR/Desert Ranger armor featured in the game's promo materials. The non-factionalized variants are only found in DLC locations, from what I have seen on the Fallout wiki. I didn't want to join the NCR, and I didn't want to kill one of their veteran rangers or otherwise acquire their armor and then have to deal with everyone taking me for NCR, since wearing it identifies you as such even if you are not (it doubles as a disguise).

I wanted to remain an independent force acting on my own for the Mojave, and wanted to keep myself outfitted as such.

Friday, May 31, 2013

A Moral Gray Area

I've started playing Fallout: New Vegas. Returning from a couple of weeks in Japan away from games, I was looking for a path back in, and nothing had occurred to me. Sure, I could play some Dota, or jump back into the middle of one of the many back-burnered games I'm in the middle of, but nothing was really calling out to me. Then I realized that another Bethesda game announcement was likely to take place at E3 this year, coming up in just about a week and a half, and that said game was likely to be Fallout 4, or whatever they choose to title the next entry in the series. That, and my willingness to lose myself to a single game for a while whilst not much else was going on in the scene, was good enough reason to jump into New Vegas.

I've noticed a trend in the way I play Fallout games. I'll play one leisurely for a long stretch, finish it in a rush, and then almost immediately quickly begin the next in the series. I wonder if the pattern will last. I like New Vegas more than Fallout 3, and I could see this being the one I return to for my wasteland fix after finishing up the main quest line and DLC modules, at least for as long as it is the current game in the series. Then again, I might just play Fallout: Tactics, which I hear is also pretty good, and which I also own. And of course, Wasteland 2 is due out sometime in the not too distant future--probably before the next Fallout, I would guess.

New Vegas starts you off as a courier having been shot in the head and left for dead by a scumbag named Benny for the package you were carrying, a platinum casino chip. The reasons why, and presumably a wish for revenge, are your primary motivation. That is, until you finally catch up with Benny and put the past behind you, one way or another. From there you find yourself as the crux of a multi-party power struggle for control of the New Vegas strip, the Hoover Dam, and the whole of the Mojave wasteland. The classic Fallout two-part main quest line is maintained.

I'm trying to get a feel for each of the various factions at the moment. I'm leaning toward helping out the NCR at this point, definitely away from Caesar's Legion, and I'm not sure yet what to do about Mr. House. There appears to be an option for me to seize everything for myself, too, if I want, but who would? It's too much for one person to handle. If you were going to go with a dictatorial approach, why not just let Mr. House take care of it? Maybe the answer to that question will be found in familiarizing myself with some of the "families" controlling the various casinos around the strip. I've already "solved the problem" with one of these, but there are three or four others to scope out, as well.

There is also the local Brotherhood of Steel contingent. I've always been on the side of the Brotherhood in past Fallout games, but I am wondering if they might not be becoming a bit misguided. I'm not sure how I want to intercede in a brewing internal schism yet, either. More questing needs to be done. There is also the question of the Brotherhood-NCR conflict over the Helios One power station, which, unbeknownst to the NCR, but likely known to select Brotherhood leadership, doubles as a powerful energy weapon. If it means siding with one faction over the other, I'm not sure which way I would lean, though again I am thinking NCR. As dysfunctional as their sort of government can be, they may be the best fit for the wasteland during this period of post-apocalyptic trial.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Treachery Most Foul

On my recent two-week trip to Japan, I played effectively no video games, but I did spend a lot of time reading Horus Heresy books on my Kindle. The first was a collection of short stories called Tales of Heresy, which featured some very cool looks into various times, places, and factions of the 31st millennium. One of my favorite featured The Emperor himself in a prominent role laying out his vision of the Imperial Truth to a religious man at the end of the Terran Unification. Another told the tale of the bloodthirsty primarch Angron taking leadership of his legion of Space Marines, the World Eaters.

After that collection, I moved on to a duology about the Dark Angels legion and their primarch, Lion El'Jonson. The first book, Descent of Angels, was decent but had no real relevance to the events of the heresy; it was just an origin story of sorts for this legion, which I believe stay loyal during Horus' rebellion. I am now reading the follow-up, Fallen Angels, which is considerably better written (many different authors write the various books of the Horus Heresy series), and will presumably shed some light on what exactly the Lion is doing with his legion while the Imperium tears itself apart with internecine conflict.

Every time I look at the Horus Heresy wikipedia page, there are three or four more novels I find that I want to read. I'm on my 14th (!) at the moment. It's a pretty epic series, with many different players with a variety of motives and many different conflicts across the galaxy, all centered around a handful of key highly charismatic figures. I don't know of much else like it.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Arean Exodus

I finished reading Kim Stanley Robinson's short story collection The Martians, tonight. It is set in the same universe as his trilogy of books about the colonization of Mars and the effects thereof on both the planet and the people doing the terraforming. It was a nice series of vignettes featuring a few familiar characters and locations, a few new recurring characters, and even some alternate-timeline stories within that universe. There were also two or three stories that if they did not break the fourth wall, otherwise pulled some kind of stunt that made it so that the stories were about the author and/or his process used writing the Mars books. I'd say this book is for fans of the series only, really.

I'm really excited to read 2312, by the same author, which appears to be set again in the same universe, a little further on in time so that even more of the solar system is extensively colonized. Reviews for that book on Amazon are all over the map, which signals to me that it may be right up my alley as far as Robinson's works go.

That won't be my next foray, though. I'm going to be dipping back into the grim, dark future in which there is only war. I've got 4 more Horus Heresy novels queued up, as well as the novel Metro 2033 (the inspiration for the game series), and a re-read of Tai-Pan I have going, as well.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Lone Wanderer Wanders On

Over the last few days I polished off the remaining Fallout 3 DLC I had not played, along with a few miscellaneous sidequests I had read about being interesting. The Pitt ended up being a little more interesting than I thought it would, if not upending my stance on slavers (they die), at least upending my stance on Dostoevsky's hypothetical Utopia built on the suffering of one innocent child. Mothership Zeta, though, was pretty forgettable. And with that, and some 87 hours in Fallout 3, I am done with the game. Bethesda's RPGs are too big and too numerous to attempt to wring every little thing from. I'll be playing New Vegas next, I'd imagine, before getting around to Skyrim at some point.

It occurs to me now that Fallout 3 and Brood War have both been knocked off the Priority Queue. I'm going to have to work on Half-Life and Dark Souls some, as well as the Starcraft II campaign.

After a long time in the queue, I've finally come around to giving Company of Heroes a try. I've only played a couple of missions so far, but I like what I've seen.  The World War II setting would never have brought me around on it's own, rather the game's stellar reputation was what convinced me so long ago to try it. The quality is readily apparent. I'm looking forward to playing more of it soon.

I picked up the ipad version of Pendulo Studios' point-and-click adventure game Yesterday, because I knew it had a strong emphasis on the occult in its plot. That might sound weird, but it intrigued me. I've played a little bit of it so far, and I have been enjoying it. I don't care so much for the puzzle solving bits, which often boil down to experimentation or using the game's hint system, but the story is interesting, and voice acted well enough.

Tonight I jumped on Skype with Lonesteban and we played a few games of Dota 2 and Starcraft II, my very first experience with the latter online. We lost every game, but had a good time doing it. I'd like to get to a point where I am semi-competent at Starcraft; at the very least to my approximate Dota 2 skill level, which is not advanced, but neither that of a complete novice. A great deal of practice will be necessary, but then I'm not in any hurry. The game will be around for a while, I'm sure.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

F.A.T.H.E.R., I have returned to Dunwall.

Right around the time I was starting to flag in the Anno 2070 campaign, it wrapped itself up. The rogue AI F.A.T.H.E.R. was destroyed. The ten missions I played through were introducing new gameplay elements right up to the very end, presumably in an effort to teach the player the majority of what they would want to know to take on further challenge missions or to play online with others. Like I've mentioned before, I'll never play the game with others, but I may get back around to it for some of the individual challenge missions and the Deep Ocean expansion campaign. It is a pretty neat game, though a few aspects of how to accomplish this or that task could use a bit more clarity. It's got really haunting, melancholy music, too.

Over the weekend I was sort of clearing my plate for The Knife of Dunwall, the new Dishonored DLC missions where you play as Daud, another character from the main game, another of The Outsider's chosen, and the true assassin of the Empress. Daud is one of Corvo's targets late in the game, though you can choose to let him live, like with all the rest. I killed very few people in my play through of Dishonored, and none purposefully. Playing Daud, though, I am killing everyone. The story seems to set up the possibility for Daud to be redeemed, but that won't happen in my world. No, Daud may offset some of the consequences of his actions in one way or another, but he is still a murderous assassin, and will see a fitting end, I'm sure.

The DLC is three full missions, if I'm not mistaken, which is a fair portion of content when you consider that the main game is only nine--ten, if you are generous. There is supposed to be a further mission set later that should push the total up to 16 or so, main game included. If you never got around to playing Dishonored last year, now would be a great time to go back and get caught up. It was my number 3 game of 2012.

While I was clearing my plate for the Dishonored DLC, I replayed the first hour of BioShock Infinite, played an hour or so of Half-Life 2, which I will at some point actually finish, and played a game or two of Dota, even. On my agenda currently is playing the Knife of Dunwall. After that, I'm not so sure.

I've been reading The Martians, by Kim Stanley Robinson. It is a collection of short stories and companion piece to his Mars trilogy. Some of them seem to exist in a parallel universe where the initial "First 100" colonization mission never occurred, or at least not until much later, and characters on that mission stayed behind on Earth until much later. I just finished a longer story, novella length, called Green Mars (which is also the title of the second book in the trilogy proper), which seems like it might kind of be the centerpiece of the collection. It was the story of an expedition of climbers going up Olympus Mons over a couple of months, and it was pretty great. It makes me want to try rock climbing.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


Read that title any way you like and it'll still be appropriate for Bioshock Infinite. I came away from the game pretty high on it. It is not without flaws or questionable decisions relating to the mechanics or the narrative, but most aspects of Infinite are head and shoulders above what a lot of games possess. I liked it a lot. I'm not sure what else there really is to say about it, other than I really liked Elizabeth as a character, and that people are right when they say that not a lot is ultimately made of the themes that the game seems to so boldly set out to take on near the beginning. Where the Vox Populi and Daisy Fitzroy in particular end up going is kind of mystifying. These are a good sort of criticisms for a game to have, though. Some semblance of an attempt was clearly being made to stretch boundaries, and I will applaud that, at least.

I have been playing more Anno 2070, too. I am nearing the end of the base game's story campaign, but after that there are still a ton of one-off missions to do, an expansion campaign, a free-play mode, and even multiplayer (which I will probably never touch). It's a great game to chill out with.

I've neglected Dota 2 for a few months, being busy and focusing on other strategy-oriented games, but I was able to get in the other night and play a good game as Slardar. There is a new guide system that lets you browse character guides created by the community and bookmark them for use while you play. Suggested skills and items from the guide will be highlighted within the UI while you play, which is a pretty cool feature. I wonder if it won't cement many cookie-cutter builds in the community, though. Regardless, it is handy and anything that can be done to make the game more newb-friendly is probably a good move, overall.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Aww, Come On!

This is just a placeholder, since Google/Blogger has somehow broken their list functionality.

I just wanted to add Proteus to the Pile and Moby Dick and The Last of the Mohicans to the Booklog!

While I'm here, I'll just make a note that I've been playing a lot of Starcraft II, Anno 2070, and Bioshock Infinite, lately.

I ended up doing an Uninstall on Monday Night Combat--wow, I expected more from that game. tsk tsk.

Gravity Bone, the Blendo Games game included with Thirty Flights of Loving, was pretty cool, though. I'd like to play all of the Citizen Abel series that these two are a part of, but I'm not sure if they are all released to the public.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Telegraph Avenue, Anno 2070

I just finished Michael Chabon's novel Telegraph Avenue, an unremarkable book about unremarkable people. The author has a way with words, I'll allow that. He writes some good characters. Otherwise, meh. Not really my kind of thing.

I got Anno 2070 a few days ago on a Steam sale, and I've been enjoying it quite a bit. It's a kind of hybrid city-builder/strategy/simulation game set in a future dystopia where climate change has caused all the icecaps to melt and coastlines have shifted to a degree that the existing nations' borders and agricultural centers no longer apply. I've only been playing the free-play continuous mode, but there are a bunch of discrete missions in there to try, as well, and it has an online-enabled metagame layer to it that is reminiscent of something Blizzard might do with one of their games. It's cool; I plan to delve deeper.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Adrift On A Dead Calm Sea

I've been pretty non-committal since finishing up Brood War. I've been using my precious free time to catch up on a few other things, such as sleep, season 2 of the HBO Game of Thrones adaptation, and even a tiny, tiny bit of reading.

I don't think I've mentioned it yet, but I've been reading a book called Telegraph Avenue, by Michael Chabon. It's well written, but not all that interesting, to be honest. It's not terribly long, though, so I figure I'll finish it in case something crazy happens. I want to get on with reading something cooler. This book is all about normal people and their normal lives--boring. I'm planning to read a book about people living on Mars next--not boring. I even began, Cloud Atlas-style, a nested re-read of an old favorite, James Clavell's Tai-Pan, the story of the swaggering Scotsman and merchant prince Dirk Struan and the founding of Hong Kong. So much for contemporary fiction.

As for what I have been playing, I plowed through some monsters playing my Diablo III barbarian last night. His name is Orda (Khan) and he's just level 15, so far. Oh, while I'm here, I uninstalled Titan Quest again, too. Space constraints on my hard disk being the main reason, but it is kind of funny that I am still here playing Diablo for the Nth time, and I still have never been able to pull myself past the threshold of Act II in Titan Quest.

Dust 514, the free-to-play massively multi-player online first-person shooter (F2PMMOFPS), is now in open beta on PSN (still an odd choice of platform, I think). I decided to check it out, hoping for the best. As of this writing, it is no good. No good at all. I have a list of technical things I think are wrong with it, but I'll focus on the main problem--it is very clearly a second-tier shooter. No one would ever play this over Battlefield if they are at all concerned with how well the game plays. The only reason I can see to have interest in this game is in the theme. You either are interested or in some way already connected with EVE Online, or way into the sci-fi aesthetic and sick of the modern military thing. Which--OK, fair enough. Dust 514 will not hang on to anyone through the fidelity of its play, though. Not without some major changes from Beta to final release.

I picked up Metal Gear Rising, and played it a couple of nights. It's really an uphill battle to get into this kind of game, for me. Not even the Metal Gear-ness of it is compelling me to sit down with it again. I didn't get the parry system during my first session, and kept getting killed by the Blade Wolf miniboss. For my second session, I had been informed how to actually parry, and so was able to kill the thing fairly simply; but I only played another 10 minutes or so after that before having to go to bed. I guess I'll play more, sometime.

With the release of Heart of the Swarm and my finishing Brood War, it was a great time to start Starcraft II. Being a grizzled old hand, I'm playing the Wings of Liberty campaign through on hard. I'm only three missions in thus far--still in the beginning tutorial stages. There are a lot of new units to learn in SCII, and more in the campaign than in the multiplayer modes, I'm told. Old, familiar units even have new capabilities. I barely was able to finish the third mission after two or three failures because I didn't know barracks now have add-ons you have to construct in order to train medics to heal your marines. I didn't find that out until after the mission while I was looking up strategies on how to get the harder achievements for the mission, one of which requires you to venture out and kill 4 of the 8 zerg hatcheries on the map.

There seems to be a lot of cool stuff to dig into in SCII, even just in the single player side of things. I'll eventually dig into multi, too, probably with Heart of the Swarm once I pick that up. For now, it's just on through the campaign, checking out how it's done, now, and seeing the infamously bad writing for myself.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Where It All Began

Prompted by a thread I saw on NeoGAF where people are posting screenshots from the first game they ever played.

This is Hang-On, built into the Sega Master System in the U.S.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Brood War Completed!

Bringing to an end one of the most concentrated gaming efforts of recent memory, I completed Starcraft: Brood War tonight. I've played almost nothing else for the last month or more. It has been an epic struggle to re-familiarize myself with how the game plays and fight an uphill battle against some very challenging missions. Brood War is, after all, the expansion meant to be played after finishing the 30-ish missions of the original Starcraft, which I did--a considerable amount of time in the past. I don't remember the original campaigns being anywhere near as hard as the ones in the expansion.

I consider this one of the great conquests in my gaming career, easily up there in terms of challenge and discipline required to finish Demon's Souls or a Halo game on Legendary, if not quite so hard as some of the more challenging content in FFXI (which owes its difficulty entirely to having to coordinate with other people). Many games feel good to finish; few feel like a real accomplishment.

I'm savoring it.

This also marks my first title knocked off of my priority queue. I'll be moving on to Starcraft II soon (it's installing right now), but with a detour through a few other things, which I'll write about soon.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

P.Q.: Broodiest of Wars

I am still working on Starcraft: Brood War. I have played almost nothing but that over the last couple of weeks. What a fantastic game. It's very long, too, and not short on challenge, either. I am currently in the middle of the third mission in the Zerg campaign, the final one in the expansion. This campaign has 10 regular missions and a secret one before the finale that can be accessed if mission 9 is completed under a certain constraint. I hope to see them all. Thus far, I've been able to work through Brood War at the rate of about a mission per day, but they may be getting more difficult; certainly, the one I am on now seems pretty tough.

I am least familiar with playing the Zerg of all three races in Starcraft. They have three or four units that I still don't really understand the function of, but I'm going to need to learn them well, I think, to pull out a victory in some of these missions. I'm much closer to my goal now than I was when I picked up the game again a couple of weeks ago, but there's still a long way to go, and uphill all the way.

Not on the agenda, but partaken of nonetheless, is Dragon Quest IX. My daughter likes to play with my old DS Lite, and up until now I've turned it on and given it to her with New Super Mario Bros. booted up. She can't play it, but she can play with it, and that's enough for her, at the moment; she's more interested in Jetpack Joyride, but that's another discussion. She's also found where I keep my DS games, and over the course of picking them up off the floor a few times, I was lured back into playing one of them--DQIX. I played it for only a couple of hours back when I first got it, but I figured it would be a nice, easy, stress-free way to relax a little in lieu of concentrating and struggling with Starcraft, so I put another hour or so into the game this past Sunday. Maybe I'll keep playing it, here and there.

Monday, February 4, 2013

P.Q.P.Q. (Priority Queue Progress Quest)

I mentioned planning to play Point Lookout for Fallout 3. Well, that's done. I was surprised by how much of a mini-expansion it was compared to the relatively brief quest-line-and-a-couple-of-unique-areas approach the other DLC modules I've played have taken. Point Lookout actually brings a fairly sizeable new geographic area to the game, with several separate quest lines and points of interest to explore. It's also got some wicked hard enemies to fight--or maybe that's just because I'm getting near the level cap of 30, and every new location I go to matches to my level. It was a good amount of content overall; it took me probably 5-6 hours to see and do more or less everything it had to offer. I've still got The Pitt and Mothership Zeta DLC to play, as well as plenty of wandering around the Capital Wasteland to do before I'm done with Fallout 3 for good.

The main thing I've been working on over the last week, aside from a bit of iOS gaming on the short trip I took to my hometown, is Starcraft: Brood War. I checked past entries of this blog, and it's been a solid two years since I began the expansion, and finished the first three missions. Well, as of right now, I'm through the eight missions of the Protoss campaign, and into the third of the Terran. That is easily the most concentrated burst of Starcraft I've ever played, and I think it's finally beginning to click. Odd that it would be halfway into the expansion before that would happen, don't you think? Some 40-ish missions, I'd guess. Well, it is a complex beast, and I can be thick-headed. I don't want to get too far ahead of myself with this burst of progress and enthusiasm, but right now I feel like I could maybe ride this wave all the way through the end of Brood War and into or even through Starcraft II before its expansion Heart of the Swarm appears this March. That would be true craziness, right there.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

P.Q.: Dark Souls, Fallout 3 DLC

As promised, I have been working on my priority queue. I included Dark Souls on there more as an afterthought for the time being, but nevertheless I spent a few hours playing it over the past couple of weeks. Previously, playing the PS3 version, I had progressed up to the Capra Demon. Now, on the PC version, I have gotten past him and down into The Depths. This meant playing through the rest of The Undead Parish and defeating the twin gargoyles at the top, which didn't turn out to be too difficult with the help of a summoned NPC to distract them. The next boss, though, the Crapra Demon himself, took quite a bit more effort. I must have tried the fight 10 times before finally slaying the beast and being able to move down into the grim sewer areas that follow. I've made it a good way through them, finding the next bonfire and another door of white mist. That is where I left off, for now.

This weekend I loaded up Fallout 3 again, and polished off the Broken Steel DLC, and played through the Operation Anchorage DLC, as well. Broken Steel was the better of the two, offering some post-game narrative content on the scouring of the Capital Wasteland of the Enclave, along with an interesting choice of whether to rain down missiles on them, or to possibly take out Megaton, the Brotherhood of Steel, Project Purity, or Rivet City, instead. I am a big fan of the Brotherhood in the Fallout world, and less so of The Enclave, so I eliminated them, as a true Paladin of the Wastes would.

Operation Anchorage was, I guess, Bethesda trying to pull of a Call of Duty mission in Fallout 3. It didn't work out all that well, if I'm honest. I felt like I was playing a pretty average PS2 game, the kind entitled something like Conflict: Desert Storm that I used to rent in college. Kind of half-assed. From a world background narrative perspective, it wasn't that interesting, either. The Chinese invaded Alaska for oil, and that presumably sparked the nuclear war that left the world in the state it currently exists in in the Fallout universe. I'm not sure that is new information. In any case, it was a simulation authored by the general in command after the fact, so its veracity is in doubt, anyway.

I guess I'll do Point Lookout next.

A Memory of Light, Wheel of Time Finished

It feels odd to have finished the Wheel of Time. I believe it was Christmas of 1996 when I was given The Eye of the World by an aunt. I was fifteen, and I had always liked reading, and reading fantasy, as a kid, but had kind of fallen out of the habit in favor of playing SNES games and Magic: The Gathering in my free time. At 814 pages in paperback, it was the biggest book I'd ever considered tackling, and half of what made me give it a whirl was just the challenge of seeing if I could finish a book that long. I never imagined it would turn out to be fourteen volumes of a similar size and heft, or that I would read many of them twice or thrice over as the years wore on, in anticipation of the next volume being released.

Well, the final book has finally come and gone. Although--unbelievably--only two years have passed for the series' characters throughout all the tumult their world and their lives seen, it's been sixteen years for me. That is fully half my lifetime thus far. So now, to be done with the story, or at least to know how it all plays out, and to have lost some of those characters I know so well to their ultimate fates, and the rest to the end of the narrative, it just feels weird. Forgive the wordplay, but it's as if I closed the book on one chapter of my life.

The characters and the world of Robert Jordan (and to some extent, Brandon Sanderson's) Wheel of Time are to me what Tolkien's works are to many people, and to the world of fantasy fiction, in general. I read Jordan--extensively--long before I ever picked up The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit. Growing up in parallel to, if much faster than, Rand, Mat, Perrin, Egwene, and others always made the series resonate with me more than a lot of fiction, and a small part of me is sad that I'll never get another view into how their world and their lives are coming along.

They say endings are one of the hardest things to do in fiction, and I believe it, having seen so many seem to go up in smoke, even harming for many the quality of the work prior to the ending. I am fairly satisfied with the way The Wheel of Time ended up. With the series having gone on for so long, there was almost no chance of every little matter being wrapped up in a grand and superlative way. I feel like the way it ended was mostly appropriate and fulfilling, even if I have a bone or two to pick here and there. I'm looking forward to the series' capstone encyclopedia which is due out in a couple of years, and in several years, eventually introducing The Eye of the World to my daughter. Maybe she'll enjoy it as much as I have over the years. I wouldn't rule out re-reading the series again for myself at some point, either. It wouldn't be the first time.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Priority Queue

I have a lot of games that I want to finish; that is a given. There are a small handful that I feel that are a bit more urgent, and that I want to really focus on due to imminent sequels and/or sequel announcements, but also because I feel particularly behind, here. This is what I have been thinking of over the last couple of weeks as my priority queue:

Half-Life 2 and its related games Lost Coast, Episode 1, and Episode 2
Starcraft: Brood War and Starcraft II
Fallout 3 DLC and Fallout: New Vegas
Dark Souls

These are the most pressing, I feel, and followed at a little bit of a distance by the next tier of stuff including Halo 4, Red Dead Redemption, the Company of Heroes games, and others I won't start trying to pick out just yet.

I want to hone in my focus to these games to relatively quickly address each of them. Realistically speaking, I would be happy to polish off each of them by the end of the year; or by the end of summer if I am lucky.

I did just wrap up one loose end, my Inferno difficulty run of Diablo III on my now wizened (level 3 paragon!) wizard. The spirit moved me, though, and I had to create a new character, a barbarian this time, and play just a little bit of his eventual run up to level 60. Of course, I also enjoy a dip into Dota 2 (I've been playing Mirana and Slardar lately) or what have you (SpaceChem), as well, so there will always be more competing for my time.

Paramount among my leisure time activities for the moment, though, is the final volume of the Wheel of Time series, A Memory of Light. I'm about 250/900s of the way in right now, and it's been very action-packed thus far, especially by the standards of this often slow series. There are a thousand and one disparate threads still needing to be woven back together before the ending, so I don't see the pace letting up much. It's a sprint to the finish line, which is nice, because for a while there during the middle of the race it felt like the runner had lain down for a nap. We've long been told that not everything will be wrapped up in a nice, neat little bow at the series' end; I just hope nothing too major is left unexplained. Open-ended is fine, but if we somehow got through the entire series not knowing just what the hell Demandred was up to, that would be quite a disappointment. It's bad enough we never saw more of the world outside of the main kingdoms and the Aiel Waste. I always wanted the story to visit Shara or the Island of the Madmen as shown in the "Big White Book" series encyclopedia released so long ago.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Pariah Done

I just finished reading Dan Abnett's Pariah, the first in the Bequin trilogy, which is itself the author's third trilogy about the Warhammer 40,000 universe's Inquisition. It is billed a titanic conflict between the legendary inquisitors Gregor Eisenhorn and Gideon Ravenor, both of which have tended to go rogue and take whatever measures they deemed necessary to accomplish their goals of rooting out heretics to the Imperium.

Who is in the right thus far in this conflict is far from clear. Much of the action in Pariah is setting the stage and establishing the motivations of each Inquisitor and their respective retinues, primarily by way of introducing us to one Alizabeth Bequin, a character at once familiar but strange to readers of the Eisenhorn trilogy. Writing much more would spoil a lot of the fun. Suffice it to say, if you have read the Eisenhorn and Ravenor books, you'll want to read this one, as well.

And if you haven't read Eisenhorn and Ravenor, that's actually ok, too, for the purposes of enjoying Pariah--but take my word for it, you should go read those two preceding trilogies. They are really great sci-fi renegade detective stories, tons of fun, and exist really quite apart from the Space Marines-focused galactic war stories of the rest of the universe.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2012 Game Of The Year & Recap

Another year has come and gone, but the world keeps turning, and players keep gaming. This year saw me grapple with two titans of gaming, logging well over 150+ hours with each, even discounting time spent AFK or spectating or browsing the in-game store or auction house. What, pray tell, could those games be?

My Game of 2012: Dota 2
Runner-Up: Diablo III

Of course, anyone reading this blog over the past year or listening to Call Of Podcast would probably have been able to guess one or the both of those. Neither should really come as much surprise, if I haven't had much to say about Diablo since putting it on a back burner in August.

The real surprise to me, personally, has been just how deep Dota 2 has gotten its hooks into me. It's about as deep as my personal life these days (full-time job, child, spouse, etc.) will allow for the sort of thing to happen. It's nothing like what it might have been like during the days when I could binge on FFXI for entirely self-destructive amounts of time; it's a more responsible admiration as opposed to an outright addiction or obsession. I also harbor no delusions of grandeur; I will never be a great player of Dota 2, but I can try to at least be decent at it, and as long as I feel like I'm doing well in-game, playing it is high in the ranks of satisfying experiences I've had with video games. So, bravo Valve, Icefrog, the Warcraft III modding community, Blizzard, and everyone else who had a hand in bringing the game to be over the years. It's heady stuff.

If not for that game, Diablo III would easily have taken the top spot. I've had a blast with it. It's not Diablo II, and it's not Diablo, either--it's something new and modernized, and for me, it works. It works very, very well.

Past years' picks, for reference:
2011: The Witcher 2/SpaceChem
2010: Mass Effect 2/Castlevania: Lords of Shadow
2009: Demon's Souls/Red Faction: Guerilla
2008: Metal Gear Solid 4/Gears of War 2
2007: BioShock/Halo 3

And as for the progress on the backlog? Well, here are the games (liberally defined) I finished this year:
BioShock 2
Minerva's Den
Max Payne
Batman: Arkham Asylum
Legend of Grimrock
Diablo III
Diablo III (Nightmare)
Diablo III (Hell)
The Walking Dead Ep. 1
Thirty Flights of Loving
The Walking Dead Ep. 2
Moon Base Alpha
Diablo II
The Walking Dead Ep. 3
Dawn of War II: Chaos Rising
The Walking Dead Ep. 4
Fallout 3
The Walking Dead Ep. 5
Assassin's Creed III

23, all told.

Past years' totals:

The backlog is as big as its ever been, it seems. This time last year I was planning on a 2 out, 1 in completion policy. I amended that later to straight 1 out, 1 in, and then decided that books knocked off the booklog would also count as 1 out. That may be lenient, but I'll stick with it for now. There is the additional guideline of not buying a game unless I want to play it right away, which seems to have been successful, recently. Looking at the Pile o' Shame now, I'm not sure that it'll ever get back under control, or how to tackle it. I could resurrect the Resolution idea of trying something new each week, but that sounds like homework, to be honest, and not very attractive.

I don't have a New Year's Resolution of any type at the moment, really, other than the same stuff as every year--try to be fit, eat healthy, read more, write more, etc. Perhaps I'll add to that to try to play more games from the backlog. We'll see how that goes.

Oh, can't forget the Booklog! I finished one book since beginning the initiative recently:
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

There are still plenty of titles on that pile, as well.

Happy New Year, everyone, and game on!