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.