Monday, December 22, 2014

Steam Winter Sale BONANZA Pt. 1

It's Winter Sale time, and I've been trying to play everything as I buy it. This is my chronicle of this fool's errand, beginning with a few things I decided to catch up on before the sale:

Sid Meier's Ace Patrol: Pacific Skies - just a dumb mobile game ported to PC. It's got kind of a neat tactical WWII dogfighting system. I liked the first Ace Patrol on ipad and I had to win a gem auction in the sale lead-up period, so I chose a game no one else would bid on. It's worth a buck or two, but probably better played on a tablet.

Age of Mythology - Microsoft has seemingly come around to the existence of Steam and acknowledgement of their past as PC game developers, or at least they are allowing another studio to remaster and rerelease some of their past hits, such as this one. It seems it's an RTS where you can play various factions from world myths, such as Egyptian, Norse, and Greek traditions. I just did a couple of rounds of the tutorial campaign.

Dark Souls II - I really only played long enough to create a character and work through the beginning exposition to the point where you are given control of said character.

Dawn of War II: Retribution - I played some of The Last Stand, and started the campaign proper as the Space Marines' Blood Ravens chapter, the same faction (the only faction) that was playable in vanilla DoWII and the first expansion, Chaos Rising. I want to see their story through to the end, then perhaps check out Chaos or the Imperial Guard or another of the several factions in the game.

Dungeon of the Endless - It's a type of roguelike where you don't seem to have direct control over how your party members (2 to 4), but are able to alter the dungeon room by room as you go, gathering resources to level up your party and also trying to move an object from the starting room of a floor through to the end of the floor. I have yet to successfully make it to the second floor. It's interesting in that it shares the 4 primary resources (food, industry, science, dust) with Endless Space and Endless Legend, two other games that exist in the same universe.

Endless Legend - A 4X (explore, expand, exploit, exterminate) empire-building game set in a fantasy and sci-fi melding world with incredible production values and aesthetics and really unique, distinct, and interesting faction design. It seems to be on the whole going for something Civilization-esque, but with a lot of tweaks aimed at making war more interesting by making stacked armies fan out to do battle directly on the hex-based overworld, which temporarily doubles as your battlefield, and addressing the common complaints about the endgame stages of these types of games involving too much micromanagement, as you have fewer cities to administer in Endless Legend due to a one city per region rule. I've been pretty impressed with the game so far.

Inescapable - I was given a copy to play for research purposes. It's a 16-bit looking sci-fi, alien planet, side-scrolling action and exploration game, obviously Metroid influenced, though without that much emphasis on combat, and instead more on revealing a story of ancient precursor races et cetera. It's solid, if not remarkable, though I did seem to hit a game-ending bug where I used up an item I still need to get around an obstacle. I don't see any way to fix this other than starting over from the beginning.

Mario Golf World Tour - It's a good golf game themed in Mario with some power-up gimmicks to spice it up, or not, depending on  your mood. This may see more play in the future.

Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes - A fantastic port to the PC. I made my way through the main mission once to this point, and I'm very impressed with how well it performs, and how well it plays. I'll be playing around with this quite a bit in the lead up to The Phantom Pain. It feels like the Tanker demo for MGS2 that was released along with Zone of the Enders so long ago. Keifer Sutherland as Snake doesn't even really bother me, though I would definitely prefer to have David Hayter back.

Primordia - I'm not a huge fan of point and click style adventure games that make you retread the same old ground over and over combining random items into puzzle solutions, but the plot synopsis made me want to try this out. It seems kind of cool, but again this style of play really does nothing for me, so I'm not so sure about it.

Rise of Nations - Another of Microsoft's old RTSs remastered and rereleased for the next generation. I liked the tutorial missions and the looks of this one a little more than Age of Mythology, I think, and the game has a stellar reputation, so it merits more of a look at some point.

R.U.S.E.  - The first few missions were really cool. It seems like RTS without all the busywork, basically just the strategic parts, with some tactical manipulation, but little if any base building or resource management. I didn't really get into the fake-out head games quite yet, though. I want to play more of this one, as well.

Space Hulk - Warhammer 40,000 Space Marines Terminators versus Tyranid Genestealers in very tightly-confined space ship corridors. It's a very tactical game, based very faithfully on the classic board game. Perhaps too closely for a video game. There are included options to speed up animations, but there is also the more recently released follow-up Ascension which I gather is aimed at taking a more video-gamey approach to adapting the source material. I like this one well enough, for what I played of it so far.

Total War: Rome II - Another RTS I only played the tutorial of. Seems cool, will have to follow up later with more time invested.

Wasteland 2 - Seven or eight hours in, now. It seems like a very solid and well written RPG thus far. I wouldn't say the hook is set just yet, but I get a feeling it might be were I to continue on further.

There are a lot of games above I really need to devote a lot more time to, and I still do not have a definite GOTY/Honorable Mention decision yet, either. The Steam Sale continues, and I kind want to check out Elite: Dangerous, too.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Great Ocean and the Dangers Therein

I hit the Horus Heresy very hard recently, polishing off all of:

Age of Darkness - A short story collection mostly set after the events on Isstvan V

The Outcast Dead - An interesting look into the imperial palace on Terra and the lives of astropaths and other sanctioned psykers

Deliverance Lost - Corvus Corax, primarch of the Raven Guard, and his quest to rebuild his all-but wiped out legion after Isstvan V, also featuring the machinations of Alpha Legion

The Primarchs - A collection of novels centering on Fulgrim, Ferrus Manus, Lion el'Jonson, and Omegon

They were all pretty good, highlights being the material featuring the Lion, Corax, Fulgrim, and Alpha Legion, especially.

I felt I should dig into something more 'literate' after gorging myself on epic Space Marine fantasy, and I'm now reading Moby Dick. It's a classic of American literature, and I'm guessing many read it in school at some point, but I never did. I expected it to be stodgy, archaic, and hard to understand, but I've been pleasantly surprised at how comedic and entertaining it is, and the language perfectly readable, if a little old fashioned. It's fun, so far, though I'm still not too far in.

Travel and Return

I recently went with my family to Japan for about three weeks, during which time I was able to play games relatively little, but I did get some time in, mostly in the company of my brother-in-law.

We played some Destiny with his and my sister-in-law's characters, and that was good fun. Their characters were level 25 to 28, and well advanced from my own meager level 21, but the content they had to run was all basically the same, with small differences brought on by the increase in difficulty settings. Destiny, it's a nice game to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there.

Also over at their place, I got in a little time with my account, grabbing a few levels on my Diablo III Witch Doctor (which is still in season, for some limited time), and also to show off Hearthstone and give a quick lesson on how that game is played and what the better (and worse) parts of that are.

The only real gaming accomplishment to speak of during this time was my completion of Baldur's Gate Enhanced Edition's Black Pits campaign, which is just a series of arena battles in which you level up a party to about level 9-10 and in the end face some pretty tough opponents. I'm glad I did it, but it wasn't a whole lot of fun.

I had more fun, though ultimately limited by a desire to not get dragged down in what is essentially an obsolete experience, with Far Cry. It holds up well for a game that is 10 years old, and only just taking formative steps into the open-world shooter genre. The core gameplay and concept of what you would see later in subsequent Far Cry games, Crysis, STALKER, and others, is in place and very solid and a lot of fun, but the world is not completely open, and there's not a whole lot to do other than follow the critical path. It also seemed overly easy, though I stopped playing on the third or fourth mission, just after the first time you get a hang glider. I can get the same, but better, from other games in my library, and next time I have that hankering, I'll play Far Cry 3 or another game.

Lacking a definite go to for game of the year, I'm getting into Wasteland 2. So far it's pretty good. The combat draws a lot from XCOM: Enemy Unknown, and feels more like that game than Fallout or Fallout 2 (and certainly nothing like the original Wasteland). The writing seems good, if not remarkable just yet, and the mission design so far is interesting, forcing you to make a choice early on about which of two fires to put out, the other being left to burn. I'll need to play a lot more to know whether it is GOTY material.