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Console Games PC Games

RIP Marvel Heroes

It’s funny, I am both sad that Marvel Heroes Omega is gone, and completely unsurprised by it.  MH has long been my most played game on Steam, and thoroughly scratched my Diablo itch by providing fun Action RPG gameplay in a non-obnoxious free to play model.  The writing was on the wall when David Brevik left Gazillion, and the slow decline of the game accelerated greatly in the past few weeks.

I’ve talked about Marvel Heroes before, and since that post I’ve added a few hundred more hours, though none in the past few months.  There are a few reasons I stopped playing, the biggest being the “Omega” rebranding.  That’s when Gazillion decided to redo most of the key systems in the game, in a lame cashgrab attempt at console ports.  For someone who had played the PC version off and on since the open beta, the abrupt shift in focus and controller-friendly control changes were annoying.  To top it off, the new Gaz CEO has a history of sexual harrassment so that’s another reason for Disney/Marvel to yank the license.

Marvel Heroes was a ton of fun the past few years.  Weekly events, a fair amount of content, tons of characters that played fairly different.  And characters from all aspects of the Marvel U.  You could have Rocket Raccoon standing next to Luke Cage and Doctor Doom.  The art improved immensely over the years.  The devs were responsive, and even though there were issues, it was clear they cared about making a great game.  Here’s hoping that the talent cut loose find jobs.

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Console Games PC Games Review

Game Thoughts – No Man’s Sky

I’m not calling this a review as I’m not that far in, but I already have a lot of complicated thoughts about No Man’s Sky.  Here they are in no particular order:

  1. Is it any good?  I don’t…know?  Seriously, I can see how some people can tune into it – there is something zen about scooting around a planet, finding the gear drops and cataloging animals.  I don’t know if that part of it is going to hold up, as there is no real progression there.  You can go to another different planet millions of times, but the steps you do are pretty much always going to be the same.
  2. The linear progression is too linear.  Your backpack and ship, save for one specific situation below, always increase by one notch of space when you improve them.  You are constantly juggling inventory.  There are so many crafting materials and parts you need that you never get ahead of it.  If you are going to have a limited inventory, you need a better balance of when you make the player have to make that keep/toss decision.  Every five minutes, every fracking time you land at a new shelter or whatever, is TOO MUCH.
  3. Sameness.  It’s a bit too easy to see “The Matrix” behind it all, as one of the Penny Arcade guys said yesterday, as there are only so many components they use to make up the creatures, and while the planets vary in numerous ways, it’s all within a very specific set of parameters.  For the ships, sure, they look different, but there literally nothing else about them that’s unique – you’re just checking a box to get one more bit of inventory space when you switch.
  4. Is there a story?  It seems like there is, and some of the the little side stories seem interesting, but it’s not (yet) the focus of the game.  We’ll see what happens as I get farther in.

It’s funny, I’ve written all of that, and if I look back it seems not very positive, but I DO want to play again.  It’s almost like, there are hints at a larger, more interesting story surrounding all of this and I just haven’t seen it yet.  I’m just not 100% convinced that the story actually exists, and that the treadmill of find minerals – slightly upgrade your stuff – repeat at a place only slightly different is worth sticking around long enough to find out.  I’ll revisit this and update it if I delve deeper.

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Console Games Featured PC Games

Game Review – Tomb Raider

I played bits and pieces of the early Tomb Raider games, but was never a fan of them.  I didn’t seek them out.  But I kept hearing how good this new one was, at least before everyone moved on to Bioshock: Infinite, and when I saw a good deal, I jumped in and bought it.  I’m glad that I did.

Tomb Raider acts as a sort of reboot for the franchise.  How did Lara Croft get to be the guns akimbo, dinosaur killing, treasure finding badass?  Well, you’ll know after this.  Lara is part of an archaeological team looking for an ancient empire named Yamatai.  She figures out that they’ve been heading in the wrong direction, and as a result, they end up shipwrecked.  She blames herself.  People die, and she blames herself more.  She becomes determined to find a way off the island, complicated by the fact that any craft that approaches by land or sea gets knocked around and destroyed by strange storms.  She finds evidence that it’s been happening for hundreds of years, and that the island’s inhabitants are the survivors of those wrecks.

The look of the game hearkens back to Indiana Jones, but what the game really plays like to me is Batman: Arkham Asylum or Arkham City, if instead of beating everyone with fists, Bats went all Oliver Queen on people.  Secret, hidden things to find and collect abound.  Instead of Detective Mode there’s ‘Survival Insticts’ which helps hidden items, climbable areas, and living creatures.  There are puzzles, In which you have to find a way past an obstacle or blocked path.  They are just difficult enough to be fun, but not to frustrate you into oblivion.  I only got stuck once, and once I checked the walkthrough for the puzzle that got me, I decided I must be too tired and went to bed.

The main story arc took me about 15 hours or so to finish – but I only found 71% of the stuff available to find, and almost no complete sets.  You can go back after the game is over and find the rest if you like, and as you are playing, you can fast travel via campsites.  I didn’t do that though, as I wanted to see the story.  One other note – there is a point where Lara is about to be sexually assaulted, which generated a ton of discussion when the game was being first talked about.  It’s not worse than the typical ‘female hero is tied up and rescued just in the nick of time’ trope, though in this case Lara basically rescues herself and shoots the guy in the face.  If this is something that will bother you, the game is probably best avoided.

So what’s the verdict?  I had a blast.  I played until 3 in the morning a couple of times, wanting to see one more thing, reveal one more important plot point.  That doesn’t happen to me much any more.  There’s a few rough patches, the infamous one is how quickly she gets over killing her first person, but that’s to be expected in a video game.  If you want to see what the game looks like on a decent but not world-beating PC, check the gallery below.  If you wish to purchase the game, here’s an Amazon link (it installs via Steam).  It’s also available on PS3 and Xbox360, just change the option under Platform.

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Console Games Featured

Vintage Gaming – River City Ransom

River City Ransom is one of those games that, if you’ve played it, you probably love it…but not a lot of people have played it.  I came across it by chance at the video store once, played the heck out of it, but it took me forever to find a working copy.  I finally did, though, and it quickly became one of my all-time favorite games on any platform.

The story is simple, as you might expect from an early NES game.  You play as either Alex or Ryan, and Ryan’s  girlfriend is kidnapped by a gang leader (Slick) from a rival high school.  I’m not sure why Alex would go on the mission solo when it’s not his girlfriend, but those details were not important, or perhaps were lost in the translation.  Anyway, your goal is to punch and kick your way across town, fighting increasingly difficult gangs and bosses along the way.  If you’ve played Double Dragon or other fighting games from the era, you know what’s up.  What set RCR apart from them was a pretty solid RPG aspect.  You gained money from defeated enemies, which could be used to buy items to increase your stats, replenish lost stamina, and learn new fighting techniques.  There are also weapons like rocks or pipes spread throughout the levels, or to be taken from the rival gang members.

The game has a ton of 8-bit charm.  The blocky sprites are large and colorful, with goofy anime-inspired designs.  The music fits well, and changes when something important is happening.  The gangs are color coded by their t-shirts, and have names like The Jocks or The Generic Dudes.  When defeated, the enemies say silly things like BARF.  But make no mistake, the game isn’t a cakewalk.  The tougher gangs and bosses with wipe the floor with you if you don’t fight strategically and improve your character.

As implied above, you can play it as a 2 player game, though in the US they didn’t include the mode that removed friendly fire.  So feel free to beat each other up if you like, it’s fun.  That’s what the game is about, FUN.  You can play it in emulation on the NES, or get it for the Wii Virtual Console.  Well worth the cost if you like old-school beat ’em ups.

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Console Games Featured PC Games

Vintage Gaming – Romance of the Three Kingdoms

Yes, another Koei game, actually I will cover the whole series of games, at least the ones I’ve played.  Romance of the Three Kingdoms games are at their core turn based strategy games centered around the eponymous timeframe in Chinese history.  You’ll remember that from my talk about Destiny of an Emperor.  There have been eleven games in this series (though not all made it to the states I believe), on platforms ranging from the NES, PC, Amiga on up to the Wii.  At their core, the games are basically the same:  you are building up your territory both economically and militarily, gather troops and generals to your banner, and waging war against your enemies.

I played I on my NES, but my favorite versions were IV and X.  IV, playable on SNES and PC (win 3.1!) was a great example of what the earlier games were like.  You had to improve your territories by repairing dams, improving farms for food, and had to balance increasing the size of your army with not stifling population growth.  Battles could take several forms, with field battles (where your advisor could set traps of pitfalls or bales of hay to set fire to), duels (where a powerful general could take out an enemy army in one fell swoop) and gate battles where enemies could try and bash your gate in and take the city.  That was another thing you had to build up and improve.  While not for everyone, the strategy was deep and satisfying for me, trying to find the right balance of domestic and militaristic improvement.

ROTK X, played on my PS2, was at it’s core the same style of game, with one big difference – it was played ONLY from the perspective of one single general, who could be the ruler of a territory, a vassal of another ruler, or just a masterless warrior wandering across China.  As an example, I played as Zhao Yun, one of the Five Tiger Generals of Liu Bei but at the beginning of the earlier scenarios, a free general.  You can improve your standing in the world by taking tasks to improve whatever city you are in, in the hopes of being recruited by one of the rulers.  I eventually caught on with Liu Bei, and at that point you get your tasks from your ruler.  You are still being tasked to improve various holdings or train troops, with the added benefit of getting to fight in the great wars.  I did well, and was left in charge of a city of my own.  As you advance like that, you get more and more freedom to act.  I eventually conquered all of China for Liu Bei, with he and some other generals gaining a few territories without me, but then Liu Bei died, leaving his son in charge.  Liu Shan, being distrustful of how much power I had, banished me, though part of the empire rebelled and came with me.  It’s a very realistic event for the time period, and played out very cool.

There is zero appeal here to folks who prefer games like Dynasty Warriors, but if you like strategy games, or city-building games, check it out. ROTX X via Amazon has a few used copies, otherwise check your local used game store.

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Console Games

Old Game Tuesday – Final Fantasy VI

fftitle
The Title Screen

There was a time when I was perfectly happy just playing my original 8-bit NES. I had fun, time-consuming games like Final Fantasy and Uncharted Waters, and didn’t need any new console just for better graphics.

Then I was informed Final Fantasy II was coming to that newfangled SNES. Someone brought their system and the game and I was hooked.

I had to have it. So I got a Super Nintendo and FFI and played, and played and played. I couldn’t get all the way through, not without getting stuck or taking time away for a while…usually during the Earth crystal part, or the Tower of Bab-il. Final Fantasy III (which I came to know as VI later), on the other hand, I ripped through without stopping. It remains my favorite FF game in a landslide.

Why did I love it? For one, it was set in a more technologically advanced time, sort of steampunk-ish. That was pretty different to me, as the previous FF games and Dragon Warrior were all more medieval. The wide array of characters (with several battles that had more than one party in play) was something I hadn’t seen before. Graphically, it was an improvement over FFII (with the character sprites being larger and more expressive) and of course the music is fantastic. I was actually spurred on to write this (and play the game yet again) while searching ringtones for Final Fantasy VI. The story is a classic, with the typical ‘rebels fighting an evil empire’ motif…except the bad guy wins (for a while).

Exposition!
Exposition!

One other thing that stood out in going back to the game later in life is the sorts of issues the game speaks about, despite Nintendo of America’s normally draconian editing. Teen pregnancy, suicide, and the death of loved ones (not just vanishing into thin air) were all present. Notably, it’s also a game that did not suffer nearly as much as it’s US predecessor in translation (“you spoony bard!”, actually having no gameplay tweaks to make it easier). I mean, the game features an Opera performance for crying out loud, and I still enjoyed it. That should be all you need to know.

If you like RPG games at all, especially the Japanese style, you owe it to yourself to check it out. In addition to the original Final Fantasy III released in the US, you can also play this on Game Boy Advance and the original PlayStation.