Console Games Featured PC Games

Vintage Gaming – Jedi Knight 2: Jedi Outcast

First person shooters were huge for me when I was younger, despite the fact I wasn’t very good at them.  That meant FPS’s that still had a single player story were much loved and more likely to be bought.  Jedi Outcast was the second ‘Jedi Knight’ game but the third game starring Kyle Katarn, one of my favorite ‘Expanded Universe’ Star Wars characters.  In Dark Forces, we learn that Katarn was instrumental in the theft of the original Death Star plans delivered to Princess Leia.  In Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight, Katarn learns of his Force sensitivity and defeats a Dark Jedi who killed his father.

The Kyle Katarn we see in JK2 is an older man who has set aside his Jedi ways and is trying to just live his mercenary life, having been scarred by very nearly turning to the Dark Side.  However, things go wrong when he encounters a Dark Jedi and is soundly defeated – and his partner presumed murdered – when investigating odd Imperial activity relating to Jedi history.  He takes up his lightsaber once more find the culprits.

The game used a modified Quake III: Team Arena engine which looked plenty good for the time, and performed well.  All of the typical Force powers are there, including lightning and grip (choke), and if there’s one problem, it’s that you don’t have the powers and your saber right off the bat due to the story.  Which is a great story, by the way, with the expected cameos (including Billy Dee Williams as Lando).

The other side of this is the multiplayer.  It was pretty popular for it’s time, I had a great time playing JK2 with friends and at LAN parties, and still install it for nostalgia’s sake every once in a while.  I keep it unpatched so I can use the ridiculously fun if overpowered Force grip power to grab dudes and toss them off ledges.  The bots are fun to play against and can have dynamic difficulty (so you don’t constantly pwn them).  Very handy if you don’t have enough people looking to play.  A nice touch with that is each bot plays differently – the Lando bot doesn’t use the Force, for example, but is deadly with the other weapons.  Which are fun Star Wars-ized versions of your typical FPS weapons.  Each has an alt-fire mode to add a little more depth.

But really, if you are playing this or any of the other Jedi Knight games (which will be covered too, all are awesome), you want to fight with a lightsaber.  You will not be disappointed with JK2 for this, as it kicks ass.  3 different combat styles, each with different special moves, combined with the ability to throw your saber, saber clashes and more really make the lightsaber combat sing.  Another nice touch is the ability to challenge another player to single combat, allowing you to duel your opponent without taking any damage from (or doing damage to) everyone else in the level.

Look, this is one game I could go on and on about (500 words and counting!) but I say, let’s play it.  SO, I am going to get my JK2 server up and running, maybe tonight, and I challenge anyone who wants to be destroyed beat the snot out of me to dig out their copy and have a go.  I’ll update the post with the server IP when I get it going.

Featured PC Games

Vintage Gaming – Diablo

Ah, Diablo.  A game that I came to quite late – after it’s own sequel came out.  In case you are a young punk, or simply have lived under the gaming equivalent of a rock, Diablo tells the story of a town under assault by the forces of Hell itself.  Unbeknownst to the towns folk, the town’s cathedral was built upon the site where one of the three Prime Evils of their world, Diablo the Lord of Terror, was imprisoned.  The King and his son are corrupted, and the town the town quakes in fear until a hero arrives.  Guess who?  Yep.  Diablo basically originated most of the concepts of the ‘Action RPG’, where you still get to customize your character and their skills, but combat can be a frenzied click-click affair.  There are 16 levels, which were randomized for each new playthrough.  Character selection were the standard Warrior (smash-em up melee guy), Rogue (ranged weapon master), Sorcerer (magic user).  Half of the fun for me (both in this game and it’s sequel) was the loot.  Randomly generated items of various strengths could drop, and hours could go by with you killing dudes and frantically checking the ground for a sweet new bow or axe.

I actually played through all of Diablo at work – my old job (at the Pit of Despair, for those in the know) had let us know they no longer required our services, and so many of us started to find things to do that weren’t, shall we say, work related.  A network of our own might’ve been involved, strung over the top of the cubicle walls.  But between games of Unreal Tournament, I played Diablo while still doing approximately 5 times as good of a job as that place deserved.  Fond memories, these.

One interesting note, with Diablo, is that it had an ending that would probably have cause just as much of an uproar as Mass Effect 3 did now, had social media existed in any meaningful way back then.  If you don’t want it spoiled, LOOK AWAY.  At the end of the game, with the Lord of Terror defeated, your character walks up to the Soul Stone that imprisoned his essence…and JAMS IT INTO HIS OWN HEAD.  Yes, Diablo will live on in you, and hello sequel!  I remember some really ticked off folks back then.  Considering there are already people with their dander up over Diablo III, which isn’t even released yet, I can only imagine the meme pictures and Hitler videos and what not that would be created today.  Anyway, if you’ve never played it, you’ve missed out on a bit of gaming history.  If you want to try something newer, I recommend Torchlight.  Or heck, Diablo II.

Console Games Featured PC Games

Vintage Gaming – Oni

Beat ’em up games have a long history, whether in the arcade or on your various console systems.  From Renegade to Double Dragon to River City Ransom, this style of game was a fun diversion from my RPG and Sim game-filled life at the time.  You might consider Oni a logical extension from those games.  Made by Bungie, Oni is a third-person perspective beat ’em up based in a near-future dystopia, with character design heavily influenced by Anime.

The story has Konoko, working for what amounts to Big Brotherish police force finding out she’s been lied to/finds corruption, and goes on to fight it.  Or something, I’m a little hazy because all I cared about was beating the shit out of dudes with the melee fighting system.  There are weapons, but you can only carry one, and if you run out of ammo, they’re no good.  But I didn’t buy Oni to use the weapons, I wanted to fight hand to hand.  That system was fun, with combos and special moves.  It would flash a different color based on how impactful the move was, or if it was blocked, and felt very fluid if your old machine could handle it.

On the negative side, I know many people were dismayed at how few and far between the save points were.  The devs also overpromised and underdelivered a bit, as people were expecting LAN multiplayer and a giant mech (based on one of the trailers).  Still, I had a blast punching, kicking and throwing my way through some pretty large (but fairly spartan) environments.  Tons of crates, too, if you’re into classic shooter level design.

Oni was available for PC, Mac, and PS2.  Your best bet would be a used copy from one of the sources linked at Amazon, there, if you are interested in trying this out.

Featured PC Games

Vintage Gaming – The Temple of Elemental Evil

The tavern, an adventurer's natural habitat.

I’ve been on a bit of a DnD/RPG game kick of late (or really for a while), so I thought now would be a good time to officially revisit The Temple of Elemental Evil, a PC game based on the old Dungeons and Dragons module of the same game, but updated for the 3.5E rules.  ToEE was developed by short-lived studio Troika games, which was founded by some of the devs responsible for the classic Fallout.  They had two other games release before folding up their tents and scattering to other game companies.

The story involves the aforementioned Temple being reopened by evil forces, and your group of adventurers has to deal with it.  There are multiple ways to do that, however, including joining the Temple (good if you are an evil party).  There are some side quests to do as well, and some enemies placed just to challenge you.

The nice thing about ToEE was that it was actually turn-based.  So many of the Dungeons and Dragons cames out just before it had been modifying the rules to work in ‘real-time’, usually with the ability to pause, that this was a welcome change.  The radial menu, shamelessly borrowed from Neverwinter Nights, worked well for what it needed to do, and could provide you a way to use all the more esoteric DnD actions like 5 foot steps.  And since the game follows the DnD 3.5E rules closely, all the cheesy builds you know in your pen and paper game work here.  My personal favorite is the reach weapon tripper that can hit everybody with attacks of opportunity.

And there’s good reason to min-max, at least for me there was.  This game is pretty tough.  Since you start as level 1 characters, it’s very easy to die if you bit off more than you can chew.  Trust me, there’s nothing more embarrassing than getting killed after being swallowed by a giant frog.

No review of ToEE would be complete without mentioning the work of the fan coders at The Circle of Eight.  With the game not selling well, the developers could barely afford to put out what patches they did, which barely took care of the raft of show-stopping bugs the game shipped with.  In stepped Co8.  Not only did they pick up bug-fixing where Troika was forced to leave off, they’ve added back a ton of content in the pen and paper module and other additional content.  There’s even a conversion of The Keep on the Borderlands being worked on.

Things that suck:  the dialogue isn’t great.  Even with the improvements, the game can feel a bit unpolished.  The interface can feel a bit spare, as I’d like to be able to glance at the inventory and see what each thing is, but it’s workable.  Also, it’s hard to tell what each character can use when buying items.  It can be difficult to figure out where you are going in town, a quest list with map pointers would’ve been huge.  Still, for a game nearly 10 years old, it’s about what you expect.  You either see enough here to want to figure it out, or you pass on by.  I mean, we’re not THAT far from when game companies expected you to make your own maps and notes, right?

You might be able to find ToEE at your local discount store, but if not, the fine folks at Good Old Games have you covered – $5.99 gets you the game, and it’s ready for the amazing Circle of Eight mods right off the bat.  If you’re a DnDer who never bothered with this game because of it’s buggy rep, now is a great time to give it another try.

Boring site stuff

Old Game Tuesday is now Vintage Gaming

I’m renaming the ‘Old Game Tuesday’ feature ‘Vintage Gaming’, so I don’t feel so bad about missing it/being late with it.  Also, when I DO write them up, I love it so much I want to post it right away.  So, now I will.  Also, if you have something you’d like to contribute or cross-promote that’s related, send me an email at mightytick at Google’s mail service. :D

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.

Console Games

Old Game Tuesday – The Legend of the Mystical Ninja

When I was a kid, I rented a ton of games for my various game systems as even then I really hated the idea of wasting what little money I had on a bad game.  I also preferred renting the simpler action games rather than buying them, figuring something like Final Fantasy III, which took upwards of 50 hours to finish, was a better investment than a beat ’em up.

So, it was the video stores that introduced me to The Legend of the Mystical Ninja.  I probably picked it because it had ninjas and sort of resembled Zelda.  It plays a bit like Zelda, but if you took the serious parts of it and made it goofy.  If you’ve ever seen some of the more humorous Anime shows out there, you get the idea.  I’m having a hard time describing LotMN as anything but pure fun.  It made a great change of pace after slogging through FF for 6 hours.  And since the most likely way for people to play it now is via the Wii Virtual Console, you won’t have to write down huge, unwieldy passwords.  Definitely worth a play through if you get tired of dancing to lame pop songs on your Wii (that’s what everybody is doing now, right?).

PC Games

Old Game Tuesday – Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri

Alpha freaking Centauri.  Those that love ‘Civilization’ type games often hold Alpha Centauri in extremely high regard.  The game let’s you pick up where we pacifistic Civilization players left off – with a ship landing on an Alpha Centauri planet, ready to build a new society.  Much of the game is Civ taken to a sci-fi world, with goodie huts replaced by supply pods from your colony ship, things like that.  There were a few differences, though, that really set Alpha Centauri apart.  Game-wise, the ability to custom design your troops and ships added quite a bit of depth for people who love to micromanage.

What you really notice as you play, though, is the story.  Yes, there’s a story, one rich with opposing viewpoints, classic science fiction themes, and solid voice acting.  If you are a fan of Frank Herbert, Ray Bradbury or similar authors, you’ll feel right at home.  You wanted to find out what happened in the story, not JUST ‘win’ the game, which is interesting considering what kind of game it is.  You don’t see that in 4X games all that often.  If you haven’t played Alpha Centauri, it’s definitely worth trying out.

Featured PC Games

Old Game Tuesday – The Homeworld Series

My review here will be on Homeworld: Cataclysm more than the other two, but much of what I have will apply.  The Homeworld series of games, and Cataclysm specifically, I picked up because they were different.  Unlike the 2D+ you got from some other RTS type games of the era, this had true 3D ship to ship combat as you had to specify both direction of travel but also elevation ‘up’ or ‘down’.  If you had been playing hours upon hours of Starcraft or Command and Conquer, it was a welcome change.

The story followed a race (the Kushan) who found out they had been displaced from their homeworld long ago, and build a generational mothership to go take it back.  The subsequent stand alone expansion and sequel deal with what happens after doing that.  The other unique feature is that your fleet (based out of your mothership) is persistent from mission to mission.  So there is a benefit to planning and executing a strategy in your missions.  You may find your self hard pressed to finish the next mission if you get most of your ships blown up in the previous one.  It might take a bit of time to gather the resources to rebuild.

The games (despite being 10+ years old) run well enough even on Windows 7 to play now.  If you can find a copy and think what I said above sounds intriguing, check it out.

Featured PC Games

Old Game Tuesday – Civilization II

Another game that needs no introduction, Civilization II is one of the most addictive games I’ve ever played.  I know friends whose college classes suffered at the foot of it, long before Everquest and WoW would do the same for the next generation.  Civ2 is still a go-to game for me when I want something slower-paced and engrossing.  Also, it can run on just about any PC still working nowadays, with some tweaking.

I played Civ2 for hours and hours.  My preferred method of play was trying to stay peaceful and build the spaceship, though wars could be fun.  I loved researching all the techs, seeing what I could build with them, and racing the computer to get them first.  You never knew what you’d find when exploring – you might find yourself on an island with one of your competitors, or miles away from everyone.  Because of that (and many other factors) you had to plan your advancement accordingly – maybe you needed better ships sooner, or you wanted to build up troops to take out that interloper on your continent.

As would happen in many other games, I always got so focused on building and exploring that I would get far behind on the ‘winning’ part of things, but I didn’t care.  I grinned whenever some stupid warlike Civ would come at me, and break their armies against the advanced troops I had stationed in my cities.  Actually taking one of my cities was the only way to rouse me from my diplomatic slumber and have me razing the offender to ashes.

If the graphics of Civ2 bother you, or you simply want to try a newer version of the game, Civ4 is my favorite of the more recent versions.  Civ5 has a few more departures from the classic, though I didn’t play it much – I need to rectify that.  Civ: Revolutions on the DS was actually fun as well, surprising to me because of the small screen size.

Featured PC Games

Old Game Tuesday – Star Trek: Birth of the Federation

Star Trek:  Birth of the Federation (BOTF from here on out) is a turn-based 4X game based in the Star Trek:  The Next Generation universe.  A 4X game, if you are wondering, is a game where the goal is to explore, expand, exploit and exterminate.  You scout and explore territory, where it’s space (as in this) or land (as in Civilization).  You found colonies through various means, and take advantage of natural resources to build and improve them.  Finally, you can war with your opponents if you’d rather win that way.  Me, I’m always a good guy.

You have 5 main factions you can be in BOTF, including the Federation (duh), the Ferengi, the Cardassians, the Klingons, and the Romulans.  Each has a set of advantages loosely based on their TNG portrayal (Federation are good diplomats, Romulans are sneaky) and there are random events that occur which are pulled from the series as well, like a Borg cube or the Crystalline Entity.  You build colony ships, expand your empire, use diplomacy, and develop new technology.  However, that tech never strays from what you find on TNG, with the devs sneaking in the Defiant class, as an example, because there was a crossover episode or two with DS9.

The game’s interface is pretty much what you’d expect from a 4x game of the era – clunky, lots of clicking and pop-up windows, icons that you aren’t sure what they mean.  But you get used to it, and you weren’t exactly playing a 4X game without expecting some micromanagement.  Each race had a color scheme specific to them, so the Federation had an LCARS analog, but in practice made playing games as the different races a bit annoying.

If you are a Star Trek fan at all, BOTF is one of the few games with the license worth playing.  If you end up being bothered by the interface quirks, you can always go back to Stars!

PC Games

Old Game Tuesday – Star Trek: 25th Anniversary

First, a note:  this is the PC game, not the console game of the same name.  Now, as a young science fiction fan growing up, there weren’t that many options out there.  So you were pretty much watching Star Trek, even if you were more of a Star Wars fan.  I believe young me begged and pleaded for this game for a birthday or Christmas, can’t quite remember, but I did get it.

And it was everything I had hoped it would be.  ST:25 (as I will now abbreviate it) was a point and click adventure game (with a little ship to ship combat thrown in) broken down into ‘episodes’ just as the series was.  You would take Kirk, Spock and McCoy (with a red-shirt thrown in for good measure sometimes) on away missions that played out like a puzzle.  You’d have to investigate the area, find important items, and figure out the mystery.  You were scored based on how ‘right’ you performed each mission, but as long as the big three away team members were alive, you could continue on.

The missions were varied, and had some references to the show.  You see Harry Mudd and Carol Marcus, as well as one of the ‘God-like’ aliens from the Original Series episode Who Mourns for Adonais?.  The CD-ROM version of the game was fully voiced by the cast, save Harry Mudd, as the actor that played him (Robert C. Carmel) had died.  There were multiple ways to complete the missions, but one ‘right’ one that would get you full marks from Starfleet Command.  Phasers, tricorders, Spock and McCoy sniping at one another – it’s all there.

I had a ton of fun with this game, the ‘click’ when one of the puzzle pieces fell into place for me was awesome.  Heck, ST:25 taught me about other numbering systems (one of the puzzles had you entering in numbers in base 3 or base 4).  If you wanted to play ST:25 (or it’s excellent sequel Judgement Rites) you will definitely want to get with DOSBox.  I am looking for other Star Trek games to feature in the future, but this is painful.  Star Wars has a bunch of games that are worthy, but Trek…oof.  If you have suggestions, comment away!