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Game Review – Home

“Where am I? Is this blood? What have I done?”

Okay, just finished my first playthrough of Home, an indie game developed by Benjamin Rivers, newly available via Steam. I’m a lightweight when it comes to horror stuff, but I’m a little freaked out here.  I bought it (for all of $2.54) because of the old school graphics, and the thought that what happened is based on your perception and choices as much as what was programmed.  If you don’t want to be unspoiled, read the ‘What Happened?’ link to see what I mean.  I can’t honestly tell if some of the things these other people saw or did are real or not.  “Who was that following me in the forest??” one asks…what??  Did I miss that, or what it really happening?  “I wish I had let that mouse out of the trap…”  Why?  What happened because of that mouse?  Goes to show that a good game experience isn’t based on pixel shaders and frames per second.  If you’ll excuse me, I’m going back and taking the shovel with me this time…

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Vintage Gaming – X-Com Series

The Summer Steam Sale has only gotten me for one thing so far, and it’s the X-Com series of games.  I’ve never played them, and I figured it’s time.  I’ll be updating this post with thoughts on each of the games as time permits.  Feel free to comment with your memories or strategies as you like.

X-Com:  UFO Defense – I have no idea what I’m doing – I need to find and read the manual!  It’s kind of funny that it runs via DOSBox.

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Diablo 3 Is Always On, But I’m Not

Of course, Diablo 3 has yet to actually BE always on, but..

I do not yet own Diablo 3.  There was a time in my life, years ago, when I younger me would’ve been shocked at older me saying that.  I played the heck out of Diablo 2, and it’s one of the few games I can play with my wife where one of us isn’t absolutely destroying the other in some way.  We played it both separately, and together, often when one of us needed some backup against a lesser or prime evil.  It was simple fun that only needed a couple of PCs and a LAN.

But I’m realizing now that Blizzard doesn’t want my money.  I am not their target market.  I like playing solo or just with another person or two I know, not random strangers.  Having all games hosted ‘in the cloud’ is an unneccesary tether.  I don’t want to buy items in an auction house.  I like killing monsters and taking their stuff instead.  So why do I have to play D3 like a pseudo-MMO?  If you don’t want to allow items from local games into the online games, that’s fine.  I never encountered a hacked or duped item myself, but I just played the game for fun, not to break it or make money off of it.  Single player gaming is much more convenient for a good bit of the population, so of course let’s make it hard/impossible.  I know, DRM!  They steal our games!  Read that story about Kingdoms of Amalur’s devs being broke and you can kind of understand that angle.  But you can still have the key requirement for online play, which means MOST buyers of the game will need one, some of the rest of us will buy the game anyway because we like to be legit, and a few jerks will pirate it.

That’s not my problem, though, and I’m being penalized for it.  That is, if I were to buy the game.  I don’t think I am, at least not while it’s $60 for a game that’s only half-working anyway.  It’s obvious from their sales that they don’t need to cater to my interests to keep me as a customer.  That’s fine.  I think the $20 for Torchlight 2 will be money much more well spent for me, as it has LAN play and can be modded.  This is what everybody means when they say ‘vote with your money’, right?

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Dragon Age 3 Speculation, Part 3

Part 1Part 2

Part 3 of my look at what might come to pass for Dragon Age 3 is a look at what characters may return.  Both Awakening and DA2 had some appearances and references to previous characters, in fact they were thick on the ground for me at one point in DA2, and with the plots from the previous games building up to a potential climax in DA3, one has to think there will be quite a few appearances of your favorite characters.  I’ll list characters below and whether I think they’ll appear, and perhaps speculate in what capacity.  Feel welcome to join in!

Help control the pigeon population in Orlais, bring back Shale!

From Origins:

  • Alistair – He’s one of the tough ones.  It’s not yet certain that our saves from the previous games will be imported, so they may have to established a canonical outcome for him.  I think I banished him in my game that ended up being imported to DA2, but he could be King, or dead too.  Tough to imagine he’ll be heavily involved if the saves get imported because of that.  Don’t think many will be looking for him anyway.
  • Morrigan – Now we’re getting somewhere.  There is a MAJOR plot involving Morrigan left unresolved, with the baby.  I think she’s pretty likely to appear in some capacity.
  • Flemeth – A character this powerful, who has already appeared in two games?  Pretty likely to me.
  • Dog – Wishful thinking on my part, heh.  How long do Mabari live?
  • Wynne – I can see Wynne involved, as the Templar vs. Mages stuff will still need to be resolved.
  • Leliana – A favorite of mine, and should be involved as with Wynne above.  We see her at the end of DA2, and appears to be the Seeker’s (Cassandra) boss.  Would fit with the Templar/Mages stuff, as well as Warden related stuff thanks to her association with THE Warden.
  • Sten – A dark horse candidate.  We saw a lot more from the Qunari in DA2, especially with the inclusion of Mark of the Assassin.  Might be covered in a DLC or expansion though.
  • Zevran – Seems unlikely to me.
  • Ohgren – He grew on me throughout DA:O and Awakening.  Doesn’t seem needed though, and if the game focuses on Orlais as is implied, he probably won’t be there.
  • Shale – I’d love for Shale to appear, but also seems unlikely as she is not really that involved in the leftover plots.
  • Loghain – Another one that’s tough to call, for the same reasons as Alistair.  Could be with you right to the end, dead, etc.

Awakening:

  • Anders/Justice – No.  I killed him/them in DA2, and I think most did.
  • Nathaniel Howe – Unlikely, again due to the whole Orlais thing.  Seems to me like he’ll stay in Ferelden.
  • Sigrun – Unlikely.  I imagine she’ll be in the Deep Roads.
  • Velanna – I didn’t even remember who this was.  I think I stuck with Anders in Awakening just for Ser Pounce-a-lot.

There are other companions from some of the DLC, but they seem to be mostly unimportant.  Nobody would be lookinf for them, anyway.

Dragon Age 2:

  • Aveline – No, I imagine she stays in Kirkwall.
  • Bethany/Carver – Another one where it depends a lot on whether or not saves get imported and how involved Hawke is, if at all.  Unlikely.
  • Fenris – Interesting choice, with the Templar/Mage trouble.  Might be a cameo.
  • Isabela – A pirate captain could travel anywhere, so could be a likely choice.
  • Merrill – Another with something to offer in the Templar/Mage trouble.  But doesn’t feel like someone I’d bring back.
  • Sebastian – Chantry brother, so could be possible.
  • Varric – He’d be a likely one to at least make an appearance, to me.  I doubt the frame the story as being told by him again, but it’s always nice to have a knowledge dump character people don’t mind listening to.
  • Tallis – Another dark horse, depending on what if anything happens with the Qunari.

I think that covers the companions.  Did I miss someone?  Is there a minor player that you think becomes a major one in the new game?

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GamesRadar’s 100 Best Games of All Time – OH REALLY

The folks at GamesRadar threw down their list of the top 100 games of all time, and while I’m not going to comment on every game (I haven’t played all of them), I’d like to point out what I think they got right and what they missed.

  • 99.  Ducktales – Excellent pull here, actually, as this game was fantastic.  You don’t want to admit to your friends that you played this, but it was really that good.
  • 92.  Quake 3 Arena – Meh.  It was fun, but top 100?  Let me see where the other games end up.
  • 81.  Kingdom Hearts 2 – I’ve tried to play this several times, and it’s like the beginning is some impenetrable wall of text and zzzzzz….
  • 77.  Star Wars:  Knights of the Old Republic – Man, this low?  Not sure about these guys.
  • 72.  TeamFortress 2 – Pure entertainment.  Love this game.  Even if I suck.
  • 64.  Braid – Just a beautiful experience.  Try it out.
  • 58.  Counter-Strike – I came to this late, but had tons of fun with this.  Hours spent at Cyberjocks when it was open here in Buffalo, and many more online.
  • 54.  Sim-City 2000 – THERE BETTER NOT BE ANOTHER CITY BUILDING GAME ABOVE THIS although a Caesar game would be OK I guess.
  • 40.  The Sims 3 – So much better than the first game, as I can manage to get these Sims to stay alive.  With the first game, it was a race to see how my Sims would die (usually trying to cook).
  • 39.  Diablo 2 – On the front of my mind, thanks to the Diablo 3 beta.  Burrows into the part of your brain that likes getting stuff, and then getting more stuff, and more stuff…
  • 38.  Mega-Man 2 – Jesus this game nearly killed me, but I kept the fuck at it and finally triumphed.
  • 30.  Skyrim – Interesting it’s up here.  Is Morrowind not on the list?  I still go back to that.  Maybe because it’s my first Elder Scrolls game.
  • 29.  Super Mario 64 – Agree 100% with this one.  All the different ways to interact with the environment, yet not so complex that you needed a cheatsheet.  Just played great.
  • 27.  Deus Ex – Yes yes yes.  Might’ve been over my head at the time, but still a ton of fun.
  • 26.  Civilization V – I need to give this another shot.  Civ 2 forever!
  • 24.  Final Fantasy X – Never played this one.  But I will smash these guys in the face with a shovel if FFVI (or FFIV) are not above this.  No way this is the only FF.
  • 19.  Starcraft 2 – You’ve read my thoughts on this.  SP is good enough, but MP is a whole bunch of rabid clickers with meticulously mapped-out build orders.  Just not fun for me.
  • 17.  The Legend of Zelda:  A Link to the Past – Still the best in my book.  Worth busting out the SNES for.
  • 14.  Final Fantasy VI – THANK YOU I will not get arrested for shovel-based assault.  Great story, great villain, replay it in whole or in part every year.
  • 12.  Half-Life 2 – Will the original be above it?  Either way, if you are reading this, I probably don’t have to tell you why HL2 is so good.
  • 4.  Super Mario Bros. 3 – The ultimate Mario game, ever.  No equal.
  • 2.  Tetris – We all have a favorite version, whether it’s the Tengen NES (or Arcade) game, the Nintendo version, Game Boy…EVERYBODY has played it.
  • 1.  Portal – Portal 2 was on there too, but I want to replay the original before I comment on the new one.  Portal remains one of my all-time favorite games, and GLaDOS is simply the best villainous AI there is.

WoW is on the list, but I’ve never been big on MMOs, if you are wondering about that.  I think they’ve done a solid job on the list, but there are some glaring omissions to my eyes.  In no particular order:

  • 4X games – What, no Master of Orion?  Stars!?  Galactic Civilizations?  Sins of a Solar Empire?  Anything?  Tough room.
  • Flight Sims – Another genre that isn’t ‘cool’ right now, but so many games here that are worthy.  X-Wing?  X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter?  No Wing Commander games?  Elite?
  • Combat Sims – Microprose needs to be here somewhere.  Gunship, Silent Service, Red Storm Rising…heck, there still isn’t a tank battle game to beat M1 Tank Platoon.
  • Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri – No Civ2 AND no Alpha Centauri?  How does this happen?
  • M.U.L.E. – How many games did they miss from this era?  Still fun to play today.

And with that, I’m sure I’ve missed some games.  What would you add?  Hate any of my choices?

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Diablo 3 Open Beta Weekend

I said on my forums that I might be more excited for Torchlight 2 than Diablo 3.  Considering my reaction this morning to news of an open beta weekend for D3, I might have to adjust that a tiny bit.  Heh.  I’ve kept myself out of the loop as far as development goes, hoping that I could be surprised by the game a bit when it actually came out.  And with Blizzard, you never quite know when that will be.

If anyone else will be jumping in this weekend, and I know some of you will, comment here and we’ll try to get in a game.

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Continuing Game Review: Dragon Age 2

Note:  Continuing means I will revisit this as I get farther in.

Of course I couldn’t avoid Dragon Age 2 for very long, considering how much I loved Dragon Age: Originsand all the related DLC/expansion content.  So here I am, almost through with Kirkwall (pre-Deep Roads expedition), and enjoying it quite a bit.  I’ll put the rest after the jump as there may be SPOILERS.

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Dragon Age 3 Speculation, Part 2

Part 1 of this series looked at the story of Dragon Age 3, and what potential plot hooks are available for the next game in the series.  Part 2, here, will deal with other aspects of the new game, such as technical or gameplay changes.

Combat changed in feel quite a bit between the two games, and (other than the blatant re-use of dungeon maps) remains the biggest differentiator between Origins and 2 for me.  Most battles in DA2 look better, more frenetic, but they don’t need a lot of planning or micromanaging.  The ones that do are forced that way by having the ‘boss’ enemy become unhittable for a stretch to put you up against another wave of enemies.  One battle like that is fun, but there are a few too many like that.  It’s a cheap way to make a fight seem ‘epic’ by making it longer, especially if the mechanic doesn’t feel right for the character you are fighting.

Origins, on the other hand, had slower, more measured combat that was less exciting but required a bit more thinking.  I still think back to fighting the High Dragon as one of the high points of the series.  Overconfidently blowing the horn, the dragon swoops in…and just annihilates us.  The second try, with careful positioning and use of the proper salves and buffs, made the fight actually epic.  My hope is that combat ends up somewhere in the middle, taking the best of both worlds.

The art style between the two games was another difference.  DA:O was a bunch of grays and browns, and monsters that were mostly forgettable.  DA2 updated things quite a bit, added a bunch of color, but went a bit too far off from what Origins started.  I did like the almost comic bookish nature of the interstitial art, but if that wasn’t there, I would get over it.

Character customization was another difference, specifically the armor and appearance for your cohorts.  In DA:O, you had full control over the arms and armor used by all characters.  In DA2, you could control the weapons of your companions, but the armor was set.  You could find improvements that could be applied to them, but not actually change it out.  Nice for making sure cinematics and other talky bits look normal, but lots of us really enjoy tweaking things like that.  More useful in games with a real challenge as mentioned above though, as there were times where I’d tweak my front-line fighters’ gear to defend against the types of attacks we’d be facing (such as protecting against dragon breath).

My ideal version of Dragon Age 3 basically takes DA:O, gives it a graphical lift in the DA2 style, puts back fully customizable characters (perhaps with a ‘use best gear’ button or something similar for the more casual players), and tells a coherent story that’s good from beginning to end.  Not too much to ask, right?

Part 3 of this series will look at what characters might make an appearance in DA3.

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Dragon Age 3 Speculation, Part 1

So Dragon Age 3 is happening, while future content for DA2 is shelved.  Bioware is looking for feedback on the future of the Dragon Age franchise, and the first thing I thought of is, where can the story go?  There are a ton of plot hooks out there, and any number of them could make up a worthy Dragon Age game.  Here are the ones I can think of:

  • The Warden and Morrigan – Morrigan leaves with the child that may or may not have the soul of one of the Tevinter’s old Gods.
  • Corypheus – Speaking of, it’s strongly hinted that he has possessed the body of whichever Warden party was still alive after Legacy.
  • Qunari – Especially this, in light of their importance in Act 2 of DA2 and Mark of the Assassin.  They have spies everywhere, and nobody really KNOWS what they want.
  • Mages VS Templar smackdown – I like this one, as it can involve folks like Wynne again, perhaps as leader of an ‘anti-resistance’ of mages that just want to get things back the way they were, and don’t want to resort to blood magic.
  • Flemeth – Still around and causing trouble, implied to be even more powerful than we’ve seen.  How do you kill something that seems to just pop right back up again?
  • Dalish Elves – A wild card in all this.  Could try to establish yet another homeland, though this might not be ‘epic’ enough to drive forward a whole game.  Maybe DLC or expansion material.
  • Tevinter Madness – We’ve so far only seen bits of these crazy mages so far, with Fenris and such.  Lots of evil possibilities here.
  • Something Else – Thedas is massive, and the little corner we’ve seen only scratches the surface.  Many all-new adventures could happen, and might make sense since there is unconfirmed (to me at least) talk that our save games won’t be imported into the next game.

I’m sure I’m missing an obvious future plot hook, so if you know one, comment it up.  I’ll add it to the post.  What would you like to see, plot-wise?  I’ll look at game mechanics in a later post.

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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.

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Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition – What We Know

The site is getting hammered, but here’s what’s been gleaned from various sources (most notably Trent Oster’s Twitter account) about the now-official Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition (BGEE):

  • Both BG1 and BG2 will be getting the ‘Enhanced’ treatment – though what that is exactly hasn’t been laid out.  Improved graphics, bug fixes, and Trent says it will be staying 2D isometric.
  • The official expansions are included.
  • There will be new content also.
  • Much like playing Baldur’s Gate 1 via Tutu, all of the games will be using the latest Infinity Engine as a base (so all of the added classes/kits from BG2 will be available from the start).
  • They want to support mods, but note that the original code wasn’t really designed for it the way Neverwinter Nights or newer games were.
  • Oddly, this is NOT the game that is coming to Steam, so apparently a release there of the original game is still happening.
  • ‘Summer 2012’ is the date of release so far, subject to change, I’m sure.

That’s what we know so far.  I’ll add more as it becomes known.

edit:  In response to a question about multiplayer improvements, Trent replied “We’re going to fix the broken bits”.

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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.