The Gaming of 2013

ahhh… the unlucky ’13 year was quite a year for games– or, dare I say, it should have been.  We had some MASSIVE releases last year with the culmination in some cases of decades of work for some development teams.  Yet for all their glory, the massive budget games were not the ones that I played and enjoyed, with a few exceptions.

Let’s run down the releases I got to play. Now I’m an ancient person with familial and work duties so there’s no chance in a given year that I’ll be able to play even close to everything that’s good. I have to make choices– very difficult choices with my budget of TIME.

Here we have the list of stuff I played or was seriously considering in order:
SashawtfAnarchy Reigns: This was the first game I bought in 2013 and it was…not great.  The price tag was good at 25$ or so, but I couldn’t get through the single player and the multiplayer, while interesting, just didn’t hold my attention.  The key issue was the core of the combat system– it just wasn’t all that great.   Compared to the AMAZING Urban Reign for the PS2, which is quite similar, it was a vast disappointment and from the ex-Clover team, that was sad.

Crysis 3: I am a huge Far Cry fan and though it pissed in my mouth with Far Cry 2, I still like the original developers a lot and I picked up the original Crysis and it was great fun. I haven’t bitten on 2 or 3 yet but probably will in the future.  I guess what did it for me was continued play of Battlefield 3.  Crysis 3 just seemed redundant and I didn’t buy it.

Hotline Miami: The first indy game of the year I picked up.  The ad campaign for this one was so incredible it was a must buy.  I never finished it — to be truthful after the school shooting last year I just couldn’t play it anymore– but I got a long way into the game before moving on to other games.  It was awesome.

Hear of the Swarm: Ok, for all it’s polish, Starcraft 2 is not fun for me to play.  The single player is quite boring and the actual storyline EXECUTION is just shit (the ideas are really cool though, just executed poorly and all tongue and cheek with the shitty-accent space rednecks and trying to be serious at the same time plus romance? what a space pissery!), the multiplayer, the meat of the game, feels like a fucking chore to me.  Plus, it’s a terrible annoyance to have to use Blizzard’s version of steam and ALWAYS BE ONLINE.  I figured out finally that as much as I love RTS games and Warcraft 3, I’m just not a Starcraft player so I skipped this one and will likely never play Starcraft 2 in any form again because it’s jsut goddamn tiresome.

Call of Juarez: Gunslinger: This was an impulse buy and I didn’t get through it but played it a bit and was impressed. It’s essentially a rail shooter with a CRAZY story integrating with just about every Old West hero in the late era (think Jesse James/Butch Cassidy).  If this is cheap, pick it up, you won’t be disappointed even if you get like 3-4 hours of play only.

The Last of Us: Ok so this was a PS3 exclusive and I had no chance to play it. Apparently this is a great game for the story as it integrates stuff from the hugely influential THE ROAD into a zombie shooter.  I just wanted to note that if this had come out on other consoles, it would have sold a LOT more copies, especially PC.  Plus this has that short lady that’s in all the fucking movies these days that is always talking too much on screen.

Xcom: Enemy Within: This is a follow up to Xcom: Enemy Unknown from 2012 and I just didn’t bother with it despite my love for the first game.  I hope this combat engine sees more life as it’s great. I will pick this up eventually…

Company of Heroes 2: Ok so here is a sequel to one of my favorite RTS games. COH, along with Warcraft 3, redefined what I wanted out of an RTS, and they did it in very different ways.  Unfortunately, the ENTIRE COH team left Relic Games long before COH 2 was started and I read so many bad things about the game that I didn’t pick it up.  The comments from Russians about the game is pretty crazy if you check metacritic– I guess they forgot that Stalin was a murderous dictator that was able to save the country from another murderous dictator?

Rogue Legacy:  While I don’t have a controller to hook up to my PC, I gave this one a shot and it was pretty interesting.  It’s not Battle Block Theater though.. no sir. Hence, I had problems playing it for very long.

Dota 2:  2013 IS the year of DOTA2, hands down.  The game came out of beta and everyone was playing it before, and everyone and their MOTHER is playing it now.  It is the best game of 2013, no question about it.  Obviously it’s a game that doesn’t appeal to everyone and it’s a very very deep rabbit hole to get into (and you have to practice) but I think this was a huge release for the year.  It’s tough to say it was the best when you want to give it to something new– since the game is getting close to 10 years old from it’s first incarnations, but DOTA 2 is by far the most important and best game of 2013.

Saints Row IV: I loved Saint’s Row 3. Loved it and played the shit out of it.  IV is excellent— except I can’t play it anymore.  Whether it’s my configuration (unlikely) or a patch I can’t tell, but the game will no longer run on my computer.   I got 20 hours in and then simply had to stop playing after one of the patches hit. I uninstalled, reinstalled, check the interweb tubes for a solution which ended up being “wait for the next patch” which I don’t even think ever came.  Sad that they didn’t take their PC users seriously this time around.

Diablo 3 (consoles): The monumental failure of a game that is Diablo 3 hit consoles in 2013 and they did a good job. Unfortunately, the game is fundamentally flawed and cannot be ‘fixed’ with the removal of the real money auction house.  This is what happens when you spend 12 years and millions of dollars on what amounts to a PAY TO PLAY iPHONE GAME.

Total War Rome 2: How the mighty have fallen.  This was my fucking BIGGEST disappointment of the year.  I warned my wife and wee children that I would be huddled in the basement for MONTHS on this fucker, but I put in 40 hours of frustration and was done. Rome 1 was my second choice for game of the DECADE from 00 to 10 only second to the almighty Warcraft 3.  What the fuck happened? 1) Too large of a budget  2) Too short of a timeline 3) crappy battle engine.  This series is dead to me.  Shogun 2’s battles sucked despite EVERYTHING else about the game being excellent.  The design choices + the battles being shit tanked this game forever.  Warhammer Fantasy Battle Total War will suck.

Path of Exile:  Another Diablo 3 killer, I did not get a chance to play this and probably won’t.  It’s been on my radar for a long time, but — I just want to keep playing Torchlight 2– like forever.

Battlefield 4:  Why come out so soon?  I still feel like I didn’t have the time to get into BF3 and ALREADY there’s a new BF game out?  And it’s not an offshoot like Bad Company or 2142, it’s the full on thing… why?  I just didn’t want this and saw no reason to buy it.  This does not need to come out every 2 years…

And for all that– it’s still just the year of DOTA 2.

unstoppable

 

Dark Souls vs the spoon feeding

Playing the new Shadowrun game and with the exception of combat, it’s a cakewalk type of game.  You’re basically spoon-fed what to do at every turn and then there are the fights, which can be difficult (and fun).  While it LOOKS like Ultima, it certainly isn’t that type of puzzle, explore, sometimes fight game.  This does not make Shadowrun a bad game (the PNP version that I played years ago was a bad game) but you can see the leakage of the ‘easy game’ expectations that we have these days and I was going to explain this further… and then I found the image below regarding Dark Souls:

darksouls

River City Ransom Underground kickstarter

Yes, kickstarters are often successful for themselves but unsuccesful for backers, but you should take another chance at it and back this:  http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/combitstudios/river-city-ransom-underground

A bunch of Canucks are putting together a new River City Ransom– a new version of the best game ever made on the NES system (yes, I am aware of Mega Man).  While we can easily just go and play Castle Crashers, these guys are keeping it HIGH SCHOOL through and through with the same plot and similar characters.    I’m like 25 years older than the last time I played River City on an actual NES so I have no idea if it will stand the test of time– but I have played the living SHIT out of Castle Crashers with my errant children.  If that’s any indication, this will be a big winner.

No post like this is complete without an animated gif!

RCRcycle

 

Xcom Review: a finished game!

I did it.  I finished a game.  So rare, so unique to actually push through and complete any game I start– it must be good, right?   Yes.  The new Xcom delivers the turn based goodness big time.  While it is not up to the Jagged Alliance 2 level of turn based goodness– Xcom is by far the best modern TBT (turn based tactical) game I’ve played and hopefully will usher in a new age of copy cats that take the genre to new heights.  This was an A class title and while I’m not sure about sales, it must have some publishers thinking that turn based strategy is a sell for gamers.  What’s amazing about Xcom is that it not only plays like a great TBT title, it LOOKS like an A class game.  A lot of people may have played Laser Squad Nemesis, but likely not a lot of people were drawn in by the graphics who otherwise wouldn’t look at a TBT game.  The last serious TBT I played was Soul Nomad and the World Eaters after a long string of NiS titles since the legendary Disgaea hit the states.  Xcom is a far cry from the NiS games but the essentials are the same: you have a group of guys, they level up, they get better gear, they fight stuff in turn based mode.

Getting in on a good shooting

First, lets me get on about the stuff that’s not really all that important: the visuals.  This is window dressing for the core gameplay and while it can’t make the game it is a HUGE bonus in Xcom.  Firaxis uses the Unreal engine and it is just gorgeous.  All the effects look great, the physics are superlative and the destructable terrain is to DIE for in this genre.  We’re seeing things in Xcom (again, a TBT) that are normally in a top drawer FPS.  The camera work is fairly good during shots and criticals– I saw a few glitches here and there, but nothing gamebreaking.  This is, by far, the best looking TBT around.  What I was most worried about after Xcom Apocalypse is that the aliens in the new version would look like SHIT or just too comical to take seriously (like the blue ice cream guys or the walking asses).  I can say the aliens look excellent.  While not a fan of the ‘greys’ as a design, they did a great job with everything else.  They even go into explaining why there are so many different races invading the earth all unified– not something that was ever done in the old Xcoms.

Gameplay.  Firaxis made some decisions that at first concerned me a great deal.  First there is no inventory at all.  You don’t have a backpack filled with crap for each soldier and you cannot pick up anything on the ground during a fight.  Soldiers have a main weapon, a pistol and up to two extra items (either a medikit, stun gun, grenades or extra armor for the most part) depending on your class.

Secondly, your guys get two moves only.  That means you can’t move one square forward, move another square forward, etc.  You have to pick a square to move to and GO. You can move a second time, but again, you pick a square within your move range and go there.   For your shooting action, you either shoot first (and not take your movement at all) or move first, then shoot.

Both of these things seem shocking to Jagged Alliance veterans—but they do something that I highly respect: save time.   If you remember, missions in the old Xcom and map clearing in JA could take a long, long time.  Xcom’s new version drastically reduces the possible time spent on a mission, mostly due to the two major changes above.  You are not wasting time moving single squares with your guys, nor are you fuddling about with trying to determine if you can grab a grenade out of you backpack and still have enough action points to throw it.    This does remove some of the age old tactics of picking up alien tech and slapping it in your backpack (or alien corpses) or getting aliens to drop their weapons on a successful psionic control attack (yes Psionics are in the game).  However, the benefit far outweighs the loss of these age-old and rather beardy tactics in that you are done and on to the next mission.

Campaign.  The campaign game is engaging and tight.  There are cinematics for a lot of events and a set of cheracters that you interact with throughout who provide some added entertainment and give you a feel for what  is at stake.  I only played through the campaign twice, once losing pretty quickly before I understood the importance of countries panicking and leaving the Xcom project.  Once you get down to too few countries funding Xcom, the aliens basically take over and it’s game over.

Another interesting bit is that the aliens always abduct humans in multiple sites–so you have to choose where to take your guys to shoot them.  You can take easy missions (and should early on) with small rewards, or take difficult missions with more rewards.  Eventually you are forced to take the most difficult missions as the panic level in some countries becomes so great, you don’t have a choice but to take on that mission to lower the panic level.  Since, as noted above, missions go quickly, campaign game can go fairly quickly, unlocking new weapons (and facing new enemies) at a good clip.  While it’s key to allow the player to determine some of the pace in a TBS game, I found it a good mix of being forced to take action and having time to mull over decisions.

Soldier upgrades are simplified in that you choose a skill per advance.  These skills are very clear in gameplay, and you can tailor your guys to be pretty much exactly what you need at the time.   My only complaint here is that you will get some guys that can no longer advance as they have all the advances in their class tree.  This is minor as by that time, you are headed to the end of the game.

The Assault class was my favorite.

That said, Xcom is not an extremely long game where you are slugging through hours and hours of missions and side quests, there are distractions from the main quest, but you are always against the clock and have to start making your way to the end with some speed if you want to win.  As a responsible adult, I found this to be great as I could actually FINISH it.  Now back to the pile of unfinished games from 2011….

Xcom: Enemy Unknown demo ruminations

Confronting the walking buttocks circa 1994.

Woah. The new version of Xcom is coming REAL fast.  When it was announced, I thought we had a year or so before it was spewed out across all us gamers.  I was shocked to see the demo out last week and (nearly) immediately gave it a go.    I can’t make any type of post about a resurgence game like this without waxing on and on about how I feel about the old versions. Needless to say, emotions run strong with this series.  People loved it when it came out for a lot of reasons: the art, the sound, the affiliation with your kill team (that’s really all your guys were) as they got stronger and sometimes get the dirt nap and you cried softly in your dorm room.  While I liked Xcom, I think it was brilliant but I never wanted to go back to it once I played through a couple times, and never played the Terror from the Deep version.  The version I did get into and will still bust out form time to time is Xcom Apocalypse.  This was largely panned when it came out and definitely has it’s quirks, but the core gameplay– i.e.: the combat, has the ability to go real time and THIS is where Xcom Apocalypse shines.  You remember those hour long bug hunts trying to find that one last critter in turn based mode in the original Xcome?  In Apocalypse, you can send off a couple guys and find that bug without clicking through your whole team.  Whats more, Apocalypse’s environments, still all sprites mind you, were the most 3D I’ve ever seen in a game AND almost fully destructible.  While Jagged Alliance 2 is a superior game, Apocalypse’s environments  vastly surpassed JA’s always on the first floor style of play.

With all that history with the game, I was looking at the demo through the Apocalypse glasses and it didn’t disappoint.  While the first mission is 100% scripted, the second allows you to try out all the options for your kill team during turns.   One of the differences in the new Xcom from the old games (and Jagged Alliance) is that you don’t have action points that get spent by small pieces of actions: your squaddies are allowed to take two actions during their turn, either Move or Fire essentially (there is Overwatch and ‘Hull down’ mode” that you can choose).  This means if you are creeping up on an area of the map as players are wont to do, you have to take an entire move action to just move up a tiny bit.  At first I wasn’t too sure about this as precision movement is key in these games due to the need to be in cover all the time.  However, going back to Apocalypse, as much as I love the combat portion of the game, the original Xcom had some really long bug hunt missions.  These are missions where a single worm or alien is hiding in a closet somewhere on a 4-5 story space ship and you have to walk your team through the entire map to find it and kill it.  Since it’s much more important not to get your guys killed, this type of hunt is always slow as fuck so you don’t get bushwhacked.   The two turn action limit will make things go quicker.

As for aesthetics, the game looks eggcellente good, and should because it’s using the Unreal Engine.  The way Firaxis has handled the visuals of the Xcom base is amazing and the squaddies look superb (again, this is a turn based strategy game so aesthetics are secondary to everything else).  You get a choice in the game whether to help out the USA or China and I chose China in order to see if they had some localized environments and YES, there were a bunch of signs and stuff in Chinese, so you could definitely tell on the ground where you were at.  If you think about it, that’s a LOT of content for the developers to make.  A little touch that the original Xcom didn’t have at all.

The aliens that I saw looked good and definitely had some soul.  This is a FAR cry from the very stupid looking aliens from Xcom Apocalypse (a flying skellington and a blue ice beast or a running butt).

The interface– well this is going to be a console game as well as PC and we can see some problems arising for the PC player due to that choice.  While the base is amazing graphically, I was wondering how the fuck you were supposed to move from room to room and how to get to where there is an alert?  Hello? Can’t I just click the room I want with my mouse?    I don’t even know what I pressed to get to the ‘alert’ room: either enter or space or something.  This was annoying.

During missions, the firing interface, while pretty cool looking, is completely geared towards a console experience.  Your Squaddie goes into firing mode by pressing the space bar, then you scroll vertically through some options (using the mouse for this sucks) and then how do you select the option and execute?  You press the ENTER key?  What the hell is that shit?!  I’d like to just use my mouse please and SELECT the option I want.   Hotkey will make this moot however, so this is just a minor annoyance all round and will probably be just something to get used to.

Overall: Yes.  While the consolitis infecting the interface is annoying, and the tactical combat is different from what I expected in terms of squaddie control, this game has VAST potential for goodness.  We haven’t seen an A-class turn based strategy game for a very, very long time so I will be buying this as soon as it hits the streets. It’s alien depths must be plunged deeply.  Plus I was able to make the most bad-ass blaxploitation-style character I have ever been able to do in a video game.   The white and asian toons look good, but the black ones look simply amazing.

Avadon guy talks about games and stuff

This is a short and very sweet talk about stories in games by the developer of Avadon the Black Fortres– essentially how this guy and his team make sort of crappy looking  games with good stories and it’s the stories that build fan affinity and bring in more cash. I love how he readily admits his engines and graphics are not even in the realm of modern all the while being very comfortable in his niche.  His slight digs on Mass Effect and Diablo 3 are essential listening and would probably bring out the “fuck that loser” from the D3 development team if they weren’t so busy lighting cigars with your money.   The questions at the end are also awesome “You sell a game for money and that’s it?”

Here is the link

Dark Souls on Steam… August

It’s sad when you go out and buy a game the first day it’s out, then just run out of time on the Xbox to get anywhere at all on it before it’s My Little Pony and fucking Calliou all over the place.  Owning a M-17 game with kids around is the drizzlin’ shits, and Dark Souls has been added to the list of games like Crackdown 2 and Red Dead Redemption that I haven’t finished SPECIFICALLY because I cannot play with the kids even conscious in the house (they can hear the big death and cursing and I’ll turn around and both of them will be standing there while I’m shooting up a saloon or slapping some zombies around).

So the fact that this is coming out on Steam means I will actually get a chance to get my ass kicked by it over and over… and that’s a good thing.  Now if I could only think of an excuse to why I haven’t finished GODHAND…