Something, Something Game News – A recap: Dead space games and and even deader orcs

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I’ve been a little lax this week on getting the blog up, but I’ve been pretty busy working on a game for which its Kickstarter will be launching soon. The past 10 days have also seen several game releases that I’ve been trying my best to review. I’ll likely have a review up tomorrow, and I’ll work on a few more posts over the next few days so I can be back to my regular blogging schedule next week.

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Don't forget to help fund my "start-up company" so I can retire early. Sitting on my ass, here I come!

Nevertheless, I couldn’t let this week go by without a few honorable (and dishonorable) mentions:

Along with recording some voice-overs and composing a few background tracks, I’ve also been playing the shit out of WB’s new release: Shadow of Mordor. I have a full review in the works, but at this point I can tell you that it’s the most fun you can have decapitating the villainous Uruks of Middle-Earth since… well there aren’t really any other games that let you do it with such fervent variety. This title could have been called “1000 Ways to Kill Orcs.”

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It's ok, he wasn't using that head anyway.

However, the big highlight (for me) came with Transverse already giving up on their shifty crowd-funding campaign. As I had noted in a previous rant, Transverse came on the heels of other big, crowd-sourced space titles, did so without a drop of originality, and handled it with the grace of a wild boar figure skating while being fucked in the ass by a mute donkey. How’s that for imagery?

After a little more than two weeks, Piranha Games had only managed to fund about $12,000 of their intended $500,000 initial goal. Meanwhile, Star Citizen was just recognized by Guinness as the most crowd-funded thing ever. Time to go back to the drawing board, PGI.

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Of course, PGI emptied their forums in a predictably fascist move. No hilarious meltdowns to read. :(

Otherwise, I hope you guys are all having a good week and I’ll be posting regularly again by Monday!

/gameon

gofundyourself

Because South Park.

Game Review – Gauntlet™

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Game review – Gauntlet™
Platform – PC (exclusive, for now)
Developer – Arrowhead Game Studios
Publisher – WB Games

Release date – 23 Sept, 2014

Rating – 8/10

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Because fuck making things easier on you.

Gauntlet is one of those legacy franchises that never fades away. Before there was Diablo, there was Gauntlet in all of its 8-bit glory. The premise is simple: Pick from a Wizard, Warrior, Elf or Valkyrie and stomp around in dungeons to find gold and kill monsters. There have been many incarnations of Gauntlet over the years, but the original arcade machine still stands out the most to me. I will say, however, the N64 release of Gauntlet: Legends was fantastic.

Nearly 30 years later, we have what can effectively be called a “reboot” of the franchise. No fancy title, no new characters. Pick your class and lets go dungeon diving.

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Get ready for a frantic romp with a classic level of difficulty. I.E. Expect to die a lot.

Gauntlet is definitely a back-to-basics title. The graphics aren’t amazing, but get the point across. There’s no complicated story, although there is a surprising amount of voice work and banter among the few characters in the game, which does a lot to enhance the atmosphere. There isn’t a vast plethora of items to collect, and instead they have rather steep prerequisites and prices to unlock. Personally, this adds a more rewarding level of satisfaction when finally gearing out your character with the best items, rather than constantly finding duplicates in massive piles of loot. Not that I’m opposed to massive loot piles, it’s just a nice change of pace from what has become a standard in modern dungeon crawlers and ARPGs.

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Want this tome? All you have to do is beat the game on the hardest mode.

Each character has an array of abilities with a unique style of play suited for its class. There may only be 4 classes to choose from, but none play at all alike. The Elf is a ranger with mostly ranged abilities and is well designed for speed and accuracy. The Valkyrie is probably the best balanced between melee and ranged attacks, with a rather Captain America style shield throw. The Wizard is the most interesting, as he has a spell combination system not unlike Magicka (makes sense, Arrowhead originally developed Magicka). You press two elements (Ice then Fire, for example) and it arms a particular spell to use, ranging from lightning bolts, and fireballs, to shields and freeze beams. As expected, he’s pretty handy for crowd control. The Warrior is unfortunately, the weakest character because he has only rather basic melee attacks, and this is a game where you do not want to be caught in the middle of a crowd. I honestly hope they decide to tweak him later on, as he is both somewhat boring and difficult to use compared to the others which seem far more thought out.

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A PC exclusive designed to play best with a controller? Blasphemy!* *Sarcasm

A strange and immediately noticed feature is this title’s dedication to being played with a controller. As the developer currently has no plans™ to port to console, it does seem odd that such a game would lean heavily into controller support. However, with its co-op features implemented so well, it starts to make a lot of sense. It is indeed a rare game on PC which allows for simultaneous local and online co-op play. This would really only make sense by plugging a controller (or 4) into the same machine. Since most of the PC gamers I know have at least a Logitech F310 (the 510 and 710 are pretty great, as well) or something similar, it’s actually quite a welcome feature for quick and easy multiplayer Gauntlet.

The only snag is that you cannot drop into an already created game. All joining must be in the lobby. It’s something that could receive some attention in the future, but it’s certainly not a deal breaker at this point. Especially not with how fun co-op play is, which even throws in a few extra competitive elements, and compares your scores to others via leaderboards.

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Some clever chaps even have names with "penis" in them.

Gauntlet is a return to classic dungeon crawling with just enough modern flare to bring it into the 21st century. It has that arcade machine appeal which is often lost on the PC audience. In an age where multiplayer gaming has become rather impersonal, it’s great to see co-op games which encourage you to play with friends rather than sit in sterile lobbies.

With a little bit of character balance tweaking (seriously, fix the warrior), and what would be an extremely welcome ability to drop-in to co-op play, this game nearly has the potential to bring back Gauntlet as a franchise. It’s tons of fun for a $20 game.

/gameon

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P.S. Did you know that tips are shown during the loading screen?

Game Review – DG2: Defense Grid 2

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Game review – DG2: Defense Grid 2
Platform – PC, Mac, Steam OS/Linux, XBONE, PS4
Developer – Hidden Entertainment

Release date – 23 Sept, 2014

Rating – 8.5/10

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You will forever crave raspberries.

I have been a huge sucker for tower defense since the days when they were free flash games on Newgrounds. Since the advent of the mobile marketplace, there have been a huge flood of clones and clones of clones with micro-transaction stores, overused themes and reused assets. However, there have been a few gems among the sea of mediocrity, and this game’s PC exclusive predecessor, Defense Grid: The Awakening was indeed a rare diamond. It never felt like a quickly assembled time-killer. It was a full-featured title with dozens of maps, modes, upgrades and even a clever plot-line.

When Defense Grid 2 showed up for pre-order, I wasted no time jumping into Early Access. Unfortunately, it was little more than a demo with a couple of maps and no upgrades, so it was hard to make a critical judgement of how the finished game would look and for that matter, impossible to compare it to it’s predecessor. So, how does it stack up now that it’s been released?

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Lasers now 140% prettier.

Right away, there is a massive visual improvement. For such a widely cross-platform title, it certainly doesn’t feel like it’s catering to any particular hardware than what you’re playing it on. It looks great, plays great, and fits right into the modern generation.

The maps are impressively designed with lush details, intrinsically capable of producing atmosphere and mood. The environment feels like it’s part of the  multi-directional pathways, instead of a complimentary after-thought. The main campaign is long and engaging with a clever story and several characters. The characters all have unique voice talent with what seems like hours of recording. Each map has nearly a dozen modes which can be played alone, with a friend or competitively both online and locally.

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Each map is painstakingly layered. Someone spent some time and effort on this stuff.

They actually improved on the original formula. It still feels a lot like the original, but it’s not the same game twice. While the towers are mostly the same, there are new ways to use them with the simple addition of what is called the Boost Tower. When placed under any standard weapon tower, it can have various effects including boosting the damage, revealing stealth enemies and improving your score. On top of that, each tower has multiple upgrades which you can choose from before battle allowing you to tweak for every scenario.

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You will also unlock a variety of commanders, each with his or her own special ability.

The path designs are truly Defense Grid in their unique combination of both set paths, and open grids allowing for a flexibility of gameplay unseen in most tower defense titles. Yet again, DG2 includes a new dynamic to the maps by providing sections which you can spend credits to add or move around.  Some may expand the path, while others simply give you a few extra squares to place towers. This might be my favourite new feature, and I can’t name another TD game with dynamically changing maps. Kudos for that one.

I should also be named an international felon if I failed to mention the “DG Architect” map editor feature. You can construct a map from the ground up and includes most, if not all of the in-game assets. All the trees, concrete and lava you can imagine.

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Yes, it's as complicated as it looks.

DG2 is a fantastic reminder that even when a genre becomes saturated with garbage, there is still room for a shining example to burst from the sewage pipe. Hidden Entertainment has done just that with a sequel superior to its parent in nearly all ways. Between the varying selection of upgrades, modes and map alterations, you never have to play the same map the same way twice.

If you love tower defense, Defense Grid 2 will keep you busy for a long, long time.

/gameon

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P.S. The loading screens are works of literature.

Something, Something Game News – Update: What I’ve been doing

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Well, I missed yesterday’s post, and today’s post is getting pushed later and later. So, I’ve decided tonight I will just give you a little summary. A lot went on in my little gaming world in two days, not to mention a certain amount of actual work and “real life” commitments (lame, I know). What this means: I have a lot to write about over the next few days! W00tpwnl33tsauce.

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Because South Park premieres tonight. :D

First off, I’ve been playing a whole lot of Gauntlet™, and Defense Grid 2, since I had both pre-ordered and both released on the same day. I’m actually quite impressed with both of them, so you’ll be hearing glowing reviews over the next day or two.

Second, Steam received a face-lift. It’s a breath of fresh air, albeit a little too blue. The new “curator” options are quite awesome, however, and added personalization for the types games you want to see, and the ability to hide the ones you don’t is more than welcome.

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Bluuuuuuuuuueeeee

Finally, there was plenty of tragic comedy as Blizzard shuts the doors on Titan, (a project taking 7 years and costing upwards of $50 million), and Transverse released another poorly received and obviously scripted YouTube video. One might ask why I’d even give it traffic, but it’s fun to watch as more people pass it off as the travesty it is.

So, I’ll leave you with those tidbits as I go back to preparing my full rants. Stay tuned!

/game

 

Game Review – Marvel heroes 2015

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Game review – Marvel Heroes 2015
Platform – PC (Exclusive)
Developer – Gazillion Entertainment

Rating – 8.5/10

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When you see it...

I tend to be cautious and easily bored when it comes to games with a free-2-play model. They are often grindfests with a lot of flash, but also the intent of boring you just to get some money out of your pocket to advance more quickly. I’ve also witnessed many subscription-based titles convert to free-2-play because they didn’t have enough confidence in their original strategy. Personally, I don’t think subcription models aren’t worth using anymore, I just feel they need developers with the confidence and stride to actually execute. Considering the fact that so many games which began as subscription and switched to free-2-play have fallen apart faster than a drunken Palin. (City of Heroes comes to mind).

However, being a bit of a Marvel fan, seeing a fair number of positive reviews and at the recommendation of a few friends, I decided to jump into Marvel Heroes 2015. I never played the previous edition, so I have no basis for comparison, but all of my sources suggest it’s an improvement.

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The sheer staggering number of available looks for Iron Man alone was enough to get my wallet out.

If you like Marvel superheroes, you will love this game. No, really. Each playable character has personality; from the impressive variety of voiced quips and remarks, to the many well-designed and detailed costumes. Heroes and villains will banter as they pass each other or while in combat. The maps and locations are well representative of their comic inspired settings. All in all, it’s a great exemplar to the Marvel universe.

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Diversity is the name of the game. (They've since added Rogue and Star-Lord, too)

While it is a bit of a grind to get new characters (without spending real $$$ of course), there’s a pretty wide range of stuff to do. There are a few team-based events and raids, there’s not much you can’t do by yourself with many of the characters. You can follow the main story, or you can do individual maps via Terminals which allow you to pick a location to your liking. Many of these instances have daily rewards as well, along with the random daily bonuses for completing the assigned missions, plus you get a reward just for logging in once a day. Furthermore, there are week long events which occur nearly every week, constantly cycling new locations to find the best loot and bonuses. You will quite often find potions which boost your experience gain and item find percentages, making finding things a rather explosive experience.

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I was using explosive in the literal sense. Loot bombs are a common occurrence.

Character creation is surprisingly complex, and I mean that in a good way. You can make your Iron Man into a missile launcher, a beam weapon, a melee artist or a combination of those. You tend to be best off specializing in one for maximum effect, but there’s no one way to play each character. Additionally, there are so many slots on each character for subtle customization and gearing up, you’ll be hard pressed to find two characters fit out exactly the same, even if they’re going for a similar build. Plus, there is the Omega skill tree, which allows you to continue adding small bonuses to each character long after you have reached max level. I actually prefer playing my max level characters, because there’s always a little more tweaking to be done.

Not to mention the “Team Up” heroes you can acquire, which follow you around like a sidekick, and also have a limited amount of customization. The possibilities are nearly endless, and that’s quite an achievement for a game using existing, well established characters.

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Each of those 14 icons is a whole tree of interesting little bonuses.

Finally, the gameplay is fun. Yes, it’s a fairly clicky, hotbar-surfy type dungeon crawler, but many of the abilities are well rendered and executed. You feel like a superhero. It’s easy to see why this game has been getting good reviews. It caters well to its audience. It’s a bit buggy sometimes, and could use a cork for some of the memory leaks, but the developers are always active and working, as is evident by the weekly events and updates. The free-2-play model is used well by keeping players engaged and not forcing them to grind just to make progress. Leveling is relatively painless, especially once you have a few characters to 60 (there is a stacking experience bonus up to 200% BEFORE you apply potions and other bonuses), and loot is constantly thrown at you.

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Smash.

The only annoying thing you may find yourself having to pay for is extra storage space for all that loot (yes, you can only buy extra space with real cash… that’s where they get ya), but spending $10-15 for a little extra space seems like a pretty fair trade off, since there’s not much else you feel you need to drop money on. Everything else is cosmetic.

As a result, you have a free-2-play game that encourages you to play frequently, but doesn’t shake you down just so you can avoid feeling like your working to get some satisfaction out of it. Gazillion has done an impressive job with a popular franchise without needing the oversight of a mega-corp publisher.

/gameon

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P.S. Did I mention I like Iron Man?

Something, Something Game News – QA: Who is to blame: Developers or Publishers?

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For a while, I’ve been trying to come up with an answer as to why games release in the state they do these days. It seems that lately, more often than not a game hits the market with a ton of bugs to be fixed “later.” If a developer or publisher follows through on fixing the bugs within a reasonable time, I suppose it’s acceptable, but there are many games across the industry, whether from “AAA” publishers or indie teams, which go unfixed or unfinished. Of course, the same seems to go for content as well. You buy a rather empty game for $50-60, then have to spend another $30 for “DLC” which should have been in the game in the first place.

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"Bland" and "uninspired" are good adjectives, too.

I understand that much of it has to do with the nature of technology these days. With our always connected devices, software can be updated at any time to add more content or mend problems. The issue is that this has become a strategy rather than a convenience, resulting in poor on-site QA and relying on the community to discover the bugs after having paid for the game. It just seems unfathomable to me, coming from having grown up with a generation of games which couldn’t possibly have the number of bugs they ship with now. If Ocarina of Time wasn’t working out of the box, it would have ended up a relic on the Pre-Owned shelf, destined to collect dust as a failed title.

But when EA or Activision have a launch riddled with problems which go on for months, people still line up for the next game. C’mon people! If we want higher standards, we have to stop buying into the hype.

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DID SOMEONE SAY, "FREE?"

I know, it’s hard. There are big publishers who have control over franchises many of us have been playing for a decade or more.

One of my favourite games to come out last year was TMNT: Out of the Shadows. Well, I’d say more like would-be-favourite. It had some great fight mechanics and truly felt like a Turtles game worthy of the franchise, but it shipped with an uncanny amount of bugs which were never fixed even with frequent requests to Activision’s customer support. Of course, there were absolutely NO official lines of communication for that specific game, so it became clear rather quickly that Activision didn’t give a single fuck that online multiplayer would go unfixed to this day. Not to mention the fact that the Playstation 3 version which was promised within a few weeks after the 360 and PC launch, wasn’t launched until 7 months later… and of course, the 360 and PC would still receive no patches or attention.

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Exactly.

But this isn’t entirely the status-quo, either.

A little game known as PAYDAY 2 is a great example of a game whose developer is concerned with keeping their audience. The game has frequent content updates (some paid, but even the paid ones tend to throw in a few pieces of free loot) and bug fixes with constant communication with the community. Every patch is lead with notes and hints of what’s coming next. Every patch is treated like an event in which to participate, rather than a wave of hope and/or dread that perhaps they fixed that thing you were hoping they’d fix, and didn’t break something else in the process. It may not be the greatest game ever made and it’s not without bugs, but it’s obvious that the developers care. They’re directly active in the community, rather than putting up complicated and convoluted “customer support” lines of communication which only put up more barriers between the developer and the user.

Nintendo seems to still understand how to make games without bugs as well. Most of the recent games I have, even with online features tend to receive one, maybe two updates in their lifespan. Game breaking bugs are rarely, if ever an issue, and there’s never any complicated DRM procedures to muck up the process of actually playing.

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It's almost like they've been doing this for 30+ years...

I know I asked the question, but I feel like my answer is coming quickly. I know there are plenty of indie developers with a massive disconnect to their audience, but they are often run off the road like the infamous Fez developer, Phil Fish or given hell for vanishing like the developer of The Stomping Land. Meanwhile, it’s just business as usual for the big corporate publishers like EA, Activision and more recently, Ubisoft with their intentionally crippled PC port fiasco. Why do they get to stay in business while indie devs get slammed?

I’m actually sure the developers working on some of the big publishers’ titles would probably like some direct contact with the gaming community, but they aren’t allowed to — so we end up with idiot PR dept amateurs who know nothing about game development, because they never even end up talking to the developers, either.

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"I recall replying saying that the game was not downgraded, i still stick to that yes." - Ubisoft PR

So I guess the real question is, do the big publishers still deserve our money after consistently releasing disappointing products? Should we not expect more? Is it really worth it to spend $60 on a game you know in your very soul will be terrible, but happens to have a fully rendered Kevin Spacey? I’m not necessarily calling for a boycott, but perhaps people shouldn’t line up for the midnight release when it’s becoming more likely that the game will end up in the bargain bin for $10 after 6 months. If you don’t want a repeat of Ghosts, or the BF4 launch, don’t rush out the door to line the big publishers’ wallets. That’s exactly what they’re expecting you to do.

/gameon

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Hardware is not exempt, either.

Game Review – Planetary Annihilation

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Game review – Planetary Annihilation
Platform – PC (exclusive)
Developer – Uber Entertainment

Released: Sept 5, 2014

Rating – 6.5/10

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Get ready to spam.

Planetary Annihilation is among the first and second generation of highly successful Kickstarter games to achieve official release status. Unfortunately, unlike it’s generational peer Divinity: Original Sin, I find myself wishing they didn’t release yet. This game does a lot of things incredibly right, but requires more foundation and less superficial to be truly deserving of its early adopters’ expectations. (and money)

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248% extra win.

Let’s start with the price of entry as an early adopter. Those who supported the kickstarter were able to get beta access for $40, but when the game first appeared for pre-release on Steam, it was $90. That’s a steep point of entry for any game. Eventually it was whittled down to $50, but we’re still in the realm of “AAA” prices. If I’m paying that kind of money on a new game for PC, it better be loaded with content. Luckily, I was able to get in several months ago when a bundle site (I believe it was BundleStars) was offering it at $25.

For a beta, I was actually quite impressed. Single player was a bit empty, and there were certainly some features in need of polish, but the core game was there, and multiplayer worked surprisingly well. For $25, I couldn’t complain, especially not for a beta. However, we’ve now passed release day, and I don’t feel like much has changed — except for my opinion of Uber Entertainment.

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Yes. That's $10 for a single item in a game that may have cost you $90.

Where the hell do these people get off having a cash shop in a game for which some paid $90?  A game by the way that has barely changed since I first started playing the early release. It really sickens me when games reduce themselves to this if they aren’t running a free2play model. I paid for the game. Give me all of the features of the game. Maybe bundle them all as one DLC, for $15-20… but cash shops in paid titles feel sincerely cheap to me. You already got my money. Stop asking me for more while I’m playing.

Did I also mention that there’s no way to play this game offline? Yeah, it’s one of those “always online” lobbies, even though you can play through a whole single-player campaign without ever talking to anyone. Anyone else understand why new games are doing this? Me neither.

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But seriously, planets are weapons in this game.

Don’t get me wrong, this game is amazing. There’s no other RTS quite like it once you experience the immense scale of planet smashing.

Many will compare it to old titles like Total Annihilation and Supreme Commander, and it does share similarities in it’s style of “spam warfare.” Honestly, its similarity to them is what I consider a bit of a detriment, because it tends to become less about tactics and more about speed and efficiency. I wish base building were a little slower and perhaps required a few more steps in between building super structures.

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Everything burns. Everything.

However, all that is left behind when you have multiple planets in a system buzzing with activity. You get a pretty wide array of units at your command able to traverse the varying terrains of each planet. You’ll be building factories, wiping out enemy units, moving around satellites and resources, all while feeling rather omnipotent. Especially when you unlock the deathstar-esque super weapons. If nothing else, this game effectively provides the sense of grandeur you might expect from using celestial bodies as target practice.

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It was blocking my view.

My biggest problem with this game is how vacant the single player campaign feels after having higher expectations during the beta. At the heart of any good strategy should be a deep, involving single player campaign. Multiplayer works fine in this game, but it gets repetitive and it felt finished a long time ago. When the biggest addition to the official release was a cash shop and a map editor, I was unimpressed.

As a whole, this title gets big points for style. I wouldn’t even say that the game suffers particularly in any area of execution. But it needs tweaking, and it plainly lacks content for how much hype it was getting. Get rid of the cash shop, give me more single player, and let me play offline for fuck sakes. With some significant improvements, (but mostly simple changes) this game could easily be an 8 or a 9.

I like it, but I think it could be much better.

/gameon

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P.S. You always should have built more factories.

Something, Something Game News – Microjang: The day Minecraft outgrew Notch

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I was going to do another game review, but “news” reared its ugly head and has forced me to expunge the opinions from my head to be displayed for all of the internets to misinterpret. Prepare yourself!

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I'm not gonna lie, I've spent more than a few hours stacking cubes.

Since it’s been trending all over Facebook and Twitter for the last day or so, it should be no shock to even the casual gamer that Microsoft has indeed purchased Minecraft developer, Mojang for $2.5bn. As I write this, I have a few different opinions on the matter.

I could do a big rant about how Microsoft is likely to ruin the franchise, since they’ve been dropping old IPs all over the place and replacing them with very few first-party properties. Other than Halo, I can’t really think of much else that Microsoft clings to as truly their own. Which would explain why both Nintendo and Sony are beating them in console sales. Plus, with the nearly defunct Games for Windows Live, there hasn’t been much love for Microsoft from the gaming community as of late.

But I won’t, because I have plans for a Microsoft rant at a later date. I already have plenty of beef with them, and I know I’m not alone.

Even a certain developer named “Notch” had this to say just 2 years ago:

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This man deserves a medal for heroically standing up against Microsoft's tyranny.

I could also tear apart Notch’s character, and say that it really is about the money. How could he sell to a company he readily bashed less than 24 months ago? If Minecraft was never meant to be “big,” why did he enter the console market in the first place? Why not just stick to the PC platform if he is so concerned for its well-being?

But I’m not going to do that, either.

I don’t know the guy, and I can’t possibly imagine what it’s like to be thrust into the spotlight of not only the industry in which I am employed, but also that which is related to business and economics as well. The average person can’t even count to 2.5 billion. So for all intents and purposes, I will give him the benefit of the doubt, and direct my reply to the letter he wrote yesterday:

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Please, don't let Phil Fish be the catalyst for self-destruction. I couldn't handle the irony.

Dear Notch,

How you see yourself at this point is irrelevant in regards to Minecraft. You are responsible for one of the highest selling games of all time. You didn’t have to try to change the world, you just did. Own it. You can run far, far away from Mojang and you will be forever known as “the guy who created Minecraft.” It’s bigger than you as a human being. You’re right, you’ve become a symbol. But that symbol doesn’t define you, it defines what you represent to the gaming community, as a founder to an era of gaming we never knew was coming. Its your avatar, so to speak. It’s how you’ve been projected to the world. Once it’s out there, there’s no putting it back. Let us keep the symbol.

At the same time, there’s nothing stopping you from being the man you want to be. As an individual, you are capable of anything. Literally anything. You have the resources and the money. Want to build a spaceship? Go ahead. Live in a subterranean complex like Mole Man? Why not? You can do ANYTHING. Look at Bill Gates. Look at Elon Musk. Look at Gabe Newell for fuck sakes, and tell me an opinionated basement geek can’t do whatever the fuck he wants once he’s made it big.

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In Gaben we trust.

Just remember, while you may define yourself as a quiet, introverted, “not real” game developer… Minecraft will always be your legacy. You have indeed changed the world of gaming forever. There’s no going back. You can run from it, but you can’t hide from it. Legitimate governments have reconstructed countries with your achievement. Microsoft may own the paperwork, but it’s already been made regardless of whose name is on the door. It’s yours forever. Your own name has become a brand. While it may have evolved outside of your desires and expectations, never forget that it’s an achievement beyond the hopes and dreams of many others. Never be ashamed or afraid of that. You’ll be fine, and your memory will be a significant mark on the timeline of gaming history for the better.

What happens to Minecraft now is up to Microsoft, but what happens to Notch is up to you. If you don’t want the spotlight on you anymore, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Like I said, you have the freedom to do anything you can imagine. Just remember: always look back at Minecraft as a victory and not a hill you couldn’t conquer. Even if I never play another minute of it again (which I may not, because well… Microsoft), I will look back fondly at the origins of Minecraft as a boon to the ever evolving art form of which I am proud to offer my comparatively meager contribution.

/gameon

creepers

Because, creepers.

 

Something, Something Game News – Transverse: WTF is going on here?

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The gaming world has its share of absurdities, and when you are active in its communities you can’t help but come across some complete travesties which make you cringe. For those of you who don’t know who Zoe Quinn is, just go here and observe how far down the rabbit hole of ridiculousness goes in this industry. (That’s the last you’ll hear from me about her, I swear. My opinion merits no need to contribute to what is effectively high school drama.)

So, in an attempt at what some may or may not call “journalism,” I will delve into trying to de-crypt this unsettlingly vague crowd-sourcing venture known as Transverse.

Ok, so what about this game isn't like EVE?

Coming from having played a lot of EVE Online (not anymore, but that’s for another day), and as a contributor to Star Citizen, I have a lot of issues with this guy saying he’s come up with a revolutionary idea of putting people in a persistent universe to control the real estate and economy. I mean, this is the age of games like DayZ and Minecraft selling copies faster than their developers can spend the money. There are also plenty of other big space games already garnering big support from the game community at large. So really, I would rather he had said, “Hey, we want to make a new space game in the atmosphere of already highly anticipated titles like Star Citizen, Elite: Dangerous and Starpoint Gemini 2 because we’re late to the party.”

I’m probably coming across as petty at this point, but how can you expect to compete with such a generic looking reveal? I mean, it’s not as if we’re talking about a complete unknown 17 year old in his basement, we’re talking about the developers of MechWarrior Online and Duke Nukem Forever. Of course, it’s not as if there hasn’t already been controversy surrounding MechWarrior Online, either, but we’ll get into that in a moment.

Let’s start with the website:starcithome

Star Citizen homepage.

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Transverse homepage.

starcitstore

Star Citizen "Pledge" packages.

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Transverse "Pledge" packages.

After doing a little browsing, I’m already starting to feel like Transverse is little more than a blatant knock off of Star Citizen in too many ways just from the website design. However, Transverse’s “backers” grid doesn’t update from any meta source. Someone is manually updating these figures. This makes me feel like they may be less than honest about how much support is coming in. Granted, with numbers that low, I can’t imagine why they would be lying. It’s still very fishy.

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Yeah I said fishy in regards to Piranha Games. Get over it.

Ok, so let’s set this aside and assume that there’s nothing at all suspect about their crowd funding scheme. I am an interested party after all, and a big fan of space sims and space games in general. I played EVE for several years, I have over 500 hours in X3: Terran Confict, I’ve funded Star Citzen, backed Starpoint Gemini 2 and am warming up to the idea of getting in on the Elite: Dangerous early release. It’s not hard to sell me on a cool, new space game.

Yet, Transverse has managed to turn me off very quickly.

For that, we’ll review the stretch goals: stretchgoals

Congratulations... You've lost me.

So, let me get this straight… You want 500k to make the game, but it’s going to take twice that to make space ships that fly? In a space game? And twice that again to let you shoot with them? Meanwhile, the flight and combat engine is the first thing Star Citizen is working on and completing before building the rest of the game around it. What in the glorious name of all the fucks to be given are these guys thinking? How is flight and combat not an already assumed feature? If it wasn’t, then I’m having a hard time wondering what they were originally planning, and if it was — then asking for 4x your original goal for already planned features cannot be described as anything but extortion. This is not in the spirit of crowd sourcing and exactly how it can be abused. Of course, I’m not the only one asking these questions and that’s where things start to get fun.

Long story short, it resulted in Piranha Games employees being shadow-banned from Reddit.

Maybe disgruntled players should be a sign..?

So what happened? Basically, they created a /r/Transverse subreddit and over-moderated. As per Reddit rules, it’s not intended for self-promotion. If you empty your sub of all dissent, you just look like a giant asshole and that’s grounds for banning. The funny thing is that ALL of PGI was banned, resulting in their already oft-criticized MechWarrior Online subreddit being left unmanned. You’ll also notice that all of their Youtube videos have pathetically high dislike to like ratios, and commenting has been disabled. And that’s AFTER they already took down and re-upped the videos because they were getting flamed down in the comments.

So you have a suspicious looking website, an empty Reddit, a lot questions from a legitimately concerned audience, and the PR department couldn’t be doing a worse job if they were choosing racial slurs out of a hat at random while blind-folded, to put up on Twitter.

ouch

This just screams, "we're not scared of reprisal!"

In the end, the most alarming part is how completely amateur this whole attempt comes across. How can a developer with its named tied to such prestigious franchises perform so impotently? How can they so blatantly rip off Star Citizen and other titles while asking supporters to pay for basic features? How can they so enthusiastically abuse the concept of crowd-funding?

Unfortunately, it isn’t the first time an indie venture has crashed and burned publicly before it even had time to start the engines, and it won’t be the last. It’s a shame, because while you will hear me herald the coming of community-based funding for projects, it can certainly be exploited and made to look very shady by a select few. Expect to hear more from me about the peaks and pitfalls of crowd-sourced games.

Until then… /gameon

faceplant

I'm not saying you suck... but you suck.

Game Review – FTL: Faster Than Light

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Game review – FTL: Faster Than Light (Advanced Edition)
Platform – PC, Mac, Linux, iOS
Developer – Subset Games

Rating – 9/10

You will never experience a more gratifying sense of vengeful fury.

One thing you will find about me is that I am a big sucker for sci-fi. I don’t even take sides when it comes to Star Wars and Star Trek — I love them both (Ok, I tend to lean towards Lightsabers, but don’t tell Picard). However, it seems that Star Wars has always received far better treatment in the past when it comes to games emulating universes. Not only is there an assortment of great licensed content (KOTOR, Shadows of the Empire and Jedi Academy/Outcast, just to name a few), but some truly inspired works of sci-fi worthy to be called successors. Hell, Wing Commander even featured Mark Hamill.

But when it comes to Trek, it’s mostly been a long line of disappointment.

So, naturally, when a space game comes along featuring strategic crew and ship command over FPS blasting, fantasy-style RPGs, and balls-to-the-wall dogfighting (not that any of those things are particularly bad, just often overused), I perk up in the hopes that perhaps, some sci-fi fans have created a game favouring tactics and decision making (aka, the role of a ship captain). FTL not only does exactly that, but does it in a way that is fun, exciting and effectively resurrects the idea that a good game needn’t be long if it ecstatically invites you to play it over and over again.

FTL-Faster-Than-Light-Battle

Extingushing flames while running out of oxygen is just a day in the life. FIRE THE LASERS.

Don’t be fooled by its visual simplicity. It’s a game developed by a two man team, and its graphical appeal doesn’t stray past flash-based browser games, but it more than makes up for it with raw content and game-play. There is a significant variety of ships with multiple configurations each (many of which are unlocked by completing the game under varying conditions), as well as a wide array of upgrades, weapons, and crew randomly dropped in your path as you progress.

Combat is real-time, and involves making all kinds of decisions like which doors to open and close, which weapons to fire, where to send crew and which damaged systems to repair, all the while trying to prevent your enemy from escaping (unless if course, you’re the one trying to get the fuck out). Thankfully, they let you pause combat to take a breath and survey the horror which has been laid upon you.

While the story is quite linear and you only get to pick one ship per play, no two plays are ever alike, even if you consistently play the same ship and configuration.

osprey

Half the fun is picking your ship at the beginning.

The linear progression seems like it would get repetitive, but it doesn’t. The randomly generated maps and star charts consistently give you new experiences as well as the ability to choose your path to the end. Plus, the enemy is chasing you the whole way, giving you a sense of urgency. You don’t have time to linger and explore the whole area. You must be decisive, and that’s one of the little things really going for it.

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It's kinda like reading a book where you know how it starts and how it ends, but everything in the middle is up to you.

At the same time, the game is completely unforgiving. It’s hard. Really hard. Even if you do everything right, there’s no guarantee you’ll make it to the end with what you need to beat the big boss. Half the challenge of the game is ensuring you upgrade your ship adequately along the way. You’ll need enough weapons to defend yourself, enough technology to endure the journey, and the crew to run everything. Sometimes, you’re happy just to get to sector 8 alive — because If your ship blows, you start again from the beginning. Even on Easy mode, one careless move means you’re back to the title screen. For me, this gives the game a level of rewarding and satisfying play unmatched by the trend of die-res-die-res repetition found in many so-called “AAA” titles. A real sense of loss gives the game a real sense of challenge and an even better sense of accomplishment when you get to the end.

Can it be frustrating sometimes? Absolutely. But we also feel most passionately about the things we enjoy most, even if it sometimes comes out a little… hostile.

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And he recommends it.

FTL provides more hours of game-play in a compact package than many $60 games with a massive budget and graphics engine. They even threw in a free expansion which not only provided more reason to play again, but managed to significantly improved on an already dynamic and diverse experience. I really can’t say enough about how much I enjoy this little game. I find myself drawn back to it again and again because there aren’t many other games like it. It’s found itself in a unique position of filling a gap left by many and attempted by few. It may not be perfect, but I anticipating it inspiring more games like it in the future, while making its mark in history as having done so.

Bravo, Subset Games.

/gameon

bananaship

P.S. Mods are fun.