Monday, 14 December 2015

Metal Gear Solid V: A Real Diamond Dog

I would say I'm predominantly a PC gamer, and probably always will be. However I do own a PS4, and get good use out of it for games which I currently wouldn't be able to run well on my current PC. Metal Gear Solid 5 is one of these games, and a game I bought based on the huge swell of positive reviews and comments. I went into this game knowing almost nothing about the Metal Gear series, having only a very brief experience with one of the games many years ago.

As a game it captures both that "cinematic" quality that so many other games are so desperate to achieve, but it does it without significantly affecting the gameplay. The opening section does seriously try your patience though, as your wounded protagonist can barely move his head initially and it takes some time before you are able to move freely.

I feel unsure about the storyline of the game even after many hours of play, with the prologue feeling almost like a fever dream. Some elements feel very grounded in reality, but other parts of this alt-history 1980s are pure sci-fi. It does feel like it's drawing heavily from 80s action films too, with the backdrop of a Russian-occupied Afghanistan reminiscent of Rambo 3.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim - Introduction

The title screen, sans title for some reason
Ah, Skyrim. This is a game I've been putting off for a very long time. After playing my way through Oblivion, Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas, I was very tired of the entire style of these games. I can appreciate their broad appeal though, as each world is crammed with interesting characters and quests that will take you dozens, if not hundreds, of hours to complete.

You can find salmon jumping in rivers
Skyrim is no different, and this time its world is a land of ice and snow, mountains and monsters all inspired by Scandinavian and Nordic mythology. It's a huge world, and certainly feels like the largest of the modern Bethesda games (the older ones having been procedurally-generated). I've barely scratched the surface but it certainly has a lot to offer so far.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Dark Souls: The Celestial City

Anor Londo is truly a city of gods compared to where I had been previously. Saved from ruin and decay, travelling through it makes you feel quite small. I do wish this was the hub area, rather than firelink. The crumbling ruins of that shrine felt very appropriate for the undead labouring on their journey, but now that I'm becoming the Chosen Undead, I feel like I should have a better base of operations.
Praise the sun!
Anyway, the opening moments of Anor Londo were quite tense. I expected something to come out and smash me around each corner, and was surprised the big guardian knights stood silent. I made my way across a large courtyard which looked like a boss area, and headed down into a bonfire room.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Dark Souls: Marble Madness

So I rang the two bells of awakening, and now some toothy serpent has given me a quest to get the Lordvessel from Anor Londo. Of course you can't just walk into Anor Londo...
Inside the entrance, after killing two snakemen
So here's the tale about Sen's fortress. It's a series of terrible traps, large lizardmen and dangerous drops. The enemies are tough, the ledges narrow and the only bonfire is hidden near the top. This was never going to be easy, and since I had based my character around being a walking tank, the nimbleness required for some of the sections was not good for me.
Swinging blades over every narrow walkway
I had a few runs at it blind, and managed to get about a third of the way through. I navigated past the first set of swinging blades, and got past the first rolling boulder section. After that things got a little dicey, and I ended up repeating this section a couple of times. This is one of the more annoying parts of the game. There's no real way to know where you're supposed to go, except trial and error. Unfortunately, such trial and error can lead to death very quickly.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Dark Souls: Journey Into Darkness

Sometimes in Dark Souls, things just click into place. On this such occasion, I had vanquished two long-term foes. My progress, once stymied by demons and death, could proceed again. As usual, the game would put far darker foes in my future.

First to be swept aside was the Gaping Demon, the fang-mouthed abomination that lay at the base of the Depths. I sought others to defeat it, and helpful people who had passed this point before gave good advice. The pattern of its attacks are not so hard to predict, once you know what to look for, and so I was able to slowly chip at its health and finally triumph.

Being a phantom is rather fun
In celebration, I utilised the White Soapstone, and was summoned as a helpful phantom to assist others in defeating the beast. Helping others succeed where I had struggled was immensely satisfying. If this was not enough of a reward, I also received thousands of souls and some Humanity.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

The Swindle: Procedural Pilfering

The Swindle Title Screen
The Swindle is a steampunk sidescrolling steal-em-up, with the objective of hacking your way into the police computer system to destroy Basilisk, an AI that could prevent burglary forever! On your way to ridding the world of such a troublesome thief-catcher you'll need to amass enough cash to buy the required upgrades you'll need for your audacious attempt. Also, you have only got 100 days. Clock is ticking...
Your mission, if you want to accept it...
I'm glad I waited a while before writing this mini-review, because several changes have been made to the game since release. Originally, the game was super-hard, unbelievably so. Upgrades were expensive, cash was hard to come by, and the amount of security on each level increased rapidly. By comparison, the game today is still very challenging but feels far more fair. Now when I die I can blame the errors I've made rather than the harsh difficulty curve.

Dark Souls: Caught at a Crossroads

Once again, it is exploiting the game that brings reward rather than any feeling that I'm getting appreciably better at it. I really enjoy the fights against the lesser enemies, even some of the mini-bosses, but a lot of the more difficult mini-bosses and bosses seem to be beyond my skills.

Exploiting the Undead Dragon's lack of ranged attack
Sometimes, as I found with the Capra Demon and some others, the game makes things unfathomably difficult unless you're using some sort of cheap tactic or exploit to defeat them. Case in point, the Valley of Drakes was far beyond my ability as a melee character. Loaded up with poison arrows though, I could pick the Drakes off one at a time and clear the area.

Shortcut ahead, and not before time!
After that, the Undead Dragon mini-boss was easy prey as I could stay out of range of his attacks but slowly kill him with the bow. It was at this point that I really wished I'd made a dexterity focused character, as the damage scaling with the longbow is very impressive.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Dark Souls: A Dance With Drakes

Some of the locations in Dark Souls are full of wonderful architecture, huge sprawling ruins all interconnected and filled with nasty surprises. Undead Burg and Undead Parish are such locations, as is Firelink Shrine. These interlinking areas are full of twisty passages and interesting nooks and crannies, but they also have large, looming structures that seem almost within reach (and of course many of them do become reachable later in the game).

New Londo Ruins
That's why it's so disappointing to find those badly-made sections, such as Lower Undead Burg. It's almost like it's from a different game, or a bad fan-creation. A small, mostly linear section, few enemies and not much in the way of challenge. It contains a boss (Capra Demon), and scarce few other things. Thankfully after you've defeated the Capra Demon you only have to pass through it briefly to reach other areas.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Dark Souls: The Gargoyle Situation

I have made such progress since last time I posted, and perhaps even have enough for two posts but I'll try and be concise and keep it short. Last time, I was suffering from the ill-effects of poisoning and a few cheap deaths. It can be easy to get frustrated in Dark Souls, but once you overcome that obstacle it is a relief bordering on elation.
Beneath Firelink Shrine lies this spooky old ruin
Before the infamous rats, there's a shortcut back to Undead Burg. From there, it's a trivial matter to reach the Firelink Shrine again (enemies that were once tough, are now walkovers). So I could stock up on 10 estus and use that as a launchpad back past those rats. That way, even if I got poisoned, I could heal myself enough to progress on and hopefully make it to the next bonfire.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Dark Souls: The Demon, The Drake and the Deaths

Today has been a lesson in frustration, with moments of progress in between. Some people suggest that the deaths in Dark Souls are always fair, that in dying you learn how to do better next time. I would definitely say that's not always true. There are only so many times you can succumb to a similar death without thinking that there's not a lot of ways you could have done things differently.

Undead Burg (This spot has three bastards with firebombs)
Anyway, I had spent a little time in the Undead Burg, gathering a few levels and some equipment (box of holding for spare items, repair box to fix my weapons, that sort of thing, from a strange merchant hidden away). There were a couple of areas I just couldn't go, one which required a jump that I couldn't make (even with no armour, I didn't seem able to get across the gap). The other was an item guarded by a rather large armoured knight, to whom I could only do 14 damage. I think it's best to come back to him later, when I've progressed a bit more (much like the graveyard back in the opening area).

Dark Souls: Late To The Party

So I picked up this game the other day, you might not have heard of it, it's a sort of action-RPG. It's called Dark Souls and I've died a few times already, but that's not really anything to worry about.

The game and fans love to talk about death, but death is not a permanent condition in Dark Souls
My previous knowledge of Dark Souls was when it became that super popular game that everyone was talking about, a console RPG at a time when I didn't have a console, it was then ported to the PC and I still didn't really get it. I'm still not entirely sure I get it, but at least I've seen enough to give it a shot and see how I do.
One of the guys from the intro, which no doubt will be a boss
My interest was piqued by a video series from the Extra Credits guys, where they're playing through Dark Souls and giving an overview of the design and various interesting bits of information. Not a classic LP by any means, but one that is far more interesting to me than any proper LP could be. Seeing the game in action, and having two people with a design background and an easy-going demeanour narrating it, made the game much more appealing to me.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Space Quest I: The Sarien Encounter (VGA remake, 1990)

Space Quest I, the start of Roger Wilco's adventures, going from lowly janitor to space hero and back again (and repeat).

This is the remake of the first game in the series, and I'll be replaying it for the good folks over at The Adventure Gamer!

So go check it out there, since there's no point in me posting it over here.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Pillars of Eternity: Character Creation and the Crisis of Countless Choices

Is this the spiritual sequel to Baldur's Gate that I've been waiting for all these years?
No spoilers here for Pillars of Eternity, I've barely started it. I seem to have got stuck on the character creation. Not because it's bad, but rather because it has so many options I can't quite make up my mind! Instead, I'll ramble on about RPGs for a bit and the gameplay posts will come later on.

The introduction: You are travelling with a caravan to a new settlement when you get stuck in a mountain pass.
If there's one thing I really do love about RPGs, it's the character creation. Good character creation can add a wealth of possibilities to a game. As a first impression though, it can provide a daunting plethora of options, many of which might be completely unknown to the player. How important every statistic, every class, every spell, every choice can have unforeseen consequences for the future of your character.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Cyberpunk Returns: Shadowrun: Dragonfall

Shadowrun: Dragonfall is the sort-of-sequel, sort-of-DLC for Shadowrun Returns. It's available as a standalone "Director's Cut", so you don't even need to play the first one (but I would recommend that you do, I really enjoyed it). I played the Director's Cut standalone version.

The world of Shadowrun presents you with a future filled with biomechanical engineering, magic, metahumans, dragons, virtual reality and so much more. It's futuristic cyberpunk meets high fantasy, and while the geography of the world might be the same as ours, this "Awakening" has caused huge wars and a massive change to political and social dynamics. There are new empires, new city-states and new dangers, and it's up to your team of "Shadowrunners" to navigate them.

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Space Quest IV: Part 3: Out of Time

After having foiled Vohaul's plans in Space Quest 1 and 2, it seems that famous galactic space-hero, Roger Wilco would have to do it again. Armed with nothing but his charming personality, good looks, quick wits, a pocket full of acidic ooze and a cigar stub, I exited the time pod for the last time.

The Sequel Police dispatch station was empty, and their aircraft sat quietly in its hangar. The only other place to check was off to the right, where there had previously been a guard but now only a strange tunnel entrance lay ahead. Presumably, all of the Sequel Police were chasing my shadows around space and time, so they thankfully couldn't get in my way.

The tunnel entrance had a rather complicated locking system, but I was carrying what is commonly known as "a fool's lockpick", by which I mean a glass jar full of incredibly corrosive green ooze. Being very careful not to spill any on myself (something that would mean certain death), I melted the lock and that seemed to have the effect I was looking for.

Space Quest IV: Part 2: Babes, Burger Time and Back to the Future

Last time, on Space Quest IV...

So we've arrived in the past. Well, it's the future to Roger, but the past compared to where we were and oh no I've gone cross-eyed. Best not to worry about that too much and instead lets just get on with the game. We've arrived on a desolate looking planet, but thankfully it seems free of both cyborgs and other futuristic dangers so lets go and take a look around.

A brief wander leads to us meeting some local wildlife, and this avian fellow has brought us home, presumably to meet the family. How nice. The other guest, a Sequel Policeman (officer?), fared less well and has been impaled on a stray branch. A quick search of the dead (?) police officer gets us a piece of paper with some gum in it. These cyborgs don't seem to have the capacity to chew gum, so where did he get this from? Either way, it contains half a time code so we'll keep it next to that dangerous ooze for later.

Space Quest IV: Roger Wilco and the Time Rippers (1991)

Here is a game for which I have a lot of fondness for, a classic Sierra adventure game and one of my all-time favourites. It's a wonderful blend of comedy and science-fiction, as well as being a tale of an otherwise unremarkable person achieving great things against all the odds. Having an ordinary working slob as a hero is continued in space-comedies such as Red Dwarf and Futurama, of which I'm also a big fan!

Roger Wilco is a hero that is very easy to relate to, he's just an ordinary man who finds himself in extraordinary situations. He begins the first game as a janitor, but at the start of this game he has managed to foil Sludge Vohauls plan to destroy Xenon, escape the clutches of Sludge Vohaul's revenge, help the Two Guys from Andromeda and salvage a half-decent space-worthy ship. Now he finds himself at a seedy bar, taking a rest on his way back home, and regaling the locals with tales of his impressive feats.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Xenonauts: I Want To Believe

Previously on this blog, I've written at length about my feelings towards UFO: Enemy Unknown (also known as X-COM: UFO Defense). It's a great game, that should have spawned more sequels and imitators than it did. Of those that have been made, Xenonauts is perhaps the purest of those successors.

It's entire reason for existing is due to the love for that original game, truly a game made by fans for the fans, and it certainly shows. It doesn't blindly recreate, nor wildly re-imagine it's ancestor, but rather seeks to create something very similar and yet with a myriad of improvements and refinements.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Cyberpunk: Shadowrun Returns

This past weekend I finally got around to playing one of my oldest Kickstarter-backed games, the cyberpunk RPG Shadowrun Returns. Based on the pen-and-paper RPG series Shadowrun, the game was full of promise from the start and definitely delivered on that. It presents you with a futuristic RPG setting, which also contains a plethora of fantasy elements. I'll let the game's website describe it in more detail:

The year is 2054. Magic has returned to the world, awakening powerful creatures of myth and legend. Technology merges with flesh and consciousness. Elves, trolls, orks and dwarves walk among us, while ruthless corporations bleed the world dry. You are a shadowrunner – a mercenary living on the fringes of society, in the shadows of massive corporate arcologies, surviving day-by-day on skill and instinct alone. When the powerful or the desperate need a job done, you get it done… by any means necessary.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Adventure Gaming: King's Quest V

King's Quest V was a landmark game, a big step forward for the series. While the previous game had been 16-colours and a text parser interface, Sierra really pushed the boat out with this one. The new 256-colour VGA graphics allowed them to create wonderfully detailed scenes, and the CD-ROM version gave them the space to use full voice-acting.

Your lovely home, soon to be miniaturised and put in a glass bottle by an evil wizard. Typical day in the life of a King!

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Indie Gaming: Torchlight 2

Starting Torchlight 2 was a strange experience for me. I had tried the first game in the series some time ago, but had bounced right off it almost immediately. The style and tone of the game seemed to lean towards light-hearted humour rather than the diablo-like grimdark I was expecting.

The second game was not that much different, only this time the plot assumed some amount of previous experience with the series. Even now, I don't really have much appreciation for the world or it's oddly named residents, as it is a little light on in-game explanations.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Civilization V: A Few More Turns...

So I recently bought a lovely new laptop, one that can play most relatively modern games (nothing too fancy, but so long as I don't push the detail levels too high everything is fine!). The first thing to do when playing around on a new computer is to install a few games and check out how well everything runs on the new hardware, so I installed and played a few games that are part of my backlog.

Then I hit Civilization V.

I'd bought the game a long while ago, in some steam sale or other, and had been buying the DLC when it got really cheap. I knew my old laptop would struggle with it, but this new one should easily cope. Over 1000 turns later, I think the testing phase has long finished!