I never really had a decent computer back in 1996. By “decent” I mean my PC didn’t meet the minimum specs of 8Mb of RAM – quite a ridiculous concept now that I have over 500 times that amount. With Diablo 3 just around the corner I’m running out of time to get up to speed, and so yesterday I installed the original classic that is Diablo.
Back in the day this game was boss. Just looking at the awards and reviews it has makes me wonder why I haven’t played it until now. The “superior graphics” were a source of praise, one that doesn’t hold up today. I couldn’t even run the game without closing explorer else the colours would be messed up – all two-hundred and fifty six of them. The game’s max resolution is 640 x 480 – MAXIMUM resolution. I couldn’t even take a screenshot of this game it’s that dated. That aside, I load the game (it seriously took less than 2 seconds to install) and head inside the cathedral to begin my decent into Hell.
Diablo is a classic dungeon crawler – a game where you hack and slash your way through endless enemies, venturing further and further through a dungeon until you reach a big bad guy at the end. These games fell out of popularity over the last decade (which is why Diablo2 is still popular today), but I’ve played games like Baldur’s Gate before so I had an idea of what to expect. You get to pick one of three standard characters to begin your journey – warrior, rogue (archer) and sorcerer (mage). I went with rogue and began my quest to vanquish Diablo – the douche who lords his glory over you on the front cover. Look at that shit eating grin , how he demands my respect.
First thing I notice is how awful the controls are. Move is left click – none of this modern day WASD crap we take for granted. Amusingly, attack is also left click. Your wrist is going to be sick of this sodding game pretty much instantly. If you rolled a sorcerer then you right click to use spells, which alleviates the problem slightly, except the spell hotkeys are F5 to F8. If you’ve got a short keyboard like mine or if you’re using a laptop, that’s hardly useful. It’s not only the sorcerer who can use spells, however – any class can. In fact, any class can put points into whatever skills they want – only the starting abilities and stats are different. You can have a mage who uses a sword and shield if you want, or an archer who summons minions to keep endless mobs off of you. Speaking of endless mobs…
There are 16 levels in this game, each one harder than the next. Each one of these is filled with an insane number of mobs, from skeletons to mages, to some mud-like people who throw poo at you (at least that’s what it looks like – can’t tell with these graphics). Most of the enemies come straight from Tolkien’s The Hobbit – there’s even Balrogs in this. Each time you kill an enemy you get a counter below it showing how many times you’ve killed that particular type. The more times you kill one, the more information you get – weaknesses, health, that sort of thing. Even Diablo has this counter.
Ah, Diablo. I was meant to be watching Wrestling last night, but illness kept me from going and so I set myself the challenge of completing the game in one sitting. The first 12 levels took me about 5 hours.The next 4 took another 5. The difficulty just snaps up instantly and the levelling slows right down. One boss around here is really irritating for his level – he even has his own cut scene. You know you’re playing a great game when you can’t even skip it – you’re forced to watch it every time you die as a reminder of how boss he is. The main menu doesn’t even default to “load game” either – it sits on “options” to be annoying, like adjusting the gamma setting could help me.
And then you get to Diablo. This guy is a fucking beast. I spent about an hour trying to beat him as an archer before giving up and going home. Time for plan B: I bought a sword and shield to go toe-to-toe, mano-a-mano with this monster of a man (though he is actually a monster – not a man. OR IS HE?). Diablo is too much of a boss to go down like a chump – I can’t even get near to him as he just smacks me backwards then casts some ranged fire bollocks on me that rapes my health. My bags are filled to the brim with health potions (seriously – I’ve got about 40 of them) yet even these aren’t enough.
So I back myself into a corner, usually the most idiotic of actions, so he can’t knock me back. Bound by honour (and shitty, one-dimensional programming) he accepts my challenge, and the battle ensues. I left click furiously – my mouse batteries and wrist fluid drained, it’s all or nothing. I’m down to my last health potion when blood pours from his chest in all its Crayola glory. I’ve bested the beast that is Diablo, I’ve gone toe-to-toe with the best of the best and emerged victorious. The cinematic snaps in, denying me of any chance to relish in my own glory (or loot his corpse). The ending is reminiscent of The Departed, its brilliance only exceeded by how fucking irritating it is.
There’s no title belt, the credits don’t roll, no achievement. I’ve bested the beast that is Diablo and I’ve come away with nothing to show for it. And I don’t care. Brilliant game.
In all seriousness the game looks pretty lame. What’s with the ridiculously effeminate characters? They just get worse and worse. The music on the other hand, is off the chain. It’s a twist on the old FFXIII battle theme, though this time it builds up to some AWESOME POWER MEGA RIFF at the end.
Personally I wasn’t going to get it, then I saw the recruit monsters feature. Everyone loves Pokemon, right?
I’m still in the middle of Skyrim so no review for it yet (spoiler: it’s awesome). In the meantime here’s a round-up of strategies that almost never work, but are immensely satisfying when they do.
Rushing is attacking as early as possible, before the enemy is reading. Tower defending is building a load of towers to protect you until you’re ready to attack. Tower rushing combines both of these into an annoying tactic that rarely works. Instead of building your towers to keep them out of your base, you build them around their base to keep them in. That way you’re free to take all the resources on the map whilst they’re stuck trying to get out. You can also start building towers closer and closer to their base – they can’t do anything as your towers protect you. You rarely see this strategy these days, which is a shame – I thought it was hilarious when I first lost to it.
Sun Tzu once said “know your enemies and know yourself, and you will not be imperilled in a hundred battles”. If you know exactly what your enemy is doing – even if they outnumber or out skill you, you should win. You’ll know exactly how to attack them or what units to build to counter them. Most importantly, you’ll know when they’re out of their base.
If you know you’re being spied on you can spread false information. This is best displayed in Shogun 2, where you have your most useless units protecting your general in open sight of the enemy. Meanwhile you have your archers and mounted units hiding in the trees just waiting for them to take the bait. That’s pretty much all Shogun 2 is actually; smoke and mirrors.
Build all of one type of unit e.g. riflemen. These are usually weak to melee, but if you build so many of them that the enemy can’t even get close then their weakness is irrelevant. This is pretty much the context of Zulu, except the Zulu’s were idiots and attacked in waves instead of all at once from all sides.
This is having two classes or players who are pretty shit normally alone but far more powerful together. A healer and a tank is a good example, or ranged and melee. In reality this almost never works as it requires co-ordination. Stacking is a much better idea as it’s brainless
This one is a result of bad game design. Having the ability can stun an enemy for 10 seconds once every minute is pretty cool; but if there are six of you in a group with the same ability then whoever you’re attacking stands no chance. Once your stun is worn off then someone else can just stun them, then someone else and so on until it’s back to your turn after a minute. The enemy can’t do anything – this is called stun-locking. Any ability that prevents someone else from doing anything is annoying as they’re forced to sit there while you embarrass them. You could do 1 damage a minute and still win, even if they could kill you in 1 hit, as they’ll never get a chance. It’s surprisingly good for trolling too if you kill someone with a fish instead of a dagger, just because they can’t do anything.
My favourite all-or-nothing strategy is assassination. In Supreme Commander if you manage to kill the ACU (commander), you win. Your enemy could have 500 units heading to your base, but if you kill their leader before he gets there its game over. My best memory of SupCom is this exact scenario. I made myself appear weak and hid what I was really doing – building 2 gunships full of marines just to take out their commander. About 30 seconds before his colossus (a game ender) was due to hit my base, my eyes were blinded by the light of a thousand suns as his commander blew up – destroying his entire base with it. Glorious.
This only really works on players as the idea is to get under the other guy’s skin. Just have 1 annoying ranged or flying unit attack their resource collectors. It’ll disrupt production and they’ll have to divert their attention. As soon as their army or units get near to you, just run away. 5 minutes later go back and do it again. Incredibly annoying and distracting – they won’t be paying as much attention to what you’re doing, and can force them to attack you head on before they’re ready.
Just being your average anonymous wanker. If the enemy’s winning simply pause the game - the losing player can just walk off and get something to eat, walk the dog, take a shit… whatever. The other play would almost always quit as they’d have to sit waiting for hours otherwise. And then timeouts were introduced :<.
Another classic is hiding your last units in trees or on the edge of the map (even off the map in some games) when you’re losing. If the enemy has to destroy all your units and this just wastes their time. Sometimes they’ll quit – even though they’ve won, simply because they can’t be bothered or they have IRL stuff to do. I guess in that sense you both win.
These are hilarious. In Civilisation you can ask your neighbours to go to war with someone in exchange for your stuff e.g. you can pay the French to go to war with the Egyptians. Once they’re at war, simply attack the French. It’s now a 2 on 1 and you can simply pillage back that money you paid them. It’s even better if you wait a few years for both sides to waste their resources and armies on one another – you can often just waltz in and steal the glory. Cheap bastard.
*Rock bottom on your tag-team partner* The betrayal! *Turn off console*
If only the game looked like that… except it does. This is one of the best looking games I’ve played, if not the best, and I’m running it on low settings. The lighting and shadows are where it really excels; it’s a shame I can’t run it on ultra. Then again I’d rather run it on 640 x 480 than have to play the singleplayer again. In probably the most clichéd story of all time, Dice smacked several film modern war films like Green Zone, errr…. Green Zone… it’s just basically Green Zone but awful.
It’s so random as well – one minute you’re in a desert, the next you’re in a jet, then you’re in a city, then you’re getting smacked around the face. The jet part doesn’t even have anything to do with anything. Sadly it’s one of the best parts of the game, except the female pilot actually had a male voice in my game. I spent most of the game wondering wtf I why I was doing anything; the story’s totally forgettable. I figure I’ll remember who the main bad guy is when I fight him at the end and maybe it’ll make sense. I get to the end and his assets don’t even load, so I can’t even see who I’m fighting. What the shit is that about?
This game is so buggy it’s ridiculous. People run through walls and cars – anything that’s in their way really, women have male voices, the main bad guy doesn’t load, the utterly irritating jolts that happen only in story mode… Jesus. Enough about single player, it’s garbage. It’s so linear it may as well be a rail-shooter – fitting since you start on a train shooting an insane number of terrorists in a dead straight line with no skill. It’s worth playing for the… actually it isn’t; just go straight to multiplayer after reading the keybinds.
I’m not going to lie and say multiplayer isn’t buggy because it’s just as bad. The game manager is horrible. Why EA have to be such dicks and try and compete with Steam I don’t know. Basically you launch and manage the game entirely over your web browser via a plugin. Want to launch single player? Firefox. Want to change server? Firefox. Why can’t I just do that in game? Probably because the game crashes to desktop or just hangs on a bright white screen of eye-searing pain every five minutes.
Once you’re actually in the game though it’s absolutely amazing. If you played Battlefield 2 it’s basically that but with much better graphics and sound, far better physics (destructible terrain – win!) and a slick UI. There’s an unlock system as with previous battlefields – the more you play a certain class (medic, engineer) the more stuff you get for that class like medpacs and stingers (couldn’t find “What about the stingers?! Scene from Licence to Kill so this nonsense will have to do I’m afraid). You can also unlock stuff for vehicles (which are actually less camped than previous games) – so you actually have to learn to use a jet’s machine guns before you can launch flares and heat-seeking missiles.
There’s a few things missing sadly. The beloved vehicle horn is now gone :< No longer can I cover my jeep in C4 and chant “allahu akbar!” over voice chat while spamming the horn. Why even play? Vehicle music is also missing – a feature that pretty much made Battlefield: Vietnam. No-one seems to use chat either in this one so it often feels like you’re alone in the game when you’re lying there amongst the trees with the wind whistling in the background. And then a helicopter flies overhead, firing twin Vulcan cannons at you before getting blown the fuck up by a jet going 2,000mph. That’s when you remember why you actually bought the game, and why you’ll play it again and again and …
8 / 10
The abysmal campaign mode and sheer number of bugs ruin an otherwise awesome experience
Gears of War 3 came out nearly three weeks ago and I’ve been pulling that face ever since. I never reviewed the previous two in the series, but both would score very highly (the second more so). It’s one of those rare games where both the single and multiplayer parts of the game are outstanding in their own right. Usually you’ll get a great story mode and an abysmal multiplayer – Dead Space 2 springs immediately to mind. You don’t get that nonsense here – Epic Games have clearly spent the extra months they had to really polish the game.
If you’re new to Gears of War… *sigh*. It’s one of the biggest gaming franchises – probably my favourite too due to its consistent epic-ness. To fill you in: you’re on a world fighting over a new fuel when a load of monsters (called Locust) come out of the ground and start fighting the humans. Not having any of it, they employ scorched earth tactics and ion cannon (basically, nuke) everything. The few soldiers that are left (called Gears) are left fighting the endless horde of Locust – that’s when the first game starts. The next two games are spent killing an impossible number of Locust… then Gears of War 3 comes along.
Gears of War was never just about a cool story (though, personally I think it’s great) – it’s about the action, and the third in the series doesn’t disappoint. Epic Games deserve their title – everything is all explosions and drama and awesomeness in a small, disc-shaped bundle of joy. That guy in the photo is holding a lancer – the staple Gears weapon. It’s just a chainsaw attached to a machine gun. A fucking chainsaw, ladies and gentlemen. Why the shit don’t the army use this? It’s fucking genius. WWII, Vietnam, Iraq – these wars would have been over in 5 fucking minutes if they had Lancers and the balls to use them.
You don’t just kill people in Gears, you execute them. This time you’ve got a glorious array of executions available to use on that 9 year-old headset warrior who’s been fucking you off all day. Curb-stomping their face in with a boot the size of an ironing board is the old classic, but equally you could add some finesse and slice their head off with the bayonet from the Retro-Lancer. My personal favourite is ripping their arm off and smacking them around the face with it. Or tombstoning the grenade launcher into their face. So many options, so little time (I could be playing it right now! ZOMG).
The multiplayer, which I’ve just pretty much summarised, is awesome. There are so many modes – team death match, king of the hills, capture the… leader… all the old classics. Then there are the less generic modes - you can play as the Locust in this one in a mode called Beast. The objective is to trash the humans’ base. It’s amazingly satisfying playing as some of the more rigged monsters you’ve been struggling to kill when you were human. There’s also Horde, where basically the roles are reversed. It’s a 5-man team game against 50 waves of enemies who become increasingly difficult to defeat. It’s surprisingly addictive, especially given the new light tower defence element where you can build your own traps and turrets to help you out.
All this talk just makes me want to play it; and despite all the work I should be doing after writing this I know I’ll go back for “just one quick game”. There’s a billion achievements, ribbons and other nonsense to collect for all you achievement-fags out there (looking at you, Nalle)… I guess that’s how they get you. I just play for the fun of ripping someone in half with a chainsaw. If you want to play for fun then that’s cool too – this week is big-head mode (remember Goldeneye 007 DK Mode? It’s just that with high pitched voices) which is delightfully amusing. You can add modifiers to your game so it’s never quite the same, from more boring “Unlimited ammo” to the ridiculous “Instagib melee” – which I haven’t unlocked yet, sadly.
Oh and there’s a story – totally forgot, but playing alone is for chumps. There’s an arcade mode option to play the campaign with up to 3 friends online, but personally I find it best to play on a sofa with a mate – it’s a man’s game with plenty of opportunities for bragging. Sadly, the game didn’t pack the same punch as the previous two. It was good to have a conclusive ending, and the delivery was good, I just question the ordering of events and the emphasis on some characters over others. There’s some really good moments in there – like the reference to the Highway of Death, where people are frozen in time after the strikes hit, forever preserved in dust.
Fortunately, Epic have hinted that whilst this is the end of the story arc for Marcus Fenix, it’s not the end for Gears of War. That’s why I’m giving it 9.5 and not 10. It’s still brilliant, but not perfect. If it had built on the story of the second one then it’d be incredible – sadly, the story leaves me wanting. I don’t think the DLC is going to help either – Epic’s one annoying trait is selling minimal content for infinite moneys. The first DLC has 3 multiplayer characters and some new maps or some shit. Guaranteed to be £10 or something ridiculous too. Still, there’s a nice “Coming Soon” option under campaign mode that keeps me hanging on.
In conclusion, the multiplayer is awesome, the single player is awesome (even if I make it sound like it sucks in the last few paragraphs), the graphics are fantastic, the music isn’t (*sad face*), but the sound effects, polish and delivery of the game are all class. A rare piece of brilliance.
It appears that I should eat my own hat as Star Wars: The Old Republic will actually be out this year after all… but only by 9 days.
SW:TOR is out Dec-22 for us Europeans and Dec-20 for you guys on the other side of the pond. And I don’t care about anyone else :3
It’ll cost £8.99 / €12.99 (if anyone is still even using Euros by then) per month to play.
In other more predictable news, Diablo 3 won’t be out this year. Blizzard need more time to fuck around apparently, as they have done for every game ever. And it’ll still be buggy on release. Guaranteed.
Why would I review a game from 2007 when so many good games have just been released? Back in 2007 I only had a single core PC and the worst graphics card in history so I was unable to appreciate this game in all it’s glory (though I still massively enjoyed it), and when I found the disc the other day I wondered how much better it’d run on my current PC (dual-core, GTX 460). The answer is infinitely better, unfortunately, as my eyes are now strained from the luminance of one thousand explosions.
Anyone remember Total Annihilation? Well I don’t blame you if you’ve never heard of it; it was released in 1997, one of the best years for gaming. Just to bring you up to speed, check out it’s awards. I got this game from an old friend of mine, and even 14 years later I still have fond memories of it. It was an amazing RTS for it’s time (and still is) for it’s focus on actual strategy. Sure the graphics aren’t great (let’s be honest: they’re fucking terrible) but the sweet, sweet destruction… man. The music was great too. Nowadays we have youtube so we don’t have to reminisce:
Rose tinted goggles ftl. SupCom isn’t a remake of this game, more a spiritual successor; though the core elements of building a base, churning out hundreds of units then sending them to their death remains. The story’s changed too: in TA you had the humans using machines vs people who put their minds in machines. Heavy stuff (for 1997… The Matrix wasn’t even out yet). In SupCom you’ve got the UEF who are just your standard human military, the Cybran who are half-machine-half-man people, and the Aeon, who are fantantics based around some aliens that the UEF wasted. The three factions are all against one another and no side is inherently good or bad, which is kinda cool.
The game’s named after your main unit: the commander. He enters the battle like a wrestler, teleporting to the battlefield making a circular explosion around him (remember when wrestlers did that?). Your goal is usually to destroy the other commander who blows up in a nuclear explosion, destroying anything near him - including your own units. It’s very satisfying - even if you’re the commander who blows up. Your commander can build, attack and has massive health to prevent noob rushes (looking at you, Warcraft).
It’s your standard RTS really, but the scale is awesome. Instead of building 30-50 units, you’ve got 500. Instead of 10 types of units, you’ve got 50+. There’s no hard counters to units like Starcraft either, so you’re not instantly boned because the other guy just happens to have the exact counter to your units. You have 3 tech levels too: level 1 units are usually small and light damaging units that take a few seconds to build each, but 20 level 1 units will usually lose to 1 level 2 unit that takes about a minute to build. Level 3 units take about 3 to 10 minutes to build each and are totally bad-ass.
Then there’s experimental units that you usually won’t even get to see because the game will be over before you can build one. That spider in the picture at the top of this post is an experimental unit that uses his giant laser to burn units. Highly satisfying - especially if he’s frying the commander’s face off. The downside: it takes 20 minutes to build.
Experimentals aren’t the best units though - your commander is. You can upgrade him to have his own shield, which can be upgraded again to give him an area shield that’ll protect both you and whatever you’re building. His guns can be upgraded to do massive damage, or you can improve your resource collection with him: it’s really customisable depending on what you’re going for. The economy can be a pain to manage: you’ve got to collect mass and energy, and you’ve got to get exponential amounts as the game progresses just to keep up. No-one really cares about that though - they just want to see cool explosions, as the trailer shows:
If there’s one thing I hate about Warcraft it’s the micromanagement. Unless you control every unit, they’ll walk into one another, put your tanks at the back on an assualt and at the front when fleeing… just rubbish. In SupCom you can order a co-ordinated attack from your ground and air units simply by double tapping the mouse - even if they’re on other sides of the map. Hold down shift and you can see their ETA to their objective. You can place way-points easily so your bombers can avoid anti-air turrets, or you can drop-and-drag way-points around once set to change tactics on the fly.
Some of the best features I haven’t even mentioned: you can set a ferry point for air transports so that units will automatically be shipped across the map. You can set your factories to spawn units directly into these ferry points too, and they’ll wait at the pickup point for the next transport. Some of the units like assault bots can shoot out of the transports too, so you might not even want to unload them. That’s cool - this game will let you have ultra-mobile units like that; but if the transport gets shot down, whatever it’s carrying gets destroyed too - even your commander.
The real greatness of this game though is the explosions - they’re awesome to watch. The game can appear a little complex (because it is) but you can just sit back and watch the carnage if you want. SupCom was one of the first games to support dual monitors, so you can watch pretty explosions on one screen whilst planning your next move on the other. It was also future-proofed, supporting up to 8 cores even though it was made in 2007. There was DX10 planned too, but they had to drop it unfortunately (though not really as DX11 is out now). The graphics are still alright, but appear quite dated as HD gaming has bloomed over the last 2-3 years.
All in all, it’s pretty solid. Definitely the best RTS out there, just a shame it’s not on Steam. There’s no achievements or any of that nonsense, though there is a demo. I honestly wouldn’t recommend this as RTS is a dying genre, but personally I love the game.
9 / 10
Timeless game, unlike SupCom2 which was pure garbage.
Oct 31, 2008 – Xbox, PC, PS3. £4.99 from an awesome Steam deal
Fallout 3 received several game of the year awards and has an average rating of over 90% on most sites. I’m not going to give it anywhere near that. Why? Because it’s just one crash after another, and it totally detracts from any sense of immersion that you could experience in this post-apocalyptic wasteland. The game’s great: the story’s more of a black comedy than anything else, but some areas of development were seriously lacking… and I’m going to list them, so that you can suffer my complaints as much as I suffered Bethesda’s incompetence.
First off the bat, it’s a Game for Windows Live (GfWL). By default, this game shouldn’t score above a 5/10 for demanding I log in to this awful “service” just to load the game. The game itself takes forever to load, mostly because it has to log in to GfWL. I wouldn’t mind so much if it didn’t crash every so often for seemingly no reason, but Jesus H Christ, it’s just one crash to desktop after another. This game’s been out 3 years and its now on patch 1.7, yet it’s riddled with bugs and shit design. Somehow Bethesda managed to wriggle out 5 expansions, yet it couldn’t even fix these crashes. It’s not just me either: a lot of the major reviewers noted how unstable it was. It utterly ruins the experience.
Earlier today I had to spend 5 minutes reconfiguring my graphics settings from the launcher because it had just lost them after crashing sometime last night. It then took another 5 minutes to log in to Windows Live just to let me load the game. I wandered the wastes for 10 minutes, quick saving as I went along, before it crashed. I then have to reload the game, only to find my quick saves don’t even dump to file when it crashes.It took me 20 minutes to gain nothing. That’s why it takes so long to complete: it just hinders you constantly with its bullshit. The launcher got off pretty lightly there, so I’ll review: it’s FUCKING DREADFUL. It auto-detects my settings as high, even though I can amply run everything on ultra, and sets my resolution to 800x600. Why would I ever want to set the res below my native desktop resolution? Ridiculous.
Some options I would like in there are maximised windowed mode. Nope; not even an option. It has windowed mode, but you can’t even move the window, or turn in the game as the mouse just goes off the edge – very useful. You can’t even alt-enter to maximise the window. You especially can’t alt-tab… or you can, just not back again. Alt-tabbing is basically Alt+F4; you literally have no chance of regaining control so have to close it through task manager. In a game that takes 20-70 hours to complete, you need to alt-tab every so often, if only to check the time in real life and not on your Sat-Nav Wrist module in the game.
I’m four paragraphs in and we haven’t even got any progress in the game yet – it’s that irritating. When you do load, regardless of graphic settings, it looks… brown. I know this is post nuclear holocaust, but Jesus, does everything have to look like someone wiped their arse on it? The vault looks very dated now – Half-life 2 dated. Compare it to Gears of War 2 that came out the same time, or Mass Effect 2 more recently, and it just looks bad. GoW2 has a similar palette so it’s not that. When you first create a character, I’m not joking, I thought I was in the WWF Attitude Create a Character mode. I was this close to making Billy Gunn before choosing Danny Glover as my character, albeit the worst rendition ever.
I suppose I should explain some of the game before complaining again, just to break things up a little. You start off in a vault, the last bastion for mankind (oh how patriotic you Americans are, no-one else in the world possibly survived) with your dad (dreadfully voiced by Liam Neeson) acting as a tutorial as you age from birth to 19. The world has been destroyed by a nuclear war between the USA, China and the USSR and so people went to the vaults to survive. The others are all open, except yours which remains closed 200 years after the war (and the end of civilisation). The main story starts when you escape Vault 101(there are more than one in the game’s storyline) to chase after your dad, and then it’s really up to you: the world is massive and you’re only given slight direction.
The main quest is to check around a local town for your dad, but you can wander off if you want once you’re out the vault: from forts to alien arrays, towns to destroyed metro systems, monuments to… there’s loads to find, and you really feel like you’re in a world and not just a level. When you enter the town you’re accosted by Sheriff Lucas Simms, one of the town’s leaders. You get the chance to do your own thing: ask him for help, ask for information on the town, or insult his hat. Pretty much a no brainer, I shot his face clean off. I’m not exaggerating either – if you kill someone in bullet-time mode the physics are emphasised, so you can blow entire limbs off. That’s my best memory of this game: killing the first good guy I even saw, stealing his duster (jacket) and hat, and going about my business like I owned the joint. There’s a new sheriff in town.
Unfortunately, I had to relive that memory every time I went into the town. Not because the people hated me, but because the game had to load Lucas alive each time, and then smack his head off instantly, and then make me watch it roll down the hill for a good 30 seconds before stopping. Every single time I entered the town I’d see his body just collapse. Until I blew it up (lol spoiler). Shit like this happens all the time: there’s a guy outside who’s guarding the town who one day was just flying around in the sky for no reason. The physics are pretty zany, but it just makes it more hilarious when you kill someone or you see a nuclear-powered bus fly past your head in a shootout.
There are great parts about this game – the storytelling and black-comedy gold make the game worth 9/10. It’s entirely open too – you can do pretty much what you want. I don’t think anything shows it better than this video (spoilers):
This was the best part of the game for me; if entirely creepy. The setting is fantastic, taking influence from the 40’s, 50’s and dated science-fiction B-movies. If it wasn’t constantly mocking itself you might feel immersed, but every now and then a yellow super-mutant will turn up and you’ll no longer be The Lone Wanderer but the guy playing him. Some things really help you feel immersed: the minimalist HUD, the PIPboy, radiation and sleep. Unfortunately, having to look at the PIPboy to literally do everything becomes annoying, and just ends up wasting time. Why can’t I just assign hot keys to weapons? Annoying.
Anyways… the game is a lot like Bioshock in some ways with its alternate-history and creepy, “everyone’s dead” city setting… except maybe not the underwater part. It’s an awful lot like Knights of the Old Republic, even down to the rubbish UI, but it doesn’t execute it as well. Mass Effect 2 is an example of how to do it well: epic story that’s executed perfectly, with a brilliant UI, superb graphics matched by smooth animation and a brilliant soundtrack. Those 3 games were all great, this one could have been two. Unfortunately, Bethesda decided to take a giant shit on it.
Bethesda are the same guys who made Elder Scrolls, a series I never did like. Lately, they’re the guys behind Brink – a game that could have been awesome, but was ruined because it was rushed to release. They’re dicks in general: they didn’t even give a reason for Brink not being on Steam, now they’ve suing Mojang (Minecraft guys) over having a title called Scrolls. It’s a shame; I quite liked the game and could have spent hours wandering around the wasteland, but I can’t handle the constant crashes, shitty controls, and lack of alt tab. My eyes are wrecked from looking at the screen too long too. The lighting is dreadful and everything is brown, making it impossible to discern that book that you’re looking for from the floor texture. It’s seriously… urgh.
I just completed Bastion after two days of playing. I instantly started again afterwards – I can’t think of any other game I’ve done that with. This game took me by surprise – I was expecting From Dust to be the arcade game hit of the summer; instead Bastion was.
Bastion’s an action RPG – hack and slash with customisation, levelling and a story. The hacking and slashing is the weakest element of the game, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. You start off with his lifelong friend: a massive hammer, Arthas style. Most of the terrain is destructible and I spent a fair bit of it just smashing it up with that hammer, much like I did in Warcraft 3 (probably the best thing going for it). In fact, one of the side quests involves smashing up 100 boxes in under 25 seconds. Immensely satisfying, though aside from the crunching sound of destruction it never feels like you’re actually hitting the boxes. This is my one gripe with the combat – aside from the one time I smacked that guy off the edge of the world with an uppercut with the hammer, I never felt the weight behind my weapon.
The hammer’s not the only weapon you get – as you progress you’ll find new weapons: from bows to pistols, machetes to …well now, that’d be telling. You get a choice of two weapons: any two – there’s nothing saying you can’t have two melee or two ranged weapons either. It’s up to you to pick the best tools for the job. Each weapon is customisable too with a choice of upgrades – add knockback to the hammer, or let it ignore defences? Alongside this you get to choose a passive ability when you level up, and a powerful ability for one of the weapons. It’s very simple at a first glance, but highly customisable to suit your gameplay style or the enemy type.
Each time you pick a combo, the stranger will narrate your choice too in past-tense: he’s telling the story as you play it in his amazingly gruff voice. The narration is dynamic in the story too: it changes depending on what you do. The video below shows it better than I can explain:
He got hit by the windbag early on – that never happened to me, so I got “he starts to feel pain” instead as the health bar displayed. There’s no tutorial, but there doesn’t need to be - the narration explains it all so just start with the story. You don’t get a backstory either: it’s explained as you go along, almost working its way backwards as you progress. At certain points you get side quests that unveil a character’s story, and these also serve as arenas – places to grind xp and currency, whilst recalling the past narrated with each level. Everything in this game has a reason to be there, and it’s all wonderfully done. There’s no bullshit arena for no reason, and it never gets old. You can make it harder by adding idols of abandoned gods to the shrine – another cool feature. The little things make it.
I’ve hardly explained any of the game: you start off as The Kid, a silent protagonist, with his story narrated by The Stranger as you travel around a world destroyed by The Calamity. The world unfolds itself as you move around, with The Bastion building rebuilt by you, piece by piece. Everything is excellently worded: the arena is Who Knows Where, that first enemy you see is a Windbag. It makes the story… actually, you do. That’s what I really loved about it: the story changes on how you play it, and you feel a part of it.
There’s so much I’ve not covered. The controls are amazing, something very often overlooked. It takes a while to get used to: you might wonder why right trigger isn’t shoot, but it soon becomes clear, and it’s liberating. Not once did I swear at this game: a developer for once gave a shit; any errors were my own (I’m looking at you, pistol challenge). The music: fantastic. Highly fitting, it fades as you move further from the source (or becomes muffled when paused). The sound works really well, especially the narration. The story is great too, but no spoilers here. At £12 its definite value for money. Oh, and it’s well balanced – the difficulty was perfect for me. For all you achievement hunters, there’s plenty of stuff to collect – there’s even an achievement house in the game for non-xbox accolades. The graphics aren’t next gen, but they don’t need to be: the hand drawn art fits perfectly.
So, why not give this game a 10? It doesn’t bring anything new. It just does the good old stuff to perfection. There’s a demo on xbox live, and I imagine steam in the future. Do yourself a favour and play it with a controller though – they’re made for each other.
9.5 / 10
Proper story’s supposed to start at the beginning. Ain’t so simple with this one.
Platforms: NES (1987), PlayStation (2003), PSP (2007)
Final Fantasy is probably my favourite gaming series, even ahead of Gears of War and Half-Life. It’s not even a series in the traditional sense and although common themes appear in the games, each one is its own story. I can’t be bothered going over each game in turn, especially now there’s a bazillion of them, so I’ll cover the main series: 1 to 13 (but not 11 or 14, or the 800 spin-offs) briefly. I’ll go over FFX in more detail too as it’s fucking awesome and doesn’t deserve to be dragged down by the other games.
Final Fantasy – the first one that set it all off, I’m not sure why this was so successful. Square, its creators were close to going bust after making a string of shitty games (take note, Square…) so put all their efforts into making Final Fantasy as a last shot at glory. And it paid off, massively. It didn’t really introduce anything new to the industry except a great story and plot twists – themes that are now central to all games in the series. The game starts off being your standard RPG, save the princess, level your character up, go around towns and in caves and stuff, but later develops into quite a decent story.
I played this about 2005 after playing FF8, so everything was a little dated – especially the graphics. I was playing it at the height of the PS2 era, and so I wasn’t really used to the tinny sounding music and 4 words per screen bullshit – I started gaming after that. The closest thing to it is probably Pokémon Red (only a twat would get Blue), but even the graphics on that were better – and that was for a portable console. Still I stuck with it and I’m glad I did – the story is really well developed, even if the rest of it isn’t.
Just one thing: it plays like a Japanese RPG – it’s not westernised at all, and this game doesn’t fuck around - if you’re going to win, you’ve got to earn it. That means grinding endless random mobs for literally hours to progress the story – you go into that castle or dungeon unprepared, and it’ll hand it to you. There’s no saving in these places, so if you’re going in then make sure you’ve got what you’ll need to get through – you can only hold so much stuff though, so you’ll need to balance health and mana potions with space for loot. You never know what’s in there making it hard to prepare – everyone remembers their first time through Rock Tunnel in Pokémon (FUCKING ZUBAT AGAIN) – the dungeons in Final Fantasy were just like that. Die in there and you won’t get whipped back to the PokéCentre, you’ll get GAME OVER slammed in your face, undoing the last 2 hours of your life.
Those plot twists I was talking about – that king at the end of the dungeon that you’ve just gone to save - he’s not really a king. He’s waited there the whole time for you to get his crown from some other dungeon and now that you’ve made it back to him, out of health, mana and potions, he strips off his cloak to reveal that he’s actually Gary Oak, Pokémon master. Fuck this game. He’s not even the last boss. Actually, this game did have something original – optional bosses. War machine was hardcore, a total pain in the arse – and he wasn’t even a boss. You gained nothing by defeating him, nor was he integral to the story – this was in an age before achievements, where you beat it because you could. Personally I couldn’t be bothered beating him, I was playing for the story, but it gave something to those wanting more from the game after completing it. This carried over into the rest of the series, from the weapons in FF7 to Penance in FFX… and I’ve only beat a few of them. I’ll go back one day… maybe :P
It’s dated and hard, but the story still holds up today.
It may not look like much, but this is the game that won PC Gamers 2011 Game of the Year award; and it’s not actually out yet. That’s half true - the game is slated for release 11/11/2011 (how original), but has been widely available and stable for a while now (since my birthday last year, actually).
You start the game with nothing but your bare hands (bare as in empty, not as in bare time, nor as in bear hands… though those would be awesome). Where you go from there, is up to you. Earlier in the game’s development there wasn’t anything to guide you at all - you’d figure out that left mouse button smacked stuff and broke certain blocks, right mouse would place those blocks if you happened to be carrying them, and that was about it. Now there’s an achievement system that works as a basic introduction.
Everyone starts in a different place, in their own unique, procedurally generaed world made of small cubes (called blocks, suprisingly). Even so, every game follows a similar pattern - you smack a tree to get wood, you use the wood to make a work bench, the bench to make tools, then use the tools to make stuff, like a chest to store your wood in, or a torch to see at night. This trailer sums it up pretty well, although the overplayed music from inception hypes it more than necessary.
Every game starts the same way. Every game, except the first one. Everyone’s first experience is pretty much the same - after the game loaded they went exploring, got lost instantly (not hard given the game’s scale - it can be over 8 times the size of the earth), it got dark… then monsters came out. Knowing only how to destroy blocks and place them down again, you built a dirt house to hide away from the zombies. No windows, no doors, no light - you sat in there through the night until the monsters went away.
My first night is my best memory of Minecraft, even though I had no idea what I was doing, but also because of just that. Sure, my 2x2 dirt house was shit, but it was my only shelter from those things outside… I felt safe. Minecraft is less of a game and more of an experience - everyone remembers their first night, many would give anything to relive that moment again for the first time (fucking nostalgia). Once you’ve survived your first night, it then really is up to you as to where you go. Personally, I went to youtube for a beginner’s crash course after I died to a stray skeletal archer that somehow survived the night. It was there I saw someone had rebuilt the USS Enterprise in Minecraft. Suddenly, my dirt house wasn’t worth shit.
It’s here that most people would try and build something better, something awesome of their own. Personally, I didn’t care much for that; I’d rather go exploring. That’s really what I love about this game - how free it is. Don’t wanna build shit? Then don’t. Nothing’s forcing you to (except the zombies who rape you daily unless you have a hidey hole to sleep in). I love exploring - finding caves, mountains, waterfalls, floating islands - the thrill of not knowing what’s round the corner, that in an instant you could be blown to pieces by a creeper. The music from Final Fantasy fits really well while exploring, actually. That was what I loved about the Final Fantasy games - the sense of adventure, the freedom it gave you (probably why FF13 wasn’t the same - it was like a corridor for the first half).
Then I realised that’s what I loved about most games - discovering a new world, exploring, being free. World of Warcraft was the best game ever when it first game out, because of the World part. Even though people called it World of Walking as travelling took so long, everyone remembers their run from Stormwind to Menethil Harbor to get to Darnassus… everyone remembers that boat just leaving right as they got next to it too 90% of the time. The 10% of the time that you jumped and made it on as it was pulling away… fuck yeah. Now you can get the boat from SW to Darn directly, not that you ever need to even leave your city to do anything now… that’s why I quit. It’s just not the same, but Minecraft still is.
And that’s why I’m writing this now, before patch 1.7 hits. Notch (Minecraft creator, and game-designer legend) has stated that he wants to make Minecraft feel more like a game before it’s actually released, and that means giving you a way to win, so you can actually beat it. Currently there’s a whole bunch of people in the “WTF is the point in this game?” bracket who just don’t get it, and this’ll appease them, whilst probably changing Minecraft from an experience to a game for me. Amnesia: The Dark Descent is the only other example I can think of - sure, it’s a game, but no-one’s playing it for the awesome mechanics or graphics - they’re playing it for the experience - to royally brick their pants. I’ll be giving that game a miss :P
Saying that, Amnesia has a story and a conclusion, so maybe I won’t be disheartened if Minecraft does too - so long as I can shape that story. Notch also said he wants to reward exploration more, so maybe that’ll be the goal, to get to the top of the highest mountain, surrounded by lava and waterfalls… I sure hope so. I hope it’s something I can’t even imagine. Journey, a game I mentioned in my E3 post, looks to be just that - a game where you have to get to the mountain in the distance. I might get a PS3 for it; it’s totally my game.
That screenshot at the top might not look like much (it doesn’t), but it’s the view from my lake. Sure, that square moon is the same square moon in everyone’s game, and everyone has trees and islands and water, but they’re my trees and my islands. I’ve spent the last hour wandering around with a map to chart the land around me listening to Suteki Da Ne. The song’s about a girl who just wants to see her lover’s home, but she can’t, for it’s just a dream. To anyone else, that map is just a sheet of paper; a virtual collection of pixels. To me, it’s my dream.