Sunday, November 27, 2011

Some last recommendations from the Steam sale - $2.50 stuff.

Some cool stuff to grab for $2.50 apiece from the Steam sale. Call this a highlights reel of the cheapest stuff, I guess. These will all only be $2.50 until noon tomorrow, though, so bear that in mind.

Garry's Mod
Greed Corp
Section 8
The Binding of Isaac
Iron Grip: Warlord

Steam Autumn Sale: Sunday

Well, the Steam sale is proving to be a reliable source of great deals to the surprise of - oh, wait - nobody! Anyway, here's my picks from today's bargains. As usual, links go to my reviews, where applicable.

Divinity II: The Dragon Knight Saga: $9.99 - This game is a tremendous amount of fun. I have yet to finish it, but I have certainly been enjoying it. The amount of stuff to do and the snappy, sarcastic dialog choices are wonderful. At that price, even if you don't finish it, you will get more than your money's worth out of the game.

Fable III: $24.99 - A solid deal on a solid game. While not the deepest or most complex RPG experience you'll encounter on the PC, it is a very enjoyable and satisfying one, and the Industrial Revolution-meets-fantasy setting is a nice change of pace from typical RPG settings.

Dungeon Defenders: $7.49 - A friend of mine gifted this to me a short while back, and I've been playing it with him fairly regularly. It's a really fun game. The cartoony aesthetics sit on top of a remarkably satisfying monster-bashing experience. Play it in co-op, if you can.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Steam Autumn Sale: Saturday

Steam keeps switching out the deals daily as they are wont to do, so here's my picks for the day from the featured stuff. Today's theme is funny games, apparently, because all three of the recommendations in this post have a strong comedic element.

Overlord Complete Pack: $4.99 - I've only finished the original Overlord game (I'm stuck in Overlord 2 at a point that I doubt I'll be getting around without the aid of an analog controller) but I can vouch for the fact that these games are well polished, funny, and most importantly - fun. Rhianna Pratchett (Terry Pratchett's daughter) did the writing for the series, and the Pratchett sense of humor is very much present.

Magicka: $4.00 - I'm holding off on finishing Magicka until I can do it with some friends I've been playing with, but I would recommend it without hesitation. It's another funny, silly game, with a great magic system that has you crafting effects on the fly. Play it with some friends that you can both work with and laugh with for maximum enjoyment.

Worms Reloaded: $6.79 - If you've never played a Worms game, you've missed out on a uniquely ridiculous brand of fun. Trying to blow up your friends or AI opponents with exploding sheep, the Holy Hand Grenade and other ridiculous weapons while listening to silly banter on the part of the worms is great.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Some Good Stuff in Today's Steam Sale:

Once again, Steam is running a huge seaonal sale. Normally, I'd be all over this, but as I'm still saving for a replacement car, I have to pass on it this time. However, don't let that discourage you! Here's some recommendations from the backlog and some other previous playing that you can get for cheap today. (Links go back to the backlog entries.)

Sanctum: $2.49 - This is my top recommendation from the whole lot for today. My buddy Aaron Stack and I have sunk many a gleeful hour into this, making unreasonably cruel tower defense mazes, coming up with silly names for the alien creeps and just generally having a blast. If you've got a spare $2.50 and like tower defense games and/or FPSes at all, this is a great purchase to make.

King Arthur Collection: $10.00 - Just because I haven't finished and reviewed this one doesn't mean I haven't been enjoying it thoroughly. A fantastic take on the Arturian mythology and a really fun game to boot.

Fallout: New Vegas: $10.00 - A great sandbox RPG from Bethesda that was worked on by a number of people on the original design team for Fallout 1 & 2.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution: $24.99 - Frankly, for as new and as high-quality as this game is, I'm amazed they're letting it go for so cheap, but whatever - if you don't have this yet and want to play it, this is as good an opportunity as any.

Cleared: Batman: Arkham City

I had the good fortune to have pre-purchased this game with some gift cards I had from a survey site before the events of my last post transpired, so I had no conflicted feelings about just downloading it from Impulse and playing it when it finally came out this past Tuesday. I will say right up front that while I have finished the game, I am far from finished with it. My first playthrough finished with a completion score of 37% - I did virtually nothing with side quests and I still enjoyed the game. Animations are considerably better than the previous installment - enemies crumple to the ground in more appropriate poses and moving around Arkham City feels very natural between the bat-line and Batman's cape functioning as a hang glider. It also amazes me just how much of Batman's mythology they managed to fit into the game, especially after Arkham Asylum. Playing as Catwoman for some of the sections was also fun - she has a much more limited toolkit, but also some other options Batman just doesn't have. Sneaking around clinging to the ceiling with her was fantastic. The game is a wonderful experience and very much worth the price of admission, but one quick warning: it is incredibly dark in places. The monstrousness of Batman's enemies is on full display here, with thugs talking about all sorts of horrible deeds and even a few times where someone you can't get to screams desperately for help as you try to get to them in time. I really wish the ESRB had seen fit to tage this with an M rating, because I think the content merits it. Still: very much recommended.

RPG notes: This section contains probably the single biggest spoiler of anything I've ever written, so please bear that in mind if you haven't finished the game, but first some other thoughts: this game does an excellent example of showing how you can have an unabashedly comic-book setting, with all of its weird conflicting sources of power and weirdness, and still have it work. Batman goes up against foes that are not superhuman in any way, save their utter evilness, such as The Joker, Two-Face, and Penguin, a few that are augmented via super-science or science-fiction technology of some kind like Mr. Freeze and Bane, and even a couple with mystical undertones like Solomon Grundy and Ra's al Ghul and it all works. The setting still feels like a dark, gritty, crime-ridden modern city instead of a cartoony mess. The game also has a very interesting example of how to finish a major recurring villain in a satisfying and character-appropriate way. Okay - remember the spoiler I was talking about? This is it. You have been warned. The Joker's death, while richly-deserved, came at his own hand and he found it funny at the end. Mark Hamill has also said that he's retiring from voicing the character now, and so there is a real sense of finality to this - between this and the sad events around Heath Ledger's death, I almost think it may be time for DC to kill The Joker off for real in the comics and see where Batman can go from there. There is a great deal of reference to how the two characters of Batman and The Joker are kind of dependent on each other and two sides of one coin in almost all the mythology around both of them, so leaving one to go on without the other is storytelling gold. The opportunities to transfer that into an RPG campaign are extensive, particularly if one or more of the PCs has a recurring nemesis of some kind. It should be mentioned, however, that if this is attempted, the surviving adversary is going to feel somewhat lost and "off" and they should. Play with that, and see where you can go.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Well, this will prove interesting...

...and sadly, not in a good way. My wife and I just got hit with a very large, very unexpected expense. Our car is going to have to be replaced. We're of pretty modest means, so we're a little freaked out about this, and we're scrambling all over the place trying to figure out how we're going to handle the situation. I'm not entirely sure what that means for this blog. If I find a lot of side work this winter as I'm hoping to, I may be too busy to clear much, but the financial situation should abate quickly. If, however, that doesn't prove so fruitful, I may be clearing stuff left and right, digging into my old stacks of CDs for unplayed games, and ripping through books (not literally) as I try to get the maximum mileage out of stuff I already have.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

An Interesting Project From a Friend of Mine

My friend Mike Ham, who has written a number of smartphone apps, some of which help with tabletop RPGs, is working on his "next big thing" - an engine for running old-school text adventures like Zork or Planetfall on iOS. However, he's a little short on cash, so he's started a Kickstarter page to help raise money for the project. Go over, take a look at what he's got, and see if that's not worthy of a few bucks. He has some really cool contributor rewards set up, too. I also know some of the people who will be writing his stories and - well, let's just say that if you have any interest in this project at all, you want to see it get funded!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Cleared: Sanctum

I recently got a chance to play a bunch of Sanctum with my buddy Aaron Stack, and we are in agreement that we need to do this more often. Sanctum, for readers that aren't aware, is a unique FPS/Tower defense hybrid game, where you build a standard tower defense network and then run around said network with a bunch of weapons when the wave of enemies arrives. First-person shooters and tower defense games are really different kinds of gameplay - tower defense is generally pretty cerebral, as you're planning pathways and trying to maximize the effects of overlapping fields of fire and spend your resources wisely on careful tower placement, whereas a first-person shooter is all action and running around. Coffee Stain Studios, then, deserves special recognition for not only making both of these elements so satisfying, but by blending them so well. A substantial portion of the VOIP chatter in the last game was just constant raving about how good the game was and how much we loved it. This one is bound to become part of my standard multiplayer gaming rotation. If you're reading this and are part of my multiplayer gaming circle of friends (you know who you are) get yourself a license so we can do co-op! Definitely a recommendation on this one!

RPG notes: Sadly, despite how good the game is, there's really not much to harvest for tabletop gaming. Hordes of aliens advancing and needing to be shot is pretty much science fiction 101 and none of the weapons are all that unique. And as far as plot is concerned, there really isn't one. That's okay, though - the game is good enough that you'll be happy you've got it anyway.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Off the List: Borderlands

I've played through Borderlands once before, but I just recently finished it for the second time, and I'm going to be adding the DLC to the backlog, so I thought I'd post some quick thoughts about the core game itself first.

Borderlands is an interesting fusion of the Action RPG (Diablo and its imitators) and First-Person Shooter genres, and it actually manages to do justice to both parts of its heritage admirably. Both the shooting and the loot feel solid and like they actually matter to the gameplay, and the story, while not exactly fine literature, gets the job done with no small amount of tongue-in-cheek humor and while the ending is lackluster, isn't so much so that you want your time back. The art style is also unique and fun - the dev team actually made textures out of their own concept art, so the entire world looks drawn instead of realistic, which is a really awesome touch. The game's not perfect (it's buggy to some people, unplayably so in certain cases), but it is a huge amount of fun, and it's been getting a lot of short-term sales of late, probably because there's a sequel planned. I'd certainly recommend it to anyone who likes FPSes and Action RPGs.

RPG notes: Spoiler warning, yadda yadda.

Pandora, the planet where the game takes place, is an interesting place. It feels post-apocalyptic at times, but it's really not - it's just a frontier world and all the violence, corruption, and shenanigans that implies. Oh, and rednecks. It's a fantastic reminder that even in high-tech science fiction settings, not everything is going to be shiny and full of holographic interfaces. The whole of Pandora is corrugated metal shacks, grime, dirt, and bandits. There's no central authority, and no law to speak of. That makes for a violent, dangerous place, but also one where you are pretty much free to act as you will. Something good to keep in mind when designing frontier worlds.


I also picked up the latest Indie Royale bundle.

PC games:

Borderlands: The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned
Borderlands: The Secret Armory of General Knoxx
Borderlands: Claptrap's Robot Revolution
Fate of the World
Night Sky

Nonfiction Book:

The Art of Manliness: Manvotionals

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Some Additions and Some Thoughts on the Indie PC Gaming Scene

Thanks to Indie Royale and Humble Bundle, I have some new stuff in my collection to play around with. However, before I get to that, I'd like to share a few thoughts about these sites, if you'll be so kind as to indulge me. Humble Bundle and Indie Royale allow you to grab some really fantastic Indie PC games for ridiculously cheap, or, if you choose, quite a bit of money. Humble Bundle also supports Child's Play and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Child's play is a "traditional" charity that helps children in hospitals through the donations of gamers. The EFF is something like the ACLU for the Internet. Put simply, my point is this: if you are a PC gamer, and particularly if you like innovation and the open nature of PC gaming, you should be participating with these sites. You can grab some fantastic games for very little (A previous Humble Bundle included Frozen Synapse, SpaceChem, AND a whole spread of other really fantastic games) and/or donate to a couple of worthwhile causes. Anyway, that's my "rant" so onto the additions.

PC Games:
  • Gemini Rue
  • The Binding of Isaac
  • Sanctum
  • Blocks That Matter
  • Nimbus
  • Trauma

Cleared: Silverfall

I finally got around to finishing Silverfall, though if I want to keep playing with my same character, I can eventually go through Earth Awakening. Silverfall, for those who aren't quite sure what I'm talking about, is an action RPG in the tradition of Diablo from a now-defunct game developer called Monte Cristo. Before we get much firther, though, let me just say this: don't let the awful T&A box art turn you off to the game. I had the advantage of not seeing it as I bought the game digitally, but criminey, that's awful and isn't reflective of the game's content. Anyway, it's really sad that Monte Cristo are, as I just mentioned, out of business, because the game is something of an undiscovered treasure, especially for those that like the genre. First of all, though, let me lead off by saying that Silverfall is not the kind of game you play for the plot, because there's very little of it and what is there is alternately ludicrous and nonsensical. That's okay, really. The real fun in this type of game is in the gameplay itself, and Silverfall does several things very right. First of all, unique (as far as I know) to games of this genre, Silverfall has no class system at all. You start off as one of several races and pick your abilities as your fancy strikes you, and there's plenty to choose from. There's also a refreshing lack of "wrong" options. Aaron Stack (whom I seem compelled to link at least once a month) and I both played this game around the same time and we took completely different approaches to character design and both of our characters worked. There's something of an "alignment" system, but instead of law vs. chaos or good vs. evil, it's nature vs. technology. Also of note is that the game gives you four skill points instead of just one like many similar games at every level, so characters diverge in their capabilities very quickly, which is a refreshing change. The expansion pack, Earth Awakening, adds more races, a crafting system, some UI tweaks, and a new, high-level campaign, and can be purchased with the base game from most digital game outlets (Steam, Direct2Drive, etc.) and goes on sale somewhat frequently. It really is tragic that the studio that made this gem folded. I would have loved to have seen what a full-blown sequel looked like. If you're a fan of the action RPG genre, this game belongs in your collection. If you're not yet a fan, this probably is a good second game (Torchlight would be the best introduction) if you find yourself a fan.

RPG notes: As usual, there are spoilers in here, but really, there's not much to spoil. I didn't find much in the way of plot elements or character archetypes to steal in this game because there's nothing there to steal. The plot barely strings the game together. This isn't a problem, however, because the visuals are amazing for a game this old. Whoever did the art direction did a fantastic job, so you'll get all sorts of neat ideas for descriptions of weapons, armor, and monsters from playing this game. The weapons of the corrupted elves, the tree dragons, and the necroraiders in all their forms in particular are going to find their way into my homebrew setting.