Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Official Chessasaur 2015 Playlog #1

Two weeks of 2015 gone already???

I tried to make "plans" for 2015 like I had for 2014 (ie, a mapped out playlist), but since that didn't work well, I decided that I'd keep it simple this year. I'll choose games to play the way I did in most of 2014 - something will peak my interest in one, be it a podcast, article, or fond memory. I am going to do a couple of "planned" things, however.

The first is Throw Back Thursday (ie, #tbt). I don't know why or how this got started, but it's a Twitter thing. People usually post old pictures or scans of ticket stubs for nostalgia's sake. For me, it will translate into playing an old PS2, Xbox, or Gamecube game each Thursday.

The second doesn't have a name really, but I think it might be like Facing Gaming Regrets (#fgr?). There are some things in my gaming past that I'd like to revisit, and take on in light of having more experience and a better gaming setup. My first two Regrets are from Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces 2 and Elder Scrolls: Oblivion.

DF2 was, for me, the first time I played an FPS that was more intricate than Doom. At the time I didn't have a lot of experience playing a keyboard oriented shooter, and there was no Fang Pad back then. I did okay in the game and was really enjoying it until the first Jedi "boss battle" where you had to use Force powers. I just got completely stuck and gave up. Time to go back and try it again, thanks to it being on Steam.

Oblivion represents a different issue. Up until I played it, I had never stopped playing an open world game unless I got stumped by a career ending mission (GTA: Vice City and San Andreas, I'm looking at you, guys). I've started Oblivion at least 3 times and each time I get sidetracked to the point where I have never even gotten to the first city! With so many open world games I still want to play, I think I need to go back and really concentrate on the main missions of Oblivion to give me some kind of mental discipline.

Even without "plans" in place, I've still been doing a bit of gaming:

Dead Space 2 Image Dead Space 2 - I started DS2 before 2015 began and, to be honest, I had mixed emotions about it. On one hand, it's a major improvement over DS1 in a technical way - better movement, better zero-g action, and less frustrating object manipulation. On the other hand, the story (that others seem to think is so good), does very little for me. The environments, while gorgeously detailed (watched them closer on my saved videos), lack the scale of the first game. I'll try to finish this one, if for no other reason than it gives me a lead in to DS3.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D Image The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D - The imminent release of the 3DS Majora's Mask remake got me thinking I should finally give this one a try. I'm only a little ways into it and I have to admit I don't remember a whole lot, which is odd because I almost finished it on the N64. I played it back around 2000 and got frustrated with the final location where you had to do a series of "encore" battles. I'll have to see if I have more patience for it now.

 The Talos Principle Public Test - This was basically a demo of The Talos Principle and I can't say it made me want to run out and buy it (especially at its $40 price tag!). It took me about an hour to get everything I wanted to get out of it (ie, finding the three Tetris pieces and getting to the cathedral) and it just doesn't work for me. The puzzles are okay and the scenery is awesome (see pics below), but the philosophy/theology that you read and hear during the "game" seem out of place with such a simplistic game mechanic.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Twenty Fourteen - Closeout, Review, Best of the Best, and Future Plans

So, here I am writing about 2014 just at the beginning of 2015. And I promise myself I'll keep this short so I can actually get onto some New Year gaming and not dwell too long on the past.

First, the last...game I played in 2014:

Uncharted: Golden Abyss Image Uncharted: Golden Abyss - Since I had some time away from my main consoles, I decided to give this one a try. On the plus side, it is an amazingly good looking game for the Vita. It's also a good Nathan Drake story. On the un-plus side, however, it's a lot like the other Uncharted game I played and it's sort of annoying to play. It was designed to show off the Vita features since it was a launch title, but seriously, when I have to swipe the screen a dozen times to get Drake to draw his machete to cut a piece of hanging cloth, there's something wrong. Sadly, I won't be playing this one into 2015.

Okay, that does it for games I played in 2014. Now some quick notes from a year ago:
  • I considered that Batman Begins was the best game I played in 2013
  • My Steam library count was just over 600 (It's nearly 900 now!)
  • I wasn't in a hurry to get a PS4, but I got one before January was less than 2 weeks old!
  • I thought I'd get a Wii U when it got to $200, which is sort of what happened if you count a free game as $50 off

Here are the games I played during 2014 in more or less the order I played them in (I'm going to leave out demos and games in RED are ones I finished):

  • Call of Duty 2: The Big Red One (PS2)
  • The PS2 Capcom Collections
  • The Wolf Among Us (PC) - 2014 Playlist
  • Kingdoms of Amular: The Reckoning (360)
  • DmC (PS3)
  • Killzone: Shadowfall (PS4)
  • Resogun (PS4)
  • La Mulana (PC)
  • The Stanley Parable (PC) - 2014 Playlist
  • Transformers: The Game (360)
  • Splatterhouse (360)
  • Afro Samurai (360)
  • Mario & Luigi Dream Team (3DS) - 2014 Playlist
  • FTL (PC)
  • Spelunky (PC)
  • Ghostbusters: The Game (360)
  • Thief (PS4)
  • inFAMOUS (PS3) - 2014 Playlist
  • Battlefield 4 (PS4)
  • The Walking Dead: Season 2 (PC)
  • Broken Age (PC)
  • Mercenary Kings (PC)
  • Titanfall (PC)
  • The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (3DS) - 2014 Playlist
  • Final Fantasy 7 (PS1)
  • Final Fantasy 14 (PS4)
  • Dead Nation: Apocalypse Edition (PS4)
  • Monument Valley (iPad)
  • Finding Teddy (PC)
  • Hearthstone (iPad)
  • Diablo III (360/PS4) - 2014 Playlist
  • 3D Ultra Mini-Golf Adventures (PC)
  • 688(I) Hunter Killer (PC)
  • 9th Company: Roots of Terror (PC)
  • Afterfall: Insanity (PC)
  • Mario Golf: World Tour (3DS)
  • Vanquish (360)
  • Device 6 (iPad) - 2014 Playlist
  • Lego: The Hobbit (3DS)
  • Stick It To The Man (PC)
  • Tearaway (Vita) - 2014 Playlist
  • Wolfenstein: The New Order (PS4)
  • The Walking Dead: Season 1 (Vita)
  • Limbo (Vita)
  • Thomas Was Alone (Vita/PC)
  • Lone Survivor (Vita)
  • Air Conflicts: Secret Missions (PC)
  • Air Conflicts: Pacific Carriers (PC)
  • Alan Wake (PC)
  • Unit 13 (Vita)
  • Persona 4 Golden (Vita)
  • Valiant Hearts (PC)
  • Alan Wake's American Nightmare (PC)
  • 140 (PC)
  • The Adventures of Shuggy (PC)
  • Uncharted: Drake's Fortune (PS3)
  • P.T. (PS4)
  • Luftrausers (PC)
  • Sid Meier's Ace Patrol (PC)
  • Murdered: Soul Suspect (360)
  • Alice Madness Returns (PC)
  • Watch_Dogs (PS4)
  • Paranormal (PC)
  • Defiance (PC)
  • Aliens vs Predator (PC)
  • Destiny (PS4)
  • Murasaki Baby (Vita)
  • Clock Tower 3 (PS2)
  • Cold Winter (PS2)
  • Road Not Taken (PS4)
  • Pix the Cat (PS4)
  • How to Survive (PC)
  • Alien Isolation (PS4)
  • The Evil Within (PS4)
  • Lords of the Fallen (PS4)
  • The Binding of Issac (PS4/Vita)
  • Fantasy Life (3DS)
  • 4 Elements (PC)
  • Viscera Cleanup Detail: Santa's Rampage (PC)
  • 7 Days to Die (PC)
  • Paranautical Activity (PC)
  • Transistor (PC)
  • 8BitBoy (PC)
  • Dead Space 2 (PC)
  • Uncharted: Golden Abyss (Vita)

Breakdown by platform:

  • PC: 36
  • PS4: 17
  • PS Vita: 9
  • Xbox 360: 7
  • Nintendo 3DS: 5
  • PS2: 4
  • PS3: 3
  • iPad: 3
  • PS1: 1

(The high number of PC games is due to trying out a number of cheap Steam games.)

Lessons learned from 2014:
  • The blog looks better than it did when I started the year - images of games and embedded videos are a definite improvement.
  • The daily notes method that I started with was too tedious. I'm glad I gave it up.
  • My 2014 Playlist of Games was more or less useless. I played less than half the games I chose and none of the major titles.
  • I should get back to playing Kingdoms of Amular. I miss Raven!
  • For better or worse, I started streaming this year. On the good side, it's cool to broadcast even if I know nobody may be watching. The point is that someone could be. Sort of like the lottery - you can't win if you don't play. There's also the chance to catch and preserve some fun event that happens in the game I'm playing that I can highlight later. On the bad side, it adds another time-sink to my already limited schedule. It can also influence my decision to play one console or another. I can easily stream from the PC or PS4, but I don't have the 360 or PS3 connected to a capture device - I'd have to move consoles and/or cables around - so I'll be less likely to play games on those systems. Honestly, the whole streaming thing is still "under consideration" at this point.

But enough of that....Now, it's Award Time!

My Favorite Games of 2014 were:
  • Alan Wake - It was a game that just pulled me in and wouldn't let go, even when the story went into over-weird mode.
  • Valiant Hearts - A short game about four people and a dog caught up in The Great War, released in the centennial year of the real conflict.
  • Stick It To The Man - Rarely does a game impart such a feeling of happiness! This game just kept me smiling the whole time.
  • Kingdoms of Amular - A complete surprise of an action RPG that gave birth to it's own personality - Raven!
  • Murasaki Baby - A Tim Burton-esque journey through a twisted world holding the hand of little girl searching for her mother. It was short, but I fell in love with the little tyke. :)
  • Alice Madness Returns - A mesmerizing journey through incredible worlds...with unfortunately, a so-so game system.

And, my Most Disappointing Games of 2014:
  • The Walking Dead: Season 2 - While playing as Clementine sounded like a good idea, in practice it killed it for me.
  • Titanfall - It could have been so much more than just a multi-player shooter.
  • Destiny - See comment for Titanfall...and add in that they screwed up the Moon's gravity!
  • The Wolf Among Us - I just didn't care about the story or the characters.
  • Alan Wake's American Nightmare - How was this even related to the first game??

So, overall not a bad showing for the year. I completed 9 games and three of those were what I would consider "major titles" (Ghostbusters, Alan Wake, and Uncharted). Onward to 2015!

Monday, December 29, 2014

2014 Play Log - Blowing Off Steam, Deader Space, and Shutting Down 2014

Okay, first off, this is NOT a condemnation of Steam. I am very happy with the service and use it for nearly all my PC gaming. (The only thing I get a little worried about is having an inventory of nearly 900 games that are dependent on a single login!) What I'm doing here is listing games that, while they sounded good and the price was attractive, just didn't work for me. Hey, it can happen with any game, but there is a certain permanence when it happens with a digital download game - in short, I'm stuck with it.

 Viscera Cleanup Detail: Santa's Rampage - This is a cheap, stand-alone expansion of what could best be called a janitorial simulator. Your "job" in this "game" is to cleanup Santa's workshop after he's gone "postal" and murdered all the elves. The concept of this - lots of Christmas gore - was a lot more interesting before I started to play it. Cleaning up even elf body parts just isn't fun.

 7 Days to Die - I'll cut this one a bit more slack as it's in Early Access, but still my initial playtime with it, while short, just consisted of running away from zombies, checking junked cars and trash for items, and then dying. It's got to be deeper that that, right?

Paranautical Activity Image Paranautical Activity - I bought this before the developer decided to do something really dumb (ie, threaten to kill the head of Steam, Gabe Newell) even if everyone knew he was kidding. Well, ya know, the fact that you can't buy this game on Steam anymore is exactly no one's loss. It's low-res crap, to be honest, and a complete waste of time. Sorry, guys.

 Transistor - I probably shouldn't have bought a game from the same company whose first game I didn't like, but I was never known to be particularly bright. Yeah, I didn't like Bastion, and guess what? I don't like Transistor either. Not as annoying (the narrator is less "hip"), but the combat mechanic isn't anything I want to learn how to do well.

 8BitBoy - To the developer: Congratulations, you made a game as a tribute to your fond memories of the "good old days" of video gaming. Not bad, but we could have done without the depressed gamer/Tron rip-off at the beginning. Also, it's just another platformer.

Changing gears at this point, I was looking at a "25 Greatest Sci-Fi Games of All Time" article and came across Dead Space at a respectable number 10. This got me to thinking about how much I enjoyed it and wondering why I hadn't tried the sequel yet. So, as I have it in probably 3 different locations (PS3, Steam, Origins), I decided to blast off into another horror adventure.

 Dead Space 2 - This is one of those sequels where you can really benefit from playing the original. I was only about 30 minutes into the game and I was already using my plasma cutter, the stasis effect power, directional beacon, and kinesis grab, while chopping up necromorphs into bloody chunks and stomping on crates - all stuff I was doing during the first game. There was little to no introduction to these mechanics for anyone who didn't play the first one. (The graphics look sharper, I will admit, but I don't feel the sense of scale that the I did in #1.) I can't really complain about the sameness, I guess since this is, you know, the sequel! I did find the following "tip" to be amusing.

And so, this another year comes to a close. I'll need to go over all my posts from 2014 - the first year I've documented all my gaming experiences. It will be interesting to see if it was worth the effort and what I will consider to be the highs and lows. In the meantime, I'm wrapping up the year with some tablet and portable gaming due to some family time. But time away from the consoles and computer is hardly a bad thing.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Christmas Truce

On occasion, I put stuff here that isn't about videogames. For better or worse, it's my online diary - open to all and, hopefully, preserved for (nearly) all eternity.

This year has marked the 100th anniversary of the start of what was called The Great War until another one happened, at which point it had to be called World War I. Man has done some pretty horrible things as a species, but it's very possible that nothing will every match the level of human suffering and waste of human life on such a scale as WWI.

After about five months of fighting, something amazing happened, something that made the Christmas of 1914 unlike any before or since - humanity stopped trying to kill itself. It became known as the Christmas Truce and I didn't find out about it until 9 years ago when my local paper published an article about a resident whose grandfather had been on the front lines in France on December 24, 1914. (This lack in my history knowledge was likely due to the fact that the US didn't enter the war until 1917, so it didn't make the textbooks over here.) Her grandfather was an Australian soldier attached to a Welsh regiment who survived the war and eventually moved to California where he died in 1929.

At some point after he moved to the US, Fredrick John Murray put pen to paper and wrote about his experience that night. It was the only record of his war service that he documented and the yellowed, faded original was kept private by his grand daughter, Gloria Tecca, until 2005 when she had read that the last living witness to the Christmas Truce had passed away that November. The paper published a photo of Murray along with the full text of his account.

Every Christmas since then, I take out my yellowed copy of that newspaper and reread his words. I've never been able to keep from crying when I do. There's a part of me that thinks this was modern civilizations's last chance at sanity and it slipped away. I know that's an incredibly naive way to think about life and war, but the Christmas Truce showed that even in the vilest of situations, men can still recognize each other as fellow human beings regardless of what color uniform they wear or language they speak.

Here now is my transcript of Fredrick John Murray's words. I have tried as best as I can to preserve the wording as it was set in the paper. Any odd English usage is likely because this was written in the 1920's.

Snow covered ground, wet soddened trenches, cold sleety winds, filth, dirt, vermin, and all the horrors of war. What a setting on the Eve of the birthday of the “Prince of Peace”. Attached temporarily to a Welch Regiment – for intelligence – how I wished myself back in sunny Egypt among my own wild Australians. But once in, you must play the game, and as the English Tommy would say, “We’ll go west – one place as another.”

Slowly the hours til midnight drifted away, all was so calm. And still, in our sector, it seemed as if the war had drifted away and that the trench and filth, and all the attendant horrors were only a dream. Occasionally in the distance we would hear the dull boom of a big gun, or see the trailing flash of a rocket in the sky. But in front of us all was still, nothing but the ghostly strands of our own and the German barbed wire, while between the two lay the ghostly strip of no-mans-land, scarce 100 yards wide.

Midnight had passed; softly there came to us the strains of music out of the German trenches. They seemed to be tuning their instruments. Then all at once there burst forth the triumphant strains of “The Soldiers Chorus” from the opera “Faust”. The Welshmen, taking it as a challenge, waited til the Germans had finished; and then there burst forth from our trench the battle song of Wales, “The March of the Men of Harlech”. How those Welshmen sang! It seemed as if the fierce fighting blood of old Owen Glendower flowed a fresh in every man’s veins that night.

We kept low fully expecting a fusillade from the Saxons for we knew – just as they always knew the troops that faced them. Instead of rifle shots, came a burst of applause from the Saxons as the Welshmen finished. Then, from the enemy’s band, came the strains of the music and their soldiers sang the words of that beautiful old German hymn, “Holy Night, Silent Night”.

As the Saxons came to the words, “Peace on earth good will to men”, our men, one by one, slowly rose til their heads were above the parapets. Each soldier seemed like a graven image, so calm and still they stood, til the closing words, “Christ is born indeed, Christ is born indeed”.

And then a sigh, like the dying of the wind, ran through the ranks of those rain soddened, weary soldiers. Their minds drifted back to their Welsh mountain homes, where they too sang those very words in scenes, where war and its horrors were unknown.

Then a voice from the Saxons called out, “Hey Welshmen, sing one of your Carols and we’ll play”. Then, while the Saxon orchestra played, the Welshmen sang “While shepherds watched their flocks by night”.

Oh God, how those rough Welsh miners sang. I have heard great societies in many lands sing, but never did I hear such pathos in words of a song as those men gave that night. Now the Saxons would sing one of their old folk songs, then the Welsh would respond with one of the beautiful quartets, so on they sang alternately while hours oh too quickly passed away.

And then there slowly appeared above the enemy trench, a small lighted Christmas tree laden with cigars and other Christmas joys. “Come over”, they said, “This is for you. We’ll be fighting enough in the future.”

Not to be outdone, one of the Welshmen filled a sand bag with tobacco, cigarettes, candy, and plum pudding and, climbing over the parapet advanced boldly to the enemy’s barbed wire.

There Saxon and Celt exchanged their gifts, wished each other a Merry Christmas, gave a hearty hand shake, and said good bye. As the Welshman dropped into the trench, one of his comrades asked, “What did you see?” Looking his questioner squarely in the face, he replied, “Nothing except barbed wire and a man.”

He had gone and been received as a friend, and the honor of a British soldier forbade that he should reveal what he saw.

All too quickly the night passed. Soon came the first faint glimmering of dawn in the Eastern sky that told us the truce would soon be at an end and we must again resume the grim role of war. Then, out of the enemy trenches, rose a huge fair haired Saxon, a living picture of the warriors of old, in full views of both sides.

There in a beautiful full tone, he sang the words of an old Methodist hymn, I had last heard years before, one Christmas Eve in far off sunny Australia. There silhouetted against the lightening sky he sang those beautiful words: “When Jesus was born in a manger and the shepherds came over to see and the angels proclaim that a Savior is born to a poor sinner like me.”

How strange the words seemed amidst those ghastly surroundings, “To save a poor sinner like men.” Yeh we whom He came to save were trying to kill our fellow man whom he also came to save. As the Saxon finished the last stanza, “He’ll save us and we shall be free,” he turned and slowly disappeared into the trench, just as the dull boom of the guns away to our left burst forth, telling us, grim Mars still ruled and that here the Prince of Peace had nowhere to lay his head.

Many moons has passed and many miles I’ve journeyed, through hospital bed, the rack and horrors of wounds and gas, peaceful voyage to sunny Australia again over the water to U.S.A. Here this Christmas Eve, under California’s reigns; where the troops of gay clad happy children romp and play in the toy lands of the great department stores while parents wish each other seasons greetings and good cheer.

         Yet through it all comes to me again, the snow covered fields of France, the barbed wire, the trenches, and filth and horrors of war, but above it all stands vivid before my mind, ever the figure of that blond Saxon giant as he sang: “To save a poor sinner; to save a poor sinner, to save a poor sinner like me. And the angels proclaim that a Savior is born to save a poor sinner like me.”

Monday, December 15, 2014

2014 Play Log - Just Trying Things Out

I debated whether or not to even bother with this, but I thought it would be good to at least scribe something. Most of my gaming other what's here has been tablet based as I just haven't had the initiative to dive into a serious title yet. (And by "serious title", I snobbishly say any game that doesn't have in-game app purchases as it's main reason for existing.)

I tried out a series of PS3 demos last week. They were:

Blood of the Werewolf Image Blood of the Werewolf - This one was developed by the same studio that did the 2D Bloodrayne game that I hated, and I quit it about five minutes after starting it.

Toybox Turbos Image Toybox Turbos - One of the games I used to play back in my SNES days was a top-down racing game based on the Micro Machines toys. Toybox Turbos is an updated version of that and it's simultaneously much easier and less interesting.

Tales from the Borderlands: Episode One - Zer0 Sum Image Tales From The Borderlands - I was hesitant to give the demo for this a try. While I loved the first Walking Dead game from Telltale, I didn't care for either the second one or The Wolf Among Us - was I just "done" with that style of gameplay? Add to that the incongruity of a point and click adventure game set in a FPS shooter world and you'd think it would be a recipe for disaster.  However, this one was so entertaining in the first half an hour that I decided to stop playing...so I could enjoy the full game when all the episodes are released!

LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham Image Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham - Well, first Lego messed with their winning formula by giving the figures voices in the games. Then, they managed to give what has always been a comfortingly simple game system a whole new level of aggravation by assigning multiple functions to buttons based on how you press them - quickly or by holding them down. It may make for a "deeper" platformer experience, but I just found it annoying.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

2014 Play Log - No-vember Bundle

November 2014 will be remembered as "No-Vember" since there were many things that happened that if I had had my choice, I would have said "No" to. (Not that saying "no" would have done anything.) As a result, I'm way behind in both my gaming "schedule" and updating this blog (neither of which are really very important, of course).

The month started with a bug (ie, virus) that got the better of me for most of a week. I had Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Day Zero Edition in my hands....and I couldn't stay awake at night long enough to play it. Oh well.

One game I did play a little of was...

 The Binding of Issac: Rebirth - There was always something about this game that put me off. The original (I played the updated version) has been on sale several times on Steam for practically nothing and has very high ratings, but the image of the little crying child/baby, lying on his side surrounded by monsters, bothered me so much I didn't want to buy it. If it hadn't been one of the "free" PlayStation Plus games for November, I still wouldn't have tried it. Now that I have tried it, I guess it wasn't as bad as I thought, but it is a bit unsettling anyway.

The story starts with Issac and his mom living a happy life together. Then mom starts hearing the voice of "God" tell her that to save her son, she has to sacrifice him! Mom grabs a knife and Issac jumps into the world's worst basement in history. What follows is a very Rogue-like game (more on that later) where dying happens a lot but the levels are always randomly generated. This gives the game considerably more replay value than something like, for example, Pix the Cat. If you die, your run ends. You don't really advance unless you clear 4 levels and a boss. Needless to say, this is not a game I will ever finish. I played it on the PS4 and Vita (since I got both versions in the deal). As a little diversion/time killer, it's not bad. I don't get killed so often that it's annoying, and have even taken out a level mini-boss once in a while, but it's still a rough game. A simple enough concept (sort of a Robotron-esque design) with some fun power-ups. I'll probably pick it up for a quick fix between other games - which isn't a bad thing to be.

Now, as for the issue of "Rogue"-like games: I'd like to go on record as being one of a rare cadre of gamers who can say, "I played Rogue, on a PC, in colored ASCII characters, somewhere back in the mid '80's." It looked like this:

...and it ate up huge amounts of my time!

The other game I played most of No-Vember was one I didn't even buy for myself. I got it for Diane because someone had mentioned on a podcast that it was like Animal Crossing with better quests. What it's like is a cross between a Zelda game and Skyrim, and I can't stop playing it!

Fantasy Life Image Fantasy Life - It seems odd in a way to be spending so much of my gaming time (something I don't have a lot of) on a fairly simple handheld game. I own a number of HD consoles and numerous unplayed Triple-A titles, but when the hour gets late, all I want to do is settle down on the sofa with my 3DS and do more missions and explore more areas in this game. There's no voice work - it's all reading and lots of it! My character doesn't talk but there's a "butterfly" that does the talking for me. Her dialog is really rather funny and everything is done in a fairly kid-friendly manner (it's rated E10, presumably because of the complexity and combat). But it wasn't until my first "boss battle" that I started to have real respect for the game.

The game gives you the option of about a dozen different "Lives" (ie, classes). Some are just for crafting items, and others are for combat. It becomes clear pretty early that you need to have experience in a few of them so that you can defend yourself and create items that you need to either save money or make it. I started as a Carpenter, added Tree Cutter,  then Mercenary since I needed to be able to fight well when I went looking for trees and when I was on the story missions. As I progressed up in levels for my Mercenary Life, I was able to knock out most creatures with little or no problem. (One thing I liked was that the game had some creatures in the wilderness that were not aggressive - I mean, would a deer just attack you in the forest? - which makes it more realistic.)

When I did all the quests and objectives for the level I was at, I found I had two to go that were much higher in value, but the game was insisting that I do at least one to advance. I headed over to the first one, which was closest to my area - a creature named Silverfang. I whacked it once with my great sword...and it did almost nothing to it! Silverfang then turned around and killed me in about 5 hits. Lesson learned; I'm not ready for this! So, I continued on my travels, visited the next city, bought armor upgrades, bought a new great sword, added an NPC to my party then went back and tried Silverfang again. The battle lasted a long time (I don't know exactly how long), and I used nearly all my healing potions while running around the boss and reviving my NPC (who was basically used as bait). When it finally fell and left behind a bounty to turn in I felt unusually proud of my efforts and realized that this game was deeper than I had given it credit for. Definitely a memorable boss fight! I don't know if I'll finish the whole game, but when I play it I will consider it a privilege and a good use of my game-time.

4 Elements Image 4 Elements - This is probably the most "casual" game I have ever played not counting Windows Solitaire. It combines hidden object, three or more matching, and find-the-differences mechanics into a single game with good graphics and sound. It's a pleasing way to pass time which this month has so desperately needed. When things are going to shit, a fun distraction is just what you need.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Play Log 2014 - Lords of the Fallen Standards

Lords of the Fallen Image Welcome to my third-in-a-row Gamestop rental review. No, this wasn't a keeper, but there's hope I might pick it up sometime next year when it drops in price.

Oddly, my initial reaction to this game was something that bordered on feelings of betrayal! It's hard to not think that game companies are skipping anything but the merest threads of a storyline in favor of being able to jump directly into the action. I figure that they a) don't want to spend money and time on story, b) don't think anyone who plays games now (teens to 20-somethings) will care, and c) believe that an extended introduction will make their games look like slow-starters which might affect their review scores.

While some of those might be true, I should have given some more consideration about where this game had come from, namely a developer I hadn't heard of before, and a publisher, Bandai-Namco, who isn't particularly known for deep, story driven games. Still, I knew more about the character and setting (not much, by the way) from previews on my podcasts than from what was shown in the game. Starting this game feels a bit like turning on the TV and watching a movie after it's been on for 20 minutes.

There were parts of this game that felt either rushed (like tutorials that only covered some features) or the victim of cost cutting measures late in development (I found what looked like a crawl space behind some bookcases, but had no way to crouch to go through). There were controller features that were listed in the manual but not on the settings screen in the game, for example.

Visually the game was, to be expected, stunning - a lot of special lighting and "dust" floating in the air. Combat was similar to something like Demon's Souls/Dark Souls, but a bit more forgiving. However, that didn't keep me from getting killed (a lot!) by the first boss. I did finally take him down, as seen here:

Probably the worst thing about this game, and the main reason I decided not to keep it, was that all of the non-boss enemies you fight respawn whenever you exit an area and come back. I even had a portal open up to a "bonus" zone after killing the first boss that had the same affect! It really saps your feeling that you've accomplished something when all the monsters you've battled pop back into existence when you reenter. In a way, I see it as another developer short-cut - it's much easier to just reinitialize an area than to try to keep track of what monsters died where.

All in all, not a bad game, but not one that's worth the full price of admission. When it hits the $20 mark (new or used), I'll give it a try again. In the meantime, I leave you with a little example of some of the surprises that this game provides: