Steam New Releases

steamThis used to be a dead time of the year for game releases.  We’d have a couple that just missed the Christmas window releasing in January and then nothing until the end of the first quarter.

Medieval Engineers — Early Access — From the Space Engineers company only more grounded.  It’s sounds like it’s still in a raw state, but if you’re interested in helping to shape the game, it’s 25% off for launch.

Frozen Cortex — I mentioned this one, and it’s a full release.  It’s from the Frozen Synapse team and brings you the sport of the future.  It’s not American Football (really).

Total War: ATTILA — I’m not sure why Attila must be all caps, but you can guess it’s about the fall of the Roman Empire from Creative Assembly.  Hopefully a bit less buggy this time.

Offworld Trading Company — Early Access — Soren Johnson made Civ IV.  He gets a lot of leeway from me.  It’s like the classic trading empire games only it’s set on Mars.

Sunless Sea — The tag line is: Lose your mind.  Eat your crew. Die. It’s a Victorian, Fallen London, Lovecraftian, steam ship, trading and exploration game.

Deathtrap — Neocore takes the Tower Defense section from Van Helsing and spins it off into its own game.  It also has a strong Coop component.

Darkest Dungeon — Early Access — It’s a gothic roguelike RPG that has a strong Lovecraft influence.  It’s hard to succeed when your party is going insane.

Grey Goo — What? An actual RTS release that’s not Tower Defense or from Blizzard?  It’s true.  There are three factions that play decidedly differently.  It’s also a bit more focused on the big strategic picture than on micro.  Of course, I’m a sucker for Petroglyph games.

There were also a bunch of HD remakes released that I’ll pick up someday  They include Farhenheit, HOMM III, Seven Kingdoms II, and Grim Fandango.  I guess it’s a great time to be a gamer.  I just wish I had more time to play.

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Technical Difficulties Part III

How loathsome are hackers? Even when they’re not directly attacking my site, they exploit code for any vulnerablities. Any code base not actively being supported is considered too dangerous to use. So apparently my previous blog theme used some PHP code calls restricted to version 5.2. So when my host stopped providing support for 5.2, I had to upgrade which broke the site.

As you can see, we’re back up after a fashion. I’ll be tweaking things to get them working and looking the way I want. Let me know if you experience any problems. I might be experimenting with a few more themes. Don’t panic if things look weird temporarily, but do let me know if you find anything that’s broken. Thank you for your patience. I hope to get back to regular updates shortly.

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Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor Impressions

1280Mordor4I briefly touched on the fact that Shadow is a fun, compelling game. There are bugs and flaws, but he total experience rises so far above them that they seem inconsequential. The game realizes its goal of making you feel part of an epic adventure and tied in to the saga of the rings.

So what kind of game is it? It’s an open world action adventure with stealth and army building components. That sounds a bit dry. Essentially, you’re on a vengeance quest. You and your family have been sacrificed in an arcane magic ritual. Somehow this ritual has gone wrong and trapped your body and soul and tied them to the spirit of some long dead elf. This makes you an undying wraith, but also places you at the center of a power struggle for control of Mordor.

Most descriptions have it as an Assassin’s Creed game set in Middle Earth using Batman (Arkham) combat with a healthy dose of magical powers. That’s true as far as it goes, but the game is more than that. It’s a RPG with steadily building powers. Later in the game it clearly becomes a power struggle where you can change the course of events. There’s also a bit of hunting and wildlife simulator going on in there. It’s like movie magic that continually convinces you that this artificial world is real and alive.

The best trick may be your sense of mortality. Sure, you’re an undying wraith, but if you’re not careful, you’ll spend an awful lot of time dying. Obviously, dying is not an end state, but it does change the game world. Whoever killed you, assuming it’s not an animal, grows stronger and more prestigious. In short, the difficulty increases as a punishment to careless play. It’s a good motivation to learn the game systems and play to your strengths.

Some enemies are just tough. If you don’t exploit their weaknesses, they might kill you faster than you can kill them. Higher level enemies might only be vulnerable to one type of attack. If they’re invulnerable to ranged and stealth attacks, you have to fight them head on. If they have rapid attacks and poisoned weapons, you might need to lure them out of their stronghold, so you can narrow the odds before you fight them. Maybe you lure some hostile wildlife in to occupy some defenders. You’re never short of tactical possibilities.

That’s where the RPG progression comes in. While you can get a little tougher and stronger, most of your upgrades open up new options. I don’t want to spoil the fun of tactical exploration, but by the time you’re nearing the end of the skill tree, you feel pretty powerful dashing between attacks, stealth kills, stuns and dominations. You still have to be careful that you don’t leave too many ranged attackers or get surrounded by shield bearers. The game can get unfair, but only if you let it. Sometimes a temporary withdrawal is the smartest move. After all, if they don’t know where you are, you can go back to stealth attacks.

The game creates a good sense of momentum moving the individual fight to the tactical assault to the struggle for power within Mordor. While killing an individual orc won’t change much, it can open a path to your mission objective or assassination target. Setting off an alarm will have consequences. If it occurs in a stronghold, you will be met with escalating and eventually overwhelming force. That might be what you want if you need to draw out a warchief. In fact, the requirements to draw out certain warchiefs are some of the most interesting challenges in the game.

I suppose it’s a technicality that this is a game based off the movie series. A ton of effort went into trying to square the game story with the existing lore of Middle Earth. You can go all comic book geek on the power and type of magic in Middle Earth, but the game is consistent with the movies. Most of the background to the story is either stated or implied in the original works. If you’re willing to accept the premise at the start of the story, everything works and builds from there. Some of the characters may remind others from the movies, but that’s a hallmark of Tolkien as well. Overall, the story is most memorable for the themes it explores, evil, corruption, love, vengeance and redemption.

Shadow of Mordor exceeded my expectations on many levels. It has everything you want in an open world game. It has a good stealth system. I enjoyed the story far more than I expected. The combat systems are meaty, interlocking and satisfying.  Mostly, there’s always something interesting to do around the next corner (or over the next bluff).  Highly recommended.

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PlayStation at 20

PSXThe Playstation Blog had a bunch of Sony bigwigs and developers list their favorite PS One games.  Just reading their lists brought back tons of great memories.  I thought I’d do mine quickly.

Battle Arena Toshinden — This is not a classic game like most of them on the list, but it was one of the first I ever played.  I was amazed that I was playing this in my apartment.  Until then, there had been a divide.  There were arcade games and console game.  Sure there were some arcade ports, but they were either a generation behind or a weaker version than the arcade.  Here was a game that looked better than what was available in the arcade sitting on my console.  It truly felt like the dawn of a new era.

Metal Gear Solid — This game was unbelievable in every sense of the word.  I felt powerful.  I felt weak.  I felt dangerous.  I felt vulnerable.  Even on one remote island, the variety of action felt incredible.  Of course it asked the question, “Can love bloom on the battlefield?”

Final Fantasy Tactics — I loved the scope and depth of Final Fantasy VII, but this game came along and blew it away.  Yes, the story was over the top but strangely captivating.  The battle system was nothing short of brilliant.  The beginning was a bit tough.  Once it opened up, you always had endless possibilities for any battle.  I still have my original disk.  It’s like a treasure I won’t give up even if I have prettier versions to play.

There are many more quality games that I could mention.  Even though the PS2 was the better console by every measure, I’m glad the Playstation drew me in to Sony’s world.

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Rocket League Announced for PS4

I’ve mentioned before that Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars for the PS3 was one of the surprise PSN hits for my family.  It’s certainly one of the games that got the most hours last generation.  In essence, it was soccer played with RC cars that could jump, boost and blow each other up.

Well, I’m ecstatic to announce that a sequel is coming to PS4 next year.  It’s called Rocket League.

It’s coming Spring 2015.  Day 1 buy for me.

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Instant Update: PSN Flash Sale

PSN Flash SaleSony is having a Black Friday Flash Sale on PS4/PS3 games.  Here’s the link.  I’d like to point out three that I had fun with:

Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor (PS4/PS3):  $29.99

Diablo III: Reaper of Souls Ultimate Edition (PS4/PS3): $34.99/$19.99

Infamous: Second Son (PS4): $19.99

I got more than my money’s worth out of all three, and I paid more that those prices.  Highly recommended. Sale ends Dec 1 at 3 PST.

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Instant Update: Middle Earth Shadow of Mordor (PC)

mordor600x290-20140122In short, I can’t stop playing.  Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor is a fun, compelling game.  It thrusts you behind enemy lines with a wicked skill set that just keeps growing.  You constantly get more deadly.  While few of the parts are shiny and new, they’re put together masterfully.  I grabbed the PC version because I could get it cheaper and wasn’t sure about the game.  If anyone else is sitting on the fence, grab it for your favorite platform.  I’ll write more later, but now I have to get back to the game.

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Technical Difficulties Part 2

I thought I had my problems solved earlier, but some new ones popped up.  I think I’ve gotten a handle on things now.  Essentially, I’ve reinstalled the latest version of WordPress.  Again, let me know if you experience any problems.  Thanks for your patience.

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Instant Update: Injustice Gods Among Us

Superman_940x375newsWelcomeI picked up Injustice: Gods Among Us (PS4) on a PSN sale recently.  I’m definitely more in the Capcom/Street Fighter camp than the Mortal Kombat camp, but I’ve enjoyed them as a diversion.  I also enjoy superhero games.  There are far too few good ones. I haven’t had much time to play, but I did manage to get through the tutorials and the story mode.  The PS4 version is the complete edition with the expanded roster.  They don’t show up in story mode.

The tutorials are pretty good, but I had trouble mastering the timing of some of the advanced combos.  The story mode was surprisingly compelling.  I literally kept playing just to see what happens next.  They even managed to make Aquaman compelling and fun to play.  Yes, the difference in power levels is sort of brushed away with krytonian power dust.  That doesn’t take away from the fun.  It also allows DC to put forward their most interesting roster.

The arc of the story may be a simple examination of what heroes need to do to be worthy of the power they wield, but it’s put together like a well oiled machine.  This is classic DC superhero mash up storytelling at its best with full bombast. There’s plenty more to the game including online and local multiplayer, STAR labs challenges and an arcade mode and ending for each character.  It speaks volumes that I feel I got my money’s worth with just the story mode.  With Arrow and Flash coming up along with Agents of SHIELD and a whole summer of heroic movies, Injustice fits in nicely.  Recommended.

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Instant Update: Super Hexagon

suphexlogoI still suck at this game.  I just don’t see the path fast enough and reactions can’t compensate any more.  At least I only waste a few seconds per try.  I think I’ll go back to Threes.

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