With all this news of next-generation consoles, features they will include and exclusive games it seems I’m still living in the past. By far the most exciting piece of news for me this week was that Age of Empires II will be receiving an HD update exclusively for Steam. While the graphical update is minimal and not really all that it important, it will be featuring mod support and easy access to multiplayer gaming which is a big improvement. I could easily see this becoming my most played game of the year. Move over League of Legends, you’re not laughing any more.
It’s been a long time since I’ve had proper fun with a racing game. Forza 3 was enjoyable as a serious driving sim and Horizon was a brilliant indication of what potential an open world racing game could really do. For me however, it had little replay value unless you have plenty of competitive friends on your leaderboards to provide a constant challenge. I’m talking about proper fun though, like you used to have as a kid.
Thanks to the recent Xbox Live on-demand sale, I happened to pick up a super cheap copy of GRID, a racing game with slightly more arcade roots. Despite its old age (originally released in 2008) GRID has stood the test of time well in most cases. Sure, the menu options are not up to scratch and yeah, it probably plays better with a controller than a wheel, but all that is forgiven when you start having fun.
Having damage always on was a brilliant idea as far as I’m concerned. Races become far more interesting with this unavoidable mechanic and taking out AI cars by clipping the rear of their car NYPD style is just far too tempting to resist. If your in the mood to hear the crunching of metal there is even a playlist (destruction derby) dedicated to smashing the crap out of each other. There are plenty of different game modes to sink your teeth into and even the online play isn’t all that bad, considering your actually expected to hit each other a few times in a race. Let fun commence!
True to my word I played Mass Effect 3 this week, and I’ll finish the Citadel DLC for next time, but for now I shall talk to you about… roguelikes!
Not since FTL have I played a sci-fi roguelike, so, uh, I guess it hasn’t actually been that long. But Sword of the Stars: The Pit (and proviso, I am not that familiar with the SotS setting) is a solid little offering. And the devs have already patched out my two main complaints, the lack of separate character save slots and the absence of mouse-control for targeting, which is a great start.
A turn based offering with a simple three attribute system and a few dozen skills, you take your character— either a Marine, Scout, or Engineer each specialising in Might, Finesse, or Brains respectively— down into the eponymous Pit, thirty floors of randomised alien weirdness, in a bid to save a surface colony from a nasty plague. There are doors to lockpick, machines to repair, computers to hack and, of course, massive hordes of monsters to kill: most of which wander towards you when you enter a new floor, rather than patiently waiting for you to come find them.
Being a roguelike, there is permadeath and random bullshit will irritate and annoy. But so far at least I’m yet to find an instadeath moment. Yes I’ve been brain damaged by unidentified chemicals, yes I’ve been mauled by half a dozen rats sitting beneath the manhole cover I climbed down through, but I’m yet to come across something that unexpectedly killed me outright. When I do die, it feels like it would’ve been avoidable, if only I’d made slightly different decisions in the lead up to that moment.
In related news, make sure you’ve got some armour-piercing weapons around because if you run out of ammo when there’s a goddamn Hopkinite about, it’s not fun. Floating little gits. Or chicken out and try it on Easy. Works for me!
This week saw the unveiling of the first chapter of The Last Door, a sinister horror from The Game Kitchen. Apparently this game was made entirely for me; being a Victorian era low resolution adventure game, it ticks pretty much every box on my excitement bingo-card.
Lying somewhere between Lovecraft and Edgar Allen Poe, TLD tells a creepy tale of late 19th century England. Although the puzzles are simple, TLD seems concerned far more with developing an atmosphere than making me scratch my head in confusion, something I’m greatly appreciating with little spare time on my hands.
After playing Home back in September, I’m sold on the idea that low resolution games can achieve a great deal in the horror genre. When your brain has only a few pixels to play with, you’ve no choice but to fill in the blanks yourself.
In other news, work has resumed on Galaxy Prime. It’s a randomly generated rogue-like I’ve been working on for about a year with no end in sight, but I’ve just hit that wonderful threshold where it’s actually become fun to play. Think Sid Meier’s Pirates in space, but, you know, not very good.