Friday, 16 March 2018


I finished up Monster Slayers last night. As I mentioned, I'd already completed it with about half of the characters (I think there are 12 in all), so it was just a case of playing through with the others. Monster Slayers is a living card game where you start with a small deck (dependent on class) and then refine it as you play the game by adding some cards and removing others. It pays a heavy debt of gratitude to Dream Quest than I played a while back. You have a basic level layout and you move it around it open up new pathways by visiting locations and defeating opponents. That means you have some choice over the order you do things, but ultimately you're going to be visiting every node on the grid anyway to maximise your chances of progressing through the game. There are three 'levels' per run, but you're essentially doing the same thing in each, the only difference being that the monsters get harder and you get help in the form of companions (that add time-limited abilities) that grow stronger as you progress. As you fight, you also gain experience that allows you to level up, gaining more hitpoints and unlocking bonuses like new cards, a larger hand size, or more action points, etc. The aim of each fight is to bring the opponent's hitpoints down to 0, while keeping yours as high as possible. You don't heal (much) between fights, so you really do want to be as efficient as possible in each fight. You begin with a set of basic attack cards and a few others, and upgrade and remix your cards as you progress. Cards basically have two costs, either Action Points or Magic Points, with different classes specialising in different cards. Warriors will have AP-dependent high damage attacks, mages will have MP-dependent spells, rogues have high-speed moves - low-power attacks that allow you to draw another card after playing them, so chaining lots of attacks together, priests can heal, archers have high-precision critical attacks, and so on. There's a lot of variety in their card sets, and merchants allow you to buy new cards that enable you to blur the lines a bit, tailoring your deck in a way that suits you. There are a lot of different cards and a lot of variety, so no two classes feel the same. I'm a big fan of card games, and this definitely scratched an itch. The current darling on the card game scene is Slay the Spire, which I haven't tried day. For now, though, this was great fun, and I'd recommend it to anybody. Onwards!

Next up on the randometer is...Las Vegas Tycoon! Hmm, I'm not the biggest fan of tycoon games, but I'll give it a go.

...And, you know what? I'm done with Las Vegas Tycoon (or Vegas: Make it Big, as it's known over here). I had a quick go over lunch but it's really not my cup of tea. It's the type of hardcore, micro-management sim that chills my blood. You build a casino, it starts breaking down. You build a mechanic station. You then need to tell the mechanic where you want him to go... Ugg, no. It did look lovely with all its zoomy spinny roundy-ness, and I did like the fact you could go into your casinos and fill them with individual tables, etc. to make punters happy (though with even more micro management), and the fact you could theme your casino in different ways, like ancient Greek (just like the real Vegas!!), but it's just not for me. The subject matter doesn't appeal (I hated the real Vegas) and the bad-menu micro-management just killed it. I'm sure it's a great game if you like that kind of thing, but for, sorry.

Next up on the randometer is...Space Bucks! Really?!?! Another management game. Ah well, something for the weekend.

And, I'm sure you'll all be as upset as I was to discover that Space Bucks is an early Windows game and it doesn't seem to run on modern systems. Ah well, can't say I'm that bothered. Let's quickly skip ahead before anyone tries to get me to emulate Win 95 and get it running there.

Next up on the randometer is...J.R.R. Tolkien's War in Middle Earth! No idea what this will be like. Sounds slightly strategy-ish.

In other news, I've also been playing a bit more of Infamous on the PS3, and I think I'm close to the end there. It's the first major PS3 game I've played in ages, and it's been quite fun. Doom 3 has taken a bit of a back seat, but I'll get back to it soon.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018


I polished off God of Thunder over lunch today. Things have been a little slow recently what with DIY and work taking over most of my time, so it's good to get a game finished, even if it is just a little indie number. God of Thunder is actually a pretty fun little arcade/puzzle game. You wander around the world in a zelda-stylee, visiting towns and talking to the good citizens, while throwing your trusty hammer at any passing monsters (of which there are many). The world itself is fairly standard, with broken bridges that need to be fixed before you can proceed, caves to pop into and out of the other side, and the usual tropes. The trick of this game, though, is that a great proportion of those screens contain puzzles that must be solved before you can proceed. There are two main types - switch puzzles, and sliding block puzzles, and they're both explored pretty thoroughly. For instance, with the switch puzzles, you can either run into switches to flick them, or hit them with your hammer. Your hammer is obviously the magical Mjolnir (have I not mentioned that you play Thor, trying to defeat Loki?), so whenever you throw it, it returns to you. This leads to some tricky timing puzzles where you have to throw out your hammer then run through half a blockage and as your hammer flies back and hits the switch on its way you can run past the final part. It keeps things challenging and head-scratchy. With the sliding blocks, they're sometimes mazes, but they're more often of the type where an invulnerable enemy will be firing at you, and you need to push blocks to form a barrier between you and them so you can pass safely. Again, some of them are pretty fiendish with multiple blocks and bad guys. There's also a more arcade themed version of those, too, where you have boulders rather than blocks. These roll along in the direction that you push them, so you sometimes have to set them off then run along beside them as a moving wall to stay safe behind, and other times you might have to push it in one direction, then run around beside it and push it in another direction down a different path to keep you safe. It's only a simple thing, but it was all pretty polished and fun. The game itself is split into three worlds, with a boss fight at the end of each one. None of them are too hard once you work out their attack patterns (I don't think I died on any of them), but they're nice bookends to each chapter. On the subject of dying, you have infinite lives in the game, and when you die you just begin the screen you were on again, so as long as you can solve the puzzles then there's an inevitability that you'll progress through to the end. I wouldn't count it as an amazing hidden gem or anything, but it was a perfectly solid and enjoyable little game.

Next up on the randometer is...Monster Slayers! Ha, that's interesting. I've actually been playing this a little bit on and off for a while now and have already completed it with a few characters. I guess I'll try and polish off the rest of them.

In other news, the moment finally came when Sony announced that from next year they're no longer going to include PS3 games in Plus. You'll still keep the games you have for now (as long as you continue to pay for them), but essentially I'll be paying for games every month that I can't play, so it's time I doubled down on getting through some PS3 games. On that note (although not actually on Plus), I did complete Diggs Nightcrawler with the kids at the weekend. It's a Wonderbook game, which is essentially an AR device where you have a physical book on the floor in your living room, and this is replaced on-screen with graphics from the game. This means that you can interact physically with the book - turning it, shaking it, hitting it - to see things change on screen. It works really well, and the kids love it. There's a little hint of magic about it, and it does feel really physical as you turn the book around to see behind objects on-screen or play whack-a-mole with creatures popping up from the pages. We've got a Walking with Dinosaurs one, too, that we tried a while back but didn't get as far into. My only complaint about the game is that it was really short, but that shouldn't be such an issue when I've got such a big backlog!

Friday, 16 February 2018

Trouble and...

Strife is done and dusted. I think I only played the demo back in the day, and this full game was more fun than I thought it would be. It's built on the Doom engine, so the playstyle is a fairly predictable FPS, but the addition of a story and plot to drive things forward makes a big difference. Whereas in Doom the framing narrative is just an afterthought to the action, here it's the prime mover in the game. There are fully voiced cutscenes (well, static cutscenes) and returning characters. I don't know if I'd quite give it the 'RPG' tag it craves, but it was the first of many FPS games that sought a deeper experience than simply running to the next enemy and hitting Fire. That's not to say that the story is anything particularly deep and meaningful, but it does its job, and even has some (slightly unexplained) plot twists. As an FPS, it holds up well. The weapons are a little bland, without the satisfaction of Doom's arsenal, but they're varied and do the job. The Uber weapon is fun, but the drawback of draining your life every time you fire it is just too damaging, and means that you only ever use it for boss battles where you have to use it in order to damage the spirit enemies. You could argue that's a good limitation and ultimate weapons should require sacrifices and be used against the ultimate evil... and I'd agree with you, that is a good thing... but this is still an alpha-male power fantasy game, and I want to be able to use my ultimate weapons with impunity!

The level design is nice and varied, with a few hub areas splintering out into larger levels. I did find, though, that is was very easy to get lost both inside the levels and out on the hub. I guess the very idea of a hub necessitates backtracking, but I always prefer a more linear approach in my FPSs. There is a marker on the map that points to your next destination, which is handy, but you can only see a small portion of the map at a time, so if you're too far away to see the marker, then it doesn't really help you find where you're supposed to go. Length-wise, it was about right. I felt it kept things at a good pace, and there was always something new to do. There were character upgrades, which I guess slotted it into the 'RPG' genre, but they're so slight that I didn't notice them making any difference at all. It's hard to know what 'accuracy' really does in an FPS. I played it on Easy (as I do with most games on the blog if I have the option), but this one did actually feel a little too easy, so I could have maybe upped it to Normal to better enjoy the experience. All in all, though, I did think it was fun, and it's another one scratched off the list. Onwards!

Next up on the randometer is...God of Thunder! Never heard of it. I'll have a quick look, but I should probably press on with Doom 3, too.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018


I'm going to call time on Doom: the Roguelike. I got down to level 8, which isn't very far, but it's far enough for me. There isn't a huge amount for me to say here. It's a text-based Roguelike with a Doom skin over the top. What's amazing is just how well it works. You move around the map just like any other Roguelike, uncovering new areas and pick-ups, and encountering monsters along the way. You have the same weapons as in normal Doom, and use them on the same creatures, firing and reloading as normal. Obviously, there are a lot of differences between the two games, but one of the big ones for me was the combat - here it's turn-based like any other Roguelike, but what that means is that there's no movement. You can't sidestep or dodge enemy projectiles, you just have to trade blows with enemy, meaning that you almost always get hurt in every fight. This is partially balanced by there being plenty of health potions around for you to pick up. I enjoyed it, but like many Roguelikes, you need to dedicate a portion of your life to it in order to complete it, and I just don't have time for that kind of dedication. Onwards!

Next up in the series is Doom 3. Slightly better graphics, similar gameplay. Oh, and flashlights.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018


Ugh. So close. Sooooo close. I've been mainlining a bit of Challenge of the 5 Realms in lunch breaks recently, and had managed to get all the way to the last dungeon. In fact, I could even see the final bad guy on my screen, and then things started going wrong. I came upon a new enemy type - Demons - and even though I could kill them, every time a battle finished a set of my characters would randomly die. That includes the main character, meaning instant game over. That can't be the expected behaviour. I've reloaded a previous save game and played to that point and found the same thing, so I don't know if it's a glitch, but it's making the game almost impossible to complete. I've probably only got about 3 more demon fights, and then maybe 3 more with another enemy I haven't fought yet (but can see on the screen), but I can't lose 2 or 3 characters to each demon and still make it through. There's actually currently someone Let's Play-ing  it on YouTube, so I'm very interested to see if they face the same thing. They're a little while away from where I am now, but I'll keep an eye on the channel and see what happens. It's annoying, because Challenge of the 5 Realms turned out to be a pretty fun game. You play a prince whose dad is killed by the big bad guy who says you have 100 days to give him the crown or the realm will be destroyed. This time limit is displayed not by a clock or anything abstract, but by a huge black cloud creeping slowly across the game map. You can't enter the cloud, so the longer you take, the less of the game world you can still enter. Obviously, the map is set up so that the starter towns are at the bottom and the end game area is nearer the top, but it's still definitely possible to scupper yourself if you take too long (especially if Pendar - the major port town - gets cut off). I'm not a fan of time limits at the best of times, but but at least this one is a novel and interesting mechanic and brings a real feeling of threat to your actions - travel is slow, so you want to get some horses for all of your party members as soon as possible; or, even better, fly or teleport around, but those use up precious magic points that only recuperate over time. The same goes for healing - do you rest a couple of days with a healer to get hit points back, or do you spend those magic points on a Cure spell instead? For me, I'd have preferred to have a few more magic points to play with (or potions to get them back), but it was a well balanced trade off and keeps you thinking right up to the end of the game.

So, you travel around righting wrongs and gaining party members. The party can get bigger than it looks. There are only 5 slots visible on the screen, but you can have another 3 (I think) party members who don't show on the main screen but you can still view and use as normal. Interestingly, the party member slots don't just contain single characters. There are at least a couple of places in the game where you can recruit squads of fighters or archers into these slots. These only take up one party slot, but expand to the full 5 (or however many it is) characters in combat, which can be a life saver in later battles. You have to travel round the 5 realms of the title, getting the crown from each kingdom (usually by solving quests and recruiting the prince/king) and use them all to cast the final spell (that you can only learn after getting all 5 crowns) to defeat the big bad. That reminds me, the magic system is set up so that you can only learn spells that you have the correct ingredients for. These are collected from various places along your travels, so again, it's very possible to lose out on spell ingredients if a key town gets swallowed by the darkness. As I say, it's a fun game with a lot of traveling and a deepening plot. Your party changes as you go, keeping things fresh, and the combat system isn't too bad once you get the hang of it. As I say, I'd have preferred more magic points so I could have played with spells a bit more, and I'd have preferred a few more weapons and armour to play with in combat (I don't think I found any magic weapons, and there were some monsters at the end that couldn't be hit by standard weapons), but it was enjoyable all the way to the last castle. I just wish I could have got through to the end... (I won't delete it yet, just in case that Let's Play video reveals something that I missed).

Next up on the randometer is...Strife! Ooh, I played quite a bit of this back in the day. Can't remember how far I got, though. It was hailed as an RPG in the Doom engine, though it wasn't *that* much of an RPG. They released a slightly updated version for modern computers a few years ago, so that's the one I'll be playing.

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Hello 2018!

It's been a bit of a funny start to the year, but I'm finally here. Family craziness, moving house and busy work have meant not much in the way of gaming or posting about gaming. Somehow, it's almost the end of the month, so I thought I'd better get this up before January disappears.

Just looking at the post count when I logged on, I noticed that last year had the least amount of posts since I started the blog. I didn't feel like I wrote that much less, I think it was more that I played a lot of long games (e.g. the Fallout series) and didn't get much done in between. As is traditional, let's have a look at the stats to see if that is right.

This time last year we started out with:
   Done: 531
   Total: 4353
   Completed: 12.1%

Here's where we stand at the start of 2018:
   Done: 597
   Total: 4579
   Completed: 13.0%

Which means, for all you maths fans out there, my totals for the year were:
   Done: 66
   Total: 226
   Completed: 0.9%

So, that's actually not far off what I did last year. 3 fewer games completed and 60 fewer purchased...which still sounds slightly bonkers. I know it's mostly bundles and PS Plus, but that's still crazy numbers of new games. I am never, ever going to get through my backlog! I really don't remember buying that many games...but saying that, I've already bought a bundle and some things in a GOG sale this month, so I can see how it happens! PS Plus is 6, sometimes 7 games a month, so let's call it 76 last year (just to give us a round number), that means I bought 150 games last year. That's almost 3 a week. Bonkers. I've got to get that number down if I'm ever going to make any kind of headway. You can do it, Ben...keep your fingers off that 'Buy' button!

What about what I actually got through last year? Mostly, I remember it as the year of Doom and Fallout, but I also made an effort to get back on the PS3 and play through a few games before they shutter it.I still haven't really found a good time to play it (and evenings and weekends are now full of unpacking and DIY), but there's still a lot of stuff on there that I really want to play. Biggest disappointment of the year? Hmm...Unnatural Selection? I've wanted to play it for years, but I just couldn't get into it at all. Dominus? It looked right up my alley, but ended up just being a bit guff. Landit Bandit? Those controls just drove me mad. But no, I think the biggest disappointment for me was Mechanic Escape. I guess it's maybe unfair to call it a disappointment, as I didn't have any preconceptions moving into it, but it looked like it should have been a good game and ended up being a frustrating, badly programmed mess. So, yeah, bums to you, Mechanic Escape. What about game of the year, then? There were a few gems sprinkled here and there. The Wonderboy 3 remake was a great reimagining of one of my childhood favourites. Dream Quest was a great little time waster. Ascendancy was far more fun than I thought it would be. Grim Fandango was just as fantastic as I remembered. I think in the end, though, it's got to come down to the two big series, Fallout and Doom. Both of them took up a lot of my gaming life last year, and both are pretty fantastic through and through. I gave last year's GotY award to Fallout, though, so I think this year it's the turn of Doom 2. It's still a dream to play to this day, and I think Final Doom went on to show what the game was capable of. It was an absolute classic on release and still is. If it wasn't for the gore fest that it is, I'd start Max on it for his gaming education (and don't recommend Super Noah's Ark as an alternative...that's just not in the same league).

As is always the way after a break from playing, I come back feeling like I want to play something new, but I'll try and keep to it. I'm probably going to give Doom: The Roguelike pretty short shrift, but I'll give Challenge of the Five Realms a bit more time - it's just such slow going. I'm only on the second town in the first realm, so there's still a lot more to go. I'd better get busy.

A belated Happy New Year to one and all. Keep your thumbs on your thumbsticks and joy in your joypads.

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

2D or not 2D

Well, the answer is Not 2D. I had an old version of the file that was all in Russian and didn't seem to do very much. I looked around on the internet and found a newer version and an English translation on a Russian site, so downloaded that, but now my virus scanner won't let me open it. Not sure if it's because it's from a Russian site and it doesn't like it or if there's genuinely something up with the file, but it doesn't look like it wants to play nice. From what I saw of the early version, it doesn't look that stunning, so I'm not too bothered about giving it a miss. Next up on the Doom series is another slightly odd sidetrack, Doom the Roguelike! It's quite an old-school Roguelike, so I'm not sure how long I'll spend with it, but I'll give it a go. (I probably should have split these out from the official Doom series, but hey!) I want to try and get through a bit more of C5R first, though. I've made a bit more progress on the world map and have a couple more members in my party. I have to admit it hasn't really grabbed me yet, though, and I keep getting distracted by other things - I blame a reader of this blog for getting me a single, innocent pack of Magic cards recently, and getting me completely addicted to M:tG again through Forge. I'm hopeless!

In other news, I've also finished off a PlayStation Mini on the PS3 called Hero of Sparta. It's a cheap and cheerful God of War knock-off that first appeared on iPhone. You play a bloke (backstory unimportant) who needs to wander through various levels hitting monsters. At the end of each level you collect a new weapon or piece of armor, but to be honest they're all much for muchness. There was mention of weapons leveling up, but I never saw any evidence of this in the game. There were also various moves for each weapon, but to be honest, you could just hold down the attack button and have it auto-target the nearest fiend and belabour it. Every now and then (more now than then towards the end) you'd encounter a tougher monster that you could perform a QTE death move on to earn extra health, which was a pleasant enough diversion for a while. It's nothing special, a 4/10 game in almost every category, but what saves it is that it's easy enough and quick enough to consistently progress through it, and the environments and monsters are interesting enough to want to see more. There are a few boss monsters that are more of a challenge and keep you on your toes. The biggest problem was the ending, which was a massive let down - I didn't expect much, but I expected more than that. Ah well, onwards!