Thursday, 30 January 2014

Orion Multiple Mastered

So here's a turn-up for the books. Not just one, but two Master of Orion games finished! The second game is very much an evolution of the first, and I blitzed through them both in two completely hooked evenings. I only played through them on Easy, which any MOO player will tell you isn't really completing them at all, but it's good enough for my quest. That's not to say that I wouldn't happily still be playing them otherwise. MOO is an incredibly great game. It sucks you in and has enough one...more...turn addictiveness that time just melts away before it. There are a multitude of starting races (you can even create your own), each with different enough attributes that they feel different to play and lend themselves to a different strategy when you play them. I've always been a 'research as much as possible' guy, because I want to see everything that the game has to offer, so I favoured the Psilons with their huge bonuses to research, but there are also races who favour exploration, or space combat, or ground combat, or spying (espionage can be extremely powerful), or production, or population growth...you name it, there's a race that specializes in it. You can conquer planets, you can create planets, you can recruit legendary leaders or pilots, you can design your own ships, you can build huge fleets, you can create wormholes, you can steal technologies, you can frame other races, you can warp to other galaxies, you can fight the guardian of Orion...you can do so much, and you can see why I had to stop playing it! It's the kind of open-ended game that you could play on and off for years, like Civ, and never feel you'd explored every strategy. Maybe once I've finished this quest I'll return to it, in another lifetime, but for now I'm happy to have played it and happy to move on.

Next up on the series list are the two Paladin games from Omnitrend. They're party led turn based strategy games, a little like a medieval X-com. I remember seeing adverts for them many, many years ago, but I've never played them before. One of the big innovations in the Omnitrend games was their interlocking system, if you owned one of their space battle games and one of their ground battle games then you could combine the two so that when you entered a ground war in the space game it would switch to the ground game to play out the fight. It sounded intriguing at the time, and I've always wanted to try it. Anyway, that'll come later when I play the Breach games, I don't think you can do it with the Paladin games (although, bizarrely, you can apparently import your characters from Breach 2 (a futuristic battle game) into this medieval one, so I'm not entirely sure how that would work!). I'm going to go back to Darkstone first, though, and see if I can knock that one off.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

X-Com: Enforced

X-Com: Enforcer is done and dusted, and with a great sigh of relief that's all of the X-Com games on PC finished (I still have the new version on PS3, but I've added that to the PS3 list). As I've mentioned already, Enforcer has absolutely nothing in common with the other games in the X-Com series other than a couple of alien designs (and even those are a bit questionable). It's a full-on action game without a whiff of strategy about it, but that's not to say it isn't fun. I actually really enjoyed it; it was nice to have a bit of dumb blasting after all that needing to use my brain, and it was short enough that it didn't outstay its welcome. In fact, the game fits pretty perfectly into my blog's mantra, with each level only taking about 5 minutes. You just warp in there, shoot everything that moves (and the spawn points, which don't) and then warp out. There were a couple of levels where you had a time limit to survive for, or some hostages to rescue, but they never strayed far from the basic template. The whole thing ran at a good clip, with tons of enemies and explosions flying off at the same time. About those explosions...this game loves its explosions. Some of the weapons have such large and bright blasts, that you basically can't see anything when you fire them - you just run around blindly with the fire button held down hoping that one of the aliens is foolish enough to walk out in front of you (they usually are). There's a slightly odd weapon system. You can only carry one gun at a time, and as soon as you walk over a pick-up icon that new gun replaces your old one. Each gun also has limited ammo, and when you run out you default to a weedy laser (or machine gun once upgraded). This means that you never have a chance to just favour one weapon, you're always picking up whatever comes (new weapon drops appear frequently) and you're constantly swapping your weapon. To be honest, all of them (other than the freeze gun) are pretty good once powered up (through upgrading with tech points), so it doesn't really matter which gun you have. That's not to say that some aren't better than others. My favourite was the grenade launcher. Normally they follow the old Quake model of having a single grenade pop out of the end of the gun and bounce about, but not here...oh no, a single grenade isn't enough for the Enforcer! Once powered up, the grenade launcher fires a constant fountain of hundreds of grenades, spraying out in an arc in front of you and obliterating everything in a wide radius. It's gleefully ridiculous (the whole game is played with tongue firmly in cheek), but all good fun. There isn't a lot of story to speak of, but the end of the game is tinged with melancholy, which I wasn't quite expecting. It kind of leaves things open for a sequel, but obviously one never appeared. So, all in all quite a fun diversion. Best just to forget the "X-Com" bit at the front and just call it Enforcer, and enjoy it for what it is.

So, what's next on the series list, is it going to be the first non-sci-fi game since August 2012? No, it's more sci-fi strategy in the shape of Master of Orion, or MOO to its fans. One of the original 4X games, and known for its addictiveness (especially the second game). I had a small taste of that last night when I installed the game and fired it up to make sure it worked, then next time I looked at the clock hours had passed. I was doing pretty well, too, except the sun in my main system just went super nova, wiping out most of the population and my main source of production just as the enemy race are starting their campaign against me. I can't wait to fire up the save game and see if I can rescue it! Depending on how things go, it looks like I might be able to get through the first game fairly quickly...not so sure about the second. I'll probably do that before getting back to Darkstone.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Quantified Conundrum

I finally finished Quantum Conundrum last night. I thought there were going to be a bunch more levels in the last area, but actually there were only two and both of those were pretty short. I've already discussed my problems with the game, so I won't go over them again here (3D jumping, grrr). Overall, I did enjoy it. There were many good puzzles and some great 'aha' moments when you first discover how to combine powers to achieve something, but to my mind there weren't enough of those moments to make it a great puzzle game. I still feel they would have been better off focusing down on a couple of powers and really exploring what could be done with them in really creative ways. For example, the reverse gravity power, which is introduced quite late, has a couple of interesting uses (and 'surfing' using it is a great mechanic), but it's never really explored. They could have done so much more with it, but it feels like it's only dropped in there for that one mechanic (and maybe hitting a switch on a ceiling) - it's wasted here...maybe the devs ran out of time? Come to think of it, this is a game that maybe could have benefited from having a level designer built in. I'm rubbish at that sort of thing myself, but I think the community could have come up with some really innovative uses for the powers. For example, the obvious use of the reverse gravity power is so that you can go up, but the levels never have any verticality to them, so it's never explored. So yeah, I did enjoy it and I thought it was a great concept, I just don't think they really reached their potential with it. Oh, and I found out that this game was developed by the same core folk who made Portal, so no wonder it felt similar. I maintain, though, that Portal did a much better job of focusing on one mechanic and exploring it fully, and was the better game for it.

In other news, I am, as predicted, addicted to Puzzle Quest again, so that's been taking up my time and I haven't given any thought to X-Com. Hopefully it'll be out of the way soon and I'll be back on the wagon. I don't even think Puzzle Quest: Galactrix is that good a game, but I'll discuss that in a later post. Next up on the PlayStation list is PixelJunk Racers. There are two games in the series, but I think the second is just a quick upgrade to the first, but I'll have a play to make sure. Onwards! (Edit: Just read up on it, and it is just an updated version of the same game, so I'll add the first to the done pile.)

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Intercepted!

At long last, X-Com Interceptor is complete. I changed my strategy a bit, upgraded my bases and ships, and started sending out a lot more probes and patrols to find the enemy bases. With that done, I was able to take the fight to the aliens a bit more and start clearing out their influence in the sector. Once I got the hang of things I started to enjoy it a lot more. I think if I'd played it at the time on a decent computer then I would have loved it. As it was, the arcade sections just played out too fast for me to really be able to do any dogfighting. Later on, I got guns with auto-aiming that meant I could actually take a part in the fights, but before that I was really depending on my wingmen and many missiles to do all of the work. The strategy part was okay, but a bit limited. I really wanted to be able to build more than 8 bases - that felt like a very artificial barrier. It meant that I had to constantly destroy my own bases at one end of the sector to be able to build more at the other end. Once I had better engines for my ships and better radar, then things evened out a bit, but it was a real pain. I read afterwards that the starting position is random, and I started out down in one corner, so maybe if I'd been more central to begin with then it wouldn't have felt that bad. I also felt that the story was a bit of a let down. the X-Com games have never been very story focused, so it's not too much of a surprise, but this one felt very much tacked on. There were a few random side missions and a bit of back story, but it didn't feel like the story had any real relevance until the final mission of the game. It would have been nice to have had a bit more reason for doing what I was doing. As I say, it was a fun game, and I think it would have been more fun on a more appropriate computer, but it definitely had its problems. The ending was good, though - I loved the spoof newspaper stories.

Anyway, onwards to X-Com Enforcer!This is even less like an X-Com game than Interceptor was. They basically threw all of the strategy out of the window and turned it into a complete arcade game. It's a 3rd-person shooter where you just run around blasting away aliens and saving civilians. I had a quick go at it - it's very fast-paced, and actually quite fun the little I played of it, but it's absolutely nothing like X-Com. I'm not really sure why they used the name at all. You do find alien technology that you research to build your own new weapons, but it's just a case of "pick up the glowing thing to get a new gun". I've no idea how long it's going to be, but the first few levels flew by, so hopefully it won't outstay its welcome. In other news, I did one more level of Quantum Conundrum, so slowly making progress there. Oh, and I foolishly purchased a couple of Puzzle Quest games on Steam - I couldn't help it, they were only 70p each - so expect me to become horribly addicted to those all over again. Yay.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Crashing Bore

A bit of house cleaning since my last post, so I've added a few more games to the list - some PS Plus things, and a few indie games (mostly free) that I hadn't downloaded and added. So, the number's already grown in the first week, oops! I have also checked off a couple of other games, though. Two Rogue-like games that I've been playing on and off for a couple of years now, and I finally decided I've seen enough of them and I should probably call it quits. They are Desktop Dungeons and Dungeons of Dredmor. Both excellent and horribly addictive games that I'll be happy to uninstall so they won't tempt me again. There were a couple of things I still wanted to do in Dredmor, but I was happily making my way through level 8 last night doing pretty well with a decent equipment build when the darned thing crashed on me, and I decided that was quite enough of that. I absolutely highly recommend it to anyone, but I've seen enough of it now, and it's time to move on.

In other crashing news, I spent a lunch hour earlier in the week getting back into X-Com only to have it crash on me without saving, so that was a little frustrating to say the least! That's why I switched to those Rogue-likes to vent my anger, but I'm back and ready to hit X-Com again today (and I'll be saving every 5 minutes). Not sure why I'm going through a bit of a crash-patch with games at the moment, but hopefully it'll sort itself out soon. I also had a bit of time one evening this week and blitzed through a bit more Quantum Conundrum. I think I'm about halfway through the last batch of levels, so looking to polish that one off soon. There's no doubt it's got some clever puzzles in it, and I'm enjoying figuring them out, but it's also incredibly annoying when the controls get in the way of the puzzle solving. I've already ranted about the floaty nastiness of accurate jumping in first-person 3D games, so I'll just say Grrrr.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Hello 2014!

Hello 2014, happy new year and...oh dear, that didn't go very well, did it? So, I didn't quite manage to finish any other games last year. I made a start on Darkstone...it is like Diablo, but in 3D and slightly more confusing, and nowhere near as good. Still fun, though. The most problematic thing about it is that it keeps randomly crashing, no idea why, but it happens very frequently and without warning, leading to a lot of cursing and swearing on my behalf and having to go back and slowly retrace my steps. Luckily, there is a one-button quick save function, so as long as I remember to hit that every minute or so everything's cool. It's quite a slow game - and feels bigger than Diablo, so I might be stuck in it for a while. Same goes for X-Com: Interceptor. That's been the story of the year, really. I feel like X-Com really bogged me down, much as I enjoyed it, and I've still got three games in the series to finish! Must try harder. Onwards to the stats!

This time last year we started out with:
   Done: 275
   Total: 3315
   Completed: 8.3%

I was aiming for 10%, even though I knew it was going to be near impossible. Did I make it? Um...no. Here's where we stand at the start of 2014:
   Done: 313
   Total: 3440
   Completed: 9.1%

Which means, for all you maths fans out there, my totals for the year were:
   Done: 38
   Total: 125
   Completed: 0.8%

...which is slightly depressing. Finishing 38 games in the year isn't too bad, I didn't realise it was that many, but the number of games added to the list is crazy. Especially for a year when I wasn't supposed to be buying any games! A big bunch of those are through PS Plus, but still...yikes, that's a lot! And because of that ratio it means I didn't even hit 1% on the completed target. I guess the plan for this year remains the same as last year - buy less games; complete more games; and get to that fabled 10%. I also want to hit a few more of those series. As mentioned, I really got a bit bogged down in X-Com, so I want to get through the remaining games there and move on. In other news, the first Plus game of 2014 is Borderlands 2, so I can get addicted to that all over again. Yay! If anyone fancies hopping in for a bit of co-op then I'm totally up for it. I also have a perforated eardrum and am off my face on Codeine, so that's fun.

I hope you all have a fantastic 2014, and hopefully I'll catch up with you online, offline, or between the lines sometime soon.