Friday, 13 June 2014


I know, I'm a quitter. There's just something about the Ishar series that I'm really not feeling. They're all glacially slow, but that's to be expected of role-playing games of the time, and isn't too much of an issue. But I think it's that combined with the bugs that are doing it for me. I hit another one last night when playing Ishar 2 where I ran into a bad guy and the attack buttons just stopped working. I could still spin around on the spot, and the enemy could still attack me, but I couldn't fight back at all. It'd been ages since my last save, and I just can't face loading it up and going through all that again. It also doesn't help that there's barely any story to speak of in these games. Sure, there's a general overarching kill the big foozle quest, but that's literally all it is. It's very hard at times to know where to go or what to do, and there are a lot of dungeons and towns where every wall texture looks exactly the same, so it's incredibly easy to get lost. Actually, for the towns you can call up a map, which helps a lot, but the map interface itself is really slow to use, so it's not the kind of thing that you want to do every other step. I used to absolutely love the Eye of the Beholder series back in the day, so it's not flick-screen dungeon crawlers per se, there's just some thing about Ishar that rubs me the wrong way. At least, I hope it's that rather than me turning into a grumpy old man that doesn't have the patience for these games any more! So, I'm going to move on to the last game in the series. I had a quick look at a let's play on youtube for Ishar 2 to make sure I wasn't missing any important story revelations at the end, but you literally just get a screen saying The End, so I don't think I missed much! I think I'll actually switch to Hard Nova next, and then come back to Ishar 3. Hard Nova's another RPG of a similar age, so it might cause similar frustrations, but it's going to be nice to have a bit of a change of scene. Of course...there may be a small delay in proceedings while I spend every evening watching the world cup instead...we'll have to see how that goes.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Massively Affected

I had some free evenings over the weekend, so I used them to power through Mass Effect 2 and just managed to finish it. Spending so long in Mass Effect 2 has completely overwritten my thoughts on the mechanics of Mass Effect 1, so I'm finding it hard to compare the two. I think, in general, that it was a great sequel that expanded and improved upon the first game in the series. It felt a bit more combat heavy than the first, which I wasn't too keen on, but the combat was well handled and there definitely weren't so many occasions of team mates standing directly in front of me and completely blocking my view. I wasn't keen on the ammo limitations in ME2, though. It meant that I spent much of my time wandering round with my head down looking for difficult-to-see ammo cartridges instead holding my head high and looking at the beautiful levels. The environment and world were definitely a lot more rich and detailed. The first game suffered from a lot of cookie-cutter environments - base after base with exactly the same layout - but I didn't see any of that here. They also got rid of those interminable driving sections that plagued the first game. I seemed to spend half my time there trying to judge which parts of mountains the game deemed at the right angle for me to drive up, and constantly getting it wrong and slipping down to the bottom. I have to say, though, that I didn't find the space exploration and resource-gathering sections of ME2 much fun, either. They both just seemed like barriers and distractions to the core game play - I wonder what they'll replace it with in the next game? I felt slightly miffed that the main character I'd romanced and taken on every mission in the first game wasn't really included in this one...hopefully she will be in the next. In fact, I felt the character roster was a bit underwhelming this time around. They'd significantly increased the size of the roster, but you can still only ever take two characters with you on each mission, so there's always going to be a bunch of folk you just never use. Out of my two favourite new characters, one was DLC (included with my version of the game) and the other isn't picked up until the very end of the game, so I'd have been pretty annoyed if I was just playing the vanilla version of the game on release. I'm all for having new characters, but they should have focused on a smaller number of them with better characterisation.

I always spend my time moaning about and criticising games - that's just me, I guess - but I did really enjoy this one and I'm looking forward immensely to the next game and continuing the story. All I know about it is that there was a huge backlash against the ending, but I managed to avoid reading the specifics of it at the time, so I'll see how I feel about it. In other news, I made a little headway into Ishar 2. This one does pinpoint you on the map (yay!), so I'm finding navigation a bit easier. Other than that, it' generally very similar to the first game.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Ish upon a Star

I really did give Ishar 1 a decent run. I think I must have been about half way through the idea really though...before it crashed on me. It was a weird bug where I could still move around everywhere, but I couldn't attack anything, the button just didn't respond at all. Also, no monsters would attack me, they'd just run up to me and stand there. That very quickly became a problem because you can't move through monsters, so once you're're stuck. I hadn't saved in a while (in Ishar you have to pay quite a big chunk of money to save), and I really didn't fancy reloading and doing it all again. So, that's enough of Ishar 1 for me. I'll move on to the next game in the series.

A little bit about Ishar - it's an old flick-screen RPG, in the style of Dungeon Master, etc., but the developers tried their best to make it a massive open world. They did pretty well with the technology available at the time, but that technology really doesn't hold up today. Most screens look the same, and there's no automap, so it's incredibly easy to get lost. The main game map is made up of a bunch of regions (often bordered by rivers), so you can roughly tell what general area you're in (the screen tells you your region), but it's impossible to know your exact position. It's a shame, because it feels like they had some good ideas, they just weren't able to really accomplish them in a meaningful way (through today's eyes, anyway). Let's hope the next game in the series improves things...onwards!