Thursday, 29 January 2015

Lonely Like a Wolf

And...no. Lone Wolf is very much like an old Spectrum platform game - in fact, the same game was also released on the Spectrum! It's super-old school jumping about while avoiding dangerous projectiles with bad hit detection. You also have a rubbish jump, which you can use to miss moving platforms and fall back down the last fifteen screens you've just climbed up. Every few screens you have to fight a reflection of yourself created by the Mirror of Death. The difference being that the reflection actually has some coordination and can move and hit accurately while you stagger about drunkenly flailing your sword and tripping over your own outstretched feet before working out that the good old 'kick downwards' manoeuvre works like a charm. You also get a choice of Kai powers, some of which can only be used when fighting reflections and others which only work while climbing through the tower. Is it anything to do with the Lone Wolf books? No. Is it any good? No. I skipped through a walkthrough on Youtube to see if I was missing anything, but it's just half an hour of exactly the same thing. I don't even have the patience for that half hour. Sorry, Lone Wolf, but I was hoping for better.

Next up on the randometer is...1893: A World's Fair Mystery! Looks intriguing. It's a sort of adventure-edutainment cross where you play a detective trying to solve a diamond heist at the World's Fair. Looks like a text adventure with pictures.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Nikopollocks

Well that was weird, and blessedly short. Nikopol is a very French game based on a series of French novels. It feels very much like the developers picked a couple of chapters from a book and decided to base a game on them. You're dropped into the world without really having any idea what's going on, and that feeling doesn't really change by the end of the game. The game would probably make a lot more sense if you already knew the novels (and I'm half tempted to pick them up), but without that knowledge it's a bit of a mess. Something about squabbling Egyptian gods descending on a future Paris ruled by a religious dictatorship, and you play the role of the son of a recently escaped from political prison one-legged ice-hockey star. Something like that, anyway. The actual events of the game do follow on (fairly) logically, so if the game had only given a bit more of the background then the story might actually have meant something. As it is, the story is essentially throw away. Unfortunately, all this leaves is the gameplay, and there's not a whole lot of that to go around. It's basically just a series of puzzles in order, so you have to solve one before moving on to the next. As with the story, the puzzles don't have a lot of description, so you're very much left to try and work things out for yourself. Luckily, there's a very generous checkpoint system, so if you mess up you can immediately try again. Without that, the whole thing would have been a lot more frustrating. As it is, you can often brute force your way through a tricky puzzle by trying every item in your inventory on it. Mechanically, it wasn't bad per se, it was just let down on the story side. As a series of puzzles it works fine (if a bit short at only a few hours), but as a narrative game it fails miserably. Ah well, onwards.

Next up on the randometer is...Lone Wolf: The Mirror of Death! I've read and enjoyed the Lone Wolf books a couple of times, so interested to see what this game is like. It's from '91, so quite an early one.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Five Down, Six to go...wait...

Ultima 5 is done, and I have to say I didn't enjoy it *that* much. It seemed to be very grindy and with a lot of pretty boring back-and-forthing. Is that any different to any other RPG? Well, that's arguable, one thing it's certainly not very different from, though, is Ultima 4. Maybe playing those to back-to-back wasn't such a good idea, as they do feel very similar. The world is obviously the same, but there's more than that, the engine's still the same, they have the same feel, the shrines are the same, but here they're worse...you now have to visit the shrine, then take a trip over to the island of the codex, then go back to the shrine to meditate again. It just seems a bit needlessly repetitive. Okay, I could handle going back to the codex again to get the knowledge after visiting each shrine, but why then make me go all the way back to the shrine again? Especially when I need to perform exactly the same actions for every single shrine. It's just no fun. The dungeons are also the same rubbish first person mixed with top down view that only seems like a minor upgrade from Ultima 1 - or even Akalabeth. I'm pretty certain Ultima 6 gets rid of all this, though, which is a blessed relief. It's not all doom and gloom, though, the Ultima games are still very solid RPGs, and it is good fun following a trail of clues to find the next macguffin. The Shadowlords were also a good enemy - harassing you all the way through the game, and a real satisfaction to finally beat. Blackthorn was a bit more of a 'meh'nemy (my new word of the day!). He has a good set up and an interesting conclusion, but he's not really in your face enough throughout the quest. The dungeons are a pain in the bum as always, and I really wish there was an option to have the characters auto-target the nearest enemy in combat. Other than that, it was good - worth playing, but I'm glad it's over. Oh, and I did like the bit at the end when you finally return back home after saving Britannia, only to find that your house has been burgled while you've been away and all your stuff has been nicked!

Next, it's on to Ultima 6. This is a game I bought and played...gosh, must be over 20 years ago now. I remember lots of bits and bobs in it, and I've still got pages and pages of notes stuffed in the game box (with the 3.5" floppies). I don't *think* I ever finished it, but I know what happened at the end, so I'm not sure if I did finish it or if I've just picked up the ending through received wisdom over the years. Guess I'll soon find out. First, though, I'm going to have a go at Conquest of the New World. It's a fairly open-ended game as far as I know, so I'll just be playing through the campaign scenarios and seeing what happens.

Update: I tried Conquest of the New World and it's pretty much what I expected, but man is it slow. We're talking minutes between hitting 'End Turn' and being able to take your next turn. I know my old computer is a bit tired, but I don't think it would struggle too much with a 20 year-old game. So, anyway, I'll leave it in the pile, but it's not something I want right now. To the randometer, batman! Next up on the randometer is...Nikopol: Secrets of the Immortals! I don't know anything about it except that Steam users seem to think it's rubbish. It looks like a modern Myst-style adventure game, so we'll see.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

New Romancer

I just completed Neuromancer. I didn't have as much to do as I thought, mostly clearing out the last few AIs before heading after Greystoke and the big beach lover himself. It's a funny game, a mix of straight-up graphic adventure segments with the semi-RPG-ness of the 'net sections. I can't really decide if I liked it that much. I enjoyed it, but I'm not sure I'd ever go as far as recommending it to anyone. I did like the writing - I'm not familiar enough with the book to say if it was lifted from there, but it felt above the norm for a computer game. There was quite a bit of wandering about and guess work (though part of that may be because I complete forgot what I was doing in the game over the Christmas break), and the net-running sections got a bit grindy at times, but it was generally good. My overall impressions are that it overstayed its welcomed slightly and that I'll probably have forgotten all about it by next week. It did make me want to read the book, though. Maybe the game would have made more sense if I was more familiar with the book? We'll never know! I think my favourite bit is that it allowed me to make my Neuromantik joke. I'm going to use that again.

Next up is not the randometer but going back to Conquest of the New World, which I said I'd pick up as the first game this year. I'm going to make a start on Ultima 5 next, though, and probably pick at Conquest a bit as I go.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Hello 2015!

Another new year has come around; they pop up quick, don't they! It's been a bit of an odd year over here, and 2015 has already started in an hmmm fashion, so we'll have to see how the rest of it goes. There's already been one big change that'll impact my free time for this year, and another potential change on the horizon... Anyway, that's all still to come, for now, though, it's time to look back at last year.

First up, I noticed late in the year that I was close to reaching 400 games completed. At one point I did think I might be able to have a last push over the holidays and hit that milestone, but with all the travelling, visiting, and generally enjoying a break away from a computer, I didn't manage to get in another minute of game time. Ah well, it'll be a nice milestone to hit in 2015. Neuromancer is also taking a lot longer than I thought it would, so I'll be on that for a while. In other general news, 2014 definitely felt like a turning point in this slow gaming life of mine. For the first time I can remember (and this will probably sound silly to people seeing the size of my backlog), I actually felt like I've got enough games and I don't really need any more. GoG and Steam sales came and went without even a passing interest in purchasing anything else, and I think I've bought more Humble comic bundles this year than game bundles. That's not to say I didn't buy any bundles (and I'm dreading seeing the new game stats in a minute), but they were very much more of the "I quite fancy that one game so I'll have the other 10 that come with it" variety rather than being a bunch of games I wanted. Of course, the PS Plus subscriptions keeps things ticking over, too, though I don't think I've played a single game I got on Plus last year yet. A lot of this is the obscene number of games I've already got and the little time I have to play them, but I think I'm also reaching a point in the hardware cycle where my rickety old computer is getting too old to even play the most retro of indie titles released, and the PS3 is finally a dead generation now the PS4 is getting into its stride. There's no hope of an upgrade on either front this year, so it'll be more old DOS games for the foreseeable future. Without further ado, onwards to the stats!

This time last year we started out with:
   Done: 313
   Total: 3440
   Completed: 9.1%

I did manage to hit that mythical 10% this year, but didn't get much further. Here's where we stand at the start of 2015:
   Done: 396
   Total: 3727
   Completed: 10%

Which means, for all you maths fans out there, my totals for the year were:
   Done: 83
   Total: 287
   Completed: 0.9%

Blimey. I knew it felt like I'd played more games this year, but both the done and the new purchases figures are frankly ridiculous. 287 new games this year...really? And there was me thinking I wasn't buying any more games! Around 72 of those are Plus games, but even with the others all being from big bundles (I did go a bit bundle happy!), that's still waaaay too many games. This year I'm definitely buying less (do I say that every year?). I'm also surprised how big that done figure is. Of course, that's not necessarily completed, there were an awful lot of non-starters this year and games I only spent a couple of minutes with, but still, 83 is more than I thought. With all that, though, I managed to basically double both the done and total piles from last year, so my completed percentage increase stayed about the same. So, as always, buy less - complete more is the mantra. Let's see if I can actually make it stick this year. Series-wise, I didn't get that much done last year, and it doesn't help that I'm halfway through one of the longest PC RPG series out there in Ultima. I have a feeling I'll still be playing through it this time next year. Of the games I did complete last year, the stand out is probably the Mass Effect series. The ending of ME3 is what it is, but the journey to it was excellent. I also really enjoyed playing through XIII and, oddly, Bugs Bunny. Disappointment of the year probably goes to the Ishar series. They've been in my mind as games I wanted to play since I first saw them in gaming mags as a child, but I just couldn't get on with any of them and quit them all very early on. Ah well, there's plenty more games in the backlist. First task of the year will be finishing off Neuromancer, then it's on to Ultima V. Onwards!