Wednesday, 21 December 2016

War Logged

I finished Mars War Logs over lunch, so just about sneaked it in before the end of the year. It's a fun little game, not quite hidden-gem territory, but pretty good nonetheless. It's a third-person action game with light RPG elements set on a colony on Mars. You start the game as a prisoner of war and have to escape the camp before joining the resistance (or not...there are two pathways through the game) and defeating the big bad. It feels like one of those games where the design guys came up with way more ideas than the developers could ever hope to implement. There's a lot of great background material that's barely touched on, and game mechanics that are just barely sketched out and then forgotten about. The character abilities are all pretty useless (a better chance of finding loot, the ability to craft a few more things...but there are only about 4 things you can craft anyway, and they're all common items), and the skill trees seem strangely inverted - the most useful things are all in the first couple of levels, and the higher-end stuff is made up of things like gaining a few extra hit points when you use a potion. However, the game itself is good fun, and the story pulls you along. There are some fun little quests to do; the combat is solid, if a little button-mashy (you could pause the action to enter combat command, but I can't honestly see why you'd ever want to, even though the game kept on telling me it was a thing I could do); the enemy selection mostly consisted of humans, but with a couple of other types thrown in. Strangely, I wish there had been a couple more boss battles (I normally hate evil boss battles, but these were okay), and that there had maybe been a bit more variety in the options you had with them, and with combat in general. The characters in general were good, though, and well fleshed out, even if a couple of them felt a little rushed. The voice work, on the whole, was great, with the main characters being consistently well-voiced, and most of the NPCs holding their own (even if the character models were used over and over again with a few different scars thrown in). The world building all came together to give you a sense that you were a small piece of something much bigger, which was great. I don't know if there are any plans to explore it further with any more titles, but the ending left it open enough. So, generally a good, solid, fun game that kept me entertained enough to want to finish it instead of playing Fallout 3 (which continues to crash with irritating regularity). Good stuff.

Next up on the randometer is...Black Moon Chronicles! Hmm, not one I recognise, though the name seems strangely familiar. Apparently it's a strategy RTS game, so could be quite fun. Also a late '90s Windows game, so it may not even work...

...And that turned out to be rather prophetic. I've tried running the game using various options - even made it as far as the main menu screen one time - but it always black screens and completely locks up my computer forcing a hard reset. So, nope. Ah well, it looked quite fun. Next up on the randometer is...Daikatana! Probably not much more that needs to be said about that one! Looking forward to seeing if it was as much of a disaster as everyone said.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Toy Tales Alpha

I had the evening to myself last night, so I thought I'd trawl through a few more games in my PS3 back catalogue. The early days of PSN were filled with arcade games with a score attack focus, and my crazy completionist streak doesn't extend to them. I've also already played a bit of all of these when I first got them, so this is more just a reminder for me, and a way to knock a few more titles off the list.

First up was Toy Home. This is a bit like a traditional racer viewpoint mixed with a Micro Machines aesthetic. You pick a wind-up car and drive through various rooms in the house, knocking over various items, collecting time extends and bonuses, and trying to hit all of the checkpoints within a specified time. The big gimmick was that it was controlled using the motion controller in the PS3 joypad, so you tilt the joypad to make the car move right, and left to make it go left. I think this was the first game where motion was the prime control method rather than just a gimmick. Did it work? Welllll, kind of. I mean, it's perfectly playable, and you certainly can control your car using it, but you can't help thinking as you play that it would be much easier using standard controls. I actually thought they patched in standard controls in a later update, but I couldn't find that feature. It was a fun game back int eh day, and I remember playing it quite a bit, but racing games are never really my cup of tea.

Next up was Mahjong Tales - Ancient Wisdom. This is a fairly basic mahjong game with a vague storyline linking together a few tables - Chinese (I think) folk tales told through cut scenes whenever you complete a board. I got strangely addicted to this when I first got it. There's something quite relaxing and mesmerizing about clicking away those tiles, and I seem to remember playing quite a bit of it when I was up early in the mornings with my son when he was a baby - something gentle and with no sudden movements that I could play while he was dozing in my lap. I think the biggest problem with it is that it just takes so long to play. A table can easily take half an hour or more to get through - fine when you're bleary-eyed with a baby at 4 in the morning, not so much when you're on a ridiculous backlog quest!

Finally, I played a bit of Street Fighter Alpha - Warriors' Dreams. I love a bit of Street Fighter, but I'd mostly missed out on the Alpha strand. This was really the next evolution after SF2, with a bunch of new characters alongside some new moves and a power bar that charges up as you fight enabling your supers. It's...well...it's Street Fighter. I'm nowhere near enough of a pro player to appreciate some of the finer changes in here, I'm a casual brawler at best, so it just felt very much like the old game with a new roster of characters. Maybe I just wasn't in the mood for it by that point. I was disappointed not to have any back story to the characters, though. Sure, it's never the most important bit of a fighting game, but I enjoy that craziness they make up - it pulls me through a single player game much more than just a will to compete. It's all well and good, but I don't have time for it now (and it made my thumbs hurt). Onwards!

I got a bit annoyed with all the crashing in Fallout 3, so I've moved back to Mars War Logs. I think I'm near the end of the second part (of three) of the game, so I'm getting through it, and enjoying it. I'll probably stick this out to the end and see if I can squeeze it in before the end of the year, and then switch back to Fallout 3.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Tactickle

I actually finished Fallout Tactics a week and a half ago, and have since been playing Fallout 3, erasing all memories of Fallout Tactics in the process. That'll learn me for not writing this earlier! Think, Ben, think.....so, Fallout Tactics is kind of the black sheep of the Fallout family, and one that I'd heard very little of and never played before. I went into it with slight trepidation - Fallout is a great RPG series because of the story, what would happen when they stripped out that story and replaced it with just a combat engine? Well, surprisingly, it's not that bad at all - in fact, I really enjoyed it. In some senses, you could probably say it wasn't a true Fallout game, and I don't think it really was, it's more of a stop-gap while they were making the original Fallout 3 - Van Buren. It's more about showcasing the new real-time engine, and what it could do. In that respect, I think it passed with flying colours. The combat was  immediately more satisfying. You can play it in the same turn-based style as the original Fallout, but the real magic comes in the realtime combat, taking your team into battle against varied opponents and setting them up just-so, with your sniper on the high ground surveying the wasteland and your tank wading in with a medic in close support. The weapons and skills are all very familiar - as is the setting - but the new engine is hugely fun, feeling a bit like Commandos, or one of those more stealthy tactical games. There is a campaign  - not hugely long, but satisfying. The story isn't really developed that well, with very thinly characterized NPCs and side quests that don't really go anywhere, but it's enough to hang the main campaign together and keep you pushing on.

I do recommend it even now for its tactical gameplay. I think it holds up with some of the other games I've played. I want to compare it to Jagged Alliance, but I've never played a JA game (yet), so I can't really do that! As I mentioned at the beginning, I've since moved on to Fallout 3, and that game's already got its hooks in me. I will just say, though, that the darn thing was a right pig to get working under Windows 10. Not fun at all. It still crashes regularly, too, which is making playing through it a little frustrating. In the meantime, I am giving Mars War Logs a bit of attention, but Fallout's definitely stealing the majority of my time.

Oh, I also tried my hand at another PS3 game and consigned it to the pile of dead games. I didn't come anywhere near completing it, but I played through a couple of levels and feel like I've seen all it's going to offer. What is it? Oh - The Last Guy. It's a little like a combination of Snake and Pac-Man. You move around a maze (okay, it's photo-realistic real world locations, but it's still essentially a simple maze) and avoid the evils who are also moving around the maze. Your task is to rescue all of the people on the map (reduced to dots) and bring them back to a safe zone. As you collect more people they stretch out in a line behind you, making you more vulnerable to evil attacks. See - Pac-Man mixed with Snake. There are a few other elements thrown in - power-ups, walls blocking your way that you need a certain size line to open, different types of enemy, and so on, but essentially I've seen all there is to see. All I'm doing now is unlocking more maps. It was good fun, and I probably could have played it for longer, but life's too short. Onwards!