Sunday, 12 November 2017

Mastered

It's going to be slightly odd writing about level packs for Doom. For something like this, there is no narrative, nothing that holds the levels together or sets them apart. It's just 20 random game spaces to explore, all with the same engine and textures and all with the same objects and infestations. It's more of the same... But different. Master Levels for Doom 2 is a collection of levels by the leading lights of the community at the time, many of whom went on to jobs in the industry. They are all (mostly) well designed spaces, full of great engineering and scripting to build experiences that often go beyond those of the original game. A couple of them fall into the trap of just filling rooms full of high-level monsters to make them more difficult, but they generally set the bar very high. They were all fun to play through but sometimes a bit of a slog, and it's good to have them done. Next up is...yes, you guessed it, more Doom! This time it's Final Doom, which actually contains two full 30-level games. Not by id, but approved by them. I think they both have new framing stories, but otherwise are essentially the same.

On the PlayStation front, I'm done with Tank Battles. It's a very simple top-down single-screen game of little tanks driving about and destroying each other. It's obviously meant to be a multiplayer game, and would be much better for it, but there is a single player campaign that I worked through the majority of. There's no narrative to it, it's just a collection of maps slowly introducing all of the various power ups and abilities in the game. It generally works well mechanically, with my main complaints being twofold, first that the tanks are very slow to start maneuvering, so if you're stationary and there's a shell coming towards you then it's almost impossible to spin up and get out of the way. Secondly, every shell fired has the ability to bounce off one wall, meaning that you're never sure when there's a shell flying towards you whether it's going to explode harmlessly into the wall behind you or if it's going to rebound and hit you. You could easily argue that both of these things make the game more frantic and therefore more fun, and in a multiplayer game they well might. In the single player game, though, they just serve to make things much more frustrating when you are destroyed a) without knowing why, and b) without being able to respond. These could have been fixable, the status of a shell's rebound could have been communicated to the player or just removed altogether and relegated to a special ability rather than the norm, and the startup time of the tank could have been tweaked slightly to allow the possibility of escape. I realise it's supposed to punish you for standing still, but there's a point where punishment becomes unfair frustration. I reached that point before finishing all of the campaign missions, but there's no incentive to carry on. I'm also done with Catan, the computer
version of Settlers of Catan. It's pretty faithful to the board game version, which, as you can probably imagine, makes it fairly pointless as a single player game. I can imagine it would be more fun online, but let's face it, it would be most fun over a table with a few beers, which is where I'd prefer to keep it. Onwards!

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