Finished “Shadowrun: Dragonfall” yesterday

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Takes me my usual ages to finish a game these days, but this delightful retro-style isometric rpg with round-based combat was totally worth it. Shadowrun setting was captured brilliantly, and while the epic linear story put a lot of drive into matters, there were some cool shadowrunny side elements here and there (e.g. getting some side mission jobs to finance the main agenda, selling stolen data to the highest bidder via a bullet board system etc.)

This made me realise again that modern rpgs (especially those highly modern ones like Skyrim) do not fully satisfy this yearning for “wonder” and “fantasy”. I think it’s great that this shadowrun game uses a lot of text, and there is “much more going on in the background”. In Skyrim, you get city “XYZ”, and you can enter every one of the 12 houses in the big city, and you can talk to every npc, kill them all … Be the leader of all guilds, the defeater of everyone, the chosen one squared. There is no hidden mystery left there in any way. In Shadowrun, you are a little gear in a huge, dark system, and without spoiling anything, they hint at strings being pulled, puppet mastering, not getting the full picture, half-victories, being used politically by everyone…    I think I’m gonna start the next Shadowrun game right away 😀  (after a million jobs, that is. Damn you, work!)

just played: shadowrun dragonfall (duh)
just watched: it crowd season 1, episode 5
just heard: cagcast 444

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Top5 Games I played in 2015

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Everybody and their horse has a Best Game of 2015 list of some sort. So, I gotta have one of them, too. Right? Isn’t this how it works? A very personal “best games I played in 2015” to be precise, I am nowhere near current. I am not a reviewer or youtuber, I don’t play too many games per year. I try to play more, but I have a lot on my plate. Seriously working on reconstructing my work day so I get a human chunk of spare time (to waste on more games) … But – that’s another story.

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#5 Kingdom

Nice little mysterious one-button sidescroller. Great pixel art weather and atmosphere. You can ride to the left and to the right, recruit subjects, arm them, build walls and wait for the next horrible blood moon night, with its creepy horde of monsters.

Kingdom turned out to be much more addictive than I would have thought!
Love it for: it keeps you in the dark about its mechanics, so you are eager to find out more. I like that.

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#4 The Consuming Shadow

Yahtzee (of Zero Punctuation fame) made a great, dark Lovecraft story-heavy roguelite game. I am a big fan of his sarcastic comedy writing, but with The Consuming Shadow, he hooked me with his dark side. Very well done, sir!
Love it for: Inspirational atmosphere. I fire it up and I am immediately inspired to write something dark.

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#3 Adom

In some ways, Adom will always be #1 in my heart. I gave it another go as it hit Steam, with the new graphics it’s still a wonderful roguelike, but better than ever. Have I mentioned lately, super proud that I actually discussed bringing it to Indiegogo with creator Thomas, expressing my optimistic opinions, and it turned out to be a huge hit there! 🙂 In 2015, I tried again to beat it (still haven’t). I will have to finish my dedicated blog post about it some day, there is so much to say about it …
Love it for: It’s extreme depth. There are so many guides out there, and they are massive, as there is so much to find. Pick one, browse a page, you will be intrigued.

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#2 Renowned Explorers International Society

Wonderful little explorer game, it feels like a great board game, with a rich research tree, light on-point humour, many strategies… I had beaten Renowned Explorers once, tried it again with other characters, and found many different tactics to play it.
Love it for: Showing how great you can tell little stories in this format, and keep it ever-changing by denying some of the content per playthrough.

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#1 Assassin’s Creed – Black Flag

Only XBox One game on this list, and the oldest. This 2013 game was a Game With Gold I grabbed for free, and on the same day it was upped as a free game, I actually had it in my hand in a store. (I was so happy that I didn’t buy it.) Weirdly enough, I even worked for Assassin’s Creed in a tiny way, more so on the Prince of Persia “originals” for that matter, but never really played an AC title. And this one’s great, the parcour is stellar and sailing the waves feels great … Fighting a fort, during a thunderstorm, while being shot at by the fort and 2 pirate hunter ships, breaching the walls, jumping into the huge waves, climbing up the broken walls through the smoke, joining the fight to conquer it and raise the black flag over the ruins – can a video game atmosphere be better?

I get it, there are so many AC titles, people were quite sick of them, still this one counts as one of the best. Having played it without being sick of the parcour site of things, it made a great impression on me. The first 10 hours or so, I didn’t even leave the 1st city.

I know it’s not a 2015 game, but I had so many nice 30 minute sessions on the open sea last year before going to bed, and I am still only at 29 % complete! 🙂 It’s my number 1 go-to-game at the moment (still), so the guts say #1.
Love it for: the pirate flair that made me remember what’s great about the pirate setting. I turns out, I love it! I almost forgot. Now that you say it… I loved those old pirate movies… Now I want a Port Royale game using this engine!

just played: minecraft
just watched: co-optional podcast 003
just heard: cagcast 435

 

“Secret Hitler”

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Total Biscuit and 7 other Youtubers/Podcasters playing the card game “Secret Hitler” (by a designer of Cards Against Humanity) in Tabletop Simulator is a unique spectacle. It’s hard to follow if you (like me) know only a few of the persons involved (it’s 8 people talking). And they play it 4 times and learn the game more and more (making mistakes in the beginning).

Still, it’s a wild, weird game of lying, betrayal, paranoia … If you can’t invest 4 hours, and you don’t need introduction to the rules, just watch the 2nd video. I am watching both a 2nd time, because it was that weird and entertaining to watch. People shouting “you’re a fascist!” or “that is something Hitler would say!” at each other, laughing, double-crossing, triple-crossing … A very well made game.

just played: dirt showdown
just watched: see above
just read: still count of monte christo

 

Sony is leading in the console naming wars

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A: “Hi, I am interested in buying a gaming device?”

B: “Hello sir, which one would you be interested in?”

A: “How about that Xbox. I see you have 3 versions? Which one is this?”

B: “The Xbox One.”

A: “Ah, and that one on the other end?”

B: “The first Xbox.”

A: ” ??? So I guess that one in the middle is… let me guess, the Xbox A, Xbox Uno, Xbox…”

B: “360.”

A: “Of course! Well, that’s rubbish… How about an Ipad. Is this one new?”

B: “No, it is used.”

A: “I mean, is it the latest one?”

B: “No.”

A: “How is it called?”

B: “The New Ipad.”

A: “??? And that’s not the new one? Which one of these is the latest version?”

B: “This one. It is called the Ipad with Retina Display.”

A: “Ah, so like the older one which is called The New Ipad,  but with a Retina Display?”

B: “No, The New Ipad also has a Retina Display.”

A: “WTF! All these names are bullshit! OK let’s go with Nintendo, maybe they have names which are not shit.”

B: “Ehhm.”

 

L.A. Noire: About 4 hours in

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3rd session of LA Noire: After my first impression, I got used to the game. I start to miss the thing now when I am not playing. It helps to squint a bit and pretend you are not playing a game. That’s always helpful, but especially with L.A. Noire. When I look at it with cold analytical eyes, I see different repetitive game mechanics juxtaposed, drive, talk, shoot, chase, drive, talk, shoot…. If I forget about that and allow myself to sink into the game, I feel I am inside a crime movie, solving cases. Like when children manage to forget about the sticks, they suddenly are pirates with swords.

Especially the clue searching parts. Interrogations got better, but still sometimes too hard. Depending on the witness. Chases on foot are insane, I feel my character is out of shape compared to what the developers expected. Without the radar, no way in hell could I catch a fleeing suspect. You sometimes see 0.5 to 2 seconds of them before they are out of sight. If you happen to have your camera not manually pointing in the right direction, no chance in hell. 90% of the time I run towards the red dot on my radar and try to figure out where they jumped or climbed or whatever…  My first chase I needed to try like 6 times…

I am at my 3rd real case, these are small, quite simple. More Derrick than Agatha Christie or Bulle von Tölz. Somebody should do the exact same game without the shooter elements, and with harder non-linear cases (like Poirot novels), with more cases as DLC… That would be awesome. I read 50 Poirot books. Imagine a great looking game, where you buy DLC like you buy a new crime novel, same characters and graphics, but new case, new suspects, new murderer… That would be insane and a gold mine. I would buy 50 of that, too. It’s all about the cases, the suspense, and the solution after all.

Maybe they get more sophisticated. So far I solved the cases much faster than the game expected me to. And I am not too bright, I am just used to Poirot and Sherlock Holmes.

Still, I stick to my motto, to take a game as it is, and therefore, with the aforementioned squinting, I enjoy a stylish game. But I can never suppress my imagination running wild when I play a good game, I always come up with a dozen things to make it better (in my personal opinion). Is this a modern disease? It is easy to find music or art which is “perfect” and “divine”. But it is extremely hard to find a game that is not in some aspects “stupid”, “simple”, “only a game”. Which is OK but I would prefer the games to reach out of the screen, to spin my mind, suck me in like a book, amaze me so that I forget my name or where I live.

 

1st hour of L.A. Noire

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L.A. Noire is a new console game vaguely like Mafia or Grand Theft Auto, but you play a cop in 1947, solving crimes with Film Noire elements.

Here are my first impressions: Very stylish logo + menu. Game can be switched to Black & White, how cool is that. It drives as usual (and so far too long), shoots and hits as usual. Running is smoothly parcour (no buttons). Faces as good as you think, examination works really well. You lean over a body, move your hand along it, click, which zooms in, you can then move arm, head, or open his jacket to find a clue. The clues are always visible in the graphics, e.g. you turn a zoomed gun with your controller and find an inscription. Very immersive. Also: All doors that you can walk through are marked with a golden handle, that’s a very good idea. No more running into cardboard house fronts.

Interrogation a bit of a downer: it’s multiple choice (true, lie, doubt or sth) and every wrong answer restarts the whole interrogation. Not solved well. Sometimes it’s not clear what they want from you. If he lies, and you “doubt” his statement, still wrong! You need to click “Lie”. And if he says the truth, and you “doubt” him (which you always should as a cop), WRONG, try again, whole scene starts again. It took me 5 tries, and always the same unskippable dialogue.

But I love how he writes and sketches everything into his notebook, and you choose questions, places to go to etc. from your notebook. Sweet. Jazzy music meets Thriller-style orchestral music (many live musicians), very cool. The music also fulfills some purposes (e.g. telling you when you found all clues).

The whole package is of course great. Single cases, you play the cop up the career ladder.. So far, it still misses some charme, it feels wooden, no story arch. But it’s still tutorial-like, I hope that comes with time.

 

Buy Popcap Iphone Games and 100% go to Japan

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Popcap donate 100% of their revenue this weekend on Iphone/Ipad Games to help Japan.

So I just bought their full range. And you should too!

Bookworm (find English words in a cluster of letters) $0.99
Peggle (world-famous chance/skill based inverted breakout) $0.99
Plants vs. Zombies (the title says it all) $0.99
Bejeweled 2 (again very successful match 3 game) $0.99
Escape Rosecliff Island (Hidden Objects) $0.99
Chuzzle (Match 3) $0.99

All links take you to the Appstore.

Champions Online…

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…is Free To Play now (since January 25th). AND I checked it out. Champions is actually the first license in ages which I am excited about.

I guess for most people, the name Champions means nothing. But for me it is my personal roleplaying game. For many years, pen & paper roleplaying was my main thing. Of the 15 games I own, still own, hidden in my basement, Champions is the only one I guess which I discovered myself, no recommendation, and which I promoted and defended for years, without ever meeting somebody else who liked that game independent from my doing. Rolemaster was my other pet roleplaying game, but I met totally independent groups of Rolemaster player several times. Champions was my thing.

Champions Online cost nothing to play now, but is a 3.3 GB (slow) download. Last night after work, I saw the download had finished on my laptop, so I clicked install: And a few default characters from the Champions books were shown: Defender, Dr. Destroyer… And now I realised, they really made Champions into a MMO. I did not expect any connection at all. But they took look and feel, the setting, some characters, the stats…  Maybe not much, but so nostalgic for me. This feels like they made your favorite movie into a game, a movie which you discovered by yourself and nobody you ever met had heard of.

I have like 30 books or so of Champions or the Hero System to which it belongs, the main book is totally worn, almost all pages loose. This morning shortly before I checked out Champions Online for an hour, I took a massive bunch of paper out of my roleplaying box: Old Champions characters. *good times*

The game looks great, cel-shaded, very good modeling: try the muscle fader or body mass fader during character generation. Your Sims or Guitar Hero will not allow you to make 400 pound fat guys in skintight suits. Capes wave in the wind, light effects, you can change your facial expression or favorite stance.

Of course, nothing can be as wild and free as the character generation in the real pen & paper Champions (where you can simulate with the rules any wild idea you might have). So, no I cannot time travel, turn enemies into cardboard boxes, shoot magic fruit or transform enemies into any item I can think of. It’s a goddamn computer game. BUT, the 10 archetypes feel OK, especially beast and monster types. I don’t know why we need 2 of 10 classes who just use guns. There is destroyable and throwable environment.

The other players in tutorial town where I obviously still am show how flexible the character generation is (obese mutants, tiny faeries, guys with robot legs, hot zombie chicks, monsters made from rock or metal or whatever) and it looks awesome.  You can customize for example two torso layers of clothing, shirt + jacket + lower coat part each separately, change form, material and inner and outer color scheme. They really got that look of the classic cartoon superhero.

I made Tony Lukado, my fav own Champions character from back in the day: A homeless-looking guy with a floppy hat (made from demon skin, the source of his power) and stobbles. And it worked quite well! I took archetype “Grimoire” = magic user which is very close to my old character (demon magic).

I can’t access the wild unbalancing powers of my old character, everything gets pushed into 10 well-balanced drawers, and you get more powers along a linear line as you level up. But, on the other hand, you might profit from other characters, you can team up. My “mage” so to speak can’t even hit somebody. I can’t make a guy that can do everything.

Disclaimer: I am a total MMO noob so I cannot make any objective comparison. I did not notice any apparent faults, on the other hand, the quests where much better than in any other fantasy MMO I checked out, and they were quite fluent, drawing you deeper in, with follow up missions, team missions, special emergency missions… I had to cut myself loose and to remember I have work to do.

So, wanna play? 3.3 GB download, no cost to play, all game except some additional content is fully available, no limited features. Drop me a line and we meet (I can play a few minutes every few months hehehe).

http://www.champions-online.com/

 

I usually skip Realtime Strategy… but now I can’t any longer

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Realtime Strategy games are not usually my cup of tea. I suck at them. Maybe it’s not how I roll, maybe it’s the time pressure (and my alignment is Chaotic Creative), or the traumatic suckage at Command & Conquer 1. So I usually avoid them. We go our seperate ways.

But now that changed. Now, something new appeared, now I can’t hide anymore! [climatic music ]

Slugs.

[disappointed silence]

What? Well yeah, sorry not Starcraft 2, don’t know what made you think that. There are snails everywhere in my new garden. It’s more like Tower Defense meets Plants vs. Zombies meets Tapper (C64): Like the Bavarian environment suggests I kill them with beer. I build bases of beer and wait for the rush.

And they come in waves, more like a very slow Zombie shooter. 40 today!

So, today’s lesson: you are f**ked if you are a slug, basically. You get to shag a she-slug only once in your life. Then you drown in a pool of beer. Happens to the best of us.

So, finally an RTS enemy that matches my skills and speed.