Crysis 2: Early Impressions

The two games I’ve got rented right now are Crysis 2 and Dark Void. I’m about a third of the way through Crysis, but it’s been slow going, so I’m putting it on hold while I barrel through Dark Void. It’s interesting: both games are shooters with enhanced mobility mechanics, but beyond that, there’s not a lot that’s similar between the two. Continue reading

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Games Miscellany: SSX, Diablo 3 and Crusader Kings 2

SSX
I finally sent SSX back. My thoughts on it haven’t really changed since I last wrote about it. Some of the core snowboarding is fun, but when more than half the tracks are designed to punish risk-taking rather than encouraging it, your game has fundamental problems. The actual Deadly Descents produce particularly bizarre incentives. Some of them, like Avalanche produce fast-paced, intense runs (I also like the pulled-back camera effect that one has) but more than half of them, things like Rocks and Darkness, encourage slowly crawling along the course, and neither boosting or doing tricks off jumps. The appeal of an extreme sport is going fast and just barely staying in control, and that’s not something that SSX is set up to encourage.

For comparison, look at the recently released Trials Evolution. It does score-chasing right. Mistakes are inevitable, and you do receive time-faults for having to reset, but the most important thing is just how quickly the game gets you back into it. You immediately respawn a few seconds back at the last checkpoint. Also note how the times in single-player go straight onto the online leaderboard. It’s still insane that SSX segregates single-player times from the score-chasing mode.

Diablo 3 Beta
I played this a while back, before they changed how runes work. I did a run-through as a wizard, and I watched H do a run-through as a barbarian. We both found it really easy, and I strongly hope that they calibrate it so that Normal difficulty isn’t a cakewalk or a dull time-sink that one has to grind through before getting to the more engaging second and later laps. That said, the act of combat felt really good. There’s just this solid, crunchy, comfortingly familiar sound to it. It looks great too, and plays smooth. I’m looking forward to playing the real thing in a couple of weeks.

(Also, how crazy is it that Diablo 3 is beating Torchlight 2 to market. I very much enjoyed the first Torchlight, but I can’t help but feel that the good folks at Runic may have missed their window . That said, I seem to recall folks from GWJ coming back from PAX East with good impressions, so maybe the two can co-exist.)

Crusader Kings 2
I won one of the copies that No High Scores was generously giving out. It’s a slow game, and one that demands a lot of investment from the player to get the most out of it, but I’m having a blast. You can just sit there and let the game run, but there’s lots of space to define just what goals you want for your dynasty, and then go out and try to pursue them. After a false-start as a minor Saxon Count, I’ve had two longer games that I’ve been happy with in Ireland. The first one I ended after a major patch came out. I had some hilarious doings with an heir who couldn’t keep it in his pants, and who outlived four wives and a mistress and had eight kids (six of them sons) before I even got to play as him. My second game, I started out as a fairly strong Irish Count (I controlled one county and my son and heir controlled a second) and over two generations, have managed to conquer more than half of the Emerald Isle and proclaim myself King. But now my king is getting old, and my heir has lousy stats, and I’m really unsure of how well I’m going to be able to keep this whole thing together.

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Further Musings on Magic: Dark Ascension and Innistrad versus Avacyn Restored

[Last time I talked about the appeal of Magic and drafting in general.]
The Magic format I’ve been watching the most has been Dark Ascension-Innistrad-Innistrad drafts (that is, the first pack of the draft is from the Dark Ascension set, and the other two are from Innistrad, henceforth, DII) and I’ve fallen in love with it. The draft itself feels well-structured in terms of the decks it encourages, and the games the format produces are tense, fast-paced and entertaining to watch. And, sadly, this format is largely going away soon. In its placed will be a triple-Avacyn Restored format, Avacyn Restored being a new set that, while it’s billed as a companion set with Innistrad and Dark Ascension, it features significantly different mechanics, and while the jury is still out, my first impression is that both the drafts and the games it produces will be rather less interesting. Continue reading

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Some Musings on Magic: The Gathering

I’ve been watching a lot of Magic: The Gathering play recently. It’s pretty much replaced Starcraft as my strategy game of choice to watch right now. It started with Loading Ready Run, but I’ve since also moved on to watching a couple of competitive players who live-streamer on Twitch (I like Samuel Black and Joel Larsson, in particular). Unlike Starcraft, I’m actually considering making the jump over to playing. So I want to spend a couple of entries talking about what aspects of the game I find appealing, and what is keeping me away (beyond just my usual introversion). Continue reading

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Machinarium

It’s good but not great. It falls prey to the usual point-and-click peril, where you get stuck because you don’t realize that some particular thing is interactable. It’s made worse than usual here because the character moves slowly and can only interact with nearby objects, so it’s particular easy to miss something because you never walked close to it. I also had some trouble figuring out what my inventory items actually were – what turned out to be a piece of flypaper was particularly inscrutable. It works better early in the game, where all the puzzles are confined to single rooms, and so the potential interactions are limited, but once the game opened up I found I had to resort to a walk through with increasing frequency.

Nonetheless, the animation is gorgeous. Despite (and because of) the game’s wordlessness, it manages to pack an impressive amount of personality and emotional. The tremendously expressive robots lie end up very much on the right side of the uncanny valley. I also love the homages to classic games embedded throughout.

It’s a shame about the slow character movement and occasional back-tracking. It gives the impression of a game that doesn’t respect my time. But it was otherwise enjoyable, and there some clever puzzles, both of the inventory manipulation type and of the pure puzzle kind. And the late-game sliding block puzzle can just go to hell (even if it is a fairly novel take on the genre.)

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Warhammer 40k: Space Marine, Conclusions

[See my early impressions here]
It turns out that I had left off last time mere minutes before the first jump-pack sequence. These are really where the game comes alive. Instantly the control scheme makes more sense. The lugubrious roll animation gets replaced with a quick little hop. It’s effectively trivial to extricate yourself from melee combat. The dive-bomb provides an easy, satisfying area of effect attack. And the increased mobility dampened my yearning for a cover system. Continue reading

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Miscellaneous Links!

Still catching up, so these are not particularly timely, but they’re still mostly timeless. (Wow…that’s a really gross sentence, but so much so that I want to leave it there and admire its awfulness.)

From Buzzfeed, via Susan Arendt’s twitter, we have Cats as Fonts.

Some interesting musings in the Economist about the relationship between the individual and the family and the state in Nordic countries, and in particular that the Nordic countries are not so much leftist as that their people have sufficient trust that their governments can be the guarantors of their freedoms.

A Better Book Titles survey of children’s literature.

Via Andrew Sullivan, research indicating that before the 18th century, it was common for sleep to be in two four-hour intervals separated by a couple of hours of wakefulness, and the possibility that our minds and bodies may be better suited to this sleeping pattern.

It’s a little old now, but here’s a NY Magazine article on how the GOP primary has laid bare the divisions within the party. (Of course, if Romney wins in November, all will be forgotten. But if he loses, how badly will things fall apart?)

A great Onion headline.

Via Ryan Davis’ twitter, a hilarious write-up of a bizarre Muppets tv special from 1983. The moral of the piece: “Big Bird overpowers the will of gods and demons in a quest for celestial justice.”

And lastly, for our video entry, via io9, 15 minutes of Worf having all his ideas and input rejected on TNG:

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