Thursday, October 23, 2014

Thief Gold and I Am Alive Reviews

Game: I Am Alive
Year (s): 2012
Company: dev. Darkworks, Ubisoft
pub. Ubisoft
Engine: modified Unreal Engine 2.5 w/ Havok Physics
Type: Survival Climber

The Game
I bought this game with a gift card, largely because it has a great title. It was also post-apocalyptic (earthquakes and sandstorms, in this case) and looked like it might be a shooter of shorts. The playable character has been walking for months to be reunited with his family after taking a business trip across the country.

I didn't get too far into it. Gameplay is mostly climbing on stuff. Combat was basic and always came with prompts to make sure you did it right. Bullets were quite rare, and if you climbed too much at once you'd lose your grip and die. So, it's definetely survival, and somewhat of a crappy shooter.

The plot interested me well enough, but I couldn't find the objective on one of the early levels (climbing up a mall). Maybe they could have made it glow. Maybe I missed a prompt on part of the screen I wasn't looking at. I'll never really know. After spending about 2 hours climbing (and sometimes dying from climbing) around the same area, I gave up. This is not a worthwhile game.

Game: Thief Gold
Year (s): 1999
Company: dev. Looking Glass Studios
pub. Eidos
Engine: Dark Engine
Type: Game: Stealth

The Game
This was one of the many games I bought on the cheap, largely to see why it was so popular at the time. It was one of the first games that utilized stealth. You're a thief, and you're going to steal things. Or you can just kill people. You have the option, at least in the little bit I played.

While the gameplay may have been revolutionary at the time, the controls do not translate well to today's gamers. If you remember Duke Nukem or Hexen, there were buttons all over the keyboard to access inventory, use specific items, et cetera. Controls for Thief Gold are a mangled combination of WADS, mouse, and the aforementioned controls of games of latter years.

There were too many buttons to manage easily, and too many to rebind rationally. This is one of those games that I would have liked when it came out, but now I'd be happier to just play Dishonored.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Contagion Review

Game: Contagion
Year (s): 2013
Company: dev. Monochrome LLC
pub. Monochrome LLC
Engine: Source
Type: Survival Shooter, Multiplayer, Co-op
Viewpoint: First-Person
Metacritic Score: 62
My Score: 62

Price (as of October 4, 2014)

Regular list price on Steam: $19.99
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay: $11 (Steam key)

Obligatory Trailer:

Zombies! Contagion is a spiritual sequel to Zombie Panic! Source, a game I have never played.


It's the good-ol' reliable Source engine. You know what to expect.

Save System: None

One of Contagions big selling points is that it plays a little differently each time. Locations of weapons, ammo, and necessary items, are not fixed. The path to get from A to B changes. One time a hallway might be blocked so you have to use the stairs. Another time the stairs might be blocked and you have to crawl through ventilation. Level areas are pretty big, so this leaves even a moderately familiar player wandering around not knowing quite where to go. Enemies respawn on a timed basis, but ammo remains scarce.

Combat and Gameplay
There are a few different game types, and I'm going to discuss them one at a time. In Escape, you complete objectives in an effort to be evacuated. The levels are enormous, and they aren't broken into parts as in Left 4 Dead.

Hunted is a survive-as-long-as-you-can game mode in an enclosed area. It is pretty mindless but might be fun with others.

Extraction is the only game type I really enjoyed. Find survivors and escort them to safety, rinse, repeat.

I had two big problems when it came to asking others to try Contagion. First, there are only a few maps for any game type. The randomization concept, which at first sounds like a good idea, is ultimately frustrating in the execution. In some game modes, if you die you come back as a zombie. If you are a zombie, you suck. Even if you manage to shamble up to somebody, you might land a few lame punches and then just get shot in the head. Mostly you just get shot in the head, and have no indication of which direction to go in (if you're a human, your cell phone won't show you a path but will at least point you in the right direction).

Expansions / DLC / Sequels

Final Thoughts

I tried Contagion on a free weekend, and played it for several hours to determine if I wanted to pick it up while it was on sale. The answer: no. The maps are very limited, the zombie gameplay is awful, and the randomization premise didn't do it for me. While this looks like a Left 4 Dead knockoff, you're better off just playing that instead.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

God Mode Review

Game: God Mode
Year (s): 2013
Company: dev. Old School Games
pub. Atlus
Engine: Saber 3D engine v.S4 with Havok physics
Type: Co-Op Arena, Old School gameplay
Viewpoint: Third-person
Metacritic Score: 58
My Score: A game for people that liked Quake, but thought it had too much plot.

Price (as of , 2014)

Regular list price on Steam: $9.99
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay: Not Available

Obligatory Trailer:

Plot and Gameplay

“Welcome to Hades! That's Hell in a toga.” You're a descendant of a god, you're dead, and each time you start you hear how you died. Means of death are generally funny acts of stupidity told in a very sarcastic manner. That's it for plot.

There are five, “mazes.” Each one is a level made up of several seperated sections. Finish one area, go to the next. Pick up health, armor, and ammo by running over it.

Five levels? Well, it's not so simple. Each independent part of a maze will have a random Test of Faith. These span a range of modifications that very from silly (all enemies wear hats), to easy (infinite ammo and no reload), to difficult (enemies are larger and tougher).

Gameplay is run and gun, with magical abilities that must be charged by killing monsters. As you progress you gain experience and gold. Experience levels allow you to buy more weapons, abilities, and upgrades, and skins with your gold.


Saber 3D Engine is a new one for me. It looks about as good as anything else, and does a solid job of supporting the large numbers of enemies that will be on-screen at once. That being said, it's not perfect. Every so often the game would fail to launch correctly, and I'd have to exit out and try again. While playing, alone or with others, I would sometimes notice significant lag.

Expansions / DLC / Sequels
There is no further content, sequel, or fan-created mazes that I could find. With how prevalent the term God Mode is, and the relatively low popularity of the game, it's difficult to search for information on the internet.

Final Thoughts

God Mode is a pretty great ten dollar game. It's a little silly, and has some mindless repetitive replay value (boosted further by all of the unlockable items you can buy). On any difficulty, the number of monsters is fixed, so playing co-op is a lot more fun and allows the player to do something other than easy mode. All that being said, the biggest downside of this game is that, even with a couple dozen different Tests of Faith, there's only five levels.

So while I like the game in general, and would recommend it if you have a four-player posse for some mindless fun, I wouldn't recommend it for long-term solo action unless you are really, really bored.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Far Cry 3 Review

Game: FarCry 3
Year (s): 2012
Company: dev. Ubisoft
pub. Ubisoft
Engine: Dunia Engine 2
Type: Open world shooter with some RPG elements
Viewpoint: First-Person
Metacritic Score: 88
My Score: 85

Price (as of September 2, 2014)

Regular list price on Steam: $29.99
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (new, with shipping): $11

My Game Time: 45 hours

Obligatory Trailer:


A bunch of twenty-somethings party on a remote island, then get kidnapped by the local pirates. You escape and fight with the natives of the island against the pirates to free your friends.

Dunia Engine 2

This engine looks pretty good, and there isn't any lag while wandering around the enormous landscape. I ran into glitches a few times, but these could be remedied by relaunching the game.

Save System

Manual Save? Yes
Quick Save? No
Area Load Save? Yes
Checkpoint Save? Yes

Combat and Gameplay

Far Cry 3 is a shooter in which you rarely are required to use stealth. The sneaking around system in this game is pretty easy to get the hang of. There are lots of weapons you can get, as well as weapon modifications. As you level up, you can choose different perks to enhance your preferred gameplay method (the three trees are tank, stealth, and long range. You are not restricted to one tree).

Hunting is an option that lets the player craft items that will allow them to carry more weapons, ammo, loot, etc.

While there are a few confined areas, most of the game is done in an open world environment, allowing the player to approach encampments from any direction. Jungle cover is plentiful.

Expansions / DLC / Sequels
Far Cry 3 has a 2-player Co-Op campaign. Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon uses the same engine and a lot of the same mechanics for a great little game that has nothing to do with the rest of the franchise. Far Cry 4 is due out late this year.

The Good
This game can be quite long, and it has some pretty fun moments. At times it's like you're the hero of a movie. Characters are memorable.

The Bad
I did a lot of sidequests and hunting, and this diluted the scarce plot. I didn't like the endings (there are two). I didn't like being forced to sneak at times, and some of the side quests were a huge pain. Stab two bears to death? I already killed six leopards with a bow, give me a break. I bitched quite a bit while playing through this one, and didn't get 100% completion.

The Verdict
I LOVED Blood Dragon. This game is not as distilled. The main storyline, while not the best, had some very enjoyable moments. Gameplay was average, but the abundance of sidequests, hunting, and exploration give this game a lot of game time that sets it above average. I don't consider Far Cry 3 a great game, but I would recommend it for people that love open world shooters with a good amount of hours per dollar.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Gone Home Review

Game: Gone Home
Year (s): 2013
Company: dev. The Fullbright Company
pub. The Fullbright Company
Engine: Unity
Type: Exploration, Story-telling
Viewpoint: First-Person
Metacritic Score: 86
My Score: A short, simple, nostalgic, feel-good game.

Price (as of July 16, 2014)

Regular list price on Steam: $19.99
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (excluding Steam activation keys): $35

My Game Time: about 2 hours

Obligatory Trailer:

Plot and Gameplay

You play the part of a college-aged girl that catches a late flight home. It's storming, it's the wee hours, and you arrive to an empty house. Where is everyone?

The gameplay consists of turning on the lights and ransacking the place. In the process you read notes and activate narration.

Playing Street Fighter at 7-11, Don't Ask Don't Tell, VHS tapes, and bands from the 90's are brought up, which is cool if you're also my age.

Save System

Manual Save? Yes
Quick Save? No
Area Load Save? No
Checkpoint Save? I don't think so.

Final Thoughts

This is a nice little game. It's loosely similar to Dear Esther, except the ending is certain and the whole thing is more accessible. If you're looking for a neat short story-telling game without any combat, check this one out.  

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Dream Halls Deck

Years ago, when Dream Halls was banned and 40 card decks were legal, I had blue and red deck.  After I got Dream Halls out, I'd discard cards with madness to cast Searing Wind and Time Stretch.  It was an ok deck, though it had no defenses.  The most fun was when I cast two or three Time Stretches in a row.

Recently, I remade the blue and red deck up to sixty cards.  I used Enter the Infinite instead of Time Stretch.  If I got Enter the Infinite in my hand, I won, but it wasn't fun.  If I didn't cast Enter the Infinite, the deck did very little.

After taking another look at things that cost eight mana or more, I've decided to go with black and blue.  This allowed for me to use Army of the Damned, which I will probably never use in anything else.  I have some beefy creatures and sexy card drawing, and black of course has the generic tutors.  An unintended result of picking cards I liked was that I will utilize cards that are only great if you cast them from your hand (the Myojin, Hypnox, Dread Cacodemon).

I don't quite have all the cards, but I will soon.  I think this will be a fun deck.  If it's too abusive, I'll take out the Cacodemons for more Hypnoxes, or something.  Lots of room to work with.

Here's the proposed decklist:

Dream Halls
60-Card Format
Black, Blue

4 Dream Halls

4 Rhystic Study
4 Baleful Strix
4 Shadowmage Infiltrator
2 tutors

4 Dread Cacodemon
3 Army of the Damned
2 Rise of the Dark Realms
1 Hypnox
1 Myojin of Night's Reach
1 Myojin of Seeing Winds

2 Jhessian Zombies
4 Blood Pet
4 Basal Thrull

Monday, June 2, 2014

Risen Review

Game: Risen
Year (s): 2009
Company: dev. Piranha-Bytes
pub. Deep Silver
Engine: Unnamed proprietary engine using Emotion FX, SpeedTree foilage, and PhysX
Type: Hack and Slash RPG, open world
Viewpoint: Third-Person
Metacritic Score: 77
My Score: This one's a dud.

Price (as of June 2, 2014)

Regular list price on Steam: $9.99
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (new, with shipping): $14.42

Obligatory Trailer:

Set in a pirate-era magical world, the gods have been cast out... but something else has RISEN! A terrible storm shipwrecks you on an island where ancient temples full of monsters have erupted from the ground. A bandit group and an order of mage warriors vie for control and access to the magic artifacts found in the temples.


The engine is graphically comparable to what you might have seen in Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion, although with less glitches. Some of the key bindings are stupid (“L” for quests, for example) and there is no quicksave. It's not ideal.

Save System

Manual Save? Yes
Quick Save? No
Area Load Save? Sometimes, as an Auto Save
Checkpoint Save? Sometimes, as an Auto Save

Why I Got Risen
One reason why I was interested in Risen is because it had a sequel. If I enjoyed one, I could play another.

My other reasons for trying the game were a misunderstanding of the creators. I saw the trailer, which mentioned Deep Silver. I thought, “Cool, they did Dead Island.” They PUBLISHED Dead Island. TechLand was the developer.
Also listed was Piranha-Bytes, which I vaguely recalled as on of the many developers ultimately credited in Duke Nukem Forever. Piranha Games, a small Canadian developer, worked on DNF. Piranha-Bytes is an small, unrelated German developer.
While I thought I knew what I was getting into, I was wrong.

Combat and Gameplay
I mastered attacking and blocking. Unfortunately, Risen has a complicated system that also uses counterattacks, lateral attacks, charged attacks, and I think dodging too. Failing to figure out this clumsy mess of combat resulted in resorting to cheats very quickly.

But, a lot of the time, quests don't involve combat. You have to talk to people. A lot of people. It becomes tedious.

Early on, I couldn't find a secret entrance to progress the (possibly) main story. So, I ventured out, quickly finding an end-level dungeon near the beginning of the game. The monsters could kill me in one hit, so I had them chase me back to an encampment right outside. Many friendly units were killed, but I was able to loot the dead monster afterward.

I explored nearly all of the island, looting from enemies and harvesting plants. Lots of plants restored mana, but I had no magic powers. I sold these plants.

Fast forward twelve hours. I finally find the secret entrance I had looked for in the beginning. I'm sent on a quest to find two guys that were killed by that monster I lured away earlier. I was also to find a bunch of plants, which I had already found but sold for money.

That's when I'd had enough.

Expansions / DLC / Sequels

Risen was followed by Risen 2, which had DLC.

Final Thoughts

I might have been able to progress further in Risen, but after 16 hours I was convinced it wasn't a good RPG. If it had come out in 2004, sure. But 2009? That's two years after Fallout 3. The combat and key bindings were awful, the gab fest was excessive, and some of their choices (like putting that end-game dungeon right near the start) made no sense.

I'd recommend avoiding this one. Oblivion or Skyrim, while buggy, are more fun with pretty similar gameplay. Mass Effect, Darksiders, or even Dust: An Elysian Tale would be more worth your time and money.