Monday, August 30, 2010

Borderlands Review

Game:  Borderlands
Year:  2009
Company:  dev. Gearbox, pub. 2K Games
Engine:  Unreal Engine 3 (modified)
Type:  RPG Shooter

What I paid for it:  $20 including all three currently available DLCs on Steam (everything was on sale))

Plot/General Gameplay

You are one of four unique characters on a desert planet.  Alone or with mulitplayer, you are looking for The Vault, a mythical stash of alien technology.  There's also lots of mercenary work to be done.
Each of the four characters has three different skill trees.  After a level up, you can put a point in to one skill.  This allows for basically twelve different ways to play through the game, each having different benefits.
After playing through the game once, you can do a second playthrough, where you start the game with all the stuff you ended it with, and the enemies have been leveled up appropriately.  The variety of ways to level characters combine with the Playthrough 2 option allows for this to be a very long game.

What is Unique?

The graphics are what stand out the most.  Gearbox used a modern engine and then went for a somewhat cartoonish, almost 2D look.  Sharp outlines and bold textures add to this effect.  At first, I didn't care for playing a shooter that looked like a Gorillaz video, but after a while it really grew on me.
Other than that, there's some humor here and there.  Nothing laugh out loud, but just little things to keep the game a little more light.


There are lots of different weapons.  Each weapon type can be leveled up, and some characters have bonuses for specific weapons.  Some weapons are magic (they call it "elemental damage") and can shoot lightning or fire.  Enemies drop weapons fairly often, and it seems as though loot and store inventory is randomly generated.
Death isn't so bad in this.  After your health bar goes to zero, you have a few seconds to kill something.  If you do, your health goes back to full.  If you don't, you respawn at the nearest waypoint and lose a small amount of money.  In addition to health, there is a recharging shield system a la Halo.

Down-Loadable Content (DLC)

Currently there are three DLCs, with a fourth out soon. 
Zombie Island of Dr. Ned is pretty short.  It adds a few new areas and new enemies. 
Mad Moxxi's Underground Riot is lame.  It has three arenas where you fight waves of enemies.  You gain no experience in these areas and enemies do not drop anything.
The Secret Armory of General Knoxx is more like an expansion.  Many new areas are added, along with some new enemies and some familiar faces.  This is by far the lengthiest of the DLCs.  My only complaint is that they removed fast travel from this, and having to walk or drive everywhere gets tedious.

Final Thoughts

The only other game I've played by Gearbox was the Half-Life expansion Opposing Force.  That game was terrible, and the last boos fight was a tentacle monster coming through a portal.  Not to ruin the ending of Borderlands, but the last boss is a tentacle monster coming through a portal.  The plot is also kind of weak in Borderlands.
Compared to other RPG shooters like Fallout 3, it's a lot less intense and simpler.
Criticisms aside, it's not a bad game at all.  The first playthrough is a longish game, and if you want to do Playthrouh 2, explore other characters, do multiplayer, or check out the DLC, this game can provide as much gameplay as you want.
Due to the success of this game, there will likely be a sequal, but no details are currently available.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Magic Red Black Green Deck

theme: destroy lots of stuff, then have the only creature in play.

Defiler of Souls
Voracious Cobra 

Jund Hackblade
Naya Hushblade
Grixis Grimblade

Hull Breach

urza's filter

Pillar of the Paruns

and soon (probably tomorrow) a post about Borderlands.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

American McGee's Alice Review

Game:  American McGee's Alice
Year:  2000
Company:  dev. Rogue Entertainment, prod. EA
Engine:  id Tech 3
Type:  Third-Person Shooter, Platformer

American McGee

Who the hell is American McGee?  He's a guy, and that's his real name.  He got his start as a level tester on Wolfenstein, and then worked for id in the nineties on the Doom and Quake games.  Although he did sound effects and other things, he primarily was a level designer.  Now he makes his own games.  For fans of the band Dredg, he directed the video for "Same Old Road."

Plot/General Gameplay

After returning from Wonderland, Alice's parents die in a house fire and she is put in an asylum.  The white rabbit tells her to save wonderland, and down the rabbit hole she goes!  It's more complicated than that, but I don't want to ruin the ending.

The game reminded me of Tomb Raider in some ways.  There's lots of jumping to do, and some simple puzzles here and there.  The graphics are pretty much par for the time, but the water effects stand out.  The scenery and characters are all dark and twisted.  There's a lot of creativity in the look of things.  Level design is very linear.


The music fit the mood, and wasn't bad.  The voice acting (especially Alice) was great.

What is Unique?

It's a nightmare version of wonderland.  The cheshire cat looks demonic and Alice attacks with a knife.  Taking a children's tale and making it twisted, that's what's unique.


Do you like to throw knives?  You'll be using your knife (the first weapon) a whole lot.  I only used about half of the weapons.  The half I didn't use ranged from crappy to completely horrible.  In many shooters, the weapons are balanced, each being useful in its own way, and the fact that it wasn't so in Alice was a downer.

Every enemy drops health and ammo when killed, making things easier.  Some of the bosses are very difficult.

Final Thoughts

If you played this game when it came out and you love it, good.  I thought it was ok but didn't age well.  If you can get this game for free, it'll give you something to do for a week or two.  Unless you're nostalgic, I would not recommend buying this (the cheapest use copy on eBay is fifty bucks).

A sequel, Alice: Madness Returns is due out in 2011.  Checking out photos and a plot synopsis, it looks and sounds like the original, but with better graphics.  I'd wait to hear more before I decide to play the sequel.  And if you're looking for the trailer, there is a short teaser on the EA site.  There is also a fan-made, not official trailer that comes up in searches, so just be sure to check if what you are watching is the real deal or somebody's film class project.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Unappreciated Magic Cards 1

First and foremost, I want to bring up Plague Sliver.  Juzam Djinn sells for over $200.  Plaguey goes for a buck-fifty.  Each is a 5/5 for two colorless and two black.  Each causes the controller to lose one life during upkeep.  "But Plague Slivers suck in sliver decks!"  The losing life ability does not stack.  In a sliver deck, yes, this card would suck.  Would you put Juzam Djinn in your sliver deck?  Probably not.  They are the same card except that if your deck has Plague Slivers in it, you screw over any sliver deck you might play against.  This dollar price discrepancy is insane.

Next, Skyshroud Elf.  It's a common green elf for two mana that allows you to filter colorless to red or white mana.  Fantastic.  Joiner adept, somewhat similar, rare.  This cheap common makes a green/red/white deck pretty easy.

And last, the split card LIfe/Death from Apocalypse.  The Death part is 1B to put a creature in your graveyard into play.  You lose life equal to the mana cost of said creature.  Sound familiar?  The B casting cost Reanimate rare from Tempest does the same thing, from any graveyard.  Life/Death sells for twenty cents.  Reanimate goes for eight dollars.  I'm not saying that they are equally powerful cards, I'm just pointing out alternatives to rares that cost more money to do roughly the same thing.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Prey Review

Game:  Prey
Year:  2006
Company:  dev. Human Head Studios, prod. 3D Realms
Engine: id Tech 4
Type:  First Person Shooter, Puzzle

Plot/General Gameplay

I picked this as my first review because this game is fantastic, and I think more people should check it out (I got a brand new copy for eight bucks on eBay),
The story follows protagonist cherokee Tommy, who, after being abducted, must fight his way through the living alien ship (The Sphere) to rescue his girlfriend and find a way home.  For fans of Doom 3 or Quake 4, some of the textures on the ship are going to look pretty familiar (they all use id Tech 4).
There is a Zippo instead of a flashlight.  Zippos get hot, so it makes sense that the player has to turn it off after a bit.  Unlike Doom 3, light and dark do not play a large role.


The soundtrack for this game is orchestral, and makes it feel like you are part of a movie.  The character talks occassionally, taking away from immersion value but adding to story-telling value.

What is Unique?

The most unique thing about this is the spirit walk ability, basically astral projection.  While spirt walking, the player can walk through forcefields and flip switches that affect the environment.
The best uniqe thing about Prey is gravity.  Players (and enemies) can walk on floors, walls, and ceilings by using a variety of methods.  Between this and spirit walking, there are some neat puzzles and totally unique ways to get around.


Prey doesn't have the usual shotgun/machine gun/rocket launcher buffet.  With the exception of a wrench, every weapon is alien.  Some can be described as "like a minigun with a grenade launcher," or "a spider grenade," but all are unique.  A somewhat limited supply of ammo means that the player can't go through the game just using one or two weapons, like a lot of shooters.
The enemies are creative.  Fighting in general is not too difficult.  If a player dies, they go to a different area for ten seconds or so and then come back to life in the same spot, so for once I didn't have to constantly hit the quicksave button.

Final Thoughts

Prey has something like twelve hours of gametime, so it is short.  However, this game is very cheap and very unique, a la Portal.  A sequal was given the green light in 2008.  In 2009, Zenimax aquired 3D Realms, but as far as there is to know, a sequal (in cooperation with Human Head) is in the works.  Take a weekend and play this game, you won't regret it.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The First Post

I started playing Magic in the mid '90's.  The current household collection has AT LEAST ten booster packs worth of cards from revised/The Dark onward, and a smattering of cards from earlier.  Additionally we have bought singles (mostly rares) for use in decks.  We have thousands of cards.

I've been playing PC shooters since the early nineties.  The following lists PC shooters I have bought and/or played.


* have played but do not currently own
+ Down-Loaded Content (DLC) and/or expansions
/ Month Year   date of blog review

This list is alphabetical by type and revised every once in a while.


Alan Wake / April 2013
Alan Wake's American Nightmare / April 2013 (brief)
Aliens vs. Predator / December 2011
*Blake Stone: Aliens of Gold (shareware)
Bulletstorm / June 2012
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare / March 2012
*ChexQuest /March 2011
Crysis /May 2011
+Both DLC
Crysis 2 / February 2012
*Curse of the Catacombs /June 2011
Dead Space /March 2011
Dead Space 2 / March 2012
Dino D-Day
Doom /December 2010
     +Thy Flesh Consumed
Doom 2 : Hell on Earth /December 2010
Doom 3
     +Resurrection of Evil
Duke Nukem 3D
Duke Nukem Forever / November 2011
     +The Doctor Who Cloned Me
FarCry / November 2011
FarCry 2 / April 2013
F.E.A.R. /January 2011
     +Both DLC
F.E.A.R. 2 : Project Origin /February 2011
F.E.A.R. 3 / February 2012
Final Doom / September 2012
Frontlines: Fuel of War / August 2011
Half-Life /March 2011
     +Both DLC
Half-Life 2
     +Episode 1 and 2
Halo : Combat Evolved / January 2012
Hard Reset / March 2013
Heretic /July 2011
Hexen / October 2011
+Deathking of the Dark Citadel
Hexen 2
Killing Floor / November 2012
Left 4 Dead / April 2012
Left 4 Dead 2 / April 2012
*Legendary /September 2010
Max Payne /April 2011
Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne / April 2012
Medal of Honor / May 2012
Metro 2033 / July 2012
Painkiller /September 2011
Painkiller: Overdose / February 2012
Painkiller: Redemption / March 2013 (brief)
Painkiller: Resurrection
Quake /January 2011
Quake 2
     +Both DLC
Quake 3 / April 2012
     +Team Arena / April 2012
Quake 4 / June 2012
RAGE / December 2011
     +The Scorchers
Red Faction /June 2011
Red Faction 2 / January 2012
Red Faction: Guerilla
Red Orchestra 2
Resident Evil 5
Return to Castle Wolfenstein
Section 8 / February 2012
Section 8: Prejudice / March 2013
Serious Sam: The First Encounter (HD) /June 2011
Serious Sam: The Second Encounter (HD) / May 2012
Serious Sam 3: BFE / January 2012
     +Jewel of the Nile
Shogo: Mobile Armor Division
Singularity /July 2011
Star Wars: Battlefront / August 2011
Star Wars: Battlefronts 2 / August 2011
Team Fortress 2 / January 2012
Tribes: Ascend / September 2012
Unreal Gold /January 2011
Unreal Tournament /December 2010
Unreal 2: The Awakening /March 2011
Unreal Tournament 2004 /December 2010
Unreal Tournament 3 (Black Edition) /May 2011
Wolfenstein 3D / September 2011
Wolfenstein 3D: Spear of Destiny March 2013

Puzzle Games With Some Shooter Elements

Portal 2
Prey /August 2010
The Ball / October 2011


Dishonored / January 2013
Sniper Elite / April 2013 (brief)
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory / October 2012

RPGs With Some Shooter Elements

BioShock /November 2010
BioShock 2 / July 2012
Borderlands /August 2010
     +Claptrap's New Robot Revolution /December 2010
     +Other DLC / August 2010
Borderlands 2
Deus Ex /November 2011
Deus Ex: Invisible War
Deus Ex: Human Revolution (Augmented Edition)
     +All 3 DLC
Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind
Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion / October 2011
       +Shivering Isles
       +Knights of the Nine
Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim
Fallout 3 /October 2010
      +All five DLC
Fallout: New Vegas /August 2011
+All four DLC
Mass Effect (third-person) /January 2011
Mass Effect 2 (third-person) / December 2012
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadows of Chernobyl /May 2011
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Call of Pripyat

Platformers and Other

Alice: Madness Returns / December 2012 (brief)
American McGee's Alice /August 2010
Batman: Arkham City GOTY February 2013 (brief)
Darksiders / August 2012
Darksiders 2 / February 2013 (brief)
Dead Island / January 2013
Dear Esther / July 2012
Hydrophobia: Prophecy / September 2011
Just Cause / December 2012 (brief)
Prototype / March 2013
*Tomb Raider
Tomb Raider Anniversary / August 2012