Friday, December 30, 2011

Bad Neighbor Deck

The second of the two decks I've been wanting to build.  Intended for multiplayer games versus creature decks, it's called the Bad Neighbor because I take you stuff and don't give it back.  A lighthearted control deck. 

I'd love to add Word of Command, but it costs too much money.  Decklist is tentative as it has not been played.

(The) Bad Neighbor Deck
60 Card Format
Black, Blue, White

1 Sen Triplets
3 Grinning Totem

2 Thought Dissector
4 Helm of Obedience
4 Telemin Performance
4 Callous Oppressor
4 Preacher

1 Halfdane
4 Shape Stealer
2 Quicksilver Elemental

3 Innocent Blood
3 Martyr's Cause

3 Obelisk of Esper
4 Felwar Stone


4 Exotic Orchard
2 Vesuva
4 Arcane Sanctum
4 Islands
4 Plains
3 Swamps

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Bedlam Deck

This is one of the decks i've been gathering cards for in the last few months.  I've always had an interest in Bedlam.  Innistrad's vampires reignited the concept (even if they later were cut).  Like the Shadow Deck, I can't block (if things are working) and I have lots of defenses.  Unlike the Shadow Deck, it's two colors, my creatures can get bigger, and no one can block (if things are working at all).

this list is tentative, as I haven't played it.  i foresee it being a mid-to-late-game winner.

Bedlam Deck
60 Card Format
Red, White

4 Bedlam
4 Order/Chaos
3 Curse of Stalked Prey

4 Blinding Angel
4 Windborn Muse
2 Falkenrath Marauder
2 Slith Ascendant

4 Magus of the Moat
3 Worship

2 Enlightened Tutor
2 Argivian Find
2 Tithe
2 Armillary Sphere
4 Traveler's Amulet


2 Ice Floe
2 Maze of Ith
1 Kor Haven
Multicolor Lands

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

RAGE Review

Game:  RAGE
Year (s):  2011
Company:  dev.  id Software
            pub.  Bethesda Studios
Engine:  id Tech 5
Type:  First-Person Shooter (with some RPG elements), Racing

Price (as of December 24, 2011)

Regular price on Steam:  $29.99
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (new, with shipping):  $24

Game Time (first time, on normal): 33 hours

Obligatory Trailer:


In 2004 observations indicated that the asteroid Apophis had a small chance of hitting Earth.  RAGE begins with the asteroid hitting.  Selected people were put in underground Arks, kept in suspended animation by "nanotrites".  You, one of the Ark survivors, wake up about one hundred years after impact.  It's a phenomenal beginning, with great cinematics, music, and dialogue.

The rest of the game has almost no plot.  Shoot stuff that shoots at you.  A novel and a set of three comic books flesh out the plot, but these don't come with the game.  Many people have been understandably unhappy with the lack of story.

id Tech 5

I ran the game on nearly the lowest settings, and it looked as good as anything else that I've seen in the last five years.  I'm sure on the highest specs it's a bombshell.  A noticeable aspect of this engine is very short load times. 

Some complain that the engine is buggy, but they're idiots.  The game never crashed.  Occasionally graphical errors occurred on an area load, but re-loading the last save (typically the auto save that occurred on entering the new area) fixed it easily.  I had no other problems. 

Voice Talent/Audio

Most notably, we have John Goodman.  Several other voices are ones that you will recognize from other games, but probably won't know the name of the actors offhand.

The score is done by a guy named Abernathy, and really shines during cinematic cutscenes.  Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees, Queens of the Stone Age) did a song that plays during the end credits. 

Combat and Gameplay

This is my favorite part of the game.  Like old shooters, you have lots of weapons and infinite inventory.  Except for two guns, all have multiple ammo types.  Ammo can electrocute, explode, or mind-control an enemy to turn them in to a suicide bomber. 

All weapons can zoom and be used in melee.  RAGE adds quick-use items (bound to Q and changed by the F keys ) ranging from medkits and grenades, to boomerangs, sentry bots, turrets, and RC bomb cars.  Using these in conjuction with your standard weaponry is a blast.

Quick-use items and some ammo types can be built by the player, from parts found or purchased.  This engineering system is simpler and more accesible than that in New Vegas or BioShock. 

Life regeneration is featured, albeit unlike other games, there's a sci-fi explanation for it.  The "nanotrites" that kept you in suspended animation now repair your body!  This also accounts for a limited come-back-to-life mechanic.


Two races are part of the main quest, and you'll be driving between locations as soon as you have a vehicle.  Lots of additional races are purely optional.  The parts upgrade system for cars is very simple, and weapons (many with parallels in Mario Kart) can be purchased.  All the racing together isn't as long as an actual driving game, but it's an enormous contrast to the shooter genre's typically limited use of vehicles. 

Game Time

I tried (and failed) to do everything in one play through.  This included side quests, racing, vehicle jumps, a handful of mini-games, optional areas, and achievements.  This made the gametime 2-3 times as long as most modern shooters, or a fraction as long as the big modern RPG shooters.  This amount of content is another complaint made by players.  However, RAGE doesn't have all the similar (repetetive) quests to do.  Different groups of enemies in RAGE have different AI and tactics.  Lastly, RAGE is already 21 gigs, with the promise of additional content in DLC form. 

Easter Eggs

The player can find Pinkies, which have a description like Twinkies but make a distinctive growl upon picking them up.  Vault-Tec bobbleheads can be found, so can a guy with a Doom 3 t-shirt, a few id logos, signs for Doom 3's Mixom company, a Half-Life 2 nod, and probably several other references that I didn't notice or didn't find.  

Expansions / DLC / Sequels

id plans to create DLC, but there is no information yet.

Final Thoughts

What we have here is a beautifully rendered, good-length shooter with top-notch voice acting and audio.  The game makes a huge advance in combining shooters and racing.  While there's no plot, I have a hard time remembering the last time I had this much fun with a combat system.  RAGE is pretty sweet.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Aliens vs. Predator Review

Game:  Aliens vs. Predator
Year (s):  2010
Company:  dev.  Rebellion Developments
            pub.  Sega
Engine:  Asura
Type:  First-Person Shooter

Price (as of December 5, 2011 )

Regular price on Steam:  19.99
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (new, with shipping):  13.95

Game Time:  13 hours, first time on normal

Obligatory Trailer:


Humans, Aliens, and Predators each have their own single-player campaign.  Events in these occur at the same time, at the same facility.  The Weiland-Yutani Corporation, with their androids and machinations, play a role in each campaign. 

As a human, your squad of marines drop down to help the distressed colony.  The Alien infestation is overwhelming, and your mission quickly becomes a rush to rescue your CO and escape.

As an Alien, you bust out of a laboratory and establish Alien domination.  The Queen gives you orders telepathically.

As a Predator, you are responding to a distress call from an Elite Predator.  The Predator battles to regain artifacts looted by Weiland-Yutani, detonate the area, and kill the alien/predator hybrid. 


The Asura engine looks much like anything else I've played in the last five years.  I sometimes had lagging problems, which could be due to the engine, to Steam, or just be a sign that my computer needs an upgrade. 

Asura uses DirectX 11, and is Rebellion's in-house engine.  There is little information online about it, and a great deal of speculation without citation (mostly on forums).  The bottom line: it looks good, but is more system-intensive than most games.


Each race has a different set of weapons, abilities, HUD, view of the world, etc.  Each one is unique and therefore requires a different approach to the same situations.  This is most interesting in areas shared by each campaign.

Human gameplay is pretty standard.  There's a handful of weapons, but you can only carry a few.  Flares, a flashlight, a short sprint, and up to three stimpacks on-hand.  Nothing new here.

Aliens can climb on every surface (I love the concept, but it's quite disorienting).  They can see in the dark, and rely on stealth to kill targets one at a time.  No ranged attacks.

Predators are somewhat of a middle ground, with both ranged and melee attacks, and the ability to be invisible to humans.  They can jump great distances, making them the middle for maneuverability too.  At the end of their campaign, when I had all of the Predator's weapons, they seemed to be the most powerful.

Audio and The Movies

Voice actors from the movies are featured (most recognizably Lance Henriksen), as well as some of the same sound effects.

Motivations of the corporation remain true to the movies.  Aliens and Predators behave just like in the movies, with the same methods of attack.  The human's motion-sensing radar is featured, straight out of the movies, and the plot seems to fit with what has been established before.  Rebellion stayed true to the franchise enough to satisfy strict fans. 

Expansions / DLC / Sequels

There are currently two DLC map packs that add new content to multiplayer only.

Aliens vs. Predator held sales records in the UK, on Steam, and on the PC charts.  Rebellion's CEO has stated he is in discussion with Sega in regards to a sequel, but there have been no announcements yet.

Final Thoughts

I like the Alien and Predator movies well enough.  This game is much like playing a movie.  The graphics are great, but the game itself is rather average.  So much potential yielded no fear factor, and zero firefights that really fulfilled me.  Overall:  if you like the franchise, it's alright.  Otherwise, don't bother with this one.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Far Cry Review

Game:  Far Cry
Year (s):  2004
Company:  dev.  Crytek
            pub.  Ubisoft
Engine:  CryEngine
Type:  First-Person Shooter

Price (as of 11-28-2011 )

Regular price on Steam:  9.99
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (new, with shipping):  6.99

Game Time:  31 hours, first time, default difficulty

Obligatory Trailer:


Former special forces soldier Jack Carver is hired by Valerie Constantine to sail her to a remote island.  While approaching, a missile destroys the boat.  Val is captured by a mercenary force.  Jack washes ashore and sets to rescue her.  While in the process of murdering mercenaries and making merry mayhem, Jack disrupts the island's operations enough so that the hyper-aggressive experimental creatures break loose.  The tropical paradise becomes a warzone.

The plot, in general, works.  There were a couple QUITE anti-climactic spots that annoyed me though.  A nuclear bomb blows up... exactly one building!  The island's volcano, we are told, has been kept from erupting by the bad guys.  After you defeat the bad guys... it continues to not erupt.  The game ends on a fizzle that easily allowed for a sequel.

Hi, We are Crytek

This was the first game by Crytek, so I'm willing to cut it some slack.  It had features not seen in other games, and was a success.  Wikipedia tells me that 730,000 units were sold within the first four months of release.

Far Cry runs on their fancy CryEngine, which was quite competetive at the time of release.  Far Cry grew out of technology demo made to showcase the capabilities of NVIDIA GeForce 3 video graphics accelerator.  Graphically, it had higher system requirements than other offerings.  I don't notice a big difference visually over the other top engines of the year (id Tech 4, Source, Unreal Engine 2/2.5) but for one thing: scope.  Areas between load points are relatively enormous. 

But the engine has major problems.  This game crashed every time I exit it.  I then have to have Steam verify file integrity and download some files.  Launching the game after that, I have to re-spec graphics options and key bindings.  Every time.  Additionally, the game sometimes crashed on launch, restarting the computer.  I had worse problems with Painkiller, but these issues are good motivation to not play the game.


This was one of the early open-world games.  You have some (limited) options for approaching firefights, so players might proceed a little differently.  Cover is a big deal, and there is a meter on the HUD to show how alert the enemies are to your presence.  It's hard to find (and evade) targets with the underbrush, but you have some tricks.  You can throw rocks to distract enemies, you have binoculars that give a rough location of enemies and put them on your radar, and you have limited use of infrared. 


This was the biggest inconsistency of the game.  Sometimes, I'd play for two hours and enjoy an intense, challenging experience.  Other times, I'd play for an hour on the same damn firefight.  I played on default (difficulty 2 of 5).  On a singular basis, enemies were easy to take out.  In groups, they will flank you, provide covering fire, throw grenades, and use cover.  Solid AI, that increases with difficulty.  The parts I got stuck on I eventually beat (after 10-30 attempts) after memorizing each enemy position and scoring headshots.  That's far too methodical (and frustrating) for me.  The last fighting segment was impossible and I watched the ending of the game on YouTube.

Expansions / DLC / Sequels

Far Cry 2, developed by Ubisoft alone, came out in 2008.  Far Cry 3 (also just Ubisoft) was announced at E3 2011 with no set release date.

A film based the game was released in Germany in 2008.

Final Thoughts

We have here a game that was very, very interesting at the time of release.  If there was a patch to address the bugs and allow quicksaves, I'd be a lot happier.  As it is, this is a bipolar game.  Fantastic for the first offering of a new company with a new engine, but a far cry from the phenomenally fun second offering, Crysis.  Skip this one. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Games I LIked 2011

These games might not have come out in 2011, but I've played them in the last year and they stood out from a lot of others.  I'd recommend them (I had a similar list in September 2010).  In no particular order: 

Good story telling, fast pace, and intense combat.  Character's Nanosuit powers allow for multiple different combat strategies in any situation.

Fear 2: Project Origin
Intense, satisfying firefights and a creepy-as-shit atmosphere, combined with a dark, twisted plot.

Unreal Tournament 3
Good for multiplayer.  Good for single player.  Campaign has more story than all other Unreal games combined, along with some humor, branching options, and some challenging maps.  Also, a great engine with lots of fan-made maps and use by other developers.

Dead Space
Quality survival-horror.  Freaky monsters, creepy atmosphere and story.  Constantly being low on everything makes gameplay frantic, and forces you to use more than just your favorite gun.

Max Payne
Surprisingly challenging combat and ridiculously over-done dialogue make this one a lot of fun, even if it's old.

Yet another game with some horror appeal.  BioShock also has beautiful water effects and myriad approaches to building your character, leading players to pick it up again.  The story is solid and has some great twists.

It's not as intense as Fallout 3 (or a sandbox game) but it has just as much game time, if not more.  This more laid-back approach is amusing, and the variety of character options give cause to play it multiple times.

Fallout New Vegas: Old World Blues
I really, really wish this could be a stand-alone game.  Old World Blues has the familiar gameplay of Fallout 3/New Vegas, but goes after everything with a great sense of humor.  I laughed out loud several times playing this DLC.  It's really good (Note: I do NOT recommend New Vegas... just this DLC for it).

There you go.  Right in time for the holidays.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Deus Ex Review

Game: Deus Ex
Year (s):  2000
Company:  dev.  Ion Storm Inc.
            pub.  Eidos Interactive
Engine:  Unreal Engine (modified)
Type:  FPS RPG

Price (as of 11/15/2011)

Regular price on Steam:  $9.99
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (new, with shipping):  $13

Game Time:  30 hours

Obligatory Trailer:


You are among the first prototypes for a nanite-enhanced special agent of UNATCO (UN Anti-Terrorist Coalition).  A plague is threatening humanity, and terrorists have stolen a shipment of the vaccine.  You have to recover it.  Along the course of events, the plot evolves into a secret organization's vast conspiracy to take over the world.  Game is set in 2052.

Secondary objectives and other options throughout the game allow for some deviation from linear gameplay, and three different endings. 

Then and Now

I actually had a blog entry about this game before.  When I first played this game in college, my definition of a shooter game was defined by Doom, Quake, Half-Life, and a few other similar games.  Deus Ex is not like those.  Taken from the original (now deleted) post, "I got this game from someone that didn't care for it, for free.  I didn't enjoy it and gave it to my brother.  He didn't care for it and gave it to a friend, who didn't care for it and threw it away, or possibly set it on fire."

I just replayed this game and thought it deserved a better review.  I enjoyed it this time around.  There were a lot of elements that had not been used in shooters before (at least from what I've played), which made this a great game from the creative stand point. 

Modified Unreal Engine and New Stuff

Graphics are as can be expected.  The immediately noticeable result of engine modification is the amount to which the player can interact with the environment.  Break boxes, talk to people, read notes, enter codes, pick up items, a GUI inventory, hack computers, pick locks...  Most of these ideas went on to be embraced by other games.  This game also introduced me to sneaking around, which I generally don't have the patience for.

Skills and Augmentations

Lockpicking, weapon classes, swimming, and various other skills can be leveled up by spending experience points.  Experience is gained by progressing through the game and by exploring.  At master level for Rifles, the sniper rifle has no bob and 100% accuracy.  At the untrained level for Rifles, your sniper rifle bobs all over and can miss point blank.  There is not enough experience to level everything all the way, not even close.  Deciding what to spend the points on allows different ways to play through the game.

Augmentations are nanite super powers.  The energy to activate these is independent of ammunition.  Each augmentation allows only one of two choices.  For example, you can have an ability that increases your resistance to toxins, or an ability that increases lung capacity.  Once you pick one, you can't get the other.  Further, augmentation upgrades are occasionally found.  Again, there are not enough to max out everything, so this, too, allows different ways to play the game.


Each weapon has its own class.  Some weapons are silent, which is good if you want to sneak around.  Ammo scarcity forces players to use more than one weapon, while the inventory system only allows so many items/weapons to be carried at a time.  Furthermore, modifications can be added to increase a weapon's range, recoil, accuracy, clip size, or to add a silencer (these stack).  Many weapons have more than one type of ammunition, another first for me.

Expansions / DLC / Sequels

A sequel titled Deus Ex: Invisible War released in 2003.  Deus Ex: Human Revolution, was released in 2011.

Final Thoughts

I didn't like this in college because I refused to sneak around and didn't like problems that couldn't be solved with bullets.  Now I have more appreciation for the varied ways to complete objectives and progress throughout the game.  Still not my favorite PC game of all time (though it consistently ranks extremely high in publication lists for that), but there really are a lot of innovative gameplay elements considering when it came out.  This game is cheap with long game time and reasons to play it more than once.  If you don't mind dated graphics, this is considered by critics to be a benchmark of the genre. 

An article about the company, Ion Storm and some of its employees, will be forthcoming.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Duke Nukem Forever Review

Game:  Duke Nukem Forever
Year (s):  2011
Company:  dev.  3D Realms, Triptych Games, Gearbox Software, Piranha Games
            pub.  2K Games, Aspyr Media
Engine:  Unreal Engine 3
Type:  First-Person Shooter

Price (as of 11/7/11 )

Regular price on Steam:  19.99
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (new, with shipping):  17.99

Game Time:  12 hours

Obligatory Trailer:

12 years after Duke Nukem saved the world, he's living it up as a celebrity.  Then, the aliens strike again, destroying stuff, killing people, and, worst of all, stealing our women.  Looks like Duke will have to save the day again.

Nudity and Humor

DKF has less boobs than the original.  Two consecutive areas have topless women, the rest of the game just has an occassional calendar on the wall or magazine on a desk. 

The sexual references though, are all over the place.  The humor is the same as the original.  I've outgrown a lot of the juvenile humor, but there's still something to smirk about here and there.

The Long Development

This game was in developed for fifteen years,  The engine was changed several times, the publishing rights were tossed around, and the original company went under.  Four developing studios worked on this game.  Taking that clusterfuck in to consideration, I'm pretty satisfied with how the game turned out.  After beating the game, you unlock concept art, screenshots, trailers, and a timeline spanning the years of development. 

Gameplay and Critics

I last played the original Duke maybe ten years ago.  All of the weapons and enemies I remember return.  The game adds vehicles, some platforming parts, and areas where you have been shrunk.  Different parts of the game look to be from other titles: physics puzzles a la Half Life 2, the "I can see my arms and legs!" from FEAR, and so on.  A regenerating health bar requires finding cover.  You can carry 2-4 weapons, and you have to reload.  This is definitely a sequel, but it is not a throwback shooter.  Anyone that says it is hasn't played Serious Sam or Painkiller.

Critics hated this game, and it has a horrible metascore.  Fuck that.  This is a fun, sometimes silly game.  Given the messy development process, anyone that expected some ground-breaking game was an idiot.  If you liked the first you'll like this.  It should have a metascore of around 80, if everyone got their heads out of their asses and played the game to enjoy it instead of playing the game to bitch about it.

That being said, the AI is basic, the combat easy, and the levels pretty linear.

Final Thoughts

This is not a great game, but this is an alright game.  It's better than a lot of the 12 hour forgettable crap that gets churned out lately.  Is it worth twenty bucks?  Well, it's short, so I'd wait until it goes on sale.  On the other hand, twenty bucks for a new game is dirt cheap.  To each their own.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

HeXen: Beyond Heretic Review

Game:  HeXen: Beyond Heretic
Year (s):  1995 (original), 1996 (expansion)
Company:  dev.  Raven Software
            pub.  id Software
Engine:  id Tech 1 (modified)
Type:  First-Person Shooter

Price (as of 10/27/11 )

Regular price on Steam:  4.99
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (new, with shipping):  29.99

Game Time:  20-30 hours

Obligatory Trailer:


Heretic established that three evil Serpent Riders conquered three worlds.  In Hexen, three heroes (a warrior, a cleric, and a wizard) set off to destroy the second of the Serpent Riders to free their world. 

Gameplay and Classes

Before the first level, the player chooses to be a Warrior, a Cleric, or a Wizard.  Weapons are different for each, with the warrior favoring melee, the wizard sticking to long-range attacks, and the cleric in the middle.  Athletic ability, i.e. jumping, varies between classes, and each use flechettes (grenades) differently.  Exploring the different classes makes it more interesting to play the game more than once.

An inventory of magical item complement your weapons.  Some of these return from Heretic, and others are new.  Heal yourself!  Turn you enemy into a pig!  And so on.  Unfortunately, this system is still clunky and not really useful on the fly.  Realistically, you have to select the item you want to use before you get in a fight, because scrolling through inventory while attacking and dodging isn't feasible. 

The Hub System

As a diversion from what was, and continues to be, a genre of linear games, Hexen introduced the hub system.  Each level, of hub, is made up of a handful of distinct, interconnected locales.  Switches in one area have effects in another, and you'll be moving back and forth between the areas.

The hub system is a cool idea, and it has been utilized in other games such as Quake 2.  In Hexen, the hub concept isn't done so well.  At times, it's a fun run-and-gun with refreshing changes of scenery.  At other times, I wandered around a hub for an hour or more trying to find out what the hell that switch did.  It did something, but that something could be anywhere in the hub.  And it might be in a nook or some illogical corner.   

Improvements to the Doom Engine

This was the first game I played where I could jump, and took damage from falling.  While still using MIDI for game sound and music, Hexen was able to play audio CDs.  Rotating objects, doors that swing open, and scripted events round out the technical advances.

Regardless, zDoom is compatible.

Expansions / DLC / Sequels

Deathknights of the Dark Citadel offered three new hubs to play through, but without new items, weapons, enemies, or gameplay elements.  I have not played this, but if there's anything worth mentioning about it, I'll augment this entry after playing it.

Hexen 2 (1997) uses a modified id Tech 2 (Quake) engine.  This game offered a few improvements over Hexen and involved fighting the third and last of the Serpent Riders.  An expansion was also developed.

Heretic 2 (1998) uses a modified id Tech 2 (Quake) engine and follows the later adventures of the character from the original Heretic.  Gameplay introduced third-person cutscenes, and plot has nothing much to do with the other games.  This is the only game of the the Heretic/Hexen series that was not published by id.

Final Thoughts

I think the hub concept was, and still could be, a valid alternative to a genre that is still mostly linear.  Sandbox games have changed things up, but the hub system seems to have been left behind.  Hexen was, at times, a fun old-school shooter.  Too often though, I didn't know where to go or what to do, and got frustrated.  Unlike in other games, no-clipping through one obstacle or cheating to get one key may well allow you to bypass an entire level. 

I picked this one up because it was cheap and I played it as a kid.  If you don't mind cheating when things get stupid, you might have some fun with this, but it's not great.  I offer it as a footnote in the genre, but I don't recommend it.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Ball Review

Game:  The Ball
Year (s):  2010
Company:  dev.  Teotl Studios
            pub.  Tripwire Interactive
Engine:  Unreal Engine 3
Type:  First-Person Puzzle Game

Price (as of October 17, 2011)

Regular Price on Steam:  19.99
Lowest Buy-it-Now on eBay (new):  18.50

Game Time:  11 hours to do everything

Obligatory Trailer:


Thousands of years ago, an advanced race known as the Caretakers had a flourishing underground civilization.  Inside a volcano.  The ancestors of the Aztecs were sheltered there, until one day they stole the source of the Caretaker's power: The Ball.  You, an archaeologist, fall down a pit and enter this realm of ancient technology and monsters.  Plot during the game does not answer all the mysteries, and isn't really a driving force. 

From Unreal 3 Mod to Independent Game

This was originally a mod for Unreal Tournament 3.  Initially, there were a handful of survival maps with rounds of enemies.  Your only weapon is a giant ball you can crush enemies with, and various traps you can trigger.  The retail copy of the game includes all of the survival maps, and adds a single-player campaign. 

Since 2004, Epic has been hosting the Make Something Unreal contest.  The Epic Design Kit can be used freely to make games, ranging from multiplayer shooters like Red Orchestra, to tower defense game Sanctum, to the free bird's-eye-view action game Alien Swarm.  The winner of the contest wins money and a licensed copy of the current Unreal Engine.  The Ball won the million dollar prize, and thus fleshed out a single player campaign and made some sales.  Not bad for a permanent staff of three guys from Sweden.

Further information about Make Something Unreal can be found here : 


There are enemies to kill, but this is primarily a puzzle game.  Most of the puzzles aren't too hard to figure out, and if you hit H the game will tell you exactly what to do.  I prefer this to Portal 2, where I would get stuck, get annoyed, and have to exit the game and visit YouTube to find out what to do.  The ball itself is essential in solving puzzles, and you're pretty defenseless without it.  It is impossible to lose the ball over a cliff or get it otherwise permanently stuck.  Secondary fire rolls the ball toward you, as long as that is physically possible.  Primary fire punches the ball (or small enemies) away. 

Expansions / DLC / Sequels

A free Portal-themed series of puzzles is included with the game.  The Ball was part of The Potato Sack; a multi-game Steam promotion for Portal 2

Final Thoughts

Of the 11 hours I spent playing through this, the single player campaign only took 6-7 hours.  I got this on sale, and wouldn't suggest paying full price for it because it's so short.  That being said, if you catch this cheap, it's a fun, laid-back game with a surprising and creative array of uses for a giant friggin' ball. 

Teotl Studios has not made announcements for additional projects.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion Review

Game: Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
Year (s):  2006
Company:  dev.  Bethesda Game Studios
            pub.  2K Games, Bethesda SoftWorks
Engine:   GamEmbryo
Type:  First/Third-Person "Shooter" RPG, sandbox
What I Paid:  $20 used, at Game Stop (GOTY edition)
Game Time:  as long as you want to keep playing

Obligatory Trailer:


Early in the game, the emperor (voiced by Patrick Stewart) is assassinated.  The imperial bloodline, with a magic amulet, are the only thing that can stop the hellish might of the plane of Oblivion from invading.  With the emperor's death, portals unleash the fiery hordes.  You must recover the amulet, find the bastard heir, and see them safely to the capital, all whilst battling the forces of Oblivion. 

The main plot line is relatively short, and has some holes in it.

Graphics and Glitches

GamEmbryo Engine at it again... or maybe for the first time.  Like all games on the engine, it's buggy as hell and crashes often.  Compared to Fallout, the scenery is more interesting, as there's vegetation and standing structures.  The video link looks like crap; the graphics are actually equal to other games on the engine, just in a fantasy setting. 

Combat and Crime

You can shoot arrows and cast spells from afar, but most of the time you're going to be bashing things with an axe or sword.  In events when you have allies (unless you get a horse, there are no permanent sidekicks without a glitch or exploit) it's really easy to hit a friend in the fracas.  Then they attack you, and/or you get arrested for attacking them. 

If you trespass, lockpick doors, steal from, attack, or kill an NPC, you get a bounty put on you.  This is enforced by guards in every city.  They'll confiscate your stolen goods and then you either pay a fine or go to jail.  Time spent in jail permanently reduces stats.


Character building is quite complex, much as I would imagine it is for MMORPG's.  There are (loose guess) a dozen races and a dozen classes, and a dozen astrological birth signs, and all of these are unique.  Oh, and then you choose one of three specialties.  Your skills are major or minor.  Major ones level up faster but give you less points to put in to stats on a level up.  You gain levels by increasing major skills... ahhh!

Really, it's a mess.  I didn't know what I was doing the first time and made a terrible hodgepodge character.  Later, I tried making a straight-up wizard, but that's impossible to do.  I hate sneaking around.  The offered diversity mostly boils down to homogeny: bash crap and cast spells here and there.

The menu system is awful.  Instead of text, there are icons for everything.  A few are intuitive, like a compass for the map, a shield for armor.  Then... 5-6 tabs for spells, all with meaningless icons.  Ahhhhh!

So Much to Do!

I don't have gameplay clocks to back this up, but I'm pretty sure there is more to do in Oblivion than in Fallout 3.  The downside is, completing inconsequential side quests gets tedious.  Some locations are exactly the same as other locations, ESPECIALLY in the realm of Oblivion.  While I tried to do everything I could find to do in Fallout 3, I didn't bother with half the repetitious content of Oblivion. 

Expansions / DLC / Sequels

I have the Game of the Year Edition, which includes The Shivering Isles and Knights of the Nine.  Knights of the Nine adds a few locations to the map, and sets you off to recover the relics of the holy paladin.  If you refrain from crimes, you can don the relics and battle a foe unique to the expansion.

The Shivering Isles is an entirely seperate area.  Once you start, you have to complete that area's lengthy quest line before you can return to the rest of the game.  The Isles are the realm of the mad god Sheogorath, who is funny for about a minute and then just annoying.  Both of these expansion offer quite a bit of additional gameplay and areas to explore. 

The Deluxe Edition of the game offers several additional expansions that are not otherwise available.  

Final Thoughts

I personally found this game overly complicated and horribly mindless, even frustrating.  Note: I think I would have liked it more if 1.  I'd played it before Fallout 3 and, 2.  I was a fan or WoW or similar games.  If you need a mindless game to play this wouldn't be my first suggestion, but it can't be beat for amount of content. 

Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim comes out soon.  Bethesda made vast improvements between Oblivion and Fallout 3, and Skyrim is built upon a purportedly more stable engine.  The graphics look better, and the leveling/character building is simplified enough for the casual player to enjoy.  The plot for Skyrim is, "Oh shit, dragons!"  I'm actually looking forward to it.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Hydrophobia Review

Game:  Hydrophobia AKA Hydrophobia : Prophecy
Year (s):  2011
Company:  dev.  Dark Energy Digital
            pub.  Dark Energy Digital
Engine:  HydroEngine
Type:  Third-Person Shooter (loosely), Platformer
What I Paid:  a few bucks
Game Time:  just over 7 hours, first time, on default

Obligatory Trailer:

Game Type

I label this as a third-person shooter because you have a gun and there are enemies to shoot.  However, there's only a few dozen bad guys; you'll be spending most of the short game climbing, jumping, and swimming around.  There are some puzzles, but the game holds your hand and tells you what to do, so I wouldn't call it a puzzle game.


Very little plot.  Some time in the future, overpopulation is a problem.  You are a girl on a giant boat/city.  A few dozen terrorists set off bombs and start shooting people (their answer for overpopulation is murder).  Areas on the ship are in various states of fire and flood, and you are trying to escape. 

The ending is completely inconclusive.

Water Everywhere!

The big sell of this title is the water physics.  They did a great job of accurately portraying how water floods in to an area, sloshes around, and interacts with objects.  That being said, the graphics are average, and, ignoring physics, I think BioShock had graphically superior water.   

In roughly the last ten minutes of the game, your character gains a "hydro-kinetic" ability.  This allows you to make a water tentacle, which is functionally a crappy gravity gun. 


In addition to the above mentioned jumping and swimming, the game offers one gun.  There are five types of ammo, but you'll only regularly use the initial type.  You have a device that can open doors from afar and infiltrate camera systems (then, it can open doors in the camera's viewing area). 

There are some electrical hazards to overcome, and fires to put out by flooding.  I read that the more damage you do to the environment (explosive barrels and such), the more flooding.  So, navigating rooms can be different depending on how you play.  I honestly did not notice this factor in-game, but it sounds cool.

After completing the campaign, the Challenge Room is unlocked.  I was hoping this would be puzzle-based, but it's just arena combat.  Five rounds of bad guys, with increasing difficulty.  I didn't care enough to bother with the Challenge Room. 

Final Thoughts

The dynamic fluid physics are well done, and I liked some of the puzzle aspects.  However, the puzzles were tediously simple, combat was rare and simple, and there was basically no plot.  The hydro-kinetic thing was underutilized, and some of the key bindings were clunky.  The developers had some neat ideas but just didn't flesh them out.  So we're left with just another gimmicky 7-12 hour game.  Not recommended. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Wolfenstein 3D Review

Game:  Wolfenstein 3D
Year (s):  1992
Company:  dev.  id Software
            pub.  Apogee Software
Engine:  Wolfenstein 3D Engine.  Prior to id Tech 1, even.
Type:  First-Person Shooter
What I Paid: just a few bucks
Game Time:  8 hours, first time, on difficulty 2 of 4

Obligatory Trailer:


You are BJ Blazkowicz, American soldier, fighting Nazis.  The ending of the sixth episode is pretty awesome.  It goes like this: Congratulations!  You are truly a great hero!  You meet the president!  You are cheered in the streets!  People name their babies after you!  You marry a movie star!  Yes!  You are so cool!

Difficulty and Gametime

I played on an easier setting because I'm so used to the WADS system now.  I customized the controls as much as I could, but the setup wasn't ideal.  zDoom isn't an option for this one.

I blazed through the game for a number of reasons.  One, I've played a lot of shooters.  When this came out, nobody had.  There would have been a learning curve.  Two, I didn't find very many secrets, look for all the treasure, or learn the levels well enough to beat par time.  When this was new, it was a great game and players would have played through it several times.  Three, I think the game is, whether by intent or not, pretty casual.  Playing through an episode (nine levels, plus a secret level if you find it) took about an hour.  It was, therefore, easier to put down and pick back up later.

Man, I Feel Old

I remember playing the shareware version of this (the first episode) back in the day.  Back when games ran on floppies, and had shareware versions.  Back before the ESRB, when games did not have to be rated (id voluntarily rated this "PC 13 Profound Carnage.  It has since been revised to M in the US). 

This isn't THE first shooter, but damn near.  This is the game that popularized the genre.  It should be played for historical value, if nothing else.

Arcade Influence

Back Then, there were arcades in every town.  Places where kids used quarters to play games (there were no smart phones or tablets to play freely).  Like arcade games, you have lives in Wolfenstein.  If you die and have lives left, you restart the level with the knife, the pistol, full health, and a small amount of ammo.  Another similarity is the high score list.  Now that I think about it, pretty much every game kept score in the day... Mario, Sonic... anyway.   Killing enemies, finding secrets, picking up items (especially treasure), and beating a level quicker than par time all increase your score.

A secret level was modeled after the first level of Pac Man.  The ghosts from that game are the only enemies, and cannot be killed by your weapons.

Combat and Gameplay

There are four weapons.  The three firearms all use the same ammo.  There are five types of enemies, but most episodes only have four types, plus a boss at the end.  Kill stuff, find keys, pick up ammo and health items to stay alive.  Take the elevator to the next level.

One complaint I have is the relatively difficult time I had navigating some of the levels.  Mazes are incorporated in to several levels, and I would have been totally lost if I didn't hug a wall the whole way.  There's not a great variety of textures, and no changes in elevation, so the corridors and rooms largely look the same.

Development and Apogee
In 1991, id was under contract to develop 12 games for release through the periodical SoftDisk.  They were so excited about Wolfenstein that they subcontracted the last game out to Apogee, who developed a game for them for SoftDisk.  It was a big flop of a game.

Apogee published Wolfenstein 3DDoom, however, was not published by them.  Apogee (later known as 3D Realms) competed with id by releasing Blake Stone the same week as Doom (it was quite similar to Wolfenstein, and failed to compete) and later, Duke Nukem 3D and other titles.

Doom Legacy

At the end of each level, Doom continued to display percentage kills, secrets, and par time.  Two midi tracks from Wolfenstein are used in DoomDoom 2 features two secret levels modeled after levels one and ten of Wolfenstein's first episode.

Expansions / DLC / Sequels

Spear of Destiny, a prequel, came out shortly after WolfensteinReturn to Castle Wolfenstein came out in 2001 and utilized id Tech 3.  In 2003 the multiplayer-only Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory game came out.  In 2009 Raven Software released Wolfenstein, built on id Tech 4.  Quakecon 2008 previewed a game largely for mobile devices (released soon after) titled Woflenstein RPG.

Final Thoughts

Map design is rudimentary.  Gameplay is simple to the point of laughable compared to modern shooters.  You want to interact with you environment?  Open a door.
I somewhat remembered the shareware, so playing this through was refreshing.  If you didn't play shooters back then, I don't think you'll appreciate this.  Except for truly being a great hero!  And marrying a movie star!  Yes!  You are so cool!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Goblins in Magic

Goblins have been around forever, and have always been a pretty solid build for a fast, cheap deck.  Last night I wondered, have there been any sets without goblins?  I'm tired of them being the obligatory (often) crappy red weenies in sets.

In my search (which did not include Portal/Starter sets, Duel Decks, Chronicles, etc) turned out about as I expected.  Antiquities almost made the list with only Goblin Artisans.  The six sets with no goblins are: Arabian Nights, Legends, Homelands, Odyssey, Torment, and Judgment.  They were, then, just another creature, until The Dark pushed them as one of the first tribal creatures with cards Goblin Shrine and Goblin Caves.  Kobolds beat Goblins for the claim for the first tribal theme, but kobolds didn't stick around.  Fallen Empires continued the idea with Goblin Grenade, albeit Elves, Orcs, Saprolings, et al had cards to make a tribal deck.  Since then, for the most part, goblins haven't gone away.  One could argue that Zombie Master and other "lord" cards have always made valid tribal decks, but I'd argue that a fourth edition zombie deck with four Zombie Masters wasn't as effective or, more to the point of the article, as thematic as a straight-up The Dark/Fallen Empires goblin deck.

The Odyssey block had few standard creature types.  No goblins, elves, or merfolk.  Instead, there were Nantuko, Cephalid, and Birds, which have seen infrequent use since.  This is more interesting when taking into consideration that the Onslaught block, which came out right after the Odyssey block, was all about standard creature-type tribal decks.  Onslaught made it possible to build Soldier, Cleric, Zombie, and other decks that could finally be on the same tribal level as goblins.

Just some thoughts, and some trivia.

EDIT: The full spoiler for Innistrad is up: NO GOBLINS!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Painkiller Review

Game:  Painkiller (Black Edition)
Year (s):  2004
Company:  dev.  People Can Fly
            pub.  DreamCatcher Interactive
Engine:  PAIN Engine with Havok 2.0 physics
Type:  First-Person Shooter
What I Paid:  10-12 bucks for the whole franchise
Game Time:  16 hours, first time, on Nightmare difficulty (one more than default)  
                     I did not finish this, but got roughly half-way through.

Obligatory Trailer:


The game starts with you and your wife dying in a car crash.  You didn't make it to heaven.  You're told to defeat the four generals of Lucifer's army in order to be forgiven and see your wife again.

Cutscenes between episodes add a little more to the plot.  More than Doom had, but not as much as Doom 3.


When there aren't any enemies around, the background sound is what you'd expect in a haunted house (or a Rob Zombie song).  When there are enemies around, a power chord, pinch-harmonic riff plays.  Amusing.

PAIN Engine

Looks fine graphically.  It had, to me, a "console look."  No water effects to note; otherwise competitive at the time.

Not a solid engine, though.  Will talk more about that in a bit.

Old School

This game, surprisingly out around the same time as Doom 3 and Half-Life 2, sticks to the roots of the genre.  Doom and Quake are particularly noted inspirations.  Weapons do not reload.

Enemies typically attack en masse, but it's never as hectic (or, by merit, as gratifying) as Serious Sam.  I might kill fifty guys in a row, but they're spread out to a more reasonable pace than Sam. 


There are only a few health items per level, so I was often close to death.  Enemies drop souls that restore one health point, but disappear after a few seconds.  Playing the game on Nightmare (like me) or Trauma difficulties does not allow cheats, so if you're in a jam, you might be screwed.


Every level has a challenge.  If you complete it, you get a tarot card powerup that you can use on any level for a price.  Gold is collected by destroying objects, many of which explode.

Expansions / DLC

Battle Out of Hell expands on Painkiller, adding ten more levels (I did not get to them).  Additional Painkiller titles have been released since.

The Good

Bosses are enormous.  Like, King Kong.  Godzilla.  So, that's neat.

Level scenery is diverse.  Enemies are also quite varied, as any enemy only occupies a few levels.  The nearly constant new monsters keeps one from getting too accustomed to/bored with particular beasties.

The Bad

Menu navigation is a tad cumbersome.

Painkiller has some inherent flaws that have, unfortunately, never been fixed.  It was made solely for single-core processors.  If you have dual-core or more, you'll have to CTRL-ALT-DELETE every time you launch the game to set the processor affinity to only one core (this usually works, but not always).  If you don't do this, the frames-per-second rate makes the game unplayable.  It's a pain in the ass to do this every time I want to play the game.

Painkiller also has a known problem of corrupted save files.  I got to a point where every time I saved (including auto-saves), loaded, or died, the game would minimize.  I'd have to debug once or twice and restore the program to continue. 

Loading from an earlier save didn't work, as that had also become corrupt.  I didn't want to delete my data and start over, so I just stopped playing.

Final Thoughts

Painkiller was the Cyberathlete Professional League 2005 World Tour game.  Unreal Tournament 2004's Epic was changing publishers at the time.  Doom 3 was a fan favorite, but didn't get the honors. 

This game, from what I played, was fun.  Diversity, giant bosses, unique challenges for each level, and old-school gameplay were appealing.  Unfortunately, it was glitchy to the point of unplayable. 

If this game had ever been patched, I would recommend it for people that enjoyed Doom, Quake, etc.  Since it hasn't, I can't recommend it for any price.  No point in buying a game that you can't play through.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Frontlines: Fuel of War Review

Game:  Frontlines: Fuel of War
Year (s):  2008
Company:  dev.  Kaos Studios
            pub.  THQ
Engine:  Unreal Engine 3
Type:  First-Person Shooter
What I Paid:  maybe $5
Game Time:  7-8 hours, first time, default difficulty

Obligatory Trailer:


"America, fuck yeah!"  Set in the near future, Frontlines shows a world nearly out of oil.  The Western Coalition is at war with the Red Star Alliance over the last reserves in the middle east.  You are part of the Stray Dog squad. 

There are cutscenes before and after each mission which don't add much to the above.  It would have been better to just copy and paste clips from war movies.

Who is Kaos Studios?

Initially known as Trauma Studios, this team created a popular mod for Battlefield 1942, released in 2004.  After that they were bought by Digital Illusion CE (the developers of Battlefield 1942).  After working there briefly, Trauma Studios was shut down in 2005.

In 2006, the team, now under the name of Kaos Studios, was bought by THQ.  They developed two games: Frontlines and Homefront.  A few months after the release of Homefront, Kaos Studios was shut down.


Perhaps because they went from making a game mod to developing an entire game, the graphics aren't great.  The Unreal Engine 3 is definitely underutilized here. 


While playing this game, two small things kept making me think of Crysis.  Small buildings, like sheds, can be knocked down.  Second, half of the enemies are Asian.  There is no resemblance other than that.


Combat is easy.  If you get shot, find cover for a few seconds and you're good as new.  You can't save, but you have several lives ("redeployments") for each mission.  Enemy AI is pretty basic, and the only trouble you'll have is finding out where the damn snipers are in some of the later missions.

Weapons are pretty standard.  Crouching increases accuracy, a prone position increases it even more.  Nice idea.  Makes sense.

You have a squad that follows you around.  Unfortunately, they are just like the GI Joe cartoon.  They fire a lot of bullets and catch a lot of bullets, all without killing or dying.  For practical purposes,  your squad is animated scenery.

Vehicles, Drones, etc.

Vehicles are standard, except that nobody can figure out how to pilot the helicopter without crashing.  Drones are the most interesting thing this game has to offer.  Drones are remote controlled miniature vehicles.  Some of these are just mobile explosives.  Others are weaponized engines of miniature death.

Airstrikes are also occasionally available.  There are a few different kinds but they all do pretty much the same thing.

Final Thoughts

This game is easy.  "America, fuck yeah!"  These cutscenes are cheesy.  I should go play Crysis.
This game is fast paced, so it'll keep your attention.  Unfortunately, it's easy and incredibly short, so it won't keep your attention for long.  I wouldn't recommend this one, even if you get it for just a few bucks like I did.  There's just not enough content.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Soldier Deck

I have played this twice in two-player games.  Both times I had good opening hands and kicked ass.  After tomorrow I will know how it does in three-player free-for-all.  So far it seems pretty solid.

Three posts in one day for "the other blog."  Hm.

Soldier Deck
60 Card Format

4 Enlistment Officer
4 Ballyrush Banneret
4 Daru Warchief
4 Field Marshal
3 Veteran Armorer
4 Veteran Swordsmith
4 Soltari Champion
4 Elite Vanguard
3 Aven Cloudchaser

4 Adaptive Automaton
4 Pearl Medallion


16 Plains
2 Emeria, the Sky Ruin
2 Windbrisk Heights
1 Kjeldoran Outpost

New Vegas DLC

To preface, every DLC ups the level cap by five, and adds new perks to the core game.

Dead Money

Influenced by Dead Space, this is a survival horror variant, and enemies only die if dismembered.  As far as survival horror, they nailed it.  You take nothing with you to this area, so no ammo, armor, or your favorite weapons.  You're constantly low/out of ammo, health points, and items.  They also tried (inevitably failing) to make a creepy area.
This would have satisfied me.  I mean, not pissed me off as much as New Vegas.  But then they added a toxic cloud to areas, and decided that radios are proximity mines.  Yay! 
Fifth-ass (much less than half-ass) programming kept me from finishing this tedious, hard, pointless DLC.  Not that I should be surprised; alternate game-breaking glitches are also included. 

Honest Hearts

After Dead Money, Obsidian made another forgettable expansion.  A previous general of The Bad Guys is helping savages fight other savages.  This is less glitchy, but again, rather unsatisfying.  This DLC was better than the original game because they had those plants (used to make things with the Survival skill) all over the place.  It was cool to be able to really get some use out of the Survival skill.

Old World Blues

This was surprisingly awesome, and if it was a standalone game I'd tell you to play it right now.  We still have problems with the engine, but... I have no idea how this was made by the same development team.  Instead of a world of psychos and assholes, you're in a world of ridiculous, hilarious machines.  This is not only the best DLC, but far more fun than the core game itself.  Unlike the other DLCs, you get some useful perks and powerful weapons from playing.  So, there's a reason to play this one, AND it's a lot of fun.

Additionally, you'll get the best house in the game.  A house with a reloading bench, storage, a bed, and a workbench to start.  With upgrades, your home includes a free doctor, a store that can repair your gear, a garden area for every plant available, and multiple ways to convert things into other things (useful for making items).  Your house's appliances have personalities, further giving the game humor and character that was completely lacking before.  My only wish was that this DLC had as much to do (or more) than the rest of the game.  If you have New Vegas, get this one and forget the others.

Lonesome Road not out yet!  But when it comes out, if I play it, I'll edit this post.

Star Wars: Battlefront 2 Review

Game: Star Wars Battlefront 2
Year (s):  2005
Company:  dev.  Pandemic Studios
            pub.  LucasArts
Engine: Zero
Type:  Firts/Third Person Shooter
Game Time:  12 hours first time, default difficulty (single-player campaign)

Obligatory Trailer:

This post compares this game to the first Star Wars Battlefront (the post right before this one).  I recommend reading them both if you are unfamiliar with the games.


Unlike its predecessor, Battlefront 2 has a loose plot to tie the missions together: you are a clone trooper reminiscing over various battles throughout your career.  Some of these were taken from the movies, but many were not.  Thus, you are always on the side of the Republic/Empire, fighting robots; later, you're fighting rebels.  As a welcome departure to the first, every map in the campaign is an assault-style map, with progressive objectives to complete.  This was a welcome change to the same ol' same ol' of the first game.  A few maps return, but most are new.


Now you can play as Jedi (or Sith) in all game modes.  Jedi are powerful, so this feature has limits on how often (and for how long) you can spawn as a badass.

Space Battles

Also new are the ship-to-ship fights.  Engage in dogfights, blast strategic points on the enemy command ship(s), and if you want, board their command ship to wreck havoc.  I found the flying vehicles to be clumsy, and every space fight is about the same.  This addition, while good in concept, became somewhat tedious in execution. 

AI and Gameplay

In the campaign, bots *CAN NOT* complete objectives, so you're going to have to pull the team.  Instant Action, multiplayer, and Galactic Conquest (the Risk wannabe) all return, virtually the same as before.  Kill enemies, take command posts, and you win.  You'll be mowing down computer-controlled bots pretty easily, but even if you're amazing your team can still suck (my most frustrating loss occurred after I had acquired 103 kills). 

Maps are more balanced in this one, so you don't have to know the one trick that lets you have a fighting chance on particular maps.   

Weapon loadouts (except for the above-mentioned Jedi) are identical to the first.  Same classes, same weapons.  If there was anything new, I didn't notice.  Vehicles (except in space battles) have all been seen before.

Final Thoughts

The campaign mode is frustrating at times, so this franchise continues to be multiplayer-focused.  Having drastically better map balance and a few new things thrown in, Battlefront 2 is the better of the two for multiplayer.  Both support tons of bots.  Really, the games have more in common then apart, so if you like playing one you'll like playing the other.  For single-player gamers, neither is impressive.

There have been rumors about Star Wars Battlefront 3 since 2006.  These assert that Free Radical Design (now known as Crytek) worked on the game for two years before losing the rights.  Star Wars Battlefront: Elite Squadron was a 2009 spin-off released for the Nintendo DS and PSP.  Further rumors, art, and allegedly leaked footage of Battlefront 3 continue, but nobody has made a confirmation or announcement. 

Friday, August 12, 2011

Star Wars: Battlefront Review

Game: Star Wars: Battlefront
Year (s):  2004
Company:  dev.  Pandemic Studios
            pub.  LucasArts
Engine: Zero
Type:  first/third person shooter
What I Paid:  $4 on eBay

Obligatory Video:

Plot and General Gameplay

Levels in this game take place on various battlefronts from the Star Wars universe.  Some are straight from the movies and feature video clip accompaniment.  The single-player campaign mode has no plot, and you aren't always on the same side from one battle to another.  For every game type you can choose your loadout on spawning (sniper, rocket-launcher guy, engineer, etc.).  At the beginning of each map, each side has a set number of spawns.  Wipe out the other side, take strategic command posts (spawn points) along the way, and you win.

Campaign Difficulty

Maps are not balanced.  Maps often have definite positioning and/or vehicle advantages given to one side.  Additionally, the campaign mode may start you off outnumbered.  Lastly, your bot helpers (but not the enemy bots) are incompetent.  I once led my team with seventy kills and two deaths, only to lose.  Enemy AI is such that you'll be mowing them down most of the time.  If you're playing the campaign you'll play many of the levels many frustrating times before winning.

Galactic Conquest

This is another single-player mode that is basically Risk.  You move, attack, and can use bonuses.  Instead of rolling dice, you attack planets with the usual take-command-posts-and-wipe-'em-out agenda.  I didn't feel this added much to the choice of Instant Action.


Some vehicles are quite powerful (particularly against infantry) but I largely found vehicles to be slow and clumsy.

Zero Engine

I have no complaints about the engine.  It only crashed on me once, and is visually at least as good as the Unreal Engine of the time.

Final Thoughts

I picked up Battlefront because it was cheap and I like Star Wars.  I got some enjoyment out of it, but I wouldn't recommend it just for the single player.  If you know someone that wants to do muliplayer, it could be a lot of fun though.  The game supports a crazy number (estimate: 50 total) of bots running around at a time.

Star Wars Battlefront 2 came out a year later with a couple new tricks thrown in.  There will be a review of that in a week at the latest.

Friday, August 5, 2011

E3 and QuakeCon 2011

E3 2011 and QuakeCon 2011 Highlights

E3 Announcement: BioShock Infinite 

That particular trailer is silly, but it references the original game, and shows some of the floating city of Columbia.

Developed by the same team as the original, BioShcok Infinte returns to steam punk with a 1930's city that floats on balloons, connected by a roller coaster style transit system.  Combat does take place on said transit.  Like previous games, there are plasmid powers in addition to standard weapons.

I'm excited about this game (even though the modified Unreal Engine 2.5 is dated) because of a particular announcement by the developers.  Paraphrased, they're not focused on a multilayer game format.  They'll include one if it's really good.  The fans of BioShock want to play by themselves.  My hat to you on that, 2K Games.  Relase date of 2012.

E3 Announcement: Prey 2

The trailer looks like a cut-scene, backed by a Johnny Cash rendition of Soundgarden's "Rusty Cage."  As far as plot, did you play Prey?  You know the plane that crashed?  You're a lawman from that plane, with amnesia, working as a bounty hunter on an alien planet.

This game will not feature gravity and/or portal puzzles, because, paraphrased, "Human
Head Studios already made that game."  Respect.  Due in March 2012.

Quakecon Announcement: RAGE

This is the new id Tech 5 graphics engine.  I think it's looks fucking awesome.  I'm excited abuot this game too (due out this fall).

As far as plot, do you remember the Near Earth Asteroid named Apophis?  It once had a small chance to destroy Earth, and later was refined to be a non-issue.  In RAGE, it hit.  Some survived in Arks.  Everyone else died, struggled to survive, or mutated in to something else.

This game looks amazing, they have voice talent including John Candy, and id Software has never let me down.  I want to marry this game.

Quakecon Announcement: Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Elder Scrolls IV wasn't great, but then Bethesda made Fallout 3.  Skyrim simplifies some things, adds perks, runs on the new Creation Engine (hopefully less buggy than Gamebryo), features more distinct environments/landscape, and has dragons.  Due date of 11-11-11.  I won't buy it then, but I'd certainly consider it when it goes down in price.

Other Games This Year

Crysis 2 is out, so is Alice: Madness Returns and FEAR 3.  As the first Alice was dated, and FEAR 3 has a different developer than other FEAR games, I'm only looking forward to Crysis 2 (no longer available on Steam; EA is trying their own download-distribution application).  Serious Sam 3 is due out "this summer," but with rather poor graphics I don't think the *likely* difficult/old-school gameplay will make a success. 

Valve Software made no announcements about a new Half-Life game this year.  The last instllament, Half Life 2: Episode 2, came out five years ago.  Valve has abandoned it's half-ass episodic release concept. 

But it's ok.  They continue their constant dicking around with Team Fortress 2 (endless dicking).  Portal 2 is only half-playable alone.  Further titles may not be solely playable alone.  FUCK YOU VALVE.  FUCK YOU IN THE NUTS WITH A PITCHFORK ON FIRE.

I waited for you, Valve.  For years.  You came back to me just to punch me in the face.

I will never buy another Valve Software title.

Nonetheless, it's an exciting time for fans of shooters.  We've got games out and games upcoming. 


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

New Vegas Review

Game: Fallout: New Vegas
Year (s):  2010
Company:  dev.  Obsidian Entertainment
            pub.  Bethesda Softworks
Engine: Gamebryo
Type:  RPG Shooter
What I Paid: about $20 (2 DLCs included)
Game Time:  40+ hours

Obligatory Video:


This review is intended for those who have played Fallout 3, as it is comparitive.  If you have not played Fallout 3, play that instead.  Otherwise, read on. 

Obsidian Entertainment

Black Isle developed Fallout and Fallout 2.  They were working on their own Fallout 3 (no relation to the 2008 title, but similarities to New Vegas) when Interplay closed down their division.  Some of the Black Isle people started Obsidian Entertainment, who developed New Vegas.  Others founded Troika Games, which went out of business (a few members of the Troika team then joined Obsidian).   I played Fallout 2 for maybe three hours, but a ton of the things from those three hours were referenced in New Vegas: the super mutant army, broc flowers, golden geckos, the town of Arroyo... it didn't mean much to me, but for people that grew up on the original games, these connections might be a lot of fun.


Personal:  Guy shoots you and leaves you for dead.  You don't know who he is, or why he shot you.

Environment :  Nearly ever faction in the game wants to eliminate the others to control Hoover Dam. 

The end.

Actually, there is a little more to it, but not much.  It's not an engaging plot, and I didn't give a damn about who won the dam in the end.  Most everyone was a jerk.  Most quests were, "go there, get this/kill that, come back." 

After completing the main quest-line (which ends the game unless you have a pre-battle save), a montage explains how your actions throughout the game affected allies, towns, and various factions.  A good effort, but most everyone pissed me off- so I didn't much care for what happened to them afterwards.


New Vegas replaced the karma system with a faction fame system.  You're not a blanket good or evil, you're liked or hated by varying factions to varying degrees, based on your actions.  Fame in groups often incurs infamy in other groups.

Furthermore, if you murder/steak from someone silently, in their sleep, with no one to witness, their entire faction will know, and react accordingly.  Instantly.

Exploring... and Deathclaws

Unlike Fallout 3, you can't explore the whole map at any level.  New Vegas added mountains to restrain you, and the occassional invisible wall.  Also, deathclaws are at specific areas, so you can't explore there.

Deathclaws are stupid in this game.  They attack in packs, and there are various kinds.  On level 25, with power armor, I got killed in 1-3 hits (after killing 0-1 deathclaws).  I had to resort to cheap tactics like firing at them from a spot they couldn't get to.  The other enemies were a piece of cake, so this unbalanced level of stupid hard was... stupid.

Voice Acting

This game didn't skimp on hiring known voices: Wayne Newton is a radio personality, and Worf the Klingon voices a super mutant.  That being said, most of the voice acting is flat, spoken by characters that have no character.

Gamebryo PLUS

New Vegas includes all of the hair-pulling glitchiness of Gamebryo you might be used to, with the ADDITION of half-ass programming!  Here's an example of one quest that was executed poorly.  I needed to get evidence from two safes, but my lockpicking was too low (note: no quests in Fallout 3 required a particular skill level to complete).  After a few level-ups, I got the evidence.  Then I had to turn it in- but to who?  No one ever told me, it wasn't in my notes, and there was no map marker to show the way.  I had to go online to find out what to do, for this and other quests.  Way to go, Obsidian!

Skills and Perks

There are fewer skill books, no bobbleheads, and no perks that increase skill(s).  You only get a perk every other level, and your perk choices are not as abundant or powerful.  One perk I can take makes me fire 20 percent faster, but 20 percent less accurate for all guns.  That's just great.

Big Guns, as a skill, was replaced by Survival (more HP from food/drinks).  The weapons themselves were split between guns and energy weapons.

New Mechanics

Obsidian added new mechanic that revolve around creating your own goods on different types of work stations.  Repair allows you to break down guns and bullets, and to fashion new bullets (turns out you can only make say, ten shotgun shells, by breaking down ten shotgun shells).  Survival allows you to make healing potions, poison, antivenom and other goodies from various plant and animal parts (the parts are too hard to gather for this to be of great use).  Medicine allows you to fashion your own chems (if you can find a chemistry set).  Lastly, science allows you to recycle spent energy ammunition and to convert one type of energy ammo to another.  Thus, a neat idea spread over several skills, one of which is useful. 

There are more weapon types than in Fallout 3, several of which have unique variants.  There are also weapon mods.  Mods can only be used on a specific weapon, and never on unique weapons.  Only a few weapons have mods, mods are few in number, and they're hard to find.  E3 2010 interviews made a big deal about how you could modify your weapons to do neat things, but this turned out to be a very small, very limited aspect of the game.  I went the whole game without mods, as there were none for my weapons of choice. 

Hardcore mode is an optional, turn-off-at-will setting.  From Wikipedia, "Gameplay difficulty is increased in several ways ... the healing of crippled limbs requires a "doctor's bag", a chem called hydra or a visit to a doctor; ammunition has weight; and the player character must eat, drink and sleep to avoid starvation, dehydration and exhaustion, respectively."  Hardcore mode: making a dull game dull AND hard!

Expansions / DLC

Three expansions are currently available.  Each raises the level cap by five levels. I have two DLCs; I haven't played them.

Final Thoughts

Fallout 3 was awesome.  This was pretty crappy.  If it's on sale this weekend at Quakecon for ten bucks, well, it's got a lot of content.  You know, if you need something to do but want to enjoy it very much.  I stopped playing this game halfway through to play other games, and only came back to it in order to write a review before Quakecon started. 

There is a legal scuffle between Interplay and Bethesda right now about Fallout multiplayer rights, but the next Fallout game (depending on who wins the suit) might be an MMORPG. 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Heretic Review

Game: Heretic
Year (s):  1994 (Heretic), 1996 (Shadows of the Serpent Riders)
Company:  dev.  Raven Software
            pub.  id Software
Engine: Doom Engine (id Tech 1)
Type:  First-Person Shooter
Game Time:  12-15 hours recently on default difficulty

Obligatory Video:


You should realize that these old games aren't plot driven.  Nonetheless.  The Serpent Riders came to your world and brainwashed everyone except for your race, the elves.  Your race was then labeled as heretics, hunted and scattered.  You, an elven wizard, set out to defeat the Serpent Rider D'Sparil and his undead army to free your world from his evil grip.

Is it like Doom?

Same engine as Doom, and a few of the same sound effects.  Most of the weapons have different models but are functionally the same as the chainsaw, pistol, chaingun, rocket launcher, and plasma rifle.  One enemy is nearly identical to the Pinky Demons, but the rest are more original.  You still flip switches, look for keys, and operate a special switch (or step in to a portal) to end  levels.

The main separation between Heretic and Doom is the inventory.  You can carry a variety of single-use items to use at will.  These include torches (light source), wings (flight), health vials, half-ass grenades, tomes that power up your weapons (or at least, makes them function in a different way), and other offensive/miscellaneous items.

As this runs on the Doom engine, I highly recommend zDoom.  The inventory system is too cumbersome to use without key re-binding, and I'm too out of practice from the old, contorted control setup to accomplish anything.

Expansions / DLC

Shadows of the Serpent Riders added two additional episodes to the original three.  Akin to The Ultimate Doom's They Flesh Consumed, these episodes feature more challenging maps.  While the original was easy on default, these had some tough spots.

Final Thoughts

Pretty much any game from the first and second generation of shooters is going to have parts where you'll get frustrated looking for the damn switch/key, and use a cheat to move on without it.  Heretic is no exception.  While new monsters and an inventory are nice additions to the genre, this is, largely, more Doom.  I bought this recently because I'd played it as a kid and it was cheap.  If you won't have any nostalgia going in, I don't think you'll get much out of this one.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Jokulhaups Deck

this deck might be tweaked after i play it more, but this is the general idea.

Jokulhaups Deck
60 Card Format
Black, Red


4 Jokulhaups
3 Obliterate
2 Devastation
3 No Mercy

4 Sewer Nemesis
3 Guiltfeeder
2 Mortivore

4 Black Market
3 Darksteel Ingot

2 Mana Seism
4 Dark Ritual
3 Seething Song
4 Rite of Flame


4 Sulfurous Springs
2 Blackcleave Cliffs
2 Peat Bog
2 Sandstone Needle
4 Darksteel Citadel
5 Mountains
5 Swamps

Ideally you cast Black Market,  then Jokulhaups (or similar), then use the mana from Black Market  to cast Guiltfeeder (or similar).  Failing that, there are enough mana sources to do alright anyway.

It's a fun deck because you get to blow everything up.  It's WAY better than the dozen  half-ass Jokulhaups decks I found with google. 

Friday, July 8, 2011

Singularity Review

Game:  Singularity
Year (s):  2010
Company:  dev.  Raven Software
            pub.  Activision
Engine:  Unreal Engine 3
Type:  First-Person Shooter
Game Time:  10 hours, first time, default difficulty


In the 1950's, the USSR discovered a new element on the island of Katorga 12.  The island was then used as a research and development base until an accident killed the inhabitants.  The base was shut down and abandoned.

In 2010, unusual radioactive readings are coming from the island, and a few choppers of US black ops are sent to investigate.  An anomaly sends you back in time, where you save someone from dying in a fire.  An anomaly then returns you to an altered present, where the USSR has conquered the world.  You must use your military skills and a nifty Time Manipulation Device (TMD) to restore history to its rihgtful course.

Back story is filled in by recovered notes, audio recordings, and ghosts.


A short jog into the game, you'll find this item.  It continues to grow more powerful as you progress.  It can age enemies to death in combat, or shove them away.  It can be used as a gravity gun.  It can age scripted objects to decay, or do the opposite to rubble.

For the most part, the TMD is only particularly useful against bosses or in simple puzzles between firefights. 

Other Time Stuff

You move back and forth between the 1950's and the present a few times in the course of the story.  The sniper rifle, while scoped, has the ability to stop all enemies for a brief period.  One sniper rifle alternative allows you to steer rounds in slow motion.

Combat and Upgrades

There are a variety of weapons, but you can only carry two at a time.  Weapons can be upgraded.  You can also upgrade general things (like carrying more medkits) and TMD abilities.  There is a finite number of upgrades, so a second play could let you explore some different powerups. 

Combat is easy.  I blazed through this on default, even against the bosses.

Final Thoughts

Near the end, you can choose to be good or bad.  A second play would allow you to make the other choice here, and see a different ending.  I think it would have been very intuitive for the developers to incorporate several points where you can make a choice, and then you can see how it plays out when you're whisked back to the present.  It's a game about time!  But, they didn't. 

Singularity isn't bad; I had fun playing it.  That being said, it was short, easy, and some of the ideas could have easily been expanded upon for a more interactive, complex experience.

If you need something to do for a weekend and there's a good sale on Singularity, maybe give it a go.  If you miss out on this one, you won't be missing out on much.