Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Few Games in Brief

A Few Games in Brief

...or in briefs, if you put underwear on them. These weren't terrible games, but none of them appealed to me.

System Shock 2

I successfully played through the tutorial and class-choosing parts of this game. After that, the game crashed every one to two minutes. I tried a few fixes to no avail. I have heard that this is a fantastic game, but it's not playable for me on modern hardware and Windows 8.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

I am not stealthy. I quickly found that the gameplay of Human Revolution insists on sneaking. Direct combat is suicide. I was rather looking forward to this, and felt let down. Some might enjoy being a ninja, but it's not something I excel at, and the original game left it open to the player to go about as they wanted.

Red Orchestra 2

It was off to a bad start when a bug in the tutorial left me unable to move and I had to start over. After a successful second attempt and the first campaign map (with bots), I knew this wasn't for me. I'm not accurate. In most games, I rock the shotgun. In Red Orchestra 2, accuracy is realistic. All weapons have built-in inaccuracy, bullet drop, and incorporate not only aiming down the barrel/scope, but also breathing. I found myself constantly being sniped from who-knows-where.

I'm not a fan of realistic shooters because I am not, have never been, and will never excel at sniping in shooters. This may appeal to gamers that are into WW2 weapons, history, and so on.

Happy new year!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Price of Glory Pygmy Hippo Deck

I don't think this is going to be competitive deck, but it might be amusing.  Price of Glory pairs really well with Drain Power, but now that manaburn is gone I have to keep their lands untapped.  Thus, Awakening and Turnabout.  Pygmy Hippo is the only thing like Drain Power (Piracy doesn't work), but is a wimp and has to be unblockable to be useful.  Thus six auras to make it so.  This deck is three colors, and I think it will prove to be too complicated to win any multiplayer game.  I built it because it looks funny (hippos?  really?) and I couldn't come up with a more effective way to abuse Price of Glory.

Price of Glory Pygmy Hippo
Blue, Green, Red
60-card format

4 Price of glory
4 Rhystic study

4 Awakening
4 Turnabout

4 Pygmy Hippo
4 Drain Power

4 Aqueous Form
2 Cloak of Mists
4 Terravore

2 Pendrell Mists
1 Fade Away
3 Propaganda


2 Maze of Ith
4 Rhystic Cave
Multicolor lands

Games I Liked 2013

Games I Liked 2013

I continue my annual posting, late but maybe still in time for the holidays, listing games I've first played in the last year (they may have come out at any time) that I would recommend.

Alan Wake

Sam Lake and Remedy Entertainment (creators of Max Payne 1 and 2) bring us a much-inspired game. Alan Wake is a horror-themed shooter with a really cool story that keeps the player guessing. Tongue-in-cheek references are made to The Twilight Zone, Stephen King, and other notable horror works. Note: while Alan Wake is great, the DLC, and American Nightmare pseudo-sequel are not.

Dead Island

Zombies! On an island! Dead Island is an open world hack-'n-slash game, with several different characters and level-up/upgrade options. With side quests, the game has a decent length. The Ryder White DLC takes the story told in the core game and adds a lot of twists that both clarify events and make them far more interesting. This is a good one as far as game time, and it can also be played cooperatively.


Dishonored is set in a steam punk world, and I like steam punk. The player can kill enemies outright, leading to a more difficult game and a darker ending. The player can also sneak, run, hide, and incapacitate foes for a much more rewarding story. Dishonored did a great job of leaving it up to the player, and overall was something a little different than most shooters, and more assecible than most stealthy games.

Honorable Mentions


BRINK has a few different game types, marginally different classes, and a crap-ton of weaopn specialization. I saw things I liked, but the single player campaign didn't quite do enough to encourage me to tell my friends to buy it.

Hard Reset

Hard Reset is the first game by Flying Wild Hog. It's all about old-school shooter gameplay, with hordes of enemies and big bosses. Weapon options are wide, and the proprietary engine looked about the same as anything else out there. My only complaints were that the plot didn't make much sense and running wasn't an option. I said in a review that I would look forward to their next game, and now it's out. Shadow Warrior, a remake of a 90's game by 3D Realms, looks right up my alley.

Quantum Conundrum

People buy this game because of Kim Swift. She was behind the first Portal, she was on a group that worked on a demo that inspired Portal, and that's a good track record. Quantum Conundrum is a kid-friendly puzzle game with an emphasis on platforming. The puzzle are usually easy, but are at times made frustrating by difficult timing and jumping elements. Quantum Conundrum isn't a bad game at all, but if you're expecting it to be Portal 3 you're going to be disappointed.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Natural Selection 2 Review

The first Natural Selection was a mod for Half-Life.  I never played it, so nothing more to say there.

Natural Selection 2 is available on Steam, and looked like an interesting game for multiplayer because it combines real time strategy and team-oriented shooters.  There are two sides, marines and aliens.  Most members of a team are grunts, and they move around the map killing enemies, destroying objectives, and building stuff.  Their activity generates resources for the individual and for the team.

One member of each team is the commander.  They view the map from above, and can use team resources to place buildings, research upgrades, drop health/ammo, et cetera.

Marines are regular shooters.  Aliens have a few different forms, with more emphasis on speed, stealth, and maneuverability.  

A short tutorial teaches the player how to be a grunt, which isn't too hard to do.  Do what the commander says, and otherwise carry on as in any other shooter.

There is no tutorial for being a commander, and that's the downfall of the game.  I tried playing with bots, and was forced to be the commander.  I had no idea what I should build, or where, nor did I have any idea on how to respond to grunts asking for health and assistance.  After five minutes of clicking on a bunch of stuff and being informed I didn't have the resources to do that, I gave up.  

Maybe this game was meant for people that played the first and knew what they were doing.  I didn't, and the lack of instruction on how to be a commander was asinine.  As another downside to this one, loading a level (either the tutorial or my off-line, bots-only map) took at least two minutes.  

This game looked like a great idea, and I'm annoyed that I can't play it.  It would just take some more tutorials, or a short campaign, to fix this fundamental flaw.  Not recommended as it is currently.  

Friday, November 8, 2013

Red Faction: Guerrilla Review

At some point a few years back, there were only three Red Faction games (currently there are four).  They all had average metacritic scores, and I picked up the bundle for about ten bucks.  The first game was definitely dated, buggy, and I had to cheat to beat the last level.  It was also pretty short, so overall I wasn't impressed.  The second Red Faction game I plodded through was an easy blah game that was also very short.  I had no hurry to play this game, two and a half years after writing a review for the first.  This will be brief.

Red Faction was set on Mars, where miners were being worked to death and ultimately rebelled.  In Guerrilla, it's the same thing, again, years after the liberation, and also on Mars.  That's a lazy start.  Graphically, the game looks better than its predecessors, but that's not saying much.  The ability to destroy the environment is once again stressed, with many missions involving demotion by any means.  Destruction give you scrap, with is used as money.  It's satisfying to destroy things, and that's the mindless high point of gameplay.

I didn't play this game very long, because it wasn't compelling.  I had missions to kill people, blow up stuff, and drive around, but I hadn't connected with the copy-and-paste characters enough to care.  Overall this is an average game, and I won't fault others if they like it.  I've played a lot of games, good and bad, and don't want to waste my time with this.  I have better games and better things to do.

I have not played the most recent Red Faction game (Red Faction: Armageddon), and I do not intend to.  I have heard good things about Saints Row IV, also by Volition.  I have not played any Saints Row games.  I would not recommend Guerrilla.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon Review

Game: Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
Year (s): 2013
Company: dev. Ubisoft
pub. Ubisoft
Engine: Dunia Engine 2
Type: Shooter
Viewpoint: First-Person
Metacritic Score: 81
My Score: Not Great, But Good

Price (as of November 2, 2013)

Regular list price on Steam: $14.99
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (digital download): $4.99

My Game Time: 15 hours, completionist

Obligatory Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=av5pqJaIeCk

Plot and Franchise

The plot isn't apparent, or relevant, but goes something like this: After Vietnam War 2's nuclear fallout, you, Rex Power Colt, were brought back to life as a Mark 4 Cyber Commando. You're fighting the ruthless cybernetic Omega Force, as well as prehistoric dragons that shoot lasers.

A parody of 80's action movies, Blood Dragon takes place in the near future of 2007. Music fits the era, Michael Biehn is a main voice actor (Terminator, Aliens), and instead of a loading bar there is a VHS tracking bar.

Ubisoft did a good job being over-the-top, and nailed the 80's action movie feel.

This uses the same engine as Far Cry 3 while completely being a stand-alone product. This has nothing to with with any of the other Far Cry games.


Physics, water effects, nothing new to say here. It didn't crash on me at all. Something to note, you'll have to download Uplay. It's like Steam but for Ubisoft. Redundant with Steam, but necessary and free.

My only complaint was that I couldn't adjust the brightness. They mentioned that you had cyber eyes, so this might have been intentional. Nonetheless, it was hard for me to see at times.

Save System

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


Blood Dragon has two approaches to combat. The first is to sneak around, and they included silent weapons, distraction, numerous takedowns, and other mechanics to utilize this. I wasn't very good at using their sneak system.

Fortunately, you can always just shoot everything. There are a variety of guns, with most having multiple upgrades (upgrades can be bought after you unlock them through collection quests and side quests). Ammo is pretty cheap, and the leveling system makes the game progressively easier.

Vehicles were present, but I rarely used them because you cannot shoot from the driver's seat. Looting corpses is useful, but very violent (cyber hearts are ripped out because they can be used as grenades).

Final Thoughts

I like ninja turtels references, cheesy lines, and cyber commandos. It's fun and fresh. The game topped out at 15 hours, but it was cheap. I can't think of anything they did wrong, and I liked the game, but I'm left with the feeling that it was good but could have been great. I'm hoping other developers follow suit here.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Spreading Plague Deck

The other other Ben was looking up some cards and Mentioned Tainted Aether.  This reminded me of a crappy deck I once built with Tainted Aether, Spreading Plauge, and Blinking Spirit (it was a beginner's deck, and it didn't work).  I hadn't thought of Spreading Plauge in years, but clearly saw the use of it, and had the cards to build a mean muiltiplayer deck built around it.  Note: this is intended for 3-4 player type 1.5 free for all, and has not been tested yet.

Spreading Plague
60-Card Format

4 Spreading plague
4 tutors

2 sway of illusion
2 Distorting Lens
4 scuttlemutt
4 transguild courier

4 bone hoard
2 Lashwrithe
2 Cranial Plating
2 Darksteel Juggernaut

4 Silver Myr
2 Dimir Cluestone
2 Solemn Simulacrum
2 Crystal Chimes

2 Sarpadian Empires, Vol. VII


2 Springjack Pasture
2 Seat of the Synod
2 Vault of Whispers
3 Watery Grave

12 Swamps

Monday, October 21, 2013

Quantum Conundrum Review

Game: Quantum Conundrum
Year (s): 2012
Company: dev. Airtight Games
pub. Square Enix
Engine: Unreal Engine 3
Type: Puzzle Platformer
Viewpoint: First-Person
Metacritic Score: 77
My Score: 77

Price (as of October 12, 2013)

Regular list price on Steam: $8.99
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (new, with shipping): $9.99 download only

My Game Time: 10 hours first time (without DLC)

Obligatory Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qg97ZEkqhzE


As a child nephew of a mad scientist, you often spend lengths of time (summers?) at the Quadrangle Mansion. On the most recent visit, Uncle Desmond has been trapped in a pocket dimension, and you have to make your way through the puzzle-room mansion to rescue him.

Kim Swift

Kim Swift and a few others worked on a project called Narbacular Drop. This was presented to Valve and became the inspiration for Portal, which Kim worked on. Kim later worked on Left 4 Dead 2 before joining up with Airtight Games, where she led development of Quantum Conundrum. She wanted to make another puzzle game, but wanted it to look distinctly different from Portal to avoid direct comparisons.

Kim Swift left Valve before development began on Portal 2.


Quantum Conundrum gradually introduces the player to four dimensions, only one of which can be activated at one time. Make things lighter, make things heavier/denser, slow time, and reverse gravity. These effects ONLY alter reality for objects; never for the player's body.

Most puzzle are easy to figure out what to do (hints are offered quickly and plentifully), but not always easy to perform. Jumping and timing are, generally, what makes the game tricky. Death isn't too big a deal, as checkpoint saving will respawn you before you fell in a pit or got burned by lasers.

Expansions / DLC / Sequels

2 DLCs were released. Both feature additional puzzle rooms without a story or dialogue that was featured in the main game.

Final Thoughts

If you like puzzle games, this is better than most of the ones out there. It's perfect for children, teens, parents, and players that don't mind some difficult jumping.

If you're expecting a game as universally loved as Portal/Portal 2, you're not going to find it. Quantum Conundrum is light on plot/purpose, and Uncle Desmond's chuckle-worthy puns aren't as memorable the insanity of GlaDOS.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Dino D0Day Review

Game: Dino D-Day
Year (s): 2011
Company: dev. 800 North and Digital Ranch
pub. 800 North and Digital Ranch
Engine: Source
Type: Shooter, Multiplayer
Viewpoint: First-Person
Metacritic Score: 53

Price (as of September 29, 2013)

Regular list price on Steam: $9.99
Not available anywhere else.

Obligatory Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JdmCNfPMr1I

The Concept

The Nazis have dinosaurs! Rigged up with guns and explosives, Dino D-Day introduced a ridiculous, fun idea for team-based deathmatch and control point combat.

The Execution

The dinosaurs are fun, but the human characters are nothing exciting. The Allies only have one dinosaur character. Bot support was added, but the AI was not very good and this negatively affected the game. Bots do not go after objectives, and are much more difficult to sneak up on (two of the dinos are all about sneaking).

For a couple of years, there were a dozen or so dedicated servers. In the heyday, one server would be populated, and the rest empty or only with one or two players. There are no longer ANY dedicated servers.

A single-player campaign was promised to come, and would help players learn how to use some of the characters. Now that the servers are gone, I doubt this will happen.

As far a mods go, Dino D-Day is up there. It does something new, and has some humor. As far as games go, Dino D-Day is pretty lacking. The novelty of dinosaurs can't make up for lack of servers and crappy bots.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

BioShock Infinite Review

Game: BioShock Infinite
Year (s): 2013
Company: dev. Irrational Games
pub. 2K
Engine: Unreal Engine 3
Type: Shooter with some RPG elements
Viewpoint: First
Metacritic Score: 94
My Score: 7 out of 10

Price (as of September 23, 2013)

Regular list price on Steam: $40
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (new, with shipping): $20

My Game Time: 22 hours first time on normal (may be inflated due to being paused for long periods)

Obligatory Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qjer5bs8WLc

See Also

BioShock Review: http://fpsandmtg.blogspot.com/2010/11/bioshock-review.html
BioShock 2 Review:

The Good

BioShock Infinite starts out with the player traveling to the city of Columbia. In the early 1900's, Columbia is a marvel that floats on balloons and has great steampunk technologies. The player explores this fantastic setting for a bit, then the authorities start attacking him for reasons unknown (for almost the entire game). The first taste of the game reminded me of City 17, and the graphics are solid. Very Compelling Setting.
Combat controls are steamlined, and hitting a button tells you where to go if you get lost.

The Bad

I got bored with combat. Initially, you're murdering the police, and that's unsettling. Eventually, you're killing every faction of the city. If you run low on ammo, The Girl gives you more, so combat is pretty easy. If you die, you respawn, further simplfying things. The sniper rifle is best, as most areas are wide open. I found the Sky Line (sort of like a personal roller coaster) to be an interesting idea, but poorly integrated in regards to combat.

On a major note, Infinite is terribly written. Initially, there is no explanation of things. After about five hours, the players says he was sent to smuggle The Girl out to pay off a debt. Shortly thereafter, the player hops to alternate dimensions (with no way to get back) in lieu of solving problems in the current one. Being in an alternate dimension should bring into question what you're trying to accomplish exactly, but strangely, this is not mentioned. The ending pissed me off, and ultimately gives us a mess of plot holes, when we'd been expecting plot twists.

The Verdict

I really liked BioShock. BioShock 2 had a different developer; they made some poor choices for us color blind folk, but I didn't hold it against the franchise. BioSchock Infinite is the only game for PC I have ever payed full price for, and I was severely disappointed with the 10-year-old-boy writing quality. It's critcally accliamed, but that doesn't matter. The great setting is wrecked by abominable writing. The streamlined combat is too easy, offers nothing new, and so we're left with a highly acclaimed, annoyingly mediocre game.
I suppose it might be worth it if you get it on the cheap, but don't expect to be impressed.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Su-Chi Deck

Years ago, I built a black/artifact deck on the cheap.  The basic premise was Su-Chi + Culling the Weak = Big Mana.  Spirit of the Night, Baron Sengir, Patron of the Nezumi... I used whatever I had at the time.  It was a hit or miss deck, as it required having  1.  something to sacrifice  2.  something to sacrifice it to, and 3.  something to do with the mana.

I have rebuilt the deck, now also including white, for more synergy.  Big creatures now (mostly) bring my sacrificial creatures back or do something mean when one of my creatures dies.  A bad shuffle can still result in a failure of the 1+2=3 premise, but it's better now than it was before.  Deck list:

Su-Chi Deck
60-Card Format
Black, Whtie

4 Myr Moonvessel
4 Cathodion
4 Su-Chi
2 Priest of Gix

4 Ashnod's Altar
4 Soldevi Adnate
4 Priest of Yawgmoth

4 Butcher of Malakir
4 Bringer of the Wite Dawn
2 Repear from the Abyss
1 Shoeldred, Whispering One
1 Reya Dawnbringer
2 Angel of Despair


1 Phyrexian Tower
Multicolor Lands

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Antichamber Review

Game:  Antichamber
Year (s):  2013
Company:  dev.  Alexander Bruce
pub.  Demruth
Engine:  Unreal Engine 3
Type:  Puzzle
Viewpoint:  First-Person
Metacritic Score: 82
My Score:  An astonishing shit.

Price (as of July 21, 2013)

Regular list price on Steam:  $20
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (new, with shipping):  Not Available

My Game Time: 18 minutes

Obligatory Trailer:  http://store.steampowered.com/app/219890


I first noticed Antichamber about a month ago.  After watching the trailer, I came away thinking that it had graphics to rival that of 1990 (I am not exaggerating, check out the trailer).  Nonetheless, it had a decent Metacritic score, solid reviews, a few awards, and sounded like something different.  When it was discounted during Steam's summer sale for six bucks, I figured it was worht a shot.

Antichamber is a game without an introduction or tutorial.  You start off with a red flight of stairs going down, and a blue one going up.  There are two pictures on the walls that change, but there are no clues as to what you're supposed to be doing.  At one point, I'm pretty sure I found the objective, but I couldn't figure out how to interact with it.  I tried hitting E, F, clicking the mouse, nothing.  So I continued on the stairs.  After eighteen minutes of that, I deleted the game.

Don't be fooled with the Escher-esque pitch, the awards, or anything else.  This game looks awful, teaches you nothing, and, out of 176 total games, is THE WORST GAME I have ever gotten through Steam.

Friday, July 5, 2013

BRINK review

Game:  BRINK
Year (s):  2011
Company:  dev.  Splash Damage
pub.  Bethesda Softworks
Engine:  id Tech 4 (modified)
Type:  Red vs. Blue shooter
Viewpoint:  First-Person
Metacritic Score: 72

Price (as of June 26, 2013)

Regular list price on Steam:  $19.99
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (new, with shipping):  $6

Obligatory Trailer:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H8HYs90WXms

The Good

BRINK allows for a great deal of unlockable abilities and weapon customization.  The more you play, the more things you have access to.  A selection of dozens of firearms are avialable, and any weapon can be used by any character class.  There are a few different game types to keep things interesting, and there's full bot support.

The Bad

As shown in the trailer, the game is supposed to be big on parkour movement (trailer is NOT actual gameplay).  During the campaign I could climb on some objects and sometimes get a slide to work.  I found this more realistic, but not particularly useful in a firefight.  I certainly didn't move like they do in the trailer, I don't know if these movements had to be unlocked or if the game just failed to teach players how to do things.

Another flaw is lack of a map or compass waypoints for objectives.  Levels are not symmetrical.  While I could see where my teammates were, following bots doesn't always lead one in the right direction.

Personally, I didn't feel that the four classes were very different.  Some objectives had to be completed by a specific class, but gameplay was mostly the same.  

The Verdict

BRINK is one of those games that is meant to be played with friends.  I think I could really get into the unlocking and weapon customization aspects, but my experience playing with bots was just not quite enough to have me tell friends to buy this.  BRINK isn't a bad game, per se, it just didn't do it for me.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Morph Deck

I recently came across Ixidron, an interesting guy that flips all other creatures face-down.  If my guys all have morph, this isn't so bad.  Training Grounds and Dream Chisel help ease the mana cost for morph guys, and the rest is pretty straight forward.  Here's the deck.

60-Card Format

Ixidor, Reality Sculptor
Voidmage Apprentice
Quicksilver Dragon
Vesuvan Shapeshifter
Aphetto Runecaster
Weaver of Lies
Echo Tracer

Training Grounds
Dream Chisel
Extraplanar Lens


Zoetic Cavern

Serious Sam 2 Review

Game:  Serious Sam 2
Year (s):  2005
Company:  dev.  Croteam
pub.  Devolver
Engine:  Serious Engine 2
Type:  Old-School Shooter
Viewpoint:  First-Person
Metacritic Score: 74
My Score:  The nadir of the franchise.

Price (as of May 19, 2013)

Regular list price on Steam:  $9.99
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (new, with shipping):  $6

My Game Time: 17 hours

Obligatory Trailer:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=334FeWTYDCU

See Also

The First Encounter Review:  http://fpsandmtg.blogspot.com/2011/06/serious-sam-first-encounter-review.html
The Second Encounter Review:  http://fpsandmtg.blogspot.com/2012/05/serious-sam-second-encounter-review.html
Serious Sam 3 BFE Review:  http://fpsandmtg.blogspot.com/2012/01/serious-sam-3-bfe-review.html


Sam must fight through several planets, gathering pieces of a medallion, in order to defeat Lord Mental.

Save System

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

The Progression

This was the last game of the franchise for me to play.  Carrying through the franchise we have tons of enemies, retro gameplay, some humor, giant bosses, and general quirkiness.  The Second Encounter added a few new enemies and several new environments.  Serious Sam 2 had almost completely new enemies and environments, the addition of vehicles,  new weapons, and replaced textrual plot with cut scenes.  

Then, the HD versions of The First/Second Encounter were realesed, continuing a gradual graphical improvement.  Croteam lastly went back to the basics and the original enemies and environments for Serious Sam 3: BFE.

Final Thoughts

The nearly complete departure from familiar foes, along with some jokes that fell totally flat, made Serious Sam 2 feel like a third-party knockoff.  From a plot perspective, SS2 is the last game of the bunch, and I thought the ending was very unsatisfying.  I say pass on this one.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Sniper Elite and American Nightmare

I have updated "the first post."  This includes dates of reviews and has been rearranged.  Here is the link:  http://fpsandmtg.blogspot.com/2010/08/first-post.html  I don't update that as often as I should.

Game:  Sniper Elite
Year (s):  2005
Company:  dev.  Rebellion
pub.  MC2 France
Engine:  Asura
Type:  Stealthy Shooter
Viewpoint:  Mostly Third-Person
GameRanking Score: 73
My Score:  Why did I buy this in the first place?


At the tail end of WW2's European theater, you take on the role of an American sniper, disguised as a German, dispatching Russian targets.  The cold war began before the world war ended.


Rebellion has continually used, and improved, the Asura engine since 2003.  Graphical quality, therefore, has a large range.  As a 2005 game, this was not a contender.  While I didn't hit any glitches in the brief time I played this game, the graphics were, at best, comparable to UT 2K4.


Army-crawl from one point of cover to another, take a couple of shots, and then crawl away before the enemy pinpoints your position.  Ideally, fire in sync with bombs or thunder.  Optional aiming problems include wind, bullet fall, and breathing.  I found this game style, while more realistic, tedious at best.  Everyone has their own line between challenging and stupid, and this crossed it for me.

Expansions / DLC / Sequels

Sniper Elite V2 was a remake that came out in 2012.  It looks better, and has at least one DLC.

Final Thoughts

I'm not good at sniping, and I don't like being forced to sneak around.  This game just wasn't my type.

Alan Wake's American Nightmare

Alan Wake's American Nightmare has a few things in common with Alan Wake's DLC: the plot is garbage and the game is short.  This is compounded by cakewalk combat and poor writing.  Play Alan Wake.  It's good.  Don't play anything else associated with the franchise.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Alan Wake Review

Game:  Alan Wake
Year (s):  2010 (XBox 360), 2012 (PC release)
Company:  dev.  Remedy Entertainment
pub.  Microsoft Game Studios et al.
Engine:  MAX-FX 3.0 using Havok physics and Umbra occlustion
Type:  Survival Horror, Shooter
Viewpoint:  Third-Person
Metacritic Score: 83
My Score:  A refreshingly good game.

Price (as of April 8, 2013)

Regular list price on Steam:  $29.99
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (new, with shipping):  $12.99

My Game Time:  23 hours, first time on easy, including both DLC

Obligatory Trailer:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AF2ZdvBtp1k


Alan Wake, a successful author a la Stephen King, has writer's block.  His wife, Alice, takes him on a retreat.  After getting to their cabin on Cauldron Lake, the two get in an argument, and Alan goes down to the dock to cool off.  Some time later Alice screams.  Alan runs to help, and dives in to the lake.

The next thing you know, Alan's in a wrecked car with his head bleeding.  He fights shadowy figures that disappear when defeated.  He gets to a gas station to call for help, to find that a week has gone by.  The sheriff picks him up, and tells him that there is no cabin on Cauldron Lake.

It's a great start, and the plot really motivated me to keep playing.  This has more story than I've come to expect, with nods to Twilight Zone, Stephen King, and others.  The ending ties up most of the mystery, but leaves a couple of big questions unanswered that could be addressed in further games.

The plot is told in acts.  Each act ends with an song to sum up events.  This is a cool idea and they implemented it well.  Oh, by the way, the plot is by the Sam Lake, the same guy that wrote for Max Payne.


MAX-FX 3.0 is the newest engine from the developers that brought us Max Payne.  Graphics are significantly better than the last Max Payne title, while the third-person view, some of the sounds, level design, and the general look feel familiar.  As a port of a 2010 console game, it is not in the running for cutting-edge beautiful, but it works and I didn't snag on any bugs.

Save System

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


Enemies are protected by The Dark Presence, so you'll have to burn their darkness away before you can hurt them.  Flashlights, floodlights, flares, flashbangs, anything will do.  Then a limited arsenal of firearms finishes the task.  This allows for the novelty of R to reload guns, and Q to replace flashlight batteries.

I tried playing the game on normal, but ran out of ammo.  There is no melee attack, so I started over on easy.  I'm not sure what I could have done on normal; I don't play a great deal of survival horror, limited-ammo games.

Expansions / DLC / Sequels

"The Signal," and, "The Writer," are two very short DLC.  These add a small amount of additional gameplay, but don't do anything to move the story forward..

Alan Wake's American Nightmare, "is not a sequel."  It take place after the first though, with the same gameplay and some of the same characters.  This came out in 2012.

Remedy has said that they are not done with Alan Wake yet, and there is a lot of speculation for Alan Wake 2, but no information yet.  There was a web-based miniseries prequel to Alan Wake created called, "Bright Falls."

Final Thoughts

This was a longer article because Alan Wake has more to offer than a lot of the cheap games I grab on sales.  While the DLC were pretty limp fare, I thoroughly enjoyed Alan Wake from start to finish.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Far Cry 2 Review

Game:  Far Cry 2
Year (s):  2008
Company:  dev.  Ubisoft Montreal
pub.  Ubisoft
Engine:  Dunia
Type:  Open-world, Shooter
Viewpoint:  First-Person
Metacritic Score:  85
My Score:  Average enough to play something better.

Price (as of March 24, 2013)

Regular list price on Steam:  $9.99
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (new, with shipping):  $10

Obligatory Trailer:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DMTDjKusVqY

See Also- Far Cry Review:


You're a mercenary sent into a war-torn African region to kill an arms dealer.  You catch malaria instead, and get caught up in the civil war, all the while hoping to track down and kill the arms dealer.

Dunia Engine

This looks ok, but not the best at the time.  AI is much dumber than in Far Cry.

Save System

Manual Save?  Yes
Quck Save?  Yes
Area Load Save?   Not sure
Checkpoint Save?  Yes


Grab three weapons and some medkits, get in a vehicle, and start killing.  Standard fare for the genre.

Far Cry 2 does a couple of things that really turn me off.  First, the setting, plot, characters, environments, and enemies have abolutely nothing to do with the first game.  Secondly, Far Cry 2 had a different developing company.  As is sometimes the case, the gameplay was starkly dissimilar to the first.  These factors all together left me disappointed and wondering why it had the Far Cry name at all.  

Expansions / DLC / Sequels

A DLC called Foturne's pack added some new weapons, vehicles, and multiplayer maps.

Far Cry 3, also by Ubisoft, came out in 2012.  It had gotten fairly good reviews and has been described as, "Skyrim with guns."

Final Thoughts

This here's an average game at best, with the added satisfaction-level of such sequels as Highlander 2, Fievel Goes West, or The Lion King 1 1/2.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Wolfenstein 3D: Spear of Destiny Review

Game:  Wolfenstein 3D: Spear of Destiny
Year (s):  1992
Company:  dev.  id Software
pub.  FormGen Corporation
Engine:  Wolfenstein 3D engine
Type:  Old School Shooter
Viewpoint:  First-Person

Price (as of  March 19, 2013)

Regular list price on Steam:  $4.99
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (UNOPENED, with shipping):  $65

See Also:
Wolfenstein 3D Review:  http://fpsandmtg.blogspot.com/2011/09/wolfenstein-3d-review.html

The Second Wolf 3D Game

Spear of Destiny offers gameply and environments identical to Wolfenstein 3D.  The plot is nicely contained in the instruction manual, and otherwise unknown.

Two additional 21-level mission packs were created by FormGen and released in 1994.  These did not sell well.

Controls for the game are pretty different from today, making things a little akward.  Forcing the game to close unconventionally, or using ALT TAB to minimize it, resets the controls to default.  Maps are still mazes.  Enemies are still silent after they make an initial noise.

I did not play this game for very long.  I'd played the original Wolfenstein 3D as a child, so it had some nostalgic aspects.  I still remembered secrets in a few levels.  Spear of Destiny is the same game, without the nostalgia.  I'd never even heard about it until a few years ago.  Final verdict: if you didn't play it in the nineties, don't start now.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Prototype Review

Game:  Prototype
Year (s):  2009
Company:  dev.  Radical Entertainment
pub.  Activision
Engine:  Titanium
Type:  Open World, Platformer, Hack 'n Slash
Viewpoint:  Third-Person
Metacritic Score: 79
My Score:  I agree with Metacritic.

Price (as of  March 17, 2013)

Regular list price on Steam:  $19.99
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (new, with shipping):  $17

Game Time: 21 hours.  This includes a few hours on normal before starting over on easy.

Obligatory Trailer:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JvsUkUaJjYs


Alex Mercer was at Penn station when a biological weapon was unleashed.  Three weeks later he wakes up in a morgue.  His memory is spotty, soldiers are trying to kill him, and he now has superhuman powers.  The initial goal is to take revenge on everyone responsible for the biological attack.  Also, zombies.

The plot comes through in bits and pieces, partly through killing people.  There are a few cool twists near the end, but these don't do enough to compensate for some of the game's lacking aspects.


It's called the Platinum engine.  It looks ok.  No bugs.

Save System

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


The playable character is a shapeshifter.  Spending experience points allows you to unlock attacks (these often involve changing the arms into weapons), maneuverability bonuses, and other useful abilities.  In addition to attacking, running up walls, jumping high, throwing cars, and gliding across Manhattan, the player can disguise themselves.  Simply murder a person (preferably unobserved) and you can look just like them.  Murder is also the easist way to gain life.  It's not a character that derives a great deal of sympathy.

Gameplay is obviously directed toward consoles.  I unlocked a bunch of moves that I never figured out how to actually use.

Expansions / DLC / Sequels

Prototype 2 came out in 2012, pitting one of the infected against Mercer in a ravaged city.

Final Thoughts

The difficulty isn't balanced whatsoever.  On normal, I got stuck two hours in.  On easy, I was a god for most of the game, but a few parts were a huge pain in the ass.  Because the game called for constant murder, I didn't connect with the character, or care at all if they died.  Gameplay was fun initially but became repetitive about halfway through, and poorly ported to the PC.  A couple of cool plot elements and a glitch-free engine do just enough to make this a fantastically ho-hum game.  I would not highly recommend this one.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Painkiller: Redemption Review

Painkiller: Redemption

I love a bargain.  I bought the Painkiller franchise on sale, when it was four games, for about ten bucks (it is now six games, though the most recent is a remake of the first using Unreal Engine 3).  The first Painkiller had merit at the time, but lacked Serious Sam, and the engine was a piece of shit.  Redemption, like the last iteration, uses the same shitty engine to create fan-made content in guise of a game.

I played this game for about half an hour.  I played on easy, because I assumed it would be a chore and I wanted it over with as soon as possible.  On Redemption, easy means FINAL DOOM HARD.  While I didn't die, I was surrounded by hordes of monsters more than once.  The first level has more than one thousand enemies.

Sadly, I fell off a ledge near the end of the first level and could not progress.  It's a good thing then, that I didn't want to.  Redemption is another garbage, fan-created game, and the latest Serious Sam is far superior.

Section 8: Prejudice

Game:  Section 8: Prejudice
Year (s):  2011
Company:  dev.  TimeGate Studios
pub.  TimeGate Studios
Engine:  Unreal Engine 3
Type:  Shooter, multiplayer oriented
Viewpoint:  Third-person
Metacritic Score:  77
My Score:  Not worth it.

Price (as of  March 3, 2013)

Regular list price on Steam:  $14.99
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (new, with shipping):  Not applicable, no physical copies exist.

Game Time:  About five hours on normal for the campaign.

Obligatory Trailer:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4j_t_HfLSBs

See Also
Section 8 Review:  http://fpsandmtg.blogspot.com/2012/02/section-8-review.html

(plot omitted from this review due to its lameness)

Save System

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


Team-based combat, deployable objects, jet packs, and alternate loadouts.  In a nutshell, the same thing as the first, except the campaign is half the length.  The AI is so poor that bots on my team were constantly walking right in to my line of fire or throwing grenades at my feet.

The only new (and cool) aspects of this are a cool aiming toy and the adoption of a checkpoint save system.

Expansions / DLC / Sequels

A few DLC exist offering additional maps to play.

Final Thoughts

The CEO of TimeGate is giving a motivational speech to get the team excited about their work.  "Okay guys, it's time to turn things up!  I want more reviewers praising our games as mediocre, adequate, and okay!  Remember our slogan, it's not good, it's JUST GOOD ENOUGH!  Go team!"

Friday, March 1, 2013

Hard Reset Review

Game:  Hard Reset
Year (s):  2012
Company:  dev.  Flying Wild Hog
pub.  Flying Wild Hog, 1C SoftClub
Engine:  Road Hog Engine
Type:  Old School Shooter
Viewpoint:  First-Person
Metacritic Score: 73
My Score:  A forgettable game by a developer that might have potential.

Price (as of February 26, 2013)

Regular list price on Steam:  $14.99
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (new, with shipping):  $12.89

Game Time: about 7 hours

Obligatory Trailer:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nFkOrBkVNhg


You're a cop in the city of Bazoar.  Artificial intelligence was created, and the robots attacked.  There is a little more to it than that, but it's written incredibly badly (not in an effort to be humorous) and never cements into anything.

"Plot" is told through comic-book style cutscenes between levels, but it's so illogical, inconclusive, and chock-full dramitically shouted swear words that the game would have been better without it.


I don't know how much work goes into building a game engine.  I couldn't find anything about this particular engine, so I don't know if it derives from something else (id Tech 4 and Source are now open-source).  In any case, it looks pretty close to id Tech 4 (albeit with better lighting effects), I assumed it was the ubiquitous Unreal Engine 3, and if they made it entirely from scratch, good on 'em.  Glitch free.

Save System

Manual Save?  Not sure, never tried.
Quck Save?  Same as above
Area Load Save?  Yes
Checkpoint Save?  Yes


Hard Reset does a good job on most old school shooter mechanics.  You never reload, bosses are huge, and ammo/health is instantly used by running over it.  You have two base weapons, a standard assault rifle and a plasma rifle, with distinct ammo.  Upgrades allow different weapon modes for either, from shotgun and RPG to railgun and energy mortar.  Alternate fire modes can be unlocked for each weapon mode.

Combat is closer to Painkiller than to Serious Sam.  Hordes of enemies will attack, but you won't always have much room to maneuver.  For this reason, I would recommend playing it on easy the first time through.

The environment can be used as a weapon in many areas.  Explosive barrels and electrical sparks are common.

Expansions / DLC / Sequels

The DLC, "Exile" comes with the game, offering a few more enemies, levels, and upgrades.

Final Thoughts

The weapons system was cool.  The engine looked fine.  The combat was pretty solid.  The story could use a story.  It's not a game I'm going to recommend you buy, but I will point out that this is the first game from a small developer.  One learns best by doing.  As a fan of the linear, old school genre, I am looking forward to what Flying Wild Hog does next.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Darksiders 2, THQ, and Arkham City

Today I'm blogging about a couple of platformers that have been keeping me busy.

Darksiders 2 (see also http://fpsandmtg.blogspot.com/2012/08/darksiders-review.html  )

This follows the first game's post-apocalyptic, demon-ravaged theme.  This time, you take on the role of the horseman Death.  Gameplay is very similar to the first, with a few different items and moves.  A leveling system with skill branches has been added, along with a looting mechanic and a significantly higher number of dungeons to crawl.

While a nice addition to the franchise, the plot gets muddied down to a dull slog about halfway through.  Controls are, again, meant for consoles, but well adapted to PC.

In any case, it doesn't look like there's going to be any more Darksiders games.  It didn't sell enough to break even, which brings me to the next topic.

So Long, THQ

THQ declared bankruptcy and recently was dissolved ( one lists of where assets went:  http://www.gamespot.com/news/thq-dissolved-6402838  .  There may be more complete/recent  lists available).  Vigil Games (the THQ-owned studio behind Darksiders) was purchased by Crytek and remade to be Crytek US.  The license for Darksiders, however, was not bought.

Personally, I'm not too broken up by THQ's breakup.  I found their games to be split between average and, in polite terms, below average.  I was happy to see that publishers like Sega, Ubisoft, Koch Media (publishers of Dead Island) and Crytek stepped in, with EA totally out of the picture.

Batman: Arkham City GOTY

Here's a game where I liked the characters but not the gameplay.  You've got your cape, gadgets, and smokebombs.  Combat alternates between completely stealthy and large brawls.  I hate being forced to stealth, and the controls for the brawls were not adapted as smoothly to the PC as I have seen in other games.  In at least two points, simple puzzles required me to perform an act that the game simply never introduced.  A keyboard has lots of buttons, it's not like a controller when I'm going to press them all at the start of the game to see what they do.

So I wouldn't recommend it, at least not for PC.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Dead Island Review

Game:  Dead Island
Year (s):  2011
Company:  dev.  Techland
pub.  Deep Silver
Engine:  Chrome Engine 5
Type:  Survival Horror, RPG, Hack 'n Slash
Viewpoint:  First-Person
Metacritic Score: 80
My Score:  Like Fallout 3 with less guns

Price (as of January 30, 2013)

Regular list price on Steam:  $19.99 (GOTY edition)
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (new, with shipping):  $20+

Game Time: 30 hours, more if desired

Obligatory Trailer:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ialZcLaI17Y


Resort island + zombie outbreak + you're immune = you're the preferred go-getter.  You help pckets of survivors with an end goal of getting off the island.  This game can be done co-op with up to four players, so cutscenes show all four immune people interacting.


Yet another graphics engine that looks like everything else.  I hit glitches occassionally that hid waypoints or created invisible walls, but these were fairly minor and there were no crashes.

Save System

Manual Save?  No
Quick Save?  No
Area Load Save?  Yes
Checkpoint Save?  Yes
Other:  Respawn on death, with killed hostiles removed


There are firearms, but usually only when you're fighting other humans.  Ammo isn't found very often anywhere else.  For the most part, you'll fight with whatever you can find, buy, or build.  Boat paddles, butcher knives, machetes, molotovs, and so on.  My favorite weapon was a baseball bat with a powered circular saw attached to the end.  Any weapon that you swing or throw at an enemy will degrade, so repairs and upgrades are important.

There are four different characters to choose from.  Each can use any weapon, but excel at one in particular (blunt weapons, edged weapons, thrown weapons, and firearms).  Much of the game is done on foot, but there are vehicles and fast travel options to get around faster.  After completing the main story, you can start the game over at your current level, with all your gear and everything.

Expansions / DLC / Sequels

I have the Game of the Year edition, so it includes all the bonus content.  Two DLC are worth mentioning.  The Ryder White DLC's short adventure takes place concurrent with the base game, and does an amazing job of adding several plot twists to what had been a pretty straight plotline.  Nice job.  Bloodbath Arena is exactly what it sounds like: plotless waves of enemies in arenas.  Unlike the rest of Dead Island, these two DLC are single player only.

Final Thoughts

There are several things I like about Dead Island (aside from a memorable trailer).  The game time couples with choices of different characters, the choice to play cooperatively, and the option to start over at your end-game level to offer a lot of time.  The Ryder White DLC did a superb job of making an average plot rather interesting.  And of course, there's some satisfaction to be had by smashing zombie heads.  All in all: not stellar, but definitely good.  If you catch it on sale and want to play through as all the characters, you'd have something to keep you occupied for a month.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Awesome Fateful Hour Deck

Fateful Hour
60 Card Format
Black, Red, White

4 Fire Covenant
4 Phyrexian Processor
1 Heartless Hidetsugu
3 Repay in Kind

4 Gather the Townsfolk
4 Thraben Doomsayer
4 Death's Shadow

4 Phyrexian Unlife
4 Pariah

4 Seething Song
4 Jalum Tome


Multicolor lands
Basic lands

WIN METHOD: Damage- Creatures, Loss of Life- Repay in Kind
INHERENT WEAKNESSES:  Direct damage and flyers.


It's a rare deck in which the player wants a low life total as quick as possible.  In this case, it's effective.

Form of the Dragon, Sign in Blood, Minion of the Wastes, and a few other cards were experimented with, but ultimately failed to make the cut.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Dishonored Review

Game:  Dishonored
Year (s):  2012
Company:  dev.  Arkane Studios
pub.  Bethesda Softworks
Engine:  Unreal Engine 3
Type:  Ninja!
Viewpoint:  First-person
Metacritic Score: 91
My Score:  I liked it.  Something different..

Price (as of January 5, 2013)

Regular list price on Steam:  $59.99
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (new, with shipping):  $31

Game Time: 

About ten hours the first run. The second run was half that.  NOT a completionist.

Obligatory Trailer:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IyDvT7XpaBc


Dishonored is set on a steam-punk world, in an empire ravaged by the Rat Plague (think of the black plague paired with Hitchcock's The Birds, well, except it's rats).  You take on the role of the bodyguard to the empress.  The empress is killed, the princess heir kidnapped, and you are blamed.  Imprisoned.  DISHONORED.  The goals are to 1.  Escape from prison  2. Punish the ones behind the coup and 3.  Restore the heir to the throne.  

Save System

Manual Save?  Yes
Quick Save?  No.  I found this a little strange.
Area Load Save?  Yes
Checkpoint Save?  Sometimes


There are essentially two ways to play this game, with each resulting in a different ending.  The first time, I fought my way through hostiles, and a lot of people were killed in the process.  This in turn led to more guards in the streets, and more deadly rats.  This play style ends in the "bad" ending.

Alternately, the player can sneak around, knock people unconscious, and only kill if there's no other way.  I played this way my second time, and it was more fun.  It turns out I suck at stealth, so I lowered the difficulty.  This ending was much more positive.

Your arsenal include different ammo for a gun and a crossbow, as well as a sword.  Ammo and upgrades can be purchased.  The player also has a variety of available magic powers that can be unlocked.  If the player wants to unlock many powers or buy much, exploration is highly recommended.  Different choices in powers enhance the play style you're going with.

Expansions / DLC / Sequels

Dunwal City Trials adds more content, but it's not plot related.  Further DLC has been promised.

Final Thoughts

I haven't played very many stealth games, but Dishonored was still very accessible because I didn't have to play stealthy if I didn't want to.  The Victorian era, steam punk environment was a breath of fresh air.  I also like having more than one ending, and the powers were enjoyable.  I wouldn't call this THE BEST GAME EVER, but it was cool, and different than the stuff I usually play.  I wish it was longer, but I can say that about lots of games.  If you want to try something new, check this one out.