Saturday, November 15, 2014

Games I Liked 2014

Games I liked 2014

This year, I have fewer games to recommend in my annual installment of games I liked that I first played this year (they could have come out at any time).

Gone Home
Gone Home is a non-combat exploration game. You are a college student that comes home late one stormy night to an empty house. Obviously, you have to tear the house apart and snoop through your family's personal items to figure out where everyone is. Gone Home, while short, is a well crafted exploration game that really leaves the player feeling good at the end.

Shadow Warrior
This remake of the late '90's Shadow Warrior is the second game developed by Flying Wild Hog, and I loved it. It's a perfect meeting of new and old, pairing hordes of enemies and groan-worthy jokes with powerful abilities, an out-of-the-box plot, and some of the best controls for a PC game that I have ever played. Also, great job on an in-house engine. Until I looked it up, I assumed this was running on Unreal tech.

Sanctum 2
I liked Sanctum, even if all of my friends didn't really care for it. I like Sanctum 2 even more, even if some of my friends still don't get it. Sanctum 2 has a better learning curve, different character classes, and more tower types. Ideally played with friends.

Noteable Mentions

Payday: The Heist
Payday is a 4-player coop game where you play the part of masked criminals that must work together to take hostages, break into vaults, and kill police. While I'm not thrilled about killing policemen, the gameplay itself is a nice alternatvie to standards like Left 4 Dead. The biggest downside of Payday is that only the first two levels can be played on easy, after that you better know what you're doing.

How about a game set in the West for a change? I wrote a review for this one recently, so I'm not going to go into details in this article. Not a groundbreaking game but something a little different.

Far Cry 3

It's a big open-world game with lots of sidequests that'll give you many hours of gametime. Some action segments are pretty great, but I'm leaving this on as an Noteable Mention because the endings really soured the whole thing for me.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Wolfenstein (2009) Review

Game: Wolfenstein
Year (s): 2009
Company: dev. Raven Software, Endrant (multiplayer portion only)
pub. Activision
Engine: modified id Tech 4 with Havok physics
Type: Shooter
Viewpoint: First-Person
Metacritic Score: 74
My Score: 70! Do I hear 65? 65! Do I hear...

Price (as of November 8, 2014)

Regular list price on Steam: Not available
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (new, with shipping): $21

My Game Time: 18 hours

Obligatory Trailer:

B.J. Blazkowicz returns in a follow-up to Return to Castle Wolfenstein. This time the nazis are using energy from the black sun dimension to create monsters and super weapons. Stop 'em, B.J.!

I got this on a $5 Steam sale, but it's no longer available. Speculation on the Steam forums is that Wolfenstein publishing rights may have been bought back from Activision by Bethesda for Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Save System

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

Combat and Gameplay
Basic shoot-and-crouch gameplay, because health regenerates if you take cover. It's not a mechanic I love, but it's bolstered with a variety of guns (you're not limited to just two or three at a time) and a few abilities. Abilities include a bullet shield, damage amplification, crappy slow motion, and good slow motion. Energy for ailities runs out fast, and can only be recharged at certain spots. So while you have the illusion of being a badass, you're mostly going to be crouching a lot and taking headshots of enemies with really easy A.I.

The exception for this is boss fights, which are generally a pain in the ass compared to the rest of the game. Also annoying are flying enemies that fire a volley of rockets at a time (= you're dead!).

Completing main and side missions earns gold. You can also find gold and intel hidden all over the place. Gold buys upgrades for weapons and abilities.

Expansions / DLC / Sequels
2014 saw the release of Wolfenstein: The New Order. Set in an alternate history, it is not a direct sequel to the 2009 game. Developers of the most recent installment liked Wolfenstein 3D but thought the 2009 game, “was crap.”

Final Thoughts
Return to Castle Wolfenstein was good at the time, and as a sequel, this one feels rather uninspired. The stealth element of Return is gone. Silenced weapons will alert every enemy in the neighborhood. Collecting intel is fine, but looking behind a garbage can to find a bag of gold is pretty comical in 2009. I liked the variety of weapons and the upgrade system, but felt hampered by crappy abilities, easy A.I., and a frequent need to find cover.

If you want a fun new Wolfenstein game, I've heard good things about The New Order. If you want a shooter with cool abilities, I'd opt for Crysis or F.E.A.R. Or even Raven's 2010 game, Singularity. All good games. Pass on Wolfenstein 2009.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

GUN review (video game)

Game: GUN
Year (s): 2005
Company: dev. Neversoft
pub. Activision
Engine: unknown
Type: Shooter with minor RPG elements
Viewpoint: Third-Person
Metacritic Score: 76
My Score: 88

Price (as of November 1, 2014)

Regular list price on Steam: $19.99
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (new, with shipping): $31

My Game Time: 10 hours, 90% completion

Obligatory Trailer:


You go on a steamboatt with your father. Indians attack and your father dies. You set out to find out why the boat was attacked, and wind up on seeking to stop an evil man's bloodthirsty path to the lost city of gold.

I couldn't find out what engine this game uses. It's not on Wikipedia, and the generic title of the game makes it impossible to find anything online. As far as 2005 games go, graphics are pretty similar to Unreal Engine 2. I didn't run into any noticeable bugs.

Save System

Manual Save? Yes, usually
Quick Save? No
Area Load Save? No
Checkpoint Save? Totally

Combat and Gameplay
Ride horses! Shoot horse thieves! Throw dynamite! If you're hurt, drink some whiskey! I'm surprised there aren't more shooters set in the Wild West (the only others I can think of are Red Dead Redemption and Call of Juarez). Aside from the main mission, the player can collect bounties, hunt trophy game, play poker, and do some odd jobs for the locals. Doing these things give you money, which you can you use to upgrade weapons, horses, equipment, et cetera.

With the exception of a few tricky boss fights, combat stays on the easy side. This is largely due to the, “quick draw,” slow-motion mechanic. Slow motion is always fun, but in the game they include auto-aim with it.

Final Thoughts
I don't know where I heard about this game, but I'm glad I did. While it's not a long game, the action is almost nonstop. The West is a welcome change of scenery from the usual zombies, aliens, demons, nazis, and so on. It even won some awards from gaming magazines. I'm not saying this is the best game ever, but if you can pick it up on sale on Steam it's a fun romp that has aged pretty well.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Thief Gold and I Am Alive Reviews

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Contagion Review

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

Price (as of October 4, 2014)

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

Obligatory Trailer:

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


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

Save System: None

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

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

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

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

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

Expansions / DLC / Sequels

Final Thoughts

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

Sunday, September 28, 2014

God Mode Review

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

Price (as of , 2014)

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

Obligatory Trailer:

Plot and Gameplay

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

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

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

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


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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Far Cry 3 Review

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

Price (as of September 2, 2014)

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

My Game Time: 45 hours

Obligatory Trailer:


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

Dunia Engine 2

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

Save System

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

Combat and Gameplay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Gone Home Review

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

Price (as of July 16, 2014)

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

My Game Time: about 2 hours

Obligatory Trailer:

Plot and Gameplay

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

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

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

Save System

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

Final Thoughts

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

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Dream Halls Deck

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

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

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

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

Here's the proposed decklist:

Dream Halls
60-Card Format
Black, Blue

4 Dream Halls

4 Rhystic Study
4 Baleful Strix
4 Shadowmage Infiltrator
2 tutors

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

2 Jhessian Zombies
4 Blood Pet
4 Basal Thrull

Monday, June 2, 2014

Risen Review

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

Price (as of June 2, 2014)

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

Obligatory Trailer:

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


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

Save System

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That's when I'd had enough.

Expansions / DLC / Sequels

Risen was followed by Risen 2, which had DLC.

Final Thoughts

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

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

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Anna Review

Game: Anna: Extended Edition
Year (s): 2012
Company: dev. Dreampainters
pub. Kalypso Media
Engine: Unity Engine
Type: Horror, Puzzle adventure
Viewpoint: First-Person
Metacritic Score: 55
My Score: 65

Price (as of May 9, 2014)

Regular list price on Steam: $9.99
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (new, with shipping): not available

My Game Time: 7 hours with walkthrough

Obligatory Trailer:


Anna begins with notebook entries by the protagonist. He found a box of photos that give him a bad feeling. They depict himself at a creepy-ass sawmill. He has no memory of this, and, being off work due to migraines, sets off to investigate the sawmill and find out what he has forgotten.

The story is really the motivation to keep playing, and it ends up not answering much. There are multiple endings. Though I played along with an online walkthrough, I got one of the, “bad,” endings. I've looked up the others, and there seems to be uncertainty, and an unhappy conclusion, no matter what ending you get.


I hadn't heard of the Unity engine. It turns out it's been used in several dozen games from a variety of genres. I've heard of some of the other games using the engine (most of it indie) but haven't played said games.

Graphically, it's one of those that could have come out five years ago. Or ten, just about. It works and looks realistic but, like most games, isn't on the hardware-intense cutting edge.

I didn't run into any bugs with this. It was somewhat obnoxious to register online and login to play the game, and go through no less than three launchers each time before playing.

Save System

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


Maniac Mansion. Myst. Shadowgate. *insert newer games*. Do you like picking things up to add to your inventory? Do you like using every item you have on every other item, and on every named object in a room? That's the kind of game Anna is.

There are clues, in the form of books, that can help. There's also an in-game hint option. Anna came up when I searched for games like Dear Esther, and (to no surprise) was something quite different.

About the only strong similarity is that you can't die. At least, not during the course of events, as near as I can tell.

Expansions / DLC / Sequels

White Heavens, set in a haunted hotel, is set in the same universe and also developed by Dreampainters.

Final Thoughts

Anna is creepy. That was my favorite aspect of the game.

If you're looking for a pretty cheap, pretty short game, this fits the bill. I'm not crazy about the game type, I didn't love the endings, and it wasn't really what I was looking for. Personally, I'm not wild about this one.

Nonetheless, Anna leads a player on a dark quasi-immersive tale that is a good show for the first game by a developer.  

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Blake Stone Review

Game: Blake Stone: Aliens of Gold
Year (s): 1993
Company: dev. JAM Productions
pub. Apogee Software
Engine: Wolfenstein Engine
Type: Shooter, Maze Runner
Viewpoint: First-Person
Metacritic Score: This predates Metacritic.
My Score: An alternative game for fans of Wolfenstein 3D

Price (as of April 20, 2014)

Regular list price on Steam: $9.99 for the Apogee Throwback Bundle
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (new, with shipping): Come on now. You don't have a floppy drive.

The evil geneticist Pyrus Goldfire, with his numerous installations, has amassed a mutant army and intends to conquer the galaxy. Only you, British special agent Blake Stone, can stop him. Pursue him through each installation, but be careful! On the 9th floor, there is a boss.

JAM and Apogee
If you haven't heard of JAM, don't feel bad. They made Blake Stone, and the Blake Stone expansion game, and that was it. They are no longer around, though one of their three programmers went on to work with other game companies including TKO, Ion Storm, and id Software.

Apogee published Wolfenstein 3D, and was both a developer and a publisher of games. In the mid-nineties, Apogee decided to create separate brands for the different types of games it created. 3D Realms was used for all 3D games, such as Duke Nukem 3D. Another brand was created for pinball games, of which they made only one. Two-dimensional side-scrollers dropped in popularity during the nineties, so while Apogee was legally still Apogee, fans of their games knew them as 3D Realms.

Apogee/3D Realms was influential in the nineties, but then spent over a decade failing to deliver a sequel for Duke Nukem 3D. The company eventually went bankrupt.

Save System

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

Engine and Gameplay
Blake Stone runs on the Wolfenstein engine, and gameplay is nearly identical. You run around, shoot guys, collects keycards, shove the wall to find secrets, and move to the next level. There's a point system and high scores. Levels can be tediously maze-like.

There are a few small improvements. If you were in a room and didn't notice a key, it'll show up on your map. The initial weapon is silent, leading to a possible stealth approach that, while not a focus of the game, was ahead of its time. Friendly NPCs were also ahead of the game, as many scientists were, “informants,” and would not attack you. Allowing them to live only affected the score.

Expansions / DLC / Sequels
Blake Stone: Planetary Strike had another 20 levels, as well as a few secret levels. This added some re-skinned enemies (some were invisible-ish), a new weapon, and a slightly different aim to end a level. I got about halfway through this, but after the 54 standard levels of the original game, plus two or three secret levels I'd found, I had lost my interest in the maze-run, “where's the stupid key?” gameplay.

Final Thoughts
Blake Stone was meant to compete with Wolfenstein 3D, an immensely popular game at the time. In that regard, it succeeded. It used the same engine in a different setting, changing a few minor things, and offered a ton of levels for gamers growing bored.
Unfortunately, Doom was released one week after the debut of Blake Stone. It had stairs, elevators, light sources... Blake could not compete. I played the shareware of Blake Stone, so I got a tickle of nostalgia from it. I've never heard anyone else mention the game, shareware or otherwise.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Confusion in the Ranks Deck

Confusion in the Ranks: 5 mana red enchantment that reads, "Whenever an artifact, creature, or enchantment enters the battlefield, its controller chooses target permanent another player controls that shares a card type with it. Exchange control of those permanents."  

Six or eight years ago, I learned of this card and got four of them, and slapped together the rest of a 40 card deck from whatever I had.  40 card decks were legal at the time, or, if they weren't, we didn't know.  

I've remade this to be a legal 60-card deck.  This meant that I needed to either have tutors or lots of card drawing (in order to ensure Confusion in the Ranks gets out), and I chose to go with black for tutors (white has enchantment tutors, but offered nothing otherwise interesting). 

This hasn't been played yet, so it might get mixed up.  Measure of Wickedness seems perfect, but I feared it would lead to instant, vicious retaliation.  Cards with huge drawbacks, like Cosmic Horror, are tempting but have a high mana cost that did not justify replacing existing cards.  

So, here's the remake:

4 Confusion in the Ranks
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Vampiric Tutor
2 Diabolic Tutor

4 Glitterfang
3 Viashino Sandscout
1 Norin the Wary
4 Sleeper Agent

4 Dark Ritual
4 Wild Cantor

3 Lurking Jackals
3 Nyxborn Rollicker

3 Steel Golem
3 Bronze Bombshell

1 Kher Keep
Multicolor Lands 

Monday, March 31, 2014

Return to Castle Wolfenstein Review

Game: Return to Castle Wolfenstein
Year (s): 2001
Company: dev. Gray Matter Studios
pub. id Software
Engine: id Tech 3
Type: Shooter
Viewpoint: First-Person
Metacritic Score: 88
My Score: A solid modernization of graphics and gameplay that would, in turn, become dated.

Price (as of March 30, 2014)

Regular list price on Steam: $9.99
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (new, with shipping): $30

Obligatory Trailer:


You're B.J. Blazkowicz, the same silent protagonist from the original game. You start by escaping Castle Wolfenstein. After that, you're sent on a bunch of missions to abort Nazi rockets launches, steal prototype technology and weapons, perform covert operations, and so on. Ultimately, you end up heading back to Castle Wolfenstein to stop the resurrection of an unstoppable evil knight from the dark ages.

Save System

Manual Save? Yes
Quick Save? Yes
Area Load Save? Yes
Checkpoint Save? I think so, but am not sure.

Combat and Gameplay
This game has all the key features of the time: ladders, crawling in ducts, pre-rendered death animations (3D, no sprites), water, use of WADS-based controls, some destructible scenery, walk-over healing kits, cutscenes, and somewhat blocky-looking people,
The combat is generally straight-forward with little to mention. However, some levels must be completed without signaling any alarms, so there is a minor stealth element.

Expansions / DLC / Sequels
Four Wolfenstein titles have followed Return. Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory (it sounds like Quake 3 but with Return to Castle Wolfenstein weapons) and Wolfenstein RPG (a short game for mobile devices) both came out under the radar.
Wolfenstein (2009) is a sequel to Return to Castle Wolfenstein and was developed by Raven Software. It has a metascore of 74.
Woflenstein: The New Order is due out in May of this year. This one takes place in the 1960's, in an alternate timeline in which the Nazi won. This will be the first Wolfenstein game that does not incolve id Software, though it will utilize id Tech 5 for the engine.

Final Thoughts
If I'd gotten this in 2001, I'd have played the hell out of it. As it was, I played through a few levels, having fun until I came to a level with acrobatic enemies. The first small room had several bad guys. I only had thirty health, and I was out of ammo except for the sniper rifle. That being said, I turned on godmode and merrily progressed through the rest of the game.
Play it for nostalgia if you can, or just play it for kicks. Return to Castle Wolfenstein is a pretty good game for its era, and still runs fine on modern hardware and software.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Review

Game: Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
Year (s): 2012
Company: dev. Valve Software, Hidden Path Entertainment
pub. Valve Software
Engine: Source
Type: Online Multiplayer Shooter
Viewpoint: First-Person
Metacritic Score: 83
My Score: 83

Price (as of March 19, 2014)

Regular list price on Steam: $14.99
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (new, with shipping): $8

Obligatory Trailer:

The trailer might be a joke, but it's fairly accurate (and much shorter) than other trailers.

Combat and Gameplay
Originally a port of Counter-Strike for Xbox Live Arcade, Global Offensive added a couple new deathmatch modes for a broader gaming experience.

Gameplay is Red Vs. Blue format, with a strong emphasis on headshots. In my brief game time, I'd basically get shot in the head any time I went around a corner. In some cases, players were deliberately camping out and waiting for someone to walk into view.

Half of the game modes have objectives, these being to detonate/defuse an explosive, or to keep/rescue the hostages. In my brief experience these objectives were ignored and the game ended after one team slaughtered the other.

Players can buy different weapons and equipment at the beginning of rounds. This system wasn't explained; I think I was assumed to be familiar with it from playing other Counter-Strike games. For non-deathmatch modes, players do not respawn until the next round, leading to very short rounds.

I would like to note that, with 167 available achievements, this one can keep a completionist busy for a long, long time.

Expansions / DLC / Sequels

Global Offensive is the most recent in a series with a handful of titles overall. There are no official DLC, but Project Phoenix (and other stuff) can be purchased in-game.

Final Thoughts
The Counter-Strike franchise has been around for fifteen years and is both well-known and well-liked. I feel like I missed the boat here. If I had been playing games like this with my friends for years and years, I'd love it. Someone, most of my friends and I missed out on the Counter-Strike heyday, and I felt a little lost jumping right in on the newest one. Rampantly getting shot in the head was frustrating, as I tend to favor shotguns, explosives, and other non-sniping combat approaches that are, in this game, quite ineffective.

If you are a capable video game sniper looking for a challenge against real people, this one's for you. Personally, I prefer something like Team Fortress 2, with a variety of viable ways to play.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Prodigal Sorcerer (Tim) Deck

I hadn't planned to build a deck around Prodigal Sorcerer and his buddies (they used to be called, "Tim")
I was putting away cards from Born of the Gods (a set I was not particularly impressed by) when I came across Horseshoe Crab.
In high school, I had a crappy deck that turned Horseshoe Crab into a reusable fireball by using enchant creature spells like Fire Whip or Psionic Gift.
I did a search for similar creatures, but was kind of let down.  Soliton, a 3/4 artifact creature for 5, was the only creature with the exact same untap cost.
Blizzard Elemental and others cost significantly more mana to untap, making repetition less likely.

My search brought up other cards, notably Charisma, Sigil of Sleep, and Curiosity.
I've used two of those, and saw how well they all paired with Tims.
My failed attempt at a Horseshoe Crab deck also showed me Freed from the Real and Pemmin's Aura, both giving an ability of Pay one blue: untap enchanted creature.
I ended up with something I hadn't been planning, but it looks like it could be a fine annoying casual blue deck.
Another benefit?  A card from Homelands!  ...And I already have pretty much everything I plan to use.

The tap this creature: deal one damage mechanic has shifted to Red.  The last blue creature with this ability was in Time Spiral.

This is the end result.  I hope to try it out this weekend.

Prodigal Sorcerer (Tim) Deck
60-Card Format

The Tims

4 Prodigal Sorcerer
4 Thornwind Faeries
4 Suq'ata Firewalker
1 Reveka, Wizard Savant
1 Zuran Spellcaster

The Untap for One Blue Auras

4 Freed from the Real
4 Pemmin's Aura

The Annoyance

4 Charisma
4 Curiosity
4 Sigil of Sleep

The Keeps me Alive Guys

3 Shape Stealer
3 Fog Bank

22 Islands

Sunday, March 2, 2014

State of Decay Review

Game: State of Decay
Year (s): 2013
Company: dev. Undead Labs
pub. Microsoft Studios
Engine: Cry Engine 3
Type: Sandbox Zombie Survival
Viewpoint: Third-Person
Metacritic Score: 79
My Score: 70

Price (as of February 23, 2014)

Regular list price on Steam: $19.99
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (new, with shipping): Not Available

My Game Time: 20 hours, first time, on normal

Obligatory Trailer:


This game essentially has no plot. Zombies happened, and you help the survivors stay stocked with ammo, food, and medical supplies.


Cry Engine 3 is one of the most realistic, and most demanding, graphics engines that exist. State of Decay underutilized its capabilites to wind up with a generic looking game that could have been anything released for Xbox 360, Playstaion 3, and PC in the last six years.

I hit a few bugs with this game. It crashed a few times, and goals would sometimes fail to appear or resolve.

Save System

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

Combat and Gameplay

Generally, you're doing fetch quests to help the fortified groups of survivors. While there are guns, it's largely a skull-bashing pursuit. As your character progresses, they gain bonuses in fighting, cardio, weapon classes, and, “influence.” Influence is money.

Zombies are much worse at night, and you are certain to die at some point. While you usually have a couple of chances to recover, at least one enemy can tear you in half. If you die, the game carries on with you playing as a different survivor.

State of Decay has a text-heavy help section that explains how to play. There isn't anything in-game. I don't read so well, so it took me eight hours and a google search to learn how to build things. I never figured out how to set up an outpost, though I was constanly prompted to do so.

Expansions / DLC / Sequels

In State of Decay, there are a finite amount of resources and you will at some point have to complete missions that end with escaping the vally. In the Breakdown DLC, gameplay is endless, though it gets harder and harder.

A second DLC, Life Line, is in development with few details.

Final Thoughts

I'm not a zombie expert. I haven't seen all of the Romero movies, I haven't played any Resident Evil, and I'm fine with that. State of Decay does a very good job of being a sandbox game, but the absolute lack of plot made the gameplay, for me, rather mindless.

If you just want something to do with your time, this might be a more difficult option for those tired with Skyrim. While not a bad game, and a good first show from Undead Labs, this isn't one I'd highly recommend.  

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Whelming Wave Deck

Whelming Wave is silly.  It returns all creatures to hands except for Krakens, Leviathans, Octopi, and Serpents.  I figured I'd build a deck with it in mind.

Magic has only printed three octopus cards in its history.  I wasn't impressed with any of them.

Serpents aren't so good either.  Almost all of them have islandhome (they can't attack a player that controls no islands, they die if controller controls no islands).

Stormtide Leviathan gives one obvious way to go with the deck (he's a big islandwalker that makes everything an island, and only flyers and islandwalkers can attack).  He pairs up with Inkwell Leviathan and Benthic Behemoth (both big island walkers with appropriate creature types).  This would be a mono-blue deck.  The big guys would take a while to get out, and while this might be compensated by blue counter and control, I can't think of a way in which it would be better than a much quicker Merfolk-oriented deck.  I would have to buy the Stormtide Leviathans and the Benthic Behemoths, and I don't see that I would ever use them except for this slow alternative to merfolk.

Kederekt Leviathan returns all other creatures to owners' hand.  I think he's funny but it would affect me just as much as everyone else.

Quest for Ula's Temple is a rare enchantment that can bring out the creature types we want quickly.  Or not quickly.  It's a gamble on how long it will take to get three counters, and I don't like to gamble.

In the end, I went with blue and green.  Green added mana-producing creatures.  It also added a few land-fetchers and a disenchant-type creature that, if returned to my hand by Whelming Wave, could be reused to great effect.  I added a half-dozen weenies with flying and deathtouch so I can hold out until I have enough mana out.

Adding green also allowed me to add two flying levithans.  I've been sitting on four Simic Sky Swallowers for several years and am finally putting them to good use.

In the end, I made a stompy deck that only differentiates itself from all the rest by having one funny card in it (Whelming Wave, of course).  The good news is that I had to buy very little to build it, and some things I bought (specifically, Bane of Progress) will almost certainly see use in other decks on down the line.

Here There Be Monsters
60-Card Format
Blue, Green

4 Whelming Wave

4 Deep-Sea Kraken
4 Nimbus Swimmer
4 Simic Sky Swallower
2 Tidal Kraken

3 Wood Elves
2 Birds of Paradise
3 Quirion Elves
2 Urborg Elves

4 Thornweald Archer
2 Deadly Recluse

3 Silverglade Elemental
3 Bane of Progress

Friday, February 14, 2014

RAGE: The Scorchers DLC Review

RAGE: The Scorchers DLC

The Scorchers!

The Scorchers is the one and only DLC for RAGE. No more have been announced.

The Scorchers are a tribe of bandits that were cut from the original game. A handful of new locations are added in order to combat the Scorcher threat, adding a few hours of gameplay. Each bandit clan is unique, and the Scorchers distinguish themselves with heavy flamethrower guys, short distance jet pack maneuvers, and a flying gunship boss.

The Scorchers DLC introduces a new and difficult armored mutant, and a new Bash TV set of arenas. The player gets a nailgun (in homage of Quake) with alternate ammo or rebar (usually a one hit kill) and railgun. Railgun ammo/mode shows targets through walls, and the shots pass through walls, multiple enemies, whatever. After completing The Scorchers, you get a house in Wellspring with trophies for achieving certain things in the current game, as well as personal access to two minigames.

Two new minigames (roulette and five-card draw) are introduced at a new location in Wellspring. That about wraps up the additional content of the DLC.

But not quite. This DLC wasn't just new content, it also did a few things to address complaints. For one, after you beat the game, you can keep playing and complete unfinished sidequests. Makes sense. People complained that Nightmare difficulty wasn't hard enough, so that brings us to our last topic:


There's an achievement for beating the campaign on ultra nightmare, so I had to give it a go. It was a learning process. Initially, 2-3 hits= death. I learned to take cover all the time. Bandit vehicles are more aggressive and use quick-use shields. At a pretty early stage, my vehicle was out of ammo, on the verge of exploding, and I went and explored a sewer because that's what I would normally do. I ran out of ammo in the sewer and punched the last half-dozen mutants to death before emerging to call for a tow.

After some armor and health upgrades, things were easier, but never easy. Enemies deal more damage, are more accurate, and take more shots to kill. The player is easier to kill and less accurate with every weapon. That headshot you had lined up? Good luck with that.

The Scorchers adds no new races or vehicles, but Ultra Nightmare makes Time Trials essentially impossible. After running nearly perfect races with a pimped-out dune buggy, I was nowhere close to the new time trial limits. I failed to complete any time trials on this setting.

The Scorchers DLC adds a few hours or new gameplay for fans, and a new difficulty level for those looking for a challenge. If you already like RAGE, it's a cheap addition to the experience.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Outlast Review

Game: Outlast
Year (s): 2013
Company: dev. Red Barrels
pub. Red Barrels
Engine: Unreal Engine 3
Type: Run and Hide
Viewpoint: First-Person
Metacritic Score: 80
My Score: This will appeal to some players, but
it's not for everyone

Price (as of January 7, 2014)

Regular list price on Steam: $19.99
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (new, with shipping): No physical copies of this game

My Game Time: 7 hours, rabidly cheating

Obligatory Trailer:


The game opens saying that the Nazis were doing crazy stuff during the war, and some of the scientists came to the US.

You play the part of a modern-day investigative journalist. An anonymous letter tells you that Mount Massive mental hospital for the criminally insane is doing bad things and needs to be exposed.

You pack up your handheld camera and drive out there one night, sneaking in an open window after scaling scaffolding. The place looks quiet and empty- until a mutilated man throws you over the railing to a lower floor. There are bodies and blood everywhere. You have no idea what has happened here, but you plan to find out, get out, and tell the world.

Save System

Manual Save? Yes- Save and Quit
Quick Save? No
Area Load Save? No
Checkpoint Save? Yes


If you've played Amnesia and liked it, you'll like this. Read no further.

There is no combat in Outlast. You can run, and you can hide. If you turn the wrong way while being chased you might reach a dead end, or another enemy, and be screwed. Once I even fell into a pit.

The player's camera has a night-vision function, which is absolutely necessary. This game is incredibly dark, and if you run out of batteries (l did several times) you'll be stumbling into walls and enemies and have an almost impossible time spotting objectives or routes of escape.

I realized very quickly that the extreme darkness made the game too difficult for me to enjoy. I turned on god mode, and tried to turn out infinite batteries as well (both involved editing the config files). I can't think of a game this millennium where I cheated so quickly, but I wanted to see what the story was.

This game comes with a warning for the graphic imagery, and I can't stress that enough. Violence is the primary vehicle for apprehension; there's nothing psychological about it. If it had been just a little more graphic I would have stopped playing. Two dudes about to engage in necrophilia with a headless corpse. Mutilation on nearly everyone. The player getting strapped to a chair and having fingers chopped off. Some people might find that scary (they probably like the Hostel movies too) but I find it gross and gratuitous.

Expansions / DLC / Sequels

A prequel DLC named Whistleblower has been announced, but there is currently no release date or much information about it.

Final Thoughts

In the end, it's all about one's personal likes and opinions.

I do not like gore. I find it unpleasant but not scary; I opt for the psychological fear of the things you can't see.

Extremely dark games, in which you can run out of your light source, put me at a huge disadvantage. I see poorly as it is, so I can't function in a game this dark without cheating. I ran into the same thing playing Amnesia.

While I can appreciate the scariness of running for escape, hiding, dying a lot, and learning by trial and error, it's something I am poor at. I prefer to at least have the option of combat.

I felt the ending, and the last hour of gameplay that briefly explained what was going on, were weak and unsatisfying. A quick search for, “Outlast ending,” shows that I am not alone in this opinion. There are, however, many that were satisfied with the ending.

I would like to end by saying that this is not a bad game, and that many people like it just fine. It is not, however, a good game for me.