gaming

#CantKillProgress and Deus Ex:Mankind Divided

Over the past several days a twitch channel showed what appeared to be a man in a prison cell and allowed some control over the cameras and a timed viewer choice.  The only tidbits of information we had a was a hash tag to use on twitter and some vague information regarding a new Square Enix reveal.  People were immediately interested, but where I think Square Enix went wrong was the time frame they used for this viral marketing campaign.  By making it last 3 days with timed countdowns to reveals and choices they didn’t give incentive for people to stay watching and focused the entire time, like you would want for the reveal of a major game.  In this case the game in question being the next part of the Deus Ex franchise.  Now I will be honest I did not watch the entire thing, and after I read about the leak confirming it was Deus Ex I stopped watching entirely, partly because I saw a lack of a point.

Now instead of a hash tag about progress the words we care about are “Mankind Divided” from what the developers(Eidos Montreal again) are telling us this game will take place shortly after Human Revolution and we will see the actual flash point of the human vs. augmented revolts.  I personally can’t wait to see this story because as a fan of the series since the original Deus Ex, it will be pretty awesome to see all the events leading up to the creation of the factions from the original game and the causes of the societal tension that was a central theme of the original.  We don’t know for sure if they have made the boss fights any better or if their promises of smarter AI is true or not yet, but from what we’ve seen in the screenshots so far I am already excited for the systems we are seeing being put into place and have a lot of hope for this addition to one of my favorite franchises.

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Don’t Starve Together: A Lord of the Flies parody

So I picked up the Frontier pack to get in the Don’t Starve Together beta. I’ve been playing around with it for a couple of days.  As it stands it is exactly what we expected out of the upgrade; it’s a multiplayer version of the game you already know and love.  My experiences have ranged from friendly gifts of food to a starving man to being mugged in a burnt down forest.

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Do not trust the mustache.

The main advantage I’m seeing out of the group is that greater obstacles are much more achievable.  The wolves on day 9 for example are nothing more than a minor annoyance to 3 people waiting in a fortified shelter with log suits and spears. At one point I even tracked down a Warg and lured back into the waiting spears of teammates…we died shortly afterwards, but we did kill the beast.  There are still a few strange bugs and trying to coordinate multiple people into a common goal is an obstacle in its own right, but at the end of the day having the advantage of several different characters at once and being able to divide your efforts into research/crafting, gathering, and hunting for food in some ways makes the game too easy.  I am fully expecting Klei to add in more difficult encounters and events into the final version of Don’t Starve Together Together to create that challenge of surviving against the wilds that we found in the original.  As it stands this is a great addition to the game that’s bringing me back to it in a big way, if you already have Don’t Starve I would highly suggest getting the Frontier Pack and start starving with your friends as soon as you can.

Jumping on the Sexism Bandwagon

Let’s talk about sexism in video games. (I can hear you now, “Oh god, no…not another one!  What does it matter?!”)

Yes it’s a pretty popular subject right now.  I imagine it’s because women are tired of being treated like a different species in the gaming industry, and that frustration is bubbling to the surface.  We’re tired of women in video games being treated as objects.  We’re tired of being defined by our sex.  “Being female” shouldn’t be the only defining trait of a player character.

I have played many, many video games where I’ve declined to play the female character.  When I started playing video games I’d get so excited to play a female character but no longer.  Now I just complain, “Why do I have to be the chick?”  Because she sucks and isn’t as good at things as the male characters are.

Think about that:

The playable character that has tits, isn’t as good at things as the characters without tits.  Do boobs convey +5 to sucking and -2 skills?  I must say I’ve never noticed that in real life.  What are the designers thinking when they program this stuff?

Why does being female carry with it a penalty in video games?

Seriously.

Sheva kinda sucks. (Also, did you see her alternate outfit? WTF?)

That’s not even getting into the video games that treat women as movable objects and rape as a joke.  There are problems with the way video games treat women on every level.

I have never felt like video games are written for me, simply because I’m a woman. 

This is one small reason I like “casual games”.  With your average tower defense flash game or phone app there’s very little room for sexism.   There’s very little room to feel minimized simply for havin’ lady parts.  Not the only reason of course, but it’s one of the reasons I’m your “casual gaming” writer, and not your “first person shooter war simulator” writer (though I do play those  BF4 drops soon, yea!).

Maybe gaming should take a page from George R.R. Martin’s play  book:

Is that so hard?

So that’s it, I guess.  Not as passionate as most of the writing on the subject.  Maybe I’ve just resigned myself to the way things are, or maybe I just have to go to my college classes.

“Gone Home” What Are You?

Your casual gaming advocate here to talk about “Gone Home”…

Mild spoiler warning, I know some people are worried about even the littlest spoilers.

No, stop, I hear what you’re saying:

“But Rachel! Gone Home isn’t a casual game! It’s on steam!”

And some of you are thinking: “Gone Home isn’t even a game! All you do is wander around a house and click things.”

Where are they now?

Oh, fair blog readers, I think it is indeed a Causal Game, and here’s why:

Gone Home is a game that has no enemies, no clear goals, no time limits, no achievements.  It’s you walking around a house discovering what’s become of your family.  You’ve been gone for a whole year, your family has moved and no one is home.  There’s so much to see, to explore and discover.  How has your happy family changed?

This game won’t be for everyone, it’s very peaceful.  There’s quite a few places where the only sounds are the rain and the house settling.   You follow the footsteps of your sister through the house, and discover how she’s changed.   At the same time you feel a little like you’re snooping as you turn on all the lights and search through everyone’s underwear drawers.

The entire time you’re wondering why no one is home.  When is something going to jump out on you?

It’s a lovely game, but you have to be in the right mood to appreciate it.  It’s very story driven and you have to draw some of your own conclusions.  $20.00 on steam right now.  I recommend it if you’ve got about three hours to kill (no it’s not very long).

Casual Gaming: Knights of Pen and Paper

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Let’s D&D

Knights of Pen and Paper is so meta.  I feel weird saying that but it’s true…

You’re playing D&D as a table full of characters on your phone.  But you’re also occasionally taking on the role of the DM (Dungeon Master).  The main quest involves a dark mage/wizard and his quest to…do something.  I won’t spoil you, just make sure to read the flavor text.

It’s a delightful game.

I’ve got my five guys up to about level 25 and I still haven’t completed all the quests or discovered all the areas.  I’ve just discovered you can mine in caves and that dungeons are a thing.

The game play itself is fairly easy, and nicely intuitive, so I won’t waste your time with a review of that.  It’s pretty much touch icon, do thing….e.g. a map icon will take you to the map to travel.

My only complaint with this game is that my phone (A “mytouch” don’t make fun.) has a weird graphical glitch in some zones of the map.  The background will flicker very quickly between the D&D game background and the Room in the “real” world.  It’s a little distracting but not awful.  I know that this isn’t a widely represented graphical glitch.

Now the bad news:
This game is not free on the play store.  I believe it’s $3.00, and of course it has micro transactions (you don’t have to buy anything to progress further in the game).   I think it’s worth the cost, I’ve played hours and hours and hours of this game.

Go Download and Roll for Initiative.

Rome:Total War in review

For the glory of mighty mother ROMA!

I recently saw Rome: Total War on steam for a dollar.  Being the poor gamer I am I decided to grab it and see why people hail it as the greatest RTS of all time.

After putting some time into it, I don’t know if I can give it that title.  It’s good don’t get me wrong here, but the best is a stretch.  One thing I do heavily appreciate about the game is the sheer size of combat.  When there is upwards of 5,000 units all running around the screen following orders gives such a sense of power… in addition to the sense of the scope of Roman combat.  But after you get past and actually start trying to get your units to follow your commands it becomes a minor disaster.  Many times I had spent a solid ten minutes before combat getting my units into formations and squads designed to crush my enemies and after the actual battle began and I tried moving them they would ignore the setup that I had created and make formations of their own. [Editor’s note: You can’t expect proud Romans to follow a pleb.]

Beautiful formations. Almost like gardening.

 

Worse than moving units around though, is the camera.

Dear lord, why can’t I find a game that utilizes scrolling that has good camera work?

Unlike in other RTS games where moving the mouse to the left or right of the screen pans left or right Rome instead rotates the camera.  I spent 25 minutes looking through settings trying to find an option to change this around and either I am blind or it just doesn’t exist.

This is a misstep that eventually I could not look past.  The amount of times that I just wanted to see what was happening slightly to the right or left and instead ended up spinning off to god knows where were innumerable.  It hurts even more because of how much is going on in combat.  If you look away at the wrong moment an enemy cavalry charge mows down your archers.

Elephants too! Did I not mention elephants? You may have missed them by spinning the camera at the wrong time.

 

Barring the RTS side of it, there is a turn based campaign similar to the Civilization games which I jumped into head first.  This side of the game is masterfully done.  There are senate missions to appease the ruling Roman body and how much they respect you can affect how much power your bloodline has in government affairs.

The senate is not the only group you have to appease though, the common people also have to love you.  Each individual city must be managed so the plebeians don’t revolt and burn your capital to the ground.  All of this is mixed with trying to conquer or outmaneuver the other great Roman families and other nations.  Everyone else is trying to halt your grand schemes, and move forward with their own goals.

I can honestly say that if the battles controls were better designed I could easily put 70 or 80 hours into this game but as it stands, I just can’t do it.  It is a good RTS game, but the best is a long way off from what Rome gives.

A dark room, a story to unravel.

Twice I’ve played a browser game I’m having trouble describing.

From this point on there will be spoilers.  Mild ones.  I’ll let you know when it’s safe to read again.

Here how it starts, nice and simple.

Here’s how it starts, nice and simple.

A dark room” is like dwarf fortress meets asteroid meets…time managment…meets text adventure.  The game evolves as you play, it’s certainly not one thing or another.  It starts with just a room but before you know it:  People arrive.  Things happen and choices appear.  What happened to this world?  Who are you?  Why are you here?  Okay, one of these questions isn’t answered.

I’ll give you pro-tip:  Make fur, you need it.

Spoilers completed, continue reading.

It’s a thoroughly thought provoking game, beautiful in its simplicity.  Uncommon in its mechanics.  It’s like Candy Box, but not like Candy Box.  I have no idea who made it, part of me believes it sprung fully formed onto the internet. [Turns out it was Michael Townsend and was Inspired by Candy Box. Had to look in the page source to find this info.]

Usually when I think browser game I think Kongregate. Mecca of independent game developers and corporate cash cow of Gamestop alike.  Micro transactions add up.

But…

A dark room, it’s everything a browser game can be in a simple addictive package.  Keep coming back and clicking those buttons.  Figure out the mystery, or at least as much of it as there is to be solved.

Sacrifice your time on this altar of simplicity, and gain some reflection, some amusement, and a healthy dose of sadness that there aren’t more games like this out there.

Pro-tip:  This game saves your progress, so don’t feel like you can’t close the tab if you need to.