Thursday, November 24, 2011

2011 Game Roundup

Well, the year is nearly up and it is unlikely that I will be buying anymore games other than what I have pre-ordered and are still yet to be released. I honestly think that this year has been the best year in games for a long, LONG time. Possibly up to and including a decade, depending on how you look at things, but I will get to that.

The point of this post is really to contradict a belief that I and many other people (some notable critics e.g. Yahtzee) believe in terms of rating a game: you cannot rate a piece of artwork/entertainment numerically. As leisurely activities and appealing media are and always have been subjective in nature, applying a value out of 5, 10 or 100 for the masses to decide over is a little silly. What works and appeals for one person is not necessarily the same for everyone. Nevertheless, it is a little hard to make this post without ranking things in at least an order of appreciation, so I have decided that just this once I will break this rule and rate the following games I have played this year out of 10 in ascending order. I will however say that these values represent how much that I, and only I, enjoyed each of the following games and that YOU may and should have an entirely different opinion. Which is perfectly fine.

Bulletstorm - 5.5/10

Ugh. The utter dismay I express and disappointment I have for Epic Games, making this abomination of blissful theoretical oldskool design but awful modern FPS execution is one I cannot forgive. A misleading advertising campaign (Duty Calls parody video, "kill with skill" trailers?), a horrible PC port and just bad, boring, linear game design has put this game as the worst game I have played this year. Yes, I know I am biased with the whole console FPS perspective thing I have going. But the fact it is Epic Games, forgetting their once strong and proud Unreal Tournament, PC fanbase and cashing in with the console Gears of War crowd just makes it all the more bitter. While I still love their old games pre-UT3, I have come to despise the company that made them. It is their design philosophies and trends that are the cancer which plagues much of modern AAA game design these days.

this is probably the best part of the whole game, but still manages to suck

Duke Nukem - 6/10

Duke Nukem was just a bad game. There isn't really much to say. It is by no means the worst game ever and there were even bits of it that were kinda cool and funny. However, after over 11 years of production, the shamble that was released mid 2011 is inexcusable. I don't blame Gearbox Software. They were merely picking up the corpse left by 3D Realms and tried stuffing some life into it for as cheap as possible. For them it was a profit deal. Like Bulletstorm it suffered from modern-day FPS syndrome, but not quite as bad as Bulletstorm did. Mainly it was regenerating health and the inability to carry more than 2 weapons that threw the towel in for me. The King did not return.

maybe if he did less of this and more ass kicking while lacking bubblegum supplies ...

Crysis 2 - 6.5/10

I loved the original Crysis and its expansion Warhead. They were easily the best shooters of 2007/8 and they are still some of the best looking games ever made. Don't get me wrong, Crysis 2 is gorgeous as well, but goddamit. Going from kilometers of lush tropical beaches and snowy mountain ranges to cramped, cement buildings in a fucking American city was just stupid in my opinion. God I hate cities. GARRGH. Linear design, fucked up story, barely any advances graphically (used Dx9 on release) and far too many cutscenes and quicktime events. Like the sequels to the original film The Matrix, Crysis 2 is a game I prefer not to remember.

no! don't look!

Rage - 6.5/10

Despite the textures in this game looking like absolute turd, the game play is actually decent. It was not, however, decent enough for me to not get bored after arriving at the first major town though. I don't know what it is about this game but I just cannot get stuck into it. There is just something inherently ... noobish ... about it. Like you are being led by the nose by some invisible man, telling you where to go without you knowing it. I think the illusion of free space, but not actually HAVING free space to move and explore things creates this feeling for me. I feel trapped. I don't want to help any of these cunts and the inability to just fuck off and do my own thing really bugs me. I had decreasing levels of expectation for this game leading up to its release and its console FPS design was not unexpected when I eventually got my hands on it. I don't think iD have gone completely the way of Epic Games just yet. I still have hopes for them delivering in the future...

this is actually a texture in the game

F.3.A.R - 7/10

Still yet to finish this game, but it has been ok so far. I actually quite like the story, the tale of two evil but powerful brothers coming to terms with both their and their mother's existance is unique, at least to other video game stories. While it has the same bullshit weapon restrictions, regenerating HP and cover systems that make my eye twitch every time I indulge in them, the gore and pacing of the game is still interesting enough. A spiritual successor to Max Payne's bulletime, the enhanced reflexes of the protagonist makes for some entertaining weapon play at the very least.


Marvel Vs Capcom 3 - 7/10

This is a decent game and I probably would have rated it higher if not for one simple reason: fighting games are multiplayer games. As I seem to be the only person I know who is avidly interested (but still terrible) at fighting games, getting other people to play and enjoy fighting games too is almost impossible. I have made posts about the merits of playing fighting games before so I won't repeat myself here. Nevertheless, MvC3 is slick, stylish and fast as hell, but suffers from being a little too dumbed downed and ... incomplete, for lack of a better description. Dumbed down it may be, you won't see many new people picking up and playing this game as it is still one of the most complex and mechanically confusing fighting games out there, second only to MvC2.

i wonder if she plays basketball...

Dirt 3 - 7/10

There is nothing really wrong with this game, it's just that it is nothing really special and new compared to Dirt 2, a game I enjoyed far more. While GRID is still the undisputed champion of Codemaster's last few racing game titles (for me), Dirt 3 doesn't really raise the bar on any level. In fact, I would go so far as to say it actually looks and plays worse than Dirt 2. When it boils down to it, I wish I didn't buy this game, basically.

if only

Sanctum - 7/10

Interesting game concept, something I have thought about myself many times but never thought would actually be successful. Turns out there are people who are interested in FPS tower defense though. For a cheap, indie game there are few complaints about it but there are definitely elements that could be better. The DLC is a bit of a dick move though.

ass rockets ftw

Street Fighter 3: Third Strike Online - 7/10

Again, a fighting game and again it suffers from the same personal flaw of mine: No one I know wants to play it. Still, as a remake of a decade old game, it still has some nostalgic and historic aspects to it. The game that put some of the best Street Fighter players where they are today (e.g. Daigo) is easy to play but hard to master, especially the parry mechanic. Maybe I should take it online, like the name implies...

well, at least two of these ladies play basketball. clearly the one on the right

Magicka - 7/10

This game had a lot of appeal early on in the piece, but fell off rather slowly as time went by. I'm not sure what exactly is the cause for this. It might be that it gets repetitive and annoying remembering and plugging in the same spell combinations over and over and over again, sometimes having risky or unexpected results. Comical at first but later frustrating down the track. Additionally, playing with people who have played it much more than you have, making frequent use of overpowered, non-team oriented spells gets a little annoying. Especially when they get you killed.


Spacemarine - 7.5/10

A tiny bit disappointing but overall a good game, Spacemarine satisfied my need to kill greenskins ... and then some! While the singleplayer was enjoyable, with random spurts of godlike jump-pack goodness, the most fun I had was with the free DLC survival mode Exterminatus. Most definitely a challenge, it was the only foraging I did into the game's online multiplayer, something that seemed rather enjoyable for the brief bit of time I spent with it. I imagine if I hadn't had so much to do and had so many other games to finish, I would return to this game's multiplayer for a second helping.

it really, really is ...

Trackmania 2 - 7.5/10

If your need is for speed, then Trackmania will definitely do the trick for you this year. As crazy as ever, Trackmania 2 is pretty much the original with a slight facelift and an interesting theme. I could not justify forking out the money for this one but luckily I was gifted it by a friend. It's fun, I'll give it that, but from a purely competitive point of view it is not really my type of racing game. That is because you aren't really racing, but competing for times. Without direct means of influencing the success or failure of my opponents, they feel less like opponents and more like ... other people who are just trying to get a good time on a track. To me that makes the game slightly less engaging.

i iz driving car!

Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition - 7.5/10

This isn't really an entirely new game, being an expansion pack for Super Street Fighter 4. Arcade Edition just adds some tweaks, balances and 4 new characters. Two of them I fucking hate (Yun + Yang), mainly because they seem uninspired and do nothing but add to the sausage fest that is the SF4 roster. Evil Ryu and Oni are at least interesting aesthetically and add some interesting gameplay mechanics (air dashing, chargeable ultras). Personally I would have enjoyed the expansion much more if they added a few more female characters to the mix, possibly Elena and R.Mika. That would have made it perfect.

now that's just uncalled for

Portal 2 - 7.5/10

I totally forgot about this game. As big as it was and enjoyable to play as it could be at times, I guess it just slipped off my radar after awhile. That might be because of its limited replayability. Solve a puzzle once and there really isn't anything else to it, unless you are extremely forgetful. Some of the puzzles were genuinely challenging and mind boggles, and coop with a friend could be entertaining at times. I will probably come back to it in a year or so for another run, but it was never the sort of game I was going to get down on my hands and knees and worship as a god. As much as I like and respect Valve, their most recent games just havn't been kicking it for me as much as their older ones. I'm sure they have something refreshing in the works though.

its kinda scary this chick is more cut than most dudes

Serious Sam 3: BFE - 9/10

Bit of a jump from 7.5 to 9, huh? I guess I didn't really play anything that I felt only just fell short of being awesome. Speaking of awesome, SS3:BFE is the shit. I will probably do a more detailed review of this at a later point, but for the moment this will suffice. After over a decade of waiting, a company, Croteam, has finally decided to pop its head up amongst the sea of garbage and say "Hey, this stinks. Let's go back to the way things used to be", with, in my opinion, resounding success. While there are very slight traces of modern FPS game design in here, some of which are alien in a Serious Sam game (reloading, ironsights, sprinting, melee), they are but minor nuances to the overall experience that is shooting into a horde of monsters while running for your life over some sand dunes. To be fair though, some of those minor nuances can detract from the experience. Reloading gets you killed more often than not, but sprinting is actually a useful addition. Melee is ok I guess, not something you really focus on at all. Ironsights though? I really don't see the point of it being in the game except to make modern FPS players feel slightly more at home ... at least initially. I almost feel Croteam have put it in just to troll you as you won't be using it at all later on (you move slower while ironsighted). Actually, I feel the first few levels are just one big troll fest by the developer, resembling something out of COD or Doom 3 before finally dropping you in an arena and saying "Sup bro? Heard of strafing bro? You'll hear about it now. BRO". The latter levels become increasingly more chaotic, almost to the absurd level. I don't think I have openly swore in joy at an FPS game since UT2k4, so it is kind of sad to know that the game probably won't sell very well. It will inevitably get average ratings and being PC only (for the moment), will be ignored by 99% of the FPS community. However, I cannot see how you could use a controller for this game at all (vertical aiming). Still, the best FPS I have played this year, paying true homage to the oldskool games of skill and fun. Hmmmm. Excuse me ... I have something in my eye ...

come at me bros!!!

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - 9.5/10

It is hard to describe this game. There is so much to do and be and kill that it almost becomes something more than a game. Hell, some of the guild based quest lines are more engaging than entire AAA games made today, which is saying a lot. Atmospheric would probably be one word. Immersive would be another. I have made enough posts about it already for my view to be expressed. An excellent game, an excellent PC game (despite a few issues) and as far as singleplayer RPG experiences go, you will be hard pressed to find something better. I think everyone will get something out of Skyrim because it really gives.

i am so totally immersed right now ...

Shogun Total War 2 - 9.5/10

This isn't the final game on this list because it was better than Skyrim but because it is equivalent to it. It is funny that out of the three best games I played this year, one of them was the first game I played. Still, it resounded and lasted all the way up to now, inevitably ranking high for the sheer amount of hours and enjoyment I got from this game. Dominating Japan with a friend in a coop campaign has resulted in some of the most memorable gaming experiences I have had, something that few titles do for me these days. Great soundtrack, solid multiplayer and just an ... enlightening theme is what makes this game. Again, I have mentioned this all before so I won't recant it now.

die motherfuckers!!!

And that's it. These are the games I have played enough of this year to form a solid opinion on. While they are mainly FPS games there is still a decent mix (fighting, racing, RTS, RPG) on both console and PC to not limit myself with. Where is, you may ask, Arkham City, for example? Good question. While I did buy the game this year, I am still yet to finish Arkham Asylum, a game I started late last year. It will likely be one of the games I complete next year at some point. I seriously have too many games to play, with many still to come on the horizon. Most notable are Tekken Tag Tournament 2, Street Fighter x Tekken and undoubtedly Diablo III. Then there's Max Payne 3, Torchlight 2, Farcry 3, Soul Calibur V, Aliens: Colonial Marines ...

... O.o

I think I probably play too many games :S

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The fruits of ones labor

This wont be a long post.

Skyrim is an addictive game. Anyone who has seen me on Steam recently has probably noticed this. I should probably cut back a bit. After my most recent effort, I probably will.

After marrying Lydia, giving her a Daedric Greatsword, Bow and set of armour like myself, I began the insane process of enchanting all of our shit to give us the highest potential damage output that we, combined, could achieve while still maintaining some utility (stamina draining bows, magicka draining weapons, magic resist amulets/rings). Long story short I have resulted with the following weapon. Well, two of them to be precise:

my precious...

Having a wife for a companion in this game is also ... interesting. After reading articles like this it is not hard to understand how people can become attached to certain things in this game. It does a good job of making you care. Lydia was easily the best choice for me, and makes a wicked apple pie, if you know what I mean :). Having another me running around in scary gear also has its merits, especially if I am too busy looting a corpse, confident that she will clean up the rest of the army of bad guys in the room we just walked into. I don't take her out all the time though. Someone's gotta clean the house...

She cooks an apple pie for you and it is good - wtf did you think I meant!?

Anyways, the following two screenshots sum up the result of this ... relatively easy but still time consuming mission to make high quality Skyrim gear. The target is an Elder Dragon, one of the highest HP enemy dragons in the game:

Needless to say I will probably be increasing the difficulty very shortly :S

Edit: Thought I would put this here too instead of making a new post. Fuck I laughed when this happened. Lucky I was frapsing at the time too.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Berserker Rage Addendum

Because my previous post's related video inspired at least two people I know to deck themselves in steel and crop the chop, as well as the fact I was still not done with the Skyforge Steel Greatsword, I decided to make another execution compilation video from clips I had left over. This video is my character from levels 15-28 (the previous is from level 12-20) and contains a couple of rare executions you don't see too often (forward thrust, downwards beheading).

As I have picked up on the main quest again, further leveled my smithing and started leveling my enchanting, the game has become noticeably more difficult. Often I will be pitted against enemies decked in steel plate brandishing orcish or even glass weapons, or alternatively multiple mages at once. This has got me thinking about the difficulty scaling in the game and how it seems to scale higher the more progressed you are in your skills (and consequently level), as well as increasing difficulty based on your narrative progression. Essentially what this means is someone who is doing nothing but hit things with a 1h sword and not following the main quest will find the game much easier than someone who is power leveling their skills or primary questline (or both).

What this creates is an interesting, dynamically changing difficulty that isn't overwhelming for newbies getting used to the ropes, but isn't stupidly easy for people who are really getting stuck into multiple things. It is an interesting way to balance a game and certainly allows room for re-playability. I like it.

I will probably make one more post/video about Skyrim before I consider it covered, probably involving me running around in a newly crafted daedric or dragonplate set and doing all manner of funky things with weird enchantments.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Berserker Rage

There was a time, roughly a few months ago, when if you would say something like "Skyrim is coming out in November", I would have glanced over at you and delivered the most unsympathetic "meh" I could muster. Truly, that was a time of blissful ignorance, unwavering in the face of hype generated from both friends and the media alike. However, in the last few months, things have changed. It might be due to a lack of a true singleplayer game in years. Perhaps I just wanted to escape from the real world for awhile and feel something akin to what games like WoW and Diablo II did back in the day. Whatever the case may be, I did end up buying The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim on day one in a shop in Australia (blasphemy, I know!) and have played it for a solid 40 hrs since release. At this point in time that calculates to an average of 10 hrs a day. Jesus Christ!!!

it is undoubtedly a pretty game

I am not sure why I decided to be a 2 hander wielding, heavy armor wearing orc. Actually that is a lie, I know exactly why. I wanted to hit things. Really fucking hard. To vent some frustration perhaps? Who knows. While I could do this in real life, waving a stick around in the back yard beating the crap out of trees and shit, the observations by onlookers and outcomes thereof would not be entirely desirable. Beating the shit out of entities in a virtual world will suffice for now. Who ever said games were not suitable as stress relief should be beaten to death with a stick. By me.


Really, this is my Skyrim experience in a nutshell: I am a big dude running around hitting things. However, unlike previous Elder Scrolls games, I have not returned to a state of murderous glee, slaying everything and everyone in sight. This might be because I actually paid for this game or because I have matured slightly since my youth, but there is definitely a method to my madness. I make few enemies and I make fewer friends, always choosing the most silent, shortest path should it be available. I build my own equipment, I mine my own ore and I work legitimately for the gold I have earnt (i.e. no stealing). Morally, I think the character I am playing is the type of person I would be should I be placed in the world of Skyrim.


Holy shit ... I am role playing.

Meh. Whatever. It is still fun. Generallly speaking I think I have gone for the easy-mode-pve sway of things with my character's build and playstyle, literally carving through enemies and territories with relative ease. Admittedly, it is simple. Charge at a dude, chop him, crit his face, loot corpse. Repeat. This has been greatly assisted by getting a Skyforge Steel Greatsword incredibly early in the game which is apparently comparable to the Elven and Ebony variations that appear much later. While at times it does feel like god mode, I do have a kryptonite. Mages. Motherfucking mages, especially frost ones, draining stamina and slowing you indefinitely. What was always incredibly one sided in WoW (i.e. warrior vs frost mage) is now the case in Skyrim. My general strategy for countering these pricks is to either funnel them into a choke point and ambush them from a forced point blank range, or strafe in concentric circles, getting closer each time to the (hopefully) out of mana asshole in the middle. Both require appropriate environments to be successful and even then are a gamble at best.


Other than that, there isn't really much to say other than what can be garnered from review sites. The UI is consolified and is a headache to use on occasions. Certain systems could be explained better, especially for newbies (binding weapons, soul gems etc). The NPC interactions still feel incredibly static and unimmersive, though the animations are a vast improvement over the other games in the series. When it comes down to it though, Skyrim has been an excellent hitting simulator and will probably rank as one of the best games I have played this year. I will save that topic for another post though.

For the moment though, enjoy this overly dramatic montage of executions with the Skyforge Steel Greatsword on my Orc berserker: